Author Topic: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit  (Read 4123 times)

Online Badlad

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Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« on: March 04, 2019, 03:28:22 pm »
It is with some trepidation that I start a new thread on recent modifications to this part of the Easegill Cave System.  A number of us in the Dales have been alerted to this latest act and I took a couple of photos at the weekend.  More and more cavers are likely to see this damage as it is on a popular route, so it is bound to come out sooner or later.  I know some folk will be horrified at this damage but please be restrained in any replies.

For my part I think this was a bad idea but I have no idea who was responsible.  However, I have personally set off thousands of caps in the Dales and modified many caves with scaffold and other digging techniques.  The difference is that my efforts were in the name of exploration or stabilising routes and often in remote and less visible corners of our caves.  This modification damage is on a very popular trade route where thousands of cavers have negotiated these climbs quite easily, either by making use of the in-situ rope or rigging their own tackle.

This act is bound to be widely condemned but I would love to know what the motivation is behind it and what the person or persons who did this hoped to achieve.  What ever it is please don't do any more without at least talking it through with some of the local caving community.

Capping of a foothold on the upper Wretched Rabbit climbs


A capped foothold on the second climb

Offline Pegasus

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2019, 03:41:57 pm »
I'm not the strongest caver, I'm not that tall, I'm not the best at free climbing - however I have climbed out of Wretched Rabbit without using any ropes, leg ups etc.  It's something I clearly remember doing and took personal pride in, still do.  I know to some of you, climbing out of WR is nothing, but to me it really meant something.  Now this classic set of free climbs has been, in my opinion unnecessarily altered.  Blimey, if I can free climb out most cavers can so surely no need to go making extra footholds?? I am truly upset that someone has done this to WR  :(

Please folks, think hard before altering anymore such climbs.

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2019, 04:03:05 pm »
What the actual feck are people doing?

Me and a mate recently led a club Christmas trip down Trident. This featured cavers who get out about twice a year (they've all turned into climbers urgghhhh) and they all managed this with the help of a ladder that we free climbed up and placed.

Wretched Rabbit is an easy climb suitable for novices. Now don't get me wrong after a long trip it can be a workout, but that's what mates and lifelines are for if so required.

There is no need for any of these mods at all.  People are retro fitting aids to already well established routes regularly done by cavers of all abilities.  There are already bolts and fixed lines in place and some would argue that's too much - but this and the steps thing is horrendous.

I honestly can't believe that someone thinks this is OK?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 04:13:02 pm by MJenkinson »

Offline David Rose

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2019, 04:18:46 pm »
I went down Lancaster Hole and through to Wretched Rabbit with Badlad, a few other forum contributors, and my son Daniel a while back - when he had just turned 12. He had no bother with the climbs.

A few years earlier I took my older son Jacob down Wretched Rabbit and along to Eureka Junction for a play in the main streamway, then back out Wretched Rabbit. I had a rope to use as a lifeline ready just in case, but he jumped the gun and was up the climbs before I had time to tie him on. I was a bit annoyed at the time, but then, he was only 8.

My proposal (yes, it was a joke) to cap the Crux in Quaking Pot is starting to look quite conservative.

Offline Alex

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2019, 04:39:36 pm »
It looks like Lancliffe's tongue and cheek requests of a stanner chair lift on those climbs is coming to fruition.

I  used to have trouble with those climbs a long time ago but I got stronger by doing lots of climbing at the local climbing wall. If I was not fit enough for the cave I modify myself, not the cave. They are quite easy and they have an SRT bypass (the passage on the left) Also, if you can't climb them, that's what ladders are for and it's not like you would have to carry them far either.

Modifying it like this kind of takes out half the fun as you are turning it into a tourist cave?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 04:47:57 pm by Alex »
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline 2xw

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2019, 07:20:25 pm »
Beyond the obvious objections, this work is a criminal offense, has someone had a chat with Natural England

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2019, 08:27:56 pm »
Beyond the obvious objections, this work is a criminal offense, has someone had a chat with Natural England
While there are obvious differences between capping out an unnecessary hand hold on a popular free climb and capping out a constriction in a dig, I think we should be careful about accusations of criminal activity. Should Natural England decide to take action in a case like this, it could have troubling consequences for legitimate exploration.
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2019, 08:57:59 pm »
Worry not, Pete; NE don't enforce the legislation.

Offline 2xw

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2019, 08:58:41 pm »
Natural England have been quite happy to give consents in the past. Their employees do read the forum...
It's not an accusation at all, unless someone has a valid consent to show, it is an offence.

