Sidetracked - Andy Farrow

Sunday, 8 February, 2015

In the wake of the AGM and dinner - 5 " intrepid " cavers from the TSG attempted a Sunday trip - after much deliberation - Sidetrack Cave , Eldon Quarry was selected as a non-SRT route was preferred. Thus with a plan made, gear was packed, a call-out put on the board and we drove up to the snowy wastes. Once all lights and other stuff was sorted we visited the postbox on the quarry gate to fill in the visitors book and double check navigation-and after walking up the lane we quickly established that we were “close”. But the actual cave was over a fence and down a quarry terrace - so we had to find a way down to it - “close " didn’t cut the mustard.

After careful wandering about in circles - we found 2 resin anchors in the floor - whoo hoo .
In keeping with my maxim that" electron ladders” are the work of the devil " I rigged the rope for SRT and descended first - to check that the ladder reached the bottom - it was quite a big drop and quite a small ladder. It quickly became apparent that the ladder was woefully short - and wasn’t going to be of any use. But we had loads of rope - so the rebelay was rigged and Alastair Gott joined me on the terrace - with the intent of using our SRT kits to get the other 3 down. The flaws in this plan quickly became apparent as I nervously watched my kit disappear up the face - only to snag several times. Having second thoughts - the 3 remaining at the top decided to abandon the trip and walk back to Castleton.

Undeterred - Al and I pressed on - quickly eliminating the false lead that I assume to be the destroyed remains of Alsops cave. As neither of us had bothered to read the description or guidebook - we had a flawed notion that the entrance was "500m of hands / knees crawl" - a long slog - but we both had good kneepads so - lets go. Getting in the cave - with me first - I quickly found that it was flat out, wet and awkward. We endured this till the first chamber was reached - which had some nice formations to be admired. But with nothing but further awkward flat out crawling to be seen - I realised that 500m of this [each way] was more than I could manage. So we decided to call the trip and claim victory as we were the only ones to actually get underground.

We exited and de-rigged without issue and after a team photo - headed back to the chapel for coffee and cake. Once warm and dry we actually read the guide book - to discover that the crawl is only 150m and DOES open up….If I had known that - I would have pushed harder - but as al said - we can go back and try again. So - that was the Sunday trip – sidetracked.