Here is a very incomplete list of some of the trips the Eldon have been up to recently.
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- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 2479
Report by Jules Barrett
Divers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Jim Lister (TSG & EPC)
Intention of having a look at the top of Buxton Water Aven. Dived through to Buxton Water Aven and swapped into SRT kits. Both divers prussiked up the fixed rope at the NW end of the aven to arrive on a rubble slope. JB set off up the next section of rope but not finding this section of loose rock wall to his liking, changed over to descent and both divers returned to the dive kit in the bottom of the aven. It is difficult to avoid disturbing some very loose rock whilst prussiking up here and neither diver plans an immediate return to this part of Peak Cavern.
Jules Barrett ready to dive to Buxton Water Aven
- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 3332
Report by Jules Barrett
I'd heard bits about recent extensions to Waterways Swallet over the last year but never been in it. I had a vague idea that a lot of new cave had been found by the Keyhole Caving Club and that there was a lot of scaffolding involved. As an Eldon member it's obligatory to get excited and rub your thighs about scaffolding. It was typical that when I asked around at an Eldon meeting nobody remarked on the size of the chambers or anything like that. Apparently the 'scaff work' was excellent though.
There's a sump at the bottom of Waterways and A Diver (this is CDG-speak I'm using) had taken two diving cylinders to the bottom of the cave about twelve months ago with the intention of diving the sump at the lowest point of the system. Since I owed The Diver a favour and quite fancied an easy jaunt into a new cave I offered to retrieve them. Col hadn't been down (or heard of) Waterways but since we now had a good reason to make the effort we planned a trip. Prior to the trip Andy Foster of the Keyhole Caving Club kindly fielded a few questions. I had a (typically vague) description from The Diver which talked about the cylinders being hidden under a pile of rocks in a choke near the bottom of a ladder. Armed with this limited information, a grid reference, an OS map and a copy of the survey we ventured south of Castleton.
The first thing I noticed on arriving at the parking was that the beautiful survey that I had downloaded from the Keyhole Caving Club's website only covered the extensions. We hoped that the route to the extensions was straightforward. We found the entrance with very little trouble and looked into a hole that had something of Stoney Middleton about it; being small, tight and hot. We climbed in and followed the obvious route steeply down dip to the small first chamber. A couple more climbs down and a scramble across a sloping bedding leads to more small climbs into the large Main Chamber. This is very impressive with a boulder floor and a few passages going off. An easy climb down leads to the Rift Passage (we learnt later) which leads to The Gallery where the Keyhole extensions begin. From here the route is down through a boulder choke of impressive proportions. The route is tight, pretty tortuous and mainly straight down. No connoiseur of underground scaffolding could fail to be impressed by the extent of the work that has gone in here but I did wonder how we were going to get the cylinders through. We followed the route down past The Doghouse and emerged at the top of a fixed ladder. After some discussion we decided that this must be Floodgate Pot and carried on down into larger passage which led to another choke. This section is fairly strenuous and leads to the top of another short pitch with a handline on it. By this stage I didn't fancy finding the cylinders but we continued hoping that we were in the wrong cave. All of a sudden, things started to look worryingly like The Diver's description. I looked down the first obvious hole and was dismayed to find a line reel. Below the line reel I could see the cylinders. Col tried to hide the anguish on his face as I passed them up to him. I spent a while carefully tying on some cord to use as a carrying handle and gave him a quick pep talk about carrying cylinders which majored on flying metal dust caps, embolisms and the results of dropping a cylinder of high pressure air down a pitch. I'd not had any experience of any of this but didn't think it would enhance our afternoon.
We set off up the handline carefully mauling the cylinders between us. They're not light and man-handling them vertically up through the choke was hard work. Whenever I'm carrying cylinders I'm haunted by the fact that each one contains roughly the same energy as 400g of high explosive. I pointed this out to Col whilst he had two of them between his legs and clambered over them. He said he'd bear that in mind and clambered carefully. We emerged struggling at the bottom of the metal ladder and climbed up that and into the next choke. Generally things went, Col climbs up - Jules passes up the bottles - Col places them above him in the boulder choke - Col realises that he now can't move anywhere so passes them back to Jules - Jules holds them whilst Col finds somewhere else for them - continue.... A fair bit of swearing got us up to the Main Chamber and we had a rest there and contemplated how much effort the diggers must have put in. We were happy with the progress that we were making but weren't exactly moving fast. The cave goes a bit more horizontal here and we slowly made our way out. We exited about three and a half hours after we entered and went for a cup of tea in Ashbourne.
