Ireby and Juniper Gulf Meets by Ian Cummins

Ireby Fell Cavern: Emma, Ian, Matt & Chris Dudman (4th December 2010).

The year ended as it began – ****** cold!  Having done both these trips several times myself, it was, however, the first time for the rest of the party and I must admit to still finding the caves an absolute delight.

Having managed to get to work every day in the snowy weather (but then again, I’m not a teacher – ha ha), I was determined to make these trips go ahead and special mention must go to Chris who checked out the approach to Ireby on the Saturday and declared that 4wd was not necessary and that we didn’t need a shovel for the entrance either.

A bitterly cold day started off with the customary coffee in Ingleton and Emma followed me up the lane to meet Chris and Matt, where a rapid change and trudge across the fell soon had us warmed up – enjoying the fine view of the Lakeland fells, where Matt reckoned that the brown scar was in fact Dow Crag – amazing, and by the way Matt, my favourite route on the crag is the Livesey classic, ‘Tumble’, not ‘Holocaust’ – one of the best climbs anywhere!

Rigging the classic Ding, Dong, Bell pitches was a delight, with the big freeze making the cave the driest I’d experienced and with Matt and Chris instructing Emma, I was soon lying down by the sump for a snooze with my light off.  Mind you, I did finally figure out why I always wind up with spare ropes in this cave, as I usually free-climb the last 2 pitches!

Ireby Fell Cavern
Emma setting off down ‘Dong’ pitch.

Everyone was impressed by Duke Street and pointing out the bypass, I recounted my small part in its opening before heading out. Leaving Matt and Chris to de-rig, Emma  and I emerged from the draughty entrance to the bitter cold, where my hands immediately began to freeze up – so painful that I ran down to get changed in the last of the light, with wetsuit freezing to the ground!

A great effort by the all involved.

Juniper Gulf: Ian, Geoff, Matt & Chris Dudman (19th December 2010).

Juniper Gulf had been a shortest day tradition for me and former caving and workmate Ed and with even colder conditions on this day, I managed to persuade Chris, Geoff and Matt to venture out.  A very peeky-looking Chris manfully turned out to ferry his family members and followed me along to South House, where I was hoping to be still able to park.  Finding the place to be deserted, save for a bunch of splendid Border Leicesters who fancied munching my car, we left a note with our remuneration and plodded off over the powdery, dry snow, with Penyghent looking almost Alpine.

Surprisingly, there was a fair flow into the entrance, despite the cold, where it formed a fine ice mushroom at the base and the first cascade proved to be an icy horror before the first pitch was reached.  I usually follow the water here, but wanting to keep dry in the frigid air, traversed across to the P-hanger route.  The infamous traverse sprouts too much iron for my liking, with the only tricky obstacle being the swing round the nose at the ‘bad step’, where a sling would in fact suffice, but the arrival at the fine penultimate pitch a had me feeling excited again, as the drop through the slot leaves a pitch of almost 30m in very fine surroundings.

Rigging the big pitch with my 80m rope, Geoff decided to wait, whilst Matt followed me down.   Wanting to stay dry for the long walk out, we didn’t make the final few feet to the sump and I sprinted up to be greeted with some munchies from Geoff’s supply – fantastic!  Matt de-rigged and we were rewarded by the fine vista of the full moon above a snowy Penyghent, whilst agreeing that the distances on the Sulber Nick marker must be a sadistic joke!

Ian starting to rig the big pitch, sporting new boots and tackle bag. Maybe Santa might have brought him a new harness!!
Matt below the rebelay, on his way down.
Ian rigging the rebelay on the big pitch.
Ian in the rift.

I decided to drive home in my kit, until I fancied some munchies from the Richmond garage and got changed in a dark layby in the back of beyond where the footsteps of a sheep behind the hedge gave me one hell of a shock!

Pics by Matt & Chris Dudman.