Ireby Fell Caverns

Posted by Swaledale Outdoor Club on 2010-08-21

Following a meet up in Berni`s, where the breakfast was better than normal and nearly up to Inglesports high standards, John Gardner, Chris and myself headed up to Leck Fell for the trip down Ireby Fell Caverns.Ireby has long been a favourite of mine with some nice pitches and fine passages, however on this trip we planned to visit an area of the cave, Duke Street II, which until fairly recently could only be accessed by cave divers through an underwater sump. A route to bypass the sump was pushed by explorers early 2008, however this route was only suitable for very thin, agile and determined cavers (therefore not suitable for our group!). At the same time another route was being progressed, by digging out a silted up passage in the roof of the main stream way. This passage promised a less arduous beyond the sump . This digging operation was progressed at a fairly rapid rate, years rather than decades, by gathering together large numbers of cavers for coordinated digging efforts on pre arranged weekends, which once famously lead to 25 cavers and most of the local cave rescue team being trapped by flood water. This passage, Whirlpool crawl, was finally opened up late 2008 and a trip to Duke Street II and beyond was an option for more average sized cavers.

We crossed Leck fell and entered the cave, at the base of the second pitch we were greeted by a fair amount of water, John decided it was too wet for his liking and headed back out leaving a team of two to carry on. We pushed on at some pace and reached the rope pitch up into the dug out Whirlpool Crawl, prusiked up the rope and entered new territory.  Whirlpool Crawl, was long and tiring, no wonder it took such a coordinated effort to dig the tones of silt out. We cooled off nicely in the waist deep water in the canal on the other side and then strolled up Duke street II, a huge passage, it was as magnificent as I had been lead to believe. We then headed off into really unknown territory, to us, along a series of traverses, explored a few areas amongst boulder collapses before heading up a fixed line which disappeared off into the roof void above the traverse. This line kept on going and going and was followed by another two pitches heading up and finally into a well decorated crawl with many superb stalagmites.

We then headed down another pitch into a large chamber which lead off into another large chamber with more stalagmites and formations. We knew we were somewhere very impressive, and a long way from home but had no idea where! After a few quick pictures it was time to retrace our steps and head out. We got back to our cars about seven and a half hours after leaving, feeling very satisfied with the trip but rather tired, the post trip beer was well earned.

The following day, after a few hours studying  a very recently available survey of the area off the internet I discovered we had reached Frinks Chamber(s)…. well it is nice to know where you’ve been!

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