Darren, Tom, Scott, Yolanda, Ray
This is one of those caves that didn’t exist “back in my day”, so I’d been keen to have a look ever since hearing about it following my return to caving. Yolanda had also been eager to explore a new way in to her favourite cave (Notts II). Tales of the formations in the Haywagon were also interesting, so this trip had been eagerly anticipated ever since Darren put it on the meets list. It didn’t disappoint.
There was, of course, a bit of faff to find the entrance. Luckily Darren had previously left a pole sticking out of the wall at the appropriate point. Well, not so lucky after all, as the pole had either been removed or we just failed to spot it. Anyway, we eventually found the entrance and Darren set off down. The climb down to the 1st pitch is rather snug, but we all managed with just a bit of huffing and puffing.
At the bottom of the pitch we set off to marvel at the Haywagon… SRT kit off and being very careful! It’s certainly well worth a look, but I think we all felt a little nervous about the potential for damage. It’s probably something that every caver should see once, but only once. Tom then set off out as the Haywagon had been his goal for the evening. The rest of us continued towards Notts II.
Pitches 2 & 3 follow almost immediately. They were pre-rigged (as was pitch 1), so we didn’t bother to rig our own pull-through rope. On the 2nd pitch, it would be easy to continue down to the bottom if you didn’t know any better. Luckily Darren knew that we were supposed to swing off to the right partway down to traverse out to the proper pitch 3.
The passage between pitches 3 and 4 is basically a long crawl. I had been a bit concerned about this, having heard tales of tight, awkward crawling in water. But it really wasn’t that bad at all. The start (just below pitch 3) was the tightest bit, but soon opens out (relatively) to a hands and knees crawl. There’s just enough water to make it a bit unpleasant, but nothing scary. Further on, the passage becomes a bit more rifty and it’s just a matter of finding the right level. Staying low for most of it seems to work.
Eventually, we magically popped out at the top of the 4th (last) pitch (Oliver Lloyd aven in Notts II). This wasn’t pre-rigged, so Darren rigged our pull-through rope. He seemed to get down to the big ledge near the bottom without a hitch, so I followed him down, with Darren shouting some instructions that I couldn’t quite make out… until I saw the issue. While the live end of the rope just about reached the ledge, the pull-down end certainly didn’t. Luckily I was carrying the spare rope, so was able to tie it on as I passed. I still don’t know if this was precision rigging by Darren (with the live rope JUST reaching the ledge) or incredibly good luck that he didn’t have to prussic all the way back up to rerig. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
From the ledge there was just another short drop down into Notts II Inlet 7. Everyone made it down uneventfully and we all set off, with huge grins, for the Notts II main streamway. The streamway was as stomptastic as usual and we were all soon up the entrance climb.
This was a great trip and one that I will certainly be repeating. I reckon it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours with a small party and you don’t stop to look at the Haywagon. Cheers Darren!