Giant's Hole

Mike Smith, Briony Dowes-Ward, Fae Sapsford, Benjamin Dolby, Oskar Wolthoorn, Alexander Ried

Due to a an equally unexpected and laudable surge in new members inclined to crawl down wet, dark holes, the club decided to add a day trip to what was already quite a trip-heavy autumn. With gear barely dry from South Wales the previous weekend, and ongoing preparations for the Yorkshire bonfire trip in another weeks’ time, a nice stroll in Derbyshire seemed like just the thing. As a club we always work hard to please new members, so we wanted something for both connoisseurs of the more earthy nature of Derbyshire (Bagshaw, led by Jacob) as well as those with a penchant for walking sideways over extended time periods. That would be Giant’s, led by myself with the very welcome support of Mike.

Unfortunately everyone turned up at stores for 8:30 as agreed, so I didn’t have anyone to grumble at to alleviate my customary weekend morning mood. To my extreme astonishment, Jacob and Briony actually got people kitted up within half an hour whilst I was busy getting the ladder and ropes. A new record, I daresay! The overall count of 10 people over 2 cars meant that, aside from Briony, I needed to find another 3 victims. Ben and Oskar were swiftly volunteered as they had been underground before. Fae also didn’t actively flinch when asked about doing the trip, which constituted eligibility in my eyes.

Content to have the Giant’s crew assembled, we left Jacob in the (caving store) dust to set off for the Peak. We arrived to the unsurprising sight of two minibuses and some cave rescue personnel present for SRT training purposes; I also ran into Alastair but none of the other usual suspects. Mike arrived only a few minutes later, and everyone got kitted up in a pleasant drizzle.


Photo: Heading Underground

Underground we quickly ran into the minibus groups, who were kind enough to let us pass. A little further on we passed Base Camp Chamber, and Mike provided some interesting insight to the blasted passage we had just stomped through. Little did I know the landowner had originally created this for the purpose of opening a show cave similar to those common in the area. Whilst creating an easy passage was successful, planning permission for a car park was not. Good for us, and I imagine there is a pretty steady stream of income from the trespass fee even now.


Photo: Lifelining at Garland's Pot


Photo: Oskar on the ladder

The presence of three members not trained in SRT resulted in the atavistic use of a ladder; at least we were the first group down Garland’s so I didn’t have to rig around other ropes. Once the entire crew had made their way to the bottom, they got a quick pep talk about the Crabwalk before this extended section of controlled sideways falling.


Photo: Ben in the Crabwalk

The time passed quickly with anecdotes about the importance of keeping an eye on rainfall past and present when going into active stream caves, and soon we reached The Vice. Unlike other people’s slender bodies my portly dimensions did not allow straight passage, my preferred solution being going over. Whilst this avoids wet crawling earlier than necessary, Mike was quick to point out the danger of this method to the newbies: Delicately gallivanting above a constriction you otherwise would not fit through might prove an unfortunate choice were you to slip into it. I didn’t, neither did anyone else (curse their slender frames), so we all got to slide down Razor Edge Cascade soon after. Briony adopted my advice of “just slide down it” quite enthusiastically, and more or less slid into the pool below at speed.


Photo: Oskar looking happy, we'll need to take him on a harder trip

To those that have not had the pleasure, Comic Act Cascade reached promptly after is a masterpiece in cave engineering. A waterfall passes precisely in your line of descent down a ladder, consequently providing a nice shower. This is avoidable by getting the person behind you to sit in the streamway, thereby blocking the water for a time. This may be the very first time the helpful party did not raise prematurely to do honour to the cascade’s name and give the person below an extra good dousing. I suppose he did not fancy being left in a cave without a headtorch, well done Ben! After Great Relief Passage, the aptly named Eating House gave a pleasant half-way rest to scoff down some cereal bars, make sure we hadn’t lost anyone, and discuss the merits of various cave worthy foods. Under Mike’s watchful eye and helping hand, everyone made it up into Maggins Rift, where no one was prepared to take the wet crawl on the right instead of walking. Despite my generous offer of quickly going ahead and rigging Oxlow, the only person interested in following Poached Egg Passage was Mike. And I described it so enticingly…

The Windpipe was fun as per usual, the newbies once again proved they’re made of good caving material and went through swiftly without much complaining. Oskar even seemed to enjoy it!


Photo: Oskar after the Windpipe

Having lugged water, food, rope and harness all around the cave, it turned out everyone was ok with continuing at the top of the Crabwalk. I have considered giving new members an “essential tacklesack” containing e.g. a few rocks to drag through the cave as a character building exercise, but then thought this would cause unnecessary wear and tear on the bags.


Photo: The crew at the beginning of the Fossil Series

We soon reached Garland’s again, where we were greeted by every man and his dog standing at the top. Some of them bizarrely in normal waterproofs, boots and backpacks. They looked very wet. As it was only marginally quieter than next to a Boeing 747 during take-off, I went up the ladder to find out what’s what. One group currently derigging, another here for SRT practice, some of them SUSS. So I lifelined our group out of the pot and asked Mike to head out with them whilst I was derigging. Even remembered to give him my car key! Needn’t have bothered, as I caught up with them on the way back.

All in all an excellent round trip, thanks to a great group. Cheers for helping out, Mike! Hope to see you all underground again soon!

By Alexander Ried, 29/10/16