BREAK - THROUGH IN AYGILL: CONTINUED.
Seconds later I heard a voice cry, "I've broken into a passage and it G-O-E-S." With a shout of "wait for me you -*!?* I pushed myself through the hole and found myself chasing a speedily disappearing carbide lamp along a narrow rift passage I had gone about twenty feet when a loud cry pierced my ears. "It's a P-P-P-Pitch." Excitement getting the better of me I dashed forward only to be enveloped in blackness as my carbide lamp hit the wall and was extinguished. Kenny’s light reappeared along the passage and one of the most excited faces I have seen. We decided to return to the others and give them the good news.
When we reached the crawl Matts and Pete had been doing a bit of “gardening” and the crawl was now quite roomy. It was between fits of uncontrollable laughter and grins we managed to report our findings.It was decided that we should return to the surface and then Ingleton where we could buy some refreshment and replenish our now low supply of lighting. Two hours and several beans on toast later we were once more descending the entrance shaft this time we had two twenty five foot electron ladders. Kenny and I hurried to the head of the pitch. The pitch itself was in the corner or a fairly large chamber which was decorated by several bonny formations. We laddered the pitch while waiting for Pete and Matts, as being of larger build; they took a little longer to negotiate the tight section.
They soon arrived however and we descended the pitch which was about twenty five feet deep. We had climbed into a large but now water deserted stream passage. This was blocked immediately on one side but on the other it carried on upstream for several hundred feet gradually lessening in size as it neared the surface.
The way downstream seemed to be down a crack in the passage floor. With the remaining ladder in my hand I dropped through the crack into a low crawl. I called to the others to follow and we proceeded along the crawl. Unfortunately at this point my carbide lamp began to flicker due to shortage of water. As we had not yet met any water I was unable to refill it.
Rounding a corner we all heard the low rumble which we recognised as a flowing stream. As we progressed we could stand up in the narrow passage and by then the rumble had grown into a roar. Coming to a tight corner, where the floor dropped away, I stuck my hand round. At the same instant my light went out but I was sure it was a pitch. Kenny belayed the ladder and I lowered it down the pitch. Due to the awkwardness of the passage it was decided that I should descend the pitch for a few feet where it would be easier for Kenny to pass me a good light. I carefully squeezed round the corner and began gingerly to descend the pitch, the roar of the water ringing in my ears, much to my surprise and disappointment
and to the amusement of the others I found the pitch was the great depth of four feet. However, after swapping lights we saw that the ladder need not be recoiled as a further ten feet along the passage there was a pitch. We re-belayed the ladder and lowered it down, but realised immediately that it would not reach the bottom.
The pitch itself entered a large chamber which we found later to be as high as eighty feet in places and about twenty feet wide. We took it in turns to climb for about twenty feet down the ladder to a small ledge from where it was possible to survey the chamber. The water, after coming from a large inlet passage on the left flowed along the floor of the chamber before disappearing round a bend in the well water-worn passage. It is hard to imagine our thoughts and feelings as we saw the stream rushing away down unexplored passages while we were stuck twenty feet above it.
Suddenly somebody remembered the ladder on the first pitch. If it was possible to free-climb this, we could use the ladder to bottom the big pitch. I hurried back to the first pitch and discovered that the opposite side of the chamber was an easy climb. From this side I could step over to the head of the pitch. I hastily recoiled the ladder and returned to the others. We linked the ladders together and Matts descended the pitch to disappear immediately along the upstream passage. By the time we had all reached the foot of the pitch Matts had returned chuckling “fantastic: loads of water passages twenty feet high great.“
We then set off to follow the downstream passage. Almost at once the water fell down a series of four sporty cascades each about eight feet deep. These were followed by a low, wet crawl which after several feet split up into a roomy dry passage and the continuation of the downstream crawl. We took the dry passage which shortly led to a large, sandy chamber where we sat down to survey the situation and discuss our next move. From where we sat we could see several passages just waiting to be explored, but for once we did not let excitement get the better of what little common sense we had. We had been down for several hours, lights were getting dim, so we reluctantly decided to make our way back to the surface, returning the following week-end. By doing this we would also give the lads who had worked on the previous days a chance to experience the thrill of treading unexplored ground. The break-through had been made.
The cave has now been extended for several thousands of feet, containing many interesting and complicated passages. The terminal sump is one of the largest in England and also there are many opportunities for further extension. A survey of the cave has been prepared by members of the N.S.G.