Caving and Potholing | Pennine Outdoor Pursuits

Introduction to Caving

Intrdouction to Caving

First tentative steps into the timeless beauty of Britain's subterranean kingdom. Your chance to experience first hand the thrill and excitement of this adventure sport under the guidance of experienced and qualified cave leaders.

Adventure caving can also be used for groups to learn about the natural underground environment. Every cave is different and each caving region has it's own unique systems. Choose from Derbyshire, Mendip, Yorkshire Dales and Wales.

There is no maximum number required as we can take you underground on a 1 to 1 basis. For conservation and safety reasons we keep the group sizes to a realistic working number and large parties can be split into smaller groups. Our instructor to student ratio may vary slightly to accommodate the level of tuition required. Our instructors will tailor the trip to suit your needs.

Wet or dry, this half day trip is an excellent introduction for anyone wishing to enjoy the thrills of caving without any previous experience. The course starts with an introduction to the safety equipment followed by a safety brief. During the trip you will have opportunity to enjoy scrambling, climbing, squeezing, large and small chambers, muddy puddles, silent passageways and natural cave formations. Adventure caving is ideal for school and college groups, scouts and guides, youth groups, social and sporting clubs, families, friends and the keen individual.

The caving trips are designed to encourage' rather than 'persuade', there will be no pressure on any individual to undertake any part of the cave which they feel uncomfortable with. However if you do have any concerns about the physical capacity to participate you may wish to discuss this with one of the instructors in advance.

British Caving Association Participation Statement

One of the attractions of caving, potholing and exploration of abandoned mines is its adventurous nature. The accident rate in caving is thankfully low but from time to time serious and fatal accidents do occur. It is therefore important that beginners who seek to go caving are aware of and accept the element of risk and take responsibility for their own actions.

Basic Caving

Basic caving courses are designed for anyone interested in the sport of caving. These superb and popular courses are ideal for those with little or no previous caving experience. One Day Basic Caving

This is the most popular introduction to the sport of caving and potholing in the country. Using abseiling and ladder climbing techniques in conjunction with a safety line, you will not need any formal training to take part, just a lot of enthusiasm! This will definitely be a day to remember. Two Day Basic Caving

Many cavers, now active in clubs, started on a two day basic then progressing to the more advanced courses. The first day starts with an informal introduction and continues with a surface session on clothing and equipment within each course member will receive their on full set of equipment. After lunch a suitable underground venue will be selected where each person will be able to enjoy the fun of cave exploration in complete safety.

The underground trips will give everyone an opportunity to learn about cave development, conservation and cave formations at first hand whilst navigating themselves with the use of cave surveys. A variety of other topics emergency procedures will be looked at during day one.

The second day will take you into an active stream cave with some vertical sections which need to be negotiated with ropes and ladders. This course has an excellent reputation in the British caving scene as the safest introduction to the exhilarating sports of vertical caving or potholing. You will be taught the correct techniques of abseiling and ladder climbing with safety lines used at all times. The basic caving courses are open to any keen group or individuals. At the end of the second day your instructor will advise you on further caving opportunities. 5 day Basic Caving

The 5 day basic caving courses are an extension from the two day courses. During the extra days you will be introduced to the use of guide books, survey interpretation, cave access and you will be encouraged to take an active part in choosing, organising and leading the underground session. There will of course be more time to look at clothing and equipment in more detail with useful tips on maintenance etc. If you wish to pursue this sport, your instructor will give you practical advice on purchasing equipment and follow up caving trips. These trips can be held in the Peak district for one day, or in the Yorkshire Dales based in accommodation of your choice.


Classic Caving

If your already skilled up in S.R.T. and you wish to bottom some classic Yorkshire potholes, then let me organise all the technical stuff.

The week will start with a personal check on equipment and techniques of course members who all play an important part in choosing the trips to follow. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to perfect any necessary techniques. Most people who join us for the classics usually have their own equipment but you may hire part or full sets from us. All rigging equipment, ropes and hangers are provided.

We use SRT techniques exclusively to visit the Peak District's deep and ancient lead mines or the classic pots of the Yorkshire Dales. These classic caving trips provide an ideal opportunity for cavers to enjoy the thrill of bottoming such systems as Gaping Gill, Juniper Gulf, Meregill Pot etc. without having to worry about rigging or flooding as I will do all of the hard work leaving you to enjoy the exhilarating experience of Britain's largest and most spectacular potholes.

