Saturday 8 April 2023

Corkscrew Chamber

Destination: Corkscrew Chamber (Aggy)

Cavers: Loz (leader), Anne and Dave

I’d wanted to go to Corkscrew Chamber ever since I’d seen photos of the Courtesan, so when Loz offered Anne and myself a trip there, we jumped at the opportunity. After arriving at Whitewalls and chatting to a few of the (very friendly) members, the three of us started the plod along the old tramroad to the entrance of Aggy. We made quick work of the entrance series and the first boulder choke, and were soon walking along Main Passage to the start of Southern Streamway. This passage always seems like very civilised caving – a wide, open passage which you can stride along, with only a couple of points where you need to stoop.

Loz led us to the start of Southern Streamway, and there the striding stopped, to be replaced by a mixture of stooping, hands-and-knees crawling and shuffling. Although it wasn’t Main Passage, it certainly wasn’t as bad as the horror stories I’d heard. We made quick progress to the second inlet where we stopped for a quick drink, and then continued down towards Waterfall Chamber. This section was definitely the crawliest part of the streamway, but being fresh it didn’t phase us. Before long, we’d reached the rope up out of the streamway that leads to the start of Priory Road. After a fair bit of crawling, we eventually reached the start of the final passage to Corkscrew Chamber. This involved some fun, tight s-bends, which Loz guided us through, and before long we reached a short climb up and a polished entrance to a tube that looked too tiny to fit a ferret into.

What do you do when there’s a rather unnerving tight section to be navigated? Answer: send your wife first, of course. After a few minutes of udging and grunting, Anne got to the end of the tube and reported that it closed down. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I really didn’t fancy trying the crawl. My relief was short-lived, however, as Anne suddenly announced “I’m stuck!” Fortunately, after a few (anxious on my part) minutes of back-and-forth, she managed to find a way out and popped out of the tube. (Anne later reported that getting stuck had been great fun; as I’d been waiting helplessly unable to see her, that’s not quite how I remember the event).

A few minutes later, and Loz had ably located the entrance to Corkscrew Chamber. In she went, followed rather inelegantly by myself (I got stuck with my body half-in, half-out of the squeeze like a half-birthed walrus) and finally Anne. The formations in the chamber really are breath-taking: pure white, intricately twisting and beautifully delicate. 

After taking the decorations in for a while, we started the long journey back. We were pushing it for time, so when we got to the streamway, Loz went ahead to cancel the call out, while Anne and myself made our way (rather more slowly) out of the cave. Here the horror stories about Southern Streamway began to make sense. It seemed to go on forever and ever, and the crawling, shuffling and stooping seemed a lot harder than on the way in. Eventually we reached the second inlet, and not too long after that, the first inlet. All of a sudden, we emerged into the connection with Main Passage. It was a great relief to be able to stand up and stretch out, and the walk along Main Passage was a real pleasure. Making swift progress through the first boulder choke, we hopped, skipped and jumped through the entrance series, emerging nine hours after we first went in. All in all, a great trip which was well worth doing. Our thanks to Loz for being our (patient and capable) leader.

No comments:

Post a Comment