Water Icicle Close Cavern

6 August 2012

Posted by
Matt Ewles

We had a great weekend at the Orpheus CC hut in Monyash.

On Saturday, Gary, Chuck and I took a walk along Lathkill Dale in some lovely summer sunshine. I had no idea what a pretty valley this was! We found the entrance to Mandale Mine and Lathkill Head Cave, which is great to know for future trips. We had a pleasant pub crawl back to Monyash, only interrupted by a sudden shower.

On Sunday, we were luck enough to have a leader to take us down Water Icicle Close Cavern, and into the leader-only extensions. An early start saw us abseiling down the 30 m entrance shaft by 11am, and we made quick progress to the gate. It became clear very soon that carbon dioxide levels were particularly high, and we had breathlessness all round, although nothing so severe that we needed to turn around.

Through the gate, and the boulder choke we were impressed by the sizable chamber beyond, and then even more impressed by the lovely stomping main passage with its abundant formations. It is nice to see this having been taped quite soon to preserve the best of the formations on the floor, including some fine crystal pools and the ‘urchins’. It is great to stomp down such a pleasant passage and be treated so such formations.

Back at the large chamber we took a short crawl along a different passage to see one of the caves most promising digs with a draft and smell of fresh air (very welcome as we were breathless after the crawls).

Returning to the entrance shaft we then headed to see the new extensions reported only in the issue of Descent we received last week. A short flat out crawl along another passage at the bottom of the entrance shaft soon opened out into the new extensions, a superb 60 m (ish) stretch of mostly stomping passage with calcite decoration. It is easy to see why thy Orpheus guys are digging at the loose fill at the end of this passage, as it seems unlikely that such a large stomping passage should suddenly stop.

We all experienced serious breathlessness ascending the pitch. Even just several metres off the ground we were gasping, and the ascent was very difficult and slow. Headaches were setting in all round, but these quickly cleared once on the surface in fresh air. We were out at a very civilised 2pm.

It was a great trip, and it was good to see the discoveries I have been reading about for the last few years. Although short, the passages are of lovely proportion and extremely well decorated, and I’m sure there are a lot more of them still to be found.

Many thanks indeed to Boyd Potts for taking us on the trip.