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January 1988 Top Sink - Pipikin

Easegill Top Sink - Pipikin is one of the hardest trips you can do in Yorkshire caves.

There is a maze of passages with route finding problems, a lot of pitches, including two

big ones (Maple Leaf and Echo Aven), some interesting climbs and three tight vertical

squeezes towards the end.

Paul Andrews says: "This was an epic trip. There was a blizzard the day before, which made it

very difficult to drive the car up the fell. When we set out in the morning, the snow was more

than a foot deep in places. There is an opportunity to break the trip and exit the cave at Link Pot,

which is about half way. Some of us had to wait several hours under this pitch. As we waited,

we noticed puddles forming on parts of the cave floor where there had been no water before.

When the rest of the party arrived, we set off along "The Wallows" - a long crawl which can flood

to the roof in very wet conditions. We then entered the dry series of big caverns within the Pipikin system.

At the end of this, you enter a series of narrow passages with a stream. The water in these is

usually only a few inches deep, but when we got there, there was a torrent over a foot deep,

which made the going very tough. When we finally exited Pipikin, we looked round in great surprise

and consternation. Where was the snow? We had been underground for some thirteen hours, and

during that time, the foot deep snow had suddenly thawed. If we had been in the "Wallows" just a

little later we would have been in some difficulty. It's the closest I've ever come to drowning!"

This is Bill Quinton's account:



Saturday, the twenty third day of January, dawned grey and cold, with the wind lashing further snow onto the already mantled land. At half past nine Andrews stumbled in with tales of heroic deeds in the white fury, and at ten o'clock all hope was abandoned of Simpson.


Therefore, only six trudged out into the blizzard to catch the occasional mournful howl of a lone wolf above the tree line. With many fearful glances over shoulders the company finally reached the dubious sanctuary of Top Sink, and ventured underground.


Walrus Pot was soon encountered and Andrews donned the necessary equipment to essay its depths. After a careful investigation he reascended to enlighten those above that the rope was some three fathoms short. A further length was produced and attached, and all descended safely, some suffering more than others under that dreadful deluge.


The convolutions of Pi R2 Passage successfully negotiated, Penknife Pitch provided little impediment to their progress. Bradshaw's Passage was swiftly despatched,while the accounts of previous explorations led to an unhindered traverse of Limerick Junction.


At a quarter to one refreshments were consumed in Nagasaki Cavern, and clothing was adjusted for the forthcoming desiccated regions, Quinton causing acute embarrassment to the remainder of the party by partially disrobing while still in view. The medicalkit having been broken open and sal ammoniac administered to the frailer members,the travellers were at last able to continue to the portals of Easter Grotto.


A debate into the merits and demerits of the various routes on from this point was settled by the aforementioned Quinton as he plunged down through a series of small chambers with cries of: "Water! Water!" Lest their guide be forever lost to them, the remainder followed swiftly, and all were reunited in Thackray's Passage.


Holbeck Junction was skirted around, and an alternative route discovered to Stop Pot, which was reached at a quarter to two. While four of the party partook of further comestibles, Quinton and Bold explored the way to Wretched Rabbit Passage for the morrow. On returning, lamps were recharged and checked, and the iron ladder ascended into the ramifications of Montague East.


Monster Cavern, Snail Cavern, The Minarets; Oakes Cavern and Oxbow Cavern

remained as little more than fleeting memories as they hurried on deeper into the labyrinth. However, Oakes Cavern nearly saw the undoing of Bold, as his new footwear betrayed him on a particularly treacherous pass and he plunged helplessly onto a thrusting prow of rock. The party rushed to his assistance, but with a snarl and a curse he dismissed their ministrations to his indestructible frame, and the journey was resumed anew - though Bold deigned to affect a limp thereafter.


The great chasms of Scylla and Charybdis were soon descried, and, summoning up their courage, the explorers tentatively ventured forth to make the crossing. But the dangers so vividly described by Eyre and Ashmead were found to be almost illusory, as secure placements for feet and hands were there in abundance. The wonders of Painters Palette and Bob's Boss were subsequently admired, and, with the roar of water at Stake Pot coming steadily closer the travellers were soon at the commencement of the Earby Series.


Fatigue was now becoming apparent, and Jensen insisted on sufficient delay in order to indulge in his obnoxious addiction. While he engaged in his unspeak­able rites, in which he succeeded in inveigling Bold, the others removed themselves to a respectable distance and contemplated the challenges to come.


At a quarter past three all were able to continue, and the vastness of Montague East was abandoned for the intimacy of Barlick New Road, Canuck Climb, Brew Chamber,Dribble Climb, and Long Gallery. A further halt ensued while Bold prepared the descent of Maple Leaf, and the sight of the rope vanishing into the void produced visible dismay on the faces of some of those assembled.


