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Happywanderers Cave and Pothole Club

How the “Happy Wanderers” came into being

Five lads were exploring around Castleton in Derbyshire. We bumped into each other once or twice and formed a lasting friendship. We visited Peak Cavern, Winnats Pass, Giants Hole and Peveril Castle. There was Malcolm (Tiger) Culshaw from Southport, Pete Matley from Salford, Frank Shuttleworth (Bazz of Bolton) and Philip Wallace from Bolton and myself from Barrow. It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton.
Mike Myers

It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton. So in 1956, after exploring a few caves around Ingleton and Clapham, we decided to form ourselves into a proper group. It was August-September 1956 we held a meeting in the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Ingleton.

On a sunny May morning, five Happy Wanderers climbed the hill on to Scales Moor to attack Spectacle Pot. Awesome tales from the original explorers had long fascinated us. Tales of boulders, the size of grand pianos falling at the sound of a person's cough and vertical boulder slopes.

With those thoughts in mind, the first pitch was laddered and the first passage negotiated. A small chamber was reached at the start of Splutter Crawl. The passage is roughly triangular in shape and an inch deep in water. Only the first ten feet is very tight. It ends after thirty feet with a drop through a tight letter-box into a small chamber at the top of the next pitch of twenty feet. Around the corner the passage immediately drops to another crawl, nearly as tight as Splutter, but after a few feet the roof rises. At this point a small inlet crawl comes in from the right. This was explored at an earlier date and was found to continue for fifty feet, being a tight crawl all the way. However, passing this by, Moorside Chamber is soon reached which is fifty to sixty feet high with a small stream flowing down one wall. Back again into the crawl the passage soon gains width and height. The big pitch is now near. A slab and awkward rift leads to the large chamber containing the pitch. After a struggle one can stand up alongside a large ‘saddle’ on the right, which is a perfect belay for the ladder.

Three of the party descended leaving two lifelining and straight away the sound of falling rock could be heard echoing up the shaft. It was very worrying for the lads at the top. The noise is truly fearful and we were not happy until somebody had returned up the shaft and let us know that everything below was O.K. The shaft is approximately forty feet across and very impressive. A ledge is reached at seventy feet and it is from here that the rock becomes loose.

In the second half of the shaft the ladder hangs in a narrow cleft at one side. Climbing this section the feet dislodge many loose stones which rattle and crash to the bottom of the hundred and twenty-five foot ladder. At the far side of the shaft the way on can he seen through a small window. The first thirty feet of this is a vertical boulder slope. It is better, though rather unorthodox, to hand-hold the ladder rather than belay it, since the belay could be long and likely to dislodge boulders. Only one person at a time should descend the ladder since there is nowhere at the bottom to hide from the continuously falling boulders.

To descend the vertical section, it is best to back and foot it, using the ladder with the hands only. The angle of the slope gradually decreases till at the final wall it almost horizontal. The depth from the window to the bottom was estimated at seventy feet. The shaft is ten to fifteen feet wide and stretches up far beyond the reach of our lights, at least a hundred and fifty feet. A small stream falls down this shaft which creates a permanent rain over almost the whole floor. Perhaps someday, a way will be found through to the top of this shaft.

The return to the surface was uneventful except that a tin of carbide was spilt in the passage and we had to undergo an 'ordeal by fire' as we crawled over it. Splutter was noted to back up slightly but it was possible for most people to lift their body and allow the water to flow past. In wet weather, however, this could be and indeed has been, a real danger. We returned to the surface to welcome sunshine after five hours of really interesting caving.
Incidentally, the three hundred foot pitch, reported in 'Pennine Underground‘ is rather exaggerated, only a hundred and fifty feet of ladder being needed, though the total depth is perhaps two hundred feet.