What's this? Clewin drinking tea? Well I never.
Anyway, had a nightmare journey to Derbyshire. Bought a nice cheap ticket to a tiny station called Hope near Castleton. This involved changing at Sheffield, 8 minutes allowed for the connection. As we all know, trains are always late, so I watched the train to Hope pull out of the station as I came in. So I spent 2 hours in Sheffield station for the next train. When I finally got to Hope (only 30 minutes from Sheffield) I then had to wait another two hours for the minibus in a tiny station with nowhere warm to sit, so probably good I was delayed in Sheffield. All the lights in this station in the middle of nowhere were switched off about 11pm, and I was then repeatedly scared by high speed trains randomly appearing, and also trains with no lights on silently passing through. Creepy. I thought about walking the 2 miles to the TSG in Castleton, but then the minibus turned up. Unfortunately the Orpheus caving club is in the middle of nowhere so took about another hour to get back, cheers to Shed and Darryl for picking me up.
Managed to blag my way onto a trip with Rik, Tim (Orpheus member, not Shed) and Poles Martin and Maggie. This was nice are there were a fair few freshers, but they ended up going down Giants. Maskhill Mine is a seriously nice cave. The only thing I didn't like is that it's almost completely devoid of water for carbide. I thought it was a bit like M16, fairly dry, lots of loose gravel to kick down pitches, about the same dimensions, smallish at top, and fairly large at bottom. It's an old lead mine which means you're not allowed to whistle in it (raise the dead ghosts of miners apparently). There were pick marks on the walls and wooden 'stemples' which the miners stood on to remove the veins of rock from the ceilings. The West Chamber at the bottom is apparently all mined out. SRT was a bit like Slov too, a large numbers of well placed rebelays (this cave, like most others, is over P-hangered) pitches area bit smaller. There is an easy Tyrollean traverse at the bottom, perhaps good for training? This cave joins up with Giants via the Chamber of Horrors. This doesn't really sound like a realistic trip, but an exchange with Oxlow sounds brilliant.
Had a bit of a problem at the entrance to the mine. I found out that Maggie had never been caving before, and had only done SRT on a climbing wall. When she asked me if she'd put her descender on the rope correctly I thought this isn't the cave for you (she had done it properly by the way). I don't mind teaching people SRT in caves, but 1) I like to see what they're like in the trees, and 2) I like to vet the cave first to see if it's suitable. Sadly I had to ban her from going down the cave. Martin came back out and I went down to meet up with Tim and Rik. I quickly picked up the car keys from Tim at the top of the third pitch, prussiked out, ran down the hill to give them the car keys to get changed, ran back up the hill and speed descended down to find the others had rigging the forth pitch. You have to be fairly careful at the top of this cave as there is a shonky dry-stone wall. Geting out of this cave was a nightmare; Tim and I both had 2 tacklesacks each. Note, you need about 30 hangers for this cave.
Managed to get myself on another SRT trip down another mine. I think it was Hillock's mine, but I'll have to check this with Darryl. Most people went in the 'Oil Drum' entrance, but Clewin and I walked up to the top of a knowle where Darryl had earlier shown me an engine and climbing shaft. I'd heard it was a 60m free-hang, not something I wanted to do with 3 freshers, so yet again I was bit apprehensive. I sent Clewin down to investigate. In the end this tiurned out to be an excellent cave for practicing SRT. It's a 40m pitch with easy rebelays about 10m apart. It's not big and airy, quite tight sometimes. At the bottom is another 4m ish pitch into the mine. Didn't stay long at the bottom, didn't meet the others, and headed out. Quite pleased to watch everyone prussik out, with successive 'rope frees!' being called out. Had to make a combat dive down a small passageway when I heard a large rock bounce down the shaft. Not much space to hide, it would have hit me. A 'below!' call would have been nice too. Oh well they're only freshers. I was a bit shaken so hid in my tiny hole while they exited. Use of foot jammer meant my escape took place in record time.
Got dropped off in Chesterfield on the way home which was nice as it meant I was tucked up in bed by 7pm. That has to be a record?