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The Masongill Traverse

Samouse1

Well-known member
This trip was conceived a while ago, when I decided I wanted a good journey through a cave. I settled on Masongill, as I hadn’t explored several parts of this wonderful system, and had chatted to Dave Ramsay at work about his many explorations in the system.

I settled on Large to Ireby, as they were at the time the two furthest apart entrances as the crow flies. Some logistical considerations later and I had a few other interested people, so in theory an exchange could happen.

Upon recommendation, I did a recce trip into Ireby to check the end of the long connection crawl. This was open, so my epic trip was a go. The date was set for the 13th of April, when all of the group was in the Dales

Then, the Space Miners had to go and throw a spanner in the works by successfully opening up North End pot! My “trip between the two furthest apart entrances” had been scuppered. After a bit of a chat with Tim and co, they kindly said I could go and use the ropes, as Sam had already begun the work of bolting. So we were back on! Real rollercoaster.

The next rollercoaster was the team slowly reducing down, with a driving lesson here, and a fractured thumb from closing the OFD gate on it there. So it was down to two, myself and Hannah Collings.

We were up bright and early on the Saturday, and managed to get underground at 8:55, with minimal faff. The entrance shaft is a beautiful work of engineering, hats off to the Space Miners! We soon found the ledge and rift that wormed its way through to the top of Llean Bean. This is an impressive aven, but as Tim said in his announcement post, the first slope is quite unstable and needs to be treated with a healthy respect. At the bottom were some lovely mud formations, but we didn’t spend too long enjoying them, as we had a long way to go!

The Eastern Front did look enticing, but instead we headed into the smaller passage to the Heffalump trap. This was an ear wetter, and I was glad of the neoprene. Beyond, the going got easier, into the larger passage and past Colossus into Necropolis. A small navigational error in the boulder choke of the Eldon Extensions was soon corrected, and in no time I was squeezing through the bedding plane before the Mousetrap. Hannah went through this first, on her back. I grumbled for a minute or two, working up the inspiration to roll onto my back and push my way through. From there it was back into more familiar territory as I had been down Rift recently. We admired some of the pretties before pressing into the vastness of Coates Cavern. Skirting around the debris pile, we moved into the well decorated All Fools Passage, and here we stopped for our sandwiches.

Sadly the Darren drum hadn’t been properly sealed, so they had a few small damp patches, but we didn’t let that dampen the mood. After packing up the food, I handed off the bag to Hannah in a tempt to slow down her incredible crawling pace, and we were off into the Kendal extensions at 10:30. It didn’t take us long to pass Low Douk, and get to the Temple of Doom. Through the Coffin Shop, hoping that the coffins didn’t shift on us, the crawling seemed to be never ending!

On the bright side, the crawling was relatively easy, with a good amount of it being in comfortably sized passage, if a little muddy in places. We passed a few minor junctions before getting to Slipstream. Here, the passage felt positively spacious! It wasn’t to last though, as the crawling returned, and soon we encountered the first squeeze, over calcite.

We both shed our SRT kits for this, just to make it easier, then crawled on beyond. The second squeeze, under a triangular block, posed more of a problem for Hannah, because she decided to try with her SRT kit on for some reason best known to herself. After struggling and finally managing to take it off while half way through, she popped out the other side. I made the wise choice to take mine off before getting into it, but it was still a strange corkscrewing manoeuvre to force my way through the tight hole.

Once through this, there was only one major unknown. Wether or not the duck, which is reported to sump in wet weather, would be passable or not. The weather in the Dales hadn’t been what I’d call dry since about November, so this was a possible sticking point. With bated breath I pushed on towards it, to find that there was a decent amount of airspace. What there was also a decent amount of was silt, which repelled my first attempt to bush through on my front. After a bit of spluttering and water boarding myself, I backed out and let Hannah have a go. She went feet first on her back at my suggestion, and pushed a lot of silt out of the way with her feet. It didn’t take her too long to get through, and I followed, though I did cheat and get her to yank me through by the ankles. Apparently my legs sticking out of a low airspace duck were quite an amusing sight.

From here, the going only got easier. We were buzzing with happiness knowing the crawling was nearly behind us. Finally, the Transpennine Express led us out into the Ireby streamway, though I did stop to admire the foam party that was in the original entrance to South East Inlet

We were in a very good mood as we sat in the streamway, cleaning all the mud, grit and silt off our SRT kits. This took us a good five to ten minutes, the stuff was tenaciously sticky! But soon we were stomping up the streamway, and up the pitches.

The water levels were up a little, but not anywhere near worrying levels. Soon we were back at Ding Dong Bell, and Hannah headed up first, leaving me to derig our ropes, though she helpfully waited to pack the bag, making me wait directly under a waterfall. She said it was to help clean my kit off, which it did need to be fair. Soon, daylight was ahead of us, and we scrambled out of the Ireby entrance tube at 14:10, only five and a quarter hours after getting in, a good way ahead of my predicted time. We hadn’t stopped for all too long on our way through, and my obsessive reading up meant that route finding was not too difficult.

The pub was calling, and so we headed down to the Marton arms for a celebratory pint and bowl of chips.

A huge thanks to Sam Allshorn, and the Space Miners for letting us down North End, they’ve asked me to add that they are still stabilising and working in there, so to avoid going down till they are satisfied with their project.

And that’s it, the story of what I believe to be the first trip through the updated Masongill Traverse! It was a hyper focus of mine, researching and putting it together, and I’m glad the pieces fell into place to allow it to come to fruition in the way it did.

Hope you all enjoy reading, and if you fancy repeating this silly endeavour, my advice is to prepare for mud, ducks, and crawling.
 

CNCC

Well-known member
A splendid report of a well-researched northern caving adventure, made possible by numerous discoveries, breakthroughs and connections over the last few decades. We are very conscious that Masongill-area trips are becoming increasingly popular, and we're sure that the opening of North End Pot (once some stabilisation and anchoring work is complete) will add further to the interest in this area.
 

georgenorth

Active member
Nice one - really enjoyed ready that!

If anybody’s reading this and is thinking that this doesn’t sound like enough mud, crawling and ducks then there’s superb additions at either end. The trip to the end of Eastern Front and back at the start, and the Ireby fig. 8 at the end (NE Inlet to True Grit, followed by Cripple Creek to Ireby 2).
 

Samouse1

Well-known member
Nice one - really enjoyed ready that!

If anybody’s reading this and is thinking that this doesn’t sound like enough mud, crawling and ducks then there’s superb additions at either end. The trip to the end of Eastern Front and back at the start, and the Ireby fig. 8 at the end (NE Inlet to True Grit, followed by Cripple Creek to Ireby 2).
Cripple creek was considered, but by the time we got to Ireby, we’d had enough of crawling for one day. It would make for an epic day out!
 

MarkS

Moderator
Enjoyable write-up. Thanks!

Another super trip over that way is Low Douk to the Eastern Front and back - really varied and no SRT kit needed.
 

Franklin

Member
Wonderful trip, Samouse and Hannah. The North by North End dig has been an epic undertaking, twice a week in snow and rain, hauling buckets 25m plus with the engineering to secure the shaft challenging to say the least. Trips like yours make it all worthwhile - this is the best of caving. Let's hear about more - and further!
 
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