James Perry, James Wilson, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Leo Antwis, Luke Matthew, Astrid Rao, Keeve Lee, Tank Cong, Yi Yang, Leona Kouame, Leon Staresinic, Johnny Zhang, Julien Jean
Overall everything went fairly smoothly, the minibus was mostly functional, it only required a bit of extra persuasion (violence) to open the bonnet, and no-one got left behind. We picked up Perry in a creepy car park just outside of Bristol as planned and drove past a large group of dogging youths to get to the Asda. One of them would occasionally zoom down the car park, only to emergency brake just before the speed bump to prevent the base of their sick lowered hatchbacks to be ripped off. We made it to Whitewalls at quite a reasonable time, got everyone unloaded, and chatted for a bit before heading to bed.
Aggy: James Perry, Ana Teck, Astrid Rao, Leon Staresinic, Julien Jean, James Wilson, Leo Antwis, Luke Matthew, Tank Cong, Johnny Zhang
Craig A Ffynnon: Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Keeve Lee, Yi Yang, Leona Kouame
I awoke to the sun’s rays beaming on my face after a long, peaceful night’s sleep and greeted everyone cheerily as I came down the stairs…
I had the bed right next to the door meaning every time someone left or came in to utilise the water closet I was woken up, so after about 4 hours sleep I decided to screw it and just start making breakfast. The eggy bread turned out a bit tragic after we made the realisation we had forgotten to buy oil and butter, and we were missing beans. No matter, there was enough food for everyone to be full at least. Caves were decided – Ellie was confident she know everything about Craig a Ffynnon up to Hall of the Mountain King, so she and I sold the trip to Yi, Keeve and Leona as a ‘super muddy, a bit crawly (but fun!) cave’. The others split to various Aggy locations.
As expected, fresher’s trips are faffier than usual, but when contrasted to other freshers trips it was actually fairly contained, and we were on our way to the layby within only a few couple hours after breakfast. We swiftly changed, mostly in the bus, partially outside, and immediately walked up the wrong path. Fortunately that died quite soon and we were able to dig into our memories to figure out we were meant to walk down the road a bit first before dipping into the brush. As per, the Craig lock was a pain to figure out - I couldn’t even find the keyhole, let alone open the gate, but Ellie managed it after some time. We were in.
Everything went mostly to plan on the way to the Hall of the Mountain King, everyone managed the handlined free climb without issue, only taking brief breaks here and there for some water. Just as we entered the Hall and were contemplating how much further we should try to go, we heard voices emanating from behind a stal at the back of the chamber. One by one, a group of heavily complaining elderly Westminster folk squeezed their way round a pillar. The first happened to know Ellie from FSC, and we chatted briefly during which she heavily recommended we didn’t continue on through the nasty crawl. They were kind enough to light up the impressive throne of formations on the far side with their powerful lights before departing. We took the time to take one well-lit photo before continuing into the crawl despite the other group’s warnings.
I allocated half an hour of crawling at the most before turning around, but supposedly the next chamber was only 250m on so we were sort of hoping to reach that before turning. Unfortunately after half an hour we hadn’t reached anywhere exciting yet, and my inability to judge distance underground meant I had absolutely no idea how far we still had to go to reach the chamber, so we turned around in a rather uninspiring crawl.
I had been inordinately excited to crack open the exquisite Edam the whole trip, so was bitterly disappointed when Ellie was the only one who wanted any at all, leaving me with the majority of an enormous 8th wheel, somewhat ruining the experience. Nevertheless, we enjoyed chatting in the total darkness for a while and began moving when people started getting cold.
I decided to add some challenge to the cave by doing most of the squeezes head-first which added a whole new level of enjoyment to the experience. The added cheese weight didn’t really enhance my experience. Halfway down Yi encountered some difficulties reorientating in a tight bit above a short drop. To make it safer I blocked the passage with my body, reassuring her that she wouldn’t fall far if she slipped. After some shuffling she did slip down slightly, but ended up sitting on my head and pivoting to get herself properly supported, then making it down without any more difficulty.
After the squeeze came the climb, where I assisted Yi and Leona to get to the footholds on the way down trying not to get kicked in the face in the process. We only had one fright when Yi missed the top ladder rung and was dangling by a knotted rope a couple of metres off the ground. Ultimately all made it down safely though.
Once back at the hut we began prepping dinner (by which I mean I chatted shit while Leona, Ellie, Keeve and Yi chopped vegetables), but the other groups were beginning to push close to their call out. I was just about to walk to the Aggy entrance to check on them when Tank and Luke fell through the door. People were only just trickling in so I walked down the track anyway to check on stragglers. Everyone was fine, and I only stepped in one puddle.
As per, caving games featured in the evening – pot and sling was of course first, where I made sure not to explain anything to Johnny before stepping on his feet and trying to get the sling. Even after Astrid explained it properly, he didn’t seem to be able to make sense of it – so much so that he left for bed shortly after. Perry and I did however manage to successfully execute the one-footed method to squeeze through an exceptionally small sling.
Table traverse also featured where I almost managed to do the lengthways traverse, only briefly touching the floor in the middle; shortly after Leon managed to complete the full traverse successfully. We then discussed various methods of getting up on the far side, during which we discovered that Leo was the only person capable of pulling himself up from the floor feet-first. Everyone else pivoted far too early and couldn’t keep their legs straight in the air, collapsing before getting their legs over the lip. I reckon this was a combination of Leo’s superior hip-flexibility and unusually low centre of gravity, but few others seemed convinced.
Pen Eryr: James Wilson, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey
I woke up aching far worse than I had been expecting – I think the table traversing had really done me in. I helped a bit with breakfast but could barely keep myself upright so sat on the bench outside for a good amount of time.
Ana had specifically done a recce trip to Pen Eryr on Wales 0 so was eager to take some keen freshers there for a bit of crawly squeezy fun on a chill Sunday trip. Unfortunately, Perry’s Eggy trip was by far the favourite, and a total of 0 people wanted to go to Pen Eryr. So Ellie, James and I decided to turn it into a tart trip.
We dossed the time away at the hut while the other group got packed and ready, drinking tea and doing Instagram-worthy poses in front of the scenic backdrop. After the other group left, we still couldn’t really be bothered to move, so drew some ducks into the little red book and gave them all names. Once it was 1 o’clock we realised that if we didn’t move now we wouldn’t be back in time, so got our stuff together and moved out quite swiftly, finding the entrance without too much difficulty. It’s past Daren, the last indent in the cliff before an obvious large scree hill.
The cave was super chill, some fun squeezes and climbs, nothing too difficult, but ultimately also nothing particularly awe-inspiring. I decided to do the longest squeeze head-first on the way back out – Ana and Ellie were sceptical about the feasibility of this but once they saw me slip through like a slug they couldn’t help themselves and tried it, both proclaiming the superiority of the method. We were back out within an hour and a half, if that.
Cleaning the hut went smoothly, everyone was bundled into the bus and we dropped Perry off back in his creepy car park. Going over Severn Bridge Sandstorm was booming as is traditional, and all I could see in the rear-view mirror was Luke violently swinging the extremely sharp spike around his head.