On Wednesday June 6th four members of the Explorers group, leader Richard, Ivan, Margaret & myself went ‘exploring’ with a difference! Richard had mentioned a while back about the Bradford Pothole club holding Winch days at Gaping Gill, Ivan was keen, I was not, but persuaded myself to do something ‘a bit daring’. Margaret was also interested. So off we went. After travelling through heavy rain between Gargrave and Settle we arrived at Clapham at 10am.to a dull sort of day.
Now anyone who has visited Gaping Gill will know you have to walk for 1 ½ hours to reach this famous cavern. Much of it is not easy walking, especially when it is raining, which it did, Trow Gill being quite a challenging climb. On reaching Gaping Gill, which was viewed through heavy mist, we were told the waiting time was 3 hours, we actually waited 4!! We were issued with a numbered tag and as it was raining took shelter in a tent with about 50 other people, and after a couple of hours were beginning to feel decidedly chilly so we braved the outdoors. The weather had improved so we stayed outside to watch the winch in operation.
We donned the very ‘fetching’ green waterproof suits and of course our hard hats. After much waiting it was our turn. Margaret went first, disappearing down this small abyss. A person was winched up from below and it was my turn. What a wonderful experience, first the ferns and greenery, the wonderful rock formations, the water splashing down, the darkness and then you arrive at the floor of a huge chamber 350 feet below the surface. The size of the main chamber is awesome, with 3 waterfalls tumbling down.
When Richard & Ivan joined us we wandered about looking at the rocks, trying to take photos!! and watching small lights entering and leaving various passageways as groups of cavers scrambled in the nooks and crannies. A torch is useful as the floor of the cavern is littered with rocks and of course everything is wet.
A couple of cavers ascended the hard way, via ropes! Rather them than me. Riding up in the cage was a strange experience, I felt to be so close to the rock face and of course I was travelling towards the sunlight. On reaching the top there were still lots of people waiting to take their turn. Luckily the sun had come out and the slippery stones we encountered on our walk up to the caverns had dried and were not as treacherous! Of course we had another 1 ½ hours walking back to Clapham, seemed much longer coming back!!
We had a very full and ‘different’ day, which we all enjoyed very much. I certainly did, the person who hates heights, can become claustrophobic! and was well and truly out of her ‘comfort zone’!! Thanks to Richard for suggesting this outing.
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