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Present: Jenny, Al, Tom, Not Present: Anthony (Dubious cold?? Watching the football), Gwyn (working – yeah right!)

On Friday evening me and Al asked Tom if he wanted to go caving. Our plans were to leave on Friday night in order to get a reasonably early start on Saturday. Tom however didn’t realise this and asked if we were going caving tonight, me and Al thought this was a good idea, Tom was less sure. So we drove to Mason Gill in the Dales, via Sainsburys to buy lots of food. We ate some food and got changed, it was a lovely evening, with a full moon and so the walk in was a lot more pleasant than it would have in hot sunshine. We found the cave easily, in a bout half an hour, and at 12:50 am entered Ireby Fell. I had been down Ding, Dong, Bell at Easter, so this time we went down Shadow Route, and I rigged. The last time I rigged was in Swinstow, and for a pull thru’. I thought it would all go horribly wrong if I inadvertently did this again, so I rigged carefully. This meant I was not very fast and Tom and Al complained a lot as they were cold and tired. I thought Shadow Route was dead good, rigging the traverse was quite exciting, as was climbing across the rift to find the second rebelay. The first time I abseiled too low and had to jummar back up a bit.

Two hours after leaving the surface we all reached the bottom of the 64m rope and went caving. The formations were much better than I remembered – but in just as awkward positions, relative to the stream. We went through lots of cool cave and climbed down some stuff. As I had been there most recently, Al went first and Tom second. Al suddenly found himself above a big hole in the ground, near a p hanger, so thought it must be Pussy pitch and he started off down on the 11m rope. I thought things didn’t look quite right, the pitch was rather wet and the rope rubbed a bit … then I looked around and saw some more p hangers up and along a bit looking like a traverse. So Al came back up and we realised that not only was Pussy free climbable, but so was the first half of Well. Al safely rigged the rest of Well while I took photos and then we carried on down to Rope Pitch, Al rigged this and I free climbed it to see if it was possible (it was). It was a lot drier thanlast time I had been there. We then stumbled and staggered through lots more cave ‘cos I wanted to reach the sump. Tom and Al tried to convince me that the huge phreatic passage way was infact a sump and that we could turn back, but we carried on to the sump anyway. I thought the sump connected with Notts Pot and made the mistake of telling Al, because then he wanted to try and free dive it. Luckily he didn’t because it isn’t free diveable and even if it was he would have ended up at the bottom of Notts with no ropes!

It was now a bit after 4am and I was dead knackered and beginning to have doubts over how sensible caving at night was, particulalry seeing as we were now a long way from the surface. So we stopped and had some food and water. By the time we got back to the pitches we felt better. Tom led the way out, Al derigged and I carried the tackle sac. Al free climbed Rope to see if it was also free climbable on the way up, so we didn’t need to have taken as many ropes. Prussiking hurt because my shoulders were sun burnt where my chest tape went, but I didn’t die and neither did anyone else which was good.

We were all out at 7:05am in a lovely sunny morning and a nice view, one which not many people were on the top of a hill and able to appreciate! We got to Bernies before it opened, had breakfast and spent the morning sunbathing which was rather cool – getting a suntan on caving trips doesn’t happen often!

Then we sat by Ribble Head viaduct in the sun and planned what cave to do next…….

Jenny Black