13 & 18 April 2016 - Pete O'Neill - SD 673 773
A small extension to Ireby Fell Caverns, Leck Fell
The following is a brief report of the two breakthrough trips in Frink Chamber, Ireby 2. Although not a DCC dig, it does involve a DCC member and, hopefully will be of interest to any club members who cave in the Three Counties area.
Prior to the break through, many digging trips (only two of these earlier trips involved me) have taken place over several months during the winter period, commonly in very wet conditions. For the uninitiated, a trip to Frink Chamber in Ireby 2 is an excellent day out, involving 13 pitches, numerous climbs, waist deep water, a 160m long crawl and some excellent and varied cave passage; it really is a great trip. We had the cave permanently rigged to allow fast access when carrying gear for digging, one way from the end to the surface with no derigging was taking about one and a half hours and two hours.
Frank Pearson (RRCPC), Geoff Yeadon (NCC), Mick Nunwick (NCC), Tim Allen (NCC), Pete O’Neill (DCC/NCC)
A wet trip down with much water on some of the pitches. Frank was abandoned at the end of Ireby 1, muttering about chest pains, pins and needles in his hands and feet and generally feeling like he might die. He did actually make it to the end of the skylight crawl connection with Ireby 2. Tim and I waited for ½ hour at the start of Escalator Rift for him, before deciding that if he had keeled over and died we’d deal with it on the way out.
By the time one has climbed all the pitches up in escalator rift, then the two final up and down pitches to Frink Chamber where the dig is situated, you do feel like you’re quite a distance from home. Geoff and Mick (who had decided not to wait for a dying man) had already done a fair session at the dig face by the time we arrived. Just before the dig is a tight flat-out section that Geoff has to strip off to get through, some of his thermals are left hanging from the ceiling at this point for the return journey, not bad commitment for a 65 year old.
After Geoff had finished his stint at the front with hammer, crow bar and chisel, it was my turn. We could now see gaps between boulders and a possible way on. The boulders are glued together in calcite and are pretty hard to remove, despite having a 36v Bosch SDS drill with chisel action on hand. Tim’s was to be the final stint of the day; by this time both Mick and Geoff were pretty cold having been at the digging face for nearly 3 hours and there were murmurings of pub time. However, the boulder chock finally started to give in, and right at the end of the day having used all 3 batteries for the drill a way on was opened up. Tim being at the front, was first through a slightly awkward downwards slot, closely followed by me; we found ourselves in a small rift chamber approx 4m long by 2m wide and 3m high. The chamber dropped off to the left side down a slope partly blocked by boulders into a low passage going off. Tim set to removing the boulders whilst I set to making the downwards slot bigger for the other two. In no time the boulder blockage was cleared by Tim and the two of us shot off to explore approx. 20m of muddy hands and knees crawling passage; we decided to turn round leaving it wide open and return to Geoff and Mick.
Geoff was unable to get down the slope that had been partly blocked with boulders so, from below, I removed more boulders to make it passable for them. Mick and Geoff then pushed the end for few more metres to a short section that needed digging but, beyond the 1m of digging, they could see into a chamber estimated to be 7m across with possible passages to right and left and a boulder slope at the far end.
A perfect spot to call it a day, knowing we’d be in new passage on the next trip. The trip out was even wetter, particularly Well and Bell pitches and the duck: it had obviously been raining heavy. However, on the plus side our gear was now spotless.
In the ‘Orange Tree’ at Kirkby (steak night), plans were made for a return on Sunday.
Frank Pearson (RRCPC), Geoff Yeadon (NCC), Mick Nunwick (NCC), Tim Allen (NCC), Geoff Crossley, Mark Simms (BBPC), Pete O’Neill (DCC/NCC).
Water levels were high but, unlike last time, at least the cave wasn’t flooding. I stayed at the rear of the party with Frank, who was still complaining about feeling ill, but had decided that he just could not miss out on some virgin cave.
By the time we had reached Frink Chamber, stripped off SRT gear, and had a quick brew, then progressed to the end of the previous breakthrough, it became obvious that the others were through the end dig and had run off into new cave.
The 7m across chamber was more like 4m across. A passage to the right was ignored, as voices could be heard from a sandy crawl to the left which the others had dug through. The sandy crawl led up to a T-junction with superbly scalloped stooping height phreatic tube going left and right. To the left, we followed the passage for approximately 70m, the end being walking size with some good formations (one large formation has been called Frank’s Heart) to a silt and calcite blockage with a gap over the top.
In the opposite direction from the T-junction, the stooping size passage was followed for approx 30m to a boulder choke, with some gaps going up, but no clear view into open space. Below the choke, a gap in boulders was pushed into a space with no visible way on. A short rift passage to the left of the choke was also entered with no way on.
We returned to the original 4m across chamber and entered the passage to the right which was stooping height but wide, this we followed for 10m to a choke, on the left up into the choke may well correspond with the base of the choke in the T-junction passage (survey should reveal all). Down to the right in the choke is a gap against a wall dropping maybe 2m which at present is too tight. There is little discernible draught at this point; however, you cannot tell if a passage goes off or not.
Elated at getting into new passage and deflated at not romping off for miles we had a quick brew and set off out. This time there was no flood pulse; despite the distance, it’s still a cracking trip and works up a good thirst for the pub.
Plans are now afoot for a surveying and photography trip. Whilst waiting to get this sorted, we’ve been back in Ireby 2, having a go at the main upstream choke which is a lot shorter trip than going up Escalator Rift.
Since the above was written, the extension has been surveyed, 185m of new passage in total.