Nettle Pot

Nettle Pot is one of Derbyshire's best enigmas. It stands alone between Peak Cavern and Sidetrack Cave with enough mixture of phreatic and vadose development to boggle any speleologist mind-shed. Many of the deepest sections are rarely and offer cavers not only a good trip but also good potential for open leads. Or that's the theory....



28/3/19 – The 5th Avenue, Nettle
Rob, Jeff

It has taken us 4 trips to survey most of the lower sections of Nettle. This work has revealed a surprisingly complex phreatic structure downstream of Easy Pickings with at least three different offshoots stretching through and over the top of Hell. All of these seemingly end at Fourways Chamber, although two of them lost in boulders in the floor. The main obvious way on from Fourway is also phreatic, however it gets increasingly small and looks to be an inlet. Another way on from Fourways is in the roof on the main rift, but that also ends in up too tight, high up in the rift. There seems to be a way on missing, maybe in the boulders in the floor?

"X" marks the 5th Avenue dig

Mulling this over with Luke over a Wizard in the Anchor he mentioned about the obvious hole in boulders heading off in about the right direction. I hadn’t spotted this during the survey trip but it seemed promising. I finally returned in March with French Jeff and sure enough an obvious hole was cutting under the Northern wall, and with a good draught coming out; The 5th Avenue! We both moved out boulders and got down into a small space with more loose rocks than solid ones. Lifting boulders out was really awkward as the entrance hole was exactly body sized, but we didn’t feel comfortable making it bigger as everything was so loose. After a couple hours digging we could see down through gaps where the draught was coming up from, but to move anything else from the floor would mean supporting the walls and roof properly. According to the survey we are roughly 4-5m above the top of the aven me and Brendan bolt climbed back in January, and slightly further North. This, mixed with the fact the draught is almost certainly a circular draught driven by water (due to the entrance of the cave not having any noticeable draught), makes it most likely that this dig is just going to connect to that aven or the one next to it. I’d love to carry it on for a few more trips, but the amount of work required to stabilise it properly unfortunately doesn’t feel worth the effort.

Jeff went for a wonder up the phreatic inlet armed with a hammer, whilst I killed some time (and thankfully not myself) pulling rocks out of the rift in the roof. My way lead through to a little chamber on the rift but with no obvious way on. Meanwhile Jeff’s “10 minutes” was now more like 50 so I went to see what he was up to. He’d supposedly spent 5 minutes loosening a boulder which blocked the way and got it almost out of the crawl. He then spent forever getting it the last 50cm in what I can only describe as the worst digging I’ve ever seen. No matter how he pushed or pulled this rock it simply wouldn’t come free. In the end he had to hammer half the wall off to get it out! Needless to say the lead didn't go anywhere, but it was beautiful to watch! 

We then started to head out, having made the difficult and sad decision to derig. This not only called our adventures down there to and end, it also more importantly ensured there was no way we’d make the pub. Sad times…

25th Jan - Brendan Sloan & Rob Eavis

With Eldon members dropping around me like flies this week I was grateful to be accompanied by Brendan Sloan from SUSS (future EPC material?). Whilst the air temperature was surprisingly mild, the wind certainly made up for it and we made haste up the hill.

With the pitches rigged we bombed down to Red River in no time, only stopping to complain about how soaked we both were from the wetness of Beza. First job was to take some photos of potential CCCs I’d spotted last time here. 

CCCs maybe
CCCs maybe

[I've since had these photos looked at by Prof Gina and she's pretty sure they are CCCs. From what i understand, these type of formations are formed when the cave is below freezing during a glacial period. Therefore being found at ~130m below the surface is potentially very revealing, as the permafrost would be deeper than normal. Did a strong air current keep the cave that cold?]

We then returned and squeezed and squirmed our way down Hell, a process which was not nearly as enjoyable as the last trip, this time with a heavy bag. Down Eyes Down and a few more modifications by Brendan got both of us through the squeeze and into the new(ish) chamber. The 10m climb to the roof still looked freeclimable but I was nevertheless glad I was fully kitting up and after a few bolts I had slipped and squashed my way at the top. Unfortunately the way on was fully choked with loose rocks which had Belaying Brendan’s name on so a hasty retreat followed.

