Extracted from hand-typed reports in the Northern Pennine Club Records

Stream Passage Entrance, Gaping Ghyll System

The following is a synthesis of three separate, previously unpublished reports in the NPC records, written by Ken Gray, Don Hawtrey and J.K. Harris
Entrance Location :-Altitude 1335 ft.
54° 08' 50" N
2° 23' 03" W
Entrance opened :-10/4/49
First exploration :- Easter 1949 (15/4/49 to 19/4/49)
Total Depth :-340 feet
Passage Length :-220 yards
Tackle Required :-1st pitch. 25' ladder 25' belay & lifeline
2nd pitch. 80' ladder 60' belay, 100' lifeline
3rd pitch. 110' ladder 80' belay, 130' lifeline
4th pitch. 90' ladder 50' belay, 100' lifeline

A small stream disappears in its bed in a small valley some 500 yards west of Gaping Ghyll on Hurnel Moss. Here, a few yards beyond the point of engulfment, in a deep shakehole, there is an eyehole opening. Just beyond this is another small hole which gives access to the actual pot.

The way in is through a mass of boulders, a small hole which must be entered feet first. Descending about 15 feet, one enters a small chamber through the roof. This is about 8 feet by 7 feet by 5 feet with an upstream and a downstream passage. The upstream passage is rather low and one would have to crawl to make progress.

A trickle of water is met here, and following this down a narrow passage only three yards long, the head of the first pitch is reached. This pitch is of about 20 feet and the first few feet are rather awkward owing to the constricted nature of the passage. The ladder can be hung in quite a dry position, using a 25 foot belay over a flake. Descending into a large chamber 5 yards wide and some 10 yards long, the feelings of the first explorers can be appreciated.

First Chamber

This chamber has a partially boulder floor and three obvious inlets including the point of entry. One, to the right as one faces the ladder, was reached by a step up of five feet to a short passage where, at the foot of a 15 foot pitch which was deemed too awkward to climb, further progress was halted. Another, to the left, was inaccessible at a height of 35 feet up the side of the chamber wall opposite the other inlet.

Water also enters through some boulders at the end of a crack leading to an apparent dead end inlet some five feet around the wall from the position of the ladder belay.

There are two exit passages on the opposite side of the chamber from the ladder, an upper, dry one and a lower, wet one, both meeting some way downstream from the chamber. The upper passage is reached by a climb up of some 10 feet, is four feet in height and contains some stalactite formations. A similar climb down drops into the lower, or main, passage some 40 yards from the chamber.

The Main Passage

This passage, on leaving the first chamber, is quite dry, though certainly would be somewhat wet in the rainier seasons. Although only six feet or so in height initially, it rapidly reaches a height of some 12-15 feet with a width of about two feet. There are, at this point, some rather ragged edges of the rock sides, caused probably by solution.

After a few yards, the passage is joined by another inlet passage carrying a rapidly flowing stream. This passage, though having a height of about 15 feet, is very narrow, and progress up it was stopped after 18 feet by a jut of rock, which a hammer could easily remove. Beyond this point, round a bend in the passage, the stream falls over some drop. It must be noted, however, that access is only for the very slim.

The stream entering through this passage is of interest in that during the first exploration it was found that the amount of water prevented the descent of the third ladder pitch, therefore a search was made on the surface to find the source of this water.

Streams were found entering shakeholes some 300 yards and 500 yards west of Stream Passage Entrance and when these were followed up towards Ingleborough, were found to originate from breaks in the bank of Knowe Gap Sike, an artificial channel running along the base of Ingleborough towards Ingleton.

These breaks were repaired and the next day there was noticed a considerable diminution in the volume of water flowing into the inlet. Without this diversion, it would have been almost impossible to make a descent of the pot.

Below this inlet, the main passage had a stream of about 9" depth flowing through it, which was reduced to 3-4" after the Knowe Gap Sike streams were diverted.

