Ever since my last trip into Langcliffe last May I had been meaning to return to have a more thorough look around without the distraction of malnutrition. Peachey had been on a rescue practice in there in the summer and was suitably upset at the amount of litter remaining in the cave from the 1972 rescue (of ‘Adventures of Another Pooh’ fame). With this having been an ULSA rescue, we decided to rectify the pollution of that rescue and begin to remove the rubbish from the cave.
It was due to be a chilly one from the start, with frosty football fields spotted through the steamy car window on the drive up. We were thankful for the heating in the micra, and laughed at Rob Middleton’s lack of heating in his otherwise superior machine. By the time we were parked at Scargill House, the sun had come out to play and the valley was dappled in golden rays, that took some of the edge off the sense of foreboding that I always feel as I drive up through Wharfedale. It’s really a special place, at once inspiring and beautiful but also clearly of a higher power that holds no emotional attachment to the wills of those who seek pleasure in its surroundings. I think that this feeling is definitely enhanced by the tragic events of the past, but the way that Kilnsey crag looms over the western side of the valley appears to me like the mouth of some great beast, of which the mountain is a part, waiting to swallow me up at the slightest false step.
The walk-in was very fresh and enjoyable, and after some confusion locating the Oddmire entrance it soon popped up in front of us, fresh icicles adorning the moss at the northern end of the shakehole. The top of Langcliffe Moor is one of the few places in the Dales where one feels truly remote: no buildings or are visible from the cave entrance, and there is no sound of traffic. With the whole fell to yourself, it is pleasantly easy to forget that you arrived here in a car on a road after leaving your house in the city. All of that, the clutter, the grey, the planning and precision makes way for fragments from times long past.
Slipped into caving gear quickly in the brisk midday air. Amazingly Peachey seemed to be wearing some neoprene appendages about his knees… has he gone soft or just come to his senses? Soon at the bottom of the string and removing SRT kits before the long joint-crushing trek toward Hammerdale Dub and cables galore. The Oddmire entrance is certainly easier than the original entrance, but nevertheless lulls you into a false sense of security near the start due to the unprecedented lengths of walking passage to be found. This illusion is soon past, however, with much crawling, wriggling and wallowing being required in the ensuing half-hour.
Once at Hammerdale Dub, some enjoyable wading and stomping occurs before the start of the Kilnsey Boulder Crawl, where the first of the wire was to be found. We began the tedious task of snippy-snip, coil wire, stuff into bags, repeat. Often, several strands of wire appeared to be one, but simultaneously managed to be wrapped around many different boulders. Once we arrived in Langstrothdale Chase, things became somewhat easier, not least because substantial amounts of the wire had been collected and coiled already. Very soon, all 4 tacklesacks were full and we about-turned and hightailed it out of there, making swift progress until Hammerdale Dub.
The crawls of the Entrance Series were a bit of a twat with the bags but still not bad, though the crawls did seem to last much longer than on the way in. I have come to accept that this trick of perception must be faced in all such long and awkward stretches of cave. It is the way. Almost as if a cave-dwelling demon rises up from the depths of such crawls, trying to tease the sanity from your mind, testing your resolve.
The surface was very, very cold on exit. Dekitting was not kind to the hands. We elected to remain in caving kit, throwing primaloft belay jackets on over the top of the sodden garms. This did not make for the warmest descent, but certainly the most time-efficient in the circumstances. Navigating off the hill had been a major challenge on my last visit (without any navigational equipment), and I was determined not to make the same mistake again. This time, with the aid of the map, the way of the tops came much more easily and soon we were at a gate that we had definitely passed through on the way up. Success! Back at the car for 7, home for half 8 for tea and medals, the medals in question being stew kindly cooked by Rachel. A good trip to regenerate my lingering caving career, and a good litmus test of my fitness and form before tomorrows much longer and harder outing…
views from and of the Oddmire entrance.
Description found in Langstrothdale Chase. The handwriting on it looks suspiciously like Becka’s…
bags full of wire… and wire…