This Wednesday (6th June) I visited the second highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, Ingleborough and the astounding Gaping Gill pothole, where we got winched down 334ft into the massive underground chamber.Inside the chamber you can see tall underground waterfalls and daylight beaming in through the small opening high above our heads, through which we entered the cave, sat, suspended in a little caged chair hanging on a wire.
Gaping Gill is the UK’s highest unbroken waterfall (bpc-cave.org.uk) it is the point where Fell Beck ends and drops abruptly into a great gaping hole in the ground. Bradford Pothole Cub’s annual winch meet enables us non caving folk to get down and see the cave, which is normally inaccessible to the general public who are unable to climb a rope. It only costs £10. There are lots of experienced cavers around to explore the cave system down there, and they have a motor powered winch and a chair set up on a platform and the chamber is illuminated with spotlights.
When we went, there was a three hour wait for the winch. Normally this would be perfect as it’d leave enough time to hike up the rest of the mountain. Sadly for us the weather was not at all on our side, after ten minutes of hiking we were soaked through, and the visibility on the mountain was horrific. There would have been little point in climbing it, risking getting lost, getting cold and half drowned to get to the summit and not be able to see anything, plus we had climbed to the top in the past. So instead we sheltered with about forty others in a white tent, a pop up real ale pub called ‘The Fell Inn’ until it finally stopped chucking it down. We put on our muddy waterproof suits and waited for our turn for the winch. It was pretty cold to be honest, I was wearing my spare socks on my hands.
The actual winch ride is awesome, they ask you to sit as far back in the seat as possible and keep your feet tucked under the seat so that you don’t hit the wall of the pothole, which gets really rather close at some points on the way down. The trip down is a good distance, i.e. it doesn’t go so quickly that it’s over before you know it. I tried my best to look around as I descended, but movement is pretty restricted in the chair, it’s pitch black below and looking up you get a face full of water from the waterfall. At the bottom I was struck by the sheer size of the chamber, and I was excited to see how far i’d just traveled from the surface. Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness we walked around the chamber, and I tried to get some half decent photos. My little camera did me proud, after a bit of brightness and contrast adjustment I got some pretty good shots.
When we got back out in the open it was like a completely new day, it was bright and sunny and we could see the mountains. We hiked back down the hill to Clapham and got some fish and chips on the way home, it was a really good day.
Link- Bradford Pothole Club – http://www.bpc-cave.org.uk/gaping_gill.htm