Members present: Louise, Corin, Henry 2, Sherlock, American Ethan, Jeff and Chris Jones

H had agreed to take me and Corin on a “leader assessment” trip, but then conveniently was working and drafted Chris and Jeff in to take her place. Corin did an excellent job of recruiting freshers for us to look after, and so 5 of us met at the kit store to pack rope before meeting Jeff and Chris in the Peak; only to find that Corin had done less well at checking that someone was at home to let us into said kit store.

After a slightly frantic drive to the IC to pick up Adelaide’s keys, we were finally in. We’d planned on Giants to East Canal, although after seeing the flooded Derwent in Bakewell earlier that day I advised that a dry trip was more in order. On Chris’s suggestion we packed ropes for Owl Hole, some obscure little pot near Glutton Bridge that I’d seen surveys of on the walls of the Orpheus.

The drive was long and twisty, but I did get to listen to the Archers which is always a winner. We luckily reached the parking area at the same time as the other two and decided we were in the right place. As this was a stupid leader sign-off trip, Chris and Jeff were actively unhelpful in confirming we were in the right place but I decided the bloody great hole in the ground probably meant we weren’t far off.

We kitted up and took the short scramble down into the bottom of “one of Derbyshire’s largest natural open potholes” to be confronted by a load of crap at the bottom and no real clear way on. I’d read in CotPD that there were 5 possible ways on, with the third being the one we wanted that led down into Cascade Chamber. After some debate, Corin took this middle route descending through some scaff and decided he didn’t like it, so I walked all the fifty meters back to the car to get the book.

After re-reading the description and little more heated debate, it did seem that this was the way on we wanted, although the alternative route into the Crystal Pallas extensions was also a goer, with a 9m climb up bolts to reach it. Due to the size of the group we decided to split into two, so I headed into the sketchy scaffed choke with Sherlock and Chris while Corin began the climb. Luckily it wasn’t raining.

I got to the bottom of the scaff without trouble and inserted my legs into the small hole that followed. My arse did not follow. After some umming and ahhing with the others, Chris suggested that the boulder on the right of this bottle neck could have shifted and giving it a second look I had to agree (reported to DCA). We then made our exit all of 6 meters to the surface, admiring some other sketchily balanced very large boulders on the way out.

In this time Corin had made it to the top of his climb so we decided to wait and follow. I chose this time to check that everyone was properly kitted up as it seemed like we might actually have to do some caving now, so after a bit of harness adjustment the rest of us were ready to go. However, Corin then encountered the next obstacle; there was a gate. At the top of a 7m climb. With a Derbyshire key on it. With a spinning bolt. Luckily it still wasn’t raining.

Various people and tools were sent up and eventually after getting Jeffs spanner set out of this car the gate was opened, allowing the rest of us up into these pretty little extensions. We crawled up to Hoggmorton Aven and then dropped the 5m pitch into Crystal Pallas on some god ol’ calcitey natural threads. This was literally as far as the cave went so we then all left again, by which point it was gone 11pm and too late for the pub.

Generally a good trip, and as Jeff and Chris kept insisting, better to show you can keep people safe in a place you’re unfamiliar with than in somewhere like Giants that we both know very well.

After folding Chris into the back of the Skoda like a fold away camp chair, we were off home with a brief and successful stop at Bradwell Coop bins on the way back to Sheffield.