• Ghar Parau dinner invitation

    Have you or your club benefitted from Ghar Parau funding for an expedition?

    To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its creation, a meal is to be held at the Anchor Inn in Tideswell, Derbyshire on Saturday 11th February, 2023. As well as a meal there will be speakers on behalf of the original Ghar Parau explorers and the current GPF committee.

    Details here

Beginner Caves in Yorkshire Dales, please.

CosmoParrott

New member
Hi,

I’m trying to get into caving and am hoping to start off in the Yorshire Dales. I have a fair bit of experience above ground solo scrambling and hiking (summer and winter). I’m confident with rope and abseil techniques and have a small mountaineering rack (alpine harness, 40m rope, shiny metal things, helmet, etc). I have caved several times before but only in groups with an experienced caver.

Please can someone recommend some good caves north of Malham Cove to start down, or an appropriate guide book.
Also, I will be going alone and would like to know people’s experience of caching gear at the cave entrance (warm kit, fresh shoes and so on).

Thank you and kind regards
CosmoParrott
 
If you're a beginner caver ("caved several times before" doesn't sound like a lot of experience) then I really think caving alone is a questionable idea, despite your being a reasonable climber and what not.
 

alanw

Active member
Hi.

Firstly, most of the caves in the Dales have vertical pitches in them. Did your previous caving trips include SRT? I'm afraid your climbing gear isn't appropriate for SRT: e.g. ropes need to be "static" (low stretch), the harness has a different fit and needs a chest strap and an attachment point for your ascenders, descender and cowstails.

Secondly, why alone? There are a lot of caving clubs in the Dales which run weekend trips of all grades. If you can't make weekends, once you join one and get to know people you will probably find that there are mid-week trips arranged by those who are retired, work shifts, etc.

If you aren't experienced at SRT: how to rig safely and then e.g. how to pass hanging rebelays, you absolutely must have training. Clubs will do this, as will the CNCC, or there are several companies (e.g. Yorkshire Dales Guides) who can do it.

Going solo, at the very minimum:
  • Leave a callout with a responsible person giving your route (some systems have many different passages in them) and expected time out.
  • You'll need two ascenders and a descender (a figure of 8 isn't safe for re-belays, since you have to detach it from your harness), cowstails, etc.
  • Static caving rope. Caving clubs have their own ropes for organised trips.
  • A headtorch and a backup (especially important for solo trips)
So, in summary, join a club. Certainly the one I'm in (the BPC) and I do not doubt all the others have members of all ages and are very friendly and welcoming to new members.
 

hannahb

Active member
Hi CosmoParrott, when you say north of Malham Cove, do you mean in that specific area of limestone, or do you mean the whole of the Dales north of Malham?

The new Northern Caves Three Counties book (https://northerncaves.co.uk/) is good but doesn't cover the Malham area.

In terms of stashing things at the entrance, it depends on the location. If it's close to a well used footpath then it's probably best to leave it well out of site of the surface and the first few metres of the cave entrance. Otherwise, I've not had a problem. On cold days a (cheap) puffy jacket and mittens can make a long walk back much more palatable.

You mention fresh shoes - I recommend wellies for caving, and that's what most people wear, although some people wear boots or canyoning footwear. To avoid trashing your rope and other gear it's a good idea to have something to carry your stuff in, ideally a tacklesack or similar, rather than a rucksack.

If you're set on going solo, fair enough, but if you want to go with other people, let me know, or join a club - you'd be made very welcome.
 

Alex

Well-known member
As said everything else needed to be say, which is join a club to learn the ropes (literally), but I understand how that can be daunting also, so if your dead-set against that, then to answer your question then I suggest the caves around Ribblehead, which also don't flood too much but don't require vertical ropework either as your gear don't sound suitable. Great Douk is nearby too which is another good beginner cave.

However, the problem is at the moment, is the weather is very wet and entering pretty much any cave in the Dales (there are a few exceptions) is a serious proposition even most of us stay out of them in this horrible weather! The guide books can help you choose which caves are safer in wet weather but there is no accounting for experience of club members. The books do mention flood warnings but just because it may not mention it for certain caves don't mean that cave can't flood or at least get "spicy".

