Cautley Spout; a serious place

From the Craven Pothole Club Cautley Spout is a relatively short drive. The road through Dent twists and turns but once you are beyond Sedburgh the Cross Keys is close. Parking was at a premium but we found some concrete to change on and were soon making headway.

The walk in is pleasant and allows for some genuine planning although the very top is out of sight. We ascended the river left side and sighted one or two of the pitch heads before dropping to the beck bed below a long cascade.

We thought we were above pitch five but two bolts revealed we were indeed above pitch six, the 15m pitch. We tied ropes together to descend this utilising a double 8 block and pulled down easily. There was a moderate amount of water which we handled well but some of the pools were fierce. We tried to move onto the 30m pitch 7 with the ropes together but this was a mistake, better to divide. In reflection our 34m rope could have managed to drop on its own.

At the 30m I moved my bag onto my back. I set off on the far right but was being pulled into the centre and it was very slippery. I took off my gloves to increase the traction but with a big fall confidence was not good. I inserted a jammer and ascended up to the head to regroup. With nerve regained we decided that if the right side would go then we were on. I returned to the edge but this looked uncertain.

Time to evacuate. I traversed out right and then Harry followed me on a belay.

This was a great day for us; our objectives were achieved as we worked at pit heads using tails and setting up pull down and again. I practiced an ascent and our escape route was successful. We scoped the Spout successfully and will be back and the whole process will be quicker as we now know the lay of the land.

We also had a great day with the cameras. The waterproof compact produced good results and both GoPro worked on their mounts – mine was head mounted whilst Harry has made an attachment for a Beasty bra to give him a chesty.

Most of all we had a great day together and even caught up with some friends.

Swamped in Stoney

Waking up in Derwent Water independent hostel is was obvious that it had been raining all night. An early breakfast had been booked so that we could have a cheeky gander at Barrow Gill but it was browning off and unknown. We pushed into Keswick to allow the rain to die off.

After twelve it was obvious that the Ghyll would be pumped but we opted to wander up and make some good decisions. Both the corkscrew and washing machine were washed out but some of the smaller slides were in.

At the very top the baptistery pool was overflowing and left and right banana were high but flowing fast.

We tried some assisted slides in places testing the carry away gingerly and had three or four good runs.

Lower down most of the falls were too high but we waded up into the bottom of some to gauge the eddy lines and feel the tow back. This was an excellent opportunity to really experience the power of water and Harry gained plenty.

With both pitches awash we moved operations down to the coffin slabs and shoot. This was moving very quickly and shot us both around the corner and through a couple of pools before reaching a momentary pause.

Some good decisions were made today.

Doe eyed in Ingleton

A early flight for son one demanded an early start but we arrived at Ingleton at nine. A cavers breakfast set us up for the day before shooting across to Cave and Canyon to top up on accessories. He has grown and has always had hand me downs and so a new Sealand suit was due.

We took advice; paid for the falls and then parked further upstream. Water levels were high but with new suit H was keen to swim some eddy walls. We played around the edges practicing our releases and some pendulums.

At the fist pitch, river left, three interlinked maillons access a narrow ridge. We descended setting up a 8 block, retrieving and then returning up the rope.

H played in pools whilst I looked ahead to Snow Falls before deciding the start had been far too early and the supermarket called. After a meal deal gazing over Ribblehead we headed to Ivy cottage.

Wacky Week with Ma & Mi

Since my move out of the Lakes and into the outdoor oasis of Dorset, travel has become a barrier to activity. I have told myself the importance of the journey but in reality some activity just hasn't happened – kayak, orienteering and canyoning.

It has therefore been great to have good friends onboard and an opportunity to show off Dorset's finest and explore new ways to remain active.

Over the weekend we visited castles and crescents, old buildings and good pubs but Monday saw a foray underground. The upper series of Swildons has plenty to offer and I still don't know it all.

Tuesday we headed for some 'dip in' canyon, to Lydford Gorge but the winds were strong and the National Trust closed its doors. There is something far superior about English Heritage, not only the price but the whole hands off attitude.

Not deterred by the weather we headed high, into the northern moor exploring a little known track to discover a little known track in Dartmoor 365. The evening saw breadsticks and fires.
With niggling old injuries reappearing on Wednesday the plan to climb at the end of the week was replaced with fossils at Lyme and the excellent new museum. This is a town crying out to be car free, our seaside walk answering that calling before returning home over Eggycowdung hill. The opposite applied for a national monument crying out for some basic services now the carpark has gone.

A great week, good to share but sad to have to head out into Devon and Somerset to get quality outdoor adventures. I need to be more relaxed about using carbon but also be prepared to utilise the Isle of Purbeck more. Access en route both as a journeyman but also converting my canyon passion into some coasteering.

