Highs and Lows at Ribblehead

Dave, Maz, Pete, Ray, Scott, Tom, Will
Trip report by Maz

In an effort to try and entice people to a couple of easy caves on Ribblehead Moss, I’d cunningly placed a teaser of treasures in the trip invite. Several folk took the bait…

The truth was, I’d been out and bought 10 cans of lager and was intending to stash them in Thistle and Runscar caves as a treat for the lucky finder.

I arrived an hour and a half early and my plan was to start stashing. I didn’t expect company.

The smell of cannabis hit me before I’d got close to the first shake hole. As I crested, I surprised two somewhat stoned and bemused lads in various bits of caving gear.

Once we had established I was not the drug squad, I went on my way and they stayed put and did their thing. I did half expect my beer to be missing however.

Dutifully, Will, Dave, Tom, Pete, Ray, and Scott arrived with Tom taking first blood by locating beer number 1 on my wheel arch.

Runscar was the first to be explored. The top entrance then transformed into Scar Top Cave with Pete and Dave embarking on a knee busting crawl to nowhere. I had recced this on Monday and didn’t fancy it again. Sensibly the others didn’t either.

The bottom exit proved a bit tight and contorting. Again, there were not many takers.

Onto Thistle and the beer hunt continued. Lots of easy passage with some nice formations. It was surprisingly pleasant. We regrouped at the main entrance and the cannabis smell persisted. Tom found the evidence, a joint butt with suspicious looking sealable plastic bags. It was all taken away. We are a responsible caving club and remove our litter as well as that of others

Only myself, Pete and Dave took the final downstream crawl. The finale was a tight, wet, exit which I had bottled on my recce. Dave took the lead and urged on by those above ground, exited beautifully on his back, barely touching the sides. Having witnessed this impressive feat and listening to everyone’s advice, I chose a face down approach. I hadn’t intended to, but this seemed to be the way my body wanted to go. It was also significantly slower, wetter and less than stylish. Pete having witnessed this inane flailing, chose Dave’s method.

We’d had a nice time at Ribblehead and there were even a couple of beers left for my Mrs when I got back. Thanks to everyone who came along.

Some folk bring cake to meets, some bring rain, others bring new discoveries. I’m leading Mistral in July, I’ll bring the mud instead.

Heron Pot

Connor, Dave, Maz, Pete, Scott, Sophie, Tom, Will

Another visit to a Wednesday night leisurely classic, the Heron Pot mini exchange. New prospective victim Will joined us for his first trip and handled everything like a pro, and took some cracking pics (and the odd LiDAR scan).

Both routes rigged, a poke around in the high level fossil series and a brave push out the bottom exit from Connor.

Pics by Will

Coniston Coppermines

Dave, John, Miranda, Tom

Upon reaching Levers Water, Dave noticed a group of 10 heading in, so we gave them a little time to get ahead of us, but by the time we reached Arete Chamber we bumped into them. A friendly bunch from The Caving Crew. We had a bit of a natter and they kindly let us overtake them. 

Off we headed across the MAGS stemples of doom, and into the Top Level Extensions. Pausing at the cart, we decided the traverse rope across to Earthquake Passage was looking in decent nick and that it’d be rude not to. So into new ground for us, enjoying a few artifacts and some nauseatingly deep holes in the floor.

We headed back up and over the stemples, and the Crew were still enjoying the first pitch. Once again they kindly stood aside for us and we leapt onto the second pitch. A whistle-stop look round a few side passages as we were all overstocked on photos of the lagoon and the blue rock. Down in Pinnacle Chamber, Dave made a scramble up into a hanging stump of a level and found some lovely mine pearls off the beaten track. Down onto Hospital Level and on our way to the Black Bull for a post-blue-Bluebird

Photos by Dave

Boundary Pot – Spiral Staircase

Dave, James, Tom

Dry Gill was on the list, but once again the weather decided it wasn’t Jason’s day, so we decided to get to Easter Grotto having failed with high water a couple of weeks ago itself. 

