In the back end of the Devils Arse show cave (formally known as Peak Cavern) lies Doom’s Retreat. Reached by diving through Ink Sump it has been the site of a great deal of digging effort by several teams of diggers over many years. Each group has been drawn into the project by the loud rumble of water from the base of a boulder choke only to be beaten by the engineering needed to secure the massive boulders in place whilst digging underneath them. The latest team to attempt the project is led by Jim and supported by many members of the local caving community, both divers and non-divers. The aim of Sundays trip was to go in and photograph the passages and works beyond the sump.
The original plan was for me to join Jim and Clive on the trip through but Jim had been put out of action with a cold and couldn’t dive. Clive rescued the trip by organising a last minute stand in, Chris. I arrived at the TSG hut in Castleton and was relieved to find that Clive had also organised some cavers to help carry gear to the sump with us. With their help the trip to Ink sump seemed to pass at a steady slog rather than a long grind. After we started kitting up they departed to visit other parts of the system.
Ink sump offered us reasonable visibility for an uneventful passage by all three divers. Surfacing at the base of the 21m aven of Doom’s Retreat we all admired the grandeur of the place and the various bits of engineering works that Jim and his team have installed for the project. Climbing the fixed ladder to the halfway point of the aven where a platform has been built (for overnight camping to extend digging time) Clive started to plan his photographs. The second stage of fixed ladder took us to the top of the aven from where we clambered down a rift stacked with deads to the digging face. We started photographing and moved back down to the sump pool in stages, Clive meticulously giving instructions and taking pictures as we went.
Shortly after surfacing from the dive out, distant voices announced the return of our helpers from their touristing. When they arrived at dive base we discovered that one of their number had called it a day and headed out with bad knees. Fortunately the loss had been replaced by a straggler who (it was claimed) had been expertly separated from his party at a point at which he didn’t know the way out. The trip out seemed shorter than the way in and we made it out in daylight.
The helpers were: – Will Stewart, David Viita (on his 6th trip!) who helped us on the way in and out; Chris Mathieson helped on the way in and Adam Sharlpes on the way out.