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Maskhill Mine

Saturday October 31st 2020

Members present: Amber Mitchell,  Jean-luc Heath,  Miles Armstrong,  Paulina Poterlowicz,  Rosie Marshall

Report by Jean-luc Heath

The intended trip for this weekend had been Rumbling hole, however, the inclement weather in the dales made this plan questionable. This meant it was time to do something I had not done for quite some time: read a book. Two books, in fact. What were these tempting tomes you ask? Caves of the Peak District, and The Peak District Rigging Guide, both were quite dry, however, dry was exactly what was needed. After only a short time, the somewhat familiar name of Maskhill Mine appeared, with a suspiciously slender soliloquy within Caves of the Peak District, I turned to the rigging guide and found it to be fairly extensive, and worth a visit. Enquires were made with a few local types *cough* Gottzone *cough* as to the access arrangements, and to ensure it wasn't a drowny place. With this decided, the rope was packed at my house on Friday night, ready for leaving York at an exceedingly efficient 0700. With the car appropriately occupied by 0715, the rapid drive saw us at the parking for Maskhill for just before 0900. With my undersuit pre-applied at home, I marched off down the road to Oxlow Farm to pay the trespass fee. Upon reaching the farm, I found it oddly quiet, with the bleak weather of the morning making it all the more foreboding. As instructed I went to the door, and knocked - but nobody came - this is apparently not at all unusual, and the coins are simply placed on the windowsill. Leaving the farm, I felt as if I'd just participated in some kind of bizarre and ancient ritual to ward off evil spirits.

Strangeness over, we were all soon changed and heading up the hill for the incredibly short walk to the entrance. Soon at the entrance, I began rigging the entrance pitch, which is made up of a substantial quantity of rebelays and easy deviations. One of the later rebelays is shown as a Y-Hang on the topo, but the two bolts are placed directly above each other, making the use of a Y hang seem somewhat obsolete, considering the sturdy nature of the bolts, and lack of rub. Nonetheless, this particular rebelay was oddly difficult to pass, for no comprehensible reason. First pitch over, trebuchet corner is reached, looking at the topo suggests this is likely a complex series of pitches, in reality, on the most part its more of a slight incline, which could be easily scrambled. The following pitch 'murmuring churn' is the single biggest pitch in the cave at 24m, broken by a deviation halfway. A number of these pitchheads involve massive Y-hangs, making the inclusion of a big rebelay loop exceedingly helpful. After a few more monster Y-Hangs, and a cheeky climb, which uses a traverse line to avoid stepping on a false floor (classic mines amirite?), a tension line is reached. This was quite exciting, as my only previous experience of a real world tension line was in a canyon in the Vercors. However, it proved to be of little hassle and was easily passed by all. Worth noting that the sheath at the end of the tension line was entirely worn through, although not at all dangerous, it made an excellent illustration of why pruccising up random ropes dangling down avens could be a bad idea. After a quick poke into the substantial West Chamber, the pitch into waterfall chamber was rigged, interestingly, the Y-hang uses a P-hanger, and a rather vintage homemade aluminium(?) hanger, which made a very satisfying ring when tapped. At the bottom of the pitch, waterfall chamber was found to be insubstantial, and the way on to the final pitch a little too damp, so it was left for another day.

A brief derigging discussion was had, and it was decided that Rosie and Paulina would derig, supervised by the ever omniscient Miles, whilst me and Amber made our way out. Seeing little of them on the way out, other than to collect a bag from Miles, I can't report much of what went on, but whatever it was, was rather efficient, leaving me only a short while on the surface to make maximum use of our trespass fee to go and locate the entrance to Oxlow for future knowledge. With all out and well, we headed down to the car for a surprisingly cold change, before the drive back to York, seeing all deposited home by 1930, just in time for a variety of pressing evening engagements.

Tldr: Maskhill is a solid bit of SRT, with a very different character to the dales, excellent for as a wet weather option, or if you fancy a change to the dales.
NB: The rope lengths in the CCPC rigging guide were spot on for me rigging fairly tight, so perhaps take a tad extra if you plan to rig for optimum accessibility