Whilst Brendan fought his way back through the squeeze I had a quick look at a passage I spotted heading off at head height. I moved a few loose boulders and feared my way through into another chamber, slightly smaller than the previous. This was less slippy so I climbed up this to the roof but it closed up fully and with no signs of any phreatic development I lost my interest and we headed out. The fighting back out of Hell and the arduous pitches out warmed us up nicely, although not quite like when beasting it out trying to make the pub. On surface gone midnight.

Fighting up Crumble
Brendan Fighting up Crumble

Our ongoing plan to encourage French Jeff into the Eldon instead of some lesser temptation continued with yet another trip down Nettle, this time into Hell. In the unlikely event that he doesn’t enjoy the cave maybe at least he’ll be impressed by our honest determination for quick projects.

With the entrance and Crumble & Beza already rigged, getting to the entrance of Hell took no time and our fingers and toes were just about thawed after snowy changing conditions. Hell is well named with the start being tight, awkward and seemingly designed to not be pleasant, especially with large bags. However on today’s light weight push I was loving the place, finding the sneaky places to turn you head or bend your knee the right way, and the mix of phreatic and vadose keeping the brain hunting for continuation clues. Once on the first pitch (Bingo Pot) rope the progress is much easier, shortly reaching the second pitch (Eyes Down) after a short rifty squeeze.

Today’s project started here. The plan was to return to a bit of cave I discovered back in 2006 to finally get it surveyed, 13 years on. 2/3rds of the way down Eyes Down I climbed off the in-situ electron ladder and through a very tight squeeze into a roomy, tall chamber. I didn’t remember the squeeze being that tight. This chamber is on the original 1987 survey, however it seems the original explorers had failed to climb a few metres up a loose climb to gain access to a slowly ascending passage coming in from the south. It is a lovely phreatic rift passage, pleasantly passed but never easy. After 12m a tight rift off to the left is reached through which I could hear Luke and Jeff who were waiting at the top of Eyes Down. Luke came back through the rifty squeeze and used his military-trained noggin to devise a system to pass the survey gear through to me.

The 2006 Passage
The 2006 Passage

Luke moving equipment like a pro

I suggested Jeff came for a look whilst I continued on to the end, a loose, shattered choke. As appetising as I remembered, however a more informed me now reaslised that this was probably quite close to a dig in Red River which we spotted last week, so I didn’t bother have a poke. Instead I took one final look around and started surveying out.

I heard Jeff banging about behind me. Turns out he didn’t like the squeeze so used his French-trained noggin to dig a pointy rock out of the floor to make it easily passed. I agreed that the rock was annoying but opted for the bruised hip rather than 2 minutes digging. We checked out a few other leads in the roomy chamber and agreed it would be worth bolt climbing into the roof, especially as the phreatics seemed to be heading up that way. We surveyed back to the electron ladder which turns out it was not as good as hoped with every other rung now popping off on us! Luckily Jeff’s now nearly in Team Awesome so we both just hand-over-handed up the SRT rope next to it like legends.

Beyond the Squeeze

Emergency pub alarm went off and we made tracks. Turns out Luke does have off days and we had to drag him up and out of there to get to the Wanted Inn in time. Jeff then had his tail between his legs when he had to admit to the Bull Pit digging team who there in there that he’d found other entertainment for the night.

Survey data now entered and indeed the shattered choke is very close to Red River so not currently worthwhile pushing. Additionally, an appetising choke at the head of Eyes Down is very close to the rubble floor of Fourways Chamber, only 3m above. It’s surprising therefore that this connection was never forged as it could have given significantly easier access to the dig at the bottom. All proving it’s a bit of a warren down there and I reckon it still needs more looking at….

After our last trip down Nettle just before the New year Rob wanted to return and survey Red River and just have a good look around to see if anything had been missed.

