Weather: still, dry, sub zero, clear night
Where: Ireby Fell, Yorkshire Dales
It was a fine cold late afternoon and evening in the Yorkshire Dales yesterday, its not very often that just Ferg and I get out for an evening cave so we decided to do something interesting.
Above: Caver at Work, Ferg starting to rig the traverse
Above: Starting the Descent of the Steps, its difficult to see just how slippery it was
Once the traverse is complete a short climb up leads into a short section of fossil passage where a Y-hang allows descent through a vertical squeeze. I took up the rigging here and on dropping down this small tight slot it crossed my mind that it would be worse coming back out. I've done this part of the cave once before and don't remember it being so tight. The other thing I don't recall was just how much loose rock appeared to be readily disturbed and fell down the main gully pitch, real care would be needed here if any other folk were in the gully.
Some "tightish" meandering passage leads to a high traverse and the approach to the main sidewinder pitch. We used a 65m rope here (and used just about all of it to get to the bottom) it starts with an uneven Y-hang that drops to a single bolt re-belay which is all but free hanging followed by a fine descent to a rocky slab. Here a natural provides a further re-belay point before another Y-hang, the final abseil requires two deviations to keep the rope away from the angled rock and lands in a rocky chamber with plenty evidence of flooding in the form of lumps of trees. I believe this cave can flood quite spectacularly under the right conditions. For tonight an exploration of this area was to be journey's end. On previous occasions I have carried on via Stink Pot and done the next big pitch "the ninety"; also we once did an exchange trip from here exiting via Gully route - both of which I'd strongly recommend.
We used the exit to test for the first time the Petzl Pantin (a foot jammer which is attached to the inside of the ankle). Its a technique that will need a bit of getting used to (at least for me) but looks like something I'd like to investigate further.
Ferg grabbed a few decent photos of my ascent of the first part of "sidewinder" around the deviations:
We emerged to a fine cold evening on the fell.
A mixture of too much talking and not enough concentration led to us walking straight past the stile that leads back on to Masongill Lane, so the need to relocate and tramp around in the dark for longer than planned was unwelcome, however, it was a good evening underground in one of my favourite Yorkshire caves.