EuroSpeleo 2016


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Photo: Jacob emerging from Jingling Pot on a Eurospeleo trip.

In August 2016, the Yorkshire Dales was host to the 5th European Speleological Congress, a week-long festival of British caving attended by 1300 delegates from 36 countries around the world. From NUCC, Jacob, Briony and I were in attendance as well as friends from other University clubs from across the UK. The week was a great success for both socialising and caving. There were also many lectures and I even went to an art workshop. Every night we met cavers from across the world – these included some ex-NUCC members and several that gave us invites and some great ideas for future trips abroad. I went on 4 caving trips that week: Sell Gill, Yordas Pot, Dihedral in Gaping Gill and Lancaster Hole to Stake Pot in Easegill. Dihedral was the best of these (actually one of my favourite ever caving trips) so I’ll write my report on that.

Cave: Gaping Gill
Route: Dihedral -> the winch
Cavers: Rosanna Nichols, Jacob Puhalo-Smith, Briony Downes-Ward, David Botcherby (SUSS)

The Gaping Gill main chamber is one of the highlights of caving in the UK: in the UK it has the 2nd deepest shaft, the largest chamber open to the surface and the highest unbroken waterfall. Normally you would access this via shorter routes elsewhere in the cave system, such us Bar, Flood or Stream Pots as the routes directly from the surface into the main chamber are such a lot of work to get back out of. However, for this special event, Craven Pothole Club set up their winch for rides in and out of the chamber, as well as adding some lighting to spectacular effect. We descended Dihedral, which is one of these routes, following the side of the chamber before exploring the chamber and the horizontal sections of the cave system around it and taking the winch out.

Jacob, Botch and I descended Dihedral whist Briony went down on the winch. We entered the cave, following a short rift to the first enormous pitch. Botch went first, with me to follow and Jacob to go last. The combination of natural light via the open shaft and the lighting installed in the cave meant you could see the entire descent. The first pitch is a single rope for about 50m with only some deviations to pass. I watched as Botch descended this, gradually disappearing into the mist generated by the waterfall. I could see him descend for a long time gradually getting smaller and smaller as he went deeper and deeper into the cave – it really is a very, very long way down! Then I descended and it was incredible – the chamber being so awesomely vast combined with the view of the waterfall, lit by the open shaft, is one of the best examples of the power of nature I’ve ever experienced. You could also see visitors whizz past on the winch, a great contrast to the waterfall behind them. Then I eventually reached the ledge before the second pitch and called up to Jacob to follow. This is another approx. 50m with a couple of rebelays at the top and drops down to the floor of the main chamber. Again, this is a huge drop and with the floor lit and visitors walking round, looking like ants below, this was more obvious than you would normally see. Once we’d descended this, we met up with Briony and had a walk around the floor of the vast chamber.

We then went around the surrounding tunnels, learning a bit of the route finding you’d do on a regular Gaping Gill trip and seeing some nice formations. We made it to the bottom of the Stream entrance before turning back. We then rode up the winch, one at a time sitting in a vulnerable-looking chair and being hauled up by a cable. It was great fun to use this opportunity to see the main entrance shaft in a different way, and the Dihedral route we’d descended earlier. Overall, an excellent trip!

By Rosanna Nichols, 20/08/16