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Gingling hole: a fine day out


Well-known member

Cavers: Myself, Aila T, James W (AKA Hagrid), Charlie C

Trip: Gingling Hole, Big Rift route
A dry morning was a good sign for our second crack at this Fountains Fell classic. Aila and I managed to steal Charlie and Hagrid from their own trips, Charlie because he wanted to go somewhere fun, and Hagrid because he wanted to cave hard on his birthday. We faffed at the hut, then headed to mine to faff some more, packing some ropes. Then on to the Dump to faff even more. It’s not a proper caving trip without at least an hours faff.

It was noon by the time we parked up, and got ready to head over. A quick stomp over the cold fell found is at the entrance, where I rigged away while some snow started to fall on us. It was far drier than last time, and the Letterbox was so much nicer when there isn’t a waterfall going down it. Charlie disappeared ahead while Hagrid and I waited for aila to descend. I caught Charlie up in the canals and pressed on to the second pitch. It didn’t take me long to rig and fly down, crawling on into the winding rift towards the small chamber before the third pitch. Charlie and I waited till we heard the others, then I moved to the pitch. Dropping it quickly, we were at the “tight” climb Aila and I turned around at last time. I was first down, and guided Hagrid down. Aila came down next, saying it was far easier when you’re not freezing. It wasn’t far to the next pitch down into Stalagmite Chamber.

I descended then climbed up a free climb to a traverse, which bypassed the pitch entirely. Excellent. We paused to read the description and have a snack, then Hagrid led the way down the climb. I was last down into Fools Paradise, an absolutely stunning section. Aila took some pictures of me, and the formations. Then it was on to the fifth pitch. From here a squeeze through black calcite and a few boulders to the head of the sixth pitch. After this rebelayed pitch the cave went into a narrow rift, and it got fun. Worming our way through, we reached the Ammered Ole pitch. We traversed over, heading to the Big Rift route. An eyehole in the calcite led to me dangling headfirst by my foot loop which of course decided it didn’t want to go further, and clung to the rock for dear life. Eventually it was “persuaded” to come, and we went through a few more “tight” climbs. Then it came. The Thrutch.

4m down, in a smooth body width rift. Hagrid was down, Charlie was looking at it apprehensively, and I was too. Charlie wiggled down, and Hagrid disappeared onwards. He reported that it was wet. I slid down, after shedding my SRT kit. Charlie and I were increasingly worried about the return journey, so a vote was held. Charlie didn’t want to get wet, so he and I voted to turn around now. Aila was happy either way, and Hagrid was out of earshot. I headed into the canal, chest deep in places, but with some squeezes through calcite. I hollered loudly and eventually he responded. I told him we were aborting and he told me he had started rigging the next pitch. He went back to derig and I headed back to the Thrutch.
Here Charlie was wedged halfway up, with Aila trying to help from above. Some slings were dangled, and a full team effort was involved with shoving Charlie up it. Hagrid went next and I was used as a springboard. Specifically my face. Thanks Hagrid! He finally popped out, and it was my turn. I didn’t have the luxury of a foothold, but Charlie looped a sling around my foot, and Aila looped one under my arm, and with some wriggling and pulling, I was out. I have no idea how I would have managed it if they hadn’t been there.

From here the long slog to the surface began. We were pushing along, and Hagrid and Aila took over the derigging. Charlie decided to just press on out, but I caught him up at Stalactite Chamber. He knocked a rock down the climb, to add more excitement. We stopped there for around ten minutes.

Eventually we stirred and pressed on. I could hear the others below us, and I helped Charlie to get his tacklesack through the tight climb. Here I saw him underground for the last time. I waited to help the others with their tackle sacks, and Aila made it up with seemingly no trouble. I took a full tacklesack from them, and pressed on towards the surface. I had to take several stops to rest, and finally I was at the bottom of the entrance pitch. I waited until I could hear the other two and then started the last prussik. It was cold on the surface, and once Hagrid was up I was close to shivering. So I headed across the fell to the relative warmth of the car. Here I found Charlie, bundled up and reciting poetry about being cold. All in all, a very good trip.