Useful words and phrases for the week include, Awesome, Epic, Plumentos, it's BIG, it's wet, WOW, amazing, who's round is it?

SRT (Single Rope Techniques)

Technical competence from each member of the team is very important as this technique is more of a 'single persons' technique and the skills required must be learned under close supervision of an experienced and fully qualified caving instructor. I will start the day with an introduction to the variety of equipment on the market and give you sound advice on care and maintenance. There is a danger of rushing out and buying equipment that may not be right for you so I must stress that you try out all the different harnesses, descenders etc. first before making your decision. I will explain in detail the equipment used and give you plenty of opportunity during the day to try it all out thus helping you to decide a 'RIG' that suits you. A personal S.R.T. check list will be given to you and I may be able to help you with our discount scheme.

This day takes place on the surface and is held on fixed rope circuits using the latest modern equipment. The second day (If arranged) gives you the opportunity to try out these techniques in an active, vertical pothole. The emphasis will be on technical competence rather than physical fitness so the pitches will be challenging but fairly short. During this trip I will point out what to look for at pitch heads and on traverse lines with regard to personal safety and S.R.T. rigging. Caving suit, helmet, light set and full S.R.T. kit is provided.

S.R.T Pitch Rigging

The ease and safety of descending vertical caves relies totally on the person doing the rigging as the rope is the sole pathway up and down the pitches. When a pitch is rigged it is not just for the rigger but for the rest of the team, so it is extremely important to provide a safe and efficient hang for the rope. The pitch must be rigged fluently, safely and free from rub points etc. OR NOT AT ALL! and there can be no room for mistakes. SRT rigging is an art and a science combined which is best learnt from fully qualified, experienced, knowledgeable and professional instructors.

This course is designed for cavers who are already proficient in modern S.R.T techniques. When a pitch is rigged it is not just for the rigger but for the rest of the team, so there can be no room for mistakes. The pitch must be rigged fluently, safely and free from rub points etc.

Day 1

This is a surface training day, which examines the basic principles of pitch rigging and how these are applied to underground situations. We will look at a variety of S.R.T ropes and their properties in detail and teach you the range of knots currently used as well a hangers, bolts, karabiners and maillon rapides.

It would be useful for candidates to know a couple of basic knots such as the figure of eight etc before attending this course. We will introduce you to the variety of knots available with advice on how and where they should be used, we will also explain the theory of fall factors, the loading of anchor points and the use of 'y' hangs. Other topics will be covered such s rigger protection, rope care, coiling, organising tackle for the caving trip together with a working knowledge of rigging guides and descriptions.

Day 2

The underground venue will be carefully selected to allow each caver to put into practise all of the modern and safe skills of pitch rigging learned from day one. Each person will be given the opportunity to rig traverse lines and small pitches to include re-belays and deviations. Time will be made available during the trip for analysing each pitch in turn and we will discuss the various options available to us. Although the instructors will give demonstrations, the emphasis will be on first hand practical experience for the course members. S.R.T. Rescue

SRT Rescues and Problem Solving.

If you have developed the skills to rig SRT ropes and chose viable trips, but are unsure what to do with a casualty on a rope out of reach. Then you owe it to yourself and your caving mates to have a hand full of techniques to get yourselves out of trouble should the unthinkable happen. A casualty hanging in a harness has a time window of 10 to 20 minutes before unconsciousness and death. These life saving skills can be learnt quickly and easily with the right guidance. Please

The 2 day S.R.T. rescue courses are essential to all vertical cavers who enjoy caving in small numbers or in remote regions. The courses are designed and run for those who are proficient in personal S.R.T. and they act as a basic grounding in self rescue and are essentially a very practical course looking at a variety of nasty situations which may occur on any S.R.T. trip. Refresher S.R.T. rigging days are available at low cost to people who wish to attend SRT rescue courses.

Course members must be proficient in personal S.R.T. skills and possess their own S.R.T. kits. The rescue techniques used will be tailored around each person?s own S.R.T. kit and the rescue systems will become more complex during the course.

