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The Adventures of Another Pooh - first chapter

The following is the entire first chapter from The Adventures of Another Pooh
by David Yeandle.

Chapter One                Langcliffe Pot

I could hear a skylark singing high above the moor. I stopped walking and gazed around the sky trying to spot the bird singing this lovely song. It was one of those summer days when the Yorkshire Dales is the best place to be in the whole world. The sun shone in a near cloudless sky and a gentle breeze sent ripples through the meadow grass in the fields below me. The River Wharfe wound its way lazily through the valley bottom and dry-stone walls soared improbably up the steep hillsides into the fells above. I was glad to be in this beautiful place; but soon I would be leaving it all, for the harsh underground world of Langcliffe Pot.

"Come on Pooh," called Dave Brook as he walked on up the hill. "No time for day dreaming!"

As usual, I was at the back of the group. I started walking as fast as I could, fearful that I would be left behind and not be able to find the entrance.

As I carried on up the hill the view across Wharfedale became even more glorious as bleak moorland, hidden becks and distant tops came into view above the fertile valley. To me Wharfedale seemed deeper and grander than the Dales in the Ingleton area. Perhaps this was my youthful imagination, spurred on by the knowledge that Langcliffe was potentially deeper than any of the caves over in the ‘classic’ areas. I felt both excited and apprehensive at the prospect of this trip. We were planning to dig at the end of the cave and both Dave Brook and Iain Gasson thought the chances of a breakthrough good.

Somewhere under Wharfedale, there must surely be ‘The Black Keld Master Cave’ and perhaps Langcliffe was going to be the way in. I was very happy to be going on a ‘pushing trip’ with these legendary cavers. I wanted to prove my worth on their team. This was, I felt, a chance at the ‘big time.’

From ULSA Review 8, July 1971, Gasson's Series.

by Dave Yeandle.

In 1968 the ULSA Exploration of Langcliffe was stopped by the onset of bad weather. In the summer of 1970 the club was able to continue its work in this splendid cave. Those present on the return trip were Dave Brook, Iain Gasson, Dave Johnstone, Tony White and Dave Yeandle.

The entrance pitch was quickly descended and the party made its way through the Craven Crawl (210m) and Stagger Passage (610m) to Hammerdale Dub. The party split here; Tony and Dave J making their way up the inlet to finish off surveying and exploration of the Thunder Pot Inlet beyond High Cross, while the remaining three dashed off towards Boireau Falls Chamber and the boulder choke they proposed to examine.

Immediately beyond the Kilnsey Boulder Crawl, D.B disappeared down a hole and proceeded to explore the upstream path of the main stream. Meanwhile Iain and Dave Y pressed on downstream; they were new to the cave and for them it was full of interest. Even so it seemed endless. Soon after their arrival in Boireau Falls Chamber D.B caught them up and announced that he had been able to penetrate upstream parallel to the boulder crawl for about 150m.

The three cavers began work in the terminal boulder choke. Several short digs seemed unpromising but even so the workers had no time to be bored; Iain became stuck when a boulder slipped and he was freed by D.B and Trusty (the crowbar). Retribution was nigh, however, since D.B received a nasty cut hand when another boulder fell on it. More ferreting about was done, when suddenly Iain was onto something. A hole, seemingly leading in the wrong direction, had given access to a cavity in the boulders, and in the floor a small gap enabled him to reach stream level for the first time. By then negotiating feet first, an evil looking slot in the stream course, he was able to enter a larger continuation. To his amazement a sizeable passage developed beyond; the stream ran over a potholed floor. Almost immediately Iain found himself in a chamber at the head of a pitch. He retraced his steps and called for the others to follow through, which they did with difficulty, so devious was the route through the choke. Eventually all three were standing at the head of the pitch – and what a pitch! The passage simply plunged into the depths and the cavers were in fact on a mass of boulders jammed precariously across the top. In the absence of ladders the party busied itself in preparation for the next stage of the exploration. A few of the more dangerous boulders were eased away from the lip, but attempts failed to discover an easier exit to the extension via a mud slope, which ascended from the top of the pitch to boulders which obviously comprised the floor of Boireau Falls Chamber. Presently the explorers cast a last longing look down the pitch and started back to the surface.

Thrutching sideways out through the Craven Crawl I was tired and cold. But I was doing okay! – not being left behind as on previous trips with these top cavers. I was proud to be a member of the U.L.S.A. I was actually caving with Dave Brook on a major exploration! I was very pleased with myself, and I felt I 'd come a long way in my three years of caving.

It had begun with a schoolboy trip to Burrington Combe, in Somerset. We were young lads wanting adventure. Two or three of the boys had been caving before, but it was my first time. As I slithered through the muddy tubes of Goatchurch Cavern and Sidcot Swallet, I thought that maybe I was going to be doing a lot of this thing called caving. It was as though something beyond my control wanted to draw me inwards, away from the mundane world outside, around the next corner, or through the next squeeze just to see what was there. But another part of me didn't want to do these new and frightening things in this strange world of total darkness and horrid mud. This part of me wanted to turn around and hurry back out to the sunshine. I kept following my friends though and when I was back home in Bristol I was elated that I had overcome my fear and kept going. I knew that now I had an exciting new world to explore.

My friend Russell Mines was a member of the Axbridge Caving Group and I joined too. Soon I was travelling over the Mendips with Stuart (Mac) McManus and Tony Jarratt on motorcycles of dubious legality and questionable mechanical soundness. (Mac was rumoured to run his on paraffin!) We drank scrumpy cider and fell over a lot; which I suppose was a silly way to spend my paper-round money.

One Monday night in the Axbridge Hut, Mac and I were without money and we wanted food and cider. We were the only cavers left over from the weekend and we knew there was money in the little envelopes in the hut fees box. I can't remember which one of us finally suggested that we borrow some hut fee money; anyway we rigged up a fishing device out of wire and a stick and soon became rich beyond measure! We did write an I.O.U on a piece of paper and posted it into the box. The club committee were unimpressed with us despite our owning up.

