Ireby Fell Cavern: Ian Cummins, Simon Beck (24th February 2007).
After a chat with the Ambleside gang, who were en route to Almscliffe, I met Simon in Inglesport, finding him to be so fatigued he couldn’t eat his breakfast, but he was still keen to go caving and suggested Ireby Fell. Our cars were the only ones up at Masongill and the mist descended, making it a bit tricky to find the entrance, since I had not visited it before and Simon’s memory failed him regarding which field we were to look in. A shakehole with a tin sheet in the base served as a prompt and we soon found the huge shakehole/valley of the entrance after crossing the wall to the west, via a stile. A climb down the short concrete pipe, with an in-situ ladder led to cemented blocky steps and the first pitch – more of a traverse really, with many resin bolts to clip on the bridging traverse. Using my 100 m rope, Simon intended to rig the Shadow route, but the vague description we had led us instead to rig the Ding, Dong and Bell pitches with the big rope, with a bit of a walk down and round the corner to reach the top of the wet Bell pitch. What followed was exhilarating caving, with sufficient water to make things sporty. We rigged one more decent-sized pitch and free-climbed others with the aid of fixed ropes where necessary. This is classic streamway caving, with clean, grippy rock, big flowstone formations and a bit of wet crawling, but nothing too arduous. The final part of the cave in the drier Duke Street reaches impressive proportions, with easy walking to the final gravelly sump. On the way out, the water-absorbing properties of my 10 mm climbing ropes gave Simon a big load to carry along the traverse, whilst I derigged. We emerged in the atmospheric mist of the valley after about 5 hours underground.