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Peak Cavern A tour of peak by sumps - lake sump crazy trip

Saturday February 11th 2017

Members present: Alistair Rollinson,  Jean-luc Heath,  Lilo Hoecker,  Livvy Golby-kirk

Report by Jean-luc Heath

The morning of the trip was a nice faff free affair with a quick trip to the bakery providing breakfast, and the warm(ish) TSG providing a convenient changing environment. With no ropes to pack we were soon sauntering through Castleton, eager to reach the impressive entrance to Peak Cavern and begin our trip (which had been planned the previous night after I got all excited when Lumens mentioned a free-diveable sump). Upon reaching the entrance those of us who were new to the cave were impressed by its sheer scale. This was followed a short explanation of rules by the guy letting us in, after which we began our trip.

We quickly moved through the show cave, soon hitting the gate that marks the end of the trip for most of cave’s visitors. We passed through onto ‘the devil’s staircase’, which also happened to have a not very slidly slide, much awkward scooting ensued. Me and Lumens instead opted to take the stairs, these we found to be far more convenient. After a section of easily travelled streamway, we reached the ‘five arches’ these were a little lower, and the water a little higher than I had been expecting and provided a good introduction to the two freshers on Josh’s trip. With everyone getting through the arches and ‘bollock deep’ water without much trouble we soon hit the ‘muddy ducks’. These offered a bit more of a challenge and saw most members of the trip getting thoroughly soaked. This was followed by another relatively large passage, down which both trips made a good a pace with Josh’s group soon breaking off down a passage to the right.

We continued on through a series of muddy trenches, eventually reaching the in-situ ladder at ‘surprise view’ that led us down to the streamway. From here navigation was made easy through use of the survey we had borrowed from the TSG, allowing us to rapidly make our way to the objective of the trip: Lake Sump. The route to lake sump was mostly through standing height streamway with a few sections that required a crouch. This meant that we soon found ourselves at a seemingly dead end with a pool of water and a thick dive line, closer scrutiny confirmed this was lake sump, and that it was more of a duck. Having never been involved in any of this sump business before I encouraged Lumens to go first, he happily obliged, and after token amount of spluttering he notified me that he was through. I then began my attempt to follow, observing that there was actually quite a bit of airspace, I bobbed along happily. However, the combination of my helmet and the tacklesack on my back soon pushed my mouth and nose underwater, this became apparent once I had breathed in lake sump’s muddy water, as opposed to the sweet, fresh, radon-laced air of Peak Cavern. Some spluttering and thrashing ensued as I dragged myself briefly under the water, soon emerging on the other side of lake sump. There I was greeted by a happy looking Lumens who seemed to take a slightly sadistic pleasure in my coughing and spluttering. After composing myself I yelled that the way was free, and Livvy began making her way through. She too had decided that there would be enough space to breath all the way through, this made obvious by yet more spluttering, but she was soon with us on the other side, not bad for a third trip. Lilo was last through the sump and made her way through effortlessly.

After a short adrenaline fuelled self congratulation we headed off to ink sump, from there we tackled the very muddy climb up ‘the ramp’. This challenging climb provided little reward other than allowing us to say that we’d been to the end of the system. After a controlled slide down the ramp we headed back through the lake sump bypass (a muddy crawl, which led us to regret not doing the sump again instead) and made our way through some streamway towards ‘boulder hall’. From here we visited ‘far sump’, then made our way back through ‘boulder hall’ and soon began tackling a set of tight muddy crawls and hair raising free climbs to get to back to the impressive ‘peak streamway’. The large size of the passage allowed us to make good time and we soon hit yet another sump, ‘Buxton water’. Here we had a quick break then headed back down the streamway, soon meeting the in-situ ladder that took us back up to the upper gallery. By this point the quick pace of the trip was starting to take it’s toll, so we were glad to be heading back out of the cave. The route out was tackled just as efficiently as on the way in, and we were soon hit by the final challenge of the trip, scrubbing the mud off our oversuits to avoid soiling the show cave. After a few minutes of frantic scrubbing we were almost as clean as Will Scott’s vocabulary, so made our way up to the show cave. After passing a few tour groups we raced back through Castleton to relatively warm TSG. 

All in all a good trip with nice variety, an exciting low airspace duck and some challenging climbs.