Caving Guide to the Caves of Leck Fell

Link to CaveMaps surveys

Looking North along Leck Fell Lane to Leck Fell House and Gregareth, Casterton Fell beyond

This part of the site is being developed. A brief outline of some of the major caves, rigging guides and their sumps is found below. Links lead you to more detail, where it is available. 

A spanner icon will bring up the rigging guide. These topos show DMM anchors placed by cavers on behalf of the CNCC in the the caves Leck Fell. A fulll set of rigging guides punlished by the Council of Northern Caving Clubs are available from local caving shops. ( See CNCC rigging website)

If you can contribute to this site with digital photos or other material then email webmaster.

The high Limestone Fells on the north eastern edge of Lancashire geologically and scenically form part of the Askrigg Block in the Yorkshire Dales. Leck Fell, rising to 627m is the highest point in Lancashire. This landscape type is characterised by outstanding limestone scenery which provides important scientific interest and visual appeal.

Access To the Caves on Leck Fell:

Contact Council of Northern Caving Clubs..Hon Sec: Les Sykes

Leck Fell Booking Sec is Jim Sloane. Email to: See CNCC website at Leck Fel Permits

BOXHEAD POT, Leck Fell, Lancashire

Alternative route via a 120 metre entrance shaft into the upstream end of the Lost John's System.

See UK Caving for Rigging and alternative Kendal Flyover route.  link

DEATH'S HEAD HOLE, Leck Fell, Lancashire

Large entrance shaft drops into an old phreatic passage running roughly east to west. Following this to the east, an inlet enters from the left - Dolphin Passage - that ends at a sump. The water emerging here comes from the Long Drop Cave sump about 17m away. The sump has been passed by bailing to allow the through trip to Long Drop Cave.There is also a connection to Big Meanie.

GAVEL POT See link to main pages

Prominent double shakehole in middle of Leck Fell. An important system whose active flooded levels provided the bridge between the Leck Fell and Easegill systems. The fossil levels are associated with the abandoned high level passages in Pippikin Pot. The final pitch at the end of the cave drops into the flooded level, the sump having upstream and downstream continuations.


An extensive system with a popular entrance series of pitches. suitable for training. A series of long but easy passages lead to a sump connection to Notts Pot. See link to Ireby page link above


Stream cave containing five short pitches ends at a downstream sump that sometimes contains a small airspace. The water flows to Dolphin Passage in Death's Head Hole some 17m distant. The sump has been passed by bailing from the Death's Head end to allow the through trip between the two caves.


An extensive and complex cave system that forms a major part of the Three Counties System.From the gate on Leck Fell Lane near the main car park follow stream to twin entrances on either side of wall.

Survey of Lost John's and Notts Pot II

Riging Battleaxe Traverse in Lost John's

Shale Cavern Sump

The water from Shale Cavern leads via sumps of 3.3m, 1m and 2.7m to emerge at the top of the Wet Pitch in the lower series. These sumps are liable to become choked with flood debris.

Main Downstream Sump

A dive of only 15m leads to a junction at a flake belay with the downstream Gavel Pot sump. The Gavel Pot water enters from the left (south east) and it is a further 152m dive to the Gavel Pot sump pool. Downstream to the right is a 765m dive to Pooh's Revenge in Pippikin Pot.

Master Cave Inlet Sumps

Mud Inlet ends at an undived sump after 100m of muddy passage. Another inlet on the left just before the Long Pool also ends at an undived sump. Upstream, Rumbling Hole Inlet leads past five acute bends to a short duck which is the downstream "sump" in Rumbling Hole.


A complicated vertical maze system with a variety of interconnected pitches to a sump followed by a major streamway.

Left Hand Route

Centre Route

Adamson's Route

Latest Survey Lost John's Notts Ireby

Ireby Inlet Sump At the base of the penultimate pitch, a high and narrow rift leads to a sump. This starts as a descent down a 6m deep pot to a 2m diameter tube at the base. A straightforward sump with no real difficulties then gradually ascends to emerge in the Main Downstream Sump pool of Ireby Fell Cavern after 226m. During dry weather this sump has been drained by large scale siphoning operations at the downstream end but no other side passages have been entered.

