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Western Highway, Far Sump Extension, Peak/Speedwell - 24/09/2007

Written by RobEavis.

Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), George Taylor (TSG)

I'd been in Far Sump Extension recently doing the Ride of the Valkyries pitch and had since heard about the impressive silt-filled tube of 'Western Highway'. I'd also got a bit of an errand to run up at the top of the Ride so thought it would be good to combine this with a nice dry wander down Western Highway. Since work means that spare weekend days are rare at the moment I thought I'd see if anyone fancied joining me for a trip one long evening. Most people sensibly declined but George Taylor replied to let me know he was keen. Unfortunately on the only night that we could both do he'd got a French lesson which finished at 8.30 p.m. in Sheffield. George is possibly the only person that I know who wouldn't necessarily see this as a barrier to getting out so it was arranged on the basis that we would have to get going tout suite. At some stage during the previous week I realised that I'd not got enough rope so Ann Soulsby kindly lent me some of hers. George had mislaid his wellies but I'd got some to lend him. I've no doubt he'd have been perfectly happy in his winter climbing boots - he's good like that George! Packed the rope for the Leviathan Normale during the day and picked George up from his house apres le French lesson. We drove straight to Rowter Farm and walked over to the entrance. The lid got opened and the entrance shaft rigged. I abseiled in at 9:30 p.m. and George followed. From there we headed along the Cartgate with a couple of bags to the top of Bitch Pitch. Water still very low in the holes along the Cartgate and you can see right down into them. I'd got the bag for the Bitch Pitch and upper Leviathan so set off rigging. Soon we were at the top of Leviathan so went straight across the Workshop and rigged the top part of Leviathan to land next to the eyehole. I'd run out of rope about here so waited for George to pass me and we handlined our way down through the eyehole and along the traverse to the head of the second part of Leviathan. George rigged the main hang from the alcove and we were stood at the bottom of Leviathan after an hour of caving. Down the short slope that leads to the old Stemple Highway Inlet sumps (which seemed particularly grim this evening) and through to the junction with Stemple Highway. Went left here to Calcite Aven and up the ropes to Fingernail Chamber. This was George's first time up here so we both had a good look around. I think I'm right in saying that it was during the initial upward (solo) exploration of Calcite Aven that John Cordingley's drill packed up and he free climbed the top bit. We both agreed that this was a 'good effort'. From Fingernail Chamber I went down Fingernail Chamber pitch to the top of the Ride whilst George prussiked up into Western Highway over some very poised-looking boulders. I joined George in Western Highway and we had a walk along. Quite unusual place this being a large, dry, phreatic passage filled with silt. SUSS have been digging it and looks like they've been making steady progress. On the way out George de-rigged the lower part of Leviathan and I did the rest. Back on the surface around 1:45 a.m. to drop the key through the farmer's letterbox. Missed the pub! Arrived home around 3.00 a.m. Tried not to wake her up, failing as usual when I fell over a rucksack in the dark.

An excellent trip in an outstanding cave/mine. J.H. is a great way in and the Far Sump Extension and Western Highway are impressive places. One of the most enjoyable evening trips that I've done recently.