Marble Sink
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Marble Sink is a fearsome and serious pothole, not to be confused with a bathroom fixture – this is how the guidebook description should start…

As the weather was a lot nicer than we expected, our rainy day options were abandoned and I somehow without much effort managed to persuade the others that Marble Sink would be a good idea. Holly had spent ages before-hand laminating descriptions of lots of caves that weren’t Marble Sink, so we made the usual last minute botched laminate description using photo copy with transparent sticky plastic and selotape at the Ingleton news agent.

A long misty walk up long lane emerged into lovely sunshine not long before the allotment and the entrance shakehole was easily located from the Allotment gate. There was a large plug of snow in the shakehole which unfortunately wasnt blocking the entrance crawl. Apathy induced faff commenced before Holly finally had enough and ordered me into the crawl.

The entrance crawl is flat out and heads round a tight bend to reach Pillar Pot after a few minutes. Of course here we ignored all the useful advise Mike B gave us in the morning and I found myself head-first at the pitch, with the tackle for the second pitch. Doh! I think we had presumed that when he said approach the pitch feet first, there would be somewhere to turn round after the entrance but before the pitch, this is not the case. I decided to stubbornly try to rig the pitch head-first whilst Holly and Tom backed out to turn around. Head-first over the pitch head of pillar pot is not a very easy place to put on ones SRT kit and it took quite a while. Whilst this was going on Holly was having fun reversing the entrance as the awkward bend goes uphill on the way out, but Tommy soon arrived to remove her wellies, which for some reason made the exit much easier. Apparently they then sat on the surface for a while cursing my name and saying “why does bloody Noel always want to try the hardest thing in the book?… (Its okay ranters, I know it isnt actually the hardest cave in the book)

Once rigged, I managed to move out over the pitch by performing a kind of walking hand stand on some small ledges below the pitch head. Once on the pitch I shouted for the others who sounded surprisingly close for the amount of time the crawl takes. The pitch must be much easier feet-first as the others were down in no time. At this point we were a little worried about doing the whole trip as the entrance had taken an hour, though most of this was probably due to my upside-down faff antics.

The greasy flake was descended and the “bastard hole was hardly noticeable on the way in

Razor pitch was a simple y-hang from half protruding spits to land at the start of a wet crawl. As most parts of the cave, this was a right bugger with tackle bags, though again was passed without too much trouble and getting only slightly wet. Split pot can be rigged from a small hammered flake backed up to 2 spits, the top one of which is a bit dodgy ‘ I had to repeatedly screw the hanger in, screw it out, suck the rust off and screw it in a bit more, although I could only get it screwed in about halfway in the end.

Split pot lands at the start of Davids Traverse, which according to Mike B is the worst part of the cave (although Mike is exceedingly tall, which might have contributed to this opinion). The roof-level traverse follows the top of a rift and starts off okay but soon degenerates to a flat out struggle, whilst trying to stop the tackle falling down holes in the rift. A couple of awkward squeezes near the end are followed by an exposed shimmy along a small section of straight rift before the pitch head is gained. Here there is a small ledge to sit on in an exposed position directly above the pitch, where SRT kits can be put on. This takes a while as there is only room for one person at a time, leaving the others to wait uncomfortably in the traverse behind. The pitch can be rigged from an in-situ hanger (safely rusted to the wall) and an old rusted L-plate (not sure what t he correct term for these is). These in-situ bolts make this section slightly easier as the gear can be clipped to something whilst you manoeuvre tackle and kit, reducing the high chance of dropping everything down the pitch. From behind came the sound of heavy “straining where I looked back to see the tiny passage full of yellow PVC, a black goatee and a red face ‘ Tom B show-casing his brute force attributes required for someone his size to get through this kind of passage.

