Monday 26 December 2022

22nd December 2022 - Marble Steps

After a day negotiating England's motorway system it felt great to be on familiar back lanes over to the Dales. The Devil's Bridge lay by a welcome change to bustling service stations.

Joined by Mike and Tony, fresh from his sojourn to the States, we headed up to Mason gill. The moors, a week ago blanketed in snow, now returned to their more usual green. The distinctive copse loomed out of the darkness and Mike descended into the gully to begin rigging while Tony and I changed into our SRT gear.

The rigging guide suggests only needing to use a rope on the initial gully in snowy or icy conditions but the in situ line suggested that it wasn't only me that appreciated its security for negotiating the greasy rocks down to the open shaft.

As ever with Mike rigging the familiar shout of "Rope free", was soon ringing up from below and we began our descent in awe of the sizeable tree trunks that have been washed down in wetter conditions. One such log acting perfectly to prevent rope rub on the less vertical lower portion of the pitch.

In the main chamber I took over rigging duties. Not sure whether the bolt installer is significantly taller than me or if more of the boulder floor has shifted further down the pitch, but it was only on tip toes and at full stretch that I could reach the bolts and there was no chance of clipping in even my long cow's tail. 

The amount of flood debris between the boulders guarding entry to a short pitch was sobering and while not needed today, it wasn't difficult to imagine the usefulness of the in situ rope in damper conditions. 

Approaching Stink Pot I shouted back to Tony to stay high. As I rigged the pitch Mike joined me having somehow passed Tony without seeing him. Unfortunately it turns out Tony hadn't quite reached the traverse when I called back to him and he'd began climbing up an unprotected tube that led to who knows where. Sorry Tony.

Another in situ line helped guide my rigging towards the 90 rather than the continuation of Stink down into The Intestines. At the potentially awkward head of the pitch some high quality rigging (from the Craven?) showed how to mitigate this obstacle and a very fine pitch followed. 

Rather than continuing to the bottom of the pitch as planned we followed the earlier rigged rope, swinging into a side passage, that rejoins the Intestines route. One final pitch then brought us to the lower streamway. 

After a clean, dry and airy descent neither way on looked particularly attractive. Not for the first time I wondered how such a mighty pot could be reduced to such diminutive proportions. It didn't though take much pondering to decide on a course of cation and I was quickly making my way back up the pitch. 

It was eerily quite back at the copse. No sound of water or breath of wind. It was also strangely quiet in the pub, last orders being called as we ordered. Like the dewintering of the fell, what a difference a week makes.

Cheers to Mike and Tony for a grand evening out (and to Mike for the rhubarb gin and beetroot chutney, there's no finer way to get to of your 5 a day).

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