I WILL NOT

Assemble a custom SRT kit using the club equipment.

Fall in any of the following: Elizabeth shaft, Suicide Pot, any of the many holes that suddenly appear mid-crawl.

Rely on leaders to carry heavy tackle sacks.

Form an attachment to the following: Alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, freeloaders, perverts, ascending too far so that I get strung up, mountaineers, Southampton.

I WILL

Buy my own SRT kit.

Aspire to become an Equal.

Consider buying a Pantin.

Reduce circumference of waist by 1 inch (for squeeze purposes)

 

Friday 10 March: Nettle Pot to Derbyshire Hall (sounds lovely)

Song of the day: some Irish thing that Jreg was singing, followed closely by the intro to All Stars (obvs)

Cigarettes: 0 (don’t smoke, v.g.)

Aperol: 50ml (excellent)

4 p.m Assembled custom SRT kit, much to horror of Leo. I just really prefer simples to stops, okay? Bought snacks. (v important)

5 p.m. Left Sheffield, having had to wait to procure the minimum number of krabs and for Hallam Jack to come back from his vulva conference. (not a gendered slur) (two unrelated)

After the usual paying of the farmer and listening to his three warnings to avoid his near-rabid, trusty Border Collie we proceeded to the glamour of the lay-by to get changed into kit. (and piss)

The mud/shit laden walk up the hill was experienced differently by each caver, for myself it was a chance to reflect upon my near non-existent stamina and feebleness of the human body/condition. For Jreg it represented a symbolic return to his ancestral homeland of Derbyshire. For Jack it was an opportunity to demonstrate his skills by finding the cave hatch in the near dark without resorting to using his head torch to see the reflective pole that marks the entrance. (he failed)

6:15 p.m.

Jack with his usual speed rigged the three bolts in the concrete-capped hatch and proceeded down the 8 metre Narrows with the grace of a well-lubricated dolphin. I follow and adequately, with the grace of one of those collapsible string puppets you get at museums, descend down. The tight descent with hugging walls was oddly comforting, like a stranger pressing against you on a public bus. I have however, never had to re-belay in the later situation. (yet) This only took a little longer than usual and I soon passed down to Sentry Box and then Bottle, about 42 metres in total.

Reached the bottom, began to crawl down The Flats to find Jack tying an alpine above the next shaft. After descending down we traversed Suicide Pot, which sounds a lot more badass than it is. (the fall might not kill you, at least that’s what it looked like) After some more ups and downs some more flats appeared. Is it called Far Flats? (anyway it’s v muddy) A low crawl is needed to continue, a low crawl and the ability to not slip down the many, sneaky holes that get in the way whilst staring at the pretty thin stalactites. I took this opportunity to coat myself in a healthy layer of mud. (for squeeze lubrication purposes) We ditched our SRT kit and at last came across Freeze Squeeze.

Jack, being the Mufasa to the freshers’ Simba went first. He advised to take our helmets off, go head first on stomachs and stick to the right part to avoid the narrowest bit. For me it was easier to go on my back. I tried to stick to the right side as much as I could but my ribs were halted by the rock, this was my tightest squeeze so far and I wasn’t sure if pushing further would just get me more stuck. I decided to kick off and managed to get through.

Am appalled by squeeze’s blatant size-ist attitude toward cavers. It does mean however that the stalactite rich passage to Derbyshire Hall is fairly intact due to lack of visitors. We reached the hall after taking care not to headbutt the rocks that had so patiently approached the floor over hundreds of years.

Asked Jack and Jreg for the second time to turn off their lamps so I could test and compare the latest addition to my caving kit. (Fenix HL55 represent) The speleological equivalent of a pissing contest. For the first time I joint lost instead of losing. We corroborated that we could feel a slight draft, the one mentioned in Angus Sawyer’s trip report.

Back-on-floor, looking at the very flat plane above us, I picked up a small rock and moved it a few centimetres higher, my contribution to the dig. (you’re welcome) (unless I moved it to where it originally came from, in that case sorry)

Some earlier-than-expected time. p.m.

Jreg shot ahead through Freeze Squeeze with his Kate Moss like confidence. Since we were making bloodysmashing time, without revealing that I use caving as my own de-stressing therapy, I requested of Jack that we turn our lights off and relax in the dark quietness or was it quiet darkness? Being the gentle soul that he is, he obliged and we briefly forgot that we were well deep underground.

I awoke seconds later to suggest that we should continue and get on with Freeze Squeeze. Perhaps it was the heavy Iranian food I’d had for lunch, perhaps it was my childbearing hips, perhaps it was my respect for my fellow cavers preventing me from farting? But for whatever reason I was now slightly stuck and began to think as Jack caressed my feet from behind the squeeze. (next time I’ll try going on my front)

After attempting various manoeuvres, I lay with my helmet behind me, thinking about what I should do next. At least I should have been, having already used up my allocated chill time I fought off intrusive thoughts such as “what if I’m Banksy?” and that I should contact my friend to tell him that I had just got the joke he’d told me in Primary school. Despite Jack’s pushes and kicking him somewhere once I couldn’t get through. I called Jreg, who was probably in Castleton by now, to come and pull. The dream team of Jack and Jreg and my newly acquired inhaling techniques was sufficient to get me through.

We three dressed ourselves in our finest SRT kits as Jack profaned about being brought down to the prusiking level of a fresher because of forgetting his pantin. We collect some more mud coming back through Far Flats, enough to make cow’s tails and simples indistinguishable. Jack was mad eager to get out before 11 for the pub so we proceeded with his plan to “prusik the shit out of here”. The effectiveness of the prospect’s motivation demonstrates one of two things, our dislike of caving or the violence of our affection toward alcohol.

We eventually reached the end of The Flats. Jreg was the first to ascend back up to Sentry Box. From the distance of his “rope free”s I judged him to be pretty much out. Although, as he would recall later, he was slightly fearful of the sheep that encircle the lid. Facts like these remind us that Jreg is only a demigod and not a full one. He fears too.

The ascent back up through The Narrows is a bit tougher with less energy to convert to GPE, there are however lots of small platforms to rest on.

The downhill walk back to the car would have been pleasant if not for Jack’s pointing out that under these conditions you can see the worms scurrying back into their holes as you approach them. Something that Jreg and I had not really noticed before. Something that cannot be unseen once seen. (cheers Jack)

Jack and Jreg got changed in the boot (not at the same time) as I contemplated selling Nettle mud as a new hair product. We were soon on our way to Castleton.

Not that long after 11 p.m.

Arrived in Castleton. Dumped things in the TSG. Ran, still more mud than caver, to the Ye Olde Cheshire Inn. Denied alcohol. Ran to the Peak Hotel, success. The other freshers bang on the window as I glance at my phone to see that FitBits think caving is cycling.

 

Main themes of trip: Sudden holes during crawls, mud, Jreg weeing.

Calories burned: 332 (v.g.)

Caving gloves lost: 0 (v.g.)

Minutes cycled underground: 26 (according to FitBit)

An excellent day’s progress.