Marble Steps


Team:          Ray Duffy, Andy Hall, Anne Hodgson (co-ordinator), Bob Johnson and Derrick Butcher.

The day began cold and wet. We were sitting in Ray’s car at the top of Masongill Fell Lane waiting for Andy and Bob. The entertainment was provided by another group of cavers that were trying to coax a Citroen up the Turbary Road. Predictably, they gave up but their reward for amusing us was lreby Fell Cavern, our original destination. We set off for Marble Steps instead.

There was water running down both gullies into the main entrance shaft as we clambered down the Western arm to the broad ledge above the watercourse and the first pitch. Bob led the way, abseiling down and then climbing down to the left to start rigging the traverse to the head of the Main Chamber pitch.

Those who knew “forgot” to tell me that the traverse was sometimes called the “Skywalker”. Very wise. At the time, the more experienced members of the team described the traverse as rather exposed and somewhat technical. Later the less
experienced described it in terms ranging from challenging through intimidating towards unprintable. Thanks for tightening the loops, Ray. Thanks for helping me round, Anne.
From the end of the traverse we dropped into the Upper Main Chamber, continuing from there to the floor of the Lower Main Chamber. Looking back up the waterfall was
spectacular. The water was vanishing between boulders as we crossed the floor and
carried on down towards the area beneath the Great Aven. From there we entered the 240 foot rift which includes walking and crawling sections with a roof traverse at the far end, approaching Stink Pot. In the crawl Anne and David noticed a small puddle that was bubbling away as if boiling. Then it stopped doing that and slowly began to grow instead. Was the water backing up? Anne decided that given the potential flood risk, we should descend no further. She was also, quite rightly, mindful that my inexperience of SRT meant slow progress. So after a quick look into Stink Pot we retreated towards the surface.  On the way out the waterfall seemed to have grown. The traverse was just as much fun as it was before - thanks again Anne. When we gained the top ledge it was so wet that we didn’t realise that it had stopped raining at first as there was so much surface run-off. The streams feeding the pot had certainly grown and pools had started to form down below. The right decision had been made.

After a chilly walk down the fell, we reached the cars feeling very cold and in need of hot drinks. Depressed? Not a bit. The sole topic of conversation was the next trip, it had been a great day out. The caving did not end there for our team leader. Anne headed for Ingleton and a cup of tea only to be sent off to Valley Entrance in Kingsdale on a rescue. A party of three had got into difficulties on a through trip. One had managed to get out and raise the alarm, another member of the group was rescued. Tragically, the third had drowned. Food for thought.

Derrick Butcher

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