Early start time for our Christmas trip @ 4pm. We made our way over to the Oxlow parking through some trepid conditions with some of the Peaks most welcoming conditions – pea souper! After kitting up and a bimble over to the entrance we were soon underground with our short rope for the entrance somewhat 5m from the floor. We hastily made progress and were soon in the West ante-chamber. Rob de-rigged his rope from the passage opposite Pilgrams Way whilst I sat and watched. We used this rope to rig the pull through and steadily tapped away at an easy lick along the long hands and knees crawl.

Finally we arrived at the thickest of black rope which leads up to the Mainstream inlet series. I led the way mainly guessing. But manage to eventually find my way to the rift at the end which leads to the Crusader squeeze. Rob went first prompted by me as I was feeling pretty beat at this point with my “pigeon arms”, this gave Rob a perfect chance to photograph the whole ordeal too. I went through the eyehole with ease and met Robs legs in the next part. I really couldn’t remember this part at all and thought the eyehole was the only restriction. This now leads to the proper squeeze a 2-3m tight rift upwards which leads to a small rift passage at the top. You have to shuffle right to the top and lay on your side to squeeze through. Here my “pigeon arms” really came into play…

Jon enjoying the first Crusader Squeeze
Jon hating the second Crusader Squeeze

A good 15 minutes in total after the removal of SRT kit and helmet and I finally made it through – Yes, Yes, Fucking Yesss! Then we turtled along until the final 4m pitch up to the Eyehole which leads into Nights Templar. Rob quickly checked out the void in the floor hoping to spot the corresponding passage to the Poison Chalice. He abseiled down into the void and placed a footing on what he thought was a “bomber” boulder for it to drop an inch or so scaring the life out of him. He hastily retreated.

We made our way up to the Priory but not without excitement. Rob having got a taste for moving boulders decided to drop a biggish foot squared bastard down one of the pitches right towards me. He screamed at me, “Go, go, go!” I was clipped to the rope and literally couldn’t go anywhere! I jumped and galloped as close as I could to the far wall with it narrowly missing my left leg. Oh Meu Deus! – Adrenaline was now pumping. Finally we got ourselves up to the Priory. I hopped over to where Rob and I had dug previously and grabbed the much needed crowbar and lump hammer. We headed up the rope and Rob was already de-kitted and fettling up in the choke.

First boulder blocking the dig

The dig: The alcove just above the Y-hang has a small passage which slowly ascends to a pinch, at the pinch a large boulder half blocks the way on. We knew from previous trips that the boulder moves but weren’t fully sure if the boulder would fit through the pinch. Rob made his best digging away around the boulder then managed to squeeze past. He concluded how tricky it would be the move from above so came back down. Now he successfully moved the boulder down the passage, it only stopping when chocked between his head and the wall. He struggled for a while then shook it off being an ‘ard get that he is. Finally after 10 minutes of bashing with a lump hammer it still didn’t break but after getting the crowbar stuck and some great advice from me he managed to roll it back.

Rob now penetrated up into the dig proper. He a likened it to the Death Series in Giants, a slope of boulders and a rising roof with the classic angle of rest. After a few more boulders to the face Rob managed to shift another bigger boulder down towards the pinch. This one was it. This one needs more than a lump hammer or crowbar.

Second boulder now ending the digging for the day

After knocking a load more debris down the pitch (which bangs and booms for a long way) Rob surveyed back to the base of the priory. I was pretty cold by this point and was kind of dreading going back through the Crusader squeeze.

No hassle back to the Eyehole and down the pitch, Rob kindly offered to take my SRT kit back to the Mainstream inlet series entrance pitch, called it, “Damage limitation”. Here I compared myself to a turtle stuck on his back. I was buggered. All the tight crawls were a right chore after not caving for 5 months. We got to the squeeze and I prepared myself by removing one kneepad (classic Jon). I got down in a lot less time but still no elegance whatsoever. We finally got back to the pitch and I relieved Rob of my gear. We slowly pootled our way along Pilgrims Way, I was ecstatic to be back at the Oxlow end. It sure does feel like a long way from home digging at the end of there.

Jon creeping up the Oxlow entrance pitch

We didn’t waste much time getting out and was welcomed on surface to more rain and scary ass cows! 6 hours underground didn't seem all that bad for the trip accompanied by a tortoise. The Anchor was a treat afterward, Onion rings were the highlight of the day for sure.

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