Met Larry, Dave, Helen, Peter and Renuka in Castleton. The tendrils of autumn reached out across the land as a horrible virus threatened to overwhelm the Shire. A trip to the Peak Cavern would be an obvious remedy. Described by William Camden (1586), Thomas Hobbes (1636) and Daniel Defoe (1724-6), and visited by Queen Victoria (1880), Peak Cavern has long been a place of wonder and renown. The stream looked lively. The entrance was awesome. ‘But oh! That deep romantic chasm. A savage place! as holy and enchanted…’ (Coleridge).
The Covid 6 were ready with masks. Thoughts of Herodotus and his observations on the Persian courier service. ‘Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.’ The impressive show cavern was merely the starter. It was a fitting entrance to a massive and incredible caving system. Fit for a Queen, you might say. This was going to be a Peaky Blinder.
The plastic slide proved irresistible. We passed Underneath the Arches. In fact, we past underneath the Five Arches. Monumental geology. Chronicles of Narnia was filmed here. And other stuff too. Then, onto the Mucky Ducks. Wading and stooping through the chambers of water, it was hard not to laugh. Incredible natural passages. Water, water everywhere. Evidence of the power and the flow all around. Sweeping bends. Water below. Avens above.
We passed along the Upper Gallery. The Moss Chamber led off to the right. Brief pause for reflection and respect. How far is the Titan? Four hours, said Larry. This was mind blowing stuff. Passages, tunnels in all directions. Digging and diving. Ducking and Diving. The Fawlty Tower ladder led towards the Speedwell Cavern. The whole system is simply enormous. The Treasury was a wonderful space. Best ladder descent ever down an entire wall of coruscating calcite crystals.
The main stream passage could be heard in the distance. Immense boulder strewn passages and waterways just kept on going until we reached the Far Sump. It was far and it was a sump. End of. Though, a good place to stretch out on the gravel and make camp. The thought that it is better to journey than to arrive was quickly dispelled as the spirit of place took over.
To the Ink Sump. The cold water was up to the waist in the Lake Passage. A nice jolt to the system. This fabulous space was followed by a short but interesting crawl to the Ink Sump. Earthworm mode. Full respect to the guy who is building his hut beyond the sump. Definitely ducking and diving. Who does this stuff? Someone who needs his splendid isolation.
Retracing, we were forced to halt at the busy Squaws Junction. The water cascade was superb. Up the Junction? Naturally, followed by a series of muddy crawls, sculptured and unsculpted, a rope-assisted climb up a beautiful flowstone face at Wigwam Avens and a descent into Galena Chamber. More crawling. More mud. Up and over. Up and under. Over and out. Back into the Upper Gallery, where I observed skilful cave movement and caving intelligence from those around me.
The lure of Mucky Ducks kept me going. Such a wondrous place. A quick wash down at Buxton Water, a bit of team bonding, nothing suspicious, back through the Five Arches, the show cavern and we were catapulted into the madding crowd. Castleton, on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Crisis, what crisis?
Brilliant trip. Thanks to everyone, especially Larry.