A good, albeit infuriating in many ways, weekend! When I said that the OFD trip was the most chaotic I’d ever been on it was obviously asking for trouble. I am coming to associate Derbyshire with the total emptying of stores into the van and also with bad weather, of which there was plenty. This weekend also consisted of faffage of the highest order. Still, most people managed to go caving at least once and nothing awful happened to the minibus in our novice hands. Driving through Knightsbridge was an error, but we didn’t get lost at all on the way to the Orpheus. Found the Saturday caves fine, once we’d circulated through Buxton a couple of times.
We spent just enough time in the cave to chat to some other cavers, get a bit damp, do our biannual ladder practice, and for Venoshah's harness to simply fall off her despite our attempts to tighten it up.
We aborted our round trip at the beginning of the Crabwalk due to the forecast of torrential rain which would make Garland's Pot very unpleasant. Possibly we were being punished for my decision to wear elbow pads in a cave - it had been pointed out to me that such luxury was offensive but I had no idea the caving gods would get so upset.
Dan's car battery had died in the three hour interim between arriving and trying to leave. We eventually succeeded in bump starting it back to life, whooping with triumph - something we would repeat on Sunday too. The fog had rolled in, and kept rolling, making visibility awful. While waiting in the minibus, Sam and I spotted a car which had gone off the road. This was very exciting, especially when we went to investigate. Finding no one in the car, we turned away, only for three cars to pull up and - thinking we had crashed - enthusiastically ask if we were all right.
Five hours after exiting Giant's Sam and I were finally on our way back to the hut with the Oxlow crew. Massive thanks to Sam for waiting around with me. Saber had made five curries for dinner, which was amazing.
A great trip! We set off in our usual fafftastic fashion (i.e. after 1pm) and after a little navigation practise we arrived at Giants. We changed there and Fiona gave us a lift to Oxlow field.
The entire field was thick with fog. The visibility must have been about 5 meters. Thankfully as we stumbled around the middle the mist cleared and Tim spotted the concrete entrance in the hillside. Luckily (for me) someone was in the cave so as I was rigging I had little else to do other than follow their rope.
At the third or fourth pitch (I don't actually know where we went in the cave) I descended only to find the knot at the end of the rope appearing in my hand about 1m short of the ledge I was aiming for. I prussicked back up and calmly explaining that it had scared the shit out of me, Oli responded by giving me another rope and suggesting I should go back down and tie it on. Took a while doing that and carried on.
It was here that we met some Bristol and Sheffield University cavers, they were doing a freshers SRT trip in Maskhill and out Oxlow. Once their battered and terrified freshers had stumbled away we continued.
We got to a really large chamber and I let Oli go in front to rig, but all he managed was a 10metre pitch down a waterfall and then he found a small chamber full of water. Niko arrived and expressed his opinion that this large chamber was the end of the cave annd why would anyone want to go where Oli had.
Out of the cave once more we found Fiona and Sam at the bottom of the hill in the minibus, aparently they'd been waiting for us for a few hours after the Giants trip was called off. We were all grateful to change in the windbreak the bus made.
At the hut an amazing variety of curry was consumed and Ed and Christina made rice pudding which was surprisingly delicious.
6.30am, a horrific time to get up, especially after going to bed at 1.30am but Peak Cavern was waiting. In a surprisingly quick turnaround after I woke everyone up at 7.15, we were out of the hut within an hour. We even made it to Castleton exactly on time despite navigational issues. As we unloaded our stuff from the van a TSG member appeared to tell us that our keyholder had been to Peak and decided it was too wet. No Peak for us. Back in the bus and back to the hut.
We got back at 10, almost as if we'd gotten up at a normal time after dreaming of being in the minibus. Many people suggested going to the pub, others wanted walking, still more were content to eat breakfast for the entire day. However Kate sagely advised that the Giants crew had not been able to go caving yesterday and it would be a shame for them to not experience it.
In a flurry of page turning we decided that Carlswark Cavern was an ideal place to go. Close to the road and big enough to have a survey in the book.
We arrived near the cave and changed. I assured people that the cave was somewhere in the cliff, we just had to look for it. This turned out to be more fun than I expected, we scrambled in and out of any likely looking crevice in the cliff, finding some really awesome places.
We stumbled across Carlswark eventually though and dived in. It was a really fun trip, mostly stooping and crawling through ankle deep water with just enough waist deep holes to keep you on your toes. Most people got quite involved in searching for ways on, we found quite a lot of dead ends and undesirable leads and ended up in a nice small streamway where we turned around.
On our return we were packed and ready to go by 6. Dan's car required a push downhill by half a dozen people to persuade it to start. We were back at Beit by 10ish.
It should come as no surprise that despite the lack of Giants caving, three of the four experienced cavers from our trip were too lazy to go caving on Sunday. It was far better weather-wise though so Nico, Dan and I had a very nice walk up the Tissington trail.