Waterways Swallet is a very interesting cave. The steeply dipping beds remind me of Mendip and there aren't many caves in Derbyshire that gain depth so quickly. I didn't see much Stal but we weren't really looking for it; the chambers and boulder chokes are impressive. There are flooding issues to be aware of and I'd suggest that the boulder chokes need ALOT of care. Remember that it's an on-going dig. The Keyhole Caving Club know lots more about the place than I do. For information about the Keyhole Caving Club extensions to Waterways Swallet see: http://www.keyhole.org.uk/ where you can find photographs and an up-to-date survey.
- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 2674
Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC) and John Taylor (EPC)
Llangattock Mountain is an area of limestone which rises behind the village of Llangattock in South Wales. The limestone here is riddled with caves and watercourses with Daren Cilau and Agen Allwed being the major systems. Daren Cilau has approximately 26 km of explored cave passage and new passage is still being found by a determined group of regular diggers. Discovered in the 1960s, Daren Cilau begins with it's tough and infamous 600m entrance crawl. From the end of the entrance crawl a number of different trips are possible including 'to the Antlers', 'to the terminal sump' and 'to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe'.
John and I traveled down to South Wales on the weekend of the CDG Welsh section AGM. After an entertaining evening in the Fountain pub and a night at White Walls - the Chelsea Speleologial Society hut - we were up at eight to head into Daren Cilau. We walked up onto Llangattock Mountain and to the small, old quarry that is the entrance to the cave. We'd been told that the first twenty metres of the entrance passage was the worst being low and particularly wet. Oversuits zipped up we crawled into the cave. Immediately it becomes apparent that this is going to be awkward! Apparently the best training for the entrance passage of Daren Cilau is to lie next to a wall in the rain doing one-arm press-ups and I wouldn't argue with that. After about a hundred metres there's a feature known as 'the vice' which is a particularly awkward piece of passage being tight and low. Towards the end of the passage there's the 'stal squeeze' which involves crawling through a body-sized hole in a flowstone curtain. Eventually we reached the end of the entrance crawl which breaks out into a large rift passage. The sense of relief amongst the party was tangible and only tempered by the fact that we had to go out the same way.
From here the cave changes character with some larger passage mixed with flat-out and hands-and-knees crawling. Before too long we arrived at The Big Chamber Not Very Close to the Entrance. Here there's a log book which we filled in with details of our intended trip. There's also a doll strung up with conservation tape which is something that I've not seen in a cave before but makes a handy landmark to identify the position of the log book. We decided that it would be nice to see the Time Machine so headed off towards St Valentine's Chamber and the ladder. The ladder takes you up from large rift passage into another series of passages twenty metres above. There's a rope and a pulley at the top so that people can be belayed up and down and you're pretty glad that there is because it's a big drop. From the top of the ladders some mixed crawling, stomping and handline climbs lead to the Time Machine - one of the biggest sections of known cave passage in the UK. I'd seen some photos of the place and was really looking forward to seeing it for myself. It really is a tremendous place. The floor is made up of large boulders and the route through is marked with reflective tape. It's one of those sections of cave that's just so big that you feel as though you're on the flanks of Scafell Pike at night rather than underground. The section of cave after the Time Machine is covered with crystals and there are also some stunning helictites in Bonsai Passage (see photo above). After much stomping, the final part being in a small streamway we arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe. This is the camp where digging teams generally stay whilst digging in the cave and is very well resourced with food, fuel and alcohol. We carried on through to the streamway at the end which was a torrent of water heading for the terminal sump. On the way back we stopped off at the Hard Rock Cafe for a hot drink and some food before making our way out the same way.
The journey out was steady up until the entrance crawl which is hard work no matter which way you look at it. We didn't rush on the way out and that makes things easier. Finally, we escaped into the cold night air and rain about eight hours after entering the cave. Daren Cilau is a great trip and one that every caver should do at least once. The entrance crawl is hard work but not too bad if you take your time and it's well worth it to see the amazing known cave and potential for exploration beyond.