Myself, Helen (leading), Rachael, Leo and Jethro set out on a very muggy Saturday morning to go to do Ride of the Valkyries, going down JH, through the far sump connection, up Calcite Aven and along Ride of the Valkyries to Salmons Cavern, then back again.
We arrived at Rowter farm at approximately 10:30am, and paid our fees, grabbed the keys and suited up. Two people in their tent must have been judging us, as the weather wasn’t very nice, but it was probably better to be underground.
We reached the entrance and unlocked the lid, and hid behind the wall close by to keep out of the wind and rain whilst we waited for Rachael to rig the 50m entrance pitch and others to head down. Eventually it was my turn to descend down, which I did with much excitement as it was a mine, and I love mines, and also I was out of the bad weather on the surface. Looking down was quite daunting because I could only just make out the dim lights of Rachael and Helen down at the bottom. It was brilliant watching the changes in the stope as I descended. I manoeuvred the rebelay, and then continued my descent to the bottom, where I met Helen and Rachael at the beginning of the Cartgate. They went on ahead, to begin rigging Bitch Pitch at the end of the Cartgate, and I stayed to wait for the others. I was impressed to see that, despite being 50m down, light was still reflecting off the wall close to where I was sitting.
There are two separate passageways once you get to the bottom, but the way on is quite obvious. The other route is a dig that is currently being done, and so doesn’t go on very far.
Once Leo and Jethro had joined me, we made haste along the Cartgate. This goes on for around 200m, with some stooping, and awkward manoeuvres along traverses, but we eventually reached the top of Bitch Pitch. When going along the cartgate, keep this rule in mind, keep as high as you can, and don’t touch the ceiling.
There was still a bit of a wait as Rachael was rigging Bitch Pitch (50m), but I took this time to admire the beautiful crystal formations along the wall, and sing a few songs. Eventually my time came to descend Bitch Pitch, which has a couple of deviations and a rebelay, which I did quite gracefully, and met up with the others in the Workshop.
As an archaeologist, I was in awe with all the archaeology laid out nicely in the Workshop. I was happy to see conservation tape around it all, allowing people to have a look at it, without destroying it. It is a good attempt at educating cavers about these things, because once it is destroyed, it is gone forever.
The way on for us was down a slot in the floor, with a bit of a slope down, where we reached a hole to our left, and that marks our first pitch down into Leviathan. This first pitch is 10m, where we drop down onto a ledge, followed by a 20m pitch. I landed on the ledge, and came back on myself, down a hole in the floor, looked at a bit more archaeology and then connected myself to the traverse leading to the 40m pitch down the main chamber of Leviathan. I descended this comfortably, and had to stop on the way down to take it all in. It is such an amazing expanse of space; it just blew my mind. I got to the bottom and took a seat as I awaited the arrival of the others.
Once we were all down, I supplied everyone with Double Decker’s, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We decided that we wouldn’t have enough time to make it to Ride of the Valkyries, so after a group photo, we headed down to have a look at the pool of cow-arse worms, and then went back up to Leviathan and took a ponder down to the Speedwell streamway.
Me and Leo had a quick look at the miner’s graffiti before making our way back to Leviathan, and our ascent back up JH.
It was a long and arduous ascent back up, especially because I was feeling quite sick at times. And Bitch pitch was a bit of a bitch to me, but I have done Nettle Pot before, so there wasn’t a great deal of struggle.
I eventually surfaced, and when I had got out, everything was so calm and serene, and so I just sat there, in the silence, with the sun just setting, and the moon shining brightly down. I couldn’t help but feel this great sense of achievement washing over me, and sat here writing this, I still feel that same feeling.