Day 1

This is held on the surface and commences with a quick S.R.T. check on personal skills. It is important that cavers who operate in small numbers or in remote areas should all be capable of dealing with problems such as a tired caver on a pitch etc, so this day is dedicated to the technical skills of self rescue from an assisted climb to a full hauling rig. The day will also concentrate on rigging and rope work and we will examine the different types of rope currently used underground with respect to properties and applications in rescue situations. Although it is expected that course members should have rigging experience, there will be time during this day to look at a variety of rigging techniques and advice will be given if needed. Lunch on this first day can be taken at the local cafe etc. At the end of the day we will review the topics covered and give a brief on the underground day.

Day 2

A suitable underground venue will be chosen on the second day to give course members plenty of opportunity to put into practice the skills from day 1. Again working in small numbers we will examine a variety of rescue techniques and manoeuvres to enable you to carry out a simple and safe emergency rescue. Pennine instructors are at the forefront of modern vertical caving and pitch rigging techniques and we are constantly being consulted from the caving world on developing trends.

Please bring with you your own caving gear to include clothing (to include a change of clothing after the caving trip on the second day) lights, helmets and any ropes and rigging kit that you have. Please let us know your requirements if you need to borrow any caving kit. We will provide all of the specialist rigging equipment including ropes, hangers, slings etc. We can arrange accommodation if need it. Please give me a call to arrange dates and a quote for your group. Cave Guiding Service

Our private service is available to any individuals who require a special customised course on either a daily or weekly basis.


The main advantage of the guiding service is individual 1 to 1 tuition. This is available from basic caving to instructor assessment and gives you the choice to tailor your own course. The guiding service is ideal for those who can't make it on scheduled courses or those who wish to reach a high standard in a very short time. Our director Mr Nigel Atkins was one of these latter ?get good quick? people and swears by 1 to 1 instruction.

"I had been caving for many years with my caving club before embarking on a training course and I was typical ''why go on a training course'' person, and why not, I had a vast amount of caving experience under my belt. How wrong and badly mislead I was! I had 1 to 1 instruction in vertical rescue techniques and I have never looked back since the cost may be higher than that of an open course but for what you receive in return the money is irrelevant". Nigel Atkins 1992

Dear Nigel,

I am writing to you to express my profound enjoyment of the week's course in S.R.T, which I have just attended with you on a 1 to 1 ratio at Pennine National Caving. I could not recommend any other course in outdoor pursuits in which the teaching was marked by safety, confidence, competence and overall enormous enthusiasm. During the week, the teaching built on a starting point of a basic knowledge of caving commencing with a day of indoor S.R.T training which taught me the basic skills required underground in a less harsh environment. The course then moved on to a simple underground trip using S.R.T that evening and ended with a magnificent trip into the depths of Gaping Ghyll to round off the week.

Throughout the week the trips became more demanding, however at all times confidence was inspired and at no time was there a sense of danger. I would not hesitate to recommending this course to anyone wishing to experience the thrills of vertical caving. Once again, my tanks for an excellently organised and run week,

Yours Sincerely,

Joe Mellor


Cave Photography

The cave photography courses cater for the growing demand by cavers to capture the excitement and beauty of our underworld.

The 2-day photography course is designed and run by Chris Howes, author of 'Cave Photography' and in our opinion one of the best cave photographers in the country. The day starts with an introduction to basic photography looking at S.L.R. cameras and a variety of flashguns. The morning session continues with a practical on flashgun positioning and composure of shots.

Day 1

Encouragement and advice is given to those with little or no knowledge whilst those with photographic experience may learn a thing or two in a completely different environment which requires a unique approach. Anyone with an interest in photography is welcome, even if you have very limited caving experience as the caving trips are simple without any particular hazards. There will be an opportunity on the first day to develop your work and discuss the results as all the work is done using black and white film, an excellent medium for capturing the caving world.

Day 2

This takes you to a different location, which is chosen very carefully to suit the group's needs. The emphasis of this day will be for course members to set up and shoot a variety of underground shots including posed, action, silhouette etc.

A level of fitness required is minimal as the course is set up to achieve maximum learning in a relaxed and controlled atmosphere. The instructors will assess the overall ability of the group and adjust the programme accordingly. What could be more rewarding than 2 days of new underground sights, meeting other cavers with a similar interest and taking photographs in some of the most spectacular cave systems with Britain's cave photographer.

You may bring with you any photographic equipment owned to include an S.L.R camera, a flash gun (Or two!), tripod, cable release, black and white film and a sturdy case to carry them in. Any clothing and equipment may be hired from us.

