Swan Dike Pot
Thursday, 24 November 2016
After a week of being bored shitless doing uni work and with good weather arriving at last, I needed to get outside. I suggested an evening trip to Swan Dike, and it wasn’t too hard to convince George and Nadia, George being a lazy layabout and Nadia being on her day off. After some hectic laminating, we were off from Leeds at 3pm and at the parking spot at around 5. The entrance was slightly obscure: we followed the path from the cattle grid until we got to a dried up stream and then followed it up to find the wire fenced gap in the drystone wall. The entrance was hidden under a load of large planks and fence posts and well disguised with dead bracken. Underground at 5:40.
The entrance climb has some rather loose rocks and is a bit loose, though the scaff is still pretty intact over 30 years from when it was first opened up. The streamway was easily found (there were no real nav problems on this trip ‘“ just follow the stream) and followed through the initial crawl and canal to the 4m cascade. This was a fine stream passage, and quite reminiscent of Snatcher Pot, the other cave I had done in the area before. We then arrived at the Dry Pitch and donned SRT kits. This is a good cave for people who don’t like carrying much tackle. At the bottom, Nadia did the thing she had taunted Alice about on her last trip in Provy and only read half of the first sentence. ‘To the right, there is a low crawl which soon chokes’¦ the way on is to the left through a blasted crawl.’ Silly! This was the start of an awkward 7m or so of passage (quite a tight dogleg which is very awkward to reverse) ending at The Trick, an awkward squeeze with a 1m drop to stream level at the end. Whilst waiting in the stream on the other side to assist the others, I became very glad that I had worn a wetsuit.
After this was some enjoyable caving in the vadose passage of ‘Parallel Lines’, with some very nice long stalactites and calcite flows, until the Nasty Weather pitches were encountered. I rigged Nasty Weather 1 using a huge sling clove hitched to a spike on the right with some knots tied in it for foot and handlolds. It was very hard not to get soaked here, and Nadia began to get cold. Then Nasty Weather 2 was rigged from a very dubious calcite thread back-up and a large rock protrusion. All the rock round here looked pretty bad, which made me very suspicious of these natural anchors. Needless to say I rigged very tightly. At the bottom of Nasty Weather 2, a traverse over a nice gour pool on the right and a step over a trench with the waterfall plummeting beneath to the left leads to the best anchors available for rigging Nasty Weather 3. These anchors are quite poor (a wide cut-off stal for a back-up and a rock protrusion) and I had a bit of a silly time getting onto the rope: I should have used my jammers, but instead thought I could just lower myself 2m over the edge with a cowstail and a descender. I ended up hanging in space from the rock protrusion, and eventually slipped off and fell onto my descender and cowstail, a very stupid thing to do considering the anchor situation.
Soon we were all down and negotiating the pleasures of Wet Belly Crawl, which is worse than the Penyghent entrance canal but not as long. We were soon at the last pitch, where the only available anchors were a shit rock protrusion set pretty far back from the pitch on the left and a really small spike near the pitchhead on the right, necessitating very gentle SRT and quite considered rigging. Nadia got very wet coming down this and entered a state of shock, so we left pretty sharpish after a very quick look at the final sump just around the corner. I stationed myself at the top of the pitches to help her while George derigged. At the top of Nasty Weather 2, my head touched the ceiling and a load of it came away and crashed down the pitch; luckily, I was able to divert all of it away from Nadia. Then I rigged a rope on Nasty Weather 1 for Nadia and George to prussic up. Soon we were back at the Trick, and I could no longer feel my feet. George went through first and then returned for the 2 bags. We were all much warmer now, which was good. From the other side of The Trick, it is only about 20 minutes until you’re out of the cave. We were out for 10:30, making the trip just under 5 hours. It wasn’t too cold when we got out due to the lack of wind. Changed quickly then off home via Settle Booths and Gargrave coop where the bins produced around 40 eggs and a wealth of vegetables.
A really cracking evening trip which I would highly recommend to anyone happy with rigging from poor naturals and who has a decent wetsuit. If water levels had been much higher the trip would have been very unpleasant, so make sure it has been dry for a day or 2 and that it will stay that way for the trip.
I have since realised that we weren’t meant to go down Nasty Westher 3 in this place according to NFTFH, but should have crawled low on the ledge at the top on the right hand side to get to a small chamber which may (or may not) have had better anchors.
Monday, 28 November 2016