With Russell, Mac, Tony, and other Axbridge members, I did trips to most of the major Mendip caves. By now caving was the main thing in my life and I was getting ambitious. I wanted to go to Swindon’s 12, and to the bottom of the Berger; and I wanted to go caving with my hero – Mike Boon.

I had heard that the Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) constituted the local Mendip hard men and I decided to join them to further my caving career. I had no idea how I was going to do this, though actually it happened very quickly. My arrival at the Belfry was not auspicious. I was dumped at the door, tied up and drunk, late at night by Mac, Tony Jarratt, and other Axbridge members. It seems they got fed up with me always going on about joining the BEC and agreed that it was indeed a good idea. Some say I was tied up in barbed wire and minus my trousers. I don't remember this myself, and anyway Mac and Tony would not have been so mean! Another version of the story is that I was in fact tied to the milk churns at the end of the Belfry turn off. I think this may have been on another occasion though! I don't think the BEC liked me very much at first and some of them wouldn't talk to me. They let me make them tea in the Belfry though and soon kind people like Alan Thomas, Chris (Zot) Harvey, Colin Priddle, John Riley, Dave Irwin and Roy Bennett were taking me caving. I became the Belfry Boy.


Sung to the tune of Sweet Lorraine

by Pete MacNab

Well, I'm the Belfry Boy,

I'm every other bugger’s favourite toy,

Oh how it always seems to give them joy,

To put me in bloody pain.

Oh how they treat me hard,

Kick me all around the Belfry yard,

Lord, you ought to see how I am scarred,

From when they shoved me up the drain.

And when a member calls,

I dash inside so they can black my balls,

And splatter me around the Belfry walls,

Till I've nearly gone insane.

They sit me in a chair,

Rub jam and marmalade into my hair,

I sit and smile as if I couldn't care,

But later hang my head in shame.

And then they all insist,

That I am something called a masochist,

Especially when they all come back pissed,

And want to play their silly games.

But now I sit and wait,

Because I'm glad to know that some day fate,

Will bring along a brand new inmate,

And then I'll kick the Belfry Boy.

Alan Thomas had been on expeditions to Greece with Jim Eyre where they had bottomed The Abyss of Provatina. These were the days of using ladders for big pitches and Alan ran BEC trips to Yorkshire where the objectives were usually pots with deep entrance pitches. I was very excited when Alan agreed to take me on one of his northern trips. I was piled into the back of his car along with ‘Buster’ the dog and large tins of Spam left over from an expedition.

Camping at Skirwith Farm, we did Alum Pot, Marble Steps, and Long Kin West. I was very impressed with this Yorkshire potholing but my ladder climbing was abysmal and it took me more than half an hour to be dragged up the 91m daylight pitch of Long Kin West. Consequently I was banned from attempting the main shaft of Gaping Gill on ladders, which was the main objective of the visit. I was very disappointed but managed to get to Main Chamber via Bar Pot. I was awe-struck by the huge dimensions of the main chamber with the water from the beck above crashing down onto the boulders on the floor. The daylight filtering down the main shaft gave the whole place an eerie atmosphere. It was all very exciting and I decided I wanted to live in Yorkshire and do a lot of this sort of caving.

Back on the Mendips in the Hunters' Lodge Inn, I started to hear stories about the incredible revival of exploration in the Dales. The relatively recent innovation of the wetsuit had enabled northern cavers to push the frontiers forward and Dave and Alan Brook were the most successful of a new generation. Miles of new cave had been opened up by this legendary pair and members of the University of Leeds Speleological Society (U.L.S.A). I had already decided that an academic career would best serve my caving ambitions and once I heard about ULSA my choice of University was an easy one. This did mean that I had to actually start to do some schoolwork in order to get good A levels. Zot had no faith in my plan! "You're as thick as pig shit! How can you go to University?" He had a point! I had narrowly avoided being kicked out of the sixth form for exam results worse than 10%. I did start to work though, and even stopped caving for a few weeks prior to my A Levels. To everybody's surprise, and my parents’ delight, I got into Leeds on a Physics Honours course.

Exams over, I settled down to a summer of caving in Austria and the Mendips with my BEC friends. The Austrian trip was to the Ahnenschacht, lead and organised by Alan Thomas. We explored several hundred metres of new cave, living mostly on Spam and reconstituted mashed spud. As usual, Alan didn't charge me enough for my share of the petrol.

I managed to combine moving north with a caving weekend. There was a BEC trip to Lancaster Hole so I threw in a few extra clothes and one or two textbooks with my caving gear and got a ride north with Martin Webster. After the trip he dropped me off in Skipton and I travelled to Leeds by bus. The University had arranged lodgings for me and the landlady was rather shocked at my appearance when I turned up, covered in mud with a dripping wet rucksack, at her red brick terraced house. She let me in though and made me have a bath before feeding me with Yorkshire pudding.

I joined ULSA at the first opportunity. At Leeds many of the cavers had nicknames. There was a Minitrog, a Torchy, a Fritze, and a Ginge. Minitrog declared that I would have to have a nickname and he hit upon the idea of calling me Pooh. I was appalled. This was not a suitable name for a would-be caving superstar! I indignantly inquired as to why he thought this a good name. Minitrog explained that he could imagine me having hare-brained schemes like the A.A. Milne character, and doing things like floating around on balloons and getting stuck in caves through eating too much honey. I was adamant that this simply would not do and would he please not call me Pooh. Of course, this ensured that the name stuck.

More from ULSA Review 8, July 1971, Gasson's Series.

by Dave Yeandle.

At the entrance the two parties discussed their trips. Tony and Dave J had explored and surveyed 210m of the Thunder Pot Inlet passage but they found it hard to believe that the first of the dreaded grit bands had been passed and that Langcliffe was wide open again.

Following a night in Leeds to obtain sleep and tackle, the same group, plus Alan Brook, began the fearsome task of getting ladders to the pitch. It was a sunny day and nobody seemed too keen to crawl through a damp cave. Even Dave J had lost his usual resolve and though he was persuaded to go down he was later heard to mutter something about not having wanted to wait on the surface till dawn. Surprisingly speedy progress was made through the cave, no doubt because everybody wanted to be in front!

