PoTM 2011 November: Thors Cave - Outside In



As with most limestone-rich environments, the Peak District is riddled with caves. Most are located in the Castleton area in the north and most hide their charms deep beneath the surface. Farther south, around Dovedale, things are a tad different though and a number of caves breach ground - usually in hillsides or beneath cliffs. Dove Holes and Thor’s Cave are cracking examples of what I’m talking about.


I’m not sure exactly what it is that attracts climbers into caves but if there’s a half decent cave you can bet that climbers will have passed by and explored. A few decades back these were wicked places to practise aid climbing and many still bear the scars. Today though, things are different and it’s the free-climbing challenges that are the main attraction.


And so it is within Thor’s Cave. Andy Pollitt was the first to capitalise on the opportunities within Thor’s and his Thorman’s Moth remains a prized tick. It took a couple of decades before the next wave of activity, sprearheaded by Jon ‘Jonboy’ Fulwood, produced the next batch of routes including Midgard Serpent; a steeply overhanging pitch despite its relatively ‘easy’ grade of F7b+. My first – and only visit thus far – was with Sam and Gus back in late spring. Sam was in the middle of a purple patch and having dispensed with Thorman’s first redpoint was straight onto Midgard Serpent.


Some natural light was spilling deep into Thor’s via the West Window, a secondary cave mouth, but nowhere near enough to light the action. Two strobes, set on lightweight stands lashed to the cave walls, lit both the route and Sam. The rock architecture in the back of Thor’s is some of the most striking I’ve ever seen in a cave here in the UK. The light ‘throw’ from the strobes meant that the back of the cave remained unlit which added to the drama of the shot.


I knew straight away that the shots I got were a bit different; worth dragging the monster sack rammed with photo kit down into the cave. I can’t wait to get back and have a crack at shooting some more routes – might even tie-in as well…


Capture Notes:

Nikon D300, 12-24mm AFS f4 @ 12mm, ISO 400, 1/50th sec @ f4.0 matrix metering in aperture priority with -2/3rd EV compensation and additional light from two SB 800’s triggered using commander mode on the D300



Peak District National Park, Thor’s Cave, Midgard Serpent F7b+, Sam Whitaker, sport climbing