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Present: Anthony, Julia, Tom, (and James on the way out)

Having tried and failed to get to the bottom of Maskhill each of the previous two years, there was a certain amount of determination to conquer it this time. Packed ropes based on the lengths quoted in ‘Caves of the Peak District’, but when Al returned from Hitch ‘n’ Hike with a P-hanger rigging card there where some glaring disparancies.

(eg. Pitch 6, caves of the Peak reckons a 34m rope is adequate for the traverse and pitch, which the P-hanger guide reckons to be 37m long. There are no other levels to rig it from, so maybe the pitch has got longer in the last 10 years) It also reckoned we needed 25 – 30 MRs. We had 15, so some minimalist rigging was required.

So off we went, down the delightful entrance pitch including a big wide rebelay that strung Julia up for a while. Into the nicer bits we free climbed the 2nd pitch, down the 3rd with its ideally placed p-hangers which means a deviation is necessary to move the rope 1.5 inches from a rub point, and into new territory for me – Murmuring Churn, which is quite an impressive pitch. Down a couple more pitches with lots of loose crap at the top, until we heard the voices of the Oxlow lot. At this point we had an 11m and a 9m rope left. Abbed down the 11m rope which ended some way above the top of the Oxlow rope.

Maskhill is quite an impressive cave, and not wishing to deny the Oxlow team the chance to experience it, especially the stable charms of the entrance pitch, (and not wishing to untie all the loaded rewoven fig 8’s I’d rigged). I went back up and fastened the 9m rope to the tail end of the last rope, and 11m to the end of that. Doing 2 knot passes near the top of an airy 37m pitch certainly concentrates the mind. The rope was just long enough, and after Tarzaning around a bit, the connection was made to Oxlow part way down the pitch.

Tom And Julia took their time on the knot passes so as to fully appreciate the grandeur of the waterfall pitch, and Tom even went to the bottom of the Oxlow rope so as to be nearer the sump. Eventually, after some photography in the impressive Oxlow West Chamber we headed out of Oxlow with James. Oxlow is very nice indeed thank you very much, though the entrance pitch is a bit tedious with an over flowing tacklesac.

A fine caving trip, and we’ve shown Maskhill who’s boss. Shame some lightfingered types had broken into the posh hire car and nicked James’s trousers, Al’s jacket and trousers and Jenny’s rucksack with all of her clothes. A good job all their valuables were at the bottom of Oxlow entrance pitch at the time, and an equally good job that mine and Phil’s car (containing valuables in my case) were untouched.

Anthony Day