On reaching the pitch (Nemesis) a doubtful belay was found and Iain descended. He was not disappointed for once below the murderous take-off the shaft became stable. The ladder hung freely in a clean circular shaft of 6m diameter, and 15m below a ledge was encountered. A further 7m climb and the bottom was reached. Tony and D.B. descended in quick succession and followed the watercourse down through a very tight bedding plane squeeze into a passage with a bouldery roof. The stream was found to disappear a short way further along, and after another 12m a boulder chamber was reached. There was no obvious way on and it was clear that the explorers were at the top of the second grit band; another boulder choke seemed the order of the day. By poking around in the boulders the stream was regained, only to find that it disappeared once more. However the hole through which it sank was diggable and prospects weren't too bad.

Meanwhile, back at the pitch, A.B., Dave J and Dave Y had been having light trouble! Eventually they reached the bottom of the pitch and made their way to the end, discovering that it was possible to avoid the bedding plane squeeze by climbing over the top of the collapsed block which had formed it. More boulders were moved from the choke before the cavers started back to the surface.

The following Saturday a small army of cavers stomped up to Langcliffe. The party included Howard Crabtree, Iain Gasson, Alf Latham, Mick Mulligan, Martin Rogers, Tony White and Dave Yeandle. Most people reached the ‘end.’ Even the mighty Alf managed to excavate his way into Boireau Falls Chamber. Tony and his crowbar were the first to reach the dig and together they forged onwards. While he worked, numerous people dropped in to shout encouragement: Howard however was not seen but growls were heard which indicated that he had almost made it. (Howard often growls in boulder chokes).

After an hour, only Tony, Iain and Dave Y remained working in the dig. Suddenly the silence was shattered by shouts of joy. The diggers were through and they negotiated the blockage into what turned out to be the most incredible boulder choke. A short way along, the tortuous path of the noisy stream disappeared into an impenetrable crack and the cavers were obliged to enter the wilderness above; a horrible jumble of loose gritstone and limestone boulders. The stream was eventually regained, only for it to disappear almost immediately. A way on was found though, and the going started to get easier and the cave dropped rapidly. A final squeeze down and out of the boulder choke and Langcliffe was beaten again. In front of the cavers lay a large passage situated in the Hardraw Scar Limestone.

It came as somewhat of a surprise to the explorers to discover that after only 60m the large passage just seemed to stop. A quick inspection showed that the stream could be followed through a short duck on the right, whence the passage again increased in size. It was a streamway of different character which led down steeply over a boulder strewn floor for 90m to a massive frothy sump in a large chamber, from which there was no apparent outlet. Poseidon Sump, as it was later named, was a completely unexpected and ridiculous end to the Langcliffe streamway. Furthermore, it was clear that its water level backed up by as much as 12m.

The three disappointed cavers made their way back through the duck and inspected the main passage once again. Their spirits rose with the discovery that the end had simply been illusory and they were able to proceed leisurely along a dry passage into more virgin lands. Pleasant grey walls had supplanted the oppressive black ones of the old cave and with the passing of seconds the noise of the stream with its dispiriting associations soon died away. Only the occasional boulder fall prevented the most rapid of movement and it was just after one of these that an interesting find was made. In a sloping chamber a strange fungus which resembled a spider's web, had spread itself over boulders. The area it covered was about 4 square metres and luckily there was plenty of room to pass by without causing damage.

The passage (Sacred Way) increased in size, but eventually progress was barred by a large boulder fall. The way on, a traverse over a drop followed by a short climb down, led into a collapsed chamber - the Agora – 25m long and 12m square and 300m from the duck. On entering the chamber a white object seemed to be hovering in the air. On ascending a slope of boulders the source of the apparition was seen to be a cluster of formations. This splendid display of colour, by far the best in the system, consisted of a large calcite flow and erratic stalactites, some stained by a red mineral. Thankfully the whole mass was well up on the wall and out of the way of any careless cavers. The exit from the Agora was down a hole in an area of calcited boulders and while Iain and Dave Y fettled their carbide lamps Tony descended to another boulder slope, whence he was able to proceed along yet another large passage. Since the passage showed no sign of terminating after about 100m he returned to his two companions. A considerable length of time had been spent underground – indeed they discovered that they were now Sunday cavers and because of work commitments the party decided to quit the system.

The following Saturday saw D.B., A.B., Tony, Iain and Dave Y racing back down. The passage below the Agora was followed over gour pools and false floors along a high wide section named Aphrodite Avenue. After 260m the gours gave way to a massive boulder strewn passage, in which several squirms among boulders and occasional formations made progress interesting. The passage, Silver Rake, continued for 225m until it eventually decreased in size and a streamway was encountered. Downstream, a murky sump (Dementor Sump) barred progress but in the upstream direction a waterfall was climbed and access gained to an inlet passage (New Fearnought Streamway), which was reminiscent of Langstrothdale Chase. Followed for 230m the end was a solid choke of boulders in which probing had no effect.

A.B. and Tony set off back with the task of looking at all possible ways on, while D.B., Iain and Dave Y started to survey out. The survey was taken to the Agora and nothing more of any length was found by either party. The surface was reached after an eighteen-hour trip.

One week later D.B., Tony, Iain and Martin Rogers visited Langcliffe again and while they were down the stream sinks at Swarth Gill, Benfoot, Rigg Pot and Thunder Pot were dyed. Only the dye from Thunder Pot was seen and this entered via the Thunder Pot Inlet as expected. During the eighteen hour trip a draughting passage above the waterfall in New Fearnought Streamway was followed for a few miserable metres and the survey was continued back to Boireau Falls Chamber.

On the 25th July Iain made a solo 12 hour trip to the draughting passage above the waterfall and he was able to push on for a further 15m to a point where progress was impossible and the draught had disappeared.

On the 5th September another trip was made into Langcliffe. The main purpose was to detackle and while Tony and D.B. surveyed the Poseidon Sump Passage, Iain, Mick Mulligan and Dave Y made their way to Dementor Sump to recover ladders left from an earlier trip. The sump was closely inspected and found to be quite tight and sloping down at about thirty degrees to the horizontal.

