A quick cuppa at the Old Smithy Café in Monyash and the team set off for its first SRT trip of the day at Water Icicle Close Cavern. The road to the cavern turned out to be more like an off road rally course than a track and after a lot of mud and puddles (Carl even managed to go through a particularly deep puddle with his window open!) our 3 cars all looked an identical mud grey!
At the entrance Andy swiftly rigged and descended the 100ft pitch followed by Jess, Carl and myself. As I reached the bottom of the shaft I found I was struggling to catch my breath and Andy called me over to check if my lighter would light as his would not. Neither of our lighters would hold a flame so we swiftly decided to exit and leave the cavern for another day. With the lack of air the 100ft ascent felt somewhat arduous and I for one was quite glad to be out in the fresh air. Carl found out the hard way of the joys of getting one of your ‘Jewels ‘ trapped in an harness strap and would go on to complain of his bruising the rest of the day ;)
Upon exit we found Wal informing another group of the situation and they also decided a different trip would be in order. We found out from them that a large group had been in the day before which may account for the bad air in the bottom of the chamber.
Andy about to descend in to Water Icicle Close Cavern
Next up was Knotlow, after a little more mud splashed all over the cars we were soon heading for the climbing shaft entrance where again Andy rigged the first couple of pitches and Jess, Carl, myself & Wal Followed. At the base of the second pitch Carl posed for the fallen caver picture with the bolted boulder on the floor and then we were off for Waterfall chamber. I took over the rigging and Andy instructed to me to do the Y-hang off the closer 2 p-bolts. Knowing no better I did what I was told and sailed down the line straight into the spray from the impressive waterfall. After a quick poke around the coffin passages we headed back up and out with Wal ensuring Andy getting a good soaking on the prussik back up.
Jess in Waterfall Chamber
Finally the most awkward of the 3 trips, and my personal favourite. The Hillocks entrance is a concrete tube which soon opens out to walking and stooping passage which again degrades to crawling and finally flat out wet crawling passage to the head of the first pitch in a coffin passage. After rigging this I dropped down the shaft to a smaller hole before (after a little jiggling around with the SRT kit) popping out in a low passage. After this there was an awkward climb before heading down the 2nd pitch and through for a quick look at the Climbing and Engine shafts in Whalf before heading back out.
De-rigging as I went Andy called out to let me know to pull up the rope bag as I went, as the angles of the pitch would make it impossible to pull it up after. Andy then went on to tell Carl of the time he did this and then knocked the bag back down the pitch and had to do the entire pitch again to retrieve the bag……..just as……yep you guessed it…….I had pulled the kit bag up, got to the head of the pitch and decided to undo the rigging before pulling up the bag. After undoing the y-hang, enough slack was given for said tackle bag to fall back down the hole and wedge tight enough that the only thing I could do was re-rig and go and retrieve it! Doh
Aside from Jess once again clambering all over me and giving me another set of bruises at the awkward climb out and another soaking in the flat out section, we exited without further issue and were soon back at the pub for a well-deserved drink before our drive home to wash the cars!
Carl, Andy & Jess at the bottom of the 1st pitch.
Present: Carl Knot, Steve ‘Wal’ Wallis, Andy Grimes, Jessica Harding & Mark Burkey