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Caving Lost John’s Cave

Listed under Caves & Caving in North West England, United Kingdom.

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This pothole lies a short drive from Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales, permission is required from the CNCC (Council of Northern Caving Clubs). Although fairly deep it is not technically difficult and the route as far as “Battleaxe Pitch” is suitable for relative beginners to practice their techniques. Battleaxe gets very wet after rain and can become impassable so best get a weather forecast before descending.

The entrance lies no more than 30 m from the road and no more than 200m from an adequate parking space. The short climb down to the entrance is slippery, this is the norm in most caves since a coating of algae tends to form on the wet limestone when exposed to daylight.

Follow the streamway, after about 200m climb over the large boulder blocking the way - squeezing under is not an option! Continuing down the stream canyon leads to “Monastery” route, however this is frequently wet and “Dome” and “Centipede” routes give more options. On reaching an obvious climb down, retrace your steps about 20 metres and follow a rising traverse on good ledges. *

Dropping down the first hole (8m) leads to Dome route (22m) via Vestry (8m) and Cathedral (22m) It should be noted that these are pitch lengths NOT rope lengths! A short passage can be accessed by penduling into a side passage about 8 m from the bottom of Dome, this leads after a few metres to a drop of about 8 m in two steps to Dome Junction where Dome route joins Centipede route.

*Continuing along the high level traverse one soon reaches Hammer Pot (5 m) and a few metres further on Mud Pot (14 m) which is followed immediately by Centipede (30 m). A narrow rift passage leads from the foot of Centipede to Dome Junction.

A pleasant passage leads to Candle (5 m) and Shistol (4 m) pots which are only separated by a metre or two of passage. Once down Shistol the roar of Battleaxe can be heard – it takes a LOT of water and is normally either wet or VERY wet! The “old” route traverses a short distance before dropping down Battleaxe pitch (14 m) followed by Wet pitch (18 m- not an imaginative name but very apt!) but to avoid the worst if not all the water it is better to traverse as far as possible before descending Valhalia pitch in a single 34 m drop. The bottom of this pitch is known as Thunderstorm Depot with good reason, it is wet, draughty and COLD, best not linger but push on to the Final pitch (6 m -not a very imaginative name I’m afraid!) The water can be avoided by climbing into an oxbow and descending an alternative 10 m pitch.

Less than 100m leads to the master cave at Groundsheet Junction. Downstream The Leck Fell Master Cave is a dark depressing place and upstream is the better option, but only just, with inlets from several other caves yet to be connected!

A pleasant day out that takes anything from around four hours to considerably more!. An excellent option is for two teams, one descending Dome, the other Centipede with a swap – over for derigging.

Written by  Ralph Johnson.

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