We don’t class ourselves as novice cavers anymore, so we thought we should take a trip underground on our own. Rachel knows half of Oxlow Cavern pretty well, having been there several times to dig, so we thought we’d go and discover the other half. We set out about 1pm in rain and wind. Happily Oxlow doesn’t carry much water, so it was considerably more pleasant underground than it had been on the surface. At least it would have been, without four big tackle bags of rope to carry! We did wonder half way down if Colin had given us extra, just for a laugh.
Rachel rigged things very nicely, even managing to reach the awkward deviation on the second pitch after a bit of spinning around. Soon enough we were in the uncharted territory of West Swirl Passage, a steep descent with a flowstone floor, which was too steep to walk easily, but too flat to SRT. This led via a short pitch into the West Antechamber–tall and flat, and easy walking, for a change. Through a hole in the floor, we found ourselves in the huge west chamber, with lots of other high-level passages leading off, but only one at ground level. The last pitch dropped down into waterfall chamber, with an attractive flowstone wall. Despite the temptations of a grovelly hole under the waterfall to the very bottom of the cave, we turned around after testing out Richard’s camera for the first time caving.
The climb back out was mostly uneventful, apart from hauling those heavy bags back up the pitches. Next time we need to take porters! Post caving nutrition provided by the Jug and Glass between Buxton and Ashbourne. Meat pies! The other customers were amazed that we’d been caving on our own. We didn’t mention that it was the first time.