ROWTEN – SWINSTO THROUGH TRIP by John Ogden
It was a Friday night in the Helwith Bridge Hotel. I was sitting with a group of friends discussing the following days caving. Bill Frakes suggested that John Southworth and myself should come diving with him in Rowten Pot. I said I wasn't interested as it would most probably be submerged right through to Keld head. Bill laughed and said, “You've got a surprise coming.” On hearing this I immediately became inquisitive and started asking for more details. Little by little the tale came out.
It seemed that three weeks previously, the Brook brothers of Leeds University Speleological Association had pushed a low crawl in the final chamber of the Swinsto-Simpsons system, and after several hours digging had broken into the Master Cave for Kingsdale. They had made a rough survey and found that one of the inlets into the Master Cave came very close to Rowten Pot sump. As the inlet ended in a sump it seemed almost certain that this was the other side of the Rowten Pot sump.
Saturday, 2nd July, 1966 came, and in no time at all we were at the sump in Rowten Pot. Bill Frakes was lead diver and I was stand-by diver. Within a minute of leaving base he signalled back for me to follow. After a short dive of approximately twenty-five feet I joined him in a large air bell. We dived again and after about ten feet reached a second air bell. From this we could see a small air space leading off. A further dive of several feet brought us into the Kingsdale Master Cave. We belayed the line and returned to base to give the news to our excited colleagues. Soon everyone in the party had passed the sump, and we all set off to explore the Master Cave. It was while we were kitted up to go back through the sump that D. Cobley suggested leaving Rowten laddered and next day laddering Swinsto and doing an exchange of parties through the Master Cave. We all readily agreed and arranged to meet in Kingsdale on the Sunday.
Sunday dawned fine and clear. The Swinsto party set off one and a half hours before us, in order to get the pot laddered, while we spent a lazy ninety minutes sunbathing at the entrance to Rowten. We then quickly descended and arrived at the sump in just over thirty minutes. We dived through and were just in time to meet the Swinsto party. We exchanged greetings and passed the diving gear to them, and then made our way to Swinsto and out. Five cavers from each end completed the exchange. They were J. Southworth, J. Ogden and F. Barnes of the H.W.C.P.C. A. and D. Brook of the U.L.S.A, W. Frakes D. Cobley, P. Livesey and C. Vickers of the B.P.C. and K. Taylor a loner! Three members of U.L.S.A also went down Swinsto.
We arrived at the surface just in time to help the Rowten team up the last pitch with the tackle and diving gear. Then it was off to the transport cafe for a well earned meal.
The trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and I can honestly say that it must be one of the finest caving trips in Yorkshire. When going down Rowten one gets the big pot feeling of long ladder pitches, crashing waterfalls, and exposed positions. The Master Cave gives one the feeling of depth and age, with the wide deep water canals, and lower down the rapidly flowing stream with inlets flowing in from either side, which convinces you that you are in a true master cave, Then Swinsto puts the final touch to the trip, it being as always a very sporty and interesting trip with which to finish off.
It is interesting to note that this is probably the first time in Yorkshire where exchange parties have used diving equipment to overcome an obstacle. There may be people who condemn it, saying that it is reckless, and adds more danger to an already supposedly dangerous sport. However, I am sure there are others who will welcome this sort of thing as I do, as a shot in the arm for the poor caving standards that now exist in Yorkshire.
If anyone is thinking of free diving the Rowten sump they are strongly advised not to, as the dive as it stands would make a very difficult free dive. The line as it is now belayed, tends to pull over into a tight section and one needs time to find the correct way. With a small amount of digging though, and the correct belaying of a thick hand line it should be possible to free dive into the Master Cave.
A fortnight after this trip, five H.W.C.P.C. members, who were not on the original Rowten – Swinsto exchange completed the first Rowten - Simpsons exchange. J. Cunningham and L. Platt went down Simpsons on a mixture of Red Roses and Leeds tackle, and J. Rushton, J, Pickup and J, Morgan took the diving equipment down Rowten. They arrived at the sump more or less at the time, and exchanged parties, J. Pickup kindly volunteering to return out of Rowten to help de-ladder and pull out the diving gear. Again everyone was thrilled by the sport and variety of the trip.
For a full description of the Master Cave, see the 'postscript' to the article entitled “Kingsdale” (page 45)