~~Caving News July 2015 – Whitsun in July
It might not be seven weeks after Easter but that did not stop the cavers going on a Whitsun day trip in July.
According to the events programme we were supposed to visit Meregill Hole in Yorkshire. However, Meregill Hole becomes exciting if it rains. The forecast last Saturday was for heavy rain starting in the early afternoon. I was in Meregill Hole a few years ago when it rained and we found ourselves battling to get out. A re-run of the experience did not seem quite the thing. So we decided to do a less adventurous trip down Bar Pot and into the Gaping Gill system.
Getting into Gaping Gill via Bar Pot is straightforward. The only issue is the limited space near the top of the first pitch, only a few metres from the surface. Gravity helps and we were down the rope in no time. We descended steep slopes and a pitch of nearly forty metres, crawled and stooped for a few minutes, and entered Gaping Gill main chamber. We sat in silence for a while, gazing at the spectacle of water falling into it, lit by a shaft of daylight from the hole where it enters.
Getting our memories confused we set off to one end of the chamber and up a slope to find a rift with a ladder down into it that we were not expecting. We carried on anyway to what turned out to be the West Chamber and had a look round. Martin and Paul did some brave climbing while I sat and watched, and then we returned to the main chamber, climbed the slope at the opposite end, and entered the East passage to Mud Hall. We traversed high on one wall of the immense chamber and went on along East Passage.
After passing through a couple of big chambers and a vaguely wet, crawly bit of passage we came to a junction. A narrow, muddy passage went more or less straight on but a slope down to the right led to a more inviting, round passage. We went that way and very soon found ourselves crawling through low passages and chambers filled with splendid formations. I could not work out where we were. If you keep going long enough you come to the Whitsun Series of passages which are indeed full of formations. But to get there you have to go through a fairly long, low duck where you lie on your back with just enough head room to keep your face out of the water. Then comes a mud duck – no higher, but full of liquid mud rather than clean water. I had been through both some years ago and I remembered them well. More recently, a group of us had got as far as the duck, taken one look at it, and decided to go home.
Eventually, the passage we were following closed down and we decided it was time to turn back. As we slid down the slope into the wet section of passage, I recognised it from this direction. It was the place where the mud duck ought to be. Either it has changed naturally, someone has drained it, or its level falls more than any of us realised following a period of relatively dry weather. We had spent the afternoon in the Whitsun Series!
We returned to the main chamber, washed the worst of the mud off, and began our escape via Bar Pot. Getting down the top of the entrance pitch may be straightforward; getting out offers opportunities to get stuck which at least one party member usually manages to do. We invited Paul to be the one.
Getting stuck is rarely irreversible, though, and we were soon out in the evening sunshine. There had not been a drop of rain all day. We could have visited Meregill after all, but what of it? Bar Pot did us proud.