Leader based cave. Expert, hard work 6 hour trip very wet with lots of squeezes. Not for the faint hearted. Well worth it for the prettys.
When you reach the angular gravel in the entrance crawl you want thicker knee pads – it does go on for a bit! Joining the stream at Midnight chamber more crawling follows in Midnight Streamway – keeping low to make sure unguarded movements don’t damage the myriad of overhead staws and stal. The passage and its stunning adornments stretch into the distance, always providing sensory overload. Turning into Bypass Passage you leave the stream and enter a plain world of featureless rock and hard mud, quite a contrast to the amazing passage before. Suddenly a sharp drop leads to a clear canal of indeterminable depth. The Lavatory Trap. As you drop down the roof ahead is low, meaning only your head and 1 shoulder are above water as you push through. The silt in the bottom of the canal is instantly stirred up by thrashing feet, and the brown gunge looks far less appealing for the baptism of those that follow. The low, pebbly crawl at Sludge junction is a T junction to Puddle Lake. Remember this junction on the return as unwary travellers who miss it have an awkward, tight and very committing trip to Rip Off Aven, and back again when their error is realised! The Red Room has an exit where you squeeze between the roof and the stream. You need to be small and nimble to keep out of the water. You slide headfirst into Golden Chamber, and easily miss its greatest treasure. I call it the Soap Dish – its high on the left, a curved dish shape about a metre long. It’s lined with a myriad of crystals that sparkle and gleam in your headlamp. An awkward squeeze finally leads to Streamway Regained. Time to wash off some mud as you lie in the stream. In Summer its only 5cms deep, and toes and elbows propel you over the gravel stream-bed, In Winter it can reach 1 cm depth, just enough for some buoyancy, so you can almost float down in the current. A triangle of boulders mean a feet first entry to the Boulder Choke and departure from the stream. 13 squeezes follow, mostly downhill, some head-first , some feet-first as they are quite vertical, some just plain awkward. Just don’t go headfirst down the vertical ones. Noise of a stream hints at the approach of space, a huge quite awesome space – the Departure Lounge. You burst from confinement to vastness. Further along, Malcolm’s Way is full of walking interrupted by frequent wet crawls and small climbs. Glimpses of pure white stal, and some stal, so clear its almost like glass, hint at the spectacle to come in Neverland. Remember to leave the streamway when the passage heads up to Royal Icing Passage. If you continue down the streamway you will need to be as agile and slim as a ferret. Silence as the water noise disappears, then a jumble of huge boulders in Royal Icing. Descending into West Passage you pass the old entrance to Neverland, so richly decorated with fragile stal that it is now out of bounds. A muddy, sliding flat out crawl leads to Chuckles Choke, and your clean kit is now filthy. The climb up into Neverland is the last challenge before emerging at Neverland Lake. Oversuits off, boots and gloves scrubbed in the lake, then off to see stunning stal and crystal floors. Ceilings and walls cascade with calcite. The Pork Pies are islands of Calcite floating in a reflective, shallow lake. An oversuit gives a lot of insulation, so people are usually keen to get kitted up again for the return trip. Sometimes people are under-dressed, no gloves for example, and it’s on the return journey that chill can set in. Boulder Choke moves were aided by gravity on the way in, now it’s harder. Anyone who is getting tired begins to feel it more. Streamway Regained is now against the current, But with that over it doesn’t seem far to go – but actually there is still Midnight Steamway and lots of short squeezes to negotiate before the exit crawl – that very long crawl. Daylight is usually quite a welcome sight. Hot showers and a cup of hot tea are even more welcome. Time to look at all those amazing pics of Neverland………
Photo Credit: Tanya Sparey of MCG and CavefestUK