Sell Gill Holes, Yorkshire Dales - Phil Wolstenholme

Friday, 29 March, 2013

Present: Jess Eades, Martyn Grayson, Ann Soulsby, Phil Wolstenholme, Lisa Wootton

This was a quick evening trip after our arrival for a sneaky YSS-based Easter weekend - I hadn't been certain I'd be able to go, but managed it in the end. The weather had been a contentious issue after all the snow, not knowing what would happen with the temps and any subsequent downward deluges. As it turned out it was positively 'St. Moritz' for the entire weekend - very sunny and very cold, so no thaw and thus no water! We didn't know whether the cave would be open though as we'd heard it would be snow-plugged - it turned out not to be, luckily for us.

 So after a freezing trudge up the hill, we elected to separate into boys and girls and do an exchange via both entrances, so Martyn rigged the Wet route and Jess (I think) rigged the Dry route. There was some confusion on our side, as Martyn had neglected to read the rigging guide, and so was many metres below the bedding-plane rebelay, dangling in the small waterfall for some time until he realised it was much higher up! After correcting that one we had a great downward trip through some lovely avens, seeing the lights of the girls at the bottom before us, predictably. I was really surprised at how big the rift at the bottom was - very impressive. We had a mooch down to the sump area, but as we were all trying to keep dry, decided not to get too crawly this time.

I de-rigged the Dry route, and at the final exit pitch was confronted by an enormous cornice of snow hanging overhead, with the rope clearly cut a good foot into it and with my weight on, that was the way it stayed until I could get level. Having never done the cave before, I had no idea what was under the snow, or what might be holding it up (subsequently turns out to be not much!), so I had to slice the snow off with the rope, spread myself level and just clamber up it rather messily, with my feet alarmingly punching through every now and again. I managed to get out safely just in time to meet Ann coming out of the other entrance, and we all scuttled back down the track (now plenty sub-zero) to the safety of the car and then food...