P8 – 23rd May 2021

On a murky Sunday morning Mark, Mike and myself met at the Yonderman’s Café in Wardlow to have breakfast and discuss the route we would take into P8.

In convoy we arrived at the P8 car park and kitted up, I recognised the area from previous visits when heading into Sidetrack Cave and I was surprised how many caves are in near vicinity.

We started the short walk towards P8 through the fields getting the occasional bewildered look from the ewes and lambs thinking we must be bonkers. The weather remained questionable, yet it wasn’t raining… something I was worried about reading the mini guide that this cave is very susceptible to flooding.

Mark was already fully kitted in all his SRT gear whereas Mike and myself chose to kit up at the cave opening which had to speed up as it started to rain, and I didn’t want to get drenched… obviously I’ve not investigated the opening yet!

“If you stick to the left and climb over the waterfall, you’ll keep dry” Mark said… easier said than done for me but I avoided having my soaking of the day and got into the first chamber dryer than expected.

We worked our way through the system past “idiot’s leap” which was a downclimb into a little rockpool holding onto a handline. The noise and sheer power of the water cascading down towards us was breath taking!

As we approached the first pitches we split up, Mike started to free-climb upwards to rig the high-level pitch and Mark ushered me towards the lower first pitch which he let me rig under his supervision. Mark gave superb help and advice about pitch safety we descended into the basin below only to see a head torch descending from above – this must be Mike.

We continued towards the second pitch which I was again allowed to rig only to notice that the rope bag got swept down the first drop which Mark had to retrieve – clip it in the harness and you won’t lose it! Lesson learnt.

We descended the second pitch and worked our way towards the dive base near Sump 1. I mean it did look like someone had a bathtub running with all the foam around us. After none of us fancied getting completely covered in foam we turned back on ourselves and climbed up towards Ben’s Dig!

I was impressed how far this has been explored only to be further surprised by iron ladders and a full setup of pulley systems, staples in walls and bags after bags of mud safely stored away. Mark and Mike descended into the last shaft which is where the current dig ended. However, on retracing our steps back into the previous chamber we noticed loads of little side turns into other areas where people must be digging actively.

We returned to the second pitch and ascended this before Mark started to de-rig it. We entered the basin of the first pitches this time Mike took the short pitch and de-rigged it whilst ascended into the high-level pitch shortly followed by Mark which we then de-rigged. I started to continue along the narrow channel fighting my way against strong flows of water towards the exit receiving my last full soaking in “idiot’s leap” before seeing daylight up ahead.

Mike was already outside soaking up the sun which started to make an appearance to take pictures of us exiting and we headed back towards the cars.

On our way back we all noticed a lamb which must’ve accidentally through a fence into another field and was split from his mother. Mark quickly jumped the fence and assisted the lamb back to his mother and we got thanked with two “Baaaahhs”.

This was a very interesting trip for me. I have read several articles about P8 yet was always put off entering because of the intense amounts of water which could enter this cave. Having completed this trip now this cave so far is my favourite! I can’t wait to get back!

Fabian

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