Main Downstream Sump A fine example of a "hopeless old sump" which was passed after reinvestigation to reveal a major part of the Three Counties System. The easiest route to the downstream sump is possibly via the Centre Route. There are two sump pools, one active and the other static. The main active sump closes down at -6m depth. The main way on lies in the "static sump" to the left of the main sump. Here an arch leads into a frothy sump pool in a rift and this is descended to - 9m depth. This is the deepest point in the sump and the main flow of water enters here from the active sump via some impenetrable fissures. From the bottom of the rift a tube leads off to a sharp right hand bend beyond which an eyehole is passed on the right. The route, sometimes low, then meanders around silt banks and passes through a slot to the right at 80 m from base. Beyond, the passage enlarges and turns left and is followed shortly by a T junction. Left here closes down after 10m but a sharp turn to the right at the junction leads to a rise to -5m depth and a descent to -8m depth over a couple of silt banks. Beyond, the passage levels off for the next 5 m where a final cobble slope, which is prone to slump down and block the passage, marks the gradual ascent to airspace in Notts II after a total dive of 210m.

Far Downstream Sumps The main passage of Notts II, one of the finest streamways in the country, is followed for 1300 m to Sump 2.This is entered via a low cobble-floored bedding and in normal water conditions is a 30 m long shallow sump with an airbell in the middle.

Iron Kiln Hole (Notts II) GR 6667 7831

In high flood the entire downstream passages sump up except parts of the RRCPC and NCC extensions

Based on account in NPC Journal 1987 by Rick Stanton and updated by Andy Walsh and others 20045

Prominent capped shaft in dry valley which leads north-east from the shooting huts on Leck Fell Lane. Gate in wall just uphill of the shooting huts leads via path to the entrance.

Latest Survey Lost John's Notts Ireby

Survey of Notts 11
Entrance Series

A 20 metre climbable shaft using alloy ladders and concrete blocks leads to a small chamber and round the corner to another 20 metre free climbable shaft. This lands in a chamber and over to the right a 10 metre climb down leads to a low section through to a junction. Up the slope is choked but down the rift is a 6 metre zig zag climb, using the traverse line provided, which is especially useful on the return. At the bottom is a narrow passage for a few metres to a narrow 4m climb down leading to larger passage, which breaks out at Mincemeat Aven after 30m. This is some 15m high with a view into a much higher aven to the east. The eastern aven is some 50 meters high to a roof of boulders. Ten meters up is an unentered passage leading back to the western aven.

Another passage to the right beneath the aven leads for 20m to an inlet sump.

Continuing on downstream large passage leads to a left hand bend and a junction. To the right up a sandy slope is Gordon's Inlet the flood bypass connection to Dome Inlet. It is a low dug out crawl with three chambers, one of which contains a formation called Gordon.

Another 50 m of narrow canyon passage (Inlet 13) leads to the mainstream passage, which is joined at a sharp bend. The mainstream is 1300 meters of fine streamway both up and downstream from the point it is joined. This junction is easy to miss on the return downstream!

Main Downstream Passages

In extreme conditions total flooding occurs beyond here

Downstream of the main junction the mainstream becomes wider and less sinuous on its journey to Sump 2. The roof tube is still present but it is impossible to traverse along it. The next inlet (Inlet 14) indicated by an active flowstone cascade 90m downstream, leads to 20 meters of low passage.

A further 65m on again, Gour Inlet (Inlet 15) is on the left above some calcited blocks bridging the passage. Entry is gained by climbing the flowstone cascade below the blocks. A stooping height passage leads for 170m over fragile rimstone pools fed by drips from the roof. The passage ends suddenly at the edge of a drop of 1.5m into a small chamber. An eyehole is followed by further small drops to a fissure in the roof which connects back to a side passage at the head of the drop into the chamber. Shortly beyond, 22 metres from the chamber, the passage sumps. A short free dive leads to a cross-rift airbell and a continuing sump at 2m depth for 10 metres, surfacing at the top of an 18 metre high narrow rift passage. This can be traversed in the roof for over 50 meters to reach a draughting mud choke. The rift has been descended to the base of the above passage for 50 meters and the water has been traced to Inlet 17.

The main streamway narrows again, with Green Tape Inlet (Inlet 16) on the right. The entrance to this is not obvious, but is reached via a slippery climb. 140m of low, wet crawling lead to a dug boulder choke. The way on here involves a short climb, Toby's Aven to NCC Series; a low crawl leads to a sporting downstream passage ending in a choked aven after 70 meters. Another passage leads to a small aven.

Just before the boulder choke on the left are three low passages joining together and leading to a small active streamway, which is inaccessible but drains to the NCC Series. Just before the three low passages is an aven at a sharp left hand bend. This leads to the RRCPC exrtension, some 100 meters of passage to a 15 metre aven, scaled to 150 meters of inlet passages.

