A CAVER was lucky to escape with his life after a large boulder landed on his leg trapping him hundreds of metres underground.

The 39-year-old sustained serious leg injuries when a giant piece of rock slid onto him while he was potholing at Molluscan Hall, in the Easegill cave system that spans the valley between Leck and Casterton Fells.

It is understood the man was potholing with two other friends when the boulder fell on him, pinning him to the floor.

His friends reacted quickly and managed to manhandle the boulder off him.

Around 30 members of Clapham Cave Rescue, along with nine volunteers from Kendal Mountain Rescue Team and The Upper Wharfedale Cave Rescue Team, attended the incident at around 6pm on Christmas Day.

"It was a big boulder which pinned him momentarily," said Tom Redfern, team leader for the Clapham Cave Rescue Team.

"He was very fortunate his friends were able to assist him. Once he was freed he walked a little way out of the cave but his injuries got too painful."

He added boulders were natural hazards which potholers have to expect if they ventured into the underground labyrinths. Once members found the group they quickly gave the injured caver pain relief,splinted his leg and stretchered him to safety via County Pot.

Kendal Mountain Rescue then carried him across remote moorland to a land ambulance waiting at Bull Pot Farm, Casterton.

Team leader for the KMRT Eddie Harrison said it was a 'challenging' mission.

"Given the wet weather and how misty and boggy it was, plus the time of night - it was past midnight when we got home- it was quite a challenging rescue," said Mr Harrison.

"I understand they were experienced cavers and from what I can gather it was a very unfortunate accident.

"It could have been a different story if his friends were not there. It took us about an hour to get him over the moors."

The Easegill system, which is located on the Cumbria Lancashire border, is 66,000 metres long and has some very difficult sections.