Date: 26th May 1997
Distance: 14 miles
Participants: Mark, Paul, Chris, & Stuart.
The walk stemmed from an idea from Chris to take advantage of the annual setting up of a bosons chair to drop people down Gaping Gill
The Whitsun Gaping Gill winch meet has been held by the Bradford Pot-holing Club for over 50 years, and has never dropped anyone!
Every year, non-cavers have the chance to see a truly awe- inspiring underground scene, the Main Chamber of Gaping Gill, Britain's biggest known cave chamber. Descending the 105m Main Shaft (Britain's deepest shaft) is an experience never forgotten, and many visitors return year after year.
The Gaping Gill system is one of the countries longest and most complex cave systems. As well as the Main Shaft, the system has four other entrances; Bar Pot, Flood Entrance Pot, Stream Passage Pot, and Disappointment Pot. These entrances unite underground, and the water sinking in the system eventually emerges into daylight at Ingleborough Cave, a show cave passed on the walk up to GG.
Anyway, we decided to give it a go, as it was free to go down, and only £6 to be winched back up again. We parked up at Clapham (pronounced Claarm, in the South) Mark drove as was usual in our early club days, he having the only company car. This was an early walk for Stuart, who at this time had difficulty getting out of bed on time, this is verified by his wearing of pyjama bottoms for walking in. The first part of the walk passes along the well-made route to Ingleborough cave and passage through the gate required a donation to the appropriate body responsible for the path & cave maintenance. Being true Yorkshire-men we passed through the gate without charge and walked along the path eventually emerging from the trees into a small ravine, which made a really good photo opportunity, and an attempt at synchronised jumping and heel clicking. We were all excited and maybe a little apprehensive at the impending adventure, and on we pressed to Gaping Gill. Quite a lot of other people had the same idea as us, but after a short wait it was our turn. One by one we sat in the chair and were strapped in, then down we went. The rock of the gill wall got closer and closer to my face until… space, loads & loads of space, dangling and dropping into thin air. As well as being scared of heights and exposure I also have an aversion to dark enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) So all in all the experience for me was quite exciting (read scary). We scrambled about for about half an hour exploring the vast cavern and took the obligatory photos. Then it was time to go out. This was more exciting than coming down because I knew what to expect and so I entered the chair once more and was hoisted speedily to the surface, My, I was a brave little soldier. Out we all came into the glorious sunshine and proceeded up the fell-side to the summit of Ingleborough.
It was around this time that Chris first voiced his desire for a dump, but it could wait until lunch at the pub. At this point we thought it would be a good idea for Mark to “run” back to the car and bring it around to the Pub between Ingleborough & Wherneside as this would make for a better walk, well for 3 of us anyway. Mark trotted off back to Clapham and we trudged on to the pub. Down the steep side of Ingleborough to meet the duck-boards, which are better to walk on than bog but very boring and hard on the knees. Chris now was setting a good pace, in fact he was setting a cracking pace, the sort of pace that one would go at if they were desperate for a dump and had a tremendous weight on sort of pace. So off he went buttocks clenched biting his bottom lip and away. We met Chris and Mark at the pub, Chris looked relieved. The pub was run by some longhaired yeti, locked into 70’s heavy metal scene, you know the type. But food was on the menu and we weren’t fussy. I was starving by now and really looking forward to some food. Chris placed the order and we sat down and relaxed over a nice pint of Theakstons.
Number 1 shouted the Yeti as he brought out some food, after a short wait he shouted it again. The Orientals who had ordered the food had gone outside and couldn’t hear him. How we laughed when they came in looking for their food and the Yeti told them that their food was in the dog. Only joking though, and the food was produced rather less warm than it was 10 minutes previously. Still, ours should be here soon. “Number 2” shouted the yeti. “What’s our number Chris” I enquired “3” says he. “Ok” says I “Number 2” shouts the yeti again. By this time the yeti is losing his patience, as this is the 2nd order that no one has claimed, so into the dog it goes. 5 minutes later and still no food. “What’s our number Chris?” I enquired again, “3” says Chris. “Lets have a look at the ticket then”. Close inspection of the ticket reveals the number to have an uncanny resemblance to the number 2 not 3. My face drops and I give Chris one of those looks that says “F****ing T***!!!!”, but I don’t actually say anything. Chris does a better impression of looking sheepish than the 4-legged woolly things outside in the fields, and mooches over to the bar. “I’m no 2” he says to the yeti. “It’s in the Bin” replies the yeti, so Chris comes back to the table. I was not a happy fell-walker. We get another pint in and hey presto, my mate the yeti appears with our food, he was joking again, so everything is sort of ok. I feel a bit guilty for giving Chris the evil eye, but having just done a big no.2 you’d have thought he’d have known what one looked like. Lunch was very nice as it turns out, we sat outside in the sunshine and finished our food and drink and all was well with the world.
It is extremely difficult setting off up the steep side of Wherneside after 2 pints of Theakstons. The sweat poured out of me. Half an hour it took before I felt anything like healthy. Still the sun was warm and progress was becoming more rapid. The end was now in sight, or rather a false summit was and another but finally there it was the end of my uphill walking for the day. My first time up Wherneside, and what a beautiful view. Down to the viaduct and Pen-y-Ghent to my left, and over to Ingleborough on my right. Brilliant.
Chris & Stuart decided to go down the far side of Wherneside to the viaduct, and Mark and me retraced our route back to the pub and the car. We changed and drove round to Ribblehead viaduct to meet Chris & Stuart, who weren’t there. What we didn’t know was that Stuart’s knee was playing up and he was in agoknee (geddit?) with his knee clicking painfully every 3 steps or so. It took them forever to get back to the car, but finally they made it. It was quite a long day and I was tired, so when Mark suggested driving round to Horton-in-Ribbledale to do Pen-y-Ghent I politely declined.