The stunning Fools Paradise (photo by Aila T)


The cavers favourite pastime, FAFF (photo by Aila T)


Well-known member
An interesting report, Samouse1. I've never done the Big Rift route, but I've been down the 'Ammered 'Ole route a couple of times, and from your description the latter would appear to be much more simple and straightforward. Can anybody who's done both routes confirm or refute this?


Well-known member
My version:
Sitting around the table eating breakfast at NPC, the usual morning debate of what-about occurred. Amongst our discombobulated jumble of friends from across the country - Cambridge, Cardiff, Bangor, Leeds - decisions started forming. A group down Dihedral, a group down Stream, a group down Marilyn, a group down Sell Gill. Todd and I make a point of never caving in GG apart from during winch meet (Rat Hole being an exception) due to not wanting to get sick of the place, and not seeing the point in carrying tackle when it is pre-rigged for a month every year anyway, so we decided on a second assault on Gingling after our failed attempt a couple of weeks ago. We settled on the Big Rift route as it sounded more ‘fun’ than the Big Pitch route (questionable decision-making here). Some friends at the BPC suggested that the Big Pitch route would be more pleasant but we insisted that the Big Rift was our calling. The water levels were a lot lower this time and I had my wetsuit so it seemed like a good option. We found two willing victims in Hagrid (James Waite) and Charlie Crossley, then set off. It was actually Hagrid’s 21st birthday, so a joyful jaunt was in order.

After some faff at NPC, some faff at Todd’s Box, a return to NPC for the safety kit, and further faff at the Dump, we eventually arrived on Fountains Fell. The wind was pretty chilly and it started hailing/snowing on the walk over to Gingling. We were glad that we had brought coats to wear on top of our caving kit on the walk over and stash at the entrance. Some discussion was had at the entrance pitch about Todd’s attempt at an ‘alpine butterfly’. Then down we went.

We climbed down the letterbox - last time, this had a very powerful waterfall going down it which resulted in a few seconds of waterboarding, but this time it was entirely dry without a trickle! Down the next few pitches without a problem, and beyond the point were Todd and I had aborted mission last time (after the 3rd pitch). We rigged the 4th pitch with 8mm which led to a very speedy and squeaky descent. Stalactite chamber was a bit underwhelming but what followed - Fool’s Paradise - was not. It takes quite a lot for me to go ‘wow’ in a cave these days but this was a big wow moment indeed. Endless straws, curtains, phenomenal flowstone, and the walls covered floor to ceiling in helictites. I would love to go back for a proper photography trip. This beautiful section was lovely walking passage and I thought to myself - what a brilliant cave - it seems far too easy and enjoyable to be a black book! Fool.

Following this, my memory of the cave is a blur of obstacles. Lots of thrutchy traversing and climbing - strenuous but very fun. A squeeze through an eyehole with a sky dive style climb down after it. Todd’s footloop got caught here and he spent about 2 minutes dangling upside down, flailing around and asking for help with increasing desperation. My attempts to help were apparently not very helpful, as he continued dangling upside down and cursing. I considered taking a spatha to the footloop before it finally popped free. Onwards through the tortuous rift, we kept thinking that it must surely get better soon - and then we reached it. The Thrutch. Hagrid, Crossley and Todd slithered down, and I was about to descend when they told me to wait. Following the thrutch was a canal full of water. Todd and I were in wetsuits but Crossley was not and didn’t fancy neck deep water before the long return journey. We called for a vote - Todd and Crossley voted to leave, and I voted to continue. Hagrid had vanished into the canal. Todd went to find him, whilst Crossley waited below and I waited jammed into the rift above the Thrutch. Eventually Todd returned with Hagrid, who had started rigging the next pitch. The decision was made to turn around and so Crossley started up the Thrutch.

