As most of you will know by now, Easegill has become my second home for the past few months. I’ve done a number of exploratory trips down there, with some company when I have managed to convince people to come along. All of which was in the aim of getting to know the Easegill system from Top sync past Wretched rabbit & county, Lancaster hole, through EPC, past link and into Pippikin.

It all started back at the Dales fresher’s week-end. One Saturday morning when Suss was up to its usual morning sped, I thought I’d go for a short run up Ingleborough. The short run became a pleasant 2h20, however upon returning to the hut I discovered that Suss had moved faster than planned, which left me on my own for my first Easegill explore (off to a good start). So I set off up to Bullpot farm on my own, with some vague callout of “Brendan – Easegill – Midnight”. The aim was to spend about 8hours exploring the county/rabbit area of the cave. As some will know, rabbit is one of the few entrances to the cave which doesn’t require any pre-rigging and as such serves as an emergency exit and is well worth knowing. The plan was to drop down county, into the main stream back up to Stop pot, then down Mainline to Stake pot and return via rabbit.

After a promising start down the entrance series of County I found myself at Platipus junction. Where I realised I had missed the side passage I was looking for, something called Poetic Justice. So I double back and headed back upstream. After a few minutes I realised I had passed the junction and failed to spot it yet again. So I turned around and went back down stream, failing again to find the junction, after several further attempts to find the passage, a group of passing locals pointed to a solid wall and said it’s there. Looking perplexed I took a closer look at said wall, and on closer inspection discovered just under the bottom of the wall a small rift size passage climbing up leading to a flat out crawl “Poetic Justice” indeed. With this dubious start in mind I continued on my intended route and found my way without any further detours to Eureka junction and the main stream way. Where I was met be quite a large quantity off foam on the roof. :-/

Undeterred I continued up stream and through the boulder choke, containing numerous signs of flood debris and finally emerged in Stop Pot. A quick time-check put me a couple of hours into the trip and still in good time, so on to Stake Pot next. After a fun section of climbing up and down, over and under, sideways upside down and many other ways past large boulders I found myself in Main Line and stomping passage. This seemed like a suitable spot for a small bit to eat. Sitting there in the dark, the mind started to wander back to the maze of passages already covered and the thoughts of “Can I really remember all those junctions”, followed by “I can’t turn back yet I’ve only been down a few hours” so on it was. Main line is a lovely passage, large and very easy going (my kind of caving). The Minarets provided a brief change with some crawling before continuing the main passage. Upon reaching an interesting formation known as painter’s palette, and starting to think “it’s time I started heading back out”, I bumped into a group of people coming the opposite way.

After a short discussion of where are you going, where have you been I discovered they had entered by Lancaster hole, which by this point was only a short distance up ahead and a much quicker way out the cave as well as being a great through trip. This is where carrying your SRT kit all the way through the system pays of :). And about half an hour later having passed Stake pot and Fall pot I found myself at the foot of Lancaster hole. And a short prusik later back on the surface, in time to enjoy the afternoon sun, some 4hours after entering County.

Now at this point it is customary to return to the hut for some relaxation. But there were two pitches in County that I had rigged (as I wasn’t going to pull through in an unfamiliar system). So another walk back across the fell and up to County to de-rig. Now rather than do a simple short trip down county to collect the ropes and with 4hours left before ETA and a further 4hours before callout, I decided to do another through trip from Wretched rabbit to County (A short and very nice little trip). The main passage through rabbit is straight forward and enjoyable rift that eventually brings you out at Eureka Junction. From here I de-rigged and headed out, with a short detour to look at the Manchester bypass (a higher level route from County to Stop Pot which avoids Eureka junction). Finding the bypass proved far more entertaining than I had initially though (the being located in the Battle of Britain). After repeatedly poking myself down rather small holes only to realise that I’d missed the more obvious large way on, I eventually located the root through the bypass. Feeling some level of success I decided to head on out. Getting back to Oxford Circus (a junction just below the entrance) and with 30min spare on the clock, I thought one final explore was need and decided to try and find my way round the loop to platypus junction (very short and easy, well in theory).

Now at this stage it must be said I was feeling quite tired. Nevertheless I set of down the left passage at pace. The initial meandering passage went well, got to the first right into a larger passage, over a few boulders, all good. Then over a few more boulders, under a few more and suddenly found myself working my way through some boulder choke with no sign of the stream that I’d been following. Now rather than turning back at this point I increased speed and continued further into this mess, still paying little attention to where I was going (After all it was only a short distance on the survey). A few minutes later lying in a flat out crawl, I stopped for thought, “this really isn’t the way on”, “I’m not sure I can remember the way back”, “bugger”, “but this definitely isn’t the way on”, “oh well let’s see just how much I can remember”. Thankfully finding the way back to Oxford Circus proved straight forward and shortly afterwards I was back on the surface after some 7-8hours of caving.

A short walk and drive later I was back at the hut just in time to be served with food (perfect timing).

All in all a really great day caving and a lot learnt.

Roll on part 2.