Yorkshire III

Alex Seaton, Augustinas Prusokas, Isha Kaur, Jack Hare, James Perry, Kenneth Tan, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Sam, Stephanie Ford, Yuqi Wang, Zoe Young

Friday

The drive was fine - Perry did the whole stretch from Leamington Spa, where we collected Alex, his mate Sam and all the groceries. Despite horrific traffic on the M6 we made it around 1 am.

Jack Hare

At some point, traversing one of the windy roads between the M6 and the NPC, we encountered a lorry blocking the entire road. We watched it for 15 minutes as it hopelessly attempted to turn round. A local woman informed us that the lorry driver was foreign and had hit a bridge. We drove past as soon as there was space. The lorry driver shouted "sorry" at the back of our accelerating bus. Don't be sorry, lorry driver man, be careful.

Rhys

On Wednesday, I went along to stores in the scary corner of Beit quad to have a scary amount of gear thrown at me, and then to tree training to actually learn the rope techniques I needed on Saturday. I learned to go up - “prusiking” - using a chest jammer, hand jammer, shot cord and foot loop; how to do an upwards “rebelay” (quick Google for the spelling of these) using the ascending gear plus cowstails; then to switch to descending, using a go-descender and braking crab; downwards rebelay and finally hopping off the rope! Additionally, all this was attached to a hip harness which secured using a central maillon (which I insist on thinking of as “mion” as in “pion”) - and a shoulder harness to hold up the chest jammer. You can understand my nervousness!

After lectures on Friday I gathered my full rucksack and sleeping bag and poofy coat and went to help pack the minibus. I managed to avoid all the carrying of kit out from stores by helping Rhys to collect the minibus, but then everything had to be passed up to the roof and strapped down. Then we all bundled in amongst the ropes and drove up to Yorkshire. We had a break at Morrisons when myself and two other novices attempted to decide what the appropriate amount of alcohol to take was. There was more carrying to unpack the bus at the NPC cottage but pretty quickly we were all snoring in our dormitories.

Stephanie

Saturday

Notts 1: Everyone!

In/Out Centre Left Adamsons
Centre Peter, Kenneth Auggy, Steph
Left Isha, Yu Qi, Zoe Rhys, Perry
Adamsons Jack, Diss Alex, Sam
Notes on finding Notts 1.

Notts 1 is located directly in the center of the field with Notts 2 in it. The field containing Lost changes is adjacent to the North East. Enter the field at the gate by the cattle grid. In good visibility it would be enough to walk up the field, skirting the South West wall until you see, to your left, the very large shakehole which contains Notts 1. It's by far the largest shakehole in the field.

In poor visibility it is difficult. Jack suggests that up the field (I imagine skirting the South West wall again) until you get to a particularly steep rise. Notts 1 is possibly at the top of this rise and in the center of the field.

Tanguy suggests that it should be possible to find by walking due south from Lost Johns' (with the aid of a compass). You will encounter Lost Pot, Boxhead and possibly Perilous Pot whilst walking and then reach the wall. Cross over and continue walking due south and you should arrive at Notts 1. This also has the advantage of hypotenuseing the usual route so is somewhat shorter (but involves more walking cross country). Might be worth a try in future.

Reports...

Breakfast done and minibus packed we headed to Notts 1. A grade 1 change and soon was ready to head off with Rhys, Isha, Yuqi and Zoe to attempt to find the entrance in the thick fog. After wandering around a field of heather for a decent amount of time we came across the others who were just entering the field. Having now regrouped we had a better chance of scouring the field and finding the entrance. The going was surprisingly tough and after a couple of regroups and redirections we found the entrance to Notts 1. Not the staggered start we had hoped for but at least were at a cave.

