This story begins, as do many others, in a pub. The Pennine Secret Agent, disguised as a caver, was seated unobtrusively next to an ageing tiger - no names mentioned, but his views are aired with a bent he alone knows. The topic under discussion that evening was the Tiger's long past exploits in a cavern on Fountains Fell, which, in his opinion, ought to be much larger. Rushings and gurglings amidst boulder chokes were described with much arm-waving and spilling of beer. Our man plied the orating gentleman with ale to learn more of his story.
The prospect of the possibilities of a 'Foreign' Club discovering new thigs on Pennie territory was disturbing to several of the 'Old Team' so an expedition was arranged to the scene of the 'Rushings and Gurglings'.
Several months passed and at last permission was received from the clubs' council for a trip into this seldom visited hole.
On reaching the final chamber, the spot was located where the ageing Tiger had stood, listened and dreamed of 'Caverns far below'. Within minutes, nay seconds, the Pennine experts formed an opinion - Only a B----- fool would dig here, not even a Red Rose member.... well, perhaps a Red Rose member.
Wandering away from the main party, Colin Green and I came to the place where we had looked many times before, the stream sink at the foot of the 35 foot pitch into the final chamber. This has, in the past, always appeared to be an unpleasant dig, large boulders packed with smaller fill with the stream splashing all around. Nearby, further along the wall of the chamber is a hole down which one can climb for some 10 feet, ending in a choke, thus making digging at the stream sink somewhat pointless.
To our surprise, the fill at the stream sink had disappeared, revealing a clean washed rift some 12 feet deep, with what appeared to be a solid rock floor at the bottom with a small stream flowing along. The rift was not man-sized, so a start was made to rectify this matter by removing several large boulders which fortunately did not prove to be immovable. After several hours work the way on seemed clear, so Bob Hart was 'volunteered' into the hole, promptly disappearing into an easy bedding to one side of the rift.
Hot on his heels followed the rest of the party, discovering that the bedding continued under and parallel to the wall of the chamber. After about 50 feet of crawling we were able to stand up in a 'walking' passage , the decorations of which are as magnificent as any seen in the original sections of Gingling Hole.
Hurrying on downstream, passaing through a rock window, we encountered an even larger passage, covered with profusions of white calcite formations including numerous helictites. Soon the passage steepened and a pitch encountered so a delegation was sent back to remove the ladders from the original final pitch into the main chamber. Eagerly we descended the pitch, which is 35 feet deep, to arrive in a high rift passage beautifully decorated with black formations which almost, but not quite prevent progress in the downstream direction. Crawling through a calcited choke, a very loose, dangerous boulder bridge is encountered which is very reminiscent of the bridge in Short Drop Cave, but far less stable. Care should be taken when passing under this gravity defying phenomenon, as one of our party nearly went for a 'burton' when the bridge moved down 6" with him underneath. Marks on the wall bear out this fact.
Beyond the bridge, the passage rose again loftily, only to terminate in a narrow winding passage after a few yards. Traversing along this passage, a further pitch of some 20 feet was reached. Our last last ladder was put into use bringing us into a small chamber leading off from which is a further high, narrow passage which is negotiable at several feet above the stream level. Squeezing along the rift, overalls and wetsuits tearing with the helictites, another short pitch is reached. This is not the way on, as we found to our disappointment. Whilst this pitch was being climbed by several members, Colin Green was busy traversing high in the rift, burbling something about "Lost Johns'" type passage at high levels. The 'wet way on' being too tight, all the party congregated in a wider part of the rift discovered by Colin.
The rift in front appeared to be completely blocked by pure white calcite formations, whilst a narrow fissure in the floor gave a limited view of the route of the stream, a drop of some 40 feet or so into a round chamber.
On examination of the calcite barrier, we noticed that ecent flood debris was wrapped round the base of the small curtains at floor level and was pointing away from us, indicating that the water had passed through at some time or other. A stone thrown through a crack in the curtains higher up, plopped into resounding space.
Green's inexhaustible Gladstone Bag was produced and a small lump hammer provided. One hour later, a man-sized hole had been knocked through the calcite barrier - cave preservationists forgive us ! To our delight, the passage continued on the other side, but soon became very tight again prior to a six foot drop. Standing in a pool of evil smelling water, the window to the other pitch was enlarged, again by hammering. Eventually Colin and I were able to squeeze through, climb down the short pitch and continue along a narrow passage, down a further climbable pitch of 12 feet to another very tight looking restriction in the passage.
