Disappointment Rift, Peak Cavern. 5th December 2018.
Present: Corin Donne, Alex Reid
For several months I have been on about about re-bolting and replacing, or removing some of the in situ ropes around Wigwam Aven and the NCC Shafts on the basis that they should either be safe, or be gone. This idea came to mind when me and Michael Holliday ascended a rope mistakenly in Wigwam Aven and found corroded hangers and generally dodgy rigging (trip report through the TSG).
We had repeatedly attempted to organise this trip before, and this was the closest we had ever come. The drill, bolting kit and rope was all ready at the TSG and we had a date planned well in advance. It had rained heavily through most of the day, water levels were up at the showcave and I spent the entire day at work hoping it would flood so I could go on a nice Oxlow or Maskhill trip with Botch and some freshers (though it turns out they just went to The Wanted and never made it underground, the perfect trip).
The objective was to aid or free climb up to the entrance to Disappointment Rift and install bolts and rope to allow safe access to this part of the cave, and have a look around it ourselves. Me and Alex are both trying to visit all the major passages of the Peak-Speedwell system and ticking this passage off was part of the aim.
Sadly, the cave did not flood and despite my weak protests Alex employed his characterstic keeness to cajole me underground. We set off into the cave just before 6 pm, with the showcave still rather damp. The rain had stopped mid-afternoon so we were fairly sure conditions would be okay. We took the route to Wigam Aven via the main streamway, and it was up a few inches, but not problematic.
I have sometimes thought that I would like to see the Peak streamway in truly ‘sporting’ conditions, but having seen it a bit wetter than usual I have now changed my mind. It has high, smooth sides so the flow is very concentrated and there is no way along except going right up the middle.This would make truly wet conditions a bit deathy. We left a 16 m rope in Wigwam Aven in case we had time to replace the existing rope at the end of our trip (we have left it there for now). After about a hour underground we arrived in the NCC Shafts proper, having had no problems although I deeply regretted trying to push my tacklesack ahead of me in the Focal Recall squeeze rather than passing them through like a sensible person.
The window, which we weren’t entirely sure we would be able to find, turned out to be very obvious, it is right above the pitch as you enter on the route from Galena Rift. We knew it had been free climbed and almost free climbed by a couple of people before, so we’d brought aiding kit but were hoping not to use it. As it was it looked feasible, and Alex set off up the climb trailing a rope behind him to pull up the drill. He made up to the window, but rather than facing an easy walk along a ledge to the pitchhead he was looking at a rather exposed traverse. For a bit of protection he tied into the rope he was trailing and and I started belaying him from below, had he slipped the rope would have wrapped around a rock bridge and he might not have hit the floor.
He got to the opening to Disappointment Rift and reported that the old rope was actually rigged off two good naturals, so there was no real need to put new bolts in at all, although one was on a rusty maillon and old sling. The rope in place was a bit thin, and there was a rub point, but Alex pulled the rope up and reported it was undamaged so I suspect almost no one has ever prussicked up it (the original explorers entered from this pitch, but found the link to EMT Aven and didn’t have to go back the same way; see TSG 18). I came up with the bags and we left all the bolting kit at the pitchhead, and set off to have a look at Disappointment Rift. Turns out that was a mistake.
Alex slipped and slid down a narrow rift head-first and I followed. The floor was thinly calcited over which made it unusual and slightly crunchy. Then we plopped down a drop into the thickest, most horrid mud I have ever seen. We ploughed on past some pristine formations and sediment and emerged after a slight squeeze into walking passage. We were both absolutely coated in thick horrid mud. The way on was down a ‘ladder’ which was just two 17 year old etriers tied together. We turned around at the sharp left turn which we assumed enters the M1, the awkward crawl that connects with the top of Wigwam Aven (the aven on the Peak round with the hawserlaid handline).
Then we chatted for a bit to put off going back up the narrow, awkward rift filled with thick mud. I eventually took the lead, and slowly made progress by thrutching awkwardly, a few inches at a time. The worst few meters of the return took absolutely ages and were genuinely knackering. The crux was a one metre climb, we reckon it is where the explorers hammered through from below the calcite floor and were promptly showered in mud, naming it Mega Tsunami. It would have been easy if it was clean, but the mud coated everything and it lacks substantial handholds or footholds, plus when you pick your foot up it invariably brings a kilo of mud with it.
It had been a while since I got the feeling that I might be stuck forever that accompanies failing at a climb and getting more and more tired with each attempt, but I eventually managed it. To make Alex’s life easier I left a bit of tat we’d found around a little knob of rock as a handline, then squirmed my way further up. I looked back to see that I’d kicked the handline off again, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
After this unexpectedly tiring excursions we were too muddy and tired to want to do much, and we weren’t sure what was worth changing if anything. Alex switched the old rope to a newer and thicker one on the same anchors (derigged from the Krypton Series recently). Maybe all that needs doing is to replace the sling and put a stainless maillon on it. I also cleaned up a bit by bringing out some tat and an insole.
We made good time on the way out, spurred by the realisation that we might make last orders. It turned out that last orders was a lot later than we thought and we had time for three rounds will Gottzone in the Peak Hotel.
TL:DR Some obscure bits of Peak are absolute gems, and some obscure bits of Peak are shite.