Sunday School

Ireby Fell Cavern, †† Sunday 13th February

Party: ††††† Bob Johnston, Derrick Butcher, Dave Fenna, Pete Hall, Sarah Hall, Jason Pitman, Hugh St.Lawrence.

SRT validation under the watchful tutelage of Mr. Johnston. Being a bit rusty on technique I though that I would go along to Sunday School and try to emulate the success of the French Boules party which had bottomed the hole on Saturday. So there we were at Masongill at the unbelievably early hour of 11.30. Trouble was, no one wanted to get out of the cars as this was without doubt the coldest day of the year. The ground was iron hard and a real express of a wind came out of Siberia - calling at Skipton, Hellifleld, Settle, Clapham and Ingleton. After 45 seconds in the open Liz gibbed and drove off for Bernies - but then she had been down on Saturday. The rest of us climbed into freezer fresh thermals and set off over the hill.

After cracking ice to get some water for carbides we slid down the concrete tube into a welcoming +30 degrees temperature difference. Unfortunately, someone else was already down the cave and had rigged all of the pitches, including Shadow, so we had to make do with clipping our hangers into their tie-off loops. Derrick and Dave rigged the normal route as Bob followed along behind with his marking-book and cane. Jason and I did Shadow and Pete and Sarah did their own thing. Shadow men were the first down and waited for twenty minutes, during which Jason kept me amused with an explicit account of his latest romance.

Things slowed down again at Well pitch where we met the other group returning from the bottom, but soon we were romping on to Duke Street where several members performed the Can-Can and then had a piggyback race. Bob took some snaps and Pete and Sarah tried to have sex. Then we all went out, swopping routes for derigging. Here I did a dirty on Derrick, handicapping his rope bag with a pre-load of 2Olbs of rocks. Obviously Derrick thinks nothing of heavy tackle sacks as the rocks were not discovered until well after he had packed all the rope into it and hauled it up several more pitches! Good for the Soul.

The climax of the trip was definitely the walk back across the fell. Grabbing the iron bar at the top of the concrete tube instantly welded skin to metal. It was bloody freezing! At the top of the shakehole this was multiplied by a factor of five as the wind hit us straight in the face. We walked with arms folded to keep fingers warm but then found that we couldnít unfold them to climb the stile, being imprisoned in solidly frozen suits. Back at the cars Jasonís cows-tails could be held out horizontal without flexing and gear had to be ruthlessly flogged before it could be folded and bagged. Sarah had to be thawed out of her caving gear in front of the fire at the farm, Pete still complained of frostnip three hours later in the pub and the ropes needed a hot bath before we could run them through the washer
All in all a fine trip down a fine cave with a Grade 5 walk out for extra spice. Sorry about those rocks Derrick!


Hugh St.Lawrence

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