After a quick phone call from Hannah on the thursday night (the day before the trip) I was invited to join a merry rabble on a supposed CHECC training weekend that Jeff organised but no one replied to…

Having cancelled all my weekend plans in a quick (and easy decision) the team, consisting of Jeff Wade, Hannah Moulton, Rob Middleton, Tom(2) Bell, Tom(1) Smith, Sema Hussein, Chris Playfoot (me) and  David Mothersole left Sheffield en route to the NPC hut, but not before the token Asda ‘food’ shop resulting in us inevitably coming out with an interesting array of ales and liquour.

We then had a quick stop at the pub to pick up the hut key and had a swift pint whilst bumping into some old SUSS members. After making ourselves at home in the hut we got tying some new knots and were treated to Robs vast array of caving hardwear (some of it quite ancient) then had a little guessing game about what each object was suppost to do. Once we were bored of amusing ourselves with knots and metal that was older than Cliff Richard the drinking games began. It was a type of ‘Who can tie the knot the fastest’ contest with Dave coming pretty much last on every knot, despite his cognac remaining mysteriously full… hmm. Then onto a vicious game of 21 resulting in everyone getting suitably merry including an older caver who joined in on the action.

The saturday consisted of the obligatory trip to ingleton for a pint of hot chocolate and for people to buy nice new SRT kits and other bits and bobs. We split into two teams for the day with me, Tom 1 and Rob Middleton going down Ireby Fell cavern and Hannah, Jeff, Tom 2, Dave and Sema heading down Tatham Wife.
After making a swift exit from Ingleton we arrived at what looked like the lane we’d recognised on the map next to the entrance.  Walking in the direction we thought it was, Rob filled us with confidence by telling us stories of a death in nearby Marble Steps from when a guy drowned in flood. As we found this out, a light splatter of rain slapped our windbitten faces. Lovely.

After a clamber down a ladder we reached the first pitch with Rob rigging around someone elses ropes, knowing that we weren’t alone.  With the weather looking fairly good (despite the slight rain patter) we decided to rig the wet route. The pitches were all relatively straight forward although the third pitch had a slightly awkward traverse to the pitch head, with a little deviation then off into the blackness with a nice waterfall to admire whilst zipping down. After a bimble along the streamway we popped out to another pitch atop of a small waterfall (not using specific names i know) Then onto ‘Pussy Pitch’ which had an easily negotiated handline. After a few wet crawls beneath some formations we eventually reached the sump that Rob was saying had been dived / pumped out to reach the other side. We then ascended up to the ‘30m’ (more like 60) crawl to Ireby 2?, as we were all feeling energetic and up for seeing more. Firstly we went upstream to a large chamber with prominent mud layering and other numerous streamways to explore, although time was getting on.

We proceeded to head downstream to the loverly crawl back when it was decided to send Tom1 (with wetsuit) to explore the depth of the water heading to the other sump. After concluding it was fairly deep, the traverse challenge was set, which i managed to earn a pint from traversing / bridging as far as my legs would go over the water below and reaching the dive line. Rob, making it look easy, then fell in trying to negotiate a bend with another passage leading off. 1 – 0 me i think…

After the pleasant crawl back to Ireby, we made our way out the way we came, still all feeling good. Having a bet on what time it was outside proved futile because we must have been storming through as we’d estimated 7.30 with it only being 6pm. Plenty of time for a cheeky, relaxing pint in the pub. Overall a good fun trip with a bit of everything!

Later on, rendezvouing at the hut with the others from Tatham Wife, a monster of a vegetable and mince broth was cooked much to everyones obvious enjoyment by the speed of eating! More caving games followed with a drunken pan stand and various other ones that dont need explaining.

Sunday brought, after much deliberation, an exchange down Sell Gill. The weather was lovely (possible grade one change?) and everyone was in good spirits after a hearty breakfast and the prospect of a shorter but no less interesting cave. With Me, Rob, Tom2 and Sema taking the dry way and Jeff, Hannah, Tom1 and Dave taking the wet route we would meet at the bottom, have a natter and head back out via the different route. All the pitches were good fun with the first involving a little deviation followed by the second smaller pitch down to a little traverse line out to the third larger pitch requiring a hanging rebilet (probably not necessary but i tried it hanging to get some much needed practice) We then popped out at the main chamber, to my disappointment as i felt like doing some more SRT downwards. After exploring the chamber for a little while we went onwards to the small wet crawl beneath some amazing formations with Tom2 waiting behind to catch the others coming the wet route. The first thing that ran through my head was how beautiful it looked (despite being soaking wet after the belly flop through the first little duck.) After more short crawling we popped into a rift which had a blown passage at the end and upon a much less pleasant crawl we reached another chamber with some more formations and a dodgy rope ladder that you wouldnt trust your life on despite my enthusiasm for having a peek. I later found out in pub that the rope ladder may have been there for around 10 years or so! If it had been replaced or not i was fair pleased i didnt trust it! There was a final pitch down to the sump but it had dodgy bolts so we didnt bother as we left the rope before the wet crawl.

Rob, me and Sema headed back to meet Tom2 and the others who were just coming down their last pitch. After munching a tasty Picnic bar courtesy of Sema we ascended the pitch one by one. With two hanging rebilets on the main pitch i felt i handled them well not messing up once (surprisingly)! Looking above me i saw Sema swing out and hit the wall which i proceeded to do too for how fun it looked. At the top of these pitches a small crawl pops out into a window overlooking another pitch and as i arrived i saw Sema was tangled in the ropes so i gave her a hand untangling / pulling her back into the crawl then watched as the rope swung her out into the path of a waterfall as she continued upwards. This was FUN. Pushing off from the window, i swung out into the waterfall getting a refreshing facefull of ice cold water. Upon reaching the top of this pitch a small traverse around a corner and i could see daylight, feeling good and  reeling from yet another awesome trip. Following behind me i could hear Tom2 derigging and a loud shout of excitment as he must have swung into the waterfall at the last pitch too.

On the surface we regrouped with the others and danced around to keep warm for a bit although the weather was kind and the sun was shining.

Looking out over the Dales i think we all felt that a good weekend of caving and drinking was had by all!

Chris Playfoot