Christmas Twothousandandfourteen:

It was the best of caving trips; it was the worst of caving trips.

A damp morning greeted all those that travelled down dale on that Sunday morning to alight at Carlswark Cottage. It was a dark and foreboding morning, a morning that mirrored the apprehension of those that had arrived to see it. The shrewd had disembarked the night before and slept soundly in their cots, warm from the many tankards of ale consumed in the local tavern. These were the wise ones, for the extra hours slumber afforded to them by their choice of lodgings would allow them to cave long into the day, long after others had flagged, abandoned, or broke ribs in self-punishment for being fat.

 

Ten miserable souls dressed in their Sunday worst climbed into the back of the local labourer’s cart, and what a pathetic and terrible group they made. There was a Goodier and a Griff, the oldest of the group by some four cruel decades, two Peppits, master cavers them both, but prone to bouts of inebriating hunger and one a cripple. Sampson Jnr was present, having been but recently confined to bed, and was there to prove to the miserable gang, and himself, that he could see through such a barbaric challenge and prove to all naysayers that he is indeed a Samp Son. Shawcross elder, swollen by pre yuletide feasting carried his weight around on foot, looked nervous, aware he was soon to carry that weight back down dale by knee and elbow. Guest Samuel Glasius, a Dutch eccentric, known for extolling the virtues of “wind power” over the might of the steam engine (a man surely not but two months away from the mad house) sat calmly next to Guest Angus, a lover of dogging (that is to take care of the well being and upbringing of dogs). Last to climb into the cart were the Bow Men, two Guest Brothers of unequal stature. Their relation only evident in the might and power of their ungodly boom. Mathew, slight and wiry, perfect speleological material, and his brother Thomas, a French dandy visiting from Paris at the end of a Grand Tour of eateries. His status as Gourmand approved and officiated not but three days prior by the Emperor of la République himself. What an honour it was to have a Gentleman of such standing in the company of such common wretches.

With a crack of a whip, Sampson Snr set the horses in begrudging motion and the cart lurched slowly forward up the rocky dale. Tales of daring, of climbing out from the depths of the bottomless Eyam Dale Shaft with nought but candles and a moustache were told in barely audible grunts by the old labourer. Such stories filtered back through the cart and were all but dismissed as the ramblings of an old, demented fool. Many hours passed and at last the destination could be seen - The Lay-By Pot, the first of eleven pits into the underworld. And so the Stoney Dale Cave Crawl was to begin.

“I count ten of you” announced the old labourer “I wonder how many I will count upon your return?”. A knowing smile appeared on the rosey cheeked face of the moustached man. And with a grunt, he spat at the floor, abouted his cart and was gone...

***

I never got round to finishing this, so, in short, here's what happened:

Cavers: Mike P, Rob, Ed Samp, McBain, Syd, Griff, Sam and guests Tom Bowman, Matt Bowman, Angus Sawyer (Thanks to George for the lift up the dale)

Stoney Dale Cave Crawl:

1. Layby Pot
2. Yoga Cave
3. Streaks Cave
4. Streaks Pot (2nd duck sumped - too wet)
5. Nickergrove
6. Level 7 (Too many muddy folks for the 30m Hope Shaft)
7. Merlin
8. Carlswark
9. Triple Hole
10. Keyhole Cave
11. Bossons Hole

So we did 9 out of the 11 possible through trips. Griff bailed out after Yoga Cave feeling tired (later finding out he was anemic), Tom B badly bruised his ribs forcing himself through into Gimili's dream and everyone generally had a great time (i think). Didn't quite complete it, so we've got some unfinished business...