Sidetrack Cave - Alan Brentnall
This week's mid-week trip was to Sidetrack Cave; a real gem, hidden away on a ledge at the now-abandoned Eldon Quarry. There were six of us (three TSG, two Crewe and one Eldon) and we parked at various points on the rough lane past the quarry. The cave itself is situated on a ledge some 10m below the top of the quarry, and we rigged this with a ladder and a rope. Most abseiled down the rope to reach the ledge, and then wandered along, past the remains of Alsop's Cave (now quarried away) to Sidetrack itself.
The entrance series is a beautiful, circular phreatic passage some 1-2 metres in diameter. Unfortunately it is almost totally filled with glacial mud, giving a very awkward, flat-out crawl for over 60m until the appropriately named Little & Large Air bells are met, and there we stretched and rested while everybody got through the tighter parts.
Following this there are larger passages, but it's still crawling, until, finally, the junction with Litton Stroll is met, and here we could finally relax and take in the beauty of our surroundings. After a brief rest, we set off leftwards towards the blocked connection with Alsop's Cave. This is a particularly beautiful section of cave, and we had to be particularly careful not to damage any of the fragile formations.
Returning to the junction, we continued "upstream" (although it's hard to tell) and, after the aven, Julian and I had a quick crawl along to the old dig face, before heading back and out. Back on the surface, there was a nice sunset and a beautiful outlook over the quarry, but none of the pleiadean shooting stars, which we were hoping to see, was visible - but still the whole atmosphere was magic, and I could tell that we were all affected by both the surroundings and the trip.
I re-ascended the wire ladder, using self-lining techniques, and brought up the others on a gri-gri. By this time the sun had dropped beyond the horizon, but the views were still amazing. It's trips like this that remind me (if any reminder were necessary) why I love going caving.