Andy and I revisited Notts 2, with the aim of going through Sir Digby Spodes inlet all the way to Lyle Cavern, (the connection to the bottom of Lost Johns).
We found parking at the usual spot was full; CRO were having a training day “in Lost Johns and Notts 2”! Eek! We’d better be quick and get in before them! We parked off the road a bit closer to the entrance and, with no sign of anyone from CRO coming our way, got in the entrance just as it went 10:20am.
Climbing down the scaffolding of the man-made shaft it’s hard not to be impressed by the dedication of those that went before us and created the shaft so non-cave divers could get into Notts2; kudos to you all!
10 minutes later we’d got to the main stream-way and headed upstream straight away as we didn’t want any super speedy CRO folk getting in before us.
We climbed the in-situ knotted rope that lead to Sir Digby Spodes inlet. After climbing we paused for a time check and picture
Andy lead the charge (crawl!), as it should be. He pushed through first earlier this year when we had run out of allotted time and had to turn back mid-way. How far had we got before? Were we close or far? We were going to find out today!
It was slow going, almost 100% belly crawling, contorted turns, in very tight spaces. After 30-40 mins we stopped for a 5 minute breather. The place looked sort of familiar, I thought that it could have been where we got to last time. When we got going again it did look more unfamiliar, we we’re probably in new territory. When we got to the calcite tubes it was confirmed; we hadn’t done this before.
“That was the hardest bit so far” Andy exclaimed as he got up the 2nd tube. I thought everything had all been tough so I couldn’t say this bit was noticeably tougher than the others, but I would admit that the constant thrashing around for footholds was a challenge in this section; there were there, but you never found them on your first (or second...) go.
We soon exited into a small chamber, then a larger one. Reading the CNCC guide it was clear we were nearly out. Despite the guide's words, Andy didn’t resist the temptation to go straight on so missed the right hand climb down. As such I ended up being first out into a large passage; part of The Tate Galleries. We checked the watch and it’d taken us 50 minutes to do 140-200 meters depending on what guide you read. At 3-4meters per minute someone should call the Guinness book of Records!
We went to explore. Our aim was to find Lyle cavern, and the place where it connects to the main stream of Lost Johns. At a T-junction we went straight on, finding some more amazing formations
but thought it didn’t go, so backtracked and went right, eventually coming to a chamber with a rope going up. Not this obviously, we needed something going down. We didn't have a readable description with us, but checking the CNCC guide schematic, it looked like it was straight in at the T, so we backtracked again, being more observant, investing anything that could be a way down just in case - none were, and back to the T. Venturing down the passage again we got to the big-step over where Andy had originally turned back. In closer inspection, it could be stepped across with care (it’s a fair drop!) and we carried on until we got to a shaft with no P-bolts to be seen. Can’t be this then! Turning back and soon Andy found a small gap down, but it didn’t appear to go anywhere. However he’d not seen the next gap underneath which went back on itself. It looked trafficked so I squeezed through. There was a drop, but it looked climbable. I went down a few moves, then made sure I could return (I could) so went all the way down. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, there were good hand-holds on the far wall and foot placement was fine too. Once at the bottom I saw the in-situ rope! We’d found it. The first pitch looked free-climbable but as we could see it just went to the next we didn’t bother. We did take a look up and over the pitch which took us to a viewing platform of sorts. It was a long way down, and we could hear the stream-way down there somewhere. We must be in Lyle Cavern we thought (it wasn't - later reading the guide describes this as the pitch going down into Lyle Cavern)
We turned back and made our way back to the choke. Having 5 mins for a snack and drink I suggested it should be easier going back as it was mostly downhill. I went in first. Besides a flat crawl, it was mostly downhill, with most of it being feet first. That was until a flat section where it wasn’t, but I was already committed and couldn't easily change that decision. Shuffling backwards, my kit bag snagging on everything any anything it could, it was around this time that I thought it might have been easier to remove it but it was now stuck on a pointy rock. I “encouraged” it to bend to my will and after a minute or so worked it loose. Shortly after I found the passage going down again and my feet first position wasn’t to bad. Only a few more turns and crawls and we back out. All-in it took us about 35 mins to come back though.
As we still had quite a bit of time left we explored upstream, turning right at Curry Junction and going as far as the "swim" bit towards sump 1 before I chose to turn back (Andy was in full agreement at that). On our way back we also looked up Inlet 5 it got to a crawl (we’d done enough of that today!)
Having explored as much as we wanted to today we made our way back, briefly looking at “Flood Bypass”. We climbed up the mud bank and it went to a possible crawl; nope! Back to the stream-way and out. It took us 20 minutes from stream-way to the surface, and we we’re back out by 3;05pm. A bit tired, but not knackered, we both had a very enjoyable trip
And we didn’t see a single CRO caver underground!
Update 02/10/2023: After the trip I've re-read the updated CNCC description which we didn't have with us underground. We didn't reach Lyle Cavern, only the pitch leading down to it! What this means is that I've unfinished business and will have to go back (dragging SRT kit) through the crawl just to get down to the master cave of Lost Johns