Ireby 2 to Ireby 1 the second easier big breakthrough.
Sunday, 7 December 2008

Our trip the day before had been hastily cancelled but some went and cleared the bags from Ireby 1.
Dave Ramsys powers of persuasion were not sufficient to attract any revellers from the Dales Bridge and he spent the day decorating I believe. After much discussion as to the timing of the sound test we set off having only Pete as our semi willing victim/digger without whom we won’t have made the breakthrough that day.

Mike and I set off along Cripple Creek and we deposited a bottle of water and I removed a thermal and didnt puke! In 2.25 hour we were at the dig having chatted briefly with the two divers encountered enroute. This was well before the allotted noise making time, 2pm. So we found the whistle and banged on the roof anyhow. Then with intense listening a vague reply was heard but sounding very distant indeed. The dig had much less air space on this side too. We dug out three metres in a range of fashions with rabbit style and “throw the sods of clay at Sam Allshorns face digging and slowly filled the passage behind us. Then we reached a bend of 90 degrees to the right. Communication was now clear with normal talking and vague glimpses of light. Possibly still a long way to go and nowhere to put it.

With care I dug out the next 1.5m of clay sods and Mike never got close enough for me to hit him with them. Any how Mike then headed in and took out the sand. More rabbit scratting about and several trays removed to ensure we didnt seal ourselves in. A good visual was made after a total of 5m of progress the estimated distance left was another 4m. Where the hell was it going to be put? A quick discussion ensured and it was better to make the connection that way all the rest of the sand could go to Ireby 2 not back to Duke Street 1 without there being a further Grand Day Out etc.
The problem remained as to where to put it, but Mike was unconcerned by this and was going for glory and proceeded to block his exit as I was unable to clear the material fast enough. Pete kept up the slow painful solo digging toward Mike. Id like to say there was a handshake over the mud before break through, indeed Mike asked me if Id like that but I said “Just fcuking, get on with it!
With more scratting the passage got lower but Mike wasnt so sealed in and only the breakthrough to Pete was needed. Mike had done the decent thing and warned Pete that wed be going to Ireby 1 before he came to Ireby 2. Pete obliged crawling back to a turning space as Mike ploughed through. An awkward body sized bit was where Mike had sealed himself in but all was well and I followed. A quick turn around came and back to Ireby 2 for a wee in the stream and brief stand up.

We then measured the length of the passage 170 m and we had dug out 10.5 m. So all the gear was assembled and back out Ireby 1. We collect in Duke Street One for drinking and pie eating before a quick trip up the now slightly wetter stream way.

Mike Cooper’s verison

“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 Hall 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.”