Weather: Sunny & partly cloudy with a biting breeze, not much above zero.
People: Just me, the Holey Moley.
Chert cave a about 5 miles South of Kirby Steven is an excellent little cave. When I say little it’s not really as it’s almost half a km long.
Solo again, I decided rather than hiking in the sunshine as it’s such great weather I had to spend it underground.
I parked about 1km away in the only place that looked suitable and proceeded on foot. After passing a gate along the road, I dropped down into the valley called Needle house. I decided to approach from the bridge here as the cave is only 300m upstream. Wish I had not that 300m was along very steep and slippery forest terrain and took me a good 20 minutes to reach the cave. For future reference, just go through the field above and drop down, this also cuts the corner off. (I returned this way).
Anyway at the cave, I found it a very miserable wet entrance hole and had to dig it out somewhat to make the water level lower. After a while I dug all I could and immersed myself in the cold water briefly before dry land of a large boulder took me out of the water and into a squeeze over the top. Just beyond this was a deep canal where I almost turned back as I was already cold. But I pressed on, the canal was about 20m long before entering a slanted passage and some flat out crawling until I could eventually stand up in small chamber. From here the way on was dry but spikey with suit ripper spikes sticking out from the wall, but at least it warmed me up. That was until I reached the next canal, which was thankfully not that deep.
More crawling ensued until I could see a lot of space between boulders, so I squeezed past into a surprising chamber which even had some quite nice formations, which were probably last photo’d when the cave was discovered in 1966, looking at the discarded flash bulbs. The stream sumped here, but had a bypass along a decorated and muddy passage before re-joining the stream again. The cave got bigger with large boulders in the middle like a mini Langstroth chase!
Another canal! This one was deeper and involved getting everything wet except my head, but I was rewarded by another large chamber at the end of it, probably bigger than the last. A short climb just beyond led into a curious passage, where I saw two stream ways! One on the floor of the passage and one on the shelf to the right, I felt like I was wandering along the The Siq going into Petra. Ahead they re-merged after a more awkward climb and the passage got narrow. Though it opened up again when it deposited me into a small lake. Not far beyond it sumped for the final time, end of the trip? Nope, there was an almost hidden inlet on the left of the lake which led into some much bigger passage with some very dangerously poised boulders half way along that gave me pause for thought. From here several passages went off including one not on the survey ending in chokes. One passage went past the tightest squeeze in the cave giving me a new crack on my phone screen. After that it seemed to open up into an aven that I managed to climb up but the passages were too tight, so now it really was the end of the trip, so out I went.
It was a fun trip but as the major wet bits are near the entrance, I decided to not to do NeedleHouse cave as I was far too cold being early March. I wish had people to explore these caves off the beaten track with me! Still soloing can be enjoyable too. Trip time around 3 maybe 3 and a half hours as I kept taking photos.