** Disclaimer: I know there is already a (brilliant) report about this particular trip by Elise, but as we’re both early in our caving careers but coming into it quite different directions I thought it’d be interesting to see the trip from two points of view. Plus I’m hungover and I’d like to sit in bed writing a trip report. **
Jousting down Peak — a trip to Moss Chamber
It was a warm spring evening as a fellowship of five threw themselves enthusiastically from the TSG, made merry in the graveyard and were soon swallowed up by the cavernous mouth of Peak Cavern —
Sam: “It’s the biggest cave entrance in the UK!”
Henry: “Does that mean it’s the most likely to collapse because there is so much unsupported ceiling?”
But such comments soon petered out as we passed beyond the realms of mere mortals, travelling even further into the mouth of the earth than had a monarch centuries before. The banks were muddy, but crystal clear currents passed around our rubber soles as we waded into a diminishing tunnel, like entering the chocolate factory of some sadistic mole, made more so after passing a swirling vortex in Buxton Water.
After a series of brief baptisms we emerged from the Ducks cleansed and ready to embark on our Quest, soon after leaving the main passage for a pleasant crawl. For me, this was the first lengthy crawl I’d truly enjoyed, mostly due to my borrowed knee pads (thanks Jack) allowing me to scamper onward like the proverbial rat up the drainpipe. The way was made more interesting after 15 minutes or so, a turn with an embedded boulder obscuring the passage, which was passed with an interesting upward and backward bum wiggle.
We then seemed to change direction, heading now upwards and into a different atmosphere – of mud initially, then less consolidated sandstone and later into calcite. The team made short work of a sideways turning squeeze, and I enjoyed emerging with my head some height about the ground and somehow holding my weight on my hands while I swung my legs down into a water-worn groove which seemed perfect for the purpose. Here the passage changed from low and squat, like a badgers tunnel, to tall and smooth, giving rise to sharp imagery of powerful currents once passing that way.
“Not far!”, called Sam, who then went on to recount how Moss Chamber gained its name.
The final heavily calcite laden tunnel saw us crawling and squeezing over calcite rimmed pools, using the white weeping walls to pull ourselves forward. When we emerged at last into the Chamber, as always there was a mild anticlimax, the feeling of being squeezed from the womb of the earth unprepared into a more vast space. Then Sam illuminated the area, revealing the calcite wonders deep in that place. A mighty church candle dripping from the ceiling, where rivulets of mineral laden water had formed great organ pipes across the wall. We paid respects to the resident Mr Moss, who’s final home is appropriately ecclesiastical.
I was keen to go further, seeing a lose scree slope at the back of the chamber. Me and Sam carefully traversed this to avoid throwing rocks on those below us, and after a surprising distance, careful not to disturb some larger calcite pools, we found Anniversary Hall, small yet still impressive, with its fossil laden walls and more secret molten calcite sculpture.
On returning to Moss Chamber, we sat as Henry uncovered Sam’s Lance, which was passed around the group giving happiness to all and leaving a sweet taste in the mouth, before then being tucked away again for the return journey. As, despite protests from Elise and a discussion on the pros and cons and taking up residence with Mr Moss, we realised returning the same way was necessary.
The tight sections in reverse were interesting, and both me and Elise required help and a certain amount of borrowed limbs to furtle our way through. Gamble and Sam both succeeded in the tighter Keyhole Squeeze, to my consternation (oversuits obviously do not flatter the form).
The return crawl seemed endless, but high spirits filled the tunnel as we imagined the cavernous space that awaited us at the end, despite Creg’s regular cries of misery. Elise’s joy at having succeeded was clear, in what was definitely not a cave for the faint hearted (beginner).
When we finally emerged, Gamble and Sam felt the need to canter off down tunnel, I assume to stretch the cramped muscles of their legs and backs. Our exit was swift with the promise of dry clothes and a pint at the end, although a stop at Buxton Water again to scrub each others back, both to clean and congratulate for a good trip well done!
The exit was sadly less jubilant than it could have been, as exiting at night into the biggest cave entrance in the UK makes the transition from cave to not-cave more subtle, although the warm spring air on our faces was more than welcome. On returning to the TSG, we savoured the feeling of pulling dry clothes over our weary bodies, taking our time to wander over to the Wanted for a celebratory drink, before we heading home as I happily napped across the back seat.
Conclusions from this trip:
– Calcite is very pretty
– If your hips get stuck don’t panic
– Miners knee pads are the best: