Black Shiver by Ian Cummins

Black Shiver Pot: Ian Cummins, Ed Tapp, Simon Beck, Duncan (BCC), (15th September 2007). 

It probably wasn’t the water I swallowed in the Echo Pot duck, but I felt pretty rotten the week after, missing a couple of days at work and I just about had the energy to go down Coppice Cave the following weekend with Ed and one of the lads from work for his first trip. The cave was very dry, with only a trickle down the fall into Ling Gill 7 and we had a nice walk up the beck to finish off the trip. I really like this cave, since there is very little really easy ground in it, without being unduly hard at any point. It’s a really good introduction to tighter, crawling-style caving.

A week later and feeling just about right again, I suggested a choice of Diccan or Black Shiver to Simon. I was pleased he chose the latter and with such a dry spell of weather, I reckoned it would be a very pleasant trip. Ed came along with me and Simon’s mate Duncan, from BCC, completed the team.

Checking the BPC and CPC meets lists, I was a bit disturbed to see a CPC trip to Meregill, fearing an overflow of their hordes into Black Shiver! Indeed, arriving at the Hill Inn lay-by at 9-30, there were already several yellow-suited cavers in evidence, but when I enquired, they reckoned they were all going for Meregill.

Simon turned up to the accompaniment of Jefferson Airplane and our compact, wetsuited team managed to overtake the second wave of the CPC on the walk in. I reckon the pitch queues down there must have been pretty good for catching up on gossip at least and we soon found solitude as we continued over to our destination.

Fortunately, Duncan had a good idea where the sink was and we soon found it, just above a karst outcrop. A slippery climb down revealed a very low cobbled section, but this soon improved to hands and knees, with a slight stream to follow to the first pitch. There are P-bolts here (and for all rigging apart from the Black Rift rebelay and for the final pitch) and there was just enough water to make things sporting. Pitches follow in quick succession, with the second pitch, Blood Pot, again being split by a ledge, almost immediately followed by the Black Dub Pitch. This drops into the waist-deep water of a large pool – the Black Dub, followed by a low bedding that is an obvious sump point in wet conditions. A further nice stream section led to the massive Black Rift – a pitch of about 80m.

In a situation very reminiscent of Nick Pot, a traverse crawl to the left along a ledge led to a stance in an alcove – The Eagle’s Nest, in a very fine position. Old bolts here and a P-bolt in the roof allowed me to place some hangers on the lip, until Ed pointed out 2 more new bolts in the roof above my head! With a bit of a stretch, these were clipped and the long descent was started. Again, like Nick Pot, the descent is not continuous, but is broken by a huge block jammed across the rift, 25m down. Walking along this ‘bridge’, a single decent spit in a further block, bearing several stripped sleeves, was backed up with a sling and the final 55m drop to the showery base was completed. We certainly found this pitch to be even more impressive than Nick Pot – a superb situation.

After waiting for Ed at the bottom of the pitch, I then carried on to rig the final pitch into the impressive North Chamber. The loose climb up from here looked distinctly dodgy and we followed the fine, cascading stream passage to the final scummy sump and the short mud tube above. The section of passage preceding the sump has an incredible array of helictites in the roof- quite a contrast compared with the rest of the cave.

Duncan went out alone and I amused myself whilst Simon and Ed de-rigged by free-climbing all the short pitches – great fun with the prevailing low water level – and we were out after a 5-hour trip. Black Shiver is a fine outing, offering very pleasant caving in the conditions we enjoyed and not at all strenuous, apart from the big jumar, but it is obviously a fearsome place in the wet.

Back at the lay-by, the CPC cars were still there and the last of their team were changing as we drove home northwards after a café stop in Ingleton.