Offline Stuart Anderson

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2019, 09:23:59 pm »
I thought have the pool of people who had access to caps would be quite small. Am I wrong in that assertion?
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2019, 09:56:04 pm »
Anyone can buy (and [mis]-use) caps; BCA insurance does not cover their use in caving scenarios, btw.

Offline Inferus

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2019, 10:27:39 pm »
I can't believe what I'm reading. What is wrong with people at the moment? I hope all the people responsible for the recent spell of desecration of caves read these forums and hang there heads in shame!!!  :chair:
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Online andrewmc

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2019, 10:50:45 pm »
I thought have the pool of people who had access to caps would be quite small. Am I wrong in that assertion?

They are just Hilti nail gun caps and (I think) quite widely available.

Edit: you can buy them on eBay.

Offline Stuart Anderson

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2019, 07:16:31 am »
I thought have the pool of people who had access to caps would be quite small. Am I wrong in that assertion?

They are just Hilti nail gun caps and (I think) quite widely available.

Edit: you can buy them on eBay.

Thanks for clearing that up.
I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
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Offline tobyk

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2019, 08:01:05 am »
This is really shocking! Surely the greatest pleasures in caving are moving through a natural landscape, and the challenges they present. Capping and other necessary modifications should surely only be done by the original explorer, and then only when necessary to make progress. Chipping water washed limestone, really? The friction here is good enough to smear, if you can’t do it, get a boost up.
This damage is criminal (or should be), and I fear this section of cave will be tainted for me now.

Online Ian Ball

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2019, 11:42:54 am »
Although I am repulsed by it and I could probably hazard a guess as to the motive of the modifications, without knowing why they were made I find judging them a little difficult.

The likelihood of the modifier popping onto the forum to explain their actions is certainly less likely when suggestions are that they will be receiving a visit from the police service. 

Are there any circumstances where it could be justified?

How about, a short person, solo caving couldn't get back up the climbs but had a capping kit and by using it meant they were able to free themselves?  (I've never capped anything so I assume a capping kit isn't too bulky for one person*)



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Offline PeteHall

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2019, 11:49:53 am »
A caver experienced enough to be solo digging with capping kit would be easily able to manage these climbs, that have been managed by tired novices for decades, regardless of their height.
There is also a hand line in-situ.
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Offline kat

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2019, 01:34:39 pm »
Does it actually matter how easy or not the climb is? 

Surely the point is it is that it is irreversible damage (vandalism) - added to which it is at a location close to an entrance where there are other easy ways to deal with the obstacle (fixed rope (which I hate), put down a rope / ladder to use on the way out on a through trip, don't do a through trip unless you know you can free climb out etc). 

Otherwise the next arguement will be that it is okay to cut a step for a difficult climb.

Offline CSJ

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2019, 01:36:19 pm »
This is horrid and make me very sad  :weep:!


Surely the point is it is that it is irreversible damage (vandalism) - added to which it is at a location close to an entrance where there are other easy ways to deal with the obstacle (fixed rope (which I hate), put down a rope / ladder to use on the way out on a through trip, don't do a through trip unless you know you can free climb out etc). 

I agree.

In my opinion the only justification for modifications to a climb up (to make progression easier) has to be that access to the top of it is either not possible, or not practicable. I.e. up pitches deep into systems.
To do this to a climb that is 10m from the entrance to a cave (thus easily rigged with ladders or line from above) is horrendous. Not only is it not needed, it has been done in the most violent and inconsiderate way possible. Literally anything else would have been be better than smashing up the rock with caps .

It would be good to see some leadership from the BCA and CNCC on this! Personally i think that the holes should be filled in, and a note affixed explaining that this is not the way to behave! We must show clearly how to conserve caves for future generations, leaving it for 100's of cavers to see (and use) on a popular tip will only serve to normalize such vandalism in the eyes of new cavers.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 01:45:09 pm by CSJ »

Offline Alex

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2019, 01:49:58 pm »
The only upside to these being cut in could mean that all the unsightly hand-lines could be removed as they would not be needed with these footholds now? This may make up for it and indeed make the climbs look more natural when the rock "weathers" with footfall. Just looking on the upside.

Again however, such a modification as these footholds should not be made unilaterally in such a popular place even if that was the intended purpose of removing the rope. Like everyone else I am just guessing as to their purpose.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Online AR

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2019, 09:32:13 pm »
This damage is criminal (or should be), and I fear this section of cave will be tainted for me now.

If it's in a SSSI, then it is potentially....
Dirty old mines need love too....

