(Luke Cafferty & Jon Pemberton)
Just Luke and I tonight adhering to the law, we met for pre-beers at the usual layby and discussed the housing market, general chit-chat led to our target for this evening – heading back to Isolation which we discovered on 19th March 2020 just days before the first lockdown (see previous trip report). Our plan was to rig the entrance and connect it with the westward extensions rope, armed with drill, ropes and a ruck of bolts we made our way across to the entrance.
Both keen to get underground as it was freezing up top I took a quick leak only to break the zip on my over-suit (completely unzipped) – buggery, a catastrophic failure! Hal & Dylan’s lid on the entrance is truly one of the best lids in Derbyshire only to be surrounded by a great mound of stacked boulders including steps – top work to all involved (we can’t take much credit as we just dug a hole… typical TA.)
I rigged the entrance and abseiled down, the rope only needed re-tying into the existing anchors leading up to the westward extensions and didn’t warrant any more bolts. I got to a safe place and hollered Luke down. I then guided Luke through the next few sections to the TAP Room (you kind'a forget how much dodgy stuff is in here, I can see why Dave didn’t want to come back.) Once in the TAP Room we reshuffled the bag and dumped a rope, I told Luke how rubbish the next part was with Rob’s shady rigging – he wasn’t surprised. We headed along TAP Traverse pointing out to Luke the T’owd man’s footprints, we abseiled down at the end and were only 2mins away from Isolation, a simple traverse led by an awkward thrutch to a dodgy thrutch over a tight hole (probably wants a rope) leads to a climb down into a funnel of boulders and dodgy stacked dead’s to a slot in the floor – this leads to Isolation.
FINALLY!!! – after 6 months of dreaming, not being cave fit this trip had already felt like a slog! Once Luke was through the slot I quickly started rigging the pitch we had left behind all those months ago. I backed it up as the rock sounded dreadfully hollow and the back-up made for a good anchor in the traverse line too. The pitch was 8m deep and had a very natural feel to it. East the passage headed off into a large boulder choke underneath the Isolation chamber with a mud filled rift heading off North (no draught). A squeeze between boulders and a loose back wall led into an extension of the cartgate as seen before the Isolation traverse. This continued for 20m or so heading through solution pockets and largely covered in mud (obviously floods) to a forefield, a choked shaft heads up on the northerly side but no ways forward. I exited this section with great care as I didn’t want the whole choke running in when I was here on my own.
Once back up the pitch we de-rigged and ran a traverse to the opposite side, here we dumped the drill and most of our SRT gear and progressed fast and light heading deep into the hillside. The first obstacle was a small squeeze at floor level through tailings. This led to a loose climb which belled out above me but what was stranger still was I seemed to be looking up through a perfectly round hole in a solid floor some 6m above, the workings above us must be quite extensive. Back at floor level a further squeeze at floor level led to a choked section but looking through boulders in front it looked and sounded pretty big and the black space between boulders was a dead giveaway. Luke joined me in the passage and once out of the way I pushed a climb up and over between more loose dead’s, here I could drop over beyond the choke and was gob smacked by what was in front of me…
I was in a large flat roofed bedding chamber with a solid wall on my right, to the left the chamber was approx. 6m as far as I could tell but this was blocked by a humongous slab which had detached from the roof. What made this more impressive was that the slab was some 1m deep and probably the size of my driveway threatening to flatten anyone who comes near it – WAIT did I not mention it appears to be held up by hopes and dreams? Actually a little book sized nodule from what I could see. I waited in awe for Luke to arrive so that I could see his face and reaction thus we came up with the name - Stop Flattening Me!
From here on we vaguely looked at the leads which were popping up everywhere. There was most definitely at least one higher level above us if not more. Walking around the back of the slab a big black space could be seen down a gravel slope. Luke dug his way through whilst I admired the massive scallops covering the roof. He made the entrance big enough to slide through and shouted me through. We were now stood up in the continuation of the large natural stream-way seen in the eastern extensions of the cave but it was short lived and continued through to a larger chamber with a blocked continuation which’d need digging. The air movement down in this place was dead and we made our way back to the slope which was a lot trickier to exit from but not before having a quick look at the downstream continuation which seems to be lost under the large collapse from the chamber (again not inspected properly).
We discussed turning around at this point and thought to do a quick scout to make sure the main level (running parallel to the natural below) didn’t suddenly crap out. A small slope led to a wider section where all of a sudden the draught appeared again and the air felt a bit more breathable. Looking above use were extensive workings and levels heading off in both directions. Carrying on west the main level rose again blocked by a some stacking and a backfill of tailings which will require a little dig to gain access to but completely open beyond. We also noticed a potential mined passage heading north some 5m above us although this could just be a solution cavity.
Here’s where we turned around, baffled by the place and rather exhausted we knew there was some way to go before we reached the surface so started plodding on out. Luke was not a happy bunny by the end of TAP Traverse and once on surface we were bitterly cold within seconds due to the crystal clear night and a view to Mars. Someone had walked by the entrance whilst we were underground and opened the lid – any takers? Also it’s a longer ascent than you think back up the engine shaft from the Westward Extensions!
Cold and defeated we didn’t fancy a post beer and decided to bugger off home for warmth instead.
Another memorable one for the books.