Quinton gallantly undertook the initial descent into the darkness, and struggled manfully in the confines of that perilous cleft before succeeding in breeching its defences. Andrews followed swiftly, and the two briefly saluted each other before Quinton departed to blaze a trail for the others to follow.


Wilding and Menz successfully reached the bottom of the pit, but Jensen became fast in the grip of the rock, and was only freed by the heroic manoeuvres of Bold to impart the necessary impetus to the unfortunate Jensen.


Meanwhile, Quinton proceeded through Wormway to Echo Aven and ascended that

obstacle forthwith. Cached supplies in Hilton Hall were uncovered, and preparations begun to provide a simple but welcome repast for the rest of the party upon their arrival. Icy blasts from the chimney to the surface were making their presence felt when Andrews and Wilding arrived some three quarters of an hour later with tales of troubles at Maple Leaf and Echo Aven. As more time passed all three became concerned;therefore, after a further hour Wilding and Quinton began to retrace their steps.They were overjoyed to encounter the remaining three just approaching Hilton Hall.


Over the consumption of the aliment so graciously provided by Quinton's good lady wife, a council of war debated the redeployment of forces. It being half past seven,and pronouncing themselves well satisfied with their efforts, Menz and Jensen elected to return to basecamp via the shorter route of Link Pot. The other four reaffirmed their intention to complete the planned course, and, confident of their abilities,departed for the Wallows.


They were disconcerted to encounter a greater volume of water than had the

reconnaissance party of the previous day, but pressed on amidst echoing shouts to the sluggard. But these aqueous trials were soon behind them as the dusty halls of Pippikin Pot were entered. Little sound was heard as the pliable clay cushioned every step, and the travellers passed noiselessly on to the merry tinkling of Ratbag Inlet.


Uplifted by its joyous tune, the party skipped gaily on towards their destiny.But nought lasts forever, and the friendly stream had soon to be deserted for a more noisome torrent that might have issued from Hell itself. Dark and sombre it ran, draining the very essence from the lamps of the brave explorers. Shivering, they moved carefully forward to the foot of the first of the ascents. Bold now sprang forth, and with one bound he was at the top. Taking courage from his example, Wilding and Andrews scaled the precipice with aplomb, and Quinton followed scant moments



While Bold and Wilding continued forward, the remaining duo lovingly coiled the trusty rope and deposited it in the waiting knapsack. Shouldering the burden,they followed the vanguard high up through a narrow ravine, scarce daring to look down into that awful chasm. The party was reunited at Sling Climb, where Quinton was induced to make the first attempt. He manfully gained the summit of  that impediment to the encouraging shouts of his companions. They in turn made the passage, though not without incident, for the slight frame of Wilding slipped helplessly into a cleft that had excluded the others, and only re-emerged after considerable exertion.


Another fearsome cataract soon confronted the explorers, and at first they were discouraged, for no sign of a method of ascent could be discerned. But,braving the elements, the fearless Bold plunged into the maelstrom to resurface triumphantly holding the end of a rope. Endeavouring to repeat his victory at the first ascent he sprang up the silvery strand, but the torrent beat him back,and he fell exhausted into the arms of his friends. By more cunning means they completed the ascent, but twice more Bold attempted the passage by strength of arms, before acknowledging defeat and ascending by the methods of his compatriots.


At last the foul and malevolent flood could be deserted, as the travellers entered a tiny vestibule beckoning them on into the heart of the living rock. There they came upon another rope leading up into the now friendly darkness - at last,Equipment Loop Pitch was at hand.


This time there were no terrors for Bold, and with growing excitement the

travellers scaled the cliff, catching the first hint of damp night air wafted in on the wind. Stemple Traverse and the Fifty soon fell to their determination,and fatigue was banished as the ensuing squeezes were put behind them. Another rope ascent, another squeeze, and the sound of falling water could again be distinguished,mixed with the scent of moist air and foliage. The Bold explorer ventured forth to pronounce the watercourse beyond Cellar Pot as flowing but passable, and with great relief the four companions pressed on to its conclusion. There they donned their esoteric equipment for the final impediment - a scaling of the final wall,baptised in a gentle shower of pellucid liquid.


A last effort, and, just after midnight, all were out onto a wild moor swept with driving rain. But even this could not dampen soaring hearts, as hands were clasped and backs slapped in mutual congratulation. Then, after a short speech of thanks and praise, Bold led the jubilant company back to basecamp and to the approbation of the populace.