Surface Navigation Training Courses

Navigation courses are designed for anyone interested in the outdoors and they are particularly useful to cavers who venture off the beaten track.

2 day Map and Compass

It can be quite difficult to pick up navigation skills just by reading books so the Pennine two day map and compass is designed to give cavers a practical course with the emphasis on you leading us rather than the other way round.

The course starts with an informal introduction followed by a look at basic navigation equipment. The morning continues with basic map reading and compass skills and there will be time available for each course member to calculate their own paces per 100m. In the afternoon we will embark on a short walk and look at micro-navigation in detail.

Each course member will be given simple tasks and the instructor will work on a 1 to 1 ratio to ensure accuracy. At the end of the day we will introduce you to route cards and you will each be allocated certain legs to lead on the second day.

Day 2 is a full day held entirely outdoors to give opportunity for hands on experience and will include route planning, pacing, timing, taking bearings and locating a variety of land features on route. The venue for this day will be carefully selected to suit the group and the walk will usually end at the starting point. Within this day we will look at micro navigation and run a short search session designed to help you locate features in fog etc.

These courses are ideal for outdoor instructors, leaders, active cavers and keen individuals wishing to master the skills of mountain navigation.

We will provide you with a map and compass but will need to bring suitable outdoor clothing and footwear to include gloves, hat, small day sack and a flask (some of these items may be supplied on request).


Level 1 Caving Trips

There are many caving trips available and the following is a guide to help with of venue with regard to experience and numbers in the party etc: Giants Hole

Perryfoot, Castleton

Probably the finest of all the adventure trips in the area and lasts between 1 and 2 hours. This large swallet cave entrance in the valley between Middle Hill and Peakshill is reached from the Peakshill farm track. There is an extra charge of 3.00 pound per head to visit this cave.


Large stream passage leads after 100ft (30m) to a short roped climb into the roof.

Upper West Passage

Climb here and follow to the right, walking and crawling for 329ft (100m) to the blocked chamber at the end. A nice little circuit gives fun to groups who visit here.

Back in stream artificially enlarged walking passage, passing the former obstacle of The Curtain can be followed for a further 300ft (91m) to First Stream Sump. Large blasted tunnel on left leads past other former obstacles, Pillar Crawl and Backwash pool to Base Camp Chamber, with the stream entering from the right. Stream can be followed upstream in a high narrow passage to the outlet of the First Stream Sump.

From Base Camp Chamber a fine high passage leads downstream past Boss Aven to Garlands Pot, a 15ft(4.5m) pitch. A crawl on the left at the pitch top leads to October Aven, a climbed for 30ft(9m) to a short choked passage.

P8 (Jackpot)

Perryfoot, Castleton

Although not long in duration, when coupled with Gautries hole, the 2 trips can take between 2 and 3 hours. There is an extra charge of 1.00 pound per head to visit this cave.

Approach from Perryfoot farm where permission must be sought and a small fee paid. Entrances are in an irregular depression where a small stream sinks, 100 yards (915) north east of the farm, beyond Little Bull Pit. Please follow the way-markers.

Old entrance leads to a muddy chamber with short crawls, a rift and tight crawl to cascade Chamber, 8ft (2.5m) concrete shaft down which the stream sinks leads quickly to the same place. Crawl over boulders to a clean washed stream way. Above the first chute is a high level route along a mineral vein. The stream can be rejoined beyond Idiot's Leap by descending a 30ft (9m) climb. The stream way can be followed down several small cascades to Idiot's Leap, an 8ft (2.5m) climb. Narrow stream way with chutes and pools to the wet First Pitch, 25ft (8m), 270ft (82m) from entrance.

Gautries Hole

Perryfoot, Castleton

There is a charge of 1.00 pound per head to visit this cave but is usually done with a level 1 trip into P8.

Although not long in duration, when coupled with P8 (Jackpot), the 2 trips can take between 2 and 3 hours. The entrance is situated in a large tree lined sink hole, 200 metres from the road at perryfoot. Right entrance is a short dry passage only. Left entrance is to the stream passage, which can be followed upstream for only a few metres. Downstream, the passage lowers following the water until it drops into an eyehole on the left side of a small chamber. Turn right and up into chamber. Climbing the muddy chute leads through a false floor, along a small rift and a short climb down. (Rope useful). From here, there is a blocked passage to the right and to the left follows a partly flooded muddy rift and back to the stream and terminal sump. Back in the main chamber, the route continues under a boulder to the right to a small passage, which increases in size after a couple of metres. Continue along passage to Angle Chamber and siphon pool.

