BREAK - THROUGH IN AYGILL by John Rushton.
Although the author was in the first party when this cave was extended, the idea for the dig was one of the N.S.G. and the extension is classed as an N.S.G. find.
Aygill Hole is a small cave whose entrance lies below a rock-face in a picturesque gill which takes a large amount of water off Barbon Fell. Several members of the H.W. and I had all taken note of the large amount of water which sinks in this cave in flood conditions and for several years had intended entering the cave and having a “dig”. We had however, as with other prospective “digs”not found time and it was not until the weekend of October 9th 1965 that we entered the cave.
On this week-end Len Platt and I were invited to help the N.S.G. who told us that they were spending the week-end digging in the cave and giving it a hard “push”. Unfortunately I found myself with a choice of taking part in an S.S.P. trip on both the Saturday and the Sunday or going digging. Never being a lover of pick and shovel I chose the former, but as I have previously promised to give a hand, I decided to have the Monday off work.
At 10 a.m. on a beautiful, clear, warm day found Pete Rothwell, Beer-Matts Martin, Kenny Taylor, a “loner” of the Dales, and me changing into our caving gear at the cave entrance. Coming over from Ingleton in Pete’s Mini Cooper, he and Matts had explained that the previous two days they had been digging at the termination of the obvious downstream passage. Although digging had been industrious no real progress had been made. There was however, one more place which Pete had spotted whilst exploring the cave and which he considered a worthwhile dig.
The entrance to the cave is a small shaft of eight feet followed by a squeeze into a narrow stream passage. Instead of following the passage Pete pointed out an aven. We climbed this and found that a low tight crawl led off. Pete explained that he had gone along the crawl for about six feet, where he reached a cross-rift. Owing to the tightness of the crawl and the rift he had been unable to negotiate the right-hand bend. Pushing his head and shoulders into the rift he saw that it was blocked except for a small hole a few feet along the rift.
As I was the smallest in the party it was decided that I should try to get round the bend into the rift and see what was below the hole. I slid along the crawl and after moving several boulders, which I had to pass back to Kenny, who was following, I managed to negotiate the bend, I found myself in a tight rift which closed up just further than the hole that Pete had pointed out.
I looked down the hole and thought I could see a small chamber, but was not sure as my view was restricted by a large flat boulder which was causing the blockage in the rift. After getting stuck in several uncomfortable positions and finally nearly squashing vital organs I decided that the hole could not be passed. There then remained two alternatives.
One was to remove the large boulder, but after trying for several minutes, I realised that it would be impossible for one man and soon dispelled this idea from my mind. The remaining possibility was to dig at the near side of the boulder. Removing several boulders I found that digging would not be easy. As I was in such a confined space it was difficult to bend down or turn round, and when I managed to pick up a boulder there was nowhere to put it except between me and the crawl leading out. Half an hour later I was about two feet lower in the rift but I had also blocked myself in. This was not too discomforting as I could always pull the boulders back. The barrier also served a good purpose: it obscured the view of Kenny‘s grinning face, who had been finding great pleasure in watching my discomforts.
By this time I was becoming a little discouraged by the progress but after removing a fairly large boulder a hole appeared in the chaos of boulders. After I shone my light down the hole and could see to a depth of about six feet, my enthusiasm for digging soon returned. I decided that it would be quicker and easier to drop the rocks down this hole, and after doing this for about ten minutes I had made a hole just large enough to squeeze through. Taking great care not to disturb any more boulders from the choke I dropped through the hole and found myself in what I first thought was a small chamber measuring approximately four feet wide, six feet long and about seven feet high. However, looking round I realised that I was in the same rift but at a lower level, the roof of the chamber being the large boulder which had caused the original obstruction. The rift seemed to close up again except for a small hole in the far corner.
By this time Kenny was impatient to join me, so I told him to drop the boulders that were between us to the bottom of the rift where I was standing. In a couple of minutes Kenny was crouched beside me surveying the prospects. The hole in the far corner was the obvious place and Kenny was soon scraping away at the loose stones and gravel. The hole soon began to enlarge. The larger the hole became, the faster and more frantically Kenny dug. We shone our lights through the hole and could see a small passage. After several efforts of squeezing through the hole and then several more scrapings to remove the extra few inches Kenny disappeared along the crawl.