Fermanagh - 31 st Jan to 2 nd Feb 2003
The eagerly awaited Fermanagh trip reached epic proportions due to the wrong type of snow the night before departure. Despite the best efforts of Ryanair and BMI, we still had a great weekend. Colm Carroll reports.
London to Boho
With the entire country at a stand-still due to a smattering of snow the night before, it was a nervous group of 11 who made the trek to Heathrow on stage one of our epic weekend in Fermanagh. The delayed Piccadilly line eventually deposited us at Heathrow, where we were greeted to an lesson in incompetence by the BMI staff. The check-in area was a zoo. Queues here, queues there (well, all at BMI actually) First we queued in a massively long queue (all around the building) that obviously wasn't moving. With our flight 40 mins from closing, some guy shifted us to another queue(actually moving). At the head of this queue, the same guy announces 'you have e-tickets, you must go to that office over there, not queue here'
Over to the office (15 mins to departure), we checked in (5 mins to departure), lugged our baggage through the security X-ray machines (no time for checking in the bags). Escorted through most of Terminal 1, shoved our bags down a chute to the plane (10 mins after departure time), sat on a bus for ten minutes, and finally boarded the plane and were underway (30 mins after departure time)
Arrived at Belfast, met up with Glasgow Uni crowd plus a couple of yokels from the west country. Unfortunately we didn't meet up with a couple of bags, which BMI forgot to put on the plane. (Considering we brought them to the plane ourselves, I don't know how they managed this) Eventually underway, stopping off at the chippie and offie on the way. We arrived in the village of Boho at about 10pm.
Into McKenzie's, to be greeted by the familiar faces of Dublin cavers, plus some new faces from Queen's Uni, Belfast. Welcome refreshments were consumed. Back at the ranch, Sean produced gee-tar, ensuring no-one got to bed much before 4am.
Colm, Jan, Andy, Clewin plus Irish lot
Whilst consuming the traditional greasy fry, with extra portions of tea, discussions were taking place amongst the Queen's crowd about which cave to do. I managed to persuade them that Prod's was an excellent trip, off-loaded 100m or so of rope on to them, and settled back for second helpings. With luck, the cave would be entirely rigged by the time we got there! I'd done Prod's before, but it's a good trip, so was definitely up for another go, with a little bit of exploration at the bottom.
With such a large group in the hut, extra faff wes required, so it was at least two hours later before we piled into the minibus with the Marble Arch posse. Onwards to the entrance, found first time (unlike certain WSG members efforts). Unfortunately, the Queen's crowd could be heard cursing and grunting just below the surface, still, the weather was fine, so we dozed a bit before the brave Ben, lover of all tight passage, dived in.
The entrance series was no problem, with a gravity assisted squeeze behind the nasty boulder. At the bottom, we decided to head downstream, pleasant river passage ending in a sump (arses were dipped). On the wasy back, we took a quick stroll up the Papist's Passage, avoiding the Atheists arsehole, but continuing straight to the sump.
The way out failed to provide any form of entertainment, with all of us managing the boulder squeeze with annoyingly few problems. Clewin sailed by as if it wasn't there, must invest in a foot jammer. Outside to a windy evening, the sun just disappeared. Back to the road to be picked up by the van.
Marble Arch Caves
Dave + Guppies
Pollnatagha, no Pollprughlaish, no Polltullyard
We were all persuaded to eat haggis. I don't know whose idea it was to put Penney in charge of the food, but it wasn't a good one. Haggis, tatties and neeps (whatever they are). We were all starving, and also all wanted to get down to the serious business of the weekend as soon as we could. So, we got within dashing distance of the latrine, wolfed down the slop, and made a rapid exodus to McKenzies. Our fresh-faced undergraduate cavers did us proud at pool, everyone else did us proud at drinking. Another late night at the community centre, with the ol' 'tea in the whiskey bottle' gag bringing much hilarity.
We surprised everyone by getting up early and going caving!
Marble Arch Caves
IC 3 people
As our plane was at some ludicrously early time, and no-one wanted to join me for a charge stark naked though White Fathers trip, we ended up going en masse to this show cave. In, looked around, along river, through by-pass, admiring sumps, playing in boats etc... all good clean fun.
We had an uneventful trip home, the highlight of which was me finding a trolley outside Gloucester Road tube, so I didn't have to carry my stuff to stores.
I'll finish this when I've found the log-book
Photos by Hugh Penney, Jan Evetts, Darryl Anderson and the Guppies.