Knotlow to Hillocks Through Trip 06/12/2020

Although the day began with what would have seemed to many a typical mist hung English December morning. There was a buzz of underlying excitement in the air, as me and Mat slung our gear into the boot of our car, did one final check for fully charged torches and correct gear, we headed out in countryside to start the days adventure. We wound our way through some mildly flooded roads and lovely snow peppered fields.

We started the day The Old Smithy Tea Rooms in Monyash, were we met Chas, we had a quick stop, discussed gear and chomped down our bacon sarnies that we had pre-made earlier. 

We drove on to join the rest of group, a big turnout! After introductions where made, we geared up and trudged over to the entrance shafts. We had decided to split off into two teams, one descending Hillocks, Whalf Pipe Engine Shaft and the other descending Knotlow Climbing Shaft.

As this was mine and Mats first underground trip using SRT, our group, made up of myself, Mat, Chas and Mark descended the 25m into the Climbing Shaft. 

The warmth emanating from underground was impressive, and it gives a good sense of what a fresh winter’s morning it was. 

After descending the Climbing Shaft, we crossed the deviation and then scrambled downwards towards the descent into Waterfall chamber. 

The fun then thoroughly began! As we began the crawl into Meccano Passage, my heart started thumping as the realisation dawned that we were going to undertake the passage we had read so much about. 

With Mark leading, we got the hands and knees crawl well underway, slowly began the creep of the ice cold water, the gap of airspace seeming to slowly shrink away as we neared the bend in the passage. The water lapping up to chin level by this point, meanwhile our hands where sinking into the gritty clay that lined the bottom. 

As quickly as it began, it was over, adrenaline rushing and with huge smiles and pats on the back, we gathered ourselves to carry on through the next squeezes and into Hillocks where we met the others. 

 We exchanged words of support to the other crew heading into Meccano, and carried on to begin the climbs to the exit. 

At this point we were joined by Mike, who seemingly had been up and down every shaft in system by the time we had made it through! We got some great photographs snapped, and on we headed to the exit via the Oil Drum. 

We exited from the gloom into the misty brisk afternoon air, it was most definitely warmer underground. We had a little wander as Mark showed us around the other entrances as we waited for the rest of the team to resurface.

All in all the trip took around 3 to 4 hours, it was a great mix of challenging yet fun sections with a good level of SRT involved. 

For myself and Mat, a really great and insightful learning experience! 

The trip concluded with a lovely mince pie supplied by Chas, a quick check to make sure nobody needed a push out of the mud and home to a hot bath! 

Hollie

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