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Dale Head pot


30.04.2022 – Mike, Rob, Dinny

I wanted to recce the cave after agreeing to re-survey it with Becka (I’d never been). Very dry conditions across the Dales.

Arrived at the Fell in glorious sunshine and the key was hidden behind some moss and nettles in the wall. Entrance pitch rigged, down the very re-assuring scaffolded climb and along Heartburn Crawl which was aptly named as I nearly rejected the insane amounts of porridge I had ingested at breakfast after being asked to make more, and then the culprits refusing to see it off.

Along to Rabbit Inlet and onwards downstream through a nice bedding plane passage with some satisfying sediment deposits. Soon Bottle pitch was reached, from here you’re pretty much constantly on rope until the bottom of the 10ft pitch, with all the shafts being in parallel and formed along the same fault. Dinny rigged until the bottom of Emery, passing a loose hanger on a spit at the head of the Wet pitch which could do with being tightened up. You could get to the bottom of Emery from the top of Bottle using one 55 – 60 m rope. I rigged the Big pitch, which has an awkward traverse along the rift to head back towards the main pitch about half way down. A 60m rope just got us to the bottom and I was rigging quite tightly so bear this in mind.


The ‘distinctive white limestone bed’, which is about 3 m up from the foot of the shaft and is mentioned in Northern Caves 2, was inspected. In ‘Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales’ Vol 2 Chapt. 24, Waltham and Proudlove suggested that this is the Porcellaneous Bed – based on what I saw I don’t think it is, but a more thorough investigation could be worthwhile. I saw a similar band of limestone at the bottom of Black Rift in Black Shiver on our trip in March, which was interesting as it was very undulating and pinched out heading away from the foot of the pitch toward the duck.


We continued down the 10ft pitch, which can be rigged from a few different naturals, the most solid being some big jammed blocks set back from the puitch head. This necessitates a rope protector (we used a bag) over an edge to reach the pitch head, though the edge on the pitch itself is very smooth and wouldn’t need one. You can probably free climb this pitch but it seems unnecessarily silly – a rescue from deep in this cave would be extremely shit.

From this point the clean washed nature of the cave changes dramatically and the whole affair becomes extremely gloopy and brown. An exposed and muddy traverse over the 20ft pitch is easy although the rock quality seemed dubious – care needed. Then you do a short squeeze through a tube bypassing a small sump (not tight but bendy). Then do a climb down about 4m at the base of Steps Pitch, which can be done easily direct (but again slippery, exposed and dubious rock quality) or by dropping down a small hole just before the big one and then squeezing through a muddy gap. The exposed climb is easier on the way up. Then do another muddy 2m climb down to an even muddier passage with a wriggle over a block in the floor.

Reach a T junction, turn left towards the sound of running water and then you’re at the head of Pool pitch, the last. At the bottom of this, you immediately have to get involved with the water by passing a duck, which seems to be quite static as the flow is diverted down another passage to the right. After this, you can head straight on, over some quite jagged broken rock, and then down another exposed and awkward climb to reach the quite squalid looking sump just below. The top of this chimney climb is especially tricky for those with short legs, as  it is hard to reach the opposite wall here and there are no good hand holds. Short arses or those who are not confident climbers would definitely benefit from a rope at the top.

An uneventful and steady journey out, where Mike showed his prussiking speed to Dinny but was then reminded that he was carrying a bag less than half the size of mine or Dinny’s. Much colder weather on the exit of the cave, with a strong wind blowing. Dinny nearly caused a major upset by pushing my key further into the wall; luckily Mike seemed to have much more flexible fingers and retrieved it.

Very good trip, but will be a real pain to survey especially with so many routes down the big pitch. I’ve drawn a rigging topo as well for any other future visitors.


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