Scaffold Carrying - A Caving Tradition Continued - Alan Brentnall

Tuesday, 20 September, 2016

Following a storm-ridden whizz around the shafts of Knotlow, this week's Tuesday night trip was a less ropey trip into Peak Cavern - with a difference. Some time ago, Clive Westlake asked me if we could use one of our midweek trips to ferry in some of his diving kit, in preparation for a photoshoot in Planet Jim on the far side of Ink Sump, and I readily agreed as trips into Peak are always popular. Shortly afterwards, Jim himself posted a request for cavers to assist in moving the large quantity of scaffold tubing which has been heading slowly through Peak Cavern towards Ink Sump for almost a year now, and I thought it would be a good idea to use any spare manpower on this week's trip to assist with this. If we could at least shift the main pile past Surprise View, it would give the "Soup and Scaffold" brigade a better chance to complete the task next Monday.

Consequently, ten of the Tuesday regulars met at The Chapel this week determined to do the deed. We didn't need much kit; possibly a few slings, a pair of cowstails and a GSOH!! As it looked as if we may be in there some time, I decided to use a namelist on the clipboard in case there were any early leavers, and having checked everything, and grabbed Clive's gear from his car, we set off in. Two or three of the party were new to Peak, so this was going to be a bit of an eye-opener for them; one lad was heard to say that he couldn't believe that he was still in Derbyshire (Stoney Middleton does give us quite a reputation).

Having quickly seen off the Wallows and the Mucky Duck, we romped through the Upper Gallery, over the boulders to Treasury Junction, and, just the far side of the Watershed, we came across a pile of forty-odd scaffold tubes. Using slings and, in some cases, bare hands, it was possible for us to each carry two or three of the tubes down to Surprise View, and this saw half of the stack moved quite efficiently. At the ladder, we simply set up a human chain and delivered the tubes one at a time into the main Peak Streamway, where we carried them upstream to Squaw's Junction and then to the junction with Lake Passage.

Here we decided to deposit the bulk of the poles, and carry on with one pole each towards the dive base at Ink Sump. At Lake Sump, there was about 12" of air space, and we passed the poles one at a time through the sump before continuing, either through the sump, or around the bypass, depending upon how much neoprene we were wearing. Having delivered nine or so tubes to Ink Sump, we had a good look at Jim's smart dive base, and, while Clive started sorting through his kit, some of use climbed up The Ramp to see how far recent digging attempts had gone.

Eventually, we returned to the Peak Stream and Surprise View, where it was decided that those new to the Peak system should take the beautiful trip down to Buxton Water Sump, while the rest of us ferried the remaining scaffold tubes from their original location to the foot of the ladder. Once our original missions had been accomplished, we made our way out of the system, secured the gate and retired to the Peak Hotel to discuss next week's trip