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Cripples Canyon

Assynt, Traligill, Sutherland.

NGR:NC 25780 21875
WGS84:58.15132, -4.96211
Length:35 m
Vert. Range:3 m
Altitude:102 m

Downstream of Uamh nan Caluman on west bank of Poll an Droighinn, the cave when discovered had two wide slots visible above stream level. The down stream slot has now devolved into three smallish holes interconnected within the cave, of which only the centre hole is now passable. The upstream slot is now a large undercut partially blocked by huge boulders forming a complex oxbow with the upper part accessing a wide but low chamber beyond and a few short, low and wet crawls at stream level.

The cave originally described consisted of two low parallel crawls inclined upward to north at 25 degrees. The two passages penetrated about 15 m before becoming too tight, linked by a squeeze at the rear. About 10 m into left-hand passage, a hole in the left-hand wall gave access to 5 m of low passage containing very some fragile false floor. Under high water conditions the cave appeared to take water and all but the entrance may have been completely submerged.

Return visits to the cave in 2017, flagged up considerable differences between the cave as described and the present cave. The blockage of the lower slot mean that the small holes were not recognized as the lower entrance and the low connecting squeeze was sumped so it was not immediately clear that there was any way through. Once these issues were resolved the lower passage with its side chamber and false floor was as described although it was possible with some digging to push a further 9 m into the cave and from another side passage to reach the far end of the false floor. Removing rocks from the sumped squeeze lowered the water level enough to allow passage in dry weather when there can be only a few inches of water present. In wet weather this still sumps.

Having identified the lower passage, it was possible to fit the earlier survey to the upper cave but it was apparent that the original upper passage is now blocked by a mound of silt, gravel and cobbles. This may have previously occupied the upper part of what is now a wide low triangular chamber. Daylight can still be seen along the original line but it is now too tight to pass. Fortunately the movement of this mound of material has opened up a wider passage which descends at 45 degrees to the original to reach the connecting squeeze. With some effort it might be possible to re-open the original route but this seems too much effort for little reward. It may be however that one of the stream level crawls now infilled with silt, gravel and cobbles might be the drain for the sumped squeeze but several tonnes of rock would have to be removed to prove this and the stream is seldom low enough to allow digging.

The wide entrance to the upper chamber has a couple of small low side chambers in the upper wall and clambering around the massive boulders at the entrance, over which daylight is visible, leads to a small cobble beach and a continuation of the cave as a large undercut from which it is possible to cross the stream to Uamh nan Caluman.

Alternate Names: Cripple's Canyon

Notes: Wet weather generally makes water levels in the Allt Poll na Droighinn too high for crossing to Uamh nan Caluman and for going through the sumped squeeze but the lower passage of Cripples Canyon can always be reached, and by clambering along the west bank and through or under a tree, it is possible to reach the upper passage.

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This entry was last updated: 2021-01-26 20:37:10

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