Ben Shannon, Jon Pemberton and Chris Hibberts
"Rubber Dinghy Rapids Bro!"
I never used to entertain the idea of Bagshawe Cavern. It was always one of my uni clubs fresher trips. A small old show cave sounded like a place for punters. one evening before a cussey dig, Rob mentioned about new developments beyond the gates. the more he spoke the more intrigued i got.
Fast forward to tonight, im pulling on my furry outside the coe for my second trip here. the goal was to get to madame guillotine for some pictures and then head to the dig to put a shift in.
Its quite strange to head into a building, open a small cupboard and see a staircase descend into the blackness. we make speedy progress to the gate where Jon marvels at the size of chris' nuts as i extract the very manly derbyshire key (not to be confused with the smaller toy derbyshire keys) and pass it over. the crawl is arduous as I help free up jons tackle sack whilst trying to free up my own or wait for chris to free me. By the time i got into the main chamber i had a proper sweat on but we pushed on down to the french connection.
"ohhhh, its Rubber Dinghy Rapids Bro" came a dejected Jon as he lay at the waters edge. the duck was almost a sump. "come and see what you think" Jon turned around in the tight tube and made his way up, i pressed myself into the wall as we intimately squeezed past each other like tourists on a cornish country road.
last time i came here i got through the duck with half my face underwater, now i was looking at 2 inches of air space. i could just about see the air bell. jon explained the two options "fully submerge and free dive, or hug the left wall sucking the ceiling as best you can". i was weighing it up as Jon sudden realised "coming back is going to be an issue because you will drag water down from the second duck and fill up this one making it a sump"
I really wanted to see the rest of the cave and get digging so I decided i would push through to the air bell and have a look at the second duck. i slid forwards and put my right arm into to the water up to me shoulder.
"Fuuuuuuuuuu, thats cold" wow, this pool was incredibly cold, and after being spoiled by my wetsuit in cussey i decided that it wasnt to be tonight. i span around and laughed at the sight of jon trying to crawl over the top of Chris. i made my way up the tube and had to grab on to Chris' leg to give me leverage to get by. He made his way to the pool to check it out. There was alot of nothern ranting and he too decided it was not going tonight. "Joe can tie himself some new cowstails because Im not going through that"
We were all disappointed but Jon had a plan and got into tour guide mode. we headed back to the gate. crawling down hill is much easier for obvious reasons and so in no time we were screwing up Chris' massive nut and heading to the other gate. some crawling, balancing on a wooden plank and more crawling took us to a pool. it was beautifully crystal clear. "thats the way on" but all i could see was water and 1 inch of black. "that tiny tiny gap?" i asked a little shocked. stumped by a Sump again.
"I know this really cool Miners Rift with clay pipes"
We mooched down the main passage playing guess the entrance to agony crawl. Eventually Jon stopped and pointed out a small hold at floor level then slid into it, Chris followed and then I joined. At the constriction Chris was lying there contemplating his life choices before making his way through. Agony crawl isnt tight tight, but it does have some rocky lumps that stab you in the gentleman sausage. this lead to a vertical squeeze which dropped us into a pool of water. we followed this for a while until a chamber lead to a free climb to the next level.
The climb is only a few metres high, but you certainly dont want to take a fall here. Crawling again leads to a mud slide which drops you into a pool up to your nuts. This is a very fun part of the cave. as we push on the nature of the cave starts to change. the rock gets darker and it begins to feel alot more remote and lesser travelled.
We stop at a small tube that is sloping upwards. "This is a tight crawl up to wards the miners rift. you will be fine Chris, just dont get stuck because this is where JT got trapped and had to be rescued" Jon said Gleefully as he headed off. Chris, well, he didnt look excited about the prospect of spending a night in this cave, but he followed on. we made our way up into montague aven which had a very enticing climb, except for the hanging chockstone that had the rope on the wrong side. we all looked up at this stone and decided that none of us fancied a headache tonight and so left it. we had a poke into claustrophobia which required a yoga style back bend to get into. This looked like a really interesting crawl, but conscious of time we headed on.
We got to mudhammer crawl and things suddenly got alot tighter here. Chris decided enough was enough and chose to have a rest whilst we headed onwards. in hindsight i really wish i had left my bag with Chris. the crawl was so tight that in sections i had to remove my helmet. occasionally my bag was snagging. after freeing it up i would push on to get to jons bag to free him on. after what felt like an eternity we popped out into the rift.
"Maybe I am spending the night here after all"
Utterly dejected, Jon raced to the end of the rift, me in tow. "well, its not exactly photogenic. im so glad to have dragged my camera all of the way here" the draft was much stronger in this rift. Jon explained that we were near the surface by the Coe. now that would make a cool through trip. after scoping to rift out, we saw planty of small ledges with black soot but no clay pipes much to the dismay of Jon. "well this was worth it" he said as we decided not to hang around and head on back.
I like tight crawls, i really like them, and this was up there with my favourite, but i suddenly remembered i had to drag that stupid bag again. Jon set off and i followed, freeing up his bag every few metres. we got to a pool of water and i had to give his bag a few good thumps to get it through. I slipped forwards and suddenly i was stuck. i could feel my pelvis wedged hard on the rock and the zips of my furry and oversuit digging hard into my sternum. i couldnt pull on anything because it was expanding my ribs and making it feel tighter. so i put both arms down by my sides, dig my toes in and the backs of my wrists, exhaled and pushed, this took many goes with millimetre progress each time. I then employed the hip motion of a jamacian sea otter dancing (Google it) eventually i freed myself. i grabbed a hand hold, pulled hard, slide a few centimetres and stopped to hard that i face planted the pool of water.
My bag was stuck hard. i couldnt lift my head high enough to see anything and there was certainly no way of reaching with my hand or turning around. so i sighed, slid myself back into the constriction until i could feel my bag. some irish river dancing on the bag finally freed it up again, but i was trapped again and getting very tired. i lay my head to the side into the water, i could hear my heart beat pounding hard and it felt like it was reverberating down the tube. Maybe i am spending the night here after all i thought, ruing the zwift bike race i had done in the morning to zap my energy. If i could have reached my Krab i would have unhooked and left that stupid ass bag there. realising this would not go down well i snapped out of it and pushed on and eventually caught up with the guys.
we stopped in a pretty chamber with pristine stals for a photoshoot for the MILFs of the peak district calender. then continued onto agony crawl. I pointed out an easier way out much to Chris' pleasure and finally we were back in the main passage. once back at the stair well i looked up. these are some of the steepest stairs i have done and when you are empty they are a daunting task. i had to stop twice for a rest before breaking out into the unseasonably warm october evening. We were too late for the pub, so sat in my van having a drink. I smashed 3 cakes in a oner. not the trip i had envisioned, but it was awesome nonetheless.