Banging below – A dirty night

Mark R, Rachael D, TomTom

Nettle pot. Derbyshire.

With strong reservations about nettle pot, based on very negative descriptions from everybody I knew I was amazed to find myself sat at the road side in the car with Tom around quarter past six. Noting that Mark was yet to arrive we took the opportunity to both strip off in the warmth of the car and apply our snuggly onesie attires. The traditional protests and objections occurred once Mark had arrived but reluctantly we vacated the car and after the brief additions of some caving gear we set off into the wind.

Mark began rigging and as soon as he was out of the way I clipped myself into the bolts to shelter from the wind. “Rope free” he called and off I went into the unknown. My first mishap occurred within minutes, having successfully passed 2 re-belays I clipped into the third, adjusted my descender to the rope below and informed Tom that the above rope was free, to which Mark stopped to question me. Turns out, I had made life somewhat harder for myself by not distinguishing between a re-belay and a deviation and the rope Tom was now clipping onto was not free. 2 caving points lost.

Following the main pitch there was a mismatch of crawling and rolling, ascending, descending, rock climbing and strangely I was somehow enjoying myself when suddenly disaster struck. Upon climbing off of one of the smaller ascents I looked down to find one of my two capri-suns absent from my pocket. Whilst considering how serious having to ration my other one was for getting out Tom temporarily raised my hopes were temporarily with shouts of “Ooh I found a capri-sun” from below me but then instantly distinguished the hope as he shouted up that it had exploded. I was furious at capri-sun, that wasn’t even a high fall, and a mental note was made to write a strongly worded letter to the company informing them that they needed to reinforce their lunch box juice cartons.

A little further along and we reached a rift, which Mark effortlessly scarpered across. Having independently managed for a few metres I came to a sudden holt at an impending drop. Tom reassured me that it wasn’t difficult and that I could just reach across and place my foot on a small platform the other side of the hole, but with legs over a foot too short to reach I assured him that in actual fact, I could not. Apparently the only other option for me was to lean and fall and trust that I would land safely, but with unstable footing and thick layers of mud preventing any firm grip on the rock, my inevitable doom flashed before my eyes and a panicked squeal of “Mark, I’m going to die!” escaped from my lips, I felt my body dropping as Mark turned back to help but my feet landed firmly on the platform, I stood up straight and questioned why Mark had had such little faith in my ability and had turned back. He rightfully reassured me that any future cries of certain mortality would be met with the correct level of complete disregard.

Down the final pitch and in what had felt like no time at all I was already face-to-face with the dreaded freeze squeeze. My previously lack of concern for this part of the cave (based on my smaller stature and build than that of Tom and Mark who manage) quickly depleted as I looked into the narrow, rigid, compact supposed ‘passage’. My helmet came off and I immediately, as if intentionally, wedged it between the rock, slightly to the right at its narrowest part and that was that. After two or three fruitless attempts to budge it I quickly became aware that recusing the helmet was now Tom’s responsibility and that I would go forth without it. Other than that, through with fairly little issue and onto Derbyshire hall, which I found to be magnificent and well worth the efforts of getting there.


Down to the dig site and after a quick briefing of their intentions with it we set to work blowing the rocks to smithereens. Protection gear on and with no demonstration I had no idea what to expect but was told to try and face away and it would probably take a few hits, I hit the hammer down and ‘CRACK!’ first try. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed losing my capping virginity and then participated in throwing rocks around for the best part of an hour. Mark had built a beautiful sturdy wall, Tom had sculpted an ugly, dodgy, rock pile and we voiced our intentions to begin the return.

Personally, returning through the freeze squeeze turned out to be somewhat more difficult than the original passing. Tom, having mastered his techniques already forced his body through and I passed the bag and my helmet through to him and got into position, on my back, head first, as instructed. Barely half way through and I was stuck. So very very stuck. Pelvis solidly wedged between the rock and breasts completely flattened into a teenage AA cup, I was completely immobile apart from my left leg, which I could move only left to right. Tom told me to back up a little and get my arms stretched out ahead of me and he would tug from there. I did as instructed but between the thick layers of mud coating my wrists and that of his hands, the lubricant was too much, his hands slipped straight off of my wrists and as he tried again it was nothing more than a gentle wrist massage. “Tom stop just wanking and sort me out!” I cried. Mark unable to see what was going on, but knowing what a lad Tom is, didn’t question this. As fear for the juice box in my pocket bursting like it’s former comrade had I kicked my left leg around frantically for anything to push off of, to no avail. At this point I genuinely gave up, accepted that I was stuck forever and that I could form a home wedged between the rocks, which would have been perfectly fine except that Mark felt my inhabitancy of the freeze squeeze would prevent his ever getting home. Tom took this moment to physically assault me, and reaching down over my shoulders, he ran his hands across my chest, took two firm grips on my over suit and started tugging furiously. As I felt myself ever so subtly loosening excitement kicked in. “YES TOM… THAT’S IT, OOH, AH, AARGH, COOMMEE ONNN… YYESSS!!!!” The sudden release was overwhelming, and as I lay flat on my back panting feverishly, Tom, the lad that he is, got up and walked away, his job was done.

Whilst walking through the tunnel I somehow managed to step in the ONLY 5 inches of knee deep puddle in the passage and screamed as I went straight in flooded my welly. Other than that, the return journey was rather un-exceptional as I tried to internally asses how much I was struggling and how much more efforts I could force. The pressures of the return squeeze had drained me so much that even the first, very short ascent left my muscles shaking in disbelief at my life choices. Tom raced ahead and returned to warm the car up, but for Mark and I it was a slow and steady ascent. Even the descending pitches, which I expected to be glorious temporary breaks from climbing became difficult with thick, sludgy, clay mud disguising my descender squeezing the stop took two hands. We eventually reached the main pitch and I climbed onto the rope slowly, mentally preparing myself. I regularly had to stop to listen to Mark’s singing/anecdotes/poor jokes, i.e. “What’s orange and sounds like a parrot… A carrot.” Past half way, the shaft enclosed around me and I was torn between finding it easier to shimmy/climb up the rocks and struggling to free myself from the astounding tight grip that the walls had on me. Eventually though, hours after having set off from the dig I could feel the fresh air on my face and it was dark and far too cold and far too windy, but before long, we were in warm dry clothes, yet still coated in thick dry mud, in the back of the van, taking it in turns to wrap our lips around the hot rims of our Ribena cups.

I feel that one day I may even be swayed to return… But not next week!


Rachy DD.

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