It was me that had ‘inspected’ Dementor Sump because I had decided to dive it. I had yet to pluck up the courage to own up to this plan. I was sure that this was the way on; a short dive, I convinced myself, would make me the discoverer of the Black Keld Master Cave! All I had to do was to learn to cave dive, get some gear and get some people to carry for me.

I was keen to discover new passage in ‘the old cave’ upstream of Boireau Falls Chamber. In May 1971 Charles Yonge, Paul Everett and myself went up Thunder Pot inlet and after a short dig around a boulder at the end and after getting stuck for a while, I explored about 25m of horrible low passage heading for Rigg Pot. We emerged from the cave in the early hours of the morning and slept behind a wall near the entrance. After an uncomfortable night I descended Rigg Pot alone. I was hoping to connect Rigg to where we had been the previous day in Langcliffe. This was probably a futile effort as dye tests had indicated that the water from Rigg didn't even go into Langcliffe. I had however formulated some theory to get around this minor problem. I failed to convince anyone of the validity of my science and my companions refused to leave the glorious sunshine for the dubious pleasures of Rigg Pot. In the event I pushed the final crawl for about 25m. A very tight wet passage it was too.

I returned to Rigg later in the year with Bob Greenwood. We travelled from Leeds in Bob's unreliable three-wheeler. He was very proud of his 'car' as very few undergraduate cavers could afford to run a motor of any kind. We often did midweek caving trips to the Dales when Bob had no lectures. Seeing as I didn't go to many of mine anyway, I had no trouble fitting in with his timetable. The top speed of this vehicle was about thirty-five miles an hour. Uphill our speed would drop to about twenty and we were responsible for causing long tailbacks on the winding Yorkshire roads. There were holes in the floor of this wreck and one could almost be tempted to try to speed things along, Fred Flintstone style.

Breakdowns were frequent and on this trip the chain snapped on Addingham Hill. Still, we made it to Kettlewell and, attempting to look like hill walkers, not cavers; we went and surveyed Rigg Pot. Dave Brook and Howard Crabtree had been trying for over a year to negotiate access to the fell with the landowners. They had not been able to get permission and I had realised that there was less chance of being caught trespassing if we approached the fell by an indirect route.

Until now I had always been Dave Brook's or Tony White's assistant while surveying and Rigg Pot was the first survey I had drawn and produced myself. It showed all of 150 m of passage and I was very proud of it. I managed to get my name on three times and hung a copy of it on the living room wall of the house I now shared with Dave Tringham, Dave Hedley and other cavers. I thought it rather complemented the left wing posters calling for the overthrow of both the Ted Heath government and capitalism in general.

My flatmates did not share my high regard for the Rigg Pot survey, and one night I came home from the pub to find that it had been defaced! (Underneath the official bits, like ‘Surveyed by D.W. Yeandle’ and ‘Drawn by D.W. Yeandle’ they had added things like ‘Directed by D.W. Yeandle,’ ‘Film Score by D.W Yeandle’ and ‘Concept Album by D.W. Yeandle.’ They used pink crayon!)

In April '72 Paul Everett and I visited Gypsum passage, a dry inlet to the main drain. Dave Brook had told me that a dig in the boulder choke at the end of this inlet could yield new passage. I arranged to meet Paul in Kettlewell. As usual I planned to hitchhike from Leeds, always an unreliable means of transport for me, probably due to my shoulder-length hair and brown ex-army greatcoat. This day was particularly trying as no cars whatsoever would stop. This was perhaps because I was carrying a five-foot long crowbar along with large amounts of caving gear. Eventually I gave up and started to use local buses and even one of those refused to stop! Eventually I got lucky as Sid Perou and Steve (Tiny) Calvert (from the Happy Wanderers) drove past and recognised me. They gave me a lift to my destination even though this was well out of their way. Paul didn't seem to mind my very late arrival and as usual was amused at my incompetent hitchhiking. (Paul was very good at getting lifts and had hitched all over Europe and the USA).

We eventually got underground after five in the afternoon, late even by our standards. At the start of the Kilnsey Boulder Crawl we decided to have a go at bypassing it by following the main stream. After sliding through one of the stream sinks we entered a hands and knees crawl. This developed into a walking sized streamway and after about 200m a climb gave access to the distant end of the Boulder Crawl. Pleased with our easy success, we quickly continued to Gypsum Passage.

After some rather frightening digging in loose boulders with our large crowbar, a hole was opened up and Paul was able to squeeze through and kindly enlarge the squeeze for me with a lump hammer. Paul then continued a short distance to another squeeze. He negotiated this easily and broke through to a large passage. I joined him quickly. By now our carbide lamps were providing only a pathetically small amount of illumination. Excited as we were at the thought of the exploration ahead we spent some time doctoring our inadequate lighting.

The passage continued large for 100m to a second boulder choke. By ferreting around we were able to pass the choke at a low level where we intersected a small stream. The cave was now smaller and after a further 220m of mixed walking, crawling through mud and squeezing through loose boulders, we ground to a halt. We had taken several minor injuries from unstable boulders both while digging and moving through the new passage. Also, our carbide lights were being very temperamental in the muddy environment and we wanted to get back to the main stream to give them a good cleaning. We named our new passage Crystal Beck Inlet.

I was exhausted and cold by the time we reached the Craven Crawl. My wetsuit was ripped in many places and I was hungry as our only food on this strenuous trip had been half a Mars Bar each. For a large part of the crawl I was hallucinating. To cut down on weight while hitchhiking I had decided to bring a ladder that was two metres too short for the entrance pitch. Going in we had simply jumped off. Reversing this proved very difficult in our exhausted condition. After much experimentation with combined tactics and an old sling we made it to the surface at dawn. We had made little provision for sleeping and simply lay down on the wet moor in our sleeping bags. We were too cold and wet to sleep properly and after a couple of hours gave up and went and dug in a shakehole near to Rigg Pot. I don't remember us having anything we could call breakfast, but it is possible that Paul had something revolting in the bottom of his rucksack. He was particularly fond of dry raw fish (still is probably!) and used to hang it up in the cellar of his Leeds flat. We were lucky though as that day the Happy Wanderers were digging in the area. While the lads dug, their girlfriends went for a walk and came upon a wild looking Everett and Yeandle. Alison (Sid Perou's wife-to-be) and Denny were a bit concerned at our condition and asked what we were doing up on the moor in such a state and why didn't we go home? We hadn't thought of this but decided it was a good idea. We walked over to Mossdale entrance with the girls, who kindly gave us some food, and then we headed towards the road and the uncertainty of hitchhiking. At least I had left the crowbar down Langcliffe.

