Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Ann Soulsby (TSG), Wayne Sheldon (TSG)
I'm continuing my tour of bits of Derbyshire caves that I've not been in and had arranged to meet up with Ann Soulsby and Wayne Sheldon at short notice. We met at the TSG hut in the morning with no firm plans and a number of options were discussed. We settled on Nettle Pot since Ann likes it (you'll have to ask her!!) and Wayne hadn't been in there for a while. I've still got lots to do in Nettle Pot as I'd only been in there once before today and that was a solo trip along the Flats. I was keen to have a look at the very bottom (Fin Pot, Eyes Down, Red River Passage etc.) but we were hampered by the fact that I'd been unable to find my copy of Caves of the Peak District and we had to be out fairly early. I had arrived at the Chapel with about 300m of dirty rope so a busy half an hour was spent washing rope and then packing for the trip. After paying at Oxlow House Farm we walked up the hill to the Nettle entrance. I set off rigging down the entrance shaft and in the few years since I was last in here I'd forgotten just how awkward the Narrows are (especially when you're rigging I reckon!). Eventually I found myself standing at the double-bolt rebelay at the top of Bottle Pitch and things were a bit easier/more roomy from here. I'd not been any deeper than the Flats so the lower section was all new to me. An easy traverse leads to a pleasant pitch to land on a broad ledge at the top of Elizabeth Pitch. We traversed past the top of Elizabeth Pitch and continued to the head of Crumble Pot. This has a tight section just below the pitch head and then continues down a pleasant rift. A couple of rebelays mark the start of Beza Shaft which is tight in places and has a few deviations to stop the rope from rubbing. The bottom half of Beza doesn't have any rebelays or deviations and there's quite a lot of rubbing going on. Fortunately the rock around here is pretty smooth and the ropes didn't seem to suffer too much. We landed at the foot of Beza Shaft and then followed an in-situ handline down a slope to The Shakes - a chamber at the bottom. We spent a bit of time investigating what turned out to be a blind pot at the end of The Shakes. We then found a body-sized arch on the right-hand side (if you're facing down coming down the handline from the bottom of Beza) and crawled through that. This led to a short pitch with an in-situ rope on it. Abseiled down that to a small chamber. At this point I really didn't know whether I was on the way to Red River Passage or in someone's abandoned dig. We also needed to be out fairly sharpish so I came back to The Shakes and we set off back up the ropes. Wayne and Ann de-rigged (thanks for that!) and we exited the cave about 4:00 p.m. Back to the Chapel for another rope-washing session and home.
A very enjoyable trip. Will go back now that I've figured out what's what at the bottom and have a proper look around the lower stuff.