Team: Archie T, Jim T, Luke C, Chris H

Following a successful ‘first trip’* for Archie on which he left the old men in the dust on the Giant’s Round Trip, we were keen to maintain the momentum for Eldon’s youngest new aspirant with honing SRT skills being the order of the day, given that he can probably crawl further than us, climbs anything and fits through much smaller gaps, so no formal training required in that respect.

Only recently have I come to appreciate just what a super little cave Snelslow is. Straightforward access (if you take note of where to look and don’t spend ages wandering around fields in the dark in completely the wrong place) , lovely and dry, and everything needed for some more than just a straight up and down within 5 mins of the entrance, and it’s a really spectacular pitch with good visibility for onlookers.

It's also up the Giant’s track and given reports of that being covered in snow earlier in the week we did a bit of logistical leapfrogging that saw Archie and I plus kit in Chris’ car and the three of then being picked up at Perryfoot by our hero Luke in his awesome Hilux, lamenting the fact that he was running it on fumes and had severe range anxiety.

The winter sky was crystal clear as we stood chatting, with stars visible and a gentle moonlight sparkling on the snow around us. Chris pointed out a fast moving satellite, then another, and we realised a seemingly endless train of Starlinks was passing overhead. They just kept appearing out of the far horizon until, after what seemed like ages, the last one passed out of view. (n.b Wikipedia says there are 5000+ of them in orbit, and that a train may consist of 50-60)

Once our rapture subsided we looked towards the moon, with a really bright Jupiter peeping out just below it. Although it was absolutely freezing, being outside at night in this spot was the place to be.

We didn’t come for astronomy though so we all hopped into the Hilux and drove up to Peakshill where it was indeed 4X4 (or at least certainly not camper van) accessible.

The prebeers were frozen as soon as they were opened as was our skin. Questioning our life choices we got changed as soon as we could, but with Archie needing his new (kindly gifted by Chris) harness adjusting I soon lost the feeling in my fingers and wondered if they’d ever warm up. Fortunately Chris could vaguely remember the way to the hole so we shot across the fields and ended up only slightly off course sliding on our arses down the snow to get to stream level. We reached the entrance and Archie was straight down the ladder and in before we could even do a bit of a briefing. Chris set off after him and explained the couple of pitches and what to expect before heading off to rig them.

Soon after It was rope free and time for Archie to get on the rope. He’d managed fine with my close supervision on the Garland’s pitch head but now we were introducing a rebelay and deviation into the mix and it was a strange feeling seeing my own flesh and blood leave the safety of the pitch head and swing into a sizeable space where all I could do was talk him through any difficulties. Fortunately he’d remembered everything he’d learned and we’d drilled on the stairs at home and didn’t need any help at all. I breathed again and headed down to join him and once Luke joined us we all crawled towards the last pitch. Luke took the lead this time and quickly rigged, before calling up that it could hardly be called a pitch and didn’t think there’d be enough room for 4 of us down there. I had a look over and he was right. We opted to send Archie down to squeeze a bit more practice out of the evening and once he was down him and Luke did look akin to sardines standing in a little hole at the bottom.

I listened to Luke talking Archie through the mechanics of prusiking and dealing with a rope that refuses to run through a Croll, grateful that he was in safe hands, and once he was back with me checked that Luke was OK derigging the whole cave and we made for the rope, me having a little chuckle as Archie rather thoughtfully asked if Luke would be alright on his own… I didn’t hear much crying from below so guessed he would be.

I headed off up the rope demoing the two footed rope trap technique as I did and stood by at the pitch head again to wait for an Archie who emerged at the obstacles a bit tired. I observed that his harness was suffering from adjustment at the point after which my fingers seemed to have failed to operate so his leg loops were behind his knees and he was pretty much laying out horizontally with no support from his Croll. Still, he was unfazed and not moaning so it’s all part of the process, caving being the oft-minging experience we all thrive on enduring.


Soon after we all emerged on the surface feeling a warmth that stayed with us all the way to the car although it was still good weather for Polar Bears and I yearned for a fur coat as I bared my arse to the moon.

Keen to give Archie the full TA experience we swapped the cars and zipped off to the Anchor for pints and snacks, and were joined by Rob, Sam and Jon with a tale to tell.

*first SRT trip that wasn’t an ill-advised faff down Cussey that probably led to not wanting to try caving again for a year

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