Feeling our find gave me some credibility, I now announced my intention of diving Dementor Sump. I could not afford very much diving equipment but Steve (Tiny) Calvert of the Happy Wanderers agreed to lend me his.

I had first met Tiny (who is very large) in Ease Gill. I had not been long at Leeds and was with a party of fellow students on an ULSA bus meet. We were looking for County Pot. We didn't know the way and I was glad to come across another party of cavers (who I later realised were from the famous Happy Wanderers). I asked the way to County and Tiny gave me clear instructions as to how I could reach our objective. His directions were deliberately wrong and we got very lost and confused. He didn't like students! Over the next few months I often came into contact with the Wanderers. Mostly skilled tradesmen working in heavy industry, they had little regard for student cavers – perhaps because the Wanderers were often called upon to rescue students trapped underground or maybe just because of cultural differences. The Wanderers had immense respect for the Brook Brothers and Iain Gasson though. Whenever I met Tiny he would bait me mercilessly. I considered him an uncultured yob and would always respond aggressively, even though he is twice my size. Eventually we decided we quite liked each other and became good friends.

Now I had some diving gear I wanted to get some cave diving experience before my first exploration dive – at the end of Langcliffe. Alf Latham needed a back-up diver for a trip he was planning in Goyden Pot. The object of the dive was for us to survey the river passage beyond sump two and for Alf to do an exploratory dive in sump three at the end of the known cave.

On a Friday evening in April '72 a large party of ULSA cavers assembled outside of Goyden. The group included Chas Yonge, Paul Driver, Paul Everett, Steve (Crabby) Crabtree and Martin (Ches) Davis.

I was not at all organised with my equipment and to my distress I found I only had one wetsuit sock. I had a conversation with Alf that went something like this:

"Ohh Alf, I’ve lost a wetsuit sock – can I borrow one of yours?"

"No Pooh! If you’re going to be a cave diver, you’re going to have to stand on your own two feet!"

We bypassed the first sump by Gaskell's Passage and we kitted up at the second. Amongst many bubbles and with much splashing around I commenced my first cave dive. I went first on a base fed line – the visibility was good and the passage quite large. I had little trouble passing the sump which turned out to be 10 m long with two air bells. Alf followed me through, we dekitted and started to survey towards the third sump.

The streamway was large and impressive and would have been easy to survey had our tape not jammed at 6m. Still, we surveyed 100m to the third sump. Alf kitted up and dived. He explored 30m of underwater passage to a point where the size of the bedding decreased. We exited the cave well pleased with our efforts. I was ecstatic at having done my first cave dive.

A couple of weeks later a large number of ULSA cavers descended Langcliffe. Charles Yonge pushed on into new ground in Crystal Beck Inlet, while Paul and myself surveyed into the Inlet behind him. Meanwhile Dave Brook and Crabby surveyed the bypass to the Kilnsey Boulder Crawl and then overtaking Paul and myself followed Charles into the Unknown. Charles had explored a further 200m, mostly a large rift passage to a third boulder choke. When Dave Brook and Crabby reached the end they surveyed back to join up with Paul and myself. Most of the party had nasty moments with moving boulders.

By now I had generated a lot of support for my Langcliffe dive. Alf had agreed to take me into Keld Head on a training dive. At this stage of the exploration of Keld Head the main way on towards Kingsdale Master Cave had not been found, although Mike Wooding had pushed a low inlet for 300m. We were all in great awe of this achievement. Somehow the training plan got abandoned and I ended up setting off in search of the main way on in Keld Head. This was definitely over ambitious for a second cave dive! In the event my only light failed not far into the resurgence and I turned around and went out.

As a final training dive I went into the main sump in the S.E. rising of Nidd Heads. I had talked Ches into holding onto a base fed line. 25m in the line tangled at base and Ches gave the return signal. I did so reluctantly as I was enjoying myself and starting to feel at home underwater.

3rd June 1972: Seven ULSA cavers walked to Langcliffe entrance carrying ladders, ropes and diving equipment. The object of this trip was to carry as much gear as possible as far as possible into the cave in preparation for the actual diving trip. Most of the party declined to actually go underground and only myself and the always dependable Paul Everett set off down, carrying huge loads. We managed to get most of the gear to within 250m of Boireau Falls Chamber.

I planned to dive the following weekend. In the event the weather looked doubtful, so we postponed the trip.

17th June 1972: The weather was still unsettled but the forecast was good. I decided to go ahead with the dive.

Paul was now working as a salesman for a company selling textiles in Eastern Europe. He was doing very well at his job despite always being told off for turning up at his office in his Duvet Jacket and with a rucksack instead of a briefcase. On the Sunday of this weekend he had to go to Bulgaria to sell felt. He knew that he would miss his flight if he went with me down to the end of Langcliffe, so typically he kindly offered to do another carrying trip and take the gear on to Boireau Falls Chamber. He got Stuart Ingham to help him with this task and they set off very early on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile the rest of us were congregating in a Skipton transport cafe and eating large amounts of very greasy food. We knew that we were about to attempt the longest and hardest ‘carry’ in the history of British caving. The atmosphere was one of both apprehension and subdued excitement. I think most of my friends suspected that I was not really ready for exploratory cave diving. I didn't know this, then, and I was determined to go for it.

Once all the party had assembled and eaten, we set off to Langcliffe entrance along with a small number of other cavers who had turned up to wish us well and ‘see us off.’

The underground team consisted of: The Brooks, Crabby, Alan Goulborne, Dave Hedley, Helen (now Davis) Sergeant, Mike Sutton, Dave Tringham, Tony White, Charles Yonge and myself.

Before we went down Dave Brook organised some of the team to divert the water from Thunder Pot into Rigg Pot. This later turned out to be a very shrewd move.

