Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Carl (Bog) Bergman (EPC), Chris Schofield (EPC)
We were after a trip with a decent bit of SRT and some proper caving at the end and since Chris and I hadn't been to the end of New Oxlow this seemed like a good idea. I had recently heard about a poised boulder in the Oxlow entrance shaft and it would also be good to have a look at this. I'd packed the rope in the afternoon and since I'd chopped up my 100m rope this needed a bit more thinking about. However, finished with one large bag for the first pitches, one medium bag to get us down to the bottom of the Pilgrim's Way pull-down thing and then a smallish bag with the pull-down rope and North Pitch rope; the luxury of caving as a three! We met at the Oxlow parking around 7:00 p.m. and the sky was darkening already as the nights draw in. There was a distinct chill in the air as we got ourselves sorted which reminded me that autumn is well and truly here. The only issue that I had was being unable to find a decent pair of gloves so I was wearing a pair of gucci fleece ones that are really too good for caving. We walked over to the entrance and started rigging down the pitches. Rigging was uneventful and we arrived at the bottom of the pull-down thing that leads up into Pilgrim's Way. Once here Chris took over the rigging and found the pull-down thing to work fine. Weaving the end of our rope between the strands of the pull-down rope worked well and Chris pulled the rope through. Bizarrely as he was pulling the rope down a pair of gloves fell out of the sky and landed next to our feet. They were mine which had been knocked off the top of Pilgrim's Way and come to rest on a ledge last time I was here! These were much more suitable for Pilgrim's Way crawling so I swapped. Once into Pilgrim's Way SRT kits went in a bag and we made our way along comfortable crawling passage towards Mecca Aven. Last time I'd been here was in full neoprene on the way to Giants Hole via the Connection and this trip felt much more relaxed. Once past Mecca Aven we were into lovely cave passage which allows walking to Jacob's Ladder and eventually to North Chamber. SRT kits back on and Chris rigged North Pitch to land us at the bottom. Bog has been here before so went off exploring along Pilgrim's Way having given us an idea of the delights that were to follow in the Portcullis and the Sewer. From the bottom of North Pitch we crawled through the Portcullis and continued to the Sewer. This is described in Classic Caves of the Peak District as a diminutive, aqueous crawl which it is but it's very short. Finally the passage enlarges into a high and narrow rift at Boulder Chamber and following the water forwards leads to some very impressive dams and a sump. We returned to the top of North Pitch to meet Bog and made our way out along Pilgrim's Way. Bog and Chris kindly de-rigged allowing me to escape back up the ropes with a smallish bag. Had a good look at the poised boulder in the entrance shaft and it does look as though it could do with propping up or something like that. On the surface by 11:30 p.m to a lovely clear evening with loads of stars. Pub missed but that's OK!
One of the best trips in the system; not difficult and even the passage between the bottom of North Pitch and the final sump is enjoyable really. Oxlow is great fun to rig and it's great to do some proper caving at the bottom in New Oxlow. I'm planning a return journey to have a look at stuff like Icarus' Crawl and Henry Mares' Crawl. There's also the inlet that Bob Dearman passed but I'll have to find out which one that is.