Carlswark Cavern

Stoney Middleton

Probably the most popular of all the adventure trips in the area and a variety of trips can be done lasting between 1 and 3 hours. Climb the open entrance rift on the terrace at the base of the famous limestone quarry. An easy scramble down leads to a junction with the Eyam passage. Right is soon blocked but left leads quickly to Oyster chamber and the connection to the lower series. The main route is ahead, all of the other passages here soon close down. Three inlet passages enter here at roof level in Eyam passage. Eyam passages eventually lowers to an easy crawl between South crawl and the third inlet but soon enlarges again to standing space in the Noughts and Crosses chamber.

Here is an optional, but very interesting flat out crawl to the pool. Alternatively, you can climb around the chamber to the right leading also to the pool. Just pass the pool is a T junction with Eyam Dale Passage. The passage to the left lowers to a crawl connecting with the Eyam Dale Shaft, a nice abseil through trip is possible for level 2 groups. To the right the passage leads to a squeeze eventually bringing you out at a T junction. From here, a variety of routes are available depending on experience and time restrictions of the group.

Devonshire Cavern and Mine

Matlock Bath

Probably the most popular of all the adventure trips in the area and a variety of trips can be done lasting between 1 and 3 hours. A pleasant trip in that you stay dry for most parts unless undertaking the wet crawl at the end. This trip allows groups to use a survey and decide for themselves the routes to be taken. There is evidence of many mining techniques visible and together with a variety of shafts to be found, makes this both an educational delight as well as a challenging experience.

Bagshawe Cavern


One of the most famous of all the adventure trips in the area lasting between 1 and 2 hours. There is an extra charge of 2.00 pound per head to visit this cave. These trips have been run between the owner Peter Revell (groups over the age of 18 years only) and Nigel Atkins (all other groups) for over 25 years. Nigel and Peter were the last show cave guides to take trips using the installed electric lights in 1985. These have now been removed by an enthusiastic and hard working group of cavers from the Eldon Pothole Club and all groups now taken into the cavern are supplied with helmets, belts and helmet mounted light systems. Sadly, Peter Revell lost his fight with cancer last year and Nigel continues to promote and run trips of all ages and abilities into the cavern.

Enter the cavern through the door in the stone building and descend steps cut into the vein. At base of steps, turn left along the main passage following the tourist path for 165 metres to the junction with Calypso's cave, 55 metres to long to where the passage closes down. The tourist path turns left, passing the wide but low Agony crawl on the left. Just beyond here, a set of steps lead down to the top of a large open pothole, The Dungeon which is 18 feet deep.

The main passage continues beyond the Dungeon for 90 metres, and lowers to a crawl. To the right is the cave of worms, where a climb down boulders re-joins the main route, which continues as a large passage for 140 metres to the Hippodrome, a wide boulder strewn chamber. Turning left at the Hippodrome, a sloping muddy passage leads to the main stream way. Left downstream leads to a sump. Right upstream, can be followed with minimal airspace to sump 1. An oxbow on the left side of the Hippodrome leads to a short climb down into Glory Hole passage, a phreatic joint controlled inlet which descends to a duck, then rises again to the head of an impressive pothole, 14 metres deep to water, the Glory Hole. The water level in the Glory Hole falls considerably in dry weather. Just to the right of the Glory Hole passage is a crawl, which gradually lowers until it is too tight to continue.

Jug Holes


A series of interconnecting caverns and mined passages makes this a very interesting place. A variety of trips can be done lasting between 1 and 3 hours. This cave lies on the summit of Masson Hill.

The large cave entrance in the wood leads to a series of old workings ahead and to the left. On the right near the foot of the slope is a climb down into a series of muddy caverns, with branches to old workings and finally out to the adit entrance lower down the hill. At back and to right, a 12ft shaft leads to Boulder Maze on left and roomy but dirty stalagmite caverns with limestone roof and floor of green clay, (decomposed basalt lava). Once noted for the sound of a barking dog caused by a small siphon pool no longer operative.

Hillocks Mine


Another classic venue for introducing people to caving lasting between 1 and 2 hours.

Suicide Cave

Winnats Pass, Castleton

A pleasant little venue for introducing people to caving lasting between 20 minutes and 1 hour.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018