Dowbergill Passage
Saturday, 27 April 2013

The weather throughout winter had been terrible so I hadn’t had much chance to do some proper caving. A relatively nice weekend presented itself so it seemed a waste not to go underground. AleÅ¡ and Mike wanted to come along so I booked a hire car for the next morning.

On the day of the trip I turned up at Mike’s house at the agreed time of 9. A knock on the door failed to produce any result so a phone call was required. Mike answered that he had just woken up!

Soon we had picked up AleÅ¡ and made our way to Kettlewell. We parked at the side of the road (unlike several other cars which had paid for the car park) and went to a small cafe. The food was good but the prices weren’t! Mike and AleÅ¡ were unimpressed at having been charged for a pot of tea each despite only sharing one. A callout was set and we headed up to Park Rash.

The sunshine made for a pleasant change. We walked back to Kettlewell then turned left, heading back uphill along Dowber Gill Beck. Not every pothole gets its location signposted! Mike mentioned that Bear Grylls had recently suggested on television that hikers could take shortcuts through mountains by walking through caves. This is obviously sound advice. At the entrance to Provident Pot, Aleš pointed out that we were about to take a shortcut back to the car. Bear Grylls would be proud.

Once down the scaffolding we were crawling our way through Providence. This pothole has mud, boulders, crawls and chambers in abundance. The Blasted Crawl was no more enticing than the last time I was here but it was soon over. After descending through various chambers we reached Stalagmite Corner in Dowbergill Passage.

The streamway makes for a pleasant change and soon we crawled over dodgy boulders into Bridge Cavern. The streamway from here to 800 Yards Chamber is enjoyable. At one boulder obstacle, Mike and I jumped the two metres back into the stream.

800 Yards Chamber is like at chambers in Dowbergill Passage as it is just a widening of the rift. Soon after this one the rift narrows again for a while. Eventualy the Brew Chamber Boulder Choke barred progress. Passing this involved much less faff than last time as I now knew the way through. A short climb up inside the choke allows you to enter a space in the upstream direction. From here, you can go straight ahead feet-first into Brew Chamber, which is only a metre wide.

We descended into the Narrows, which didn’t seem as narrow to me as the last time I was here! AleÅ¡ was unimpressed with one squeeze here as falling would have meant dropping head first into the water. The passage widened as we neared the Rock Window and beyond this the water became deeper. Mike and I were glad of our wetsuits. Somewhere along here Mike announced that he had significantly warmed the inside of his wetsuit, so as I was in front, I headed downstream much faster. My wetsuit was definitely not becoming warmer and the water level passed the critical point, causing me much discomfort. I was glad to climb out of the water at the bottom of the climb up to the Gypsum Traverse.

The handline here is belayed to some ancient bolts, although there are P bolts here as well. The Gypsum Traverse is an easy (and dry!) crawl and stoop along a false floor, interrupted only by the descent to then ascent from Syphon Chamber. Eventually it ends and we regained the stream for the last time. Mike inspected the short sump here and decided he had better things to do with his time than dive it. We waded under the Buddhist’s Temple and emerged in Dow Cave.

The stroll through Dow Cave was the perfect end to a highly enjoyable caving trip. At the cave entrance we found that the trip had taken a respectable time of 3.5 hours. We walked back to the car in glorious sunshine. While we were getting changed, one passing driver was very amused at seeing Mike in a state of undress.

Thanks to Mike and Aleš for coming along!