The new Northern Caves book is probably the best guide out there but it don't cover everywhere.

Northern caves sold by starless.

For Ribblehead caves for example you will need "Northern Caves 2" which is out of print now unfortunately but you can probably find on Ebay and the like.

You can also buy further gear and equipment from Starless (link above) or visit Ingleton and Inglesport.
 

alanw

Active member
the one I'm in (the BPC) and I do not doubt all the others have members of all ages and are very friendly and welcoming to new members.
P.S. A couple of things I should have mentioned: members of all ages and genders
Also, the New to Caving website.
And, as LadyMud mentioned the Try caving day is on the 12th February, only one place left as I write.
 

CosmoParrott

New member
Hi CosmoParrott, when you say north of Malham Cove, do you mean in that specific area of limestone, or do you mean the whole of the Dales north of Malham?

The new Northern Caves Three Counties book (https://northerncaves.co.uk/) is good but doesn't cover the Malham area.

In terms of stashing things at the entrance, it depends on the location. If it's close to a well used footpath then it's probably best to leave it well out of site of the surface and the first few metres of the cave entrance. Otherwise, I've not had a problem. On cold days a (cheap) puffy jacket and mittens can make a long walk back much more palatable.

You mention fresh shoes - I recommend wellies for caving, and that's what most people wear, although some people wear boots or canyoning footwear. To avoid trashing your rope and other gear it's a good idea to have something to carry your stuff in, ideally a tacklesack or similar, rather than a rucksack.

If you're set on going solo, fair enough, but if you want to go with other people, let me know, or join a club - you'd be made very welcome.
I have family near Buckden and will be staying there. Purely logistics.
 

Steve Clark

Active member
Welcome. All good info above.

I admire the enthusiasm but I would urge some caution in going solo into anything more than a walk-in cave. It's not about lack of natural ability or skill - there will be things from being an outdoors type person, scrambling etc. that cross over easily - it's just more that there are things you don't know you don't know!

As an example, as a rock climber for 25years I assumed I would have no issue whatsoever abseiling down a 10m pitch. I quickly found out that my body shape means I turn upside down using a stop and wearing a standard caving harness on a free-hanging rope away from the walls! I was very glad to have some experienced guys with me that day. After a few SRT dozen trips and some training I'm now in a position where I could be the person helping out in that scenario.

It's also the small things. It's easy to slide down something awkward you can't easily climb up. It's trivial for someone with you to help out with leg up or to dangle a belt for you to grab.

Caving is far less regimented than similar kinds of activities. No one is ever going to ask about your training or stop you going anywhere. For recreational caving there's no qualification cards or entry requirements like you'd see with scuba diving, para-gliding or increasingly even indoor climbing. Meet up with some folks from a club and just see how it goes. Cavers like meeting other cavers. I doubt you'll regret it.
 

CosmoParrott

New member
Hi.

Firstly, most of the caves in the Dales have vertical pitches in them. Did your previous caving trips include SRT? I'm afraid your climbing gear isn't appropriate for SRT: e.g. ropes need to be "static" (low stretch), the harness has a different fit and needs a chest strap and an attachment point for your ascenders, descender and cowstails.

Secondly, why alone? There are a lot of caving clubs in the Dales which run weekend trips of all grades. If you can't make weekends, once you join one and get to know people you will probably find that there are mid-week trips arranged by those who are retired, work shifts, etc.

If you aren't experienced at SRT: how to rig safely and then e.g. how to pass hanging rebelays, you absolutely must have training. Clubs will do this, as will the CNCC, or there are several companies (e.g. Yorkshire Dales Guides) who can do it.

