(dis)Joint(ed) meet: Nidderdale Yorkshire

This year’s first joint meet inadvertently turned into a disjointed meet with all the climbers on one campsite (the wrong one) in Heathfield near Pateley Bridge and all the cavers plus John and Anneli Smith and the Roberts family on the next door campsite (the right one).

After a week of good weather down south, Saturday morning was a little overcast. The climbers headed off for Brimham, John and Anneli went walking near Settle, and the Roberts family headed for How Stean Gorge, a local visitor attraction. Meanwhile, the cavers had a day of Nidderdale delights planned. After meeting ex CCCC member Alan Scowcroft and his friend Peter at How Stean Gorge cafe, we drove further up Nidderdale to explore three caves. But first, a quick check of Scar House Reservoir. The Nidderdale caves can flood quickly and catastrophically so it is wise to check the level of the reservoir before venturing underground.

Cave no 1: Manchester Hole, a Grade 1 cave that has, nevertheless killed people! A simple, linear through trip with a reasonably long duck (link to photos).

Cave no 2: Goyden Hole. This is a more complex system than Manchester. There is an underground link between the caves but as often happens with Nidderdale caves, a recent flood had blocked the connection so we briefly returned to the surface to connect the two caves. Our “guide” Alan had taken the precaution of visiting Goyden just two days previously with a local digger to learn the circular route through this rabbit warren. So, into the entrance we went. A few minutes later, after investigating several apparent dead ends, we were back at the entrance! Hmmmm……let’s try again. This time, we found the key passage and had a fine wander round Goyden. “Labyrinth, don’t go in the labyrinth” was the refrain of the day. Apparently, even the locals can get lost in the labyrinth.

Cave no 3: New Goyden. Exiting Goyden, we stopped to talk to some bemused picnickers before returning to the cars to put on SRT kit. Then, it was a short walk downstream to the well-hidden entrance of this very fine cave. Inside, a short tunnel led to the first 25 m pitch. Then a 20 m pitch took us down into the large active stream way. New Goyden is a puzzling cave. Often, the best way to find a route in a cave is to follow the direction of the water but in New Goyden, this doesn’t work. The water seems to go in all directions at once! Our trip round New Goyden took in a large number of sumps, a lovely chamber called the Planetarium (large dimples in the ceiling house luminous bacteria), and two more cold ducks. Then it was back to the ropes for the hard work of jumaring back to the surface, where we re-found the bemused picnickers, a couple of hundred yards from where we first met them. Clearly a picnicking group rather than a walking group!

Back at the campsite, we celebrated our President’s birthday with cake (link to photos) and wine before moving to the nearby pub when the midges got too bad. Eventually at 10.30pm, the meet briefly became a joint meet with the arrival of the climbing contingent.

Sunday was wet to start but soon brightened up. The climbers dashed off to Almscliffe where rain stopped play after a couple of climbs. They then moved to a crag near Wetherby called Hetchall. No caving for the cavers but a very pleasant walk around the top end of Nidderdale (Mike, Jane and Gordon) that involved two cake and tea stops!

Link to photos.

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