Rhys rigged the entrance series as I briefed Yuqi on SRT before demonstrating the way on and waiting at the ledge of the first rebelay. Jack more thoroughly showed Yuqi the ropes and we were soon on our way with Zoe and Isha close behind. The going was steady and techniques were improving as we made our way down left route. Rhys rigged a dodgy traverse, admired his work before telling me “That looks really difficult, I don't know how you will do it” (OWTTE). Rhys then left a couple of slings tied to the rope and buggered off. The pitch was about 35 metres and quite scary for me let alone Yuqi on her first SRT trip, Zoe and Isha seemed to be coping just fine behind us. Yuqi handled my terrible instructions very well and after using the slings for some foot holds and extra clip points I managed to man handle her close enough to the rope to rig her descender. I could breathe, I was quite nervous due to the height and my less than sturdy footing. About 2m down the rope Yuqi started to yell up in a panic. She had caught her hair. I couldn't see what was happening from my angle but she assured me she couldn't lock off her descender. I maneuvered as close as possible and was just using the two slings to lower her my knife when she managed to pull her hair free. Phew! Too many terrifying stories of tanguy on a rescue mission, I didn't want to have to do that! We all managed to make our way to the bottom of the pitch we shortly met up with the other groups who had taken centre route and adamson’s. On the way up me and Rhys left via Adamson’s with Augustinas and Stephanie. Some technical rigging (due to wrong directions?) made this rather enjoyable and soon we were in the entrance chamber. At this point I stayed back as everyone else exited in order to join Jack, Isha, Diss, Zoe and Yuqi. Some poor equipment had not helped Yuqi and at this point she was exhausted. I lead the way out with Zoe and Yuqi as Isha derigged behind Diss and Jack. I struggled to assist Zoe through a tight pitch head but after attempt one was able to get yuqi through a lot more easily. After being a trodden on by Yuqi and zoe as I lifted them up a difficult free climb for freshers we made it to the surface. We trudged back exhausted through the dark and fog. Our journey made short by the assistance of some minibus headlights. I started my evening with a can of special brew, and after many more fosters and morrisons own brand 22p Lagers, ended it very merrily in bed.

Perry-o-dado

Thick fog shrouded us as we changed on Leck Fell. My team; Zoe, Yu Qi, Perry and Isha. A crack team indeed. With the entrance ropes we set off first down the road and hopping into the Notts 2 field by the cattle grid. Finding Notts 1 can be a challenge at the best of times. The visibility today however was just a few metres. We'd collectively remembered something about following a dry valley up from Notts 2. However the small valley that Notts 2 is in points the wrong way at both ends and whatever feature we thought was so good before is not obvious in thick fog. We wandered up the field, hopefully following sheep tracks, for a long time. We eventually lost hope and decided to head back down to Notts 2 and have another think. As we got back the other groups arrived and together we headed up the field again. This time, with 13 of us fanned out across the field and bouncing off the fences a few times, we found the entrance.

I started rigging, Perry behind me was supervising Yu Qi and Zoe, Isha bringing up the rear. We regrouped in the main chamber and then meandered down Left. The first pitch was no problem. The second (and major) pitch was more interesting. The bolts shown on the rigging guide at the top didn't entirely match with what I found but I made it work and was soon working my way round the traverse. I dithered for a while on the Y-hang, unsure of how to make it friendly to the less experienced. The y-hang is quite a far from the traverse line, and there are few footholds. I left eventually, leaving two slings for people to position as footloops if necessary, and despite my fears everyone managed to get down quite quickly, thanks to some patient guidance by Perry.

I followed the straight drop down, ignoring the window. Down the next little drop into a puddle. As I waited for Yu Qi I piled some more rocks into the puddle to try and make it a dryer landing. I think it only really worked for me as no one else could tell where the rocks were in the cloudy water. The window route is supposedly nicer because it doesn't land in this puddle.

Jack arrives.

With the other caught up I dropped down the final hang to see Kenneth and Stephanie waiting in the chamber where the routes meet. One by one everyone arrived from their group and mine. Kenneth and Peter went to rig the next traverse. Jacks group then appeared from Adamsons. Conscious of time, and the fact that Kenneth and Peter had been sketched out by the amount of water down the next pitch we all started heading out. I was derigging Adamsons. As people left it became apparent that there was one too many rope bags compared to able prussickers. We discussed it for a bit, including as I prussicked away, until I convinced Peter that he wouldn't have another bag till near the end of Left anyway and that he should take it. Kenneth eventually ended up taking it, it seems.

