Winnats Head Cave - Downstream Pitches - Jules Barrett
Present: Jules Barrett (EPC), Simon Mee (TSG)
I think Ian Barker got it right when he described Winnats Head Cave as "...one of the greatest Derbyshire trips..." It's a magnificent cave with impressive chambers and rewards for those who get beyond the vertical squeezes in the second boulder choke. I'd been to the Wigwam Aven area at the top of the 'up' pitches quite a few times and always fancied having a look at the downstream pitches. The only thing I knew about them were that they're supposed to be like a Yorkshire Pot and the rigging was off Spits. Me and Simon had a midweek day off and since Simon hadn't been in Winnats Head before we went for that.
We met at the TSG hut at midday and sorted some rope and hardware. Drove up to park at Winnats Head Farm, asked permission and walked to the entrance in the little quarry. Suffered the crawl to the first small chamber and then continued to arrive in the Main Chamber. Dropped down into the first choke and threaded our way carefully through that. There are some huge boulders in here which don't seem to have a lot supporting them. Carefully made our way down to Cornwall Avenue and into the very impressive Fox Chamber. Dropped down into the second choke and down the first vertical squeeze with the in-situ handline. I dropped down through the second vertical squeeze and took the bags off Simon. Simon had a couple of goes at the squeeze but his chest wasn't having it and he kindly waited there whilst I continued on. I took one of the bags which had my SRT kit, first and second pitch ropes and some hardware. I'd use this trip as a chance to have a look at the state of the first and second pitch bolts and the last pitch could wait till another time.
From the bottom chamber with the big sump pool I made my way through The Sewer on my back and put my SRT kit on at the bottom of the first 'up' pitch. Prussiked up the fixed ropes and crawled along to the top of the downstream pitches. Here the waterfall comes in from the 'up' pitches above and descends over the lip of the first pitch. Rigged the very easy traverse into the top of the first pitch and descended down past a deviation to land on a sloping floored chamber. Even though Derbyshire is very dry at the moment there was still quite a bit of water coming down out of the roof here. At the end of this chamber is the top of the second pitch so rigged this off a couple of Spits, then a rebelay to land in a wet passage with very dark limestone. My bolts had screwed into all these Spits fine. By this time I'd run out of rope and was very aware that Simon would be getting cold, so after a quick look over the edge of the final pitch I got straight back on the rope and started back up; de-rigging as I went. Back down the rigged pitch, through The Sewer and back to meet Simon who kindly didn't complain at all about his hour spent sitting here on his own. The trip out was uneventful and we exited to clear skies and air starting to feel chilly towards the end of the day.