Offline Inferus

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #21 on: March 05, 2019, 11:17:33 pm »
The only upside to these being cut in could mean that all the unsightly hand-lines could be removed as they would not be needed with these footholds now? This may make up for it and indeed make the climbs look more natural when the rock "weathers" with footfall. Just looking on the upside.

Again however, such a modification as these footholds should not be made unilaterally in such a popular place even if that was the intended purpose of removing the rope. Like everyone else I am just guessing as to their purpose.
It is possible to climb them all without rope, I tried once many years ago (when I was young and full of energy), hard work as you get higher up the climbs but doable (and I'm definitely not a rock rat). If removal of rope was a reason then the first rope (as you exit) shouldn't have been there in the first place as that's the really easy one..

Please do not try and put an upside to this and justify the actions of self-centred vandals.
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Offline tobyk

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2019, 07:14:55 am »
Above ground chipping holds on climbs went out of date in the 1800s. As a classic caving route, this is akin to chipping a way up a classic rock climb e.g. little Chamonix, or a hard move on a classic scramble e.g. pinnacle ridge St Sunday crag.
Are the missing pieces likely to still be there and can simple be stuck back on? Or do you think they have been blown into a hundred pieces?
Maybe an idea, which would require work, but could a pamphlet be put together by the BCA or CNCC of ‘how to behave in caves’ and if you want to make modifications these should be justified first and go through an appropriate channel. The pamphlet could be sent out with the BCA insurance card each year as a reminder.

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2019, 07:54:59 am »
Maybe an idea, which would require work, but could a pamphlet be put together by the BCA or CNCC of ‘how to behave in caves’ and if you want to make modifications these should be justified first and go through an appropriate channel. The pamphlet could be sent out with the BCA insurance card each year as a reminder.

Nice sentiment, but we can safely conclude that it is foolish to continue presuming that C21st cavers (i.e. members of the public) are aware of the existence of regional caving councils, national body, this website etc.. BCA already has a Conservation Code, an Ethical Caving Code, the Minimal Impact Caving leaflet, a credit-card sized conservation list, the excellent EUSS conservation poster, a thick volume of Caving Conservation reference material (harking back to NCA days) etc., etc.. More of the same failed* prescription is a fool's paradise.

Putting signs in caves, just beyond the limit of daylight penetration (i.e. somewhere that only someone who is caving can reach if they are equipped with a light source for personal navigation) has been mentioned to at least one RC and the BCA (at C&A level), and here, more times than I can remember yet in this country it is a topic which seems to elicit an irrational disdain from certain quarters, despite it being standard practice in much of Europe: such signs can convey, using icons so there is no language barrier, acceptable standards of behaviour. WhyTF we don't have them in the UK is a mystery, especially as there are memorial plaques, rescue organisation info-signs, and roadsigns littering numerous classic caves around and about, so the precedent already exists.

Many years ago it was even offered for some signs (based on European example) to be made up and installed FOC but the usual predictable shit storm threatened to wash in so I didn't bother with it any further. That was at RCC/BCA level, please note.


* GG graffiti, HLIS/Swildon's Hole vandalism, WR, L/E, KMC etc., to name but a handful of recent examples, all prove these documents did not reach their target. The list will continue to grow so get used to it.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2019, 08:16:32 am by Cap'n Chris »

Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: Modifications in Wretched Rabbit
« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2019, 09:47:32 am »
This damage is criminal (or should be), and I fear this section of cave will be tainted for me now.

If it's in a SSSI, then it is potentially....

I would not place much reliance on the law surrounding SSSIs if I were you.  Yes section 28P of the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act makes it a criminal offence for any other person who without reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any of the geological or physiographical features by reason of which land is of special interest.

The Leck Beck Head Catchment Area SSSI citation states: "The caves exhibit a wide range of features of interest, including a number of passages which lie well above the present water table. ... The scale and variety of the caves makes this a most important site for the study of surface and underground landform development over a long period of the recent past." see https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1001420.pdf.

The statement of Operations requiring Natural England's consent include: "Recreational, educational or other activities likely to damage features of interest." see https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Consent/1001420.pdf.

I suggest features of interest only focuses on "underground landform development" since it makes no other reference to "wide range of features of interest".  So do you really think creating a few steps is damaging the "underground landform development"?  I fear a reasonable defence lawyer could make hay with the vagueness of the citation.

Also please note that section 28E prohibits the land owner from permitting any operation prohibited by the SSSI to be carried out and section 28P makes that a criminal offence.  Given that, should the land owner place more restrictions on access to protect themselves?

Let me emphasise that I do not condone what has been done; it is just that I fear appeals to law are of no value and could disastrously rebound on access.   :'(