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Ellet, F. (1900) Long Kin Hole (West). Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 1 Number 2: pp114-122. Leeds: YRC

Long Kin Hole (West).

By Frank Ellet.

Of life's little vanities the desire to see oneself in print is specially marked in the British character, and I have no doubt we novices who are making our bow in the record of the doings of the Pickwick - no, I mean the Yorkshire Ramblers' Club - expect the heavens will fall when an admiring world views our efforts in -

"The last and greatest art, to blot."

Nevertheless it is a serious matter to take any part in ushering a new bantling into the world of "books which are no books." Fortunately the responsibility does not rest altogether upon my shoulders, and although I send forth my little venture in fear and trembling, I do so in the hope that its grander relations will allow it a humble place in the same binding.

To make a start :-On the 16th of May, 1897, six gaunt forms, clad in garments which had seen better days, and hung about with various strange objects beloved of the pot-hole explorer, might have been seen breasting the slope on the S.W. side of Ingleborough, and which rises behind Newby Cote on the Clapham-Ingleton road. These mysterious forms had names, to wit:-  E. Calvert,  J. W. Firth,   J. A. Green, W. C. Slingsby, the handy man Ben Mason, and myself. About a third of the way up the mountain, on a plateau honeycombed with pot-holes of all sizes, shapes, and depths, is a huge crack rejoicing in the name of Long Kin, certainly a good name, for as compared with others of its kith and kin it is surely the grandfather. To distinguish it from another of the same name on the eastern side of Ingleborough, it is known as Long Kin West.

I may point out here that the hole is, in common with others on this fairly level moorland ground, somewhat difficult to find, and there being no prominent landmarks the seeker does not find it until he is close upon it. It is true that a track, starting from near Cold Cotes and running north and then east, crosses the hole at a point where a convenient bridge of rock has been left, but although this track is supposed to lead eventually to Gaping Ghyll Hole, yet after leaving Long Kin it is so faint as to be hardly worthy of the name. Balderston, on page 46 in his book "lngleton: Bygone and Present," gives directions to find it, and its position is shown on the 6-inch Ordnance Map.

The mouth of the pot is roughly L-shaped, and from one end to the other measures some 170 feet. The width varies from about six feet at the north end, where a stream enters, gradually narrowing to one foot, with here and there an enlargement to two feet, until, from where the rock bridge crosses it widens rapidly to 20 feet at the east end of the L. The upright of the L points N. At the rock bridge the hole reaches its greatest depth, which, measured from the ground level, is about 320 feet. The actual edge of the hole where deepest is about 10 feet below the surface. The north end, where the stream enters, descends in a series of steps of various depths to the first workable ledge, which is referred to in this paper as the 70-foot landing, for as will be seen later we made a direct descent to this, thereby reducing the amount of necessary tackle. Below the 70-foot landing there is an almost vertical drop of about 160 feet on to a wide ledge, and below that again is the third and final drop of about 90 feet to the bottom of the hole. Where the hole has approximately the narrowest width at the top, there it is deepest, but then, as with other pot-holes in the Limestone, surface appearances give no reliable indication of what may be found below.

V1N2P114 001
Plan of Long Kin (West)

In October, 1896, Calvert and I had made a partial investigation of the hole, and we then descended about 30 feet below the 70-foot landing, and plumbed it to some 230 feet at the rock bridge. The knowledge then obtained was of use in attempting the complete descent on this our present expedition. Although Long Kin West was found to be one of the deepest known pots on Ingleborough, and might have been expected to present great difficulties of descent, yet owing to the perfection to which Calvert, who is facile brinceps in this kind of work, has carried the method and appliances for exploring caves and pot-holes, the transporting of tackle, fixing it, and making the descent only occupied our party one day. The means adopted were as follows:-  A stout plank was laid and securely fixed across what is generally called by grandiloquent writers "the yawning chasm," directly above the 70-foot landing, and almost directly over the next drop of 160 feet. A rope ladder, 135 feet long, and fastened to the two ends of a 430-foot rope, was lowered over a pulley fixed on the plank until the top of the ladder was level with the edge of the hole. The doubled end of the rope was then securely fixed to stakes in the ground some yards from the edge. An important item in the raising and lowering of the ladder was a second and lighter rope, one end of which was passed through a pulley-block on the plank and also fastened to the top of the ladder, the loose end being allowed to drop down the hole to its full length. This device proved very useful, as by its means those who had descended were able to assist those above in manipulating the ladder. A safety rope, 450 feet long, was then run over another pulley on the plank and the A loose end left with our man Ben at the top.

