Tom Tom, Shane H, Tim A, Mark W, Mark R (Liam W- surface work)
Who would have thought that today would end up so good. Throughout the week I had been convincing myself that the ‘feature’ we stopped at last weekend was in fact just an alcove and that this trip would just tick off another possible lead. I was going to take a disto and compass underground with me too but thought that this was just asking for it to go nowhere. Good job I left it at home.
We bumped into Moose at the farm and had a chat with him for a while, putting off the inevitable alcove exploration and enjoying the nice weather. It was interesting to hear about what he has been doing recently in Peak. Liam had brought his new fancy drone with gimble mounted GoPro to take some aerial shots of the farm and the entrance so with the farmers permission we kitted up, took the drone to the entrance and left Liam flying around whilst we all descended into the darkness.
Tim had stayed down from the day before to come and have a look at our discoveries and it was nice to give him the guided tour. He left us half way along the ice cream trail and headed home whilst the rest of us ferried bolting gear, more rope and a load of steel krabs to the Wizard’s Sleeve. Tom and Shane were the first up the new pitches and through the hole to the wide calcite ledge in the new upper bit. Last time we didn’t have a name for this, towards the end of the day we decided upon the Awechasm. (as opposed to the lower Crystal Orechasm).
Mark and I caught up and we left Tom and Shane huddled out of the direct line of fire of loose rock and climbed the two steps and the long rubble slope, sending a near continuous shower of rock down as we went. Mark climbed the small chimney at the top of the rubble slope and set up a belay stance on a small ledge, not before we had scaled a heap of stuff off the loose walls though. At the top of the chimney, just to the right hand side is the big ‘feature’ and just to the left was a small rifty bit of passage that went somewhere! As the other two made their way up the rubble slope accompanied by the sound of rolling boulders we headed south into the rift. After only a few metres there was a small pitch which dropped us down into a boulder filled floor. The walls were fairly solid, and by that I mean limestone and not crumbly calcite but as we walked on from the base of the small pitch and climbed a boulder slope we found ourselves stood in a ‘pot’… a clean walled shaft with the most horrible, precarious stack of boulders hung up in the roof 12 or so metres above. There was definitely air flow in this place but after much poking around we gave up on finding an easy way on. It was as we were all assembled back on the belay ledge afterwards that Tom offered around some food and this little crumbly pot got its name- ‘Party Sausage’.
Next was the main event, Mark kitted up again and headed off round the corner into the feature. It was all free climbable but he stopped for a couple of runners as he went, making us all feel a lot better. I stood there on the ledge belaying but unable to see what was going on. Suddenly I realised that I had paid out more than enough rope for this to no longer be considered an alcove! “what does it look like?” I called up. “well…. There’s no sign of it stopping yet!”
After about 10 minutes of climbing and drilling Mark called down that he was safe and I followed him up. The feature was definitely a tube- a bloody big tube around 5m across and sloped upwards in a roughly south/ south-east direction (guess) at about 40 degrees. As with every other piece of cave during the day, we couldn’t help but knock rock off as we went, sending it showering down the rubble slope, down the two climbs, over the calcite ledge through the hole and into the bottom of the Orechasm.
I arrived at the top of the rope up a steep calcite wall and glanced up ahead of me. It kept going and Mark wasn’t in sight. The roof at this point was decorated with beautiful translucent stal and flowstone and the floor was a boulder floor frozen in place with a heavy layer of calcite. There is no other way of describing this than it is a truly beautiful piece of cave. I followed the faint brown footprints up over the calcite floor to the top of the slope where I found Mark waiting. The slope terminated at a blank limestone wall but as I turned round in this big space the passage continued on, handsomely sized over my head back to the north and up again. The walls of this whole section of passage are lovely solid limestone and nearly all of the floor is grey/ white with calcite. The aven/ upwards passage will be a fairly easy climb followed by a harder, steeper climb but we couldn’t see any more than perhaps 20m up.
The chamber at the top of the calcite slope has a big upstanding calcite slab at the top with steps below. Tom mentioned that it looked like a throne and the chamber had a name- ‘The Throne Room’. The passage leading up to that point off the vein is called ‘Breathless’. Both very fitting names for a stunning bit of cave. Part way up Breathless on the left hand side is what looks like the top of The Party Sausage- boulders piled up against the curved wall of a descending ‘shaft’.
By this time we had been underground quite a while and set off on the long slog back to the surface. By the time we had re- rigged the Awechasm and the Orechasm and fought our way to fresh air we had been underground for about 9 hours. As we were sat in the pub we decided to call all of the cave after the ice cream trail ‘The Father’s Day Series’, this contains the Crystal Orechasm, The Awechasm, The Rubble Slope, Party Sausage, Breathless and The Throne Room…. So far!
Next trip in will be to survey all of the finds so far and take some photos with Rob Eavis. I will also be taking some tape for the Throne Room to mark out a path over the calcite flows.
One thought does cross my mind as I sit here writing- Breathless is a large piece of cave that intersects the mineral vein high up. The Party Sausage pot sits in the middle of the section of Breathless passage and the base of it is lower than the point at which Breathless erupts into the vein cavity. At some point water fell down this pot and went somewhere- there isn’t another obvious dry inlet into the mineral cavity lower down so where did the old Party Sausage water go??
I can’t wait to get back in there and carry on where we left off- watch this space!