We made steady progress and just before Boireau Falls Chamber we met Paul and Stu on their way out. Paul said that he was very tempted to go on in with us and get the sack from his job. He wisely chose not to do this and the pair carried on out. Helen was not enjoying the trip and went out with Paul and Stu.

The first boulder choke between Boireau Falls Chamber and Nemesis Pitch proved to be difficult and dangerous with our large loads. Some boulders moved slightly and it took a long time to ferry all the equipment through to the head of the pitch. When at last we had completed this task, I descended the pitch and had all the gear lowered down to me. I picked up a load and set off into the second boulder choke. When I got to the original dig below the pitch I was horrified to find that it had fallen in. I could not even work out where to start digging so I called through the boulders to Tony to come and have a look as he was the one that had dug it open in the first place. Tony knew which key boulder to move and he did so with his normal efficiency. He then passed it back to Mike and myself. We could find nowhere safe to put it and in the end tied it up to another boulder with some diving line.

Tony now moved some more boulders and moved forward, only to find the passage once again blocked. He dug through this new blockage and progressed a short distance to yet another place that had changed. He returned to Mike and myself to discuss the problem. I now went up front and realised that two large boulders had fallen out of the roof, blocking our original route. I squeezed up over the top of these boulders and could see a way on downward and round a bend. It looked very tight but possible. However, I thought if the way was blocked further on I would most likely not be able to reverse the move. I knew that if I thought too much I would back down from this problem and I feared that the dive would then be abandoned. I breathed out and pushed myself down into the hole. To my immense relief I found myself in a passage large enough to turn around in, which I needed to do to negotiate the next bit. The way on from here was open and unchanged since my last visit. I shouted this news through to Tony and he started to organise the transportation of the diving gear through this dangerous choke.

We continued without incident to Dementor Sump, reaching it nine hours after leaving the surface. Alan Goulborne said, "Well, Pooh, this is your big moment." He sounded worried! The sump pool seemed more silted up than when I had last seen it and I couldn't find a good spot out of the mud to kit up. It seemed to take me a long time to get ready and Crabby said, "I bet Mike Wooding doesn't have this trouble!" My equipment included only one cylinder (45 cubic ft), only one regulator, only one light and 60m of line.

I started the dive with difficulty, flat out, lying in the mud. Once I was underwater I discovered the sump to be a bedding with about 30 centimetres between the mud floor and roof. The visibility was nil. At around five metres from base the mud floor dropped away and I found myself in a more roomy passage, with half a metre of visibility. I felt the dive was going well and then my regulator started to leak water badly. I tried purging the second stage with no effect while still moving forward. I became aware that I was swallowing water and not getting enough air. I realized I was drowning! By now the sump was quite roomy and I could detect both an upward and downward trend. I groped upwards instinctively; dully aware that maybe this was the last minute of my life. I glooped up into a small air bell, coughing and spluttering. I again tried to stop the leak by purging; but with no effect. I realised I could not continue the dive; indeed, I was not at all sure I could make it back to my friends. There was nowhere to tie off my line and nowhere to place the line reel. The walls of the air bell were caked in mud and I dug out a small ledge and placed the line reel on it. I took several deep breaths and started to fin back fast along my line towards base. The line had got pulled into a tight part of the bedding and it took me a while to find a way through. I managed to survive long enough on the air/water mix my regulator was giving me to make it back.

Everybody was glad to have me back safe but disappointed that I had not broken through the sump. Charles, who had thought to bring down a stove, brewed up some very welcome soup. We then started out. I was very tired and cold and soon dropped to the back of the party. I seemed incapable of carrying anything except the smallest of loads. I felt rather ill and despondent.

I slowly revived and by the time I was half way along the Sacred Way I felt quite energetic again and was thinking about what my next diving project would be. There seemed to be a very strong draught and I started to worry when I could hear the main stream at a point from which I knew it could not normally be heard. Further along the dry passage I came across Dave Tringham and Alan Goulborne lying down in the passage. They told me that there was a flood on and that Dave Brook, Charles, Crabby and Tony had gone ahead to look at the second choke. I carried on to the main stream to find that it had become a raging torrent carrying about ten times as much water as normal. Dave Brook and the others returned from the end of the choke and informed me that it was totally impassable in these conditions. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, Dave Brook got Charles and myself to help him take photographs of the flood.

We then went back 40m along the Sacred Way to where Dave Tringham, Alan Goulbourne and now the rest of the party were resting. We started our wait for the water to drop, huddled closely together to keep as warm as possible. We drifted in and out of sleep. I would doze off only to wake up feeling very cold. I would then move around a bit to try to get comfortable and eventually sleep again. In my wakeful periods I started to worry about some of my friends who were showing signs of hypothermia. I felt I was very much to blame for our predicament. I had seen some storm clouds starting to build up just before we left the surface. I had not cancelled the dive as this was to be my last chance before most of us left Leeds for the summer vacation. Also, I was very anxious about the state of the second Nemesis choke. Would the boulder we had tied up with diving line, or any other boulders for that matter, move with the force of the water and cut off our escape?

On Saturday night torrential rain had struck the Dales. The Happy Wanderers knew we were down Langcliffe and when on Sunday morning they saw that the Dales were awash, they became very concerned for us and went over to Wharfedale to see if we were out of the cave. On arrival they saw no sign of us and became aware of the vast quantities of water pouring into all the Langcliffe feeders. They set a rescue operation in motion.

Meanwhile, in Bristol, my parents were preparing to welcome me home. I had just turned twenty-one and they were organising a birthday party for me. All our relatives were invited and my mother was busy baking a cake and preparing lots of food. My parents were very proud of me being at Leeds University and were unaware that by now I had decided to drop out.

After about eleven hours of waiting, the flood had subsided sufficiently for us to consider having a crack at the second Nemesis choke. We didn't have much food left so in an attempt to gain as much value as possible from our limited resources we brewed up most of our remaining Mars Bars into a sort of soup on Charles's stove. Leaving most of the diving gear behind, we set off. Tony White went first with me close behind. Both of us were expecting trouble with the boulders and we were prepared to dig our way out if necessary.

