Devonshire Cavern Ladder Hunt - Alan Brentnall
The search for the ladder iron continues! A continuation of the fruitless trip described in June.
Six of us turned out on a wild, wet and windy evening for a venture into Devonshire Cavern. On the way up from New Bath Hotel to the Bonsall path, we met Adam Russell and a friend, who were carrying scaff to make an upper entrance safer. They both gave (slightly confusing) instructions on how the iron ladder might be found. To add further to the confusion, I needed to check a route I intend to use on a forthcoming series of jobs with Blue Mountain, and this entailed a round about route down to the rock bridge and up, past the shattered kibble to Dustbin Chamber and out to Tall Miner Chamber via the white boulder. Soon enough we arrived at the Main Chamber, and could look up at the new grid which had been placed in the shaft near the garden gate by Phil, Pete and others from DCA.
From here we headed up to the top of the Main Chamber, where it reverts to parallel passages, and Pete led us into the main one (see the yellow line on the survey). Eventually, after a traverse ledge on the right, we were forced to take one of two steps upwards into a higher chamber ("E" on survey) which shortly led to a long step right and backwards ("X" on survey) onto a window above a parallel passage. It was possible to drop into the passage directly, or, with more control, via a traverse left and step down.
This passage led downwards and then upwards to a soily, then clay section before the ladder itself was revealed ("B" on survey). Climbing the ladder, we got to a ledge and then a slightly awkward move into a low section followed by a chamber. Here there was a shaft to the surface (red "O" on survey) with rusty iron plate capping, and a winze below. A flat-out link on the left led to the large Upper Chamber ("A" on survey), with its bouldery, draughting terminations, and a breakdown area which also gave access to the winze. The passage forward from the ladder eventually split into two and re-united at a boulder choke with roots which felt close to the surface.
All in all a very satisfying and useful exploration of the upper end of Devonshire Cavern. Still more to see, I'm sure - but that's what keeps us coming back, isn't it?