Scaling Ladders in Lancaster Hole

G.Cornes and W.Holden

On a sight-seeing trip one day, in the main drain of Lancaster Hole, G.Cornes and H.Burgess discovered a small, silted up passage which had previously remained unnoticed. Ten minutes digging revealed an ascending slope, wet and slimy, into which the protesting Burgess was promptly pushed. After a few feet however, he was stopped by a vertical ascending pitch of some 15 to 20 feet and the slimy, damp and dejected H.B. had to retire.

At Club Headquarters some time later it was decided by the club elders that scaling tackle should be taken in and that an attempt should once more be made to push the H.B. passage. A young team was dispatched, with the ever-faithful Cornes, and the second assault on H.B. began. The job of scaling the pitch was fairly easy, simply five scaling ladders propped against the wall, then a simple climb of four feet brought the party to an upstream passage some two feet wide and some five to six feet high. This continued for thirty yards and terminated in a round aven some forty or fifty feet in height. The caving genius of G.Cornes once more excelled and in no time at all he found that at about thirty feet up two passages appeared to branch off from the circular aven. Another trip was planned on the spot.

Two weeks later, a party of N.P.C. trogs, with six additional scaling ladders, entered Lancaster Hole with H.B. passage again as their objective. After much sweating and swearing the round aven was reached and six scaling ladders were fixed in position. They fell much short of the two prospective passages however, and back we had to go to pull up our first pitch and bring along an extra four scaling ladders. These were attached to those already in the aven and up went the first man. It proved to be a very uncomfortable and unsuccessful climb, but on the other side of the aven from the point reached could be seen a huge black opening. Down came the bod and over on the other side went the scaling ladders. G.Cornes went up and after a hair-raising climb arrived in the black void. W.Holden followed and together they set off to explore. The passage was arch-shaped, about ten to twelve feet across and after twenty yards divided into two smaller but easily negotiable passages. The one on the right was explored first and after only forty yards it terminated in a silted blockage. The passage on the left continued for forty yards and then on the (left) right hand side a small, tube-like passage was noticed. The air coming from this passage made it difficult to keep one's hat on. Holden pushed his way into this tube, into which he just fitted, and after fifteen minutes of hard wriggling he made fifteen yards of ground and discovered a new stream passage. The stream falls away down a pitch which is too narrow to allow entry at the top but which appears to open out underneath. Upstream was much too narrow for exploration, so after a fantastic struggle to turn round, Holden made his way out and reported to Cornes. Cornes sat back and listened like a wise and wily old owl and declared that the stream passage must be pushed as it did not come into any known point of Lancaster Hole Main Drain or the waterfall passages and could possibly by-pass the main sump.

The pitch has not yet been descended but plans are afoot and soon we shall know where the passage leads.

No survey has yet been made of the H.B. Passage but it is hoped to include it in the N.P.C. and C.R.G. publication on the Lancaster Ease Ghyll system.

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