Vesper Pot and Ireby Fell by Ian Cummins

Vesper Pot: Ian Cummins, Simon Beck 3rd March 2007). 

Ireby Fell, Bubbles Route: Ian Cummins, Ed Tapp (Durham Uni) (4th March 2007).

My main memory of Vesper Pot is of hauling/pushing/rolling my tackle bag containing 100 m of 9 mm and my SRT gear out of the convoluted entrance series, whilst listening to the curses of Simon doing a similar job behind me! Without such encumbrances, the cave would be pure joy, being not particularly tight and having some fine pitches, down to the huge rift chamber shared with Spectacle Pot.

We had a late start due to me being stuck on the A1 for 2 hours and I was very keen to relieve my frustration by getting underground. After calling in at Braida Garth we soon found the small entrance shakehole, again thanks to Simon’s fine navigation skills. Essentially much of the entrance is a none-too-large vadose passage, wandering along many twists down a couple of short pitches, recently resin-bolted. The third pitch is very fine, following a Juniper Gulf-like creamy, fluted shaft onto a wide, sloping ledge. From here a walk forward leads to the top of the fourth pitch down a big, showery rift. Unfortunately the bolters seemed to have run out of equipment/time/enthusiasm here and we searched for the old bolt sleeves to continue. As we were using my 100 m rope, we at least had a secure belay above us, but there was a lot of sharp rock around to cause damage. Simon noticed a single spit in the roof, serving as a rebelay allowing me to stretch across the rift and place 2 hangers in the far wall. At first glance the sleeves looked to be shot, but the hangers went in fine and I handed over to Simon to rig the hang and continue down. About 10 m down he placed another hanger at a deviation and was soon down. Following down under the light shower of spray for about 50 m I joined Simon on the floor of the rubble slope in the huge rift chamber, with not much rope left. Above to the right more water came in, I guess from Spectacle and we climbed the scree to the top of the slope. Coming back down we noticed a small, shored rift in the corner. Checking later I found out this was the final 9 m pitch to a sump. The ascent and derigging were fine, apart from the aforementioned bag manipulations and we emerged in darkness. Again, Simon’s radar got us straight down to Braida Garth.

A very fine sporty cave for a party of 2.

Next day, fortunately with Ed driving, met Simon, Jane and assorted Burnley club members for trip to Ireby. Having done the Ding pitches the previous week, I decided to avoid queuing and go with Ed down the recently-excavated Bubbles route. Just inside the entrance we descended the narrow passage, with a couple of fixed handlines to the head of the pitch. Rigging this with a fixed thread for a deviation we got a bit of spray, but more bolts are present to the right for a dry hang. Landing on a sharp, jagged slope, we scrambled down to the normal route, finding a small cairn here to mark the return. A rapid trip to the sump had us back to the cairn and we met the others here on their way down. Exiting was tricky at one point, with a tight upward squeeze being hard to negotiate with the bags, but we emerged after about 3 hours underground to face the wind and rain. I found this series to be a nice alternative to the Ding/Dong/Bell, with some nice climbing involved.