TAP – Rob & Jon

A silly early start, Easter holidays, plus a list of poor objectives meant it was just the two of us tonight. However we (TAP) normally make things happen, and tonight was no exception.

Pre-beers preceded a quick abseil to the bottom to derig the lower section and have a look at two last leads. Jon descended a small tube right at the bottom of the Engine which Joe had previously investigated but due to its location and the possibility of it bypassing the Engine blockage, he figured it warranted another look. Unfortunately it did exactly what Joe had described and so Joe’s judgement was temporarily put a notch higher (more on the fall later).

Meanwhile I swung into a level 5m higher heading East which had not been previously entered. After 7m a flatout squeeze lead down into a well stacked, stooping level and I got a little excited. Unfortunately this closed down after a further 10m. Rubbish. These were the two best remaining leads and we were now worried we’d be at the pub before the diners!

The last lead to poke was about 30m down from the surface, a short traverse which Joe and SamP had bolted into a few weeks back. Their description was that it led into a tall worked rift with a reyt dodge floor, but it may be worth another look. Whilst Jon started the derigging I bombed up and went for a gander. Oh my, the hand pickwork was epic, some of the best I’ve ever seen. I shout to Jon to defs come have a look. After squeezing under a big boulder, a short crossrift cum pipe vein led into the main rift and indeed the floor was pretty awful in places. However, as a founding member of TA I have to poke everything and even a few small collapses around me didn’t put me off this core objective.

Unfortunately my fight was fruitless and I began my solo survey back. This was made humorously poor quality with the lack of a distoX so I was guessing lengths and clino whilst using my phone compass. Back at the boulder squeeze Jon finally joined me so we took a few phone snaps then had a look at a potential route up above the boulder. The rift vein was tall and narrow here so it was easy to climb up to an alluring tube heading North about 7m up. This turned out to be natural with a few stal lining the walls. It closed up quick but I had a bold headfirst dive down into a very tight squeeze to ensure it didn’t go. Thankfully the end was “just” big enough to turn around and allow a head first scramble out.


Jon coming through the squeeze under the boulder, by RobE


Rob struggling out of the natural tube, by JonP

With our cave radars now fully on Jon continued to climb the rift higher whilst I cowered out of danger. His echoing hollers raised enthusiasm and I quickly stop with the crappy surveying and join him, now at the junction to an amazing section of natural cave. Here a large natural cross rift heads both ways. Looks like TAP might have hit another jackpot!

First we head North, passed some paste-like flowstone and down a small drop and into a much larger rift cavern, roughly 10m long, 6m high and 3m wide. Shattered breakdown riddle the floor in a very Bagshawe-esq scene but unfortunately there is no obvious continuation from here. After a few photos we head back to the junction, where we find an old electric headlamp, possibly 1970’s era? Could this be from the Eldon’s original exploration of this place? If so, what story lead to one of them leaving their light here?!


Jon thrutching up the rift, by RobE


Jon in the big natural chamber, by RobE


Jon with an old caplamp

To the South the rift continues and quickly exudes a strange feel of actual, proper cave, with muddy puddles and crawling about. We weren’t prepared for this and had to readjust our mindset slightly before continuing. Numerous ways lead off in all directions and we split up to go bagging. None of the leads are big but they are certainly interesting. In places it looks like the miners actually dug through the sediment fill to explore veins beyond. The first recorded cave diggers?!? Jon’s artifact finding was in top notch form, including bagging a King George V penny coin. Again, what is this doing down here?! We explore a few more loops of passage and eventually make our way back to the main junction.


Old coin, probably not Roman as initially presumed

With this section of natural complete we continue the main rift climb, going up even higher. Some of the pick work up here is incredible and offers great elbow friction as we thrutch our ways up. At the furthest Western side I reach a flat slabbed roof with a plastic drainage pipe poking through. This must be at about road level here and may well indicate the route in that the first cavers entered.

Meanwhile Jon found more ways off to the East so I go meet up with him. He picked a route down whilst I continued across which led through a series of drops and airy traverses to a slope going back on myself. Following this down I ended up at a ledge overlooking the Engine shaft, from the Eastern side! From here I could just about speak with Jon across the shaft and we each had no idea how this was possible nor where we were in relation to each other. Unfortunately my SRT kit was back at the original traverse, ~15m lower, so I was forced to now retrace my steps, all the while maintaining verbal comms with Jon to try work out where we each were.

Back together we had a final, fruitless foray at trying to climb up into a tantilising level that was obviously a bolt climb, then dejectedly leave and retrace our thrutches all the way down to our SRT gear. Finishing the main rope derigging on our way up the engine, we surface at a bonkersly early 20:30 ready to enjoy a few well deserved beverages and try decipher all we just explored.



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