Juniper Gulf: Ben Honan, David Wilson, Jack Halliday, Jack Hare, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, William French
Up early, we surprised York and the sole NPC member at Greenclose by leaving by 10 am, rope bags all packed ready for an epic trip. Juniper Gulf! Supposedly one of the five best trips in the UK! The club hadn't done it in ages, and we had no trip reports, but a post on UK Caving peaked my interest and I laminated a few rigging guides and convinced everyone that walking 4.5 km to a cave was fine, just fine.
We arrived in Horton in Ribblesdale to find a huge number of hikers had also decided to park here. Even the car parks were full. Eventually we found a field where a farmer took £3 from us and then chatted for a while about a murder victim found stashed in Sell Gill a decade ago. Eventually I removed all my clothing and he got the message and left to let me get changed.
The walk up was long but pleasant, a gradual slope upwards on the massive dual carriageway that is the route up Ingleborough. We passed plenty of curious walkers, chatted to a few and eventually made it to a nice limestone pavement which contains Nick Pot. After this, we reached a dry stone wall, went through a gate and turned left, keeping the dry stone wall on our left as we crossed the boggy ground with a GPS to help locate the entrance.
The entrance is in a large shake hole, with the pitch at the far end from the streamway. The others sunbathed as I rigged a ridiculous y-hang which dropped down to some free climbable cascades. Diss followed with the second rope bag, and after a short, unprotected traverse we reached a long traverse I could actually rig. The bolts are well spaced to keep the epic feel of the cave, and there are several acrobatic moves required to reach the next bolt. I was glad to be tall and flexible, and I anxiously checked behind me to see if the others were able to use my rigging. I shouldn't have worried - four weeks in Slov had honed Diss like a diamond whetstone, and she had no trouble following me.
Down a short pitch we regained the streamway, and I took the second bag from Diss. I told her to wet the third bag ready for the long final hang, but I had forgotten this was 90 m of rope. The next section was a long unprotected crawl traverse over a 20 m drop. I found it taxing and unpleasant, and I can only imagine how much worse it was for Diss with 90 m of wet rope. But we made it through, and at a seemingly arbitrary point bolts began to appear and I rigged the Bad Step. This was not as bad as the description makes it seem, though some of the traverses I rigged by free climbing down one side of the drop and up the other. I then rigged this as a tight traverse that apparently made a fine zipline.
The Bad Step rift narrows and turns a sharp corner, presenting a tight pitch head which opens into what I think is the finest pitch in Juniper Gulf - well sculpted, and the waterfall emerges half way down through a gap in the bedding plane. At the bottom was more traversing, close to the water and increasingly drippy. I missed a few naturals, but the rigging was sound and soon I was above the huge void that contained the final pitch.
The rigging guide is somewhat unhelpful here, suggesting bolts that don't exist and bearing on a hazy resemblance to the actual location of the y-hang bolts for the long hang. And so it was that I found myself standing on a small pillar over a long drop, with a metre of slack on the rope above my hard locked descender. I clung to the rock in front of me, rigging my jammers one handed as the others all watched the the vacant curiosity of sheep, unaware of my peril.
Soon I was back up to the traverse line, rerigging two bolts as a y-hang and then down to a rebelay bolt five metres below. Yes, the 50 m hang is all off a single bolt - why there weren't two is beyond me. Primadonna is better rigged! The descent was glorious, a beautiful fluted shaft of black rock, the waterfall thundering next to you and your light unable to pick out the cave above or below.
At the bottom I was lashed with spray and a strong draft, and proceeded to put on all my extra layers as the others descended. I failed to find the flake to rebelay off to visit the sump, though the others eventually found something three metres up one wall that they used. Conscious of how cold I'd gotten waiting around, I was keen to be off, and went up the pitch after negotiating the derig with the others. I was barely warm at the top, a commentary either on my efficient prussiking or how cold I'd gotten.
Getting out of the cave was easy with Diss right behind me, and we relaxed in the sun on surface. Soon Ben and Mr Jack joined us, and we headed down the hill to the bus. We passed many, many walkers, all tired and worried and slightly panicked to see people in yellow suits jogging passed them. At the minibus we listened to belle and Sebastian and admired the sunset as the others came down the hill. Back to Greenclose for shakshuka and some whisky - a solid day. Not maybe one of my top five caves in the UK, but still very impressive and worth doing if the forecast is fair.
A cave never before done by ICCC! At least not in memory of the website. At least not in memory of the reports that have survived on the website. Novel enough anyway. We set off disgustingly early for Horton, arriving before 11am! Even at that time the place was packed with walkers and cyclists and a variety of other people indulged in odd hobbies. One man's hobby seemed to be collecting money from people parking in a field. We gave him £3 and he rewarded us with a story about a body being found in a nearby cave, and it definitely wasn't him what did it.