This was when we realised that the Thrutch was significantly harder on the way up. After several attempts, I became a chockstone, clipped a sling to my harness and Crossley was able to use this to pull himself up. Whooping and clapping occurred, and then it was Hagrid’s go. Todd’s face was used as a springboard and Crossley joined me in becoming chockstone. Hagrid decided to grab my oversuit sleeve as a handhold, at which point I screamed at him that it would rip even more (my AV currently resembles a flaky croissant that has been used as a football in a muddy field). Then Crossley and I looped 2 slings around Hagrid’s left and right armpits respectively, pulled upwards, and with a great team effort he was out. More whooping and clapping occurred. Around this time, with Crossley, Hagrid and I wedged as chockstones and Todd somewhere down below, we sang happy birthday followed by ‘and he’s a jolly good caver’. Now it was Todd’s turn. There was some scrabbling, some looping of slings under armpits, some pulling & heaving & shoving, and then Todd was up. More whooping and clapping occurred. I may not have had to ascend the rift like the others, but being 55kg and pulling 3 grown men up a rift (while not being secured myself and having no hand/footholds) was still an intensive exercise!

After the excitement of making it out of the Thrutch had passed, we realised that we still had the rest of the return journey to go. We continued traversing, thrutching and climbing our way out - an exhausting ordeal. Todd and Charlie went ahead while Hagrid and I de-rigged. Hagrid and I shared the de-rigging and didn’t really rest at all, unlike Todd who it seems was blessed with a whole 10 minutes rest during his return journey. We swapped the heavy tackle sack around, with me taking it for the crawl and Hagrid taking it for the traverse, a technique that worked very well. Several obstacles proved to be a lot more difficult on the ascent though none quite as bad as the Thrutch. We saw Todd briefly at another annoying climb, who took a tackle sack off us then vanished into the darkness again. The climb that I 'seemingly made it up with no trouble' is because I stood on Hagrid's shoulders whilst he climbed up, like an elevator. I would highly recommend hiring this man as a ladder / elevator for your caving trips. By the time Hagrid and I got to the 3rd pitch our steam was running low. I can’t remember the last time I felt that exhausted in a cave. We shared a squashed, soggy, sad-looking mars bar (not quite the birthday cake Hagrid was hoping for) and continued. At several points I felt the temptation to just lie down in the stream and sleep but common sense overrode this. Finally Hagrid and I were back on Fountains Fell, trudging through the bog in the dark and talking about all the different types of food we wanted to eat. The trip was around 7hrs in total I think.

I write this report 2 days later and my body still hurts. My abs hurt, my shoulders hurt, my arms hurt, muscles in my back that I didn’t know existed hurt. My limbs are speckled with bruises and my head feels perpetually sleepy (admittedly I did also cave on Friday and Sunday so have not rested for a while). Yet despite this, I can’t wait to go back and am already making plans to return. It’s been a long time since I’ve caved hard and actually felt exhausted after a trip. It was a delightful (intensive) assault course with a variation of climbs, traverses, squeezes, pitches, water, pretties. It felt like the perfect level of challenging. The nature of the rift meant that for most of the time all 4 of us could see each other, converse with each other and suffer with each other so it was a great bonding trip and a real team effort was required. I think Gingling might be up with Disappointment to Far Waters in terms of ‘best trip I’ve ever done’. This was also James’ first black book, and my 99th caving trip (mine trips excluded). A ‘memorable’ trip for all.


