Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Peak District caving

Team: Derek Cousins, Duncan Hornby, George Linnane, Lesley Markie, Ariana Preston, Lee Smith, Richard Sore, Claire Vivian, Neil Weymouth.

Dates: 18th -20th May 2018

This club meet saw new and old club members travelling from far and wide to descend upon the TSG in castleton. With excellent weather forcasted the sensible thing would have been long walks in the Peaks but instead we all headed underground to be cold and wet!


Richard and Duncan arrived a day earlier as Richard was keen to refresh his SRT skills in preparation for his summer visit to the Berger. We decided to do two caves near Monyash: lathkill head cave and knotlow cavern.

Lathkill Head Cave, top entrance was located with the GPS and the entrance is locked with a nut so you need an adjustable spanner to open it.

Richard at the entrance of Lathkill Head Cave - Upper Entrance
The entrance leads straight into a pitch (rigging guide is here) which is a fairly pleasant descent.

Richard rigging the upper entrance pitch in Lathkill cave
The rest of the cave was bl**dy miserable! Flat out crawls one after another made for a gruelling trip taking far longer than expected. The guide did not make sense with respect to distances but we end up in a reasonably large and decorated chamber, which we believed to be the Dream Time chamber. At this point we simply gave up and headed out with much talk about lunch!

One of the more spacious crawls…
Definitely a collectors piece of caving! I think the log book which was hanging on a piece of string in a daren drum at the entrance said it all, 5 trips into the system in 8 months…

After a spot of late lunch in a cafe in Monyash we drove to the nearby knotlow cavern. This has two entrances, a monster 70m pitch and a less intimidating 2 pitch entrance which I pushed for. Rigging guide can be found here.

Richard rigging the Climbing Shaft entrance to Knotlow Cavern.

Climbing shaft entrance is also locked with a nut (so don’t forget your adjustable spanner!). The first pitch is fairly easy going and was quickly descended.

The second pitch is much more technical starting with a traverse line leading to a Y-hang to avoid the waterfall. Richard spent more time on this pitch head and wisely put in a long leg loop in just before the Y-hang to aid getting on/off it. He eventually descended.

Richard rigging the second pitch in Knotlow.
There is something about watching someone rig that induces a certainly level of concern. I subsequently put in an extra sling at the Y-hang to help with getting off it. The actual descent went rather well and I met Richard at the base of the pitch. Feel smug with myself I said “right let's go!”, he walked 2m and announced that was the end of the trip! What? Well it turns out that it pays dividends in actually reading the description! Knotlow is usually done as an exchange trip via the 70m Engine shaft pitch…

So we turned around walked the 2m back to the rope and then ascended popping out into a glorious evening.

We had dinner in the popular Bull Inn in Monyash then headed over to Sheffield to pick Claire up at the station. We returned to Castleton and thinking the others may have settled in for the night we went for a last orders pint at the Peak Hotel. Claire sent a text and to our delight Ariana, Lee, Neil and Lesley turned up and a few more drinks were sunk.


Much to Duncan's horror, we needed to be ready and changed in time for 9.30am, ready to walk over to Peak Cavern for 10am. No lie-in for anyone this weekend!

We quickly split into 2 groups. One was to be an SRT epic to the White River Series and the the other would be a tourist trip around Peak taking in the streamed, Galena Circuit and Moss Chamber.

The tourist trip

Duncan, Derek, Lesley, George and Claire opted for the non-SRT trip. It was Lesley and George's first visit to the cave. As Richard was the only member of the other group to have visited Peak before, and that was in the opposite direction on a trip from Titan, we went with the others until the start of the Trenches. 

Then we motored down to Surprise View and went for a splash around in the spectacular streamway.

Derek traversing just before Surprise View.

The water was incredibly low, but I still couldn't resist taking a picture or two there. No-one managed to fall in, but wet feet still abounded.

George, Derek and Lesley in The Tube.

We went to the bitter end, Buxton Water sump and then turned around to go to the bitter end upstream (Far Sump). En route we managed to lose Les and George as their enthusiasm for exploration took over and they disappeared up a side passage. We waited a while for them, but got fed up and after looking at the map and seeing the passage they disappeared down re-entered the stream further down, we headed that way. No sign of them when we got there, but barely 2 mins later there were shouts behind us. They'd noticed we weren't behind them and had retraced their steps. We then all continued to the sump.

Derek, Claire, George, Lesley and Duncan at Far Sump.

A knotted rope had been spotted on the left on the way down. Claire and Duncan explored this to the bitter end (a dig face) via a series of crawls, then caught up with the rest. Following this, it was straight in to the Galena Circuit. Several short and fun rope climbs ensued, along with a miserable section of flat out crawling through mud. We emerged back at Surprise View somewhat muddied than we left off.

George and Lesley in Peak Cavern Main Stream (a corner in the The Tube).

I'd promised there would be some formations today. So our next stop was Pickering’s Passage and a trip to Moss Chamber. Lots of crawling ensued. Much more than I remembered from my last visit here, so I’d obviously blanked out a section of that. But it was good fun- George even said that it made the trip for him! 

It is a fairly strenuous trip up to Moss. Derek’s knees were hurting and so we left him at the entrance to the passage and estimated we'd be back in about 40 mins. How wrong we were! We more than doubled that time and returned to find a cold friend (though he didn't hold it against us. Thanks Derek!)

