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Ireby Fell Cavern (a water-based turnaround)

Saturday January 18th 2020

Members present: Bronte Cunningham,  Christopher Edgar,  Jasmine Potts,  Livvy Golby-kirk,  Oliver Forbes-shaw

Report by Livvy Golby-kirk

So, even though our Caving Masters at the CNCC had provided us with a brand-stonking massive warning telling us very clearly when and how the hydrology has changed, we still thought we should test it out after a 24 hour period of dry weather after a bit of a wet week (which, from memory of the old water in Ireby, I would have expected it to be quite soggy, but still perfectly doable).

We wandered up the fell and into the cave, where I rushed ahead to start rigging. I was slightly confused if I'd gone the wrong way, because I was greeted by an enormous, churning, and very violent waterfall rushing down the first climb to Ding pitch which I'd never seen before. It was a raging torrent that covered the climb entirely; you had to go through it fully to be able to even see the first pitch. Chris and I knew then that it was time to turn around as we had two freshers with us and we weren't going to dangerously subject them to multiple waterfall prussiks.

But my curiosity got the better of me, so as Chris went back to tell the others we had to turn around I rigged the handline and attempted to pass through the water. So I manoeuvred on up to it and put an arm out in front of me to test the force, and it really frickin' hurt. From this position I could see through the spray that Ding pitch had a torrent of water cascading down it, and I realised that even without freshers, it was unsafe for anyone to attempt to prussik up it. So I took my needlessly soggy oversuit and me back out the cave, and we had a little chat about where on earth we should cave next.

I think it's confirmation that this new hydrology means serious business and Ireby definitely needs long periods of dry weather now in order to be safely attempted.