Below this point, the streamway cuts down steeply via some small cascades until a final drop of 2m, where it is difficult to avoid the spout of water in wet conditions. At the foot of this cascade is a short, boulder-floored river chamber Kleine Scheidegg. The stream flows away under the right hand wall, and a few metres beyond, entry into a low cobble-floored bedding is possible in low water conditions. After a few metres the stream is regained and the crawl continues for 30m to a left hand bend where the line for sump 2 is belayed in a roof dome where it is possible to sit up. The crawl continues for 10m, passing under two cross-rifts to the start of sump 2.

In very dry conditions sump 2 is 8m long, shallow, and contains an airbell in the middle. The sump is then free diveable, but it should be noted that the line is not belayed in the airbell. However, in normal conditions, the sump is probably nearer to 30m in length. On no account should it be free dived without first being checked by a fully equipped diver. This whole section below Kleine Scheidegg becomes impassable in high water conditions and fills to the roof in flood. Tide marks in the chamber show that the final sumps back up to a depth of up to the roof and flood the downstream passages.

On surfacing from sump 2 the stream continues in a mud-coated phreatic passage for 20m to sump 3. Immediately on the left below sump 2 is an inlet with a significant stream. Inlet 17 may be followed upstream for 80m alternating between stooping and crawling over a muddy floor until a sump is met. A 2m diameter phreatic tube rises on the left 30m upstream from the mainstream junction. A slippery ramp of 30' is climbed to a point requiring combined tactics. Above this the passage continues with a few formations to a balcony overlooking Kleine Scheidegg. The floor is 8m below.

Sump 3 is a dive of 295m in a large (2x3 metre) tube. There is a large airbell after 210m, though the line is not belayed here. An inlet of 1.5m diameter issues from the left wall of the airbell 1.5m above water level (Inlet 18) and is as yet unentered. 30m downstream of this is an underwater inlet on the right, which appears low after 5m.

A cobble slope followed by a rise of 3m up a pot gains the surface of Notts IV. This consists of a block-strewn streamway with a moderate gradient, which gives way after 30m to a silt-floored passage over which the stream meanders for 70m until sump 4 is reached. This is undived, but has been followed for 10m, as far as diminishing airspace in a meandering roof tube allowed. Just before sump 4, a rising phreatic tube on the right ends after 15m at a loose boulder choke.

Main Upstream Passages

The narrow canyon streamway continues upstream and after 130m is a shower of water just before some jammed boulders marks the entry of Showerbath Inlet (Inlet 12). This can be entered by chimneying up before the boulders and stepping across the canyon using rope insitu. A crawl emerges in a high fault-aligned passage with water cascading from an aven. The passage ahead rises steeply over calcited boulders to a solid cobble choke, 100m from the main streamway.

50m further upstream, a climb by a left hand bend leads to Echo Inlet. A squeeze past a stalactite leads to a tight corner where the passage continues but is too tight to follow.

Fine stal column located in Main Streamway at between these two inlets

Back in the canyon, 30m further downstream Sir Digby Spode's Inlet enters on the right. A short climb rigged with a handline leads to 30m of large muddy passage and an aven. The passage continues to the left and lowers to a short crawl ending at the impenetrable Bruno Kranski's Rising Sump, 100m from the mainstream junction. Scallop marks in the floor suggest that a considerable flow rises from this in flood. The aven (Count Lazlo Stroganoff's Aven) has been scaled for 40m past a ledge where 20 metres of low rift passage leads north west to a small tight drop.

Dome Inlet is on the left after another 40 meters. This is reached by a climb up, and 40m of passage leads to a final short, wet crawl, which emerges at a 10m aven, which closes down at the top. Opposite Dome Inlet is Gordon's Outlet, a flood escape route to Inlet 13 and the Notts II (Iron Kiln) Entrance. A rope is in place at present.

From here it is only another 50 meters in a lm wide canyon to the nick point passing beneath a bridge of jammed boulders (The Tay Bridge) and ascending more steeply. Alternatively, the roof tube may be traversed, sometimes on ledges, sometimes by straddling the canyon and this passes a fine 4m column

At the Nick Point is a rope climb up an 8 metre sandy slope to a dug passage to Estonia Chamber with a fine flowstone cascade.

Above the Nick Point, the streamway becomes wider and block-strewn, with the largest passage cross-section found in the extension, measuring five by eight metres.

A short distance upstream of the Nick Point is Inlet 8, merely a choked alcove above a cracked mud slope on the left.

