Thursday 1 January 2009

31st December 2008 A Yorkshire Classic

One of the wonders of our technological age is the speed with which news can travel around the globe.
Barely had the dust settled from the Skylight Passage breakthrough before word had made it across the channel and members of the overseas contingent of the TNC were heading from the cave bereft Vercors to Calais and the first ferry to Yorkshire.
After driving through freezing mist, Ingleton was reached where a recent copy of Descent and a pair of Wellingtons (obviously given the person they're named after they can't sell these in France) were quickly purchased. The survey was then hastily photocopied (it's worth knowing that the very pleasant lady in the Ingleton post office has a copier for these sort of occasions) before we headed up and out of the fog onto sun drenched tops.
The walk over the fell was superb with just the tops of the Marble steps trees poking out of the fog with the shapely summit of Ingleborough behind. Cresting the hill, the majestic Lake District fells too appeared island like above the sea of cloud.
Dropping into the depression that surrounds the cavern we said goodbye to the sun for the last time this year and made our way down through stalagtites and columns of ice before reaching the first of the pitches.
With Ding, Dong and Bell behind us we passed the bottom of Bubble's route before packing away the SRT gear and climbing up into the Glory Holes. The crawl leading away from these had a sauna like quality and a brief break in the Lounge allowed us chance to adjust clothing before pushing on through the Turtle crawl and its green, half shelled inhabitants.
Struggling with a tackle sack along, first Cripple creek and then Numpty rift, Paul cheerily reminded me that not far below us was the huge stomping tunnel of Duke street - not much consolation. This was however provided by the formations and generous dimensions of Womack chamber.
Beyond this point is a true Indiana Jones style adventure with in situ rope ladders taking you up and down through a series of relatively tight crawls before the final fun and games of the breakthrough point pop you out at a traverse across a wall high above the passage floor. A final climb down then drops you into the vastness of Jupiter cavern.
After a brief explore it was time to drop down into Escalator rift and finally a piece of passage way I recognised from our previous visit to Ireby II. Paul stepped into Duke Street II finally fulfilling a long held dream of visiting this side of the sump.
The Skylight passage crawl felt far more spacious than previously, though I think this is in comparison to what had gone before rather than further excavation since our last visit. The passageway to the bottom of the first pitches seemed longer than ever and by the time we passed the entrance to the Glory Holes once again I was beginning to feel the effects of the journey and happily passed derigging duties over to Paul.
Under clear skies the temperature on the surface had dropped even further and Paul's bare hands stuck to the first rung on the metal ladder in the entrance pipe. Avoiding touching the higher rungs we emerged onto the moor to a stunning display of stars and a sliver of the moon, having completed what must become one of the classic yorkshire caving trips.
Huge thanks have to go to those who pioneered both the dry routes through to Ireby II making this trip possible and to Dave in Inglesport for his helpful advice on completing the trip.

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