Going solo, at the very minimum:
  • Leave a callout with a responsible person giving your route (some systems have many different passages in them) and expected time out.
  • You'll need two ascenders and a descender (a figure of 8 isn't safe for re-belays, since you have to detach it from your harness), cowstails, etc.
  • Static caving rope. Caving clubs have their own ropes for organised trips.
  • A headtorch and a backup (especially important for solo trips)
So, in summary, join a club. Certainly the one I'm in (the BPC) and I do not doubt all the others have members of all ages and are very friendly and welcoming to new members.
Sorry, I should have said, I’m trying to find mainly horizontal routes with small, if any, pitches.

I simply enjoy being alone in (or in this case under) the hills. I live a busy life and like to offset that with solitude.
 

Steve Clark

Active member
Anyway, in answer to your question, examples of the kind of cave you should be looking at are :

Yordas - walk-in lower entrance.
Thistle & Runscar at Ribblehead
Jingling Cave (not Jingling Pot)
Rowten Cave (not Rowten Pot)
Valley Entrance as far as the first pitch
Great Douk to Middle Washfold
Upper & Lower Long Churn
Sunset Hole as far as the climbs
Short Drop to the 1st pitch

The current weather is not good for potential flooding. Some of these are particularly sensitive to rain and in the absence of more experience just go when it's been dry and the forecast is staying that way.

This is a fine example of being competent & careful people, just lacking particular knowledge of a system -
 

JasonC

Active member
If you're looking around Buckden, I suggest starting with Scoska Cave - it's an easy walk-in to start with, lowering to crawling but nothing too difficult.
Then maybe Dowkabottom - the entrance involves a scramble down boulders that can be slippery, but after that, there's nothing vertical. There is some waist-deep wading further in, so avoid if it's very wet, like now.
I was going to mention Sleets Gill too - the caving is not difficult, but only go if it's really dry, by which I mean no rain for at least a week before you go. (otherwise, see above!).
Locations for all these can found on https://cncc.org.uk/caving/ - in particular the link to the Cave Map.
For a guide book, you need Northern Caves vol 1 (again out of print, but available on eBay (https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/394416124941?epid=91658944&hash=item5bd508740d:g:RvEAAOSw40ljvoLa)

Take care!
 

alanw

Active member
Anyway, in answer to your question, examples of the kind of cave you should be looking at are :
That is so similar to the list I've started compiling.

Another nice one at Ribblehead: Gunnerfleet. Also Katnot (but only in dry conditions).

And for the masochists: Roger Kirk (also at Ribblehead)

Further east: Dow and Goyden. DO NOT venture into Goyden until water levels in the reservoir upstream have at least dropped by several metres. The dam is currently overtopping. See the warnings on the CNCC page

Further north: Ibbeth Peril (another one for dry conditions only)

Mistral in Ease Gill. The entrance is free climbable and there are a lot of passages. Take a survey from Cavemaps and the route description from The Red Rose and make sure you can retrace your route. Watch out for the mud. It eats wellies and it can be very difficult to climb the slopes.

Heron Pot is normally done as a through trip on SRT, but you could also go in from the lower entrance as far as the big chamber with the waterfall.
 

IanWalker

Member
I’m trying to get into caving and am hoping to start off in the Yorshire Dales.
Welcome :)
I have a fair bit of experience above ground solo scrambling and hiking (summer and winter). I’m confident with rope and abseil techniques and have a small mountaineering rack (alpine harness, 40m rope, shiny metal things, helmet, etc). I have caved several times before but only in groups with an experienced caver.

Please can someone recommend some good caves north of Malham Cove to start down, or an appropriate guide book.
Near to Buckden:
Dow Cave (not including Hobsons Choice)
Langstroth Cave (as far as the sump)
Buckden Gavel Mine (not a cave though)
Kirk Gill Cave and Kirk Gill Pot (I haven't done these but sounds good to me)
Hagg Gill Pot (entrance pitch)

Guide book:
Northern Caves 1
Selected Caves
CNCC website
CaveMaps website for surveys (recommend printing and waterproofing a survey to take underground)

Also, I will be going alone and would like to know people’s experience of caching gear at the cave entrance (warm kit, fresh shoes and so on).
Should be fine if hidden from public view. I find a dry bag useful (could use a bin bag).
 
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