Just beyond here on the left is Inlet 7 is a low muddy passage leading to a junction after 50m. To the right is a low cobble crawl eventually emerging after about 50m at a muddy aven and a bailable sump. This leads to Curry Outlet, a low wet passage for 50 meters to a choked aven and low downstream passage near to end of Curry Inlet. To the left quickly opens out into the impressive Oliver Lloyd Aven,.see link to photo from top.

This is 35m high with two waterfalls, the more active one has been climbed to a rift passage which leads to a junction after 30m to a junction, left is "The Pleasures of the Palm" while right is an inlet passage, "On the Other Hand". From the junction both passages are currently about 150m long, "Pleasures of the Palm" heads towards Lost Johns Cave and drops back down to almost stream level, including a 10m pitch. The way on is choked below the pitch.

"On the Other Hand" leads after 60m to an Aven "Toss Up Aven", which is too tight at the top, the stream continues for 30m before it reaches another junction, right is a blasted passage "A Little Light Relief" while left continues for another 10m before becoming too low. "A Little Light Relief" leads to an Aven "Heavenly Joys Aven" which has been scaled for 7m to an inlet passage "On the Upper Hand" which currently ends too tight after 19m and about 35m below the surface. Link to series of photos by Simon Jobling on this area.

Just beyond Inlet 7 is a large phreatic roof dome. 100m later, a sharp left hand bend below a roof dome is the next landmark. Scaling this reached Inlet 6.5, which is little more than an alcove.

The main stream, flows past a solitary stalactite: Vlad the Impaler and Curry Inlet is soon reached

Curry Inlet (Inlet 6) enters from the left. The first section is followed easily and contains many formations. At one point a calcite floor forces one to crawl in the stream to the left. After 80m the passage becomes lower, at which point the main tube has been dug for a further 15metres to a chamber. The water emerges from a low crawl over boulders to the left, which can be followed for 60m to an inlet sump. This has been dived for 20m to 40m of low passage to a tiny sump. The water seems to be from Passchendale Streamway.

The main bore continues upstream to Inlet 5 and contains various sections, which must be waded. Some formations are also seen in the roof.

The next inlet (Inlet 5) is situated on the right at a pool 180m from the Notts I Sump. The water can be followed up, in a stooping height passage with formations, for 190m to where it emerges from a sump. A crawl to the right emerges in a chamber where a climb of 3m on the far side enters a well-decorated passage with many straws and helictites. A flat out section in a pool and a further well-decorated crawling passage lead to a chamber, 45m from the sump, with four ways radiating off. All close down except for the down slope continuation, which is muddy and unpleasant and picks up a small stream. This lasts for 125m to a low section in liquid mud where the passage becomes too tight and requires further digging. A streamway can be heard beyond the mud blockage. Much digging has been done here but the survey suggests a connection to the low sumped inlet off Inlet 13 near Mincemeat Aven and only one hundred metres away

Up the mainstream leads past two tubes on the right (Inlets 3 and 4), which very quickly choke.

In the mainstream, a canal starts 60m from the sump at a left hand bend and is 40m long. In two places, where the passage turns left, it is necessary to swim. At the downstream end of the canal, many boulders on the passage floor mark the presence of the wet and loose Daylight Aven, just off to the right. Opposite this, a calcite slope leads up to a calcite cascade and a further view up the aven.

A series of passages, termed the Near Inlet Series (or 14-18 Series), can be entered at three places. A tube (Inlet 1) rising to the right immediately before the sump leads to a junction beneath a stalactite curtain. Slightly left leads to a small boulder floored chamber with a wet aven, climbed for 8m to a choke. Water entering through the boulders flows away under the left wall. To the right at the stalactite curtain, a hands and knees crawl in a tubular, mud-floored passage enters Inlet 0. To the right, a descent of a muddy ramp regains the sump whilst to the left, walking sized, ascending, muddy passage continues to Prosector Pot, passing a crawl on the left. A traverse line (cows tails needed) across the pot gains Moribund Inlet, which leads via a short dig to a boulder choke. At the bottom of the pot is an impenetrable sump. Just before the Pot is a low crawl - Trick or Treat Passage &endash; to an upward unstable dig after 25 meters.

The crawl to the left is through glutinous mud and eventually joins a streamway (Passchendaele). Going right (upstream) the passage gradually lowers to a tight sump. Downstream, the way on continues very low. However, a crawl can be entered on the left just before the stream disappears. This crawl continues to a junction with a stream. Right regains the main streamway, entering as Inlet 2; while going left enters a crawl, dug through boulders, into a small chamber. The water entering this area is believed to come from the chamber in Inlet 1. Passchendaele provides, despite its name, a pleasant loop bypass, avoiding the short canal in the main streamway via a short traverse at the start of the same.

