Saturday 17 February 2024

Peak Cavern Novice Trip

For February's Dudley Caving Club trip, our destination was set to be Peak Cavern. With regular check-ins on the weather and water levels, it wasn't always a given, but we got the green light Friday evening and assembled at the TSG at 9am Saturday.

There were four of us on the team today, Becky, Myself, Mike, and Mark Burkey - Super we might get some snazzy photos! 😃 This was Becky's second outing with the DCC, so the plan was to take it steady through Peak Cavern and see as many of the beautiful phreatic tubes as we could. Snapping some photos along the way.

After kitting up at the TSG, we took the short walk up to the Peak Cavern entrance - and what an entrance. Britain's biggest according to the survey chart! We'd managed to beat a gaggle of Uni Student cavers bound for the same cave and steadily made our way through the show cave entrance. The trip started on a high, with the theme-park-style slide down to a lower level of the cave. After a short walk following the streamway, the roof starts to lower and the trip officially becomes my wettest cave trip yet. We wade through waist-deep water (Mucky Duck Choke), as Mark explains this area had been dug out by past cavers to extend the passage. At the same time, divers were looking at other routes to continue the cave. Once we get through this watery walk, we arrive at Surprise View. Apparently, this is where both the divers and cave diggers breakthrough into the same "new" section on the same day.

If my memory recalls, the cave passage opens up a little more, into a mixture of winding paths, keyhole tunnels, and of course the awesome phreatic tubes. There were a few key areas Mark wanted to photograph, so we stopped and got a few shots. Not the first time I've been photographed in a cave, yet I still don't know what I'm meant to do with my face - 🥴. After trying my best to look "normal", photos are taken in this section, and we continue on through the passages.
Throughout the journey, Mark points out various offshoots, and potential sump dives. As a budding cave diver, I'm loving the insight into all these potential dive locations. Even more so, given how crystal clear the water is! We made our way down a ladder into a really cool whirlpool room. The water flowed in and around the beautifully cylindrical room and then exhausted the other side. It's surprising how forceful the water gets when it's funneled into such a small opening.

We took the phreatic tubes all the way along Lake Passage to Ink Sump. Once again, we were met with crystal waters and I felt an overwhelming urge to go diving. Although I'm sure I'd feel a little more exhausted if I'd had to carry all my dive gear in this far. We opted to take the dry muddy section to Ink Sump, versus the head-under-water shortcut, probably wise as some of the party were starting to get colder.

As we made our way back through the tunnels, we stopped again for a photo at a small junction. Thankfully I was instructed to look away from the camera (should I be offended?) and Mike had his modelling turn.
I've probably forgotten some details in this section, but eventually, we made it back to the ladder, and it was Becky's turn to model. Proving that the back of my head is more appealing than the front, I once again gave the background a sense of scale - desperately keen not to drop Mark's strobe in the flowing stream way.
After we all safely ascended the ladder, it was a case of retracing our steps up and out of the cave system. One final stop at the (weir?) to have a little scrub and de-mud ourselves to walk back through the show cave. Heaven forbid the cave tourists find out there's mud inside the caves! 😱

After a mixture of delight, shock, and bewilderment on the tour group's faces, we made our way back to the TSG. Everyone was safe, happy, and somewhat warm!
Trip Report: Jon B
Photos: Mark B
Cavers: Mark, Mike, Rebecca & Jon

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