With the entry of this inlet, the main passage broadens out and one is able to walk easily down, though there are numerous twists and turns. The height remains fairly constant at 18 feet for the majority of the way and one can easily climb up to the roof at any time by chimneying up the passage. At roof level, the passage is wider indicating the vadose nature of the cave. There are no further inlets, and after a short while, a very audible rumble increases in volume until the floor of the passage descends in a series of steps to the head of the second pitch.

Such is the strength of the wind created by the water falling over the pitch that the reaction on a number of stalactites hanging from the roof has presented a good few freak examples of anemolites. Practically all the stalactites are offset at an angle of thirty degrees from the vertical, and a number have developed offshoots which are long stalactites hanging vertically. One even has an effective curtain offshoot. Most unusual.

While the stream descends to the head of the pitch in a series of steps, one can climb to an upper passage on the left to avoid the water. This small oxbow projects the ladder some 12 feet forward, but at a point 15 feet above the point where the stream cascades over the wet pitch.

The Second Pitch
(Belay 60 feet, Ladder 80 feet, Lifeline 100 feet)

The belay for this pitch is awkward, as no firm rocks or projections offer themselves for use. A small spur is positioned about 25 feet back from the pitch takeoff and this forms the safest belay. To reach the pitch head, a traverse has to be made out over the head of the wet pitch to a small gallery (six feet long) on the left, from which the ladder is hung. The descent of this ladder, which hangs free from the wall for nearly threequarters of its length, is quite easy but becomes wet as one meets the water at the lower level. The pot is rather impressive and its size is difficult to estimate, but it is practically round in shape for most of its length. The ladder hangs from its roof, there being no aven above. The floor of the pot slopes into a vee-shape which receives all the water and sets it off down a short drop of some 15 feet into a narrow rift, situated beneath a floor of jammed boulders which are extremely loose. At this point, the second pitch gives place to the third pitch which is more or less a second step in a large continuous shaft.

The Third Pitch
(Belay 80 feet, Ladder 110 feet, Lifeline 130 feet)

To reach the head of the pitch one climbs over a floor of loosely jammed boulders. Whilst as much as possible of this loose material was gingerly dislodged during the initial exploration, effecting if possible a better jamming than that done by nature, the results were a little better but not really satisfactory. Stones were not dropping as frequently and the whole seemed a little more stable. The ladder is belayed to the largest boulder in the choke and carried forwards and down the pitch. The ladder hangs down the side of the jammed floor which sight is calculated to upset one mentally. The whole mass presents a picture rather like sweets stuck in a jar but there is no glass in this case to hold them in. This pitch is part of a rift shaped aven which ascends way above the point of entry, the roof being out of sight.

The horizontal extent is difficult to assess since the end is hidden around a slight bend in the rift. Further down the pitch at the 50 foot level, the rift widens to about ten feet and the water immediately deluges the ladder. The wall down which the ladder descends is not vertical but slopes at a very steep angle away from the head of the pitch down the rift. The sides of the wall are flaked and the edges of these flakes are well waterworn and so very sharp. The floor is quite flat but soon tapers down to a bedding cave. From here the pitch presents quite an impressive view. The length of the rift is about 80 feet. The handling of gear down this pitch for use on the next is facilitated by the use of a guideline, so badly do the flakes catch at the gear when lowered.

Fourth Pitch
(Belay 50 feet, Ladder 90 feet, Lifeline 100 feet)

From the third pitch ladder, the way lies along a boulder-strewn bedding cave for 10 yards until several large angular boulders are met, to the right of which the rift continues down again. Beyond this point the passage widens out to some 15 feet and continues for 20 yards to the head of a further pitch. There are several places where this pitch could be laddered giving pitches of from 75 to 90 feet. The best route, belayed to one of numerous boulders, descends a fine clear pitch of 90 feet to the floor of Stream Passage (Gaping Ghyll System) from whence one has easy access via Stream Chamber to the SW system of passages including the Stalagmite and Stalactite Chambers of Gaping Ghyll.

Stream Passage Pot is a fine clean pot of no great difficulty and is spoiled only by the extremely dangerous nature of the third ladder pitch, a situation to be remedied only by the wholesale use of explosives to remove the choke of loose rock.

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