Mendips I

Alex Herriott, Gergely Ambrus, James Kirkpatrick, Jana Carga, Jarvist Frost, Mo, Sam, Tim Osborne, Veronique Mahue

Friday

Swildon's Sump 1 (Sam, Veronique, Mo', Tim O, James KP, Jarv, Jana, Gergely)

Drive to the Belfry uneventful, motorways relatively clear, not much traffic, shopping in Swindon, got slightly lost in Bristol and in the wild west... errr I mean Somerset. Got to the hut to be met by a handful of BEC members and by Southampton students. Stuffed our faces with cheese on toast and tea while Jarv uncharacteristically fretted about going caving NOW NOW NOW: he wisely predicted that Swildon's hole would be uber busy on Saturday and that it would be a good idea to visit in the dark. So we left the hut while the Belfry occupants sneered and labeled us "over-keen".

We got changed in the barn at Priddy Green and started walking in the frosty night, the crisp grass crackling under-boot. Soon enough we reached the entrance to Swildon's: a placid looking stream which noisily disappears under a man made tower. Staring down at the triangular manhole into the dark stones covered in foamy water was not exactly attractive. The entrance series consists of a rather wet scramble in the river followed by a dry passage. The passage soon rejoins the river and becomes beautifully decorated with calcite and the stumps of stals long since removed by inconsiderate collectors. This pretty much sets the character for the rest of the cave: horizontal rift following the river, small climbs leading to small pools. Soon enough we reach the 20: a 7m ladder pitch on/in a waterfall.

The water levels were sufficient to make the ladder climb "interesting" without actually being terrifying. After the 20, the river cascades into small pools which are negotiated by some rather wet and sporting climbs. Once again the river is temporarily abandoned for some pleasant dry passage until Sump 1 is reached. At Sump 1 we stop and stock on calories while James KP has a go at diving through the yellow scummy foam. The Sump is cold but short: it definitely gets the pulse going to submerge oneself in the dark guided only by a rope! We eat, turn around and make a hasty exit: we don't want freshers to think that caving is bumbling around so try to make some time. By 5.30 am we are back at the Belfry for more cheese on toast and some well deserved snoozing.

Saturday:

Longwood Swallet (Tim O, Gergely, Mo', Veronique, James KP)

Tim Gergely and James receive detailed descriptions of Longwood and we leave, the plan is for the rest of the team to have a go at Tyning's Barrow Swallet (they will find it impossible to locate the key-holder for the cave and end up doing some " tea-shop caving" . It's drizzling when we leave, but the locals ensure us all will be fine. We get changed in our wetsuits and walk to the entrance: a pillbox surmounted by a manhole next to a quiet stream. As soon as Veronique skillfully manages to open the manhole lock (a feat of dexterity!), we descend the sporting 10m entrance climb, spray making the air wet and cold.

Tim is the person who has been here most recently and he is a bit worried by the amount of water. We decide this climb is doable in the present condition and decide to continue. Next comes an awkward downhill sloping letterbox squeeze which ends in a sharp left bend (Tim and James curse their legs profusely as they contort their way past this). Once everyone curses and thrutches their way through this (Mo's memorable quote was "this is what I imagined caving would be like"), we wait till Gergely and Tim rig the first 5m ladder pitch. The start of the climb down is really tight and awkward, in future it might be easier to just rig it as a hand line: there's no way to fit a ladder a belay and a climber there! We descend the ladder, have a quick peak down August hole where the waterfall has reached "Niagara"-like flow rates and decide to continue.

Soon we reach a chamber with a wall of spray entering from the left, again more "to go or not to go" debate, Gergely and James climb down through the the stream to reach a chamber which needs traversing. On the ay out, they realise the climb in the wet is rather more sporting than Veronique and Mo' might enjoy. The climb is tricky and the water quite strong. We decide to stop for some food and turn around. Gergely guides Veronique and Mo' out while James and Tim have a go at derigging the blasted ladder. In a constricted space the ladder is somehow "coiled" and packed. More swearing and splashing on the letterbox squeeze and we soon get out. It has been raining solidly on our way out and the entrance climb is unpleasant indeed.

We are met by Jana and Jarv who recount their adventurous tea shop day and tell us the rest of the folks at the Belfry had been worried about our safety. We certainly did not get too far, but on the upside everyone got out in one piece. Once at the Belfry we eat a veritable feast (courtesy of Sam and Alex!), get pissed and sleep stacked like sardines in the overcrowded bunks: yuk!

Sunday:

Swildon's hole Black Hole series (Gergely, James KP, Jarv, Tim O)

We zoom down to Priddy, get changed, stomp to the entrance. We are in a hurry today as we expect the St Cuthberts team to be out early. Now it has been raining solidly all weekend and Swildon's is much much wetter than Friday, net result? Everything is super sporting. Anyways, we are Team Keen, the Elite, or rather Uber 733T: none is holding back and we tromp at speed. The ladder at the 20 is quickly passed, the twin pools are climbed in four different ways (I'm gonna do it better and quicker seems to be the spirit :D ).

Sump 1 is reached, time is running out [Jarv: Ok, I admit - it was my stupidly early callout of 4:30pm at the Belfry], so we decided to leave the ladders and ropes behind and just go have a look at the Black Hole. We crawl thought an easy spacious duck, walk up a muddy passage (Gergely loves soft mud!), up a muddy handline. James is leading and reaches a dead end. By the time he turns around, the rest of team has found the correct way to the black hole, he however is under the impression that the team has left for the main river. Once there, he realises he is alone. Him and his Tikka. His water filled cheap Chinese Tikka knock-off. Where is everyone? He decides to sit it out and after a while is rejoined by the rest of the team. Soon we traverse the sump. After a quick snack they spring into action and start boosting out.

Even though we have to wait for a group of three to negotiate the 20, and even though we uncoil their absurdly knotted ladder we are out in exactly 1 hour from the otherside of Sump 1. Pant pant pant! Good trip! We are getting changed when Gergely realises his clothes have been nicked from the changing barn: downer!

St Cuthberts (Jana, Alex, Mo', Veronique, Sam)

No idea, seems pretty, entrance wet bla bla bla.

James Kirkpatrick

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