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Cuttriss, S.W. (1903) Gaping Ghyll Hole. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 2 Number 5: pp48-51. Leeds: YRC

Gaping Ghyll Hole.

By S.W. Cuttriss.

When this pot-hole was descended in 1896, one of the passages then discovered could not be completely explored through lack of time.  It was hoped to complete the work the following year but changing circumstances vetoed such a proposal, and year succeeded year without anything further being done.  A few of the members of the Club still cherished the hope of again treading the floor of the stupendous cavern, and the subject was seriously brought forward at the Club Meet last year.  Messrs. Booth, Cuttriss, and Parsons were asked to take the matter in hand with a view to a descent in the following Spring.  Mr. E. Calvert very kindly offered the use of the windlass and tackle used on the previous occasions, and in good time everything was ready, weather permitting, for a descent during the Whitsuntide holidays in 1903.

Owing to the loss of time involved morning and night by the long walk from and to Clapham village, arrangements were made for some of the party to camp out at the Hole, Mr. Scriven generously loaning his outfit for the purpose.  This proved a great advantage.

In general the plan adopted in rigging up the gear was the same as that carried out by Mr.  Calvert in the previous descents, a description of which has already appeared in the pages of the Journal.[1]  To save time the jib was erected over the hole at the inner end of the side passage by three of the party the week-end before the actual expedition.

During this visit an interesting observation was made with respect to the flow of the waters of Fell Beck.  It will be remembered by those who have read the articles previously referred to, that there exists an underground fall of water which enters the Hole right in the line of descent, and provides an unavoidable shower bath for the explorer.  Some 200 feet up Fell Beck a portion of the water sinks underground through crevices in the rock, and it was thought that very probably this water formed the main supply of the underground fall.  As it would be a decided advantage to reduce this fall in bulk as much as possible, a dam of sods was constructed to divert the water from the crevices and send it all above ground to the main hole.  Much to our surprise we found the result was the opposite of our expectations, the stream after flowing above ground from the dam sank entirely only a few feet from the side passage, and not a drop went into the main hole.  We then reconstructed the dam and turned all the water into the crevices, with the result that most of it now appeared at the main hole.  Our subsequent descents however showed there was still a considerable volume of water in the underground fall, no doubt the result of further unseen leakage.  Very probably this absorption of the waters of Fell Beck by the underground water-course is rapidly on the increase, and it may not be many years before Gaping Ghyll, as seen from above, will become a dry pot-hole under average conditions of the weather.  We may even yet see the Hole converted into a staircase, and the half-day tripper pay his shilling to gaze on the profound sight from the vantage point of the ledge 190 feet below!

On Friday, May 29th, all our tackle had been transported to the pot-hole, but the spirits of the advance party were damped by a downpour of rain-the first after an unusually long spell of fine weather.  Were we to be just a week too late? Fine dry weather was essential to the success of the undertaking, and now it was raining hard as we busied about to make ourselves comfortable for the night.  At 4.30 next morning we were astir with lighter hearts, the bright sunshine and rising barometer giving promise of success.  Having arranged the camp we commenced work at the windlass and tackle, our numbers being augmented by an occasional fresh arrival as the day wore on.  At 5 o'clock in the afternoon Booth made a preliminary descent, fitted up the telephone and arranged other necessary matters for the work next day.  He was followed shortly afterwards by H. Harrison, the guide to Clapham Cave, this being his only opportunity of making the descent.

The early part of Sunday morning was occupied in making several adjustments to the tackle, and then the work of descent commenced.  When four men had been lowered, Booth and Parsons left the others at the bottom and proceeded to explore the branch from the main SE. passage, about 80 feet from the top of the slope of fallen rocks in the Main Cavern.  After several hours they returned with the disappointing news that nothing of importance had been discovered.  The passage proved an exceedingly difficult one to traverse, being so low that they were obliged to wriggle laboriously on their stomachs for nearly two hours over loose stones, and although they knew their course was tending in a N.W. direction, great was their astonishment when they came out into the Main Cavern again at the top of the boulder slope within a short distance of where they had entered the SE. passage.  The existence of this opening had not been noticed before, although in the earlier explorations we had passed close to it many times.

The exploration work at this end of the cavern having come to such an unexpected and early conclusion our attention was now devoted mainly to giving every member of the party an opportunity to make the much desired descent.  In the afternoon the weather looked very threatening and distant peals of thunder were heard, so haste had to be made to get those men who were down to the surface again.  Fortunately the storm passed away and we were able to continue work until late in the evening.

Next morning it was intended that Mr. A.R. Dwerryhouse and myself should be the first two to descend, and that we should devote our attention to completing the survey of 1896, but unfortunately being temporarily indisposed I was not able to undertake it, and the completion of this work was abandoned.  Later in the day l descended and accompanied Mr. P. F. Kendall some distance along the S.E. passage.  He detected several features of considerable interest which might easily have escaped the eye of any but a well trained geologist.  At one place he drew my attention to some "Faulted " stalactites.  These originally had been continuous from roof to floor but were now broken across the middle, the lower portion being displaced nearly one inch.  This suggested a movement of the floor, probably a sinking at one side resulting from the falling away of the underlying rocks.  There was also part evidence in the rock-slope itself, at this end of the Main Cavern, of a gradual subsidence into some cavity below.

When this passage was first explored in 1896, the numerous stalactites in places approached so close to the floor that it was impossible to creep along without breaking off the ends.  One of these was now observed with a new growth at the broken end about 1 1/2 inches long, which had formed during the intervening seven years.

Although the expedition did not result in any discovery of importance, every member of the party expressed his pleasure at having participated in the descent.

The following are the names of those who went down:- T.S.  Booth, H. Buckley, H. Brodrick, W. Brown, F. Constantine, S.W. Cuttriss, A.R.  Dwerryhouse, R. Farrar, H. Harrison, A.F. Horn, C.A. Hill, P.F. Kendall, P. Lamb, W.W. Newbould, W. Parsons, J.W. Puttrell, E.P. Sykes, W.E. Waud, and H. Woodhouse.

It is to be regretted that E. Calvert, who was present, was prevented by indisposition from joining in the descent, but mention of his advice and the able assistance of J.A. Green and others on the surface must not be forgotten.  Neither would it be fair to omit acknowledgment of the excellent and adequate catering of our friend C.A. Scriven.


[1] See Club Journal Vol. 1 pp.  65 and 123.