It may have lost its title as the king of the caves, but Gaping Gill is still a remarkable spectacle.
The massive main chamber of the limestone cavern is normally the preserve of potholers, but this weekend, mortals who never otherwise have the chance to venture underground can take a trip into the subterranean wonderworld.
Left: Gaping Gill's main chamber
Bradford Pothole Club has its annual winch meet from next Saturday, when you can fork out £9 to descend the 105m to the floor of the cavern, on the slopes of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales.
The club has been holding its winch meet for more than 50 years and hundreds of ordinary walkers make the descent each year. Organisers say it pays to get there early: if you arrive at Gaping Gill later than noon, you may not get the chance to go down.
Winching starts at 8am and continues to around 6pm, which gives the cavers time to get visitors back up to the surface. Gaping Gill is best accessed from Clapham via the Clapdale estate, for which a small additional charge is payable. There are other routes avoiding Clapdale, including Long Lane, which runs parallel to the Clapdale path a short distance to the East.
If you’re thinking of going down Gaping Gill, you should wear suitable clothes and footwear.
Organisers say this means the sort of clothes and boots that you would wear for walking in the Dales on a cold, wet day
The Bradford Pothole Club says: “The ride in the bosun's chair takes about a minute each way, and you pass close to a waterfall halfway down, which is like being out in a light shower of rain.
“After spending a while looking round the main chamber, it can get a bit chilly, and if there is a queue to get out, it can be a cold wait. A helmet must be worn at all times. A torch can be useful, but the main chamber is floodlit, and visitors are advised not to set off exploring the many miles of passage unless they have the appropriate level of caving experience.
“The minimum age limit is six, and parents must accompany and take responsibility for children.
Helmets can be borrowed from us at the site, and a limited number of waterproof suits are available for loan included in the price.”
Last November, grough reported that Titan, in the Peak District, had stolen Gaping Gill’s thunder as Britain’s biggest cave.
Its 140m (459ft) main shaft could accommodate the London Eye, wheras Gaping Gill is a mere St Paul’s Cathedral’s height. However, caver Dave Nixon whose team discovered Titan, says it’s not a place for the non-caving public. He says there are no plans to organise winch meets at the site. He said: “It’s too dangerous for that. The entrance is on private land and it’s very much a place for experienced cavers only.”
Bradford Pothole Club