Lost John’s by Ian Cummins

Lost John’s Cave: Ian, Simon, Jane and Gen (17th August 2008).

Okay, did you believe the predictions about a long, hot summer?  Having noticed that the forecasters have a job getting the next day’s weather right, I soon dismissed such talk.  Mind you, I did entertain some thoughts of a leisurely trip to the far end of Penyghent extensions this summer – nice while it lasted!  But back to reality, driving along roads resembling streams and a rare trip for me over the Lancs. border to the exotic location of Leck Fell and a long-anticipated trip to Lost John’s.  With proposed leader Steve being away on family business, he mailed me the permit and topo, although it turned out that with Simon along, I didn’t need any directions, letting him lead and rig.

Simon’s wife, Jane and Gen completed the team for the day, with this being Gen’s first outing since France and I suggested the addition of a Pantin to facilitate her ascending progress.  With this bit of gleaming kit added, we set off for the fell, finding a couple of other cars already parked up.  It turned out to be another party, also with a Lost John’s permit but taking only a short trip into the cave, so we didn’t get in each other’s way.

Although the skies were clear, the very wet night meant a lot of water was flowing into the cave, but this was soon left below as we took the Roof Traverse high up in the narrow canyon.  What great sport, bridging on the rough black ledges along the winding passage – very Northern Dales-like.

Taking the Centipede Route, I really enjoyed this big, dark pitch, taking tome to enjoy the superb formation on the far wall, also pausing to view it on the ascent.  With the water being left behind and below, this easy section of caving led us again to the sound of roaring water at the Battle-axe traverse.  A quick sequence of yarding from the bolts led to the pitch head and a fine descent viewing the white torrent behind – very impressive!  A short section in the powerful stream was very exciting to say the least, before traversing out again to a dry descent into the amazing Leck Fell master cave.  This indeed deserves its name, not being at all modest like the passage at the bottom of Hammer for example, but being both high and wide, with a flat, cobbled floor.  As we dropped our SRT kit, Simon pointed out the foam a full 15 feet up the wall and we both struggled to imagine how this place would look and sound with so much water, turning off our lights to fully appreciate the rumble from water far down the passage.

Yomping off downstream, we were again impressed by fresh grass tufts in the roof and the omnipresent foam on the walls, continuing until the water deepened and the roof lowered to make progress in the neck-deep river a bit tricky.  Returning to the base of the Valhalla pitch, Simon and I sought shelter from the maelstrom whilst Jane ascended first and I sprinted up in the rear to get warm again, doing a quick bolt-to-bolt swing to de-rig the traverse above.

Having left Gen here on the way down, I was pleased that she had gone up the pitches and we met at the nasty step on the Roof Traverse, where she reported favourably on the new SRT set-up.

Lost John’s team: Ian, Gen, Jane, Simon after LJ.

I can see that Lost John’s is an SRT caver’s dream, with no crawling or squeezing at all on our trip, not my usual idea of a favourite caving experience, but we all really enjoyed this fun, steady day out.

Pic by Ian Cummins.