9th October 2011 - Neil Garrard - SD66708030
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As had been predicted the whole of the Dales was a misty washout on Sunday with only a very few caving options that would be; not too dangerous, not too technically problematic, and not too short. On the way up as I drove passed where Ingleborough hill should have been and realised the gloomy weather had completely engulfed it; the choices became desperately thin. Over breakfast at Bernie's we discussed a very short list of possibilities and decided the best option was to head over to Bull Pot Farm with a view to descending Mistral Hole to the Dusty Junction area of the system; or if this threw up any problems to take a trip down Bull Pot of the Witches. Our plan received overwhelming endorsement from the 30 or so other cavers in the café as we meet most of them at Bull Pot Farm on their way down Bull Pot of the Witches or Mistral. As we passed Bull Pot of the Witches it was already looking like a busy day at Swildon's with two sets of rope in situ already.
After a drizzly romp over the fell and a relatively unproblematic search for the entrance we were glad to get ourselves underground and out of the weather. We descended the 6 metre free climb entrance to a narrow boulder strewn rift passage that quickly reduced to a low, twisty hands and knees crawl for about 20 metres. The passage then opened out into a boulder choke to a junction where Nigel correctly identified the left turn that lead to The Hobbit, the first of a number of impressive sized chambers. This cavern exhibits the changes in characteristic that were typical of the entire trip, beginning in an area of breakdown and turning into a muddy slope. A few muddy stals and a small inlet high up in the left wall conclude this chamber which then becomes a modest sized passage with a decent squeeze to make it memorable. The continuation for a further 40 or so metres is a mixture between stoop and muddy crawl until Dusty Junction is reached. From this low chamber there are three ways off; one being an uninviting wet and muddy crawl, one being the route to White Wall chamber and the third exit takes you through to Hall of the Mountain King and beyond. We decided to take each route in turn beginning with the Hall of the Mountain King which is the trade route for most parties entering via Mistral.
We followed this last route out of Dusty Junction and after a reasonably short passage came to the impressive Hall of the Ten another huge chamber that is almost 20 metres high and similarly wide in places. Thanks to an impressive array of lights between us we managed to illuminate this immense chamber to its full glory. The huge passage eventually reached a large mud bank that descends into the Hall of the Mountain King. There were five cavers who took five different approaches to descending the gelatinous mud bank to the base of the chamber; it is safe to say that none of these methods of descent had any grace or technical merit. Again the chamber had an impressive scale and some striking mud formations that Nigel managed to capture; John kindly posed for the photo to give a sense of perspective. We concluded that perhaps the student group from Glasgow had beaten us to the chamber!
At the base of Hall of the Mountain King the mud funnels down to a small passage that John and Kevin pursued; this descends eventually into a much higher rift passage of Leck Fell Lane where a series of fine formations made our efforts well worth while. Again Nigel captured some of the straws and fine helictites that adorn the walls of this impressive passage. A little further along we were reminded that water was an ever present danger in this caving system as we passed the very lively waterfall that marks the entrance to the Cigalère; a canyon stream way with many cascades, which we elected to save for another and considerably dryer day. A short way beyond the water fall we found another aven with water inlet that marked the end of the passage; at least for today.
Our return journey to Dusty Junction was interspersed with a few photo opportunities and an unfortunate bad step on Nigel's behalf that twisted his knee lending a rather painful exit. On returning to Dusty Junction we found a few members of Crewe Caving Club on their exit to the system. We took a brief foray down the remaining passages that left the chamber. The passage to Red Wall Chamber and White Wall Chamber is quite lofty, dry, bolder strewn and fairly unremarkable. A very brief and final look down the final passage, Trowell Passage; was followed as far as Muddy Wallows where airspace was in short supply so we beat a hasty retreat.
A very good days caving and certainly a good option for wet days in the future. A return during moderate conditions would also be worthwhile as there are trips to Gour Hall and the Cigalère that can be followed to a 60 foot waterfall; these would make good additions to another day. After a wash in the beck, during which Tom made every effort to start a water fight; we concluded the day with a richly deserved drink at Whoop Hall Inn, a fine Sunday's caving.
Below 1: In Dusty Junction Below 2: Formations in Leck Fell Lane