Wednesday 25 December 2013

20th December 2013 - Pikedaw calamine caverns

Dick gearing up for the ascent.
It was wet, very wet.

Looking around the web most reports for Pikedaw calamine caverns start "With thunderstorms forecast...", or "Given the recent wet weather..."; well this is another of those reports as it's a quality trip for very wet weather.  The only downside was the wander across pretty bleak moorland in pretty grim weather.
Once we'd located the entrance, we gazed 23m straight down into the warm and the dry.  The people who'd capped the shaft had the foresight to install a ladder for the first 6 feet which made getting on to the pitch much simpler, although ladders that finish about 21m up in mid air are slightly unnerving.
At the bottom of the pitch we headed into the large Lord's chamber and began our exploration (a useful survey can be found here).  First we climbed a set of man made steps into what quickly became a natural meandering streamway.  Back to Lord's chamber and a climb up into a breakdown type chamber with some impressive formations.  Trying to make out what was natural and what wasn't became harder and harder.  We then wandered up into the large Cavern 84, before going in search of Cave Pearl Passage.  This was a little more hidden than the other routes out of Lord's chamber, but definitely worth looking at.  It does have cave pearls, but also some very impressive coloured walls.  Either someone's gone down recently with some blue and green chalk; Victorian miners painted their mines in bright colours or it's quite spectacular mineralisation.
Having explored the main passages radiating from Lord's chamber we made our way back to the entrance chamber before embarking along Cavern 44.  Here Tom had a go at a bit of archaeology, uncovering an old, old sherry bottle.  It's worth noting that there's some quite interesting graffiti throughout the mine/cave and if the dates can be believed, some of it quite old.
After a quick visit to a sump we carried on along Cavern 104.  As this closed down it soon became clear that the way on was along the streamway, before climbing up and over some spoil.  Here more traditional signs of mining were evident, with wood scaffolded passageways disappearing into the gloom.  These didn't look overly inviting so we made our way back to the pitch.
As I made my way up I found Dick just under the hatch, with a maelstrom audible above.  The pitch head was getting busy so we climbed out an crouched with our backs to the stinging hail.  Tom wasn't far behind and the rope quickly packed into the tackle sack, jammers still attached.
The journey back to the van was pretty speedy with the wind behind us and we were soon heading back over the moor road.
The Gamecock in Austwick provided a very reasonably priced and fine pint with some pate and crackers thrown in for good measure.

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