Volume 33 Number 2 Article 3
Ireby Fell & Marble Steps
Lost Leader? - Saturday 20th April
Well - it was clear enough on the News Sheet (April 1996) -'meet at Masongill Lane Car Park' - and we were there 10 am prompt: that is Alan Kerr, Zig and Zag and three keen probationary members, John, Mike & Pete, but where was our leader?
This turned out to be a leaderless trip not in any negative sense, but in a sort of positive anarchist sense of non-planning. A good trip with hardly any problems was had by all. The older members reasoned, no leader, then no ropes, let's call it a day, cut our losses and head for Berries, but not so our keen probationers, fully kitted out with SRT and bursting to go! So off we went.
As it was their gear we could hardly object to Mike and Pete rigging, carefully supervised by a responsible and sober Alan, with lots of helpful backseat rigging tips from Zig and Zag. Down we went Ding, Dong, Bell, no problems. Mike and Pete shot ahead at a great pace, they even found the low crawl previously unknown to Alan, Zig and Zag, which avoided the 'awkward slot' which some went through anyway.
Duke Street was as the book says, 'as quiet as the grave'. A rope hanging down from the domed roof of Whirlpool chamber was too much of a temptation for Pete; he prussiked up, but couldn't get onto the ledge the first time, however he managed to deprussik back down with the helpful technical advice from the rest of the group. Eventually John shot up the rope followed by Mike and Pete; they stomped about in the upper passage (nothing much of interest), then dropped back into Duke Street. The return journey was more eventful; a large incoming group, somewhat hyper-active, from Leeds, livened up by dropping ladders down pitches, and getting their rigging all knotted-up with ours on the top pitch.
We had struggled through the pipe back into daylight. As our new members did their duty, and carried the wet heavy tackle bags back to their van, they expressed their satisfaction with their first official trip, commenting with admiration on the informality and cool spontaneity of the Club's organisation.
The Next Day - Sunday 21st April
The trip the following day to Marble Steps was masterminded by Alan. Determined not to repeat the anarchy of the previous day he cunningly prepared and packed all the ropes etc in advance - a wise plan as the goings on that night at the farm took their toll on the members cerebral function. On Sunday morning, our new probationers from Saturday, Pete and Mike, although in a state of shock from the night before, sprang to Alan's assistance; Zig and Zag indicated they would soon be along once they had 'got going'; and others made brave promises to follow on later - 'leave the ropes, and we'll de-rig' etc .
Another good trip by all accounts (Zig and Zag never caught up, they retired with hangovers after a couple of pitches). Alan manfully rigged 'Sidewinder', impressing Mike and Pete by throwing himself upwards onto the 'comfortable ledge' at the end of the first traverse. Nonchalantly omitting most of the re-belays and deviations, he quickly grouped the advanced party on the bolder slope in the main chamber. Strangely one of the members actually knew the way on - Sam soon had them back on the official route - hand line down the slippery climb, along the 240' rift etc. Then Alan was off again, rigging down and down - unfortunately too many 'downs', he ended up in some horrible bit of the Intestines, surrounded by wet grass and branches. Wisely he decided to retreat and call it a day - a quick de-rig and back onto the rope wash.
This was retreat, but not defeat; there is a post-script; a couple of weeks later Alan, Zig and Zag returned. This time Alan skilfully swinging around some bolters, rigged it down to the bottom of the 'ninety' - almost there - wait till next time.
Peter & Julie Mohr