First SRT Trip - Whalf Pipe - Louise McMahon
After a sausage, bacon and egg buttie from Peveril stores, as far as I can tell the main reason TSG are based where they are. Alastair, Luke and another new TSG member also named Luke joined us in the kitchen. The planned location changed about 3 times, but we settled on a trip to Whalf Climbing Shaft near Monyash. This was to be my first SRT trip and new Luke's first Caving trip.
The first job was to sort tackle and kit. I fetched the same huge green PVC suit I had worn last time and determined not to have a purple mess where my knees used to be some knee pads. Two Ropes would be needed for the shaft, along with a selection of krabs and mallions. Next came the SRT kit, on this weekend there were 3 new TSG members doing SRT trips, but TSG only has 2 loaner SRT kits. Fortunately, Ann had a spare SRT kit in her car. Now a Scott may call Ann wee; however Myself or Luke are not so wee. A bit of fiddling to get the harness to fit Luke was required but it did, and we set off for Monyash.
After a tour of Derbyshire, we found Monyash; someone had given Alastair "questionable" directions. We kitted up and moved to the shade of a copse where it was cooler. Luke had already opened up the hatch and rigged the first few pitches when we got there. He was keen to get out of the heat. We then spent some time talking about how to use our cowstails, threading the stop, locking it off and to always to test it before committing to it. Luke then went first with me following and Alastair watching me from the top. Because the shaft is quite narrow at the top it was hard for to see what we were doing so we talked them through each thing we did at the anchor. Talking through it was good as they could check we weren't missing anything and it helps to remember the order.
When descending my inclination was to try and walk down the rock, but in such a narrow passage this was impossible. After watching Luke and Alastair, I realised they were sliding down on their knee's and back's once I did that it gave me a much smoother ride and quicker. After a few re-belays, the first shaft came to an end, and we were in a low passage with another shorter shaft at the end. Me and Luke talked about rigging while waiting for Alastair and new Luke. After another short abseil, we were in the main bulk of the mine. From here we explored several passages. Most were tall enough to walk in, but some stooping and bit of crawling was required. It was interesting to see the mix of natural and mined passages and the different stages of mining such as the bottle passages. It was mostly on one level, so there was very little free climbing.
After a little while, it was time to start heading back. The first pitch is short; you can see from above both and bellow. Myself and new Luke had a practice ascending this pitch then swapped to descenders, came down then went back up again. This way Experienced Luke could watch from the bottom and Alastair from the top. Once we were all in the tunnel that connects the two sections, it was decided that Alastair would go first with new Luke following so he could watch him. Experienced Luke would go 3rd with me bringing up the rear. I did offer to de-rig as I went, but it was decided it would be too embarrassing to put on the accident form; "The new member fell because we let them de-rig on their first SRT trip".
I found ascending not too bad in the beginning as long as I remembered to lean over the rope and use my legs, not my arms. As the shaft narrowed it got harder; I started to have more issues with the rope not feeding through my chest ascender. I may not have set up something quite right. I did try climbing a few times but I'm not used to edging in wellies, and I slipped causing me to fall onto my ascender. The fall was less than a fall factor 1, but with the whole system being static I decided that was a bad idea. The whole time I was ascending small pebbles and bits of mud were raining down from above. When I was sat on the second anchor from the above, I heard Luke shouting "Rock!" and the tell tail bangs that meant it was a big chunk. I tried to fit as much of me under my helmet as it could, a chunk of limestone bigger than my fist bounced past my head and between my legs. It was going at a fair pace. I'm sure the rock would have done a bit of damage to my helmet if it had hit it.
I started to get quite tired near the top partly because it was hard to prusik in the confines near the top and also partly because of how hot it got near the top. The more I prusiked, the more it became apparent how much your hand ascender length and especially your foot loop length is. It may be worth purchasing some adjustable ones for the loaner kits or attaching the current foot loops with a mallion and having a few different lengths in the tackle store. To that end, ill bring my ascender and cord next time so I can swap out the one on the loaner kits for one more my size.
It was a brilliant trip; thanks to Alastair and Luke for teaching and being patient with me. I owe you both a beer now