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Ireby Fell Cavern - 20th Feb 2010

Saturday February 20th 2010

Members present: Alexander Stelfox,  Karim Shokraee,  Matt Gosling

Report by Matt Gosling

Sparkling Crystals in Ireby II

"The only real treasure is in your head. Memories are better than diamonds and nobody can steal them from you" - Rodman Philbrick

Rigging the shadow route down Ireby Fell Cavern is incredible fun; firstly you traverse across the ceiling then execute a series of pendulums between intertwining rifts. There is quite a lot of work to get to the top of the main hang but once you abseil from this point you are taken a long way down, as far as the bottom of “Bell” pitch via a well placed deviation and this is exactly where myself Karim and Stelfox soon found ourselves. We made good time through Ireby I and were soon into Ireby II via the irritating 80 meter long crawl through the dig. Once in Ireby II we made our way down Duke Street II and up Escalator Rift to the junction with Jupiter Cavern but instead of turning off we firstly headed up a further rope pioneered by Stelfox. Past a large stalactite that narrowed towards its connection with the ceiling this led into a crawl full of incredible and pristine formations including straws, curtains and many incredible helictites. The floor was littered with sparkling white crystals; unfortunately these had been covered in mud in some places as the diggers had obviously had to crawl across them to penetrate further. At the end of the crawl we met a 4 meter pitch with an in-situ rope and abseiled into a chamber with a large array of stalactites hanging from the roof, one growing off at a strange off-vertical angle. Alex politely informed me that “so many people in the club would cream themselves if they saw this” but this was nothing compared to what was to come next.

Up a very loose climb into the side of the chamber we made progress through a section that looked like it may have been dug out recently, certainly we saw a shovel adorning the floor around this area. The next chamber contained gour pools and a brilliant white stalagmite that stood about a foot and a half tall and looked like the Gherkin building in London much because of the strange pattern of pits around its periphery. From here Stelfox pushed a short crawl to find the most beautiful cave decoration I’ve ever seen, a dry pool of glistening white crystals in the floor, totally pristine and covering an area of about a square meter. Towards the left a cluster of crystals grew to strange triangular pinnacles and through the right hand side of the pool a raised spine of spiky crystals wound through the rest of the pool like a spiky dinosaurs’ tail. Wow! Really wish I had brought a camera, I need to go back! Alex tried to push a traverse and severely banged his head on the side of the cave in the process; it turned out to go nowhere. On the way back we dropped in on Jupiter Cavern and gazed into its expanse, its towering grandeur exacerbated by the confined phreatic stream type passages that make up much of the rest of Ireby. I’ve always had a passion for Ireby Fell Cavern since Debbie Flowers and Charlie Dixon took me there on my second ever caving trip. Back then I never would have believed I would eventually progress to a level in which I would be able to rig the Shadow route and find amazing crystals at the limits of the caves exploration. Life is incredible. Thanks to Karim for driving and Stelfox for derigging (thank god, I was coming down with cold and was knackered on the way out of the cave).