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Lathkill Head Cave

Blog Posted on 08 Mar 2011

A team of seven Acclimbatize staff were out after work on Friday for a nocturnal excursion into Lathkill Head Cave. With a deservedly tough reputation the Lathkill system was until relatively recently a serious proposition for all subterranean explorers.
 
The resurgence entrance (the mouth of the cave from which an underground watercourse resurfaces) gives the best indicator of streams levels underground.  In winter months the cave can be out of bounds continuously. 

 

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Even in suitable conditions flat out crawling in icy cold water, inching forward from each toe purchase and placing your knees delicately on the sharp textured limestone is the only method of forward progress. This style of movement makes caving in this system tough and sustained!  

 

In the 1980s a shaft was pushed to the surface by local cavers from an area known as the ‘Waiting Room’ since then another surface shaft has also been excavated known as the ‘Garden Path’ the latter being protected to the point that access is only permitted for scientific reasons.

 

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On Friday we descended the 1980s shaft to the ‘Waiting Room’. Like many capped shafts in the Peak District, Lathkill Head has a swing lid and appears to be a ‘mined’ rather than a natural cavity.
The nature and character of the place instantly change after just a few metres. The shaft gives access to a stunning section of the Lathkill System.

 

Unlike the popular areas of Stoney Middleton and Castleton, the Lathkill catchment area sees much less recreational activity.  As a positive consequence the area of cave we visited was much better preserved. 


The entrance abseil landed us in close proximity to a remarkable collection of fine calcite straws and stalactites.  The Waiting Room is an impressive phreatic (formed under the water table) chamber, personally this kind of big, timeless cave environment is what enthuses me the most – awesome! 

 

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Continuing through the Waiting Room a boulder choke is descended using the sound of the underground stream for guidance. A steady climb down gives access to a very lively stream passage enlarged at one end by an aven. Lathkiller Hall (stream chamber) would be the limit of our exploration, the stream choked at either end by low passage and high water. A possibility for the summer months perhaps!

 

We hang around for a while, soak up the atmosphere of this underground gem, take some photographs and head out. We are all seriously impressed with the place and looking forward to drought conditions when further explorations can be made in the late summer. 

 

The cave is only about 1km from the car park – the walk back that night felt considerably longer!


In any event, last orders were duly served at the Bulls Head.

 

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A blog by Daryl Godfrey Titan - Acclimbatize