Saturday 17 September 2022

Return to Moss Chamber

On Saturday 17 th September Club members Laura aka “Loz“ Appleby (our most excellent trip Leader), Becca Kirkpatric, Dave Bell, Phil Lester and myself completed the classic trip to Moss Chamber. Anne Bell was intending to come but was unfortunately poorly, not to worry as I am sure there will be another opportunity in the not too distant future as this is such a ‘Bucket list’ trip.

We met at the TSG hut in the middle of Castleton for breakfast on the hoof as we changed into our gear. At this stage we were one short in that Phil had not yet arrived. A gentleman called Chris who would be our escort into the cave collected the appropriate fee of £4 part going to Peak Cavern itself and part for the use of the TSG hut. We were about to depart when Phil arrived at the door, having had trouble with his SAT Nav, (Can’t beat good old paper maps l say). After the fastest change l have ever seen we were on our way through the town with the usual admiring glances from the public.

We reached the pay desk and Chris completed the paperwork and reiterated Peak Cavern rules including not hugging paying visitor customers on the way out in our mud covered oversuits. Chris was going to work on his dig so would accompany us part of the way. Through the gate which marks the now end of the public tour (it did go beyond here, but no longer) and onwards to the “Mucky Ducks” Unlike the name suggests the water is anything but mucky, beautifully clear until the silt is stirred. Chris reckons the name comes from a Pub in Sheffield, but who knows how these names come about. They are not actual ducks either although pretty close if you stumble. The water is waste deep (and not too cold either) but the ceiling comes down low so you bend over with your chest in the water, a goodly amount of your body stays dry unless you stumble, result, a full soaking.

We continue along the stream way until we find our junction on the right. At this point Chris leaves us to return to his dig. Up over the slippery shoulder to enter the mostly hands and knees Pilkington’s crawl, not sure of its exact length but it felt like about 80 m. At a sharp left hand bend nature has deposited a large rock over which you slide to enter an ascending tight hole on your right. One’s instinct is continue ahead which we did only to find it should have been a sharp left.

Backtracking we continue the climb in what feels like a boulder choke to emerge at the muddy slope. Depending on how much water your cloths have carried this polished mud can be demanding physically, feeling like one stride forward and a long slither backwards. Eventually we reach to top and come face to face with “The Eye” the notorious vertical oval shaped hole which is about shoulder height. The trick our glorious leader tells us is to try and get your whole body horizontally aligned with the hole and she is quite right, doing that is another thing! But with help from the youngsters, supporting, pushing and pulling l made it and l think Phil had some help too. The tight squeeze just beyond was completed and we moved onwards to the climb down and up, fortunately there is a decent looped rope to assist on both down and up. One more tight crawl followed by a thigh deep wade and we have arrived in the infamous Moss Chamber. Just time for a brief explore, view the impressive flowstone wall and a couple of photographs before starting our return as some of us were definitely feeling the cold.

The climb down and up felt more difficult probably due to tiredness and being cold although the strenuous work in getting up did improve the heating considerably. In my opinion the Eye is easier to approach from this side but assistance was still welcome and despite landing in a heap like a new born animal all was well. The muddy descent is a breeze so long as you break carefully. Head first down the narrow passage bring us to the small hole adjacent to that rock to be slithered over again.

Probably due to tiredness the crawl seemed longer on the way back despite it being ‘downhill’. We emerged into the streamway to be met by Chris who had heard us coming. Back along the streamway through the Mucky Ducks to the holding pool where hand brushes are available to have a good scrub down and remove as much mud as possible. On entering the public part of the show cave we await the call of the guides to call us past the public and at the pay kiosk complete the exit paperwork. Back to the TSG Hut where glorious HOT showers are taken, the only difficulty here is deciding when to reach out and turn it off. Tea and cake at Morrison’s in Buxton on the way back rounded off a successful day and trip.

Ian Millward.