Nettle Pot - Derbyshire - 8th. July 2017              




Party:     P. Withnall, S. Libby, S. Bell

Having earlier grabbed 200m of rope from the shiny new tackle store at the Farm, we set off from the Nettle Pot layby with a tackle sack each. A short walk up the hill got us to the entrance, and we headed underground.

The first two pitches, the Narrows, Sentry Box, and its continuation down to the Flats, were rifty but never too tight, and splitting the rigging just below the Sentry Box into two 35m sections works well.

The Flats are a washed out lava bed, with dead shafts littering the floor to add interest. A short traverse away from the bottom of the entrance pitch is a 20m pitch to a spacious lower section, from which a short horizontal scramble leads to a moderately tight pitch head around some large wedged boulders which is Crumble Pot. The boulders don’t seem to be crumbling, though. In fact, all of the upper sections of the cave seem fairly solid.

Contrary to the DCA rigging guide (which has been fixed as of early 2017), about 45m of rope is needed to do Crumble Pot. Backing up off a scaffold bar onto a Y-hang, Crumble Pot opens out a bit below the pitch head into a nice rift, depositing you on a floor about 6m below the head of Beza Pot. Having misplaced the hangar we brought to rig the spit to allow the rigging for Crumble to flow into Beza, some faff ensued. We ended up slinging the chockstone above the inconveniently-just-narrower-than-leg-width V-slot between the two pitches as an anchor, and putting in a 10m rope on the other side to get down to the main Y-hang for Beza Pot, which was uncomfortably drippy.

Beza Pot is a much tighter rift than Crumble, with two main wider sections, which meet up at various points. Most of the way down, some wedged boulders sit beneath two obvious hangars (one on each wall), and give a choice of two ways down: one either side of the boulder pile. After some pondering, we went with the side with more visible deviation tat, and the tight rift continued. Four deviations and no rope rub later, we reached the bottom of Beza: a boulder choke floor with a tight rift going off behind (potentially navigable, but only without SRT kit on), or a boulder slope with in-place handline in front. We went down the slope, to what we believe is ‘The Shakes’, although by this point, we were convinced that the pitch we’d just come down didn’t match our guidebook description of Beza Pot. It certainly didn’t match what Steve remembered of the pitch from doing it a few years previously.

Undaunted by not knowing where we were, Steph and I investigated a crawl off from The Shakes, which turned out to be a very short lead in to a short (10m?) rifty pitch with in-place rope. That led to 100m of stoopy passage with a mixture of soot stains and recent fracture and collapse all over the roof. After a 2m down climb, we got to a choice between a route labelled ‘Hell’, ‘don’t step on the floor formations’ and a larger unlabelled route. The unlabelled passage shortly led into a much larger chamber with nice floor formations. It tended upwards around several corners, maintaining its proportions and gaining a few tens of metres of height. Short on time, we didn’t follow it to its terminus. Having searched around for surveys and past trip reports afterwards, I still have no idea what it’s called or where it leads, but it didn’t seem like the ‘crawl to Elizabeth shaft’ which is mentioned elsewhere as leading off The Shakes. It could have been Fin Pot? 

After 4 hours underground, having had our fill of poking around, we turned around. So far, none of us had particularly noticed bad air, but getting 5m off the floor of Beza Pot the air quality noticeably improved. Bad air creeps up on you. As fun as they were to descent, the tight rifts were a bit more of a pain to re-ascend with a portly tackle bag, but some swearing and tackle-bag-kicking saw us through to re-emerge after a bit under 8 hours underground.    An enjoyable trip, with some good rift.

Would have been nicer if we could work out how it corresponds to the guidebook though.

Phillip Withnall

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