Heading down the pitch, I popped off to have a look up Goliath rift and the view down to the devils kitchen whilst the others came through to the pitch head. The fault chimney follows, rigged from a sling round a large natural to land in a small chamber next to ULSA and NPC graffiti of bygone eras. I have provided a photo below to give the original culprits the opportunity to volunteer to clean up their mess :o)

From here it is a short distance to the Devils kitchen where we took photos and sullenly mulled over the issue that we have to go back out the Sam Allshorne way Judgement Passage was peered into but left for another day and we headed back out. Does anyone know if theres anything through the small window at the top of a blank wall to your right when you enter the Devils Kitchen through the calcite window? (It could just be the top part of the rift of the continuation of the stream below DK).

Tom de-rigged in sterling style and we hauled our sorry asses back to the surface. Speakers corner was passed easily after I pioneered the method of performing a backwards sky-dive into it, with back arched around the corner ‘ it feels committing at first but once you drop in it makes it a lot more comfortable for legs to follow. I think this would be especially true for taller cavers (Tom also used this method and passed it easily).

The bastard hole showed us why its probably called the bastard hole on the way out, providing a few “Whinnie-the-poo in rabbits hole moments. Its best to have someone help with the tackle here as Holly found if you go it alone, the tackle bag sits in a really awkward place restricting movement and extending the vertical squeeze element.
Back at the Pillar Pot, I could hear holly having a “tackle paddy at the bend in the entrance crawl (“Get through you BITCH and other expletives). The bend in the entrance crawl did turn out to be a final pain in the ass with tackle but we were soon re-united under a beautifully clear night sky, after a 7 hour trip. On reflection we reckon this could be reduced significantly on a return trip, avoiding much of the inevitable faff on a first trip down a cave of this severity. It must be said that Mike Coopers book provided a massive advantage with very accurate and useful information, the NC2 description is far more vague and I imagine it would have taken more than one trip using this alone.

On the walk out, I received much grief about the hardness of the trip, but this abated as we got further away, and finally turned to words of praise for such a fantastic trip. As Tom put it the misery induced by Marble Sink must be reversely proportional to the distance away you travel from it.

I thought this was an absolutely fantastic trip, definitely one of the best in the dales and maybe even my favourite to date.
Might wait a wee while before a return though as a few days later I am still aching and bruised like a leopard (although this may have something to do with the fact that Holly forced me to do Peterson the very next day ‘ against all the excuses I could muster)

Note: Good preparation exercise for this trip would be to lie on the floor with a fully loaded tackle bag at arms length and lift it repeatedly, whilst someone pummels you gently but persistently with a large blunt object. In fact, why go caving at all if you could do this?


Oooh graffiti from 1985, that’s my era (but it wasn’t me). It would be fun to check the ULSA log books in the library for the trip report.

Tim Williams

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Ahhh, yes, meant to say feet first from the entrance….hehehehehehehe…..

Mike Bottomley

Thursday, 11 February 2010
Comment recieved via e-mail:
Marble Sink graffiti – it’s a fair cop guv!
Hi Noel
I read with interest your recent rant on the ULSA site – it certainly brought back some vivid memories!
Our Marble Sink trip would have been about 1970’ish and was a typical spur of the moment idea by five skinny and daft NPC members. My active caving career ran from the early 60’s to early 80’s (I never took to SRT and drifted into climbing!) but that trip remains a brutal highlight, particularly picking the wrong level on David’s Traverse!
The graffiti must have been ours but I’ve no intention of cleaning it up!
Thanks for the memory!
All the best
Dave Barker (NPC)
Noel Snape
Thursday, 06 May 2010
Try it on ladders with no sit harness/flying gear to carry – great little
trip and much easier. Entrance crawl has always been easier feet first!
Andy Tharratt
Monday, 01 April 2013
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Cutains in Devil’s Kitchen
Posted by: Noel Snape
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Posted: 10 February 2010
Noel and Tom in Devil’s Kitchen (note the grimace smiles)
Posted by: Noel Snape
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Posted: 10 February 2010
Hmm, this doesn’t match the Sell Gill description at all…
Posted by: Noel Snape
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Posted: 10 February 2010
Tom having a Herbal Essences moment in Devil’s Kitchen
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Posted: 10 February 2010
Vintage ULSA Graffitti. I wonder who did this?
Posted by: Noel Snape
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Posted: 11 February 2010