Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Jim Alder (Orpheus), Niki Adlam-Styles (PDMHS), Mat (PDMHS), Andy Tickle, Andy's mate Shaun.
Derbyshire's not exactly full of quality through trips and this was one that I'd fancied doing for a while. After spending a day gorge-scrambling in wet clothes on the northern flanks of Kinder the last thing I wanted to do was rush over to Matlock to put same wet clothes on again but that's what bad planning does for you! We had arranged to meet at the parking for Jug Holes which was fine until I found that the road that leads from the centre of Matlock up to Jug Holes had been blocked off. With an idea that this might have something to do with the new Sainsburys and a vague thought that a new road had appeared there which headed in approximately the right direction I drove around to Sainsburys and found the road that eventually led to Jug Holes. Here Jim, Mat, Niki, Andy and Andy's mate Shaun were already kitted up and ready to go having already done some car-shuffling. We made our way on foot towards Masson Hill Quarry and just before reaching the quarry headed off into woods. The shaft top is not obvious at all and is partially hidden under a limestone boulder. The shaft was rigged from a large thread and in-situ scaffold bar and we descended to arrive in a chamber at the bottom. SRT kits were tied to the bottom of the rope ready to be pulled up later. From here the route goes down hill and after a very short distance an in-sit handline is reached. There is loads of very impressive mineralisation here which continues in places throughout the route. The route goes down the handline and past an obvious white wall of stacked deads covered in calcite. Continuing north-east along the obvious route leads to some animal bones at the bottom of a shaft that looks to be blocked above. A short section of crawling here leads to the main stope where the climbing starts. From here climb up on clay-covered holds to a point high in the stope. The way on from here isn't obvious but there's a hole going up on the far side of the stope. Chimney up through the hole (exposed) to arrive eventually in a good-sized chamber with a rock bridge, small cairn and an excellent thread belay at the back. A well-worn traverse high in the roof of the stope needs care and eventually the route starts to descend until finally some vertical chimneying leads to a slot at the bottom of the stope. Pop down through this to arrive at a T-junction where left is silted up. The route continues as an obvious stope through some larger areas where there are loads of minerals including very impressive dog-tooth crystals. The obvious route leads to the impressive 'Overseer Chamber' with ancient graffiti. Straight across through the 'Overseer Chamber' following the water leads to a crawl with water flowing down it. The route descends with a clay bank on the RHS. At the bottom of the bank is a triangular hole where the water disappears. A kibble and small shovel allow you to dig the hole open if it's become blocked with gravel. It's best tackled on your back as there's water in the bottom but is very short. The route continues as a hands and knees crawl as far as the second squeeze. This one is a bit more roomy and similarly short. From here the route goes into Old Jant Mine and it's really just a case of following the obvious route. At a T-junction a minor detour left leads to an original jigging box. More gravelly crawls lead to the dam at the start of Youd's Level. Here it's a load of stooping and hands and knees crawling until eventually we arrived at the ladder which leads up to the lid at the Artists Corner car park. After a trip back up to Jug Holes to de-rig we headed to the Kings Head at Winster.
Abseiling, climbing, ancient graffiti, a couple of squeezes, loads of minerals and some tricky route-finding all make this an excellent evening trip with lots of interest en route.