Getting through that choke was very desperate caving indeed. Several boulders had moved blocking the way out. Most of these were removed by Tony alone, from below. This would have been a great piece of work in normal conditions – in a flood it was an incredible achievement. By this stage only two members of the team had working electric lights – and our pathetic little carbide lamps kept being blown out by the draught or extinguished by the water. Several of the squeezes sumped up when the larger people in the party went through them.

Tony and myself were very relieved to find that the boulder tied up with line had not moved. We were almost out of the choke when we heard a loud explosion. "What the hell was that!” I shouted over the roar of the water to Tony. "I don't know, maybe a rescue team is above us and trying to blast a way through!" he yelled back. "Oh shit no," I thought ,"they'll bring the bastard down on us, for sure." I was frightened now. Here we were, ten cavers, winding our way through this horribly unstable, flooded boulder choke, most of our lights out, surrounded by spray, noise and loose sharp rocks – and to cap it all a bloody great bang and the whole place about to fall in!!

We just kept going and made it out of the boulders. Slowly and one by one the rest of the party emerged through the last squeeze of the choke. I discovered the cause of the explosion. Dave Tringham had been carrying most of our carbide in a large plastic container. This had blown up and burnt his hair. Although this had given him a nasty shock he was not badly hurt.

Everybody was greatly relieved at having gained important ground. Even so, our situation was still serious. Our carbide supplies were now barely sufficient to get us out and although the Nemesis pitch looked just about climbable, we were sure that the squeezes through the first Nemesis choke above the pitch would still be sumped. Once again we sat down to wait, this time in the Boulder Chamber above the second choke – a rather draughtier spot than the Sacred Way.

By now a full-blown rescue operation was in progress with both CRO and Upper Wharfedale called out. Cavers from the NCC, Happy Wanderers and many other clubs had laid telephone wire to Boireau Falls Chamber and established contact with the surface. The squeezes in the first Nemesis choke were indeed impossibly wet; not that this deterred Neil Antrim (Nelly of the Happy Wanderers), Kenny Taylor (also Happy Wanderers), and John Donavon (Donny of the Preston Caving Club). This trio dug a new dry way through the first choke to the head of the pitch. After descending the pitch they could not find the way on because of the vast quantities of spay and water.

This caused them great distress because they thought that all of the further reaches of Langcliffe were low and flood prone and they feared that the remainder of the cave was sumped and we were most likely drowned. They were in fact only 50m away from where we were sitting out the flood in the Boulder Chamber. They returned in desperation to Boireau Falls Chamber, leaving an ammunition tin, full of carbide and food, on the ledge of the pitch, hoping we would make it through and be able to make use of it.

When Neil phoned the surface from Boireau Falls, morale there slumped. Comparisons started to be made to the Mossdale Disaster and some Happy Wanderers hard men were moved to tears. Tiny told me later that he wondered what he was going to do now on Thursday evenings. He expected the ULSA club nights at ‘The Swan with Two Necks’ would come to an end now that most of the active ULSA cavers were gone. This was the problem – a large part of the club was in the trapped party and only we knew the cave beyond Boireau Falls; nobody else had been to the end.

Two o-clock Monday morning in Bristol. A policeman knocks on the door of my parents’ house. The door is opened. "I regret to inform you, Mr and Mrs Yeandle, that your son is trapped down a flooded pothole in Yorkshire. A rescue party is in the cave but the cavers have not been found."

We waited in the Boulder Chamber, huddled together like penguins to conserve heat – but still getting colder and colder. We could see and hear that the water level was dropping and this helped us to keep our spirits up. After about twelve hours we decided that just maybe the stream was low enough to allow us through the squeezes above the pitch. Also, we noticed that the stream had become muddy and deduced that a rescue was underway.

On the ledge we found the ammo tin. It was more than welcome, hungry and low on light that we were. We had a feast at the top of the pitch. The water seemed higher than we had estimated and we couldn't understand how our unknown benefactors had made it through the first choke; surely the squeezes were still too wet to pass. Tony solved this puzzle when he started out through the boulders and saw a rope hanging down a not so tight and completely dry hole. Seconds later he was up into Boireau Falls Chamber and telling the anxious rescue party that we were all okay and on our way out. We were again fed and between mouthfuls of welcome food, we told of our experiences.

There was a lot of rescue equipment in Boireau Falls Chamber and it all had to be taken out. The least we could do was help. Soon the distinction between rescuer and rescuee broke down and we were a bunch of cavers on our way out to the pub. I gathered that the landowners were not at all amused by recent events and that the press and police were aware that we did not have permission to be in the cave. I considered this whole debacle to be my fault and I was wondering how I could stay out of trouble. I hit upon a ‘cunning plan!’ I would pose as a member of the rescue party and slip quietly away upon emerging.

Upon reaching the bottom of the entrance pitch I noticed a lot of equipment waiting to be hauled up. To affect my ‘disguise’ as a rescuer I attached as much equipment as possible to myself; a rope, a couple of ladders, a large empty telephone reel and an ammo tin. I tied onto the lifeline and shouted up to the lifelining crew that a member of the rescue party was coming up. I hoped that nobody at the entrance would know me. I climbed the pitch as quickly as possible and then got jammed in the entrance because of my large load. Harry Long was on the lifeline: he knew me and after helping me out on to the moor sent me straight off to a large tent where John Frankland, the CRO doctor, was examining our overdue party as we emerged. We were all found to be suffering from the early stages of hypothermia. It was lunchtime Monday and we had been underground for two days. I was amazed by the large numbers of people at the entrance; apart from many cavers and friends, there were several policemen and reporters from most national and several local newspapers. Both T.V. networks were represented. I found the transition from the stark and lonely underground world to all this rather shocking. Dave Brook ended up giving most of the interviews but the BBC 2 man had found out about me being the diver and I ended up doing an interview.

