Author Topic: A trip to The Gymnasium  (Read 592 times)

Offline Rob

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A trip to The Gymnasium
« on: June 03, 2017, 07:45:47 pm »
One reason I like saying yes to help science projects is that you often go on trips you wouldn’t have otherwise.

There are water tracing experiments currently underway in the Stoney and Bradwell catchments, and I’ve been coordinating detectors in Merlins and Carlswark. This Thursday I needed to place a detector in a newly found inlet in John Smith’s Passage beyond Big Dig in Carlswark, and then replace a detector in Sump3 of Merlins, which was placed a few days previously by Will.

My normal Eldon PC buddies were off down Bagshawe, so this ended up as a quick solo trip. I figured the quickest and most efficient route was to freeclimb down Flower Pot and exit out Merlins. This indeed turned out to be a neat option, and possibly completed a “first descent”. The weather being dry and hot meant the crawls were all dry and really draughty, helping with navigation through Flower Pot. In fact the only flowing water in the whole system currently is in the last 150m of John Smith’s passage.

I reached the detector site quickly, enjoying seeing this quite lovely bit of the cave for the first time in +10 years, and placed my gear as per instructions. All the way from the junction of Dynamite Series I’d been heading into a strong draught, which only weakened slightly once passed the collapse in Big Dig. I then remembered being told of a lead years ago by MadPhil called The Gymnasium. It was only 50m further down the passage, so thought I’d go for a look. Yes it was a little off route, which is generally not good when solo caving, but with everything going a bit pear-shaped in the world these days I figured this was probably an increasingly acceptable practice.

It starts with the flat out Crumbly Crawl which ends in a full to the roof dig. The last cross-rift is what issues the draught, and it’s a relatively easy 6m climb up, first by carefully bridging and then a back-and-foot manoeuvre which gets you to the top. Right up at the roof level a tiny passage heads off, perpendicular to the rift, issuing a mega draught. Getting your head and torso in isn’t too hard but your knees bend the wrong way and even my short legs were far too long for it be a pleasurable move.

Once in its pretty rubbish; flatout, helmet off, slightly downhill for 20m, with the occasional pool adding variety via the wind-driven chill. A low-airspace, 3-way junction is met, each direction providing a small, draughty dig of greatly varying prospects. Certainly an interesting spot, and I’d like to get it on survex to see how it lies amongst Glebe Mine and also Eyam Dale House Cave.

Upon retreat I totally soaked myself at the junction, tasting my knees as I turned myself around, and started back up the unpleasant 20m crawl head first. Helmet in one hand, broken watch in the other, it was about two thirds of the way along I spontaneously broke into laughter…. By turning around I’d made my life easier for the crawl, but now I’ve got to somehow get down that rift head first!

Knowing I was too lazy to reverse and turn around, I simply giggled my way onwards to the rift. Nice, pure situation comedy. I reckoned if I fell the full way it probably wouldn’t kill me. More worrying was if my knees got jammed and I get stuck hanging upside down. That would be a strange position to find a body!
Once at the rift I didn’t stop to think about it, nor stop giggling, and just bent and slid myself down the rift head first. I couldn’t get the buckle on my helmet to do up, and I really didn’t want to drop my only light source, so I put my arm through one strap. The filthy, broken watch in the other hand was more problematic as I couldn’t reach my pocket, so in the mouth that went. Once upside down the knees jamming actually helped me to slowly pull my upper body along the rift, thus allowing my legs to free-up and instantly drop down to get me horizontal. Luckily this happened just before the rift widened, allowing for a more controlled swing and climb down the remaining few meters. Phew!

Still giggling whilst spitting out mud, I continued on my through trip with a renewed vigour for Stoney caving. Carlswark really is a pretty crap cave for the most part, especially when compared with the fine caving you can do in the world, but maybe trips are simply what you make of them....
The end is where we start....

Offline richardg

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Re: A trip to The Gymnasium
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2017, 11:05:18 pm »
Sounds like you enjoyed a good underground journey there Rob with some fairly desperate moments...I like your epilogue that "each cave trip is what you make it..."

Offline alastairgott

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Re: A trip to The Gymnasium
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2017, 04:22:07 am »
but with everything going a bit pear-shaped in the world these days I figured this was probably an increasingly acceptable practice.

Humbling, thoughts with those in london at this time.