Author Topic: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??  (Read 510 times)

Offline Megs2017

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Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« on: October 10, 2020, 11:35:32 pm »
Good evening,

My club is looking at doing a trip down Winnats Head cave but having done my reading, I'm rather nervous about the 'dangerous boulder chokes' that have been described. Having said that, a lot of these descriptions/trip reports were over 5 years ago, so I wanted to know if anyone had been recently and their view on the level of danger posed? The statement that rescue would be nearly impossible should there be a collapse isn't reassuring either.

Thoughts and opinions?

Many thanks. Megan

Offline pwhole

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2020, 12:16:13 am »
The chokes themselves are not that dangerous as long as you're careful and don't rush things, as route-finding in the first choke can be tricky if you've not been before. The chance of collapse is a lot less than the chance of a wrong turning, but most other options are blind and don't do far. The second choke has a rope running through it to guide you. There's an awkward vertical squeeze with a drop beneath it as you exit the second choke, which is probably the greatest hazard. The statement that rescue would be almost impossible is probably true, though that shouldn't put you off, as they'd certainly try! But even the entrance crawl is tight enough to cause problems. There are some genuinely fantastic parts though, and it's well worth a visit. If you don't want to over-commit, just aim to get to Fox Chamber and see how you feel. That alone is worth the trip.

Winnats Head is one of those venues that rewards repeat visits, as you gain confidence each time and there's plenty to impress. We've exited from the main sump to the surface in twenty minutes before when unencumbered by bags, and it is really, really good fun climbing back up through all the chokes once you know where to go and where not to put your feet. I would recommend it.

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2020, 12:23:48 am »
As with all chokes, I wouldn't go thrashing about in them.

 The first choke from Main chamber and down is pretty ok really, just follow the rope as it switches back underneath itself, then a short distance finds you in a squeeze down, then its across a sort of chamber to another squeeze down in the left hand wall. after this squeeze down your switching back again following that wall. this will very shortly take you to the 'airy' position above cornwall avenue (or the start of the way down into Fox chamber).
 All of this is fairly normal caving really. but as you've just been through two squeezes i'd say if you had to be in a stretcher, you will probably be cold waiting for them to chisel you a way out.

Once in fox chamber as it flattens out your way into the second boulder choke is a hole (in the floor of boulders) on the left hand side of the chamber. from here if you've got your back to the wall your sort of going in front and to the right as you're descending into the choke, until you switchback and head back towards that left hand wall.
 When you find the wall again, you will hug this (solid) wall round the back of the chamber, there are about 3 or 4 slots down (someone will probably correct me), but maybe in the right order these are a short climb down with a fat rope.
 Followed briefly after by a climb down with some wood chocked across the climb and a thin? rope attached which leads down into the awkward squeeze/leg flail with a drop when you pop out the bottom (keep hold of the rope!), you'll know what I mean by leg flail when you're on the way out ;)
 Thirdly is another 'airy' or lofty climb down which gains you the chamber and the sump pool "this is the sea".

In short, the book says rescue would be impossible, i guess it depends on how long a period of time you would call impossible, anyway probably best not injuring yourself... I wouldn't want to be rescued from there if they've forgotten the warm blanket by accident.

As for movement in the boulders, I have not noticed any, but then I tend not to try and worry any of the boulders, they all seem perfectly happy where they are. :)

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2020, 12:31:09 am »
As an afterthought I have seen Bats in Winnats and their droppings seem to be quite prevalent in the Main Chamber, but I have seen a bat in the second boulder choke, and so if you're not planning your trip for tomorrow then just ensure you keep your eyes out for bats so you know not to bother them when you find them.

Offline Megs2017

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2020, 10:04:31 am »
Thank you Alastairgott and pwhole for your descriptive replies, they will be thoroughly helpful for helping us find our way through. They were also reassuring that it isn't as bad as I had believed, just to take the extra care as in any awkward/lose choke. It will be good to share this with members attending as well. I will also raise the point about bat's being present so as to avoid disturbance.
Many thanks again. Megan

Offline owd git

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2020, 10:45:51 am »
Leg flail!  :'(
only time I was encouraged to 'enjoy' Winnats head, I found the route description assumed  far longer legs than I took with me. standing on a compressing tackle bag and a pull up from above worked for a last gasp tho, really worth it (with back up).  :lol:
O.G.  (&his little legs.) 
Hen racer? 2000 world hen racing champion

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2020, 12:23:11 pm »
Here's a useful bat calendar  :sleeping:


https://www.bats.org.uk/about-bats/a-year-in-the-life-of-a-bat


OG, well i'm glad to hear that i haven't been the only one... here's the leg flail, without any leg flailing...

but then I think he's got a few more inches on his legs!
« Last Edit: October 11, 2020, 12:35:04 pm by alastairgott »

Offline pwhole

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2020, 12:34:46 pm »
One other interesting 'feature' of Winnats Head is the huge amount of spar-gravel present, particularly near the bottom of the chokes by the main sump. There's no known mining ever took place in there, but it certainly looks from the evidence on the floor that there was plenty of mineral in there at some point - some of it leaning toward Blue John, which I guess is hardly surprising given where it is. There's a football-sized lump of dark blue fluorspar lying around in there somewhere in the second choke - I think it's in the section where you can actually see a solid wall, and you're clearly traversing around in a large choked shaft - at that point anyway.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2020, 12:51:49 pm »
I don't have many decent shots in Winnats Head - these are single tiles from a photogrammetry set me and my friend Domee did two years ago in the entrance chamber, so it's a bit fragmentary. But the crawl from the surface is just visible behind the orange Peli Case, and is flat-out. Behind the camera, going into the cave, the way on is a squeeze in a trench behind this huge triangular slab, and is then a short, and much easier crawl into Main Chamber.

We helped Clive Westlake take some photos in Fox Chamber last year, so maybe he'll see this and post them ;)

Offline benshannon

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2020, 01:57:35 pm »
i love winnats. i think the book makes it sound scarier than it is. in my opinion i found waterways swallet sketchier than winnats. as people have said above, do not thrash about in the chokes, follow the rope and follow the wall. its worth i to see the beautiful sump and the spectacular fox chamber

Offline Tseralo

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2020, 03:12:41 pm »
Ive never understood why thoes warnings are there. There are much more dodgy caves with no warnings at all.

Offline Goydenman

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2020, 03:19:34 pm »
Ive never understood why thoes warnings are there. There are much more dodgy caves with no warnings at all.

Stems from our first trip down there...while in Fox chamber we could hear the choke rumbling above. In fact we made a joke about going out on the third rumble! Over the following months it saw significant changes eg there used to be a high vertical climb down from the end of the choke into Cornwall Avenue which has gone now. I have not heard of movement in the choke for years so less relevant

Online danthecavingman

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Re: Winnats Head Cave. How dangerous are the chokes??
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2020, 04:06:02 pm »
You used to be able to see the remains of an electron ladder in the first choke where the old Cornwall Avenue pitch had collapsed. Not sure if it's still visible now? As for rescue, Steve Forshaw from TSG fell out of the bottom of the second choke and seriously injured himself, breaking several bones as I recall. He was able to self rescue with assistance from his companion (Martin Kaye?) and made it so surface without DCRO assistance. Not something I would fancy doing 😮
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