Water levels were nice and low, we got into Boundary no problem, surprised to find the wet entrance bits not too bad at all; I’ve only done Boundary in dry summery conditions. We made our way down the sketchy climbs, Fusion Cavern and past the crystal Grand Canyon map and found ourselves at Hiroshima in no time, and down the Manhattan Connection to Nagasaki. It’s always surprising how thirsty Easegill makes me, but we’d left our water bottles by the entrance of Wretched in an effort to travel light, and were pretty sweaty by this point. 

Thankfully we had Easter Grotto to distract us and take a breather. Dave got a few photos, then we headed on our way downstream and out through the speedy shortcut that is Spiral Staircase. Bursting out of the entrance pipe to our water bottles, we drank deeply and once again I promised myself I’d always take water down with me on Easegill trips.

Photos by Dave

Wretched Rabbit (damp trip)

Dave, James, Maz, Tim K, Tom

Really damp week, so we had to be more realistic about reaching our plan of Easter Grotto. The Gill was flowing when we got down to it, and after negotiating the entrance climbs we took one look at the hole down into Spiral Staircase and thought ‘sod that’. Instead we made our way down WR passage, through the flood escape of Fourways and into Stop Pot. The water was churning and we headed a short way upstream before being stopped by the low bit that spits you out at stream level just above a churning deadly chaos of streamway. We turned back at this point and headed back out the same route. At least we got a decent bit of exercise in the assault course that is WR

Notts II

Dave, James, Scott, Tom

Blighted with yet more damp weather and with enthusiasm running low for Low Douk, a reschedule to Notts II for an easy pre-Christmas trip was made. 

On getting down to the streamway it was flowing pretty hard, and with rain still falling we didn’t fancy spending too much time in it. We headed up to Digby Spode’s, then up to the flood escape route.

James led the way having been through on the last trip, followed by Dave for his first squeezy stuff which he thrived on. I made slow but steady progress right until the very end with the sound of the stream tantalisingly close – a rib in the ceiling stopped me in my tracks. James bravely returned with a digging rock and we hacked at the muddy floor to create just enough room to slither through while kicking at Scott for foot purchase. 

A quick rinse in the main streamway and Scott’s measuring rock showed the water had risen a couple of centimetres in the time it took us to do that short loop – definitely wise to have not gone any further. A speedy route for the exit (entrance series was super drippy) and out for 8:20 – must be a recent record for a Weds evening trip.

Photos by Dave

Heron Pot

Dave, James, Matt, Maz, Pete, Scott, Tom

Nice little exchange on the two routes. After heading down the streamway we broke off into two, with Scott rigging the High Level route followed by Pete, Tom and James, and the classic route rigged by Matt with Dave and Maz following.

After a chat in the bottom chamber and a quick wander along the lower streamway, we decided it really wasn’t a night for the through trip and headed back out – Matt and Dave doing the High Level back up, and the rest of us heading up the classic.

Well done Pete for his first de-rig, and nice work everyone else for handling the icy conditions like champs 💪

Peak District Weekend

Chris H, John, Miranda, Ray, Scott, Sophie, Tom

Well well well. 

We chose to ignore the weather warnings of snow for the weekend and head to a remote cottage in the Peak District. 

Everyone except Tom headed down on Friday night for hefty amounts of F.R.O. and Sloe.

After Tom arrived on Saturday morning we headed to Knotlow. Both the climbing shaft and the engine shaft were rigged and we split into two teams and headed down for an exchange. The Engine Shaft was a fantastic 64m abseil and just as we arrived, John dropped down from the Climbing Shaft route after a minor rigging headache. We swapped shafts with John heading up the engine shaft to de-rig solo, and the rest of us headed up the Climbing Shaft route to the bitterly cold outdoors. 

