Report by Jon Pemberton
Cavers: Jon Pemberton (EPC), Sam 'Dervish' Pemberton (EPC), James 'Jams' Wood (EPC).
After postponing this trip from the 25th of December we eventually got around to descending the shaft thirteen days later on a freezing Tuesday eve. Midway through December I had contacted John Beck who had kindly sent me a written article by Bill Whitehouse and survey (J.S.Beck, N.J.D.Butcher) from when the “Fireset Shaft” had been excavated in 1982.
We had decided to drop the shaft on SRT, unknown of when the last person had been down there and how stable it would be on ladders. (The 50ft deep shaft consists of two solid walls leaving the other two stacked ginged to the bottom.) Dervish and I had found the capped entrance on the 25th December on a surface exploration of the area. The entrance lies in a hollow directly across from Flower Pot, above the lay-by on the opposite side of the road. We had to clear four inches of leaves and scree but upon opening the lid a howling draught emitted from the shaft and it was bloody warm for Christmas day!
After heating up above the shaft on the Tuesday evening Jams rigged using a metre long scaff bar backed up to a nearby tree. Our 19m rope only just reached the bottom of the finely re-stacked shaft (EEG). Jams descend first followed by myself then Dervish with the classic, “HEADS UP!” Followed by, “it weren’t me!?” – Yeah right!
A short side-step at the bottom of the Shaft lands you with a 4m climb into a stope (careful not to touch the Stacked on your right.) Left leads over rubble for 10m to a dig in the floor deemed too tight. Right drops underneath the stacked deads and gives access to a very narrow level with soot coated walls, which has been driven by the old method of firesetting i.e. without the use of explosives (one of the very few examples where evidence of this method still exist in Derbyshire.) the level ascends for a tight few metres towards the end of the level ending in a crawl underneath stacked deads to a cross rift with an internal 20ft deep shaft. A climb down using rotting stemples leads you to the final dig with very restricted stacking space. The climb down passes three backfilled firesetting levels. The draught is meant to continue through the bottom of the shaft in a choke although we managed to lose it today in the final cross rift.
We all managed to ascend the entrance shaft without knocking the scaff bar down on top of us. Overall the trip only took us about and hour but it’s very interesting to us anyway with the final dig being only 50ft away and10ft higher than clog passage in the Dynamite series, beyond Porth Crawl. The continuation could possibly connect the two although the Fireset Shaft consists of many stacked deads and could easily move with little temptation. Although trying to push up the very narrow fireset level with SRT gear on is a pretty bad idea especially if you're “Dervish” size.