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Trip to Allt Nan Uamh Stream Cave -- 23th Apr 2008

Group: Dennis, Paul, Mary, Dave

Another year at a cottage in Achiltibuie provided the excuse for more Scottish Caving. With the weather dull, but dry we headed off to Allt Nan Uamh Stream Cave as the description in the "Caves of Assynt" book implied that everyone would fit. We headed to the fish farm as the previous trip to UAC and changed at the side of the car park before heading down the valley.

We called in at the bone caves en route as Mary hadn't seen them and it also provided a buttie break while Dennis pressed on towards the entrance. We were equipped with a GPS and the luxury of an eight figure grid reference, however Dave still managed to walk past the entrance towards the waterfall. However a quick backtrack and looking on the LHS rather than the RHS of the stream showed a hole low down which proved to be the cave.

The cave entrance looked reasonably roomy and even the 'chiseled hole' passage seemed to be wide enough for Dennis. We dumped the rucksack in the entrance and slid down the hole to land in the rift passage. The book describes the ceiling as being a good example of limestone sponge-work, but we thought it pretty unremarkable :-)
We turned right into the spacious assembly room which had a curious piton wedged in the LHS wall.

We wandered up the main passage towards Piccadilly, passing a passage on the RHS marked by a lozenge shaped boulder. Dave had a quick look in here, but it didn't look particularly interesting and so we carried on. Piccadilly junction proved to be quite complex and the plan we had from the book was a little unclear. We headed down a gash and ended in what we later discovered was the stream chamber. This had water issuing out of a rift in the LHS wall and mud formations.

Dave crawled along the LHS rift and followed the water upwards past three small, but pretty waterfalls. After the top one was a welly deep pool of water and then a set of rising passages which split, but all seemed to peter out.

On returning to the stream passage we headed off along southwest passage towards drip chamber. We found a short passage on the LHS which led to a 10-12' drop complete with a bit of tatty rope. The bottom had a stream and there were some lead weights on a ledge, but the state of the rope and the fact that the walls were undercut discouraged us from descending. We headed into drip chamber which lives up to its name from the myriad of pockmarks in the muddy floor and noticed a low passage on the LHS. Mary had a look and after a while reported a descending passage and a dodgy ladder. We followed and ended up in what we think was sink chamber. This had an amazing collection of pipework, a railway track, various bits of digging equipment and a siphon.

A little further on was the 2nd stream chamber and a low passage complete with a rope line and a pipe complete with bath tap. The passage was fairly dry until a thick muddy section which discouraged us from further exploration. Looking at the survey it seems we were quite lucky to get this far as this area is normally sumped. After a quick look at the bottom of the railway track We retreated back up the ladder to drip chamber.

We headed back towards Piccadilly and climbed the slope up to Oxford Street, a dry dusty passage which ended in a Tee junction. To the right we explored the Breakdown Cavern, which contained a lot of huge blocks which judging by the deposits had been there a long time. After a bit more exploration we headed back to the assembly hall for butties and then resumed at the Tee junction. Dave headed off down the parallel crawl followed by Paul, Mary and Dennis. The passage was fairly tight, but after helmet removal the crux was passed with only minor difficulty. A more significant problem was communication between Dave & Paul which proved difficult and eventually after a lot of incomprehensible muffled exchanges Paul decided to retreat leaving Dave with no-one to photograph squeezing through the crux. Dave headed down and ended up in stream chamber from the high passage seen earlier in the trip. After rejoining the others we all wandered back to the stream passage to look at the waterfalls in the rift and then exited to the daylight. A couple of us wandered upstream to the waterfall further up the valley and then we all headed back down the valley past the impressive resurgence.

An good trip, about 3.5 Hours in total. The walk in is a bit tedious, but the cave is definitely worth a visit. The topology is quite complex and taking a survey is recommended. We covered a lot of the cave, but there were still quite a few sections to explore and so we will be back.