The Return to Peak


Photo: Group from Saturday outside Peak cavern

To take a break from writing my dissertation I thought I write a trip report instead (I’m not entirely convince on this logic).

It was a pleasant Sunday morning and the majority of our group (who weren’t actually cavers) had decided this was a day for walking and you know appreciating the weather. Me and Jacob, however, had some unfinished business in Peak. We had been planning to tag on a trip to Moss chamber after taken the group on the Peak round trip the day before. This had quickly become an impossible (a story I’m sure you’ll hear soon enough) so this was the plan for the day. Nick (Oxford) decided after having a bit of an exuberant night the short trip would be more his cup of tea than whatever his group was up to.

I put on my new kneepad, these were bulkier than my older ones but did have one key advance, I know where both kneepads were. On a trip to Moss with all the crawling, and my skill in bruising, this won the debate of which to wear. And we set off, I was looking forward to this, I heard many good trip about Moss chamber but never actually got the chance to go before and after spending most of the year leading trips I knew, doing something new was novel too.

We arrived just before 10 am and wandered along the familiar passages, it was odd not to be giving the running commentary of the fresher trips. We finally reached the small climb lead up to the hole of the start on the crawl. Now I’m not the best climber and my knees play a key part of my climbing technique, these knee pads had no grip caused knees to slide off everything. This was the first indication my knee pads might cause some issues.

Final in some passages I had never been. My wellies didn’t seem too keen on trip and did their best not to come any further. I had new wet socks that actually fit me which had the unexpecting consequence that I no longer had wellies that fit (I had recently learnt my feet are a size small than I thought so most of my foot wear is too big). My knee pad was also getting my knees and shins confused meaning that every few metres I had to stop to pull everything up.

I finally reached the two squeezes where the crawl finishes, both which my small body just slipped through. Then it was up the mud hill which had clear foot holes from the many feet which had been through the passages, few climbs and standing on Nick and we were at the eye. This is probably the hardest part of the trip; the eye is a tight squeeze about 2 meter up which you then have to slither out head first. Logically I knew two things, one I couldn’t really injure myself worse than a few nasty bruises and it probably was a lot easier than it looks. The main challenge here is gravity, as you slide past you rib cage you slip down slightly. Which means when you get to your hips you need to push your body up, and with your legs being above the rest of your body this is tricky. With a lot of flailing, I was passed my hips and out. Finally reached the rope climb down and then up again. About a step from the top my arms decided they had enough, so I had a little rest jamming myself between the wall. Which was honestly one of the most comfortable resting places I’ve found in a cave.

We wade chest deep through calcite pools into Moss chamber. I’m almost tempted not to try and describe it, there very little chance of doing it justice. A white calcite flow from the top of the ceiling is the main feature. I just sit and look at it. I struck it a strange sense of honor that I have the opportunities to see such things which most people will never get too. I just start grinning at the strange beauty of this underground tunnels and the people above us going about their lives with no idea of the three people sitting in this chamber beneath them.

The way back was quicker helped by the enjoyable mud slide down. As I reach the final squeeze before the crawl, which I had barely noticed on the way in, I pulled my wellies up. This meant I entered at a weird angle, I quickly ended up on my back (I'm not sure how) and trying to bend it in ways it shouldn’t bend. As I riddled my helmet jammed into some rock and I was unable to move my head. Jacob seem to be in a state of amusement and awe and how badly I messed up to squeeze. I now had to take off my helmet and riddle out make sure I give my hair a nice wash in the muddy puddle behind me.

We got out in time for lunch and grabbed some chips before the rest return from their walk.

Briony Downes-Ward, 25/08/17