Buoyed from the activities in Jingling and Aquamole Pots the three of us decided to attempt the classic Swinsto Pull through trip to complete a full weekend of caving in the majesty of the Yorkshire Dales.
This is a committing trip which involves going into the Kingsdale Master Cave and rigging a short pitch from the stream bed which would be required to get out of the system later and then heading onto the top of the hill and following the stream through the system to the bottom. Unlike most SRT trips though the intent is for the entire group to ascend each pitch and then pull the ropes down behind us thus removing any possibility of escape back up to the top but also removing the need to retrace our steps and de-rig the cave.
We discussed the plans over breakfast in Ingleton and came up with a simple plan: we all head into Valley Entrance and make sure that the exit was clear before heading up to the top; then Tony and Rob would alternate rigging each pitch and I would follow at the rear de-rigging and setting the pull-throughs to recover the ropes.
We went into the master cave and headed to the pitch head but along the way we followed the newly dug passage for nearly 200m in error so had to back track which added an extra bit onto our anticipated time. Tony rigged the rope and Rob and I descended an in-situ rope whilst he was rigging and headed to the exit from Swinsto Main Aven to make sure there was enough airspace above the water to enable us to get out at the bottom.
We moved back out of the cave noting that it would take us 20 min to exit the system from the pitch head on our way back. We got to the entrance and I called in our call-out details and then Rob lead us into the system and we were off. The plan was simple one rope carrier would rig the pitch and the next rope carrier would be second down and head straight off to rig the next pitch whilst I de-rigged and pulled through and helped load the rope bag so that when we arrived at the next pitch it would be rigged and we would carry on alternating between Tony and Rob rigging and then route finding (downhill and follow the water) to the next pitch.
Most of the pitches had a lot of water cascading down them and the background noise from all the water was a continuous thunderous roar that reminded us were playing in an system sculpted by the power of that water. There are 9 pitches down from the top so including the exit pitch they each rigged 5 pitches by themselves. This was an outstanding effort on their parts and they proved to be vital assets on a trip like this. We all walked out from the Valley Entrance with big grins having completed a Yorkshire classic.
It is worth noting that both Tony and Rob only began caving in March 2014 and they only started having a go at SRT in May, but through practising on the mill and getting involved in club trips they are now in a position where they are looking at doing some self-guided SRT trips in the future as full members of DCC. Having only started caving myself in January 2014 but with a background in climbing and mountaineering DCC has provided us with the support to develop us all to become competent cavers in our own right. I have to mention this so other cavers reading this realise that we all felt safe and operating within our abilities during this trip, despite our relative novice status. But more importantly if any new cavers or people considering having a go at caving are reading this then get to a good club like DCC and get involved. SRT opens up a whole new range of systems that may only be accessed via ropes.
Trip Report: Andy Kempster
Members Present: Andy Kempster, Rob Campbell and Tony Ferrun.