Sam and myself met Mat at the lay-by near to Eldon Hill Quarry for a late evening explore into Sidetack Cave. This will now be my third time into this cave and I am very well aware of what is lying ahead of us… the others… no so much.
Once kitted up for a simple 10m descent into the quarry we started heading towards the edge and whilst I was rigging the ladder and safety line Sam and Mat took in the views of the humongous size of this quarry… it is jaw dropping.
I descended first, quickly followed by Sam and Mat. SRT kits off and ditched at the entrance we were ready to head in. I lead the two into the cave and started pushing on. The thing with sidetrack is that you just keep going otherwise you’ll actually realise what you are about to do.
A 89m flat out crawl before you are able to sit up and take a breather in the “Little and Large’s Airbells”. It took us around 20 minutes to reach that point which was actually pretty good.
Sam and Mat did not look impressed though. This is the first exposure of both of them to a extended phreatic tube which does not seem to end. As we raced into the tube both kept up a good pace meaning they were both already shattered and ready to turn around.
I promised Ben to take pictures of our dig in Annette’s Attic so with their agreement pushed onwards towards Litton Stroll whilst they started to head out.
I quickly raced towards our dig and noticed it sumped out again yet was still passable, all our tools were also left in place. I quickly walked towards both extends of the cave to look for any changes or discarded rubbish and visited the calcite curtain to take a picture as well as the gour pools.
Before heading out I stopped at the dig which is 105m from the entrance which Ben and myself noticed last time. I had a quick explore having to sacrifice having stayed dry so far and completely submerge my torso to squeeze through. We noticed last time that there seemed to be around 10m visible yet this dig seemed to extend to around 25m.
Conscious of time and me getting occasionally stuck with my helmet I back tracked and shuffled out of the dig.
After a further 25 minutes I saw the light emitting into the cave entrance which was a sure sign the torture was over. All three of us ascended up the ladder before returning to the cars to get changed.
Mat was certain he wants to try this cave again and Sam voiced the same. Sidetrack is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. If you push on towards the main chambers though you are rewarded with pristine formations not seen by many!