These preparations being completed the party of five descended the ladder one by one to the 70-foot landing, leaving Ben above to work the ropes. It is usual in such a case to have at least two men at the surface, but on this particular occasion, there being only one rope to attend to at a time, and that being in the hands of a man whose reliability and capacity had been proved while assisting at many of our previous explorations, we had no fear about leaving him alone to do this part of the work satisfactorily. Further, as some of our party were on the 70-foot landing during the whole of the time, it would have been an easy matter for one of us to have ascended to the surface and given Ben assistance if he had required it.

The last 20 feet above the landing becomes in shape somewhat like the inside of a round chimney about four feet in diameter, and with one side open. The only standing room is inside the chimney, and as the next drop starts at once at the open side it can be well understood there was not too much floor space for five men to work on. In front of the ledge, and just within reach, are two natural bridges of rock curiously spared by the falling water, which served us as perches of uncomfortable insecurity, being only about 12 inches wide and rounded on the top; the situation also affording a pleasant consciousness of some 160 feet of ' nothingness' beneath. These bridges, along with others, form a noticeable feature in the cavescape when viewed from below. Fortunately the daylight at this point was ample, but for safety's sake each man when on a bridge was attached to a rope. Those on the chimney ledge were in perfect security, and could not have fallen out unless they had wanted to. The plumb-line was called into requisition, and after several efforts a bottom was touched at about 140 feet. The rope ladder was then lowered until the top rung was level with our position, and secured above as before. Calvert now put on the long safety-line and, provided with a lamp, descended into the darkness beneath. Arrived at the bottom of the ladder he was unable to find a landing place, so after a time announced his intention of coming up to explain what was to be done next. It is not every man who can climb down and then up 135 feet of rope ladder with scarcely a rest - even with the relief which a safety-line affords. The ladder, too, for a considerable distance, was swinging free, thus adding to the difficulty. Calvert's effort may therefore be considered a very creditable gymnastic feat. He intimated that the plumb-line weight must have lodged on a projecting ledge which appeared to be 15 or 20 feet below the ladder end, and that he would have let himself down by his arms from the bottom rung and then dropped on to the ledge, but that it would not have been safe to take such a step in the semi-darkness. It would of

course have been feasible for us to lower the ladder with Calvert on it, but there would have been an element of risk in that too, and it is a maxim in pot-hole exploration that nothing shall be done unless with perfect safety. On coming up he had, however, noticed a small ledge a few inches wide, and about 40 feet below our perch, which would afford a temporary resting-place, and he therefore proposed to go down again, get off the ladder there and wait until it was lowered some 30 feet or so more. The proposal was carried out; Calvert again descended the ladder, and this time arrived safely on the ledge. He found it a convenient size, but called out that he would require the assistance of another man before be could descend any further, for, as is common in pot-hole exploration, there was still another descent to be made, in the same way as in mountain climbing there is almost invariably another ascent before the final one is reached.

With wonderful unanimity each man proposed that one of the others should follow the leader, and after the expenditure of much politeness of the "After you, sir!" order, Firth nobly volunteered to fill the breach. The safety-line having been hauled up and donned, the same procedure with the ladder was gone through as before, and he also disappeared into the blackness, leaving the remaining three of us in the chimney.

The pitch was now proved to be about 160 feet deep, and was an example of the axiom in pot-hole exploration, that "too much tackle is better than too little"; for of course it is impossible to know beforehand how deep one may have to go. In this case another 20 feet of rope ladder would have saved us a good deal of time and labour.

