Eldon Hole by Denis Bushell

Eldon Hole: Denis, Jack, Fay and Vic (26th November 2017).

Snowy, misty, dull, wet morning in Perry Vale Derbyshire. Fay and I met Jack and Vic at the Wanted Inn. Quick recce of trip plan and then off to Sweetknowle house to get changed. Short walk up to pot with entrance rift shaft festooned with in situ ropes. This dig has massive potential if Lloyds diagrams of 1777 are to be believed, why not?

Itinerary for trip: ascend Damocles rift then look at Dig. Gear: 100 m rope for first pitch leaving spare if needed to assist down rubble mountain in main chamber, 60 m for climbs up into Miller’s chamber and 20 m for dig.

I lead off with Jack following then Vic and Fay. Once down Jack and I made our way to the continuous cord up into Miller’s chamber which we had to attach our rope to. Haul up through the ring hangar, Jack made a lark’s foot in the cord and I placed a tail of our rope into it and hauled it up. Unfortunately it jammed. Second attempt with shorter tail was successful. I started up with Jack telling me off from not tying ascent rope off first. Once up into Miller’s chamber I shouted and Jack followed up, Fay and Vic waiting their turn. We met a team of two who had come in to check the ring hangar pull-through with intentions of replacing it with a large shiny stainless steel new one. They asked could they use our rope and were we having a look at the dig. Jack and I followed by Fay and Vic made steady progress up to Damocles rift with all its pendants and pretties using the in situ ropes on pitches. Vic chose to turn back at the awkward squeeze on to Damocles rift and Jack having come to the final chamber with me said he would go out with her. I waited camera in hand on the arrival of Fay’s beaming smile. Photos taken we set off back down to main chamber. At the top of last pitch I met up with the other team. They told me they had told the others not to visit the dig. I mentioned that they had used my ropes and I would be sworn to secrecy to not say what Fay and I saw. They agreed, they set off out and Fay and myself went across main chamber to descend dig to rift dig and then main dig. Happy with what we’ve seen we return to base of entrance shaft and set off, and Fay with dig and pitch ropes 60m and 20 m. Fair play, it’s a long way up through all that spaghetti. I photographed the shenanigans of Fay and team two, somehow Fay managed to finish up between their team on the third re-belay across the shaft which proved interesting, all having heavy tackle sacks. Fay escaped onto our rope again and off she went while team two struggled with all sorts of problems including getting one tackle sack jammed. Seeing all these problems I elected the climb tackle free and hauled bag up last. The theory was one thin rope would not snag and the tackle sack would be light and flexible keeping its simple. Ascent was smooth picking up an SRT bag which had been left at the secondary re-belay. Once at the top, I positioned myself for haul, it went well until the tackle sack reached top lip of the shaft and decided to empty itself of my ironwork and camera! To my chagrin I listened to the contents rattle down the shaft – camera is shockproof to 1.75m, it was a 5mm neoprene glove – any hope?

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It was getting late, Jack and Vic and had returned to the cars, Fay said we could come back tomorrow and retrieve the gear. I had a hard time persuading Fay to go and get changed, it was snowy and cold, shadows of the evening stealing across the sky. With Fay gone the quick plan was a trip back down. Best way no rebelays. One problem, my rack was at the bottom – I had no large crabs so I had to use a medium-sized crab. Passing all the spaghetti and re-belays felt good, on touching base I learned a hard lesson on heat conduction – yes, I used an Italian hitch – they are my ropes. On unclipping, I instantly burned my fingers.

A few minutes search and I managed to retrieve all my gear, camera still working! Hope Jessop’s agrees. On returning to surface I was greeted by Jack, we hauled the rope up. Fay arrived, I told Jack thanks you get going and Fay helped me pack the sack. We both walked into the sunset – unfortunately not – it was snowy, cold and dark.

A great day.

Pics by Denis