Encouragingly, the rift opened up to bigger dimensions immediately beyond. Incited by Colin, I was inserted into the constriction and pushed through. Too eager to worry about the return journey through 'the thrutch', I pressed on into the unknown. Two minutes later, I was back with Colin, requesting a lump hammer. From the end of the rift, a small passage, chest deep in water, was followed until the way was blocked by a false floor just above the water level. Formations barring progress were soon demolished, permitting a crawl over sheets of calcie ice into a high aven, followed by further crawling into a small drop into a deep pool. The pool terminated abruptly, held back by a natural flowstone dam, giving way to a passage of comfortable dimensions. I continued, rather hurriedly, as I knew the rest of the party would be wondering where I had got to. After 100 or so feet of easy passage, a vertical drop abruptly stopped progress, and a stone thrown down indicated a pitch in the order of 60 feet or more. A retreat was made, conveying the good news to the rest of the party.
Meanwhile, back at the junction of the ways, people had been busy with lump hammers. The narrow fissure giving access to the 'wet way on' had been considerably enlarged and appeared to be almost (thin) man-size. No tackle being available, a return to the surface was inevitable. Plans had already been made for a heap of tackle to be brought on the morrow, the second day of our official meet.
The following day found a six man team, encumbered with a seemingly surplus amount of tackle, busy at the top of the new pitch, a descent of 60 feet. A beautiful climb on dry, sound walls and unsound ladders brought us into a fine, high rift, reminiscent of the grand canyon in Meregill. From the foot of the 60 foot, a short scramble down over boulders revealed a further pitch of 40 feet. The ledge between the pitches is actually a boulder ruckle jammed in the end of this huge rift, the end of the latter pitch bringing one down to the real 'floor'. Though being immense in height, dimensions at this point are somewhat diminished in width but are still 'man-sized'. Lights shone upwards and along the 'Big Rift', as we had named this feature, failed to indicate any termination.
Pressing on downwards, a ten foot drop was climbed, followed by a 23 foot pitch into a small chamber, which in reality is just a local widening in the fissure. It was noticed that the walls were getting increasingly muddier as we descended deeper, indicating in our opinion that the water table at some time or other had been far above our present position. The bottom of the rift narrowed to "just passable" proportions. This was very fortunate because even though the rift was very much wider higher up, the nature of the mud on the walls would have made traversing impossible.
Squeezing on for several yards, a further pitch of some 30 feet was encountered and laddered, bringing us to a very muddy chamber. The way on swung sharply downwards to our left in an increasingly steepening fissure. Stones thrown down plopped resoundingly into water.
Ladders were pushed down the narrow fissure towards the assumed sump followed by an unwilling Eski and retainer. Stepping off the ladder, Eski trod water and searched frantically for the way on, but without success. In the meantime, others in the party had climbed into what may have been a high level passage leading off from the chamber at the head of this final pitch. Again, we were disappointed.
We retreated, surveying and deladdering to reach "Madam Heys' Mobile Coffee Bar" at the junction before closing time.
Several members of the party still feeling fresh, or was it the purple hearts in the coffee, decided to have an attempt at the 'wet way on'. 50 feet of ladder was dropped through the "'Ammered 'Ole" and Brian Heys was pushed through, the rest of the paty following suit. As usual, B.H. had disappeared, with a grunt, along a narrow stream passage, shortly to be heard shouting for a 20 foot ladder. We obliged and followed on. At the foot of the 20 foot pitch, a small chamber led off down a steep fissure into what appeared to be a further pitch. A stone thrown down indicated a drop in the order of 100 feet.
Ladders which had been left at the head of the "'Ammered 'Ole" pitch were brought and five lowered down the undescended drop. The unfortunate person at the front of the queue was ceremoniously secured to the lifeline and pushed unwillingly out in to space. The pitch was bone dry and a ledge at 50 feet down gave prospects of an easy descent. From this ledge it was apparent that our original estimate of 100 feet was grossly inaccurate, so two more ladders were tied on.
A descent of 100 feet from the ledge led to a narrow gully in the corner of the pot, making climbing a little more strenuous that climbing a builder's ladder. Suddenly, this feature terminated, leaving the climber suspended in space and approaching the end of the ladder, but not the end of the pitch. Luckily, a small ledge was nearby, making retreat up the ladder unnecessary. 50 feet below, a narrow sump could be seen amidst dark walls. More ladder was added and the descent continued.
Five people made the descent of the 200 foot pitch including Brian Heys who promptly opened up the deepest rum coffee bar in Yorkshire.
A mud filled inlet passage was climbed in the hopes of finding a route over the sump, but to no avail. We plumbed the sump to a depth of 30 feet, thus making the depth of the pot 583 feet, or 553 feet to sump level. The sump in the 'Big Rift' system is also at the 553 foot level. This is logical as the calculated straight-line distance between the two sumps is only a few feet.
Tired but elated, we made our way to the surface and to the flesh pots whither our story began.