Quirky flash floods caught out cavers in a system where two people died last year.
Long Churn Cave, Ribblesdale
Extremely localised heavy thunderstorms on Ingleborough, in the Yorkshire Dales, led to a sudden rise in water levels in Long Churn Cave, near Selside, on Sunday. While most of the Dales basked in warm sunshine, 40 minutes’ worth of torrential rain and hail on the fell caused becks to turn from a trickle to a torrent and a party of potholers was trapped in the underground system.
Nine people, including a caving instructor with a group of adults and children, made their way to a higher, drier area of the cave as water levels rose. Members of the Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation were called out when it was realised the party was overdue.
John Beavan, duty controller for the incident, said: “The Long Churn incident involved about 30 CRO members, some of whom, arriving in dry and sunny Selside, had to see the water levels to believe that flooding had taken place.”
The rescuers waited until water levels in the cave dropped, before escorting the trapped party, from northern Lancashire and southern Cumbria, to the surface.
Mr Beavan said: “The flood pulse that descended from the Ingleborough basin and into the Long Churn cave system was exceptional. The well equipped group did exactly the right thing in staying in a comparatively dry section of the cave until they were found by our underground team.”
The rescue followed an earlier incident in which a group of walkers from the York area was caught out on Ingleborough’s summit in the thunderstorm with only a picnic blanket for shelter.
They were escorted down the steep path from the fell’s Swine Tail to near Mere Gill, where the CRO’s Land Rover was used to take them back down to the road at Chapel-le-Dale.
Mr Beavan warned: “Conditions on Sunday proved how quickly the weather can change in the Dales. Waterproofs should always be carried – just in case.
“Expect the unexpected!”
In December last year, Caroline Fletcher of Keighley and Stuart Goodwill of Darlington died in flooded Long Churn Cave.