From the empty quarter to the first letterbox

Awakening in G7 as the sun popped up over Great Kneeset is an awesome experience.  I had positioned the tent perfectly so my view captured the rise.  Packing up was quick and the weighty bag felt lighter with sleep in my soul.DSC_0759

Dropping down to Amicombe Brook I contoured around, climbing on Black Ridge brook.  This is a place in which the marsh would drag you down in the winter.  I was going higher, and wetter to the source of the great Okement.  DSC_0778

I spent far too long on the Peat Pass [G8] exploring and photographing cairns but as I emerged on the northern end the small plaque was located.  This is a great place to attack the Cranmere Pool [G9] and although a path seems obvious it soon disappears.  I trialled a feature in Viewranger by setting a route to follow.  This worked fabulously by both displaying direction and tracking progress.  DSC_0791

The letterbox is iconic; pad, paper, pens but no modern gizmos.  Pure Dartmoor.DSC_0827

The route was reversed, Great Kneeset [F8] sat ahead and I had shifted to row F.DSC_0819

Opposite I dropped to the valley bottom setting up Viewranger to hit the end of the Kitty Tor track.  The sun was starting to burn, water was low and I wanted to be off the moor.


Viewranger worked well again on a diagonally riding bearing and I was pleased that another tool was proving successful. It would be good to use when checking groups as utilising a compass alongside instruction can be distracting.DSC_0834

Kitty Tor {O80-44} is dominated by the flagpole and the descending direct route onto Great Links was flooded towards the bottom.  Unsuccessful attempts to provide stepping stones needs avoiding but below the bridge cool clear water flows down Rattle Brook [G6].  I took my fill.DSC_0842

Climbing on a gravel track was a luxury before cutting perpendicular at its crest.  The sky was blue, the grass green and my camera snapped the ‘Jabba’ shapes [F5].  I sat at the trig and drank in the view.  I dozed on Arms Tor before dropping to the now roasting car, dumping my boots and allowing my feet to breath.

I had beaten the sun, visited the pool and slept in the empty quarter; life fulfilled.

Deeper into the Rhinocerous 

As I arrived at Beechgrove black ninjas in furries were loading Landrovers.  It was just past ten and there was an aura of activity.  I enquired and a lighting assault in Rhino was about to commence …

By promising to derig I was on too and so caught up the first strike in a busy lane above Long Wood.  It then transpired that some essential kit had yet to be realised and do splitting into two Mike and Emma headed ahead to rig.

On our return and at the first pitch head Mike was bottoming out.  This was familiar territory as I had been here only a few weeks previous.  Andy dropped third and then headed onto the second pitch.  Priddy fayre was calling and Emma need to begin the return to the surface.

From the top of the second pitch the view is stupendous, so much so that after a half decent tangle Andy move aside to allow Mike to exit to his important duties also.

At the beach I explored the third pitch, siting the bottom and then began the long haul skyward.  I climbed without bag initially, hauling this on my Rig.  Andy was off of the first pitch in good time before SRTing this with the second and third pitch ropes; a weighty load.  

Both pitches were rigged well by Mike, long loops for return and the deviation fell away nicely.  Back at the traverse line the bag came out hand over hand to meet the rich smell of garlic as we made surface.

Image – cheddar caving club 

How light to camp? Bivouacs and tarps.

Heading out solo for s single night the paraphernalia I carry still seems too much. I have trimmed and avoided and now reduced my pack to such an extent that it is reaching perfection.

A solo Macpac tent is combined with a thin snugpack sleeping bag and neo mat inflatable bed.  The only place for further compromise is with either a gotetex bivouac bag or to move to a tarpaulin.  

Cooking, I have moved from a jet boil back to the gas trangia, it boils as well but has room for boil in the bag food too.  It is also lighter.  

Clothing is minimal.  Hat, gloves and buff were all used in bed and aside from a Marino shirt over my polo the duvet jacket was my only concession.  Waterproof Event top and trousers are standard.

One and a half water bottles complement the usual smalls – compass, whistle, specs, sun hat and battery back up.  I could do with an ink pad and would still like my own stamp, but one day – letterboxes have a certain Dartmoor charm.  Toucan too.

Thinning to the Snugpack bag left me cold at 500m and I woke at dawn needing some socks.  It was also a little short meaning that I could not fully snuggle into a skinny hood; Anjungilak next time at altitude.

My mind also turned to the tent.  The Two Blondes discuss bivouacs and bothies and identify a lack of the latter on the moor, a shame as there is plenty of potential.  There are off course plenty of bunkhouses: Runnage, Powdermills and the Prince of Feathers all jump to mind.

One major saving could be the inclusion of a tarp instead of a tent.  To this end I have begun assesssing suitable sites prior to heading out in full vigour.

Three aspects interest me:

1. Suitable walls to provide shelter and support for the tarp, preferably at an angle.

2. A well drained base to sleep on.

3. A flatish space sufficient to sleep on without nettles.  

I explored two sites and scored them appropriately.  

The first was a bield (sheep pen) opposite Black Rock.  It was narrow, wet and overgrown but had a good wall.  I gave it one star.

The second was at Bleak House.  The chimney has now fallen but the walls are plentiful.  A plastic plate lay in plenty of broken pieces which I cleaned up and buried. I could have taken this out and may have done if I was heading home.  

The floor had some nettles which could be cleared but also needed some of the stones rolling to make a bed.  With plenty of potential and as it was within striking distance of the road I gave it two stars.

Having retired early the previous night due to flying bugs I wondered just what type of refuge a tarp would offer, at least you can zip into a bivvy bag but my quest will continue …