Persons on trip- Andy M, Andy H, Tom, Sean, Larry, Peter, Ian
Met at the Old Smithy, Monyash for breakfast and to assemble before we all headed to Owl Hole. As we drove up to Owl Hole and parked just down the hill from it, on a grass patch near the wall.
A little walk up the hill and a bit of traversing down to the bottom of the large hole where the entrances lie. Ian climbed 5m up to rig the ladder for the rest of us to get up to the cliff entrance.
While they were doing that, Sean and I explored an obvious entrance at the bottom of the depression and to the right, which had been blocked by a board and pieces of scaffolding poles. This appeared to be a mainly phreatic tube which branched about a third of the way in. Straight on held a very unusual sight, we put our heads through a hole in the ceiling and were confronted by a pool at eye-level with some really pretty decorations. There seemed to be a suggestion of a way on to the left, but this would have meant clambering over the false floor and we felt it was far too risky.
Following the left-hand branch led us into another phreatic tube with nice scalloping all the way along. The surfaces were very smooth which came in handy when making a speedy exit! As we exited this part of the system the rest of the party were ready to ascend the ladder.
Sean volunteered to belay helped by others to keep the life-line tight. Andy Morison was one of the first to ascend and helped with the rigging of the pitch into Crystal Pallas as he is an experienced caver. A short way past the entrance, we needed to unbolt the gate to allow entrance to the rest of the cave. After about a 20m you come to the first chamber which is taped off to the sides because of the impressive extent of the decorations. Later through the cave you come to a choice of directions 1. Crystal Pallas (a beautiful chamber with lots of amazing formations). 2. Hoggmorton aven. We stopped in this chamber until Sean appeared, he had been belaying Larry from the entrance and had left him to derig the ladder for use in Crystal Pallas. Hoggmorton aven is a smaller and tighter stretch of the cave and comes to a dull chamber with a little crawl that comes to a dead end called pigs trotter’s.
We descended into this Crystal Pallas next (5m pitch). Sean was the last to descend and he had to release a knot and make sure the ladder was lying correctly. This involved dragging it up whilst on the brink as the rope had become twisted around it. Once we were all down, I noticed how the decorations sparkled with the lights on them. Sean and Andy Hassall explored a further free climbable shaft past a short trial level and all the way to the bottom which was a small extremely muddy chamber. This had large scalloping on the ceiling and Sean wondered what this must look like without all the gunk.
After they had re-emerged, only looking slightly worse for wear, We ascended the ladder out of Crystal Pallas. I volunteered to belay. Sean wished that the art of flipping the ladder on its side was as easy as Larry made it look, and his badly positioned gear did not help matters. Once he was up it was Andy Hassall’s go and he made it look really easy rocketing up the ladders with the grace of a mountain goat. Sean then belayed me from the top and while Sean derigged, I coiled the ladders as I had been shown (and was later acknowledged for a job well done).
Once we had all exited the cliff entrance successfully and I had negotiated the muddy waterfall that Sean had created, we explored two further entrances. We were trying to find Owl Bottom which most definitely lies past a narrow vertical rift which was through a gridded entrance to the left of the one Sean and I explored at the beginning of the trip. This was deemed to be a little too narrow for the people attempting it and so we back tracked.
Liquid refreshments were abundant and varied, Sean made tea which was enjoyed at the bottom of Owl Hole and Andy H had kindly brought a fine selection of beers which the drivers sampled, and the non-drivers got really stuck into!
My overall impression of this cave is that there is a lot to look at it a relatively small space. You feel as though you have visited something much bigger. Thanks to Larry for organising such an entertaining trip
By Tom, much assisted by Sean.