Dave Kirkpatrick, Fiona Hartley, James Perry, Jennifer R, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Chris Hayes, Luke Matthew, Rory Rose
CHECC 2021 AKA: Glad we didn't freeze to death XD
The journey up was surprisingly enjoyable through good conversations and seamless transitions through music genres, from celtic folk to folk-rock fusion to 70s, then 90s classics, psychedelic rock, finishing with tubular bells. While I found the meditative repetition coupled with a violent blizzard outside quite relaxing I imagine Rory didn’t so much; visibility was appalling so he was having to drive at glacial speeds. A frozen Rio greeted us upon arrival and we soon learned about the many calamities that had befallen other cars. Some were hit by trees, rescued by firefighters, our other Imperial team had broken down several times but completely ran out of battery 10 minutes out, so had to be rescued by Rory. I helped Jennifer man the reception so enjoyed watching the chaos unfold from a safe distance. I had thought that the field would be too grim to pitch a tent in but eventually decided that braving the snow was preferable to trying to sleep next to the stomp, so pitched at 5:00. But only after watching Chris build an elaborate contraption out of twine and Bristol’s discarded costumes, providing him with a tight tube of cardboard to sleep in.
An incomplete list of all the things that happened to make this evening feel like total carnage:
- 8:30, snow and rain is starting to blow around, mildly intoxicated students are appearing and starting to fill the carpark
- there is little mobile data/signal so communication with the outside world is sparse
- Little Si is in full protective gear to manage parking
- the barn is cold as balls, colder even
- the wind and sleet is picking up, more people are arriving and the amount of mud is increasing, the barn is dripping on the DJ gear
- the wind is strong, the wind is wet, everyone is wet, it is cold as fuck
- parking is still chaos
- people never close the barn door
- the music eventually starts, people are drunk
- tents are breaking in the wind, all big tents will be destroyed, only expo-ready tents will survive
- Nottingham have been hit by a falling tree, someone has driven into a ditch?
- people cannot pitch in the wind, so from most people camping things have turned to most people sleeping inside with the only condition being "please try not to literally block the fire exits"
- Keiran's car has broken down on the M6
- everyone is piling inside in wet gear, all floors are wet, everyone is wet, going outside is going into a wet blizzard
- people are getting more drunk, other people can barely reach the venue because the roads are full of fallen trees
- Little Si is on his third complete change of clothes
- the wind is so strong
- someone is topless, jesus, it's below freezing!
- power cut, emergency lights come on, I haven’t made a hot water bottle, there is no salvaging this evening
- someone vomits and maybe hits their head; clean up by emergency lights is grim, an ambulance is called
- Keiran's car had been fixed but now they've broken down somewhere nearby; Rory drives off into the night to rescue them without directions, how will this work?
- the ambulance arrives! (rumour)
- exit the chaos but it is too cold to sleep in the tent even in complete foetal position
- get up, Keiran-car-humans have arrived, Ana looks completely haunted by the horrific journey
- power is still out
- actually the ambulance never arrived
- give up on this chaos again; some sleep achieved by huddling in the tent but the wind never stops trying to be involved in the huddle
- somehow time passes and now it is Saturday
I probably missed something. Long story short, the weather was vile.
Notts Pot: Dave Kirkpatrick, Fiona Hartley, Matti Mitropoulos, Chris Hayes, Rory Rose
After a wild night featuring bitter gales, vehicular breakdowns, power cuts and frozen revelry (for full details see above/ask at the pub sometime), a rather shell-shocked group of ICCC humans gathered in the cold Yorkshire Dales Guides barn to eat breakfast and discuss whether we would survive the day based on the amount of sleep we'd had. As we huddled, Rory bounced up and demanded to know the plan for the day.
I had packed ropes for the Centre and Adamson's routes in Notts Pot at the NPC on Friday evening, out of fear of running into three hundred students in Alum. Although I'd wanted to concentrate on caves in the Horton and Penyghent area near the CHECC venue such as Little Hull or Hunt Pot, none of them fitted with the need for something weatherproof and with the capability to take an unknown sized group of folks with varying SRT ability.
"I've packed for Notts 1," I said. Rory agreed so vehemently with the plan that I assumed he'd been before, but he hadn't. So eager was he that I also had to request we not leave immediately so I could finish my breakfast.
Though we'd only be a team of five (Dave was to meet us at the NPC) we were a leader-heavy group. "We want to go caving… and you seem like our best bet," Rosa from OUCC said, side-eyeing us. Flattered, we agreed we would rig the cave and help Oxford out with their multitude of freshers.
The ropes were at the NPC so the exit from the venue was relatively faff-free. I didn't even brush my teeth because that would have introduced too much faff for Rory. Teeth brushing occurred at the NPC instead. After a period of serenity in the toasty warm common room, Dave joined us. He declared caving to be a terrible idea and regretted his choices, and begrudgingly decided to leave his car at the NPC so he couldn't bail.
