Adam, Becky T, Daddy Badger, Joe, Liz H, Luke N, Maddie, Tom(Evil) + assorted freshers
A vaguely pleasant spring evening and Badgers all over the country were emerging from their homes, and preparing to descend upon the unsuspecting Yorkshire dales for another weekend of underground fun.
My own particular convoy got as far as the M6 before remembering that I was supposed to have brought all the food, and so a few panicked phone calls ensued – but all was resolved and before long we were arriving at Bradford’s caving hut in Brackenbottom; the affectionately named ‘Dump’. We were alarmed to discover that the hut itself is quite nice, which ruled out our usual furniture-destruction caving games, so we made dinner and consumed alcohol instead as we waited for the rest of our number to arrive. Alcohol consumption continued long into the night before we retired for cuddles and to get some sleep(optional).
We woke the next morning at what felt like 5:30. Breakfast was made and I’m told it was well received as I went for my usual hungover ‘walk’, wondering how someone had managed to remove my eyeballs, sandpaper them, and put them back in. Faffage followed, but after a while we were ready to set off in search of Gaping Gill. The convoy arrived and we debated as to whether to get changed or not, as the walk from Clapham to the cave takes a fair while. The trek uphill in the sun was popular that morning and a number of tourists passed us as we carried our kit along with us, sweating against the sticky embrace of moist PVC oversuits. Passing Ingleborough cave and conquering a style we sat at the patch of limestone that marks the caves’ entrances and waited for the whole party to turn up.
Splitting up, half of the group would use the Bar Pot entrance, and the other the Small Mammal. I headed the latter and eagerly darted on ahead to rig our first pitch, which required long legs and a bit of cunning, but I managed nonetheless and before long we were at the bottom. The pitch itself isn’t huge, but then again certainly not narrow or difficult, and I wondered to myself how the word ‘small’ had gotten to take up half of its name. I was about to vocalise my curiosity when Joe disappeared off ahead of me into a flat out crawl, and it dawned on me that Mark and Adam had both been particularly quick to volunteer for the other route. Mentally adding both their names to my ‘revenge list’ I wriggled onwards and before long the two groups had reunited at the bottom of the Bar Pot pitch, minus the presidential couple who had gone on ahead to do whatever it is that they do when left alone in the dark.
Overcoming a slide and passing under an impressive bridge a queue had formed at the head of a bit of an awkward squeeze/traverse. At the back of the queue Evil pointed out to me that there was an arrow painted onto the wall behind us, which notably pointed in the direction of an entirely different bit of passageway. Speculating that we were blindly wandering off in entirely the wrong direction, we resolved to do nothing as most of the group had already passed the squeeze, and once we were all through we met Adam who was discussing how it was odd that we hadn’t heard from Mark or Lizzie in such a while, and that none of this bit of cave looked familiar to him. At this point we mentioned the arrow and Adam thanked Evil for his timely observation with a series of colourful words.
Back up the awkward squeezy bit we quickly came to the head of the next pitch which our illustrious leaders had rigged and at the bottom of which were patiently waiting.
Again a bit of a queue formed but this time I wasn’t to bothered as the head of this pitch was quite impressive and boasted a few imposing formations. Two ropes had in fact been rigged for us, and so as the majority used LUPC’s ancient, stiff, and distended 6 year old rope, the more daring (gullible) of us descended on a slippery shoelace that Mark had brought with him.
A brief pause as we composed ourselves and de-kitted, and on we pressed into a labyrinth of tunnels. They were thankfully quite dry, but were constantly at that awkward height of not-quite-crawling, not-quite-walking and so it was interesting to observe the variety of techniques that were employed to navigate the tunnels, including Lizzie’s “Baby”, Joe’s “Cro-Magnon Man”, and my personal favourite; Evil’s “Gollum”.
The tunnels suddenly opened up into the main chamber, and I was quickly reminded that until a decade or so ago this was thought to be the largest chamber in the country. The sound of the streamway falling the hundred+ metres down the shaft onto the bare rock hit us suddenly and was the cue for much photography and neck straining as we took in our surroundings.
The chamber really is genuinely impressive and I was reluctant to be dragged away when we were, but eventually we made the move back up through the tunnels and out of the cave.
An unremarkable exeunt followed, until the two groups swapped exits, (at this point I decided to strike Mark and Adam from my hitlist seeing as they too had subjected themselves to the crawleyness of Small Mammal) and so I was greeted with the narrow Bar Pot pitch on my way out. Struggling upwards and thinking that this particular bit of cave would have been much easier on the way down (re-adding said names to said list) I eventually reached the top, hurriedly de-rigged and rejoined my badgery comrades in the sun for the walk back to the cars.
Saying goodbye to Adam and Maddie and realising that I had forgotten a change of trousers, we headed back to Brackenbottom for dinner and a slightly more sedate evening of fireside conversation. Mark escaped and the rest of us listened to thrash metal and gangster rap before experimenting with amphetamines and swinging (we were in bed by 10:30).
The next day breakfast was inhaled and we decided to go for a walk up Ingleborough hill, seeing as it had been looming over us the day before. Nobody died and we had a riverside picnic/paddle/sunbathe in Ingleton, before driving home.
A great couple of days and I may have discovered my new favourite British cave (so far!)