BB0725 To Hell in a Bucket.  And Back!!!

Saturday 25th August 2007


I was beginning to think that I had taken leave of my senses.  People who are far more intrepid than me kept telling me I must be raving mad and no way would they dream of being winched 340 feet into an abyss.  Fortunately Bryan and Jamie were equally deranged so we set off very early with the aim of reaching Gaping Gill by 9 a.m..

We parked at Clapham on a day that got greyer as we went south and with the top of Ingleborough lost in cloud. Entrance to the Clapdale Drive short cut cost 50p per head, paid to a very smart ticket machine whilst, we suspect, the farmer was watching through the window of the house opposite!  

Onwards alongside the lake, which is imaginatively called “The Lake", and up to the Ingleborough Show Cave (or, as it was known the last time Jamie and I were there, Santa’s Grotto).  Trow Gill was next, which is like a miniature version of Gordale Scar with its narrowing path and ultimate scramble through towering limestone cliffs.

Emerging out onto the moor, we soon saw the tented village which comprises the Craven Pothole Club’s Winch Meet where they have dammed and diverted the stream to make possible the winchings.

The Tented Villaget

The Winch Meet

The dammed stream

Exactly on schedule we checked in, handed over our tenners, signed to say that we were both sane and daft enough to go down, put on our dog tags and waited for our numbers to be called.  It was about an hour before it was our turn.  When your number is called you put on your hard hat and your waterproofs and wait for your turn in the bucket (actually it’s a chair).

Jamie being winched

It comes up, a platform slides under it and the occupant is unclipped and steps out. You then sit in the chair with your arms folded and your legs tucked under the chair.  The assistant (roped up) closes the gate across the front of the chair, clips up the strap that goes between your legs and slides the platform away so you are now suspended 340 feet above terra firma.  

The winchman lowers you slowly at first because the rock face is right in front of you (although there is a big void to the right).  As the hole opens up, the speed increases but because you are not yet dark adapted you can see very little.  You gradually start to see more and soon there is a cavern to your right that is illuminated and you being to wonder how they managed to place a light there when, to your surprise, the winch stops and a voice is telling you to step out and go and stand over there until you are fully dark adapted.

Once there is a group of seven or so of you there is a conducted tour around the vast, damp, rocky, muddy cavern in which you now find yourself.  Our man seemed a little tired of telling people the same tale over and over again but explained the history and the geology and how they get people out if it rains and the dam overflows so they can’t use the winch.  

Tour over, you queue for the winch, step in and get hauled back up through the edge of what you now know is a waterfall into the normal world.  

You are supposed to be able to see more on the ascent but my hardhat had slipped quite low and I was unable to raise the rim so maybe I missed more than I might.  

Out you step, hand over your dog tag and the process continues.

Was it scary?  

Bryan surfaces

Note this, you wimps who declined to join us:


The scariest moments of the day were yet to come.

Team  picture on Little Ingleborough

After the main event, we decided to carry on up the now even cloudier Ingleborough. At Little Ingleborough we had a decision to make.  Should we continue up to the top and have lunch with the hordes in the wind and grot in one of the shelters up there or should we dine in isolation below the cloud line in the empty shelter there?  It might have been a difficult decision had Tony been with us but it was exactly 12 noon and there was no reason to defer so lunch right there is what we took.

Refuelled, we ascended into the gloom to the rather busy summit and then struck off to the right for the descent and the aforementioned scary moment number one.  We reached what to me looked like the top of a cliff with a slight gap in it leading to certain death and Bryan started to test the route down.  Fortunately just before I could say “Bryan, there is no way I am going down there” he reappeared and decided we should go back to the trig point and try again.  We did and reached the same point, the same exploration, the same nearly uttered comment and the same decision.  This third time, we took a bearing and with one of us walking twenty yards ahead of the compass man (such a good idea when things get serious as the compass man can steer the outrunner- thank you Bryan) we soon found the path, which was several degrees to the right of our previous efforts. 

Thereafter, apart from one minor detour, it was a simple trip down the side of Simon Fell until somewhere near Nick Pot we chose to take the short cut across the limestone pavement.  

The route here became almost surreal- there is a curving trail cutting through the limestone pavement; a groove about 8 feet wide and about two feet below the level of the pavement. It is hard to believe that it is not manmade yet that is what we are given to understand.

The Groove in the Pavement

This led to the bridle path known as Long Road which some idiots seem intent on turning into a regular road for four-wheel drive vehicles if the planning application is to be believed. I hope the council turns them down.  

 Clapham Church

As the path approaches Clapham it becomes clear it is part of the national cycle tracks as cyclists are advised repeatedly to dismount due to an imminent steep hill and tunnels.  

At first you wonder what the fuss is all about and then you reach the tunnel.  It is bad enough trying to walk through there in the virtual pitch black, never mind cycle. Definitely scary moment number two, trying to keep upright on slippery uneven ground when you can’t see where you are treading.

The tunnel emerges just above the delightful village of Clapham where the car was, fortunately, just where we left it.

So to those of you who opted not to join us for reasons best known to yourselves, let it be known that the three of us intend to do this again next August and, this time, we expect a full turn out.  Please don’t force me to make the Agincourt speech- you know the one- "Those in England now abed will think themselves accursed that they were not here and hold their manhoods cheap etc etc".  Believe me, it certainly is an experience to visit the Gaping Gill Cave but as an exercise in scariness you will find much worse at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  

Don, 25th August 2007


Distance: 10.8 miles (Harveys / Anquet))

Height climbed: 2,467 feet (Harveys / Anquet) and 340 feet by winch!

Wainwrights:  Ingleborough (Walks in Limestone Country)

For the latest totals (of the Lakeland Fell Books) see: Wainwrights.  If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!





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Bryan has kindly produced a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which Bootboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of Bootboys.  

To download the Excel file click on Wainwrights.  

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


BOOT boys

This page describes a 2007 adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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