The initial crawling is replaced by some scrambly moves up mud slopes with steps cut in them and slightly awkward climbs. I enjoy this sort of thing. It’s a good challenge. It was George and Lesley’s first go at the Eye-Hole and they stepped up to the challenge excellently.

George looking determined in the Eye-hole.

A couple of easy rope climbs followed the eye-hole and then a short crawl brings you out in to the pool at the bottom of Moss Chamber. This was definitely deeper, and colder, than I remembered. Though being the first to arrive at it I was amazed at how clear the water was. As you can see from the photo, this did not last long.

Claire in the pool in Moss Chamber.

The SRT trip

We split into two groups at the start of The Trenches, with Richard, Neil, Ariana and Lee heading into The Trenches as the other group made their way to the main Peak Cavern streamway. The Trenches were certainly aptly named, with lots of thick clay underfoot attempting to steal wellies! The sludge continued as we entered Colostomy Crawl, which left us completely covered in a nice layer of sloppy mud.

After all that crawling, it was certainly a welcome sight to see the ladders heading down Egnaro Aven. After descending these we set off along the streamway, taking the bypass route crawl to get to the bottom of Block Hall.

Block Hall provided some top SRT practice, with lots of technical ropework to refresh with. We weren't sure how long the pre-rigged pitches actually were as we set off - there's about 80 metres to get to the top.

Ariana passing a rebelay near the top of Block Hall.

Prussiking up a bit more...

From the top of Block Hall, a rather unassuming looking crawl takes you to the start of the White River series, which Neil and Richard headed into whilst Ariana and Lee began to negotiate their way back down the rebelays of Block Hall.

Neil descending on the way back from White River series.

Richard making his way back down Block Hall (note the mud, that oversuit is actually red!)

After regrouping following our descent, we made our way to where the streamway meets the end of the Speedwell boat canal to see The Bung. This is a choke point where nearly all the water from Speedwell flows into Peak Cavern - although water levels were low today and there wasn't much of a waterfall.

We then stomped on back down the streamway, up the Egnaro Aven ladders and back into Colostomy Crawl for some more writhing through the mud. It seemed somewhat longer the second time around!

As we made our way back down to the entrance, luck would have it that we intersected with the rest of our party as they emerged from the entrance to Moss Chamber! Perfect timing.

We started to make our way back out to the Cavern entrance - this time the cold water of Muddy Ducks was quite welcome in order to rid ourselves of some of our muddy coating. However, we still needed to give ourselves a good scrubbing down before making our way back through the show cave! It was lovely to emerge into a beautifully warm and sunny May afternoon - and even better to hit the hot showers of the TSG hut!


Richard was tempted by the sunny weather and went for a walk whilst the rest of us took on the challenge of doing the round trip in Giants Hole. Neil had not been in it for over 10 years, whilst it was their first time for Lesley and George. We knew it was only going to be a shorter trip as we all intended to finish early today to go home or, in Neil’s case, paragliding.

The team at Giants Hole Entrance.
After pausing for a quick photo at the entrance, we were on our way. It took hardly any time at all to reach Garland’s Pot. This was then ably rigged with a ladder by Duncan and Neil.

Lesley descending Garland's Pot.
Then on we sped down the Crab Walk. What a fun bit of cave! For those familiar with OFD, it is just like Maypole Inlet but goes on for a lot longer, i.e. a slot canyon. We tackled this with gusto as we went further into the system and avoided falling into potholes and getting unnecessarily cut up on Razor Cascade.

Lesley in the Crab Walk.
Leaving the Crab Walk (and a couple of frogs behind - sorry Tarquin!) we entered the Upper Series and began a series crawls and walking passage interspersed with a couple of fun short climbs with handlines. All was going well. We made a couple of wrong turns but got back on track quickly and were soon at the notorious Giant’s Windpipe. I'd done this before and knew what to expect, Les and George were new to it, so of course they went first to trail blaze through for us today. The groans and occasional choking noises gave away their enjoyment as they crawled through a tube partially filled with water, with flat-out crawling in places and turning into a duck further on.

George at the Giant’s Windpipe.
Then it was on to the grand finale of the trip. The 45 foot abseil back down to the bottom of the Crab Walk. Duncan rigged the abseil ring for a pull-through and then went first. George was up next, he learnt how to tie his first Italian Hitch and then breezed through it. Neil was the last down. He re-rigged slightly as he wasn't sure if the ring would allow the rope to pull-through easily and then abseiled on a double rope.

George about to abseil as Neil looks on.

Looking directly down the Crab Walk- route of the abseil.
The point you re-enter the Crab Walk is very near Garland’s Pot, so it was only a few minutes before we were climbing back up the ladder and de-rigging.

Duncan helping George with his knots.
It was still gloriously sunny when we reached the surface. We had also made very good time as it had taken us only just over 2.5 hours to complete the trip. We were pleased with this as none of us was very familiar with the cave. Good job everyone!


  1. Good efforts everyone. Excellent blog as always Duncan really enjoyed reading it .Stunning pictures Aswel.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, next time you should come to Peaks! This blog is not just me, always a team effort, Claire and Ariana wrote a good portion of it, I just published it.

  3. Always enjoy caving with you all .Excellent efforts