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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Boundary Pot to Near Ease Gill

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This series of articles is intended for the guidance of experienced cavers, who may not be familiar with the details of the best routes through the more complex systems in the Yorkshire Dales. To echo the sentiments in Northern Caves, it "is intended as guidance for the wise, not the obedience of fools"

As the result of some hard work by Sam Allshorn and Mike Cooper, it is now possible to reach the top end of Ease Gill Caverns without tackle through the superb Boundary Pot, hence making all sorts of through trips available.

Boundary Pot carries the main Ease Gill Beck through to Thrackray's Passage, and it varies from relatively dry, through epic, to impassable. Care should be taken that water levels are reasonably low and are unlikely to rise during the first hour underground, and you should also be prepared to get very wet.

The entrance lies in a V-shaped nick on the true left bank of Ease Gill Beck about 200 m upstream of Pool Sink (see map). A low crawl leads to a climb down into a chamber with daylight entering from a small shaft on the left. At the bottom of the chamber on the right a short passage ends in a further climb down into a second chamber, with an outlet passage on the right. Follow this for a few metres to a junction, and take the right branch. This leads past a hole in the floor to another where inlets may enter from above.

Climb down the 5 m broken drop, accompanied by either a dribble or a stream depending on conditions, into a hands and knees passage. After a few metres water may enter from the roof - this can be a torrent and the only option is to get through as quickly as possible. Soon after the floor drops, but if you are out of luck, the water stays at the same height, and what might be an easy dry shuffle can be wading in deep water with low airspace. If the airspace is less than 25 cm, a strategic withdrawal is called for.

The floor rises again to a crawl, and soon a junction is reached. To the left the rather uninviting Bar Steward's Passage carries any stream to Fusion Cavern, and to the right Savage's Bypass is an ascending flat-out crawl. Follow this round a corner to where it opens out and starts to descend. This leads onto a ledge overlooking a chamber with water entering from the right - step across and climb down the far side.

Don't follow the water to the base of the chamber, but almost immediately climb up into the obvious Crossover Passage on the left. This soon drops into the impressive Fusion Cavern where the Bar Stewards Passage water cascades down a 17 m pitch. Follow the water downstream, but at the bottom of the chamber follow the smaller outlet on the left. This swings round to the right back into the main outlet which chokes, but a hidden route straight on enters a low crawl which bypasses the choke. The obstacles are now over, and it is easy going past the attractive Boxing Day Aven into the quietness of Hiroshima Chamber. It is recommended that you don't dance around in here too much - the whole place is unstable.

In Hiroshima, go half-right across the chamber and ascend an obvious climb up into a wide bedding. Straight on a short descent enters an antechamber, with the scaffolded and meshed Manhattan Connection in the corner. Drop down the dig into the roof of Far East Passage. The easiest way to reach the floor is to traverse upstream at the same level until it rises up to meet you. Continue upstream to a large break-down area, and follow a well-worn track up the boulder slope into the expanses of Nagasaki.

It will have taken an hour to get to this point, and depending on water levels, you will either be full of energy and raring to go, or a shivering, quivering wreck wanting to go home. If the former, an excellent afternoon's caving can be completed by exiting through County via Molluscan Hall. If the latter, the fastest way out is through Wretched Rabbit via Spiral Staircase Passage.

To reach Stop Pot, proceed downstream (to the left) through Nagasaki until one is forced up a slightly greasy clamber on the right hand wall.

At the end of the chambers, the route enters a rift passage, where holes soon start to appear in the floor. These are easy to step over at first, but eventually a positive upward traverse is required which takes you to the top of the climb leading into Easter Grotto (see Note 1 below). From here, you can continue through Easter Grotto to Gypsum Cavern, but the energy-saving route is to descend into the Assembly Hall. The initial climb down is greasy with an off-balance move half way down, easily overcome with a short line. At the bottom of the climb, a furtle through some boulders leads to another climb down into the Assembly Hall itself. This looks quite frightening from the top, but it is easily descended by traversing to the far side of the hole.

The passage leading off from the bottom of the chamber leads into the White Way - a well decorated passage that runs above the stream. This soon drops into the water, which is then followed until it starts to get low. Keep an eye open for a stal-guarded letterbox opening on a shelf in the left wall of the passage, which is the start of a pleasant bypass to a low sump.

The main stream is soon encountered again, and is followed along Thackeray's passage until a boulder run-in is encountered on the right. This is Holbeck Junction, and is where the Pool Sink inlets join the main drain from the left. If you are exiting through Spiral Staircase Passage, follow a rift passsage on the left which leads after a couple of minutes into the bottom of the Pool Sink passages. Otherwise, climb up the short slope to the right, and follow the main passage. It isn't possible to follow the floor all the way to Stop Pot, and it is soon necessary to proceed at a higher level. However, do try to keep as low as possible depending on water levels, and don't be tempted into the boulder choke above. The lower area is reasonably stable, but the upper area is dangerous, as freshly scarred blocks testify.

Stop Pot is reached within half an hour of entering Nagasaki, and an exit can be made through Wretched Rabbit or County Pot according to taste, and on whether you have pre-rigged the short pitch in Country.

Note:

If problems are encountered when traversing up towards Easter Grotto, an alternative is available which leads directly into the chamber below Easter Grotto. Either descend the first large hole and slide through a bedding passage, or slither through the second, narrower, hole. In either case you will finish at a slot at the head of a 4 m drop. This is free-climbable, but is easier if a short line is slung from the overhanging promontory at the far side of the drop (the line fits neatly into a groove). At the bottom an archway leads into a chamber with the climb up to Easter Grotto on the left.