Great Masson Cavern - Alan Brentnall
A black, wet, foggy night in the hills around Masson Lees managed to attract no less than fourteen cavers to a trip into Great Masson Cavern. The walk over Masson Hill to the quarry was predictably sloppy, with occasional glimpses of twinkling lights down in Matlock below through the odd break in the blanket of cloud; it was good to get underground. We entered beneath the vast overhang, now festooned with quickdraws for dry-tooling practice. This equipment was provided for the purpose by Lyon Equipment, and there's a great video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCWzradpO6E if you want to see it in action.
Steve quickly rigged the bolt and a natural belay for a hand-line down the little climb, and we soon followed through to the scramble into Crichman Chamber. We marched down the huge passageways to the complex junction around Dale Shaft, and took a short stroll down to the lake with its low wet connection through to the showcave. Tonight the lake was very low, and it was possible to walk across it using planks and stepping stones. One or two examined the low connection route, but no one fancied a very wet trip!
Back in the main gallery, we headed eastwards through the narrow mineralised passageway before cutting north through buddling chambers to the other lake, and shaft upwards just before the gate which also links to the showcave. Following the larger of the two ways eastwards into the pipe workings, we pushed on to the very end, where we found another shaft, and evidence o fleaves etc from the surface. Cat and Katie also examined some workings in the roof, entered via a slippery plank, before we all squeezed through to a large chamber, beyond which an iron ladder led through to a section which looked as though it had recently been cleared of backfill.
We returned via the northern pipe complex, to make a fairly thorough round-trip, and finished up back at Dale Shaft, where some had a second visit to the lake, before doing the other short round trip back to Crichman Chamber. Here we split into two groups, with one going back to the far coffin series, with a view to crawling to the near coffin series, and dropping down the shaft rope into Crichman's. In the end, all but two decided to exit via the side entrance, while the rest of us reversed our original route in, and de-rigged.
Outside, the weather was still pretty dismal and drizzly, and, although it was now well after 10pm, we still managed to find a welcome at a very busy Miner's Standard.