Upstream in Passchendaele leads to Poppy Passage. The passage is low and wet with several ducks, one The Pincers, is rather tricky. Beyond is 100 meters of walking passage to a junction and three ways on. The main one rises 30 meters up a large rift to a narrow section, which is being dug.


A vertical system linking to Lost John's and the rest of the Three Counties system.

The downstream "sump" is a waterlogged fissure with a diminishing airspace. This has been passed via a short duck to a body-sized canal that leads past five acute bends before emerging in the Rumbling Hole Inlet of Lost John's Cave. An inlet upstream of the terminal sump ends at an undived bedding plane sump.


Stream cave forming the main inlet to Gavel Pot contains two sumps.

Downstream Sump

The stream sinks into a bouldery sump just before the climb out into the Gavel Pot shakehole in the final chamber. The water next appears below the dig into the main Gavel extensions. The sump has been dived to -5m depth and is choked.

Breakdown Inlet Sump

Water emerges from a choked sump and is probably a small misfit stream invading an old fossil route.


SD 6708 7862

Alt 351m Depth 60mLength 60m

Recently Excavated by Craven Pothole Club. See Survey

Located just over the wall and to the East of Lost John's Cave. A large open rock walled pot with dry stone walling to one side of shaft. A 14m climb down leads to an excavated crawl to a 6m pitch into a small chamber. High narrow canyon passage leads on from here to the top of a 5m pitch. Below this a small steeply descending canyon leads quickly to a 4m climb followed by a 6m pitch into a larger chamber. Crawl forward leads to top of fine, large 14m shaft. The way on at the bottom is via another low crawl - work continues!


SD 6691 7862

Alt 351m

The hole is, located in the roadside verge, between the main Leck Fell car park near Lost John's and the lower gate near the shooting huts car park It is on the east side of the road and is a scaffolded entrance shaft covered  by a manhole cover.

Starting Handle Hole was first dug by the Happy Wanderers in 1970's. They took the entrance down to about 5m deep and then backfilled it.  The discovery of a car starting handle in the spoil gave the hole it's name.

Information based on report from NIgel Robertson

The Leck Fell Digging Cooperative started work there in about 1992.  The entrance pitch is 10m deep and bells out towards the bottom.  The manhole cover is not there to lock it (twist it the right way and it will open) but to stop sheep/people falling down. At the bottom, a bedding plane crawl leads shortly to a 5m drop (Bonsai pitch - for it's size and the beautiful and miniature stalagmite at the top in the shape of a bonsai tree) and then a scramble down the side of an inclined rift to end up on a heap of rubble. Climb down leftwards over the shoring to a blasted hole along the rift which leads directly onto Clunk pitch.  This pitch can be awkward to get onto until you know where to put your feet but it is narrow enough to let you get yourself jammed in and realigned from a horizontal to a vertical position.  (The first anchor is in the blasted tube.)  Clunk pitch is 15m and the exit is a downward corkscrew passage which has been slightly enlarged.  An awkward 3m climb down is at the end and the 22m Bucket pitch follows immediately.  (The 'bucket' about 1/2 way down the pitch has been more or less filled with spoil.)

At the bottom of the pitch, a low horizontal passage is intersected and you can go left or right.  To the left are the remnants of a dam.  Over this, the mud floor starts to shelf downwards towards a corner.  At the corner, manoeuvre around the chockstone and you are now in a narrow (2 ft) rift passage with about 0.5m airspace and water more than 2m deep.  Jam your way along and round 2 or 3 corners as the passage follows the joint pattern.  After 30m or so the rift suddenly narrows in to about 0.2m wide.  A significant widening is thought to exist about 5m along this!

Back at the bottom of Bucket pitch, a right turn originally took you into a tight flat out crawl over sticky mud. This has been enlarged to a hands and knees crawl.  At the end of the passage, the roof had started to dip down and another vertical rift was met.  The passageway appeared to descend here quite steeply but digging had become much harder with water ponding and the decreased headroom.

The dig was abandoned in late 1994. Although the horizontal passage at the bottom has no active stream, dribbles here and there had slowly filled the dam up. The survey suggests that it is heading into Lyle Caverns area of Lost John's and since it was being dug for a way into Nott's II that also helped interest to wane.

At the top of Clunk pitch, it is possible to traverse forward over the head of the pitch and then climb up into a small chamber.  A short climb here was scaled into a too tight bedding plane and this is thought the be part of the bedding that forms the bottom of the entrance pitch.

R.R.C.P.C. 2013