After getting back to the cars for lunch, John, Miranda and Chris ‘accidentally got changed’ and decided a walk/pub were a better option for the afternoon. The rest of us headed to Hillocks Mine round the corner. It was luxuriously toasty indoors and we headed down the big entrance chamber and dropped into a nasty little flat out with a convenient puddle to dampen the spirits. A quick drop down a shaft then more rummaging led us to a bit of a rigging puzzle as Ray tried to figure out the way down a multiple choice pitch using a soggy topo (thanks, puddle). At this point spirits began to fade as we were cold and mildly fed up, but Scott, Ray and Sophie pushed downwards with Tom wussing out. They returned 10 minutes later with tales of 50-foot long straws and formations as far as the eye could see. But the thought of dry clothes and a stove were far more appealing, I’ll leave those for next time. It was lightly snowing as we got back above ground, a taste of things to come…

Sometime in the evening the snow started falling harder, and as we popped 50p coins into the drying room meter and showered ready for the pub, we wondered whether it was the right decision driving a mile and a half for food. We had some great grub at the Jug & Glass and hopped back in the cars to get back before the snow got too deep. Sophie’s idea of leaving the cars at the end of the track were ignored (or even chuckled at), and so we drove them down the slippy and steep track to our cottage, wise move.

We woke up to 3 inches or so of fresh snow. For some reason we got cracking with the shovels at 7am, wildly hoping we might still be able to make it to Peak Cavern for our 9:45 keyholder meeting time. It quickly became clear that we were facing a major engineering challenge, with all hands on deck taking shifts to shovel, grit and sweep to create a route up the steep track. Some southerners who were also staying at the hut watched the whole thing from the kitchen windows, grumbling about how we were ruining the track and how they’d probably have been able to just drive up it, using their extensive knowledge of snow driving in Peterborough. It took over 2 and a half hours to clear a couple of hundred metres of track but eventually we moved the cars up one by one with a bit of pushing and towing. 

We headed to the Tradesman’s Cafe in Buxton for a well-deserved brekkie, and made our ways home caveless. One for the story books, if not the record books. And also not one for the photo albums – our only pics were of our shovelling struggles.

Deaths Head Hole

Darren, James, Scott, Tom

Freeeezing tonight, with the ground frozen and a reluctant turnout of 4 for this big pitch classic.

We rigged off the dodgy-feeling new ground spikes and Darren lead the way on to the big 64m entrance shaft. We then headed down the dig to the master cave including some efficient rigging from Darren on some slightly too short ropes. 

After reaching the final drop to the master cave we headed back out, no dramas just sweating. Back at the surface it was just very lightly snowing (or frozen mist or something) but the heat we’d made on the prussik back up made this refreshing. Back at the cars for 9:30!

Christmas Bash 23

It was a chilly one this year, with frosty frozen ground the whole weekend. 

Welly Filler at Inglesport then on to Bull Pot Farm for a late start. John, Miranda, Chris H, Jason headed to Wretched for a through trip to Lancaster, while Sophie, Tom, Scott and Pete rigged Lancaster for a trip in the opposite direction.

When we reached the big caverns on the high level route (never know which one is which) Sophie cracked out her stove and brewed up some mulled wine which went down a treat. The mince pies had barely survived their journey but were still welcome in our mouths. 

We cracked on, possibly hearing the other team heading the other way in the streamway below us at one point (they were 20 vertical metres away from getting in on the wine!) and after bumping in to a few folks around Stop Pot we made our way out of Wretched. 

We headed back to the farm to warm back up and get some food on. Cracking chili from Sophie, which we shared with some shivering NCHECC students who’d had a hard day of it, and then a feast of sticky toffee cake and Cuthbert the Caterpillar, with Gareth’s generous custard contributions.

Then it was through to the members’ lounge (thanks to Chris’ double agent status) for fireside chatting with tunes. 

On the Sunday Sophie and Miranda ran a chocolate hunt for the young’uns in Yordas which of course went down well and hopefully conditioned the next generation into thinking if they go down cold muddy holes in the ground they might get sweets.