Visiting the Peak

Part 1: Th. Colostomy Experience.

January 1993 and the Red Rose yet again set oft for an exotic and foreign destination. Derbyshire! At the Bullpot Farm of Chesterfield (i.e. Rick and Claire Scotts house) Rick, the landlord, had purchased a barrel of beer for the occasion so we soon drank that and got the weekend going with a traditionally savage Friday night. Saturday morning saw us heading for Peak Cavern. We drove through the misty Derbyshire hills in a five car convoy, I was just like the “Italian Job” except four out of the five cars were unreliable rust buckets. Still there was only one breakdown on the way and we all arrived safely at the TSG.

Simon and Stuart organised our access and shortly we were walking up the path to the impressive entrance to Peak Cavern. A party of five went into explore the Peak Cavern main passages. The other seven of us - Neil, Andy, Christine, Jason, Adrian, Jane and Angela headed for the Peak - Speedwell connection. None of us had been through Colostomy Crawl before so we were not quite sure what to expect. After strolling through the entrance passages we soon found ourselves scrambling over muddy boulders to reach the second gate of that day. As the iron barred door clanged shut behind us we knew that it was time to get down onto our hands and kneepads and get moving.

The first section of crawling was quite pleasant because the floor was covered with a conveyor belt to smooth the way. After about fifteen minutes of hand and knees crawling we reached a fork in the passage. The left branch led to the White River Series and the right branch led into Colostomy. We turned right and so Colostomy began!

Flat out, 20-30 degrees uphill, full of gloopy, slippy mud we started to make our way. Some slid along on their bellies; others found that the lack of friction on the floor was causing the “half a metre forward, four metres back” effect so they slid along on their backs. Using the roof and walls to push against the roof and walls we progressed slowly and steadily along the never ending intestine. Often, if the person in front came a little too close, the caver in front used their face or helmet as a handy foothold. Early cries of “This is fun” were replaced by “It’s not too bad if you do it this way.” then eventually “I’m knackered, are we nearly at the end yet?” At last we slithered out, seven muck monsters covered from head to toe with gloopy, slimy mud. We descended a series of slippy, bendy, fixed iron ladders, watching out for the missing rungs and then dropped into Speedwell.

Part 2: Zimmer Frames Don’t Float,.

Another short section of crawling lid to the main streamway. Splashing along was a pleasant and refreshing alternative to the earlier crawl. We soon reached the “Bung”, a ten foot ladder climb up through a waterfall. The water levels were quite high but fortunately the previous week a dam had built to divert the main force of the water to the right, so the ladder climb was wet but not desperate. After our ascent we stuck to the right wall to avoid the large hole on the left which would have sucked us underwater and straight back down to the stream below.

The mined tunnel which led to the higher streamway was pleasant walking but quickly the water depth increased. Soon the cold water was chest deep and we were all glad that we had decided to wear wetsuits.  Neil asked Angela to go back to get Andy Hall. When she asked why, Neil replied,

 “Because zimmer frames don’t float!”

Angela returned back along the passage to find Andy with his glasses streamed up clinging desperately to the wall. He could not see where he was going and had no idea of just how deep the water got - a frightening experience for a non-swimmer (especially without a floating zimmer frame!) Angela reassured Andy that the water was not too deep and tried to relieve the tension by adding,

 “The water only comes up as far as my boobs”

 “That’s not true,” replied Andy.

 “What do you mean?” asked Angela.

 “Well your boobs hang down to your waist and this water is definitely not waist deep!”

Angela then decided leaving Andy to drown, but decided against it and guided him safely along the passage.

The party moved on steadily and soon reached the streamway, it was a tall, wide passage and a pleasure to wade along. We eventually reached the large end sump where we saw the divers line disappear beneath the rock. We returned to a small passage seen shortly before the sump. A climb up a small waterfall led to a passage whose walls were covered with mud graffiti. The earliest entry was “1701” a stark reminder that the system must have been explored nearly 400 years ago by Derbyshire miners. We continued along the small, narrow passage and popped out into a huge chamber. We clambered up the boulders and suddenly we were staring up a huge aven of (dare I say it?) Yorkshire proportions. A rope hung down from a point nearly 200 feet up to which Simon Cundy had climbed. At the top he has found another aven of approximately the same height. We were suitably impressed.
So it was time to turn around and make our way out. By this stage our
wetsuits were quite clean, but we knew that that would not last long when we re-entered Colostomy.
Colostomy proved to be brilliant
fun on the way out. We slid speedily along downhill on our backs. Neil went so fast that soon the sight of the roof flying past his face made him feel travel sick. Before leaving the cavern we all had to have a bath together to wash off the mud.

As we were leaving through the entrance we met some TSG divers. We had locked the inner door and were just about to lock the outer gate when one of these divers noticed that a member of our party was missing. Unfortunately we did not manage to persuade them to leave Andy Hall locked inside. Soon the completed party were heading back to get changed discussing what a good trip it had been.

Angela Hare


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