Suspiciously easy trip out of London and very little traffic all the way to Derbyshire. Arriving to a quiet TSG the one remaining member seemed disappointed by our numbers (we'd promised 15 apparently). We also apparently disappointed SUSS by going to bed before they got back from the pub. I was not disappointed with 8 hours of sleep though.
JH -> Peak Cavern: Ben Honan, David Wilson, Isha Kaur, Rhys Tyers, Ryan Clark, Sam Page, William French
JH to Peak lined up for everyone. Will and I had done it before, it was new for everyone else. My vague memories promised a sporting trip. Arriving at the Rowter farm Ben offered an IOU to the farmer (which was accepted) and fawned over the exceptionally friendly farm cat. The rest of us changed and lugged the rather large amount of tackle over the field. It's not a long walk, just in an adjacent field to the farm, the one with all the little bumpy hillocks.
No one else was keen to rig so I did it. Cheeky little Y-hang off the bar across the entrance and down I went. Down down down. It is nearly 60m in one hang! Fine on the way down. I briefly put in the rebelay about 1/3 of the way down but you need an additional deviation to avoid a nasty rub then so I had Ben remove it (we were a little light on slings).
At the bottom we grouped back up again. . The clear pools were their usual deeply mysterious selves. Bitch pitch, with its stempled approach was fun to rig. I like the deviations on the way down that seem to pull in the opposite direction to usual deviations, zig zagging the rope down the tight pitch. It didn't seem as loose as last time (I'm not sure anyone dislodged any rocks this time).
In the workshop I scouted ahead for the nicer way down. Down the square slot in the floor a slightly dodgy climb down the sandy passage brings you to a hole with some non-p bolts. With the other catching up I started rigging down. It's significantly more pleasant this way than the old route from the top. The fact that you climb down about 15m before starting also removes some of the fear factor. However the DCA rigging guide does not match well at all with the bolts in the cave. It isn't to hard to pick a way down though and we were all soon down the beautiful final hang.
We were all excited to begin the traverse. Down the ladders, following the sloshing pipe and into the stream. I think the water levels were lower than last time I was here as only at one point did it approach nipple deep. Also I did not remember that the deep pool (whirlpool?) has a metal bar just under the water to walk on. Speedwell gate in sight we turned right to the Bung. It was not as intimidating as before and I descended. A few seconds later I was shivering in the stream on the other side. Everyone came down, smiling for the most part and we carried on.
Here my memory of my previous traverse failed and following the streamway brought to a point where, on the right, the ceiling lowered rendering the stream an impassable low crawl and, on the left a was a sandy climb up that I definitely didn't remember. We read the descriptions that Ben had helpfully printed. We were quite confused for a bit as the description describes Block Hall for a long time and only very subtly returns to the streamway to describe the way on. Anyway we eventually found the crawl (the short bypass) on the left bank (looking downstream) that leads past the low point in the streamway.
The crawl rejoins the stream and not long after it enlarges into a very tall passage. The ladders to Colostomy are very obvious and land in the middle of the passage. I asked how everyone was doing. A few grimaces told me that everyone was in the right state of mind for Colostomy and the Trenches. We emptied our wellies and climbed up. At the top the initial entrance to Colostomy is quite intimidating if you don't know that it almost immediately gets better. I shuffled forward far enough to let everyone get into the crawl and then once we were all in we set off in our human centipede esque train.
I found the crawl fairly pleasant. It's not too long, no one was too slow and with so many people its very sociable. I think we were all surprised when we popped out into Treasury chamber so soon.
We crossed the chamber into the rift, followed it to the larger passage and followed that all the way to the bathing pool. We gave eachother a thorough scrub. Davey Dubz, earning himself something of a reputation now, went to swim in the sump to clean himself. I would say it was not worth it given how little mud he removed. Out through the show cave we were just early enough to catch the last tour of the day and so were gawped at and photographed by quite a few tourists.
It was really warm when we exited, a pleasant change to just about every other time I've been in Derbyshire. At the hut Tony Seddon gave me a lift to pick up the minibus from Rowter and I made good on our IOU. It was early enough and warm enough that we even went for a beer sitting outside The Castle pub. Dinner was a delicious lentil curry with chipolatas and bacon (for those that indulge in such things). A masterpiece by Ben. The evening descend into drinking (we even went to the pub with SUSS, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn is a very nice pub). ICCC were all in bed by the time SUSS started experimenting with the microwave (honest).
Route finding tips
I couldn't find a good description of the route, probably because it's relatively easy. The DCA have a series of guides that you can sort of patch together to figure it out but you end up having to read them backwards a lot of the time. Anyway for future reference here are some navigation tips that could be useful (and might be all you need to do the route, take guides and surveys anyway!).
- It's not a long walk from Rowter farm, just in an adjacent field to the farm, the one with all the little bumpy hillocks.
- From the bottom of the entrance pitch pick the highest not completely awful looking passage on the way to Bitch pitch. You're nearly there when you get to a tight descending rift with a metal pole in it to step on.
- From the workshop its a climb down (slightly dodgy) the square slot in the floor to get to the newer Leviathan route. DCA rigging guide seems to skip a few bolts, two 60m ropes is still more than enough even if you use all the bolts you see.
- At the bottom of Leviathan climb up the boulder slope, into the crawl and then go into the metal gated passage with the ladders. After joining the water, go downstream till the metal gate to Speedwell. At the gate is the right turn to the bung.
- After the bung head all the way downstream until you get to the impassable low bit with a climb on the left. Then back track ~20m to take the first right turn (looking upstream) into a crawl. This pops back out into the streamway and shortly you'll arrive in a larger passage with the ladders to colostomy.
- In Colostomy I think you just need to keep left. I forget the order but at one point there is a tiny chamber with a ladder on the right that you should ignore. Instead duck into the strongly draughting squeeze on the left. At some point you also step out of the crawl into standing passage. A tight looking passage leads off to the right but you should follow the more obvious way straight on. Finally, I think near the end, a very low crawl goes to the right, taking the water, but the way on is straight on over a mound of mud into nicer looking passage.
- From where you pop out into treasury chamber, ignore the boulder slope down to the right and walk straight ahead into the rift. This shortly leads to an intersection much bigger passage. Turn left and follow it, eventually through the ducks, to the intersection with the main stream. The bathing pool is ahead, the way to the show cave to the left.
Peak: David Wilson, Ryan Clark, Sam Page
JH: Ben Honan, Isha Kaur, Rhys Tyers
Nice derig bounce into JH on Sunday. Isha did the work whilst Ben and I took some photos and chilled like villains.