Dowber Gill Passage route guide

Dow Cave: NGR SD 9837 7430 alt. 334 m ODN

Providence Pot NGR SD 9921 7289 alt. 401 m ODN

For Dow Cave and Providence Pot see separate notes. The guide here is from Stalagmite Corner to Dow Cave, following the line of the survey parts 1 to 4 below. All guide notes are from Patrick Warren.

Dowber Gill Passage: Part 1

Dowber Gill Passage: Part 2

Stalagmite Corner to 800 yards Chamber: survey line Parts 1 & 2: by Patrick Warren

Downstream from Stalagmite Corner, easy caving for 100m keeping right (the stream flows into undercuts on the left) leads to Skittle Chamber, with its obvious array of stumpy stalagmites. From here follow the water around various large boulder obstacles until eventually one is forced to take a small window (left). Traverse over the drop and ignore the inviting gaps on the right to reach the end of this passage after 15m, where a window (to the right) pops out into the start of a much larger passage. This was the original connection point (21st May, 1955) and marks the far upstream end of Bridge Cavern (a series of elongated, spacious chambers).

Clambering over and around large blocks and eventually reach a stooping ledge at mid-height on the left which ends at a loose choke. The way on is a 4m climb up through a smallish hole. Take care to keep to the right here and be aware that some of the large boulders are still loose!

Past this, follow the large passage and bear left to climb down a 3m drop on the left, then continue on and down to a trench to water. This point is also marked by red paint on the right hand wall. More boulder-strewn passage follows take care not to traverse out onto a false floor of jammed boulders. At the far end one emerges underneath the Bridge itself a impressive arch of large jammed boulders. Just past the Bridge the boulders end and one is forced to drop into the streamway in the narrowing rift.

A 100m of mixed wading and traversing leads eventually to an awkward squeeze around a large block, followed in 30m or so by a small oxbow after some peculiar rock 'fins'. After a similar distance (30m) the route at stream level becomes very small back up a few metres and make an ascending traverse to a small chamber where an obvious hole between boulders drops back toward stream level.

A high-level traverse can be gained from this point which can be followed to high above 800 yds chamber. Some 20m of smaller passage at stream level is followed by a step left, and another 20m of small passage to emerge into 800 yds Chamber. Uniquely for Dowbergill Passage, this has the appearance of a cross-rift, and slopes up to a small dig on the right hand side (facing downstream). Straight on the streamway continues as a tall thin rift passage leading onwards.

The next part is undoubtedly the most complicated part of the route finding exercise, largely because one can quite easily lose track of position, horizontally and vertically!

Dowber Gill Passage: Part 3

Dowber Gill Passage: Part 4


800 Yards Chamber to Dow Cave: survey line Parts 3 & 4: by Patrick Warren

From 800 yds Chamber, one can drop right down to stream level and force a way past some narrow sections (squeezes at stream level), over a boulder ruckle and more narrow streamway to a widening in a boulder-floored rift where a knotted rope disappears up into the roof at the far end this joins the route below. Easier but with trickier navigation: from 800 yds chamber step across into the ongoing rift, and after a few metres reverse direction and climb back up 3-4 m, to reach a wider section where reversing direction again, some small jammed cobbles (apparently placed) in the ongoing rift signal the way forwards (ie downstream). These peter out after a while when one enters an enlargement. Of the various ways on from here, going forwards and down leads to a slippery and rather strenuous rift section above the narrow streamway which eventually relents before reaching a greasy and awkward traverse protected by a traverse line. After a similar distance a rope climb down joins the stream route to reach the boulder-floored rift where the knotted rope disappears up into the roof at the far end.

From the boulder-floored rift with a knotted rope (upwards): either ignore the knotted rope and go forwards to find a tight, obscure squeeze up past a fallen slab, or (easier) climb the first section of knotted rope to a small platform where an obscure but well-worn tubular feet-first squeeze leads to the same point. Where these join, there is very soon an awkward 2m rope climb down, into what is probably Brew Chamber (there is much confusion where this actually was). From this point one can drop back to stream (the true Narrows, best avoided!) but the better route consists of easy but slippery traversing to a climb up over blocks. On top of the climb, crawl forward, then drop back down the far side. This reaches a continuation of the same traverse line, however from this point on one can now drop into the stream anywhere that seems feasible since the passage at water level 'goes'. The streamway is very narrow at first but widens at a point where an SRT rope hangs out of the roof.

From the boulder-floored rift, the knotted rope can be ascended rather strenuously, to reach comfortable dry, dusty passage at the top of the main rift above all the difficulties below. Going forwards leads past some enlargements to a hole at floor level which almost immediately opens out onto a rigged pitch-head (Y-hang) which is the top of the rope hanging out of the roof at the far end of the Narrows. This can be descended hand-over-hand, but beware it is about 20m and the rift opens out before reaching water level.

After the SRT rope and proceeding at water level, the stream initially runs on gravel and rocks, and the initially narrow rift widens allowing rapid progress to be made. Abruptly though, the rift ends, the water takes an unseen submerged route, and the way on is to step left through the large Rock Window into a continuation of the passage. This is the only feature of its kind after 800 yds Chamber and is a key navigational aid. From the Rock Window, the water starts to deepen necessitating wading, with blocks in a couple of places forcing one to climb over (or duck under). Eventually one reaches an enlargement in the rift with more fallen blocks, and rope climb (up) - this signals the ascent into the start of Gypsum Traverse. An alternative to the rope climb is to reverse direction and make an ascending traverse above the water, to reach a wider part with comfortable ledges (the continuation of Gypsum Traverse). Turn around again and carefully cross over the enlargement in the rift to reach the top of the rope climb and the start of Gypsum Traverse. Having gained Gypsum Traverse by some means, continue at the same level until a rope climb down into a further enlargement leads to a step over a hole down to water. Ascend again (more fixed aid) and continue at the same level as before until one reaches another rope descent. This is the end of Gypsum Traverse.

The rope descent can be made hand-over-hand but beware that the rift bells out significantly below, and the final part of the descent can be rather uncontrolled. One reaches a wide rift, with water at knee-depth. Alternatively, ignore the rope at the start of Gypsum Traverse and continue at water level where air space becomes uncomfortably small although there is plenty of room below water level. At some point one passes underneath the hole which is the bold step above (it is very difficult to get out of the water at this point!). More rift with even less air space follows, until finally one is brought up short by a large fallen slab blocking the passage. There is a slot on the left hand side where small items (traditionally carbide lamps) can be handed through to be kept dry, but the unfortunate explorer is forced to make a 0.5m submerged duck. Just after this one meets the rope descending from the downstream end of Gypsum Traverse. Once back at water level at the far end of Gypsum Traverse, the route finding is simple. The rift narrows and one has to climb past some blocks (or, these can be passed by near-ducks) to a further enlargement with a magnificent flowstone cascade the Buddhist's Temple. Again this is a significant navigational aid since it is the only feature of its kind in Dowbergill Passage. Pass under the flowstone on the left hand side into a nice section of wading in a gothic passage with some fine but white straws and helictites in the roof. The passage lowers and becomes hands-and-knees briefly before emerging up a sloping keyhole into Dow Cave. Follow the main stream out to surface, as per the Dow Cave description.

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Any shortcomings in the text are entirely my own.
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