Recent reports

Hillocks Mine - Knotlow Cavern Hillocks - Knotlow exchange

Sunday December 3rd 2023

Members present: Alfie Exall,  Dylan Kocher,  Ethan Griffiths,  Sarah Moody

Report by Ethan Griffiths

Dylan's lounge started getting light a bit before 4am. I woke up about the same time. The sofa was comfortable and the weighted blanket was a nice touch.
I did some crunches and waited for the hangover to catch up with me. It did.
A number of hours later a sleepy-looking but predictably bubbly Sarah emerged and watched the snowy view with me. Dylan was ready to go as soon as he walked in so we collected our shit and picked up Alfie. The plans had changed a lot during the previous night, but I had too much wine to notice. It was eventually decided that we would go down the Whalf Engine shaft into the Knotlow system.

A pleasant drive later we rocked up at a snowy little café in the peak district, and bumped into peak caving club who were doing a quick trip down Knotlow climbing shaft. Alfie ruined a waiter’s day and Dylan made a tentative agreement to make the connection to the Knotlow Climbing Shaft and ascend with peak caving club. We had to get through the Meccano crawl make the connection and the only information we had been given was that the crawl was wet, tight, but not as bad as chamber of horrors. This information did little to comfort us. As soon as Alfie had finished slurping up his ketchup packets we prepared ourselves for the cold.

The Mini struggled in the snow and required some manhandling to get it parked. Once changed a snowball fight ensued, before a foggy shuffle towards to engine shaft.
Warm air coming from the engine shaft persuaded onto the pitch, which was notably pleasant considering it was a 70m y-hang. Once at the bottom Dylan pointed out Meccano crawl and scampered through. The three of us got confused when we reached a junction so shouted for Dylan. “Just go the obvious route”. We proceeded to follow Dylan down the wrong route, where Dylan was trying to back out of a muddy puddle.

We eventually found a narrow, gritty crawl half filled with water. It was rarely flat out and was mercifully short. It did have some interesting vertical action that required either head first commitment, or the ability to turn round. Alfie’s length got the better of him and forced him through the crawl on his back. The crawl comes straight out to the top of the waterfall pitch – a fun bit of SRT into some incredibly deep water. Some bouncing off walls is required to gain footing on a small upright pipe in the middle of this garage-sized puddle. With some help from Sarah, I got off the pitch without swimming. Alfie rigged a pull-through and followed us down. The Peak Caving Club were making their way up the pitches, closely followed by Dylan and Sarah. Alfie De-rigged their ropes, and I hung around to make a nuisance of myself. Dylan reminded us: “Don’t leave any of their gear in the cave!”

The way out was mostly uneventful. I was getting experimental with my tackle sack placement and yanked my way off the pitches. (I learnt that tackle sacks should not go on foot loops.)
The landscape was crisp and comforting and the fog painted a heavy whitewash on the trees. I ruined it pretty fast by rolling, mud caked, in the snow. We got changed out of our snow crusted caving gear. “Make sure you have all their equipment”, said Dylan. Seconds later he was heading back to the entrance to fetch the slings and krabs he forgot.

Peak Caving Club invited us for a quick drink, and the thought of a warm pub was too tempted to a group of tired, cold cavers to turn down.
The Mini appeared to have other plans, and would not budge in the snow. “Everyone get out and push”. We heaved our cold creaking joints back in to the increasingly hostile snow and pushed with everything we had left. No luck. We pushed harder with rhythm, rocking the car back and forth, the snow still cold as fuck. Still no luck. We readied ourselves for a final push, searching for lost strength. Dylan finally realised the handbrake was up. We rolled away easily.

Team slightly competent strikes again.

Big thanks to Dylan for taking us on such a successful trip (He was significantly better than this report might imply), Peak Caving for letting us exchange with you. And a big sorry to the waiter in the café, I hope you recover from meeting Alfie.