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Gentlewomen's - Youd's Level Through Trip, Derbyshire

Gentlewomen's - Youd's Level Through Trip near Matlock, Derbyshire

5 May 2008

Before Knowles Fluorspar Workings quarried away a huge chunk of Masson Hill, it was possible to do a classic through trip from the top of the hill through Masson Mine, a trip which could take some 10 hours and entailed some interesting route finding. Sadly, this trip is no longer a possibility, but the much shorter trip from Gentlewomen’s through to Youd’s Level (Ringing Rake Sough) is a minor classic along similar lines, but instead will take only about 2 1/2 hours - providing you find your way through fairly easily!


It seems as though everyone's suddenly decided to do this trip for some reason, so we may as well offer a bit of handy information. If you want a good description of the route itself, visit the trip reports page on the Eldon Pothole Club web site.

Park either in the big layby as for Jug Holes, or almost directly opposite. Please don't upset the farmer by blocking the lane or parking at the end of it as this is "off limits" to cavers and climbers and could jeopardise access.

Once you've found the right mineshaft, (it's almost covered by a huge boulder) our suggestion is to rig from said boulder and back up to the scaff bar – not the other way round. The scaff bar has been there for at least 10 years so use due caution and don't rely on it. The shaft is about 130' deep (not 170' as has been indicated elsewhere) and is ginged at the top for a short distance - check the ginging is undamaged before descending. We found that a 50m rope was sufficient to rig the entrance. Note, however, that the shaft is extremely narrow, and isn't straight, so you CANNOT see if your rope has reached the bottom until you are almost down, so err on the side of caution with your rope length. This also means that if you plan to return this way there ARE rub points which cannot be avoided. Do make sure the first person down is wearing full SRT kit (not just descending gear) – you should always have one set of ascending gear anyway in case you need to return this way.

At the top of the stopes in the climb up from the bottom of Gentlewomens Shaft

At the top of the stopes in the climb up from the bottom of Gentlewomens Shaft

Once you've got your bearings from the bottom of the shaft, after a short easy walk through large passage and a climb up to a window you should arrive at an in-situ handline at a short climb down; this confirms you're on the right route.

Walking through large stopes, with neat stacks of miners' deads to one side, there's a temptation to start climbing up too early. Don't – wait until you reach a small pile of animal bones on the floor, the climb starts shortly after this. Remember the entrance pitch? You'll be climbing nearly half this height back up. It is possible for the first person up to rig a handline to assist others on this climb (which is exposed at the top), but it's not possible to protect the route back down! At the top of this climb, past a rock bridge, the route heads straight on – and down. A long section of downwards traversing and, eventually, some vertical climbing, now follows. Much of it is on reasonable ledges (with a reasonable drop below you!), however, there are a couple of places where short people (like me) will find themselves at full stretch to brace the width of the passage. One of these points is at a left hand bend (heading downhill) where the footholds run out briefly. Whatever you do, DON'T fall off the traverses – the consequences of having to carry an injured person out of here don't bear thinking about. You'll eventually get to the bottom of the climbs/traverses where you'll turn right and carry on through large, impressive passage to reach the Overseer Chamber – please take care not to touch any of the ancient miner’s inscriptions here. The connection through into Old Jant Mine involves negotiating a couple of wet squeezes on your back (there's a handy shovel to dig out gravel if the squeezes are silted up), after which a more tedious section of crawling over sharp tailings ensues. There are some worthwhile detours in Old Jant Mine so you may want to take a look around some of these before picking up the main route again and eventually reaching the start of the (in)famous coffin level in Youd's Level (Ringing Rake Sough). This goes on for nearly 1000' until eventually a right turn takes you towards the exit. The passage soon enlarges to comfortable walking, passing a couple of flooded stopes in the floor, then degenerates to stooping through collapsed toadstone until it reaches the short ladder which goes up to the manhole cover and emerges in the kids' playground at Artists Corner.

If you did some forward thinking, you'll have a car parked here so you don't have to walk all the way back up the hill! You do, unfortunately, have to go back up to Masson Quarry to retrieve your rope regardless.