Sleets Gill
Sunday, 7 May 2017

The final part in the trifecta of a great weekend of caving, taking advantage of the dry weather we we’re recruited by Becka in the ticking off of Sleets Gill. We agreed to meet at the parking spot on the Littondale road so naturally Rob remained in his usual stupor until 10:30. Becka did well to suppress her annoyance at us arriving late and we were surprised to see that Julian had somehow been convince to come along, I suspect Becka had withheld the description. Speaking to Dave Brook in Bernie’s the day before, he had promised that it would be “character building”.

The entrance was found easily enough by walking up the dry valley next to the parking spot. We descended the entrance ramp of loose cobbles and were soon into the main gallery, all very straightforward. On the way we checked on the Wharfedale sump, which was even drier than expected, the dive line could be followed through a sandy-floored crawl for a few metres before actually entering the water at the far end. Rob also went for a quick glance at the bottom connecter to make sure we could return via hyperthermia passage, all looked well. Somewhere along the main gallery Julian lost the ability to use words and when addressed could only respond in short burst of ‘what’.

We were soon into the wet crawling section that leads to the junction between Hyperthermia and Hydrophobia. We spent a bit longer than ideal just upstream from the left turn that marks the entrance to Hyperthermia as were unsure whether we’d gone the correct way. Eventually we decided to continue upstream in the low wet crawl and after about 10 minutes the passage opened up meaning we could breathe a sigh of relief that we had in fact followed Hydrophobia passage as planned. After some more route finding confusion we eventually got to the bottom of the ramp. There are quite a few side passages along the main route which we unintentially ventured down only to have to turn back. It soon became clear that the best policy was to follow the wire placed along the main route ‘“ shock horror! At the base of the ramp there was a surprising amount of graffiti had been scrawled into the mud on the walls, particularly since I thought this section was prone to regular flooding, ‘DB 1967’, ‘Piece of piss’, ‘WRPC are shit’ etc.
From here it was easy caving to the sump, which was actually very pleasant to dive. After the Rowten sumps the day before this was very straightforward affair, only four metres and no bags to cause complications. The sump itself is very open, the water very clear and everyone passed it easily. The end of the cave reached shortly after and we headed back. Rob got chilly due to a wetsuit malfunction so opted to give Hyperthermia a miss, good move. The rest of us neoprene’d up and after a good study of the description
headed off down Hyperthermia, not wanting to get it wrong once we started.

It went on for much longer than I had anticipated and I got quite cold about 20 minutes in. There was a fair amount of wrenching my neck to one side to keep my face out of the water but the hardest part was the sheer amount of sustained flat out crawling. Julian insisted I overtake him so he could keep stopping for a rest guilt free. Eventually Becka and myself reached the part where the passage enlarges slightly into a small 5m high aven where we waited for Julian. We thought he might have turned back after waiting there for some time but eventually we heard him thrashing in the distance and he turned up looking more miserable than usual, before berating Becka regarding her supposed lack of interest in his wellbeing. Not long after we got to the bottom connector than joins Hyperthermia to the main gallery, I slid through with my helmet off. Julian made an absolute meal of it, getting himself wedged in and shouting for help despite there being nothing I could do. He got through with a bit of brute force and Becka swiftly followed. We stomped back along the main gallery and up the entrance ramp. Scrambling up the slope towards the speck of daylight at the top reminded me of something from The Descent, a really cool end to the trip in my opinion.
The whole thing took us about 4 hours, one of the best caves I’ve done recently, well worth a visit.