We changed in full view of said weirdos and began our long trek to Juniper Gulf. I think it took us an hour and ten minutes in total. It's quite a nice walk, even in caving gear! Once your past the first 15 minutes its quite flat and offers excellent views of Ingleborough and Penyghent and large numbers of very chill cows. On the way I confidently strode into a knee deep bog, wetting my left welly, sock and foot before getting anywhere near the cave. I was understandably annoyed at this turn of events.
At the cave a semicircle of pissing cavers formed to inaugurate our first visit. Soon Jack was spidering his way down, rigging the many long traverses. I chose to bring up the rear and as such had plenty of time on the surface. It was sunny enough that by the time I went in the cave I had managed to dry my foot and sock! Excellent.
I think all the pitches have rather long traverses before them so my memory of which is which is a little hazy. One of them could have done with a much bigger traverse line, given the size of the drop below at various points and the thrutchy crawling nature of the passage. We caught up with the rigger at some point and so entertained ourselves by seeing who could wedge in the most comfortable position in the rift and also by attempting to pull p-bolts out of the wall. Jimmy was the best at this game, managing to wobble several bolts. Luckily it wasn't draughty and we all stayed quite warm.
The final two pitches are really lovely. Both long hangs with the water shooting out of a hole halfway down. The final pitch has a 40m hang! I managed to get the rope steaming as I descended. We regrouped at the bottom. There's a spray lashed and windy ledge to stand on, the way on down a little climb. If you stayed on the rope you could descend all the way down but we all got off on the ledge for some reason.
The rigging guide suggested there would be a flake on the wall to belay off to make the climb easier (I certainly wouldn't have done it without a rope), but as far as we could see there were only suspicious flake shaped rocks on the floor. I spotted a thread high up on the wall as a potential belay point. Jack was the only one tall enough to reach it so had a go of threading a sling through but wasn't quite tall enough to make it easy. He ended up starting the long climb out, having discussed the derigging plan.
With nothing to do whilst we waited for people to climb the 40m pitch on this windy ledge, those of us left below continued to work at the thread. I got Mr. Jack (also fairly tall) to thread my dyneema foot loop through, hoping to use it to pull the sling back through. This did not work and nearly resulted in me leaving my dyneema footloop permanently embedded in Juniper Gulf. With some yanking it came free eventually. In the end the solution as usual was to apply the Dubz Bruvs. By carefully stacking one on top of the other they were able, with the power of twin telepathy, to thread a sling through from a comfortable position.
With a completely solid belay in place I descended the final 4m into the streamway. I was followed by Jimmy and Davey and we scrambled down the narrow stream. The water often goes quite deep and there is some fun traversing to be done to avoid getting your feet wet. The rock is also sculpted in quite interesting ways, leaving sharp buttresses and arches across the rift. It is not far to the sump however and for most of the way foam lines the walls, eventually going ominously far above your head. The sump itself was an uninviting bubble bath. With a two Wilson photography kit I took some photos and we headed back towards the pitch.
I took some photos on the big pitch as well before heading out. I was 'supervising' Jimmy and Davey derigging. Davey cleverly tricked Jimmy into taking the 90m rope bag almost all the way out after he derigged the final pitch. I enoyed the way out a lot and appreciated the cave somewhat more. This is often the case though.
We emerged into daylight (ah summer [just] caving). A funny rainbow patch of light hovered above Penyghent. I don't know what it meant. The walk down was long and filled with cows, but not unpleasant. We chatted idly as we stomped past bemused walkers and made it back to the van in about an hour.
Juniper Gulf is certainly a classic.
Jingling Pot: Jack Halliday, Jack Hare, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers
Rigging practice was the order of Sunday. I was meant to go to Aquamole with Diss, but we found it occupied and decided to join Rhys, Mr Jack and James in Jingling next door. I waited on the surface in the sun until I got bored of the pleasant weather and dropped down to rig the long hang down. It's an awkward one - rig it as a y-hang and the rope rubs, so I setteld for an ultra tight traverse line and a fig 8, which sort of worked. At the bottom, I lay on the rocks looking up as the sun illuminated the sides of the shaft. It's a really lovely cave, and I can see how some people enjoy coming back to it over and over again.
James, Rhys and Mr Jack arrived and Diss rigged the pointless final pitch. Satisfied the dig still didn't go, we retreated up, Diss de-rigging competently. Soon we were out, to find James had gone to push a nearby streamway cave (turned out to be Jingling Cave). We decided to leave him there, but he emerged in time and we walked down the hill together.