The rescue was the most complex undertaken by the team for some years. Photo: UWFRA

The rescue was the most complex undertaken by the team for some years. Photo: UWFRA

Rescuers have released more details about a major operation to save five cavers trapped below ground in the Yorkshire Dales at the weekend.

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association said the incident was the largest and most complex caving rescue it had been involved in for some years.

The team said the five cavers entered the Providence Pot-Dow Cave system on the slopes of Great Whernside near Kettlewell on Saturday morning, intending to be back above ground by the evening.

The alarm was raised when they failed to emerge and North Yorkshire Police called out the volunteer team, which covers both the hills and the caves of the eastern part of the Dales, at 9.30pm.

A UWFRA spokesperson said: “A large volume of very cold snow meltwater was entering the system and there were real concerns for the safety of the cavers in such cold conditions. Teams entered the cave from both Providence Pot and Dow Cave, intending to search the whole system.

“However, the flooded Dow Cave was impenetrable.

“The cavers were located at 6am by a team of four UWFRA rescuers. The intention was to exit the cave with them via Dow Cave and a further attempt was made to safely access this end of the system.

Rescuers at work underground during the rescue. Photo: UWFRA

Rescuers at work underground during the rescue. Photo: UWFRA

“It became clear that water levels were so high that the only way out was a return trip back to Providence Pot. Cave rescuers from our neighbouring team, the Cave Rescue Organisation were asked to assist UWFRA who had been involved through the night and they were supplemented by cavers from Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation and other cavers from Derbyshire who were staying nearby.”

The spokesperson said because of the serious risk of severe hypothermia for the cavers, who had been trapped in the system for 26 hours, Yorkshire Ambulance Service was asked to prepare to manage simultaneously five casualties.

“Fortunately, a testament to the resilience of the cavers involved, there was little need for medical attention and the cavers were able to exit the cave, with assistance from their rescuers on the afternoon of Sunday 11 March – 26 hours underground in hostile, cold conditions.

“The cavers and their rescuers were given blankets, warm food and drink by [North] Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and were driven to hospital, but they were not detained and were discharged later that day.

'Relief at such a good outcome'. Photo: UWFRA

'Relief at such a good outcome'. Photo: UWFRA

“UWFRA wishes to thank all our supporters, particularly the local people of Kettlewell for all they did yesterday. We want to express our tribute to the cavers themselves and their Derbyshire caving colleagues who leapt in to help.

“Mother’s Day was spoilt for a few but probably compensated for by the relief at such a good outcome, for the caver’s families.”

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