Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC) and Sam Townsend (EPC)
Sam and I discovered that we both had a Monday off work and a daytrip to the Dales was discussed. The organisation was mostly conducted by text message:
"Diccan, GG, Juniper Gulf. Which 1?"
"Good-looking list caves that. Decide Mon morning."
Monday morning arrives and it’s been raining heavily for 24 hours or so. In fact Carlisle’s afloat again and there’s been 63mm of rain in the last 7 days. 20-odd mmfell on the Sunday/Monday so the Dales are obviously going to be awash. Sam had a vague idea that Juniper Gulf shouldn’t cause too many difficulties in the wet so we settled on that. Everything got packed and we headed off in the rain. Like many cavers, I use the stepping-stones at Gargrave as an indicator of water levels and they were well submerged under a fast-flowing sludgy river. We arrived at Crummackdale late morning. It was still raining and all around were resurgences and streams in spate; we even swapped our trusty warmbacs for yellow gimp-suits. Not something either of us do lightly. Now we’d not been to The Allotment before and it would be dishonest of me to say that we headed straight for the target. In fact, we later agreed that without the GPS the cave may have eluded us for even longer. Eventually however, we arrived at the small valley containing the entrance shaft. Looking down it, we were glad that we had opted to rig the alternative dry way in. The stream bounded down the north end of the rift and disappeared amongst some jammed boulders at the bottom. I opened the batting rigging the first 12m pitch down onto a sloping ledge above the stream. Just as my feet were about to get uncomfortably wet a traverse takes you over the jammed blocks and downstream leading to a short, slightly constricted pitch down into the streambed. From here, we traversed above the stream into what has been described as a “gloomy and watered shaft”. This Monday it was particularly gloomy and watered with a waterfall thundering down the left hand wall. We both zipped up and headed on towards a nice 15m pitch down.
Sam took pole position as we traversed along, crawling above the streamway, straddling the rift on hands and knees. This section is pretty awkward and would be a particularly bad place to fall. Next comes ‘The Bad Step’. Here, the passage widens and a swing off a flake lands you on a sloping shelf. There are bolts if you want them. Sam breezed past that and headed for the superb 25m third pitch. Constricted at the top, the shaft bells out nicely to leave you hanging in the middle of the wide rift. Bit of a knot pass focused the mind here and we landed on superb ledges in the rift. Up to this point we hadn’t considered the water too much. You know there’s a torrential stream below you and you’re getting thorough soakings along the way but at this point Juniper Gulf really started going into overdrive. Standing in the chamber at the bottom of the rift the Big Pitch started to make itself known. Taking over the rigging I took us along ledges and into a healthy shower where a spike protects a short drop down onto a big ledge. Cascading down out of the roof was a proper torrent of water falling 90m vertically to the bottom. I set off traversing round the right-hand side, rigged the Y-hang and over the lip. All I remember about the shaft to be honest is the noise, the wind, the water and the bolts. I don’t think either of us looked around once as we descended past a rebelay and down a further 45 metres to the bottom of the shaft. The bottom was a mash-up of spray, falling water and wind. Sam arrived and we stood in a hurricane of wind and water. Standing with our backs to the pitch-head there was definitely a set of rapids coming in from the right and a waterfall hammering down in front of us. They joined and disappeared down into the floor. After a minute at the bottom Sam raced off to be battered by water on the rope.
Once at the top of the big pitch we both relaxed and got on with de-rigging, packing bags and transporting rope; the bread-and-butter stuff. We exited three and a half hours after starting.