We were driven by police Land Rover to Scargill House, a Church of England community centre, where we were treated to a bath and a hot meal. While having his bath Dave Brook gave an interview to the Times reporter. We were asked by several reporters to pose for a group photograph which we were told would be published nation-wide the next day. Somebody commented that we looked more like an alternate rock band than a group of sportsmen. Indeed, our style was somewhat ‘hippie.’ Along with about half the party I had untidy shoulder-length hair. Dave Tringham's curly hair was pretty much out of control as well. Most of us were the proud owners of ex-army greatcoats and our jeans were mostly old and patched. Alan Brook was wearing his white operating theatre ‘wellies’ and had the longest, most bushy beard of the whole group. Dave Brook looked halfway respectable, but with his cloth cap and somewhat moth-eaten corduroy jacket, he wasn't really all that conventional in appearance!

I wanted to get to Bristol as soon as possible to make it to my twenty-first birthday celebration. Also, I was already a day late for a new job as a labourer in a tobacco factory. Alan Goulbourne gave me a lift to Birmingham and I got on a train for Bristol.


by Roy Holmes:

The following is a graphic description of an epic adventure of the dynamic caving duo "The Brook Bros." together with their companions of the ULSA consisting of Pooh, Christopher Robin, Eee Haw, Uncle Tom Cobley and All.

Pooh was the cause of all the entertainment when he announced that before going into foreign parts to seek work, he was going to dive a few Langcliffe sumps!

The date was set and a preliminary trip undertaken to take tackle part way in. Saturday 10th June '72 dawned murky as usual, the weather forecast promised a little more rain. It was decided that there wouldn't be enough water in the sumps to dive, so the expedition was called off until the following weekend.

Saturday 17th was fine but the previous weeks' rain made the sumps a better proposition and the forecast was for more rain to come. With the promise of sumps endless the party entered the cave.

Eventually the far sump was reached, Pooh kitted up, went in 10m, came back and said that was it. Due to mechanical failure, mission was called off. Meanwhile up on the surface it had dropped dark, and rain ensued in large buckets full.

Sunday dawned still raining; by lunchtime no one had surfaced so reluctantly the CRO were contacted, but as it wasn't in their area the U.W.F.R.A. were handed the problem.

U.W. called their team, – radio, TV, press etc. and by 18.30 all the country knew the situation and cavers from far and wide set off, all searching for the glory of rescuing the Brook Bros.

In the cave by now it was obvious that the water had risen, due to the fact that the Boulder Chokes were impassable. The cavers decided to go to sleep until the water had subsided.

Midnight on the surface saw the first rescue team back with reports of Ginormous floods. U.W. by that time were thoroughly established in the garages belonging to Scargill House and a large contingent of C.R.O. were nearing the site. More Police were drafted in to keep the two rival factions apart, but the C.R.O. made their camp in the adjacent drive. Reconnaissance parties were sent over to U.W. at regular intervals with strict orders to observe and report. This lulled U.W. into a false sense of security. At first light C.R.O. made their move. Led by the four ton truck followed up by the Land Rover and canteen, within an hour they were entrenched on the lawns outside the garages.

Separating them from U.W. were two police cars and about five nervous looking Policemen. The situation looked ugly. Was this going to be it? Would U.W. be finally crushed under the weight of tackle, and marauding hordes of C.R.O. personnel? No, U.W. started serving breakfast as a counter attack. Beans, sausage etc. were served up completely outflanking the C.R.O. who could only retaliate with corned beef sandwiches. Even with choice of tea, coffee or soup it was obvious that U.W. had won the day! Meanwhile underground the trapped party had noticed the water falling, so they decided to come out, meeting the rescue party on the way. News of the sighting of cavers soon spread through the camps and elsewhere.

By 10.00 Monday, press cars were arriving by the hundred, backed up by TV cameras. The C.R.O. saw an opportunity to get their revenge on U.W. and drafted in more men. Jim Eyres came, had an U.W. breakfast, cracked a few jokes and departed. Mike Watson arrived, eyes gleaming with thoughts of making money. U.W. never stood a chance. Within ten minutes he had sold the sole filming rights to both BBC and YTV.

Another battle was looming, BBC v. YTV, but with YTV bringing in a helicopter and BBC backed down. YTV's plan was obvious, to capture the Brook Bros. and take them to Leeds where they would be displayed for all Yorkshire to see at 18.15; but because of quick intervention by the rescue teams, the plan fell through. So that was it. 48 hours of caving produced 10m of sump – and a helluva lot of noise!

The girl sitting opposite me in the railway carriage was good looking, in a prim sort of way and I thought that she looked like a librarian or maybe a schoolteacher. She kept staring at me and I became embarrassed. After a while, she broke the uneasy silence.

“Excuse me for asking,” she said, “but have you just been on television?”

“Yes I have. Did you find it interesting?”

"Well yes, was it very frightening down there?" she asked.

"Very slightly, on one or two occasions," I admitted, probably not sounding very convincing.

She smiled and wanted to know the reason people went caving. I couldn't explain why as I didn't have a clue myself. Instead I told her of my dreams of discovering huge and exciting caves in the Dales and under distant mountain ranges; and how great it felt to be the first person into a new passage. After a while the train reached her destination and she got off. My ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ were over; nobody else on the train seemed to recognise me.

I made it to my twenty-first celebration but had a lot of trouble staying awake. I was not exactly the life and soul of the party. Just before I went to bed I mentioned in passing that I wouldn't be going back to University and had decided to go to Morocco instead.

Our photos did indeed appear in the papers, along with the usual calls from the uninformed, to ban or control caving. Unlike most cave rescues, where the media loses interest after a day, in our case they kept it going for longer. I did hear that the matter of our trespass was actually raised in Parliament. Eventually the fuss over a raggy-assed bunch of cavers died down. I suppose they found something else to cause outrage or frighten the general public with. (Like the increased threat of a nuclear holocaust or looming nation-wide power cuts – or something.)

We never did discover the ‘Black Keld Master Cave’ and for a while I was sad that I had no idea as to how I might enter this huge, unknown system. Then we all moved on to other adventures and left the secrets of Black Keld for later generations of cavers. This is fine and how caving works. One day I'm sure it will be possible to travel underground from Mossdale Caverns to Langcliffe Pot and then onwards and downwards to the Black Keld resurgence in the Valley below. I'm certain that this will be one of the hardest and finest caving trips in the world.

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