Mark R, TomTom
Well then, wasn’t that an interesting trip! The question of the day is ‘how many bad signs is enough to call off a trip?’ I arrived at the pull in to find only a relatively light dusting of snow around, nothing that inappropriate wide summer tyres couldn’t handle. Mark was only minutes behind and so we huddled the back of his van discussing the plan for the night. As we listened to the sound of warmth falling on the van we put off the inevitable, claiming that this wasn’t faffing since we were here early. Sadly it was soon time to change and so I had to leave the warm van for pastures cold.
The snow and hail kept on falling as I tried to huddle behind my car, realising I had to rebuild my SRT kit after taking it apart for a wash since it’s last use. About an inch of snow fell whilst we got changed and by the time Mark had finished packing the bags of rope for tomorrows trip I was about caught up. As we tried to hide from the lashing wind we discussed how this was a stupid idea, just was it too stupid an idea. I had packed all of the clothes in my car in case I was to get stuck anywhere but I didn’t really fancy that. We decided to press on anyway, just not to take the drill or the ropes for tomorrow.
With just the entrance rope between us we pressed on into the virgin snow, the wind still attempting its murder mission. The journey was first broken by observing a very low flying plane followed by a huge flash of light, I thought it was my torch randomly going onto boost but seconds later there was a huge bang. Brilliant, this snow storm now had thunder and lightning involved. We both looked at each other, having the same thoughts of how much metal we were covered in and how we were about the only defined objects on a hillside. This was getting a bit silly now so we decided that if we saw lightning hitting the lid of Nettle we’d take that as one omen too many and head home.
Upon arrival and nettle we arctic foxed inside and marvelled at the incredible warmth of the place. Our fingers were essentially useless now but somehow we made it down the entrance shaft in one piece. The entrance rope was already taking a bit of a battering after just a handful of trips, we may have to look at the rigging at some point. The way on was somewhat bliss with zero bags between us and we were very rapidly at the glorious freeze squeeze.
Mark went through like a gangly whippet and then informed me of the good news, there was no limit on the size of scaff and planks we could get through here if needed, joy! I followed though and managed to not get stuck, which I’m sure will inevitably happen at some point. The plan for the night was to scratch around in the passage between the freeze squeeze and Derbyshire hall, see if we could find any hints in the floor.
I’ve kind of lost track of where was where but we looked at three sites, one where there’s a water inlet, one where you climb over a rift, and one right near Derbyshire hall. We found ourselves reduced to cave men as we hit rocks with rocks, poking around in various plies of scree looking for hints that may lead to ways on below. As I attempted to get myself stuck under a boulder I tried to move over myself things seemed to look less and less promising. Mark retrieved the crowbar from Derbsyshire hall as we looked for cracks to prise apart and look deeper.
Eventually it got to the stage where we decided to give up, having spent a couple of hours scratching around to no avail. At least we now know and it looks like a serious effort in Derbyshire hall is the dig of choice. The way out was also fairly rapid apart from my torch getting so caked in mud that the switch got stuck, it seemed to eventually fix itself which is good.
I decided to time the entrance pitch climb as I can never really work out how long it is, turns out it’s a lot shorter than I think. At a reasonably leisurely pace it’s 10 minutes, shame the rest of the cave isn’t as reasonable! Back out at the surface we were battered by the cold, at least it wasn’t snowing though. We got changed as quick as possible and huddled back in the van for tea (which never happened). We decided to have a look at Winnets pass instead to see if pub was on the card but this is where problems began. It started to snow sideways and was rapidly getting deeper, Mark managed to get to the road with relative ease but my car just sat on top of the snow happily spinning its wheels. I tried to rock it into movement but movement but it was a no go. Mark agreed to tow me free but in the battering snow/wind I didn’t really have the patience to screw in the tow eye to the front of my car. I went for more rocking which I’m sure the clutch loved but eventually I was back onto the road.
We slowly limped towards WInnets pass to see how bad it was, as we approached the slight downhill by the cattle grid I attempted to slow, nope! The ABS was reduced to the point of doing nothing so I was heading towards the hill with no way of stopping... yay. Fortunately I managed to stop before the steep part using the steering as a brake, there was no way I was going down there. I said my goodbyes to Mark and waited at the top in case he needed assistance on his way down. About 20 mins later he made it to the bottom (somehow!) and I could about turn and head for warmer climes in Liverpool. There was a lot of abandoned cars on the top road so I felt mildly smug when I made it back to Disley, win.
Granted this trip report was more out of cave than in cave, but it was quite an eventful evening!
In the storm