My interest in this part of the cave began in 1980, when Geoff Yeadon and I dived into the 'Upstream Passages' (via Arrow Chamber) to survey the area. Although of no great length, the passages were found to be quite well developed in places. Originally explored by R.E.Davies and J.S.Buxton in 1954 (1,2), these were pushed to various conclusions eight years later by R.A.Jarman, J.G.Nolan and K.Pearce (3,4), who also produced a preliminary survey (3). A visit in 1974 was made by C.Baxter and J.Gardner, who suggested that one of the terminal sumps might be diveable. Consequently, Geoff Crossley and I checked the sump in the right hand branch (5) which was silted up. The passages seemed to hold little potential and the area was forgotten about. Our survey notes remained with Geoff Yeadon and are as yet unpublished.
Some time later, I heard about the large volume of water which flowed at the base at the base of the small floor slot in the Second Gothic Arch in wet conditions (6). Although a previous examination by Mike Wooding (7) had found that the upstream sump here was silted up, we decided it would be worth another look (8). In June 1981, I set off into this sump, base-fed by Tim Nixon, and followed an easy passage for 18m to an airbell. The way on was out of depth at floor level, in the form of a clean-washed bedding. Two more visits (8) saw the bedding pushed, via a low area at -3m, to a pot up into a much larger passage at 65m from base. Although there was no detectable current, this went both ways and it was obvious that a powerful flow from left to right existed in flood. Another dive here (9) pushed the left hand route to two airbells at 75m and a survey of the sump was completed. Ron Bury also dived the downstream Gothic Arch sump which was silted up after 7m (8) and I climbed into a muddy passage in one of the new airbells which became too small after 10m (9).
It became apparent that the right hand (unexplored) route in the large bedding at the end of the upstream sump was very close to the sump in the left hand branch of the upstream passages. A dive at this site (10) quickly reached the pot at 65m in the Gothic Arch sump, but the existing line was found to have been torn out by floods and a lot of sand deposited. The tangle was sorted out on the next dive (10) and the round trip of Giants Hall, Arrow Chamber, Upstream Passages and Gothic Arch sump was completed, involving sumps of 2m, 18m and 70m. The explored length of Gothic Arch sump was also taken to 90m through an unpleasant low bedding which caused problems on the return, finally solved only by trusting the compass ! During this period, Ron Bury had dived through the Secret Stream sump, inserted a bolt and rigged this with a thick handline for freedivers (11).
It was becoming increasingly obvious that in flood, the whole of the Gothic Arch/Upstream Passages complex carried some of the Fell Beck floodwater and we thought at the time that these passages were merely a large oxbow to its normal route through Ingleborough Cave. Some time later (12), I became interested in finding out where the Hurnel Moss Pot water went, as reports were confused and conflicting. We ran our own test which (though not 100% conclusive) indicated that it did in fact enter Ingleborough Cave at the Gothic Arch sump (rather than rising at Moses Well as had been suggested). Several attempts were then made to extend Gothic Arch sump but all were foiled by either appalling visibility (due to peat staining) or by line problems (due to flooding).
It was not until 1st March 1986 that any progress was made (13). This was at the end of the frosty February drought and conditions were at last perfect. Laying new line from the 90m belay, I surfaced at 110m into a canal at the start of 30m of dry passage (The Fault), ending in a hanging choke over another sump. Expecting more long, shallow diving, I was surprised to find no floor until a depth of 15m. In fact I had descended a flaky underwater shaft, on a fault plane, which was blocked by a steep sand slope at the base. Further progress at this point seemed unlikely (though it might be worth checking again after a very heavy flood, as the amount of sand in all these sumps varies enormously from dive to dive). Although the first part of the sump is relatively small and immature, it enlarges above the pot at 65m as it joins the main development originating from the deep shaft, which goes via the upstream passages towards the large wet beddings below Giants Hall.
Also early in 1986, Mike Thomas had a go at diving the downstream sump in Hurnel Moss Pot (14), but this was unfortunately blocked by mudbanks after only a short distance.
I would like to thank the many members of the Pennine and CPC for their help in carrying the gear for these explorations. I'm also very grateful to Alf Hurworth, P.(Chester) Shaw and more recently Bob Jarman (who was involved in the explorations himself in the sixties) for their help in arranging access for us.