Cave Descriptions


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Return trip to the Duke Street sump

2 3 4 4½ hours

Ireby Fell offers a wonderful mix of pitches and horizontal cave passage; it is a splendid place and one of the most popular and well-loved caves in Yorkshire. There are no particularly difficult parts and the ropework is quite simple, making this is a very pleasant trip indeed. The journey to Duke Street, a large fossil passage just before the sump, offers a definite sense of adventure with lots of variety and something to please everyone.


From the Eurospeleo venue (the Dalesbridge Centre) turn left and follow the main road (A65) for about six miles. Turn right at the signs for Masongill. Pass through Masongill village and follow the winding narrow road to the junction on the public road by the waterworks building and park somewhere there. Do not block access along any of the lanes.


Grid reference SD 6737 7734

A compass or GPS are useful as finding the cave (or finding your way back in fog/dark) can be tricky. Reflective poles may help to guide the route. Follow the track heading gently uphill from the parking area. Near the top, the left wall is crossed at a stile. Follow the vague footpath for 500m across the fell to another stile over the far wall. Beyond this stile, walk directly away from the wall for 200m until the huge, deep sinkhole of Ireby Fell is located.


Climb down the pipe in bottom of shakehole and descend steep boulders to the head of Ding pitch (which is more of a very steep climb). This leads down to a traverse, where the rope for Dong pitch descends, and (if rigged) the traverse continues onwards to Shadow route. Dong pitch is broken by a broad ledge with a traverse to a second section of the pitch. The route then follows the water which immediately descends a water chute towards Bell Pitch. A short traverse out away from the water allows a fairly dry descent of Bell pitch.

By continuing the traverse beyond the top of Dong pitch (which may be rigged for Eurospeleo), Shadow Route is reached, which provides an excellent alternative SRT route, landing near the bottom of Bell Pitch. This is an excellent alternative for the inward or outbound journey.

Beyond Ding/Dong/Bell the stream passage is followed for a long distance. Along the way, you are treated to some varied caving including meandering streamway, a short handline pitch/climb (‘Pussy pitch’), some crawls, and an easy duck (a section of crawl with your chest in the water). After some distance, you reach Well pitch and finally Rope pitch (which can be free-climbed).

Below here the stream passage takes on very large proportions for a few hundred metres before the water is lost through the floor and you enter a very large dry passage called Duke Street. This can be followed, walking, for some distance to the sump. Many cavers turn around here.

A short distance back from the sump, a rope (this is not a Eurospeleo rope) goes up several metres into a very long, but quite easy crawl which was dug out to bypass the sump. This eventually reaches a balcony with a short pitch down. This lands in waist-deep water on the far side of the sump, which is immediately exited into an extensive continuation of Duke Street with plenty of excellent passage to explore. There are many more (non-Eurospeleo) ropes through this section of the cave, going up to various higher passages, however, their integrity is not known.

Additional reading:

Selected Caves (page 91)

Northern Caving (page 160)

Location Map: