Not bad for a sh*thole!
Updated: Jun 4, 2021
Ever since my early twenties I’ve had a ‘target list’ for the year. I’ve never let a year pass me by without aiming to achieve several very cool things.
One such mission has been on my ‘target list’ for over 15 years, rolling over to the next year each time.
Keld Head is an iconic cave dive, which yielded the longest cave diving traverse in the world in 1979, conducted by Geoff Yeadon and Oliver 'Bear' Statham - a notorious duo who were also responsible for discovering several of my favourite cave diving haunts, such as Wookey Hole chamber 24 and Boreham Cave.
Owing to a myriad of excuses - and I admit to have almost given up on the weather - I had never dived there. Yorkshire is a long way from my home, access to Keld had been difficult and it needed to stop raining for weeks on end. I simply found other things to do, but it never went away.
The world record traverse was eventually superseded by a dive in Florida, USA between Sullivan to Cheryl Sink, which forms part of the Wakulla Springs system.
The two systems are polar opposites in terms of atmosphere, geology and the style needed to tackle them.
I've been fortunate enough to stick my beak into both caves now. I adored Keld Head and it felt homely and familiar.
Wakulla scared the living daylights out of me - it's just a big, black hurricane and I was more than happy to mooch about in the head pool photographing manatees than go much of a distance in.
Horses for courses I guess. Olivier Isler, a record breaking cave diver himself, once said of UK caves:
"I know in England the caves are very small, the water is very cold, and you cannot see anything. Those are very difficult & dangerous conditions.”
To achieve a world record in a British cave is not to be sniffed at.
'The Underground Eiger' documenting the worlds longest cave diving traverse in 1979.
Access to Keld was fraught for many years, including those when I began cave diving and I never thought that things would change during my cave diving lifetime.
They did, a little, and members of the Cave Diving Group began to have tentative access again.
But that wasn’t the only problem. For most caves in the peat-ridden Yorkshire Dales to be diveable, it needs to stop raining. That’s a hoot in itself, but it doesn’t stop there.
It needs to stop raining for at least 3 weeks. Cave explorer Geoff Yeadon, responsible for both the discoveries and the record breaking first traverses from Kingsdale Master Cave and King Pot through to Keld Head, told me dryly that it was more like 3 months bone dry weather before conditions were tip top.
Given the warmer, wetter weather us humans have caused by global warming, my generation can probably shelve ‘tip top conditions’ for a while.
The longest dive, following Geoff Yeadon and Geoff Crossley as they connected
King Pot to Keld Head.
Given the fast changing nature of pretty much everything thanks to Covid-19, I decided to pack my life into my Spacetourer and drive to Scotland to work on the DSV Boka Atlantis. I also threw in my sidemount cave diving kit…just in case!
It would be a shame to drive home past Yorkshire just as Keld Head was in condition - sans diving gear!
I disembarked the vessel and stopped off at my friend and fellow dive medic Danny’s house.
We jumped into St Abbs for a cheeky shore dive before it occurred to me to drop a message to Geoff Crossley, asking if on the off chance, Keld was diveable.
Christine and Danny Wright, diving at St Abbs post 3rd lockdown.
It was - and furthermore, he adjusted his weekend and his family at super short notice to accommodate me and join me in the cave. I’m so lucky to have just the best friends!
Geoff Crossley joined Geoff Yeadon in 1991 to complete the first traverse of King Pot to Keld Head.
As I drove the few hours down to the Dales, I was super excited to learn that Geoff Yeadon himself, now president of the CDG, was going to come along as well to supervise!
Record breaking cave dive in Keld Head, 1991. Geoff Yeadon and Geoff Crossley.
We were also joined by Martin Holroyd and after kitting up in the most idyllic setting, the perfect resurgence in the yawning, remote Kingsdale valley, we set off.
The water was typical for Yorkshire, with a yellow tinge from the peat staining. I followed Geoff who navigated the slightly complex entrance series and then headed off up some larger passages, straight into the hillside.
On some occasions I could only see one wall and not the other and before long, I couldn’t see the roof either. It was certainly spacious although the visibility prevented a good view of the whole passage.
After about 35 minutes of swimming, in 7 degrees water temperature, despite not being close to thirds my bladder pressure forced a return. In my haste to pack the car, I had forgotten my She-P. It was time to go home.
We had got about 750 metres back into the cave which is a decent day out for a British cave dive, when we turned for home.
I took a Paralenz on a tray with very bright video lights with me and managed to capture some nice footage of my first trip into Keld.
In my typical style, I’d stashed a mini bottle of prosecco in the head pool for afterwards.
Christine just slightly delighted to have finally dived Keld Head.
Despite some covid restrictions being lifted, finding a pub that would feed us all was problematic. I was tipped off that my CDG trainee Mark Burkey was in town with his wife Jess, so after some creative phone calls we managed to find a pub that would feed us outside.
Settling down to a beer and fish and chips, surrounded by some of the best people on the planet, I began to realise just how lucky I was and after some of the darkest days of covid, began to see light again.
I pulled out the video footage of our dive for everyone to look at. Describing the dive to Mark, I commented: “And then we got to this junction where Geoff led me up some sh*thole…….”
The table fell silent.
“Some sh*thole?!!” Crossley said, outraged; “That was the main passage!!”
The table fell about laughing and muttered in there somewhere were comments of desperation from the original explorers about not being able to please some people!
Definitely something I will never live down!
Anyway....enjoy this little AV of my first dive in Keld Head. It's not my best work, but it will be a special memory in years to come.
About the author
Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels.
She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK.
She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.
In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration.
In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.