CRO wondered whether the cavers should be issued with a loyalty card. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

CRO wondered whether the cavers should be issued with a loyalty card. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Four cavers were rescued after spending more than 24 hours underground when rising water trapped them in a Dales system.

Rescuers said the fact the group was carrying emergency equipment probably helped save their lives.

The team was called out when the university caving club members failed to emerge from the Large Pot and Rift Pot system on the south-west edge of the Yorkshire Dales national park.

The Cave Rescue Organisation responded initially to the site, north-east of the hamlet of Masongill, shortly before 10pm on Saturday.

The four men were taking part in an exchange trip in the caves, with two entering from each direction and crossing over. They began their underground venture as heavy rain swept the area and colleagues were concerned they had been in the cave for almost nine hours in a trip that should have taken three or four hours.

A CRO spokesperson said: “With heavy rain during the afternoon, when Masongill Fell Lane was cut off from the settlement, their club-mates, on the surface, had been concerned for their safety.

“CRO controllers made a surface reconnaissance, then escalated this to caving members’ investigations in both ends of the exchange route. Limited by what the floodwater allowed without excessive personal risk, team members were unable to see or hear anything of the ‘missing’ cavers.

“Two team members remained for the rest of the night, acting as a picket, in case the cavers found their own way out as the flooding declined slightly.”

At 8am the search resumed, with CRO members being joined by colleagues from Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team and Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation.

The spokesperson said: “With water levels decreasing a little more, [rescuers] entered Large Pot and were able to bottom it and move towards Rift Pot. Just before noon, all four ‘missing’ cavers were found ‘safe and well, but cold’ in Necropolis, along the main through route.

“Their survival, in good condition, may be attributable to the emergency kit – including a group shelter – they had taken with them. To the pleasant surprise of their rescuers, they were able to make progress, mostly unaided, the last one emerging from Rift Pot a little over 26 hours after going in.”

The CRO revealed that two of the cavers had been in a group rescued previously from the Gaping Gill system. The 22-year-olds were trapped in December after retreating in the face of rising water and finding the route had been derigged.

The spokesperson said: “We’re not sure whether we should be issuing CRO loyalty cards. We hope not.

“As with all cave rescues, we rely on a lot of (wo)man power and are hugely grateful to every team member from CRO, SMRT, DCRO & UWFRA for stepping up to the mark, and in this situation, working in some very tough conditions – thank you.

“As a result of your phenomenal achievements, the four people who entered that cave system walked out of it.”

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