RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 45 Number 2 Article 9

May 2008

A Weekend in Castleton

Peak Cavern: Victoria Aven

26 April

The 2008 CDG AGM saw me in Castleton for a spot of caving or diving. The plan for the Saturday was for Sue Ryall and I to do a trip in Peak Cavern. An efficient SRT trip up Victoria Aven which is not far from the entrance would allow me to be out in time for the AGM at 3pm. I had had to be in Oxford the previous night for a lecture from climbing ace Dave MacLeod, so an alpine start of 6am had me at the TSG shortly after 9am. Dave Ryall and other CDG worthies were starting to kit up for a dive in Peak. Dave greeted me, asking me if I still planned to do a trip with Sue. True to form, Sue had been partying the night away: there was talk of sleeping in rose bushes on the way home. I asked Sue if she was up for a trip and she said she was so the trip was on. Thanks for Jim Lister access to Peak was sorted, so Sue and I joined Martyn Farr, Gary Jones, and Dave Ryall who were diving while Helen Rider and Martin Grass who were tagging along.

The divers got kitted up at Buxton Inlet Sump and Helen and Martin headed on into Peak, while Sue and I headed up Victoria Aven. Sue went up first and was soon at the first rebelay. She seemed to be taking a long time at it: at one point I heard her mutter “b*stard”, so it was clear she was having an off day. When I got to the top of the first pitch I found Sue undecided as to the route she wanted to continue on. At this point there was one route rigged with good SRT rope that looked too energetic for Sue. The obvious way straight up, also rigged with good SRT rope she had already been up on a previous trip so was also discounted. The final remaining way on was via a slightly exposed step and was protected by an old hawser laid rope attached via a dodgy rusty krab. Sue didn’t like this option either and decided at this point that she had had enough.

I decided to go to the top of the aven and have a pootle before re-joining Sue. At the top of the pitch was yet another choice, with one rope going further up into an aven and another traversing up into a climb. I decided to go up the latter so as not to keep Sue waiting too long. At the top I got to a really pretty chamber with some very nice stal: I generally enjoy moments of solitude in a cave and this was no exception.

I was soon at the bottom of Victoria Aven and since we had loads of time before the AGM Sue and I continued on into Peak. I’m very fond of the Peak streamway: it’s lovely open passage and nice easy caving. On our way we bumped into Dave and Martyn who were diving back out Buxton Inlet Sump. Back at the other side of the sump we found Dave and Martyn dekitting, so I offered to carry Martyn’s bottles out for him: nice easy walking passage makes such a pleasant change from the Bull Pot of the Witches crawls!

Once out into a lovely sunny afternoon we were washing mud off our wellies and tacklesacks when we bumped into new CDG members, Mad Phil and Emma. They had been planning on going for tea so Dave, Sue and I joined them, in full caving gear. Phil and Emma played host while Sue, Dave and I sat on the ground and drank our tea. It all felt highly incongruous and added quite a spark to the day.

Thanks to a great effort by Christine Grosart and John Taylor the AGM was very well attended, but thankfully the AGM itself only took a couple of hours. We adjourned first to the pub until around 1am, then back to the TSG where SUSS were continuing their AGM celebrations. Farm brew cider and squeeze machines were the order of the day. I left before it got even sillier. Tales of Jason Mallinson making up some game with a ladder sounded quite extreme. It’s good to see the old lags keeping pace with the young crazies of the caving community.

Bagshawe Cavern

27 April

The next day there were quite a few sore heads. I had planned to dive Holme Bank Chert Mine, but John Taylor and Gary Jones felt they were too hung over to dive, so instead John suggested a trip into Bagshawe Cavern. Gary, John and I were joined by Helen Brooke and Julianne and without too much faff we were off.

Getting into Bagshawe, the engineering skills practiced by Derbyshire cavers was much in evidence: scaffolding in the entrance series, handrails, steps felt very different. Soon we were at a short ladder pitch into the lower series of the cave. Shortly after this, John took us up a slightly exposed little climb, just a couple of meters, but with no real handholds. Julianne, had not been underground much at all, so John was particularly solicitous of her, which as a good thing: she slipped on the way up and John caught her.

When we were all at the top of the climb John announced that the next bit was a bit tight. Being the fat boy I opted to go last. Sure enough at the tight bit my chest got stuck … yes my chest … my gut is much more compressible. I was given instructions on how to meet the rest of the gang on the other side of the tight bit and Gary came back out to help me down the climb. Down climbing was abit awkward, particularly when a finger hold I was relying on broke and I swung and nearly fell: I grabbed Gary’s knee and for a split second it was unclear whether we would both fall, but fortunately we held. Once down I waded through the lake as directed and rejoined the others in a very pretty chamber with lovely decorations.

On the way out there was a high level route, which John felt would be a bit tight for me so Gary and I went back up the ladder while John and the girls went the other way. A short bimble brought us to the streamway where John got out his brew kit and soon we were drinking hot chocolate to the murmur of running water. Soon we were back out in day light having had an efficient 2 hour trip underground. Bagshawe Cavern is a jewel of a cave: the perfect Sunday trip.

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