Victoria Aven - Louise McMahon

Saturday, 18 August, 2018

I hadn’t planned on caving this weekend but when Phil suggested Vicky aven I had to come. One of the first trip reports I read was TSG trips to re-equip the route, and I knew I wanted to see as soon as I started reading about it. The trip also coincided with a visit by Tony, so I was able to buy my own harness and give it all a good test. Once equipped and after the required amount of tea drinking and faffing Ann, Luke, Dominika, Phil and myself set off for Peak Cavern. It was gone 12 when we left, and we had to be out by 5. Fortunately, it’s not far to the aven, and we were soon at the rope.

Luke led off up, with me following and him keeping an eye on my SRT. We made quick progress up the first section and I felt like I was getting faster on each pitch/re-belay. Phil then followed up with him watching Dominika, and Ann behind. Once past the first set of re-belays, you reach a short easy traverse, and the whole thing opens up. The entire passage is covered in flowstone and its massive, it must be 25m wide and 10m deep at points. At the traverse we took the right-hand path - I’m told this avoids a dodgy flake higher up and passes a huge calcite bridge that looks amazing. Around here I said to Luke I’m happy with what I’m doing, and to just keep going, which he did, and we made quick work of it. Hanging on a rope in the middle of the aven where you can’t see the top or bottom was brilliant. Plus the view down with Phil and Dominika's lights illuminating each other was incredible. I want to take the DSLR up there one day, there are some great shots to be had. After this section, you reach a strange short pitch that overhangs and then a swing. I found an easy way to negotiate the swing was to belay myself out on a munter. Another few bolts here to make it a proper traverse may also help but it’s not that hard. Lastly, there is a short pitch and then up a free climb, but 80+ meters up where a slip would be lethal, so it's rigged like a traverse.

At the end of the rope to the left is a duck into a chamber with some gorgeous stalactites in the duck. This whole chamber is covered with straw and big stalactites plus tons of flowstone and slopes up at the back. Dominika, Phil and I climbed the slope at the end, to look at a boulder choke, leaving Luke at the bottom of the chamber and Ann outside on the last re-belay. As we were sat talking Phil put his foot on a large block (roughly 3ft x 2ft x 2ft), and out of the corner of my eye, I saw it move. As I said it, he shifted his foot, and the whole block went tumbling down the slope, taking another similar sized with it towards Luke. Once we determined everyone was safe, we took it in turns descending the slope just in case anything else went. I had a little fettle moving some smaller blocks into less precarious positions. It would not be hard to move blocks out of that choke but there are some massive blocks and them slipping could destroy everything up there. They could even block you in the chamber.

Back in the aven, Phil pointed out there is more above and as far as we know, it’s never been climbed which piqued my interest. I know it’s unlikely to go anywhere being so close to the surface but I quite fancy getting the drill or a drone out one day and checking it doesn't. As you might have realised by now I like the vertical stuff. Going down was mostly uneventful but quite fun whizzing down the ropes. I'm starting to see why people may prefer a rack or simple and using the breaking krab to control descent. I overshot one of the re-belays coming down which was a bit of a faff, but it can't have taken more than 25 mins to get down.

All in all, it was a brilliant trip both as SRT practice but also just to see it especially the potential for photography there. I'm more confident I could do bigger trips now so we may have to do a Titan trip at some point.