PEAK EXPEDITION 2012 – A Brief Visit.






Having a week off work coincide with one of the two weeks of the “2012 Peak Expedition” I decided I would venture down and lend a hand, I actually live closer to the Peak than the Dales but generally prefer heading north! And I'll be the first to admit I'm no digger, I could probably count on my hands the different digs I've been involved in over the last 15 years.


The aim of the expedition is to gather a fair number of cavers together at a dig or two to concentrate efforts. Via one of those social network thingamajigs I got wind of an evening dig in P8, having previously visited P8 I knew at the very least the start of the trip would be pleasant. Before I knew it I found myself driving towards the Peak District.


I met up with Rob (his dig) and Katie and once ready we set off and soon encountered a random character returning from caving of sorts (not proper gear, helmet but hand held torch), solo caving down some random caves and before we had chance to chat too much his taxi pulled up! Bizarreness aside an easy stroll to the entrance was had. A short wet climb at the entrance, followed by pleasant and easy caving leads to Idiots Leap and not long after, the first pitch, we didn't descend the full pitch as a few metres down we swung onto a large ledge, which made it easier to follow the high level passages we wanted (avoiding the second pitch.)


Mixed, easy caving, including a traverse, a climb down and nice stream passage brought us quickly to T'owd Man's Rift, where after a short distance we started heading up the impressive hading rift, this soon became muddy, so muddy and slippy in fact that a handline was (thankfully) in-situ.


We took a short detour up to Stalagmite Grotto before heading over to the dig, a short crawl emerges in the open space of Christmas Aven. An obvious hole in the floor is the way to the dig, a couple of metres of a climb down lands next to the descending dig, fairly easy digging (sat down) and easy to dump spoil in a tub which was pulled up and stacked over to one side of the chamber above. After a fair few tubs were removed we realised pub o'clock was rapidly approaching and a swift exit was called for!


A wash off whilst exiting the cave, a quick change and short drive to The Wanted (just made it in time) where we relaxed and I was tempted by stories of a mine that intersects natural, a 360ft entrance shaft with the added pleasure of a winch to pull you out, I was sold! A few days later I found myself back in the Peak. Owing to the access situation I'll keep details brief, but suffice to say after the abseil in, there was plenty of walking, some in sizeable passages (drive a bus down springs to mind), a few modern(ish) artefacts, a detour to the base of a huge (as in height) 700ft shaft and a few suspect ladders which led to more natural surroundings.


Along with someone else I poked around in a high level passage, finding nothing, before returning to the pleasant stream passage. Further upstream some others were wallowing in delightful squalidity in a minor inlet, which soon ended in a muddy choke. This was easily and fairly quickly dug – who needs drag trays when you can scoop it out with your hands, push back and then use your legs to push it back further to the next victim person in the chain, a few more metres were gained but I get the impression that could be a long term venture. After a while, and with water backing up behind a mud dam where lack of bodies prevented clearing of mud fully, we all backed out (pushing more gloop out as we went) and set about finding the rest of the group. It turned out they had dug and pushed a small natural passage and rediscovered some fine older workings along with even more natural - talk about wrong place, wrong time – never mind, as I still had a very enjoyable Saturday outing walking underground for miles, seeing some interesting sights (both natural and man-made) and of course enjoying a very easy exit.


Only two outings made by myself but better than nothing I guess, if they organise another next year I might be back again. I could even be tempted in to undertaking more general digging, although my availability is probably my limiting factor there.


The expedition is certainly an interesting concept that achieves results, perhaps there should be a Dales Expedition?


Duncan Jones


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