Drum and Drat - Wombling Underground

Mark R, Mark S, Ben E, Chris H

Our Sunday morning lie in was well deserved after our trip to the far reaches of Rowter. Today we were set to penetrate the depths of Nettle to take a look at the digging that had been done years previous in Dratsab. But first we wandered round to Peveril stores to stock up on pork product stuffed sandwiches and lots of tea. After a couple of mugs of tea in the TSG we packed up and headed once again up Winnats pass. Marks Badger Mobile again struggling uphill laden with the weight of three cavers and associated gear. The layby was already full of cars and vans but we found space and proceeded to change in the cold wind. The lower field near the stile was a quagmire of sheep shit and mud which we trudged through before marching up the hill to be hit by the full force of the gale that was blowing across the top of the peaks. Looking across to Mam Tor we couldn't comprehend why so many people were up there walking. They were probably thinking the same of us going underground.

Mark had all the ropes in tackle bags pre-tied having only done the trip a week or so ago so the decent into relative warmth was swift. Mark and Mark made short work of the descent leaving Ben and I to bumble along after them. It had been a long time since our last trip in Nettle and recalled it being too wet to do some of the lower pitches so we were hoping it to be dryer so we could actually get further in. We remembered the first few pitches being tighter last time. 

Crumble and Beza were very drippy in places but most of the water was easily avoided on the descent. We then worked our way down past Hell and on into Dratsab. Initially it didn't seem too bad then the flat out wriggling under boulders and round corners started. It became a foot first guessing game of what was beneath and which direction did it go as any view forward was blocked by the restricted head room. The Mark's went off for a scrat around at the very bottom to see if there was any likely dig opportunities. Ben and I held fire in a wider section listening to the muffled groans of discomfort and dry PVC being scrapped across rock. After 10 mins Ben and I turned tail to allow the others to come out. The upward struggle seemed almost as bad a the gravity assisted descent. An aptly named piece of cave.

In the small chamber after the squeeze and final descent there was a large blue drum left behind by DCC diggers of yore. Mark was in his womble mode and from a previous trip had decided it needed clearing out from the cave. A funny smell emanated from it and a brief lid removal left us just as puzzled as to its contents. There looked to be some food and various plastic tubs the contents of which were unknown. We loaded in a bit more rubbish, wire, lump hammer etc from the far depths and then for some unknown reason I decided to volunteer to haul the thing out knowing full well that it was unlikely to fit in some of the squeezes and would definitely get wedged everywhere.

As soon as I reached the first squeeze it wedged. After some swearing I had to get Ben to give it a kick into the hole after me. First pitch went without a hitch until I got to the top with the tightest of the squeezes. I managed to push the relatively flexible body through the gap and then it reached the neck and lid which was a) more solid and b) had a metal collar on it to hold it shut.

Bugger, it was properly stuck. Still hanging on the pitch I wrestled with it until I was knackered and decided I had to haul myself up over the pitch head, turn around and kick it hard. It worked and I then continued up the very drippy pitches of Crumble and Beza where despite the water lubricated walls it decided to wedge itself firmly every couple of prusiks and require  some reverse prusiking to reduce the tension in the haul line or to give it a much needed kick. These two pitches seemed to take forever and I could hear the others below getting frustrated at waiting. Eventually I was able to call rope free. 

From here on the pitches seemed much wider despite my body being pressed between the walls and before long I had reached the surface lid. Shortly after Ben appeared behind me rapidly followed by the two Marks.

We said farewell to Mark S and headed back to badger HQ for some hot not Ribena and took another look in the drum. It still stank of methanol and the contents are still unknown. A tub of light fittings for an FX and a tub of mystery orange powder.

A superb weekend of underground action.



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