Nettle Pot - Angus Sawyer

Saturday, 10 May, 2008

Present: Martyn Grayson, Glyn Roberts, Angus Sawyer, Thomas Spriggs, Ann Soulsby, Richard Tooley

Eleven-ish or maybe twelve-ish and Glyn, Tom and myself stood at the top of 'Nettle Pot'. The solid concrete cap and steel lid was a new addition since I had last been here, over fifteen years ago. That was not the only difference, this time it was already rigged - and little did we know it, we were carrying a sentient rope! The early risers had come here earlier, while we enjoyed a lie in and a leasurely breakfast, and were now somewhere below.

I went down first and was surprised at the narrowness of the shaft, not difficult, just inconvenient. We quickly assembled at the bottom to find Ann in the Canyon below us, on the way back up. At this point it became clear that there had been a slight communication failure, or as Ann put it: 'Derbyshire Hall! Why do you want to go there?" It had been assumed we were planning to go down 'Elizabeth Shaft' as the first team had done. Not put off, well just a bit, if Ann thought it was horrible it must be bad, we continued.

The Flats, the first pitch and 'Boulder Passage' were quickly passed, and we found ourselves at the bottom of the final pull through up from 'Firbeck Hall'. Two attempts with ingenious knots failed to get our rope through the anchor. On the third attempt, with Tom and myself hauling, Glyn breached several international treaties and started singing. "Fly my little one! Fly! Fly!" He warbled. This was too much for the rope, and letting slip its disguise as an ordinary length of static, leapt up and through like a startled hare, in a desperate attempt to escape the din. Tom quickly tied the rope down to the bottom anchors before it fled out of reach.

The way was now clear, and we reached the 'Far Flats', like the 'Flats' but farther, and muddier. Actually the 'Far Flats' are a strangely attractive miniature landscape of mud with a rippled ceiling of ice clear stalactites, as well as being an unpleasant low crawl through thick mud. Avoiding the blind pots in the floor, we rigged the last pitch, and came to the final problem. The 'Freeze Squeeze'. 'Caves of the Peak District' describe the squeeze as very tight. It is.

Glyn went first and being the smallest didn't have too much difficulty. Tom went next and however had a bit more of a problem. Tom likes to look good, even when dressed in a muddy oversuit and to this end was equipped with a stylish battery belt (no battery, just the belt). Halfway though, on his back, and the worst bit of the squeeze over, his belt caught on the roof, preventing further progress. Reversing seemed unlikely, and assistance was requested. Reaching between Tom's legs, my hand squashed by the roof against his groin, I grasped something hard! His belt buckle, jammed against the rock. With the buckle rotated, not without some difficulty, Tom was free and quickly through, leaving me to struggle through, controlled breathing being essential.

Gour Passage, easy with more white and clear stalactites and on shelves and in the floor small gour pools, led us to 'Derbyshire Hall'. Entering at roof level, the stals and curtains form a beautiful inverted forest, not bad for a muddy hole in Derbyshire. The scaffolded dig at the bottom didn't look inviting, although the draft through this area indicates there must be a connection with something.

On the return, the squeeze had one last trick. Just when you thought you had escaped its clutches, and could breath freely, your thighs jammed. Luckily only a temporary set back, the remainder of the return trip was without incident, although by now we were all caked with clay, making it difficult to distinguish a cow's tail from a 'croll', which made SRT interesting. Pausing only to remove the rope from 'Elizabeth Shaft' left by the first team, did they really think we would go down after the trip to 'Derbyshire Hall', we derigged, to emerge into bright sunlight.