MOVING tributes have poured in to 'loyal friend and caver' Harry Hesketh, known to most as 'Eski', who died while caving near Horton-in-Ribblesdale on Saturday.

Mr Hesketh, 74, from Bradley, died after sustaining a suspected broken femur while excavating Curtain Pot, on Fountains Fell.

Almost 100 volunteers from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team, Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, Cumbria Mines Rescue, Clapham Cave Rescue Organisation as well as members from Bradford Pothole Club and the Yorkshire Spelio Society, battled for over 17 hours to get Mr Hesketh from the cave after he fell six metres down a pitch.

Two caving friends who were with him, Dr Frank Walker and Jed Campion, alerted the emergency services.

A CRO spokesman said: "His companions immediately exited the cave to summon assistance before one returned to him, whilst one awaited our arrival to direct us to the site.

"As an exploration site, the cave was not mapped, nor were the passages of sufficient width to allow extrication of an immobile casualty.

"Realising this would require major engineering work simultaneously at many places along the length of the cave, as well as fully rigging for rescue, the team called on neighbouring teams and our own reserve cavers list to assist with making access and egress suitable, and with rigging the cave so that the casualty could be extricated smoothly once access was secured."

Mr Hesketh, a retired computer programmer with Craven District Council, was provided care by a team doctor assisted by trained casualty carers, who monitored his condition, as well as packaging him for the eventual extrication.

The CRO spokesman added: "Unfortunately, due to the nature of his injuries, and the extended time needed to create a navigable way out, he succumbed to his injuries and died just prior to the extrication beginning."

Tributes began pouring in as soon as the news was shared.

His heartbroken daughter, Wendy Uchimura, said her father loved the outdoors and was trying to come to terms with his sudden death.

She said: "My dad, known as 'Eski' in the caving community, was an avid caver, potholer, mountaineer, and cyclist right from his early teens.

"He always kept himself active and enjoyed life to the full. I am absolutely humbled by the dedication of the many cave rescue organizations, rescue teams, air ambulance service, and individuals who all came together to try and help him."

Mrs Uchimura spoke of her gratitude to the volunteers for their effort to free her father.

She said: "I'd like to thank everyone involved, the caving organizations, and the whole caving community for their tremendous efforts to evacuate my dad. He will be truly missed, but his family and friends know you all did your best."

She currently lives in Japan and is now on her way back to the UK after being informed of the news.

Mr Hesketh was a computer programmer with Craven District Council until he took early retirement. He was a member of Northern Pennine potholing and caving club, based near Clapham.

Dr Walker, who was with Mr Hesketh during the fateful dig, said: "Eski was a very kind man; a wonderful bloke. We had been friends for 40 or 50 years and trusted one another as you have to when you take part in these sort of activities. He was as solid as a rock."

Good friend and fellow caver Jean Lonsdale and a member of Northern Pennine Club was very distressed about the news.

She said: "It was such a shock to everyone because he was so incredibly fit. Eski cycled, climbed, went underground. He was very active.

"The club is very close knit. You get to know people very well because you rely on each other when you are out. You become like family.

"I've been on climbing holidays with him to Spain and another close friend climbed the Eiger with him. We have all spend holidays together.

"He was a very private person with a dry sense of humour, but he was also a very loyal friend.

"The news has hit everyone hard and is difficult to take in. He will be missed very much."

Mr Hesketh and his friends had been excavating on Fountains Fell for over 40 years.

One respondent to the CRO's appeal, Robert Malcolm Kay, paid his respects to Mrs Uchimura saying: "Caving is a great sport, but it also carries certain risks: we all know that. Just so sorry for you, but please know that the caving world never forgets a lost brother or sister. You will always be in our thoughts."

Condolences have been sent to Mrs Uchimura from caving groups all over the country.

An appeal for donations towards the Clapham Cave Rescue Organisation saw donations topping £10,300 within 24 hours as people rushed to support the organisation after the mammoth, multi-operational task and with the total constantly rising this week.

Launching the appeal on Sunday, the CRO wrote: "This incident took in excess of 1,600 man hours, virtually every piece of caving equipment in our stores, and a large quantity of medication and medical supplies, all provided by ourselves. It also involved us being able to feed and water almost 100 people into the early hours of this morning (Sunday).

"Due to the severity and urgency of the situation, a lot of equipment was sacrificed to expedite the potential extraction of the casualty. If you feel that you could assist the team in helping to replenish our stocks and equipment supplies, we would be deeply grateful for any donations to help us out."

While the Fountains Fell incident was still ongoing, CRO received a callout to County Pot to assist a female caver who had sustained a nasty ankle injury after taking a fall whilst de-rigging a pitch.

As a result of the manpower required at the other incident, CRO team members were supported by Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit - COMRU, Calder Valley Search & Rescue Team, Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA), Red Rose Pothole Club and Bradford Pothole Club. Due to the location of the incident, and the nature of the injury, assistance was requested from Maritime and Coastguard Rescue 912 which winched the casually onboard their aircraft and transported her to Blackpool for further treatment.