Well-known member
A third version of the trip

I arrived at the NPC determined to do some proper hard Yorkshire caving. With a slight hangover I made it to breakfast and ate the usual affair of fried food and plenty of seconds (I'd come to regret this later) . Then I started trying to find a trip. I'd originally planned on going down disappointment and through to dihedral but was persuaded that it would be far too wet and I'd be soaked to he skin in a furry (gingling was in fact no drier) , so I decided against it and ended up tagging along down gingling. After the normal levels of faff and forgotten bags and many many ropes, we ended up walking across the fell as sleety snow started falling onto us. The route down went fairly well with bags of rope only getting the usual levels of stuck. We eventually found fools paradise and declared it the hairiest passage I'd seen for the sheer volume of helictites in the avens. Eventually we reached the thrutchy crawls just before the ammered ole which I found interesting for my slightly larger than average build. I got through and started looking for the way on. At this point my inner mendip kicked in and I took my SRT kit off and jammed it in a bag. I then set off in front to attack the various obstacles on the way. None were that bad on the way down until the thrutch, which was thrutchy to get down, so I put all thoughts of the return out of my mind. The others were following so is et off into the canal to start rigging the next pitch. It started as almost pleasant hands and knees crawling which quickly devolved into chest deep wading. Then a squeeze at head height appeared which o slithered through and then spent a few minutes trying to find my sunken tacklesack. After this a few low crawls covered in water and the occasional pool led to a walking passage . This continued to a slot in the floor that was taking the minimal flow, about 20M down. Stepping over this I ended up at two P hangers at the end with a large drop in front. I kitted up and started rigging. However I then heard a very faint call of my name . I ran back and realized that the others had decided to turn around. A quick derig and dekit later I was running back and then crawling into the lovely cold water. And then met them at the bottom of the thrutch. I arrived as Charlie was attempting to make it up , with Todd underneath him and Alia above. It looked quite strenuous and interesting, especially
As Charlie was quite a bit thinner than myself. After he was up we decided that I should try next. I started well and then began to regret all the food I'd eaten in the past few days. I had no footholds except Todd's face and a sling. And no hand holds except Charlie's long cowstails and Alia's rather dire oversuit (needs a warmbac I think) after a few minutes of struggling I got to a point where I had to exhale to make any progress up. Which became slightly painful after a minute or two. Fortunately I was wearing a sling as a belt ( my south Wales caving coming in handy) as Charlie began to hold me up by it. Then Alia looped a sling around my armpit and I finally made it out. Then I regained my breath and watched on as Todd was hauled out of the thrutch. A quick song of happy birthday and he's a jolly good caver reinvigorated our spirits and we left on out. The return trip was knackering. At one point I was talking at the bottom of a pitch to Alia and Todd about how south Wales caves are much more fun, and Todd was saying that gingling was in fact a fun cave, I replied quickly with "this isn't a cave, it's purgatory" .Alia and I alternated derigging and eventually made it to the fools paradise. After this I started to catch my SRT kit catching on every outcrop and jammed down every crack. I swore off SRT for the future at this point (and still ended up at the bottom of alum on the Sunday). After what felt like many more hours and one very broken mars bar Alia and I emerged to a light dusting of snow and began the trudge back to the car, fueled by talk of cheese toasties dipped in soup.

A good trip and one hell of an Introduction to the Black book


Active member
An interesting report, Samouse1. I've never done the Big Rift route, but I've been down the 'Ammered 'Ole route a couple of times, and from your description the latter would appear to be much more simple and straightforward. Can anybody who's done both routes confirm or refute this?
I would agree with this. The 'Ammered 'Old is a short and tight pitch that leads with no difficulty the the final pitch. The Big Rift route has a few awkward drops down a tightish rift (that are tricky on the way back up, particularly when covered in slippery mud) and a series of awkward pitches before a final really quite mucky pitch which takes energy out of you. All in all, much more effort required.


Active member
A great trip and one which “feels” as deep as it is. Not improved by carrying diving bottles. Great reports glad you had a good one!


Well-known member
For comparison, here's an extract from my caving log (with a few snaps):

Saturday, 23–05–09 Gingling Hole

Several weeks previously Mandy had been in touch to say that she, Matt, Andy and Dave were coming north to do Gingling Hole on Saturday 23/5 and Washfold Pot on Sunday; would we like to accompany them? Personally I was quite keen on the GH trip, not so bothered about WP, so we said 'yes'.

Saturday was a grey, miserable day, though the weather forecast was ‘cloudy, cool maybe the odd outbreaks of light rain or drizzle’, so it should be OK for the trip. Accordingly we met up with the others at Green Close (the NPC hut) at the appointed time (9–30), expecting them to be raring to go, only to find that they were just getting their act together. Unfortunately Matt was hors de combat on account of having messed up his knees in the long crawl in Illusion Pot the day before, so this left a party of 5. Never mind, after the obligatory ‘Don't like the look of the weather, are we going to be OK?’ we soon had the ropes sorted and bagged up; there are 9 pitches, most of them short or very short, the exception being the final pitch, which is ~62 m.