Firth soon announced that he had reached Calvert, and they were consulting as regards further-proceedings. With the plumb-line they found apparently a lower depth of some 90 feet and, as all was in darkness, they tried to ascertain something about the appearance of the pitch by lighting balls of magnesium wire which they dropped below, but without gaining much information as to the most suitable line of descent. They also removed a number of boulders which, being near the edge, were a source of danger. Finally we received a signal to lower the ladder, and as soon as Calvert and Firth considered they had sufficient length for their purpose, and Ben had made the ladder rope fast above, we rested from our labours and amused ourselves by trying to keep warm.

After waiting a considerable time we became conscious of something uncanny moving about overhead. A search revealed a slowly-descending rope with something hanging at the end. Fearful thoughts of atrocities, doubtless engendered by a recent course of Poe's tales, filled the mind of at least one of us with fear, but, summoning courage, we awaited events, and on the nearer approach of the swinging object were comforted by the appearance of a harmless tin can. Like Mr. Pickwick during his journey to Birmingham in company with Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen, we were at once afflicted with curiosity and determined if the can came within reach to take possession of it. We succeeded, and on taking off the lid perceived it to contain hot drink. This must have been our Ben's doing we decided, and so in order to play a joke upon him we absorbed the contents. Alas! having once giving way to temptation we recklessly plunged deeper and desired more. Ben, with his usual forgiving spirit, continued the temptation, and that our two friends below might not be deprived from sharing in our pleasure, we informed them how agreeably we were occupied. Almost instantly a blue flame and a smell of sulphur came up the hole, accompanied by noisy and unparliamentary language.

This feasting was all very nice, but as it was now some time since Calvert and Firth had left us, we were getting tired of our confined position in the small hollow. Standing on one leg, jamming one's back and heels against opposite sides of the chimney, down which a pleasant stream trickled, and other means of varying our comfort were tried without success. The remains of a very dead sheep on our platform did not add to the happiness of the party and also limited the available space, for it is not desirable to tread too heavily on animals in the condition this one was in-

' For who has nose so keen and strong,

That cares to follow an odour in its flight,"

We therefore concluded that it was now time to go home, and politely requested our two friends below to return to their "muttons."

The fascination of underground exploration is so great that once below you feel that you cannot return until all that may be has been revealed, and Calvert and Firth exemplified this to the full. Firth being now at the top of the lowest pitch, and Calvert still descending, our patience was still further tried, but at last we heard the welcome signal to haul up the ladder. This work had to be done from the top by Ben; however, we were able to afford him a little assistance with the light line. Firth then ascended to the 40-foot projection and waited there till the ladder was hauled higher, when he soon joined us. The whole operation was again gone through, and the ladder being at last raised to the top, Calvert completed his weary travel by going straight up. The next proceeding was the comparatively small matter for each of the four remaining individuals to get himself up the ladder, which although necessitating a good deal of raising and lowering of safety line, was duly accomplished, and the whole party was once more on, what might with truth be called, "terra firma."

It appeared that the negotiation of the bottom pitch had proved most difficult. Firth had remained on the ledge, which, as the hole widened out considerably, was found to be fairly extensive, and he held the safety line while Calvert went to the bottom. During Calvert's descent the lamp he carried had been extinguished three times by knocking against the rock and the ladder, and it was only with great difficulty that he was able to re-light it; for unfortunately a man has only two hands (three would be a decided advantage in rope ladder work), and Calvert had to make the best use of his chin to hold himself on the ladder during lighting operations. He had not found it possible to explore the whole of the bottom, as it is divided by partitions of rock worn at the top into pinnacles, and with edges like razors. Very little daylight could penetrate to the bottom on account of these partitions, and it was difficult to get a good view of the chamber, which is a considerable size. Trophies were brought up in the shape of a crowbar and a man's cap, both of which were afterwards identified by some of the Clapham people as having fallen down the hole during an attempt that had been made by some one to make the descent.

It is due to Calvert's kindness in supplying the information that I am able to describe all below the 70-foot landing, which was my lowest point; and also for the accompanying plans, reference to which will make my account more intelligible.

The modern sport of pot-hole exploration seems to me to explode the old saying "Facilis est descensus Averni," and although this line of exploration has only been pushed a very small part of the way, yet it has been found so laborious and slow that proposing followers may reasonably give up hopes of getting much further. Let me hope anyway that it is not a question of "It is the first step which costs."