Winnats Head Cave
Jon Pemberton, Sam Pemberton, Fabian Ehlers and Dylan Kocher
Driving to Castleton I was very Stoked as not every Wednesday night do you get to have a great cave checked off the list. The goal was supposedly simple. Retrieve and install a new Depth Logger for the great Prof John Gunn who with a little effort from the caving community becomes quite the fountain of applicable knowledge as was further demonstrated from the Derbyshire Explorers Forum the weekend past. Winnats Pass was reasonably wind chilled however this is probably never not the case and gave extra incentive to start the trip.
Once the whole gang was present, we optimized bags and set off, John wanting to take more modern shots of Winnats as well. Entering the initial entrance crawl is flat out but not too tenuous into the small chamber where a second crawl leads straight into the Main chamber. Sam and Fabian get a head start while we hang back and take some shots above the boulder choke. A great chamber although is quickly shadowed.
Once done playing around with a few shots we enter one of the numerous gaps in the descending boulder choke. Twenty or so meters of bumbling fun navigating through various obstacles. A last tight squeeze dropping down into quite a sizeable chamber. The transition is quite the change from the tight bouldering above. Once done another descent through a vertical boulder choke leads to the smallest chamber out of the three. Jon points out the right of the chamber. Glasses somewhat unknowingly fogged a bowl of mist is hovering with a line descending into it. Very spooky however turned out to be a Sump and Dive Line but I still thought that maybe the boatman would come begging for some change!
Exiting the chamber, we enter the Sewer. A tight passage that holds somewhat of a reputation in the caving community. Seeing Jon negotiate through I was keen to get a squeeze on. The sewer in reality only has one “tight” bit, and this is a horizontal boulder resembling a Lintel. It is reasonably adventurous however Hot Take is incoming it is not that bad. If you are much bigger than me this may not be the case. Once through not long after the srt enters the equation, up a solid pitch with two other rebelays (pretty freeclimable if you are Awesome). A few twists and turns and an aven is reached with multiple digs off in the vertical shoot landing not too far away from the cattle grid and the top entrance of Winnats pass. Rather exciting thought and wondering why no one has taken it back on Jon boy remarks on how remote the digs may feel to some my perspective is a little different when you have been to the end of Bagshaw.
Down the slope I see Sam and Jon chatting away on the pitch head and join in on the more social side of caving. I did a confident job of showing Sam how a rack does not lock off and let him know that if he fucks it up how it will sound when the bars pop off. This pitch does possess a striking wall and reasonably wet rebelay under a waterfall, definitely do not want to get stuck under that! Following Pitch is another fantastic one being wet and spacious landing into a small rift leading to the last sump. Finally, I got to see Fabian who had already taken a little swim replacing and resetting the new dive logger meaning I turned around and headed straight back out. Reaching back up to the next pitch head we adjusted the camera and set a game plan to take some photos. Whilst we waited for Sam, we decided to take some rather saucy portraits as I wanted to show off my new chipped tooth to the world as it is a known requirement when applying to become a British citizen.
Pictures all taken Sam and myself both bline out of winnats getting a little lost in the boulder choke on the way out. In fact, I lost Sam and found myself on the other side of Zed Boulder seeing Sam's bag just being dragged up and away. The whole was no bigger than a fist but rather than just turning around and going the right way I just dug my way out this probably took me longer still but hey ho. Reaching the entrance being greeted with that lush colour of green and thick refreshing air as it passes over the moss-covered rocks it was hard to understand why Winnats possesses its tough and hard reputation. In reality, it is rather quick caving filled with a great variety of cave Stream Way, Boulder Choke, Big/Small pitches, Tight crawls, and of course amazing chambers offering a package deal for many.
A great note to add is that we didn’t set the depth logger right so I guess we're going back!