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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

County Pot to Easter Grotto via Upper Trident

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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"

The trip to Easter Grotto from County Pot is probably one of the better known trips in Ease Gill Caverns, but it still lends itself to a number of different variations depending upon the strength and inclination of the individuals involved. This account describes the author's favourite route, but also suggests some alternatives through hypertext links. Note that this trip reaches the Far Ease Gill series via Eureka Junction, where the water in the Master Cave can back up under wet conditions. If in doubt, you can make the main descent via Wretched Rabbit, and rejoin this route at Stop Pot.

The entrance series of County is straight forward, although the passages appear to have a complex history, and repay closer examination. The main passage leads quickly to a 10 metre pitch, which is best laddered either from the Eco-bolt (spreader), or from a pillar in the roof (long belay). It seems a pity for everybody to have to carry down personal SRT gear for one small pitch.

From the chamber, a passage leads down to the 3 metre climb into Broadway, with an easy traverse at roof level leading to an alternative descent a few metres downstream. Broadway is a wide and impressive passage with a stream which almost immediately disappears down a smaller passage in the opposite wall. Follow the near wall in a downstream direction, over a rocky slope, into another stream passage fed from an aven in the roof (The Showerbath).

This passage continues past a couple of inlets on the right (it is easy to enter the second of these by mistake, if returning the same way), until a broad passage leads off from a shelf  to the right, a few metres before a climb down into the large Spout Hall. The traditional route continues through Spout Hall to the Poetic Justice pitch.

Enter the broad passage, and follow the wall round to the right to enter a small climb up through boulders into Battle of Britain Hall. Ahead and to the right,  is a hole in the floor, which leads through to the Manchester Bypass. To the immediate right, there is a short climb up a rock rib, at the top of which is an obscured boulder crawl leading on and up. This should be followed for a few metres until it emerges into a small chamber. From here, turn left into the active part of the Upper Trident Series.

Following the stream to the left through a small crawl rapidly leads to the top of a 10 metre pitch. The way on, however, is through a crawl under the left wall, which leads immediately onto a 6 metre climb down a rift with aid in situ, best protected for the inexperienced.

Follow the passage at the bottom of the pitch across the first rift, to a climb down into the Lower Trident Passage streamway, which is one of the finest passages in the system. Returning upstream at this point leads into White Line Chamber, an impressive aven in dark limestone with a prominent calcite vein piercing the wall. The aven has two waterfalls, the right hand of which comes from the passage just left in the Upper Trident Series. A few metres downstream of the chamber, an oxbow can be entered on the true right - this well decorated passage is well worth a visit, even if it does mean having to miss out on the equally fine streamway underneath.

Following Trident Passage downstream leads to a junction at a boulder fall. The passage off to the left leads back to the Poetic Justice pitch. Continuing downstream leads to a junction with another stream passage (Wretched Rabbit), and shortly after that to the junction with the Master Cave at Eureka Junction.

From here go upstream, until a boulder choke dominates the passage. In anything other than high water conditions, the water can be followed through the boulders to emerge in the large and impressive Stop Pot, with a wet crawl being avoided by entering a roof bedding. In high water conditions, a slope on the right before the boulders can be followed into an unpleasant crawl in a shale band, which also emerges in Stop Pot. Stop Pot is a very major junction, with routes going off to the High Level Traverse to Lancaster Hole, to the Wretched Rabbit passage, to the upstream passages, as well as sundry other passages.

The route upstream from Stop Pot needs to be sought with care. The stream passage has had boulder run-ins from Straw Chamber above, and much of the route needs to be traversed. The secret is not to lose sight of the stream. The route eventually leads into a larger and dry (albeit muddy) passage, which divides into two at an enormous boulder. Keeping to the left hand wall leads to Holbeck Junction.

It is worthwhile getting oriented at Holbeck Junction. In front of you is a hole leading back down to the stream into Thackray's Passage. To the left, a clamber up some muddy boulders leads towards Gypsum Cavern. Straight on, over the climb down, is the upper entrance into Double Decker Passage which is the way through to the Pool Sink and The Borehole entrances.

The route to Easter Grotto follows Thackray's Passage upstream. This is negotiable in all but the very wettest of conditions. The passage leads into a dry ox-bow, and then through a letterbox crawl back into the stream. After a few minutes, start looking for a step-up on the left into what appears to be an oxbow, but is, in fact, the start of the White Way. Following the water leads to a very dangerous boulder choke, from which the water emerges, and should be avoided. The well-decorated White Way leads into the Assembly Hall.

An easy but exposed climb at the top of the slope, leads to a crawl, which after a few metres leads into another chamber. The way into Easter Grotto is to climb up the small buttress on the right of the chamber to a small ledge, and then up the chimney above. From just below the top, a traverse back over the climb leads towards Top Sink and the upstream passages, but the way into Easter Grotto is on and forward.

The route just followed can be reversed, but a more attractive alternative is to return to Holbeck Junction through Gypsum Caverns. Follow a taped route through Easter Grotto, until a low crawl goes off up the left. This leads into a parallel passage. At first this passage is well decorated and has a calcite floor. Once the passage becomes a lot sandier and a lot less calcited, a hole into the floor on the right leads into a low passage which develops into a flat-out crawl over a smooth calcite floor. After 30 metres or so, this debouches a couple of metres up the wall at the end of the beautiful Gypsum Cavern.

Follow Gypsum Cavern back to its start, where a 3 metre climb (normally with handline in place) leads into a short passage, and then into a larger passage. Initially following the right hand wall in this passage over large boulders, takes you quickly back to Holbeck Junction with the route back to Stop Pot off to the right.

Returning to Stop Pot, you have a choice on the route you take to return to the surface.