Ireby Skylight breakthrough

posted in: Whirlpool Passage | 0

Morning Mudminers,

I’ve been asking Sam and Mike about this, and the attached item from Mike explains how this (rather unexpectedly) came about. Not with the sort of Channel Tunnel handshakes and champagne event, more ‘at least we won’t have to go back out through Cripple Creek’..! With numerous 10-14 hrs bag-hauling sessions in Skylight behind them no-one can doubt that they’ve put in more than their share of graft. It also reflects well on the survey – with two loose ends approaching each other, numerous bends, the starting points quite some distance apart and the passages up in the air compared to Duke St., not a bad job at all ! Ken W.

“The breakthrough on Sunday 7th December was not anticipated. Indeed, we left a relatively expensive water bottle part-way along the Cripple Creek route on the assumption that we would be coming back out that way. Our main aim was simply to try and establish a vocal connection and get a morale boost for ourselves and everyone else involved in the project. The dig face on the Ireby 1 side had reached 115m from the Whirlpool Chamber ladder – a depressingly long distance to drag bags of sand. The remaining section of undug passage (later measured to be 10.5m) proved to be just beyond the limit for a vocal connection. We had pre-arranged to shout and blow a whistle at 2.00 pm and every 15 minutes thereafter for 2 hours. We shouted and whistled at 2.00 pm (and so did Pete Hall of DUSA on the other side) but we failed to hear each other. We understood that the two dig faces were only about 7m apart and there were several inches of air space above the fill – so why could we not make contact? A wave of despondency was inevitable, but we had committed ourselves to stay for at least 2 hours and digging would at least keep us warm. A short while later we heard some very faint sounds. We banged on the roof with a shovel and got a very faint response. Contact had been made, but Pete sounded very far away and the idea of digging through to him on this trip seemed ludicrous. Then we got a very faint vocal connection and (after we had excavated our way around a sharp bend to the right) we got a light connection. The impetus to keep digging when you have a light to aim for was truly amazing. Eventually the gap was reduced to about 4m and we could communicate easily. Making the breakthrough suddenly seemed a much easier prospect than returning via Cripple Creek so we just kept on digging. The section we dug out on Sunday and a few metres before (at either end) are currently flat-out and quite strenuous, but the digging is easy and since all the spoil can now be removed to the Ireby 2 end it won’t take long to enlarge the connection area. Before we left, we measured the full length of the crawl. Skylight Passage from ladder to ladder is 170m long and (hopefully) will become an integral part of a classic Dales caving trip – a fitting tribute to so much effort by so many cavers.”

Best wishes
Mike Cooper