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Trip to Pikedaw Calamine Cavern -- 29th June 2008

Group: Graham, Steve, Dave, Ian, Dennis

This was the first trip to Yorkshire this year for Graham & Steve and so five of us piled into Grahams Range Rover and headed off to Stockdale Lane. It was hoped to drive some way along the track, but this is now closed to motorised vehicles and so we parked up and changed near the Farm. There were quite a few walkers about and the weather was cloudy and dull as we headed up the track to the entrance. Just as we reached the slab and manhole cover it started to rain and so we quickly rigged the rope and abseiled down the 23m pitch. There is a convenient ladder attached to the top of the framework which makes getting on/off the rope easy and provides anchors for a Y hang.

Dave being last down shut the manhole cover behind him to avoid walkers, sheep etc. falling down the shaft and joined the rest of the team at the base of the shaft. The chamber you land is mud floored and slightly squalid. There was a flimsy looking 8' ladder made of 1" steel pipe propped up against the bottom of the shaft.

We decided to follow the routes indicated in Northern Caves volume II, however we only had the text as Dave failed to notice there was also a nice map in the book and just copied the description. This made it a lot more difficult to match the description with reality on the ground...

We headed along the South Passage into Lord's chamber. This had several passages off it and the ceiling contained some cavities with natural flowstone and some small stals.

We had a look at the upper passage on the LHS first which proved to be muddy and fairly uninteresting. Its meant to have a pitch in the floor to the east passage but we didn't explore that far. An nearby passage (Cave Pearl Passage) led under some stacked deads to a watery dead end. On the way back we did notice some traces of copper deposits and some black crystals in the chamber wall.

The passage on the right climbed upwards and had a set of stone steps near the beginning. Further on it narrowed to a low twisting rift which the thin members of the party (Ian & Dave) explored until it became very tight and monotonous with no sign of the very small sump mentioned in the guidebook.

The passage straight ahead (named Cavern 84) proved to be very muddy, but did have some nice pieces of crystalline material and some nice formations on the ceiling and walls. It finished in a dead end, with big boulders and a piece of flowstone which graham thought looked like a dogs head.

Back at the main shaft we had a quick look down the passages to the east and west. These are also muddy and lead to chambers which are not particularly interesting. There are plenty of muddy low crawls to explore, but having looked at a couple we got a bit bored and decided to call it a day. With hindsight if we had taken the map we would have probably explored the western passage more carefully as its quite a bit longer than we thought.

We headed back to the shaft and started to prussik out. Dennis decided to climb up the 8' piece of ladder to save a bit of effort on the SRT. This was a mistake as he got about 5' off the ground before the ladder bent in the middle and threw him off. Fortunately the rope survived the fall of the 16st caver and it just left the rest of us waiting a while for him to prussik up the 70' pitch.

At least the weather had improved while we were down and so we had a pleasant sunny walk back to the car followed by a pint in the Maypole at Long Preston. Overall the cavern is not particularly exciting, but it would make a safe trip in poor weather.

Overall trip time about 5 hours