This years first trip on the caving calendar saw 8 club members turn out on what was a nippy Saturday morning in January, although unlike last year and to much relief we didn't have to wade through the snow or shovel off the entrance lid. Preparations were made on the surface with some of us focused on exploring the new bits of Oxlow, with the rest opting to visit the sump and the impressive West Chamber.
Ade and Steve began the procession with rope bags slung on the shoulders followed by Dan,Rob, Des, Adam and Roy,who in his infinite wisdom had opted to change at the chapel saving a chilly de-rope and redress in the biting wind. Jenny was the last to arrive but caught us up by the time most had descended East Chamber. Whilst rigging the entrance pitch thoughts of underground and refuge from the chilling wind passed through many a mind. Ade, Dan and Rob waiting patiently for Steve to complete his bomb proof rigging (Steve's words ;-)).
Once safely to the bottom of West antechamber we waited for the others to catch us up. A flashing red light then descended the steep slope and we wondered what it might be until Adam came into view wearing some sort of peculiar adornment on his helmet above his light. Oh yes,that's it, one of those Go Pro gadgets. Adam was quickly followed by Des who had what can best be described as a silver painted egg with an iris ( this trip is getting stranger by the minute) turns out it was 360 3D camera. Des being the clubs unofficial underworld photo tech (much appreciated by all) began filming. Roy missed out on this event as he had opted for a brodge to East Chamber and heading out.
Ade had by this time rigged the pull through up to Pilgrims and was ready to set off so Steve quickly took hold of the rope and began the ascent with Ade, Dan,Rob and Jenny following behind. Des and Adam carried on their mission to the Sump and then making their way back to the surface. Good time was made through Pilgrims Way to North Chamber, where we took 5 to rest the shoulders. Here we ascended the in situ rope to an easy get off into a tube in the roof and on Ade's advice began to take off all our srt kit and stuff it into tackle bags,for use later if needed.This was the start of the newer bits within the new Oxlow series. Much thrutching and thrusting now ensued as we pushed on, flat out crawling, until we reached a small chamber,relief at last and a chance of a breather before we started round two.
More of the same followed and unfortunately it was here where Jenny decided to turn back,suggesting her head wasn't in it, which all of us at one time or another can easily relate to. We soon reached a point where the only way on was through a window in the opposite wall of a snug chamber. Ade was the first, giving instruction on how to best maneuver oneself through the constriction with echoes of him saying this is the really tight section. He wasn't kidding, bridge yourself against the wall behind and taking care not to slip into the hole on the left while at the same time shoving through the window and turning to allow your waist to fit through, by which time your upper body is now right angles to your legs. It is then you wished your knees could articulate in the other direction. Relief you're through only to be facing a narrow upwards slot which grips your helmet. Somehow Ade, having taken a few seconds to gee himself up made it up and through. Other attempts were not as successful and retreat was the only option. Dan in the meantime had attempt the window and on his second attempt made it through, but seeing the struggling decided to retreat. Rob kept the rear guard as he wasn't relishing the window (wise decision in the end). There was nothing left but for the intrepid foursome to make the about turn and head for the surface and freedom!!!.
As we headed off the hillside and turned up the valley we were met with a chilling wind which quickly numbed the hands making slow going when getting changed. The warm of the Wanted Inn and a few hot drinks soon thawed us out, ready for our next adventure.
Grace in the blind chamber near the entrance of Cherry Tree. Photo © Jenny Drake 28/9/2013.