Just as we were about ready to depart for the cave, Mandy announced that she had left behind her main central maillon rapide; did anyone have a spare? No . . . oh well, Andy took her to Settle to buy another one, while the remaining three set off, leaving Andy–Mandy to bring the Big Pitch rope (AKA the bastard rope, all 84 m of it). A 30-minute walk takes you to the entrance, and Dave started to rig. Down the 9 m entrance, on down the boulder pile and descend the Letterbox; nothing special, just a narrow rift. This is followed by mixed going in the stream way – some sideways thrutching, some crawling, and a canal section, to the second pitch (4 m), where I took over the rigging. In this section of cave there is flood debris at roof level – not, perhaps, a big deal, given that it is only ~1.5 m high, but a bit disconcerting, nevertheless. Both these pitches had in-situ ropes of doubtful provenance, with somewhat rusty bolt anchors, which made it much easier to see where to rig ours, but they did tend to get in the way. We decided to use our own ropes rather than the in-situ stuff; in fact, the first 8 short pitches were rigged, and the last pitch had a bag of rope suspended from the bolts.

More assorted thrutching/walking/crawling and two more short pitches brought us to Stalactite Chamber, the old ‘end’ of the cave where the breakthrough into the ‘new’ stuff was made in 1966. The way on is down a short narrow chimney that drops you into a low crawl that slowly enlarges to the beautiful Fools’ Paradise; this is a superbly decorated section of stream passage, up to 3 m high and maybe 1.5 wide, liberally decorated with formation – stalactites, stalagmites, columns, helictites – that has suffered no obvious damage. An easy traverse takes you to the 5th pitch, which is followed by more easy going to the 6th; a crawl through a boulder pile leads to another narrow traverse. This section of the cave is liberally decorated with black formations, a feature that is noticeable on a small scale in the entrance series.

The narrow traverse, with the odd squeeze, leads to the parting of the ways, there being two alternative descents – the Big Rift route and the Big Pitch route. The Big Rift route sounds a bit unsavoury, and we’d already opted for the Big Pitch route. The crux of the cave (Big Pitch route) is the ’Ammered Ole, a silly little hole in the floor that was too narrow to get through when this section of the cave was first explored, and so they enlarged it with a lump hammer. Somewhat disconcertingly, this hole leads straight to the top of a 9‑m shaft; getting down is easy for somebody of my size, but getting back up? We'll see! The next section of cave is a beautiful little, clean washed passage carved out of pale grey limestone that takes you to the short 8th pitch, beyond which is the grand finale – the 62 m Big Pitch. I could hear a lot of humping and thumping and cursing as Miranda (wo)manhandled the intransigent rope bag along the passage, finally it arrived and I set off to rig the last pitch; Miranda announced that Dave could not get through the ’Ammered Oleand had been told by Andy that he might as well go out, rather than wait and get cold (but leaving only 4 of us to de-rig).

A long traverse line gave easy access to the two pitch-head bolts, which were looking a bit suspicious . . . these in-situ rigging aids are fine, but they were starting to get a bit rusty; anyway, they seemed to be OK so I set off down. The final shaft is a superb descent in a big rift; a deviation about 6 m down off a bolt, another one about 15 m down off a rock flake, and a final one about 45 m down off a thread ensure that the rope hangs well, but doesn’t get you out of the water; fortunately the stream level was quite low, nevertheless, it was still pretty wet. Soon I was joined at the bottom by the other three about 2½ hours after setting off down, and we contemplated the evil-looking sump – a long narrow affair in the rift – before starting the long haul out. In spite of being the smallest member of the party, I made a hash of getting back up the ’Ammered Ole and had to remove my helmet in order to extricate myself from the mess I got into; Miranda passed it easily, and we waited for the other two to derig. This was where tiredness seemed to strike both of us, in spite of having a good rest while waiting. I took the bastard-rope bag, Miranda took a small bag with two short ropes plus my personal SRT bag, and we made slow progress with our burdens. By the time we’d got up the 3rd pitch, I was knackered*, and when Andy–Mandy caught us up I asked them to take over the BRB while M. and I derigged the two remaining short pitches. Eventually, tired but elated with having accomplished a superb trip, we were out, ~6.5 hours after setting off down.


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