Dowbergill Passage
Saturday, 12 May 2012

Nearly two years ago I was taken to Dow Cave by Paul Driver on my first caving trip. While we were there we visited Dowbergill Passage as far as the short free divable sump and ever since I have wanted to undertake the Providence Pot – Dow Cave through trip.

The opportunity for this presented itself at YUCPC SRT training when Sophie and Laurent both wanted to cave on Saturday. They were both happy about doing a harder trip.

The weather wasn’t brilliant during the week but the forecast for Saturday was good. On Saturday morning the Enivironment Agency website confirmed that the Wharfe at Kettlewell had returned to normal levels. The trip to Dowbergill was on! Adam phoned Sophie looking for a caving trip to join and so we had a fourth trip member.

The journey was delayed by a slow lorry and other slow drivers but we eventually reached Kettlewell where we had a delicious meal. Both cars were then taken to Park Rash where we got changed then we piled into Adam’s car back to Kettlewell.

We set off up Dowber Gill Beck on a mildly sweaty journey to Providence Pot. After a short break we descended into the pothole. At Terminal Chamber I volunteered to be the first through the Blasted

Crawl. This was a cunning plan to avoid mud stirred up by cavers in front.

A journey along the Blasted Crawl is not the most pleasant of activities.

A few chambers and handline climbs downwards led to Stalagmite Corner in Dowbergill Passage. This location is very attractive and is also where we first met the stream which we would spend the rest of the trip climbing in and out of. Here, as with the rest of the passage, foam extended on the walls a metre above the water as evidence of recent flooding.

We headed downstream, climbing over various obstacles, and reached Bridge Cavern. At one point there is an unstable boulder slope which has caused much concern to the UWFRA and other cavers. We climbed it with great care but it didn’t look too horrendous.

The way on was back in the stream and we had a short break in a small chamber. The Brew Chamber boulder choke then barred progress. Sophie and Adam shot up a handline right over the top while
Laurent and I found our way through the choke, which wasn’t immediately obvious. We then had an anxious wait as we thought the other two had vanished up in the rift on some dodgy traverse.

Fortunately they reappeared into Brew Chamber from above and we went back into the streamway.

The Narrows lived up to its name: one part was narrower than my helmet and also narrower than my waist! I forced myself through and told the others to traverse above. We regrouped before the Rock Window and continued through deepening water. At one point along here I made a navigational error and took the group up onto the Terrible Traverse. This lives up to its name and two of the group wisely went back to the stream while two of us were stubborn and persisted.

The two in the streamway ascended at the start of the Gypsum Traverse which is much more pleasant and the four of us continued to Syphon Chamber, where yet another handline climb up led back to the Gypsum Traverse. The 6m climb down at the end was rigged as a pitch for those who wanted to abseil. Soon we saw the Buddhist’s Temple and then emerged in Dow Cave. This impressive but easy river cave was a perfect end to an exhausting but fulfilling trip.

Many thanks to the others for agreeing to come along, and also for not doing anything daft and needing rescuing like many cavers have in the past!