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Knotlow Cavern - Hillocks Mine via Meccano Passage - 18/09/2011

Sunday September 18th 2011

Members present: Elena Maters,  Jonathan Booth,  Kevin Francis,  Lieke Oosterkamp

Report by Kevin Francis

Met at the container with a couple of ideas, expecting horrendous weather wherever we were to go, preferring the Peaks due to (more) road works in the Ingleton area and a slightly better forecast.

Given a choice of SRT or little SRT, SRT won out and so we tried to pack 4 people’s gear and about 150m rope into my little car. After some cajoling and the removal of the parcel shelf we were away.

We got to the café at the Calver crossroads and had a breakfast top up. Thinking it was a good idea to get a Derbyshire key (we couldn’t find the club one) we stopped on the way in Bakewell, where we found the hardware shop had shut down over 2 years ago! After having to justify our reason for the purchase in an outdoor shop we were pointed in the direction of a tat shop. Then Lieke pointed in the wrong direction and so we went to a record fair. Then Elena wanted a Bakewell tart… Eventually we found a spanner and drove up the mucky lane to the Knotlow triangle.

Jonny went to rig the entrance to the Hillocks Engine shaft and Lieke started rigging the Knotlow Engine shaft, letting Jonny take over once he had finished Hillocks. Whilst Knotlow was being rigged I popped down Hillocks to check the rope was long enough. It just about was, by about a metre and a half. A more generous rig at the top and we might have struggled getting out! I prussiked out, getting very sweaty on the way. Not long after that we were all underground at the start of Meccano passage in Knotlow. Meccano is a silly place, a child sized passage initially crawling on stones, and then mud as the water level rises. Not convinced it was the best way on Jonny and Elena faltered, but after some gentle coaxing they carried on as the passage worsened. Just as I was enjoying it Jonny decided to stop and I had to lie in the freezing water and wait. It was probably deserved for taking them to such a silly place. The reason for the pause was that he had reached the end of the passage, a squeeze and a bend up into a small chamber.

Once through the rest of the trip was plain sailing, we explored some of the side passages, looked for galena and playing in a boulder choke I hadn’t been to (with a couple of interesting areas, one a steep scree slope in a phreatic tub ending in viscous mud and a possible dig and the other a boulder jumble with potential for skinny people crawling.) We had a look up the Hillocks Climbing Shaft ( I think we were most of the way out, but as we hadn’t loosened the bolts it wasn’t worth pushing the climb) and then prussiked out. Jonny dashed out first so he could go back down Knotlow and de-rig. He left behind his tacklesack and his gloopy biscuit mess and it was so heavy it had me cursing all the way out. It must have been full of rocks. To aid my exit I decided to lose some excess weight and so at every opportunity I used up some krabs and slings by making deviations for Lieke, which I’m sure she appreciated!

We got out to sunshine but the sky was turning grey. By the time we had shanked the ropes it was spitting a little. By the time the car was packed and we were driving to Sheffield it was hammering it down! The rain didn’t last though, so we had a jaunt around Sheffield, first to see the Devonshire Cat, a brilliant pub with only one downside – I was driving and couldn’t drink much of the beer! Then we found a second pub where we had dinner. By the time we were back at the container after an epic Pink Floyd session which left the others asleep it was 9.20 but felt much later. Twas a cracking day, the time underground was probably a little less than 4 hours, but it was time well spent.