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Nettle Pot - 22nd Nov 2009

Sunday November 22nd 2009

Members present: Chad B,  George Bunyan,  Imogen Shepherd,  Kevin Francis,  Thomas Blakey

Report by Kevin Francis

"Let us never speak of this nasty hole again" - Gover

When Chad suggested this cave I didn't know what to think. I'd heard horror stories of it being tight and full of bad air. Previous reports on the website didn't sound that encouraging. Nevertheless it was a cave I hadn't done before and there is no point writing a cave off before you've had a look at it, right?

Chad had already collected Tom, George and the gear before he picked Imo and I up at about 8.15am and we were down in Castleton for 10am. Imogen cooked us breakfast whilst we chilled out and read the route guides. After finishing our two courses we began packing ropes and drinking tea. This proved to be an arduous process, by the time we had been to pay the farmer (he wasn't in) and kitted up it was gone 1pm. George faffed a lot, it was almost as if he didn't want to rig!

Blakey had been to the cave before so we tuned in his radar and set him off, bleeping, across the fields whilst we followed in slow pursuit. I had had visions of us wandering around the hillside all day looking for the entrance as apparently it isn't very prominent but thankfully we found it really quickly. After some more faffing George finally began to rig whilst we offered constructive criticism. Initially George was cautiously slow, but that was to be expected and soon he was moving at a good pace. Tom (somewhat reluctantly) followed George down. Chad popped down next and it started to rain. We persuaded him to get further in whilst Imo and I dived onto the ledge and shut the lid. It was considerably warmer inside the cave and the rain sounded like it had began to hammer it down.

The pitches down felt tight and I wasn't sure how coming up them again with tacklesacks was really going to work! The further down we got, the more it seemed that this wasn't the ideal cave to do as a first rig. It was a relief to get down the more spacious Bottle pitch which reminded me an awful lot of the second part of the pitch up Victoria Aven for some reason. The bottom of Bottle led to the Grand Canyon. From here you have two options, either pursue the seemingly endless bedding planes that are the Flats (which in one direction after a series of pull throughs reaches Derbyshire Hall after the worryingly named Freeze Squeeze) or to continue descending the Grand Canyon to get to the Elizabeth Shaft. We had brought ropes to do both and George had chosen to descend the Grand Canyon. This wasn't a big pitch and at the bottom is a small hole which leaves a gorgeous hang straight down the Elizabeth Shaft. It was the best descent I had done in a while, straight down a circular hole which then belled open to reveal a nice chamber.

As time was pushing on and we had been warned not to spend too long at the bottom of Elizabeth we began to head out. George flew up the pitch, then Tom. Chad went up and waited for me and Imo overtook him. There were lots of places for the rope to snag, so I hauled the rope up as I went up the pitch. This seemed to work quite well despite slowing me down. I did some maths and figured I could pack all the rope into two tacklesacks (we had brought two bags and had brought the top rope loose.) This meant the lion's share had to be rammed into the bottom bag, which Chad and I managed to squeeze in whilst clipped in by the Grand Canyon. The way out from there was pretty uneventful, and went much quicker that I had expected. I was having nightmare scenarios of ropes snagging and bags getting stuck, but it simply didn't happen. The pitches that had seemed tight before were really quite easy and seemed much shorter on the way up. Chad was sat on the entrance ledge and I could see him for most of the way after passing the Sentry Box.

It was chucking it down with rain as Chad and I emerged - the others having already gone back to the car - and the walk off the hill and change itself were quite revolting. Nevertheless, we were back in the car by 6.15pm, and drove off to try again to pay the farmer. Whilst George was doing this we may or may not have had a run in with the police...

Soon we were back at the chapel, making tea, toasting maltloaf and cleaning ropes. We tried to find an open chip shop but failed and instead had a horrible (but cheap) takeaway in Sheffield. As the ropes were cleans and shanked the turnaround at the container was very fast and efficient and we even got home in time for a couple of pints in the Waggon. Bonus!

Overall, fun trip, we've got loads more to see and do down there and after the trip we did I don't really understand it's fearsome reputation. Probably not the ideal first rigging trip (especially as you can't really watch all the rigging as it's being done) but George did really well and we had no problems. I'd deffo like to go back.