Fallen trees and walls demonstrated the destructive power of Storm Arwen all the way to the caves. At one point we had to snap many branches off a tree blocking the road up to Leck. The fell itself was truly arctic. The ice started at the cattle grid and the car shuddered in the wind. We'd changed into undersuits at the pennine, thank god, but it was absolutely biting when we eventually summoned the courage to get out. I had PVC and special thick gloves just for the surface walk and I still wondered if caving in these conditions was really a good idea. Dave didn't think so…
But by the time we'd walked to the cave, he'd changed his mind (just in time for me to start thinking caving was a horrific idea instead!). However, Rory was blessedly quick at rigging the entrance so we were soon off the surface and within the relative warmth and safety of the underground. Anyone would feel better out of the freezing wind and so did I.
Matti rigged down centre with Chris and I following, while Rory and Dave rigged Adamson's. Centre is pleasant and we dropped into three-way chamber. Rory had headed out after rigging the route to find Oxford and lead them to the cave. Dave pointed out the insitu rigging leading onwards to the deeper sections. Matti and Chris went to "have a look" which meant we didn't see them again til the cars. Dave and I obviously didn't go with them and after we'd all established a plan with turnaround timings etc, the two of us went back up Centre and hung out in the main chamber for an hour. Couldn't have done that on the surface today!
Oxford showed up with their group and two leaders. They didn't have much time left before turnaround time so we siphoned off three of their freshers to do the first pitch of Centre route while Rosa took the others down a bit of Adamson's. Rory, in the meantime, went down Adamson's so he could derig Centre from the three-way chamber. Matti was communicated with apparently and derigged Adamson's.
Dave went with the freshers down the first Centre pitch and called up to me, you can come down if you are cold. I did not go down because time and supervised the freshers returning to the pitch head. Dave and I then led the exit progression with Olaf and another Fiona.
Nobody struggled with the climb below the entrance pitch, yay. The surface rope was beginning to ice up. Once the four of us were out, we strung out in a line of lights across the fell, guiding one another back to the road. There was no need to get all the way changed as the cave was not wet, so we sat in the warm car in undersuits and waited for Rory, Chris and Matti to emerge. Once they had we went back to the Pennine to drop off the ropes. After I'd taken a necessary shower - not for cleanliness but for warmth - and bought fish and chips from Settle with Dave, it was back to CHECC and the chaos therein.
I was awoken after 2 short hours for breakfast, too cold to feel the tiredness. After an unnecessarily complex queueing system and some beans and toast, we decided to actually do some caving. Training of various sorts was taking place so it was just Fiona, Chris, DKP, Rory and I that were to descend Notts 1. Oxford were struggling for leaders so they joined us.
Upon arrival at the Leck Fell gate the hefty gales made us question our choices, but I eventually braved the cold, followed by a reluctant Dave and Fiona. Dave used his expert insider knowledge to locate the shakehole in the white wasteland (follow the fence until you reach a section with a wooden stake in the middle, then bear left at 45 degrees), and Rory began rigging the entrance. We split at the fork, Chris, Fiona and I heading down Centre, DKP and Rory down Adamson’s route, aiming to meet just before the lower streamway. I got some rigging practice in, and we met DKP at the entrance to the lower streamway. Rory had gone back up to help Oxford find the cave, so DKP and Fiona went up to meet them at the fork, and I took Chris further into the lower streamway using in situ rope we had found there (thank you, whoever’s that was). After the first major pitch I considered turning around to make sure we weren’t back late, but decided to push on. We made it to the bottom of a very impressive waterfall, but decided against the final 15m to avoid wetting ourselves. On the way back I lost my SRT bag somewhere without realising – the strap must’ve broken as I still had the krab attached. A tragedy, but fortunately I was able to get hold of replacements immediately from Tony.
The evening games began with aerial sock wrestling, where Chris swiftly dispatched his first opponent, but was bested by the second. Rory and I represented Imperial for pot and sling, and successfully executed the one-footed method to secure the win. Rory went first on table traverse and set a record both width and lengthways that went unbeaten for the entire evening. Several pints and hours later I was pretty knackered so sat in the corner of the stomp to enjoy the sub-bass. I don’t remember walking back to my tent but must’ve done at some point, as I awoke freezing the next morning.
Another freezing day. I mostly spent it cleaning and being snowed on. Rory managed to go caving somewhere with someone. In spite of the roads icing up everybody eventually escaped intact from CHECC, some of us to London, some of us to Crewe, some of us to the Settle curry house. Whether sanity was also intact is another story ahahaha.
CHECC was certainly an experience. Shockingly the caving was by far the calmest part. I'd probably repeat it, but next time I'd be sure to make a hot water bottle before any power cuts.
No caving today, I was feeling exceptionally crap, and I was to attend the AGM and delegates meeting. After a couple hours of aimless wandering and sporadic tidying of various areas, the AGM actually began. A new checcretary, prizes and congratulations featured, and followed by a call to start the slow process of cleaning of the entire venue. More weather drama occurred in the evening – the driveway up to the main road had become icy. Total chaos ensued, lots of people spontaneously became ice experts, people shouting something about grit or ash or salt or something. Eventually Rory drove out, and shortly after we were on our way back to London.