Lancaster Hole 23/2/20

Myself, Larry and Tom C headed to Ingleton with the promise of various possibilities for a day’s caving excursion to Yorkshire. The night before had seen heavy rain and evidence of flooding was all around on the journey up. We all rendezvoused at the Inglesport cafe and discussed the possibilities for the day having due consideration to the potential for flooding.

Having had a chat with the those ‘in the know’ at Inglesport, Larry had been assured that Alum Pot would be ‘do-able’ rain notwithstanding and so we headed on up, only to be met with a full-on blizzard as we reached Ribblehead Viaduct, so much so that you couldn’t even see the viaduct itself! Pressing on we reached the track at Selside to head towards Alum Pot – bad news, water was running down the track like a river. Suddenly, despite the assurances at Inglesport, Alum Pot was not looking like such a great idea.  Not to worry, Larry had a back up plan – Lancaster Hole, so we retraced our route back through Ingleton and on to Casterton Fell, with a little stop at Ribblehead Viaduct for a photo opp, it now being blue skies and sunshine! You can’t beat the glorious British weather…

Arriving at Bull Pot Farm we parked up and got our kit on before the trudge across the Fell to Lancaster Hole.  Larry rigged up the entrance, with Tom assisting. Someone else had already rigged up as well, so Larry being first down set up a nice little deviation after the re-belay to get us out of the way of their rope.  Tom headed down next, stopping at the ledge for the re-belay and then shouting me down next. As I was about to descend, the owners of the other rope turned up – a group of Cavers from Durham University, who’d just had an attempt at Cow Pot, but apparently the water was gushing and they had thought better of it.

As I reached the re-belay, Tom was still there laying across the ledge. Tom said he wasn’t feeling it today and intended to go back up to the surface. I continued on down. Tom filled us in later that he’d remained on the ledge as the Durham lot re-rigged and then came down – the sight of Tom laying across the ledge must have given them a surprise! [they really liked my deviation that did give a nice hang but by exactly copying my rig in their re-rig, they missed the point LB]

At the bottom Larry and I made our way in to Bridge Hall.  The scale of the chambers down here was something to behold as my first trip to this system and Yorkshire, bearing in mind not a week before I’d been down Brightgate, so quite a contrast!

From Bridge Hall we clambered up the rocks and in to the Collonades. Again, having never been here before the sight and scale of the stal formations was incredible. The formations are all taped off now, but you can still make your way around the edge to take it all in. Larry thought the way on lead to nowhere and he was right! We headed back through the Collonades and back down to Bridge Hall, taking Kath’s Way on to Fall Pot.

Heading up a muddy bank we headed off to the right and found a passage on that lead to a traverse and then straight down pitch into Fall Pot, the location of which had previously eluded Larry, so a good result, offering an easier way down than the more usual route requiring re-belays. [and not slimy like the route down where the iron ladder used to be LB]

Once in Fall Pot I said I fancied a peak at the High Level Route seeing as we were there! We used an in-situ knotted rope to make our way up and I’m glad we did. We were met by a huge passageway, with room for more than one double-decker bus! Again, I was in awe of the sheer size and scale of the place. After a little explore on and photos of some pretties we headed back down to Fall Pot.  Next stop, the Main Drain!

The water coming in from above made a fantastic waterfall, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go for a shower under it! Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained and we pressed on through and followed the boulder climb down. A really interesting route, that twists and turns down, one minute looking like it leads to nowhere before you spin round and catch the route onwards. At the bottom we were met by a raging river, deep, fast flowing and not to be messed with today. There was no safe way to go on from here, so we took the boulder puzzle back up and time for my second shower!.

Back in Fall Pot, a quick rest and we then prusiked back up and made our way back across the traverse, de-rigging as we went. By now, the Durham lot had made their way to the top of the other pitch into Fall Pot, so we followed the passageway round and went for a chat before heading back out on the reverse route up Kath’s Way and into Bridge Hall.

All that was left was the prussik back up Lancaster Hole, where we were greeted by Tom, who’d de-kitted and had been an explore around on the Fell in the intervening time.  A short walk back to Bull Pot Farm – alas still not open to get changed out of the cold – before sorting ourselves and heading for a quick drink at The Marton Arms in Thornton in Lonsdale to round off a thoroughly enjoyable trip and first venture into the caves around Ingleton for me, where I’m sure I’ll be back again.

Peter W

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