With Jeff Wade back on home soil Rob has made it his mission to get him to join the Eldon so we invited him along to try and woo him. After a pretty horrendous drive over to the lay-by, the fog was terrible, we all got kitted up and set off up the hill. With pretty much zero visibility it took a bit longer that normal to find the entrance. Once we had found the entrance it was easy going as we had left the entrance rigged from our last trip. Rob rigged Crumble and Beza and headed off down with Jeff and I quickly following. All at the bottom we then headed off to Red River. A small crawl leads to a pitch down and into a small chamber. The next little passage is a beautiful bit of cave passage and I can see why Rob loves it so much.

Curvy passage in Nettle
Beautifully curvy passage in Nettle

After the nice bit you end up in a small chamber with two ways heading off, one down to Hell and the second up to Red River, this is where we started surveying. Jeff leading the way and marking stations, I was shooting the disto and Rob was complaining about my shooting of the disto and doing the drawing. I've never been this way in Nettle so I was well impressed when we popped up into Easy Pickings. There's a clear bedding plane as you're heading up the passage which we think will line up with the bedding plane in Fourways Chamber. Only looking at the surveys data later will confirm this.

With pub time looming we didn't hang about and set off surveying up the rest of Red River passage. Once we got the small traverse which leads to Dratsab Jeff had a little moment and wasn't keen on going across without any protection so we decided that it was a good time to head off out. Rob being Rob though had to show off and step across the traverse like it was nothing. He fired a few shots into Dratsab just to have some data.

All back on the surface in less than an hour and with the promise of beer I ran all the way back to the car. To our surprise the Anchor was closed!! Back up plan was to head to the Red Lion, which usually closes before the anchor but luckily tonight that had darts and Dom's so was still open! Thank god. Rob has looked at the data and as he said the bedding planes line up. We plan to go back down next week to investigate further. 

So after nearly 6 months Team Awesome were back together and we had planned a trip to Nettle pot for Jon’s last trip before he left us again. We planned to go down Elizabeth and through the sting, Neither Rob or I had ever been through and it needed surveying so we thought we would kill two birds with one stone.

We met at Rob's house and headed over to Nettle. After a quick catch up, some Hobgoblin (Rob's gift) and a bag of Polish bacon frazzles (Jon's gift) we got dressed and headed up the hill. At the entrance we found two cavers on their way out, they said that there was 3 more on the way up, so us being typical Eldon members decided that they could wait and we would pass them. I’m surprised that Rob could fit his head down the narrows as one of the cavers recognised him, her words ‘You’re everywhere and kind of a big deal’. Once we all hit the bottom Rob quickly rigged Elizabeth and headed off down.

After a bit of confusion we found the way on through a very narrow section and landed at the horrid looking ‘Sting’. It’s nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be and we all quickly passed the wet section, only Jon made a big deal of it as he’s a tight Yorkshire man and won’t fix his broken battery box on his light. Rob ‘Kind of a big deal’ Eavis hesitated at the next bit as he thought it looked far to tight and wasn’t sure that he could fit through, it’s only the entrance to the crawl that is very tight, it soon opens up to a snug crawl. With all three of us now through the wet and crawly bit we decided that we had plenty of time so Rob suggested that we go up to Four Ways Chamber to have a look around and to survey it. After a short crawl and a traverse across a small ledge you come into four ways chambers. After a quick look around Rob had a climb up right at the end and entered into a bedding plane, he got a bit excited at this.

The time had come to head off back. We surveyed our way out which was nice going through the 'Sting'. We had a quick stop at the bottom of Elizabeth to share some strawberry laces (Also Jon's gift). Back on the surface after abut 5 hours to a very foggy hill. Obviously we hadn't used a lot of energy as we even jogged back down to the car, although according to Jon I don't run right? Quick change and a drive over to the Anchor for a good bye pint.

Only 6 months to go and our Jon will be back for good!!!


Luke heading through the Sting
Rob in the Sting's narrow crawl
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