The way out was as enjoyable as the way in. Perry and I had swapped our previous team for Augustinas and Stephanie and as a four we made good progress. Jack had chosen to rig a very strange route in Adamsons, involving an exposed loose muddy traverse, but it was relatively well rigged and a novel change to the usual. We arrived back in the main chamber to find the Left group all waiting and the Centre group just arriving. We agreed to head back in two waves (as we had two compii) and the first, including myself, headed out. We had a lot of fund shuffling bags around, making it a real team effort to get them all up the entrance pitches. I think we exited at around 7pm.

It was dark and foggy. The vis on the surface was possibly as low as 3 metres, but otherwise relatively warm and windless. We had a brief argument about the direction the minibus was in in which my contribution was to loudly state that I had a compass several times. I tried to head North West, but ended up I think veering more West and we hit the fence, following that until it brought us to the road. After changing we moved the bus down to the cattle grid to pick up wave two, who were glad to have been able to follow the lights of the bus.

The evening was one of the more active in a while. We played a lot of caving games. Isha and I drew at the squeeze machine and I'm not sure who's resulting injuries were worse. I'm definitely still feeling the internal bruising several days later. Perry gets an award for trying hardest, eventually requiring help from Jack and me (putting our entire body weights on either side of the squeeze machine). Kenneth and I turn out to be an incredible pot and sling duo and certainly the limiting factor will be Kenneths shoulder width.

Rhys

Did anyone mention the fog was thick? It was thick. Thick as balls. Rhys set off first with Perry to find and rig the entrance, leaving the rest of us to run through SRT with the novices using ropes hung from the side of the minibus. Eventually we got bored and cold, so we went towards the cave, finding Rhys and his team appearing out the mist just as we got the Notts 2. Not a great start, so we all went off together in a big line looking for the obvious shakehole. The visibility was so poor that we turned on our cave lights to make it easier to see each other, and I was worried about losing a novice. We found two other (well supported) digs in the field that I've never seen before before I finally spotted Notts 1 far out on the right flank of our search line.

We froze slightly as Rhys rigged down. I warmed myself up by rushing around making a nuisance of myself, telling novices how to rig their descenders and getting my group to do the penguin dance. Finally we were down, and with Diss close behind me I went to the main chamber where all the routes diverge. The rest of Kenneth's group were waiting to descend - Kenneth had missed the big deviation right at the top and had to come back up. My laughter was short lived as I contemplated the dodge unprotected free climb up that I would have to take. The bolts were at least 5 m apart, so I used a sling on a nice natural to reassure myself. 20 m of rope is not quite enough from the bottom, so the traverse line was a bit tight, but I didn't care, I was through!

In the little chamber at the top of the traverse there were several obvious ways on. Tanguy had gone the wrong way on a previous trip through Adamson's, though I didn't know excatly where, so I was very wary. The big steel rungs hammered into the wall looked like a good lead, and I VF'd up them, clipping my cowstails as high as possible and leaning back on them to rig the rope. The next section is meant to be a traverse, but as far as I could tell the only purpose is so that the two bolts can back each other up. The pitch drops into a small chamber with a few options, and I waited for the rest of my group to get more rope.

First I used a bolt to look low on the left, but I didn't see any other bolts, so I backed up and climbed up high on the right. Through here was the remans of a streamway, the bottom eaten away to form a deep rift below. Looking at the rigging guide I could see that I was supposed to step over a big hole before taking a y-hang down, so I ignored the obvious y-hang on my left. THIS IS THE CORRECT WAY DOWN. But I didn't know this, so we got to do a more exciting route.

The traverse continues with some technical sections, almost crawling through underneath a tight section. Needless to say, this was fun to rig, and I had quite a bead on by the time I got to the y-hang. Dropping down I just managed to land on a muddy saddle. Some tat lead down to the right, back underneath the traverse I had just rigged across. Instead, I followed the bolts to a pitch on the left. At the bottom of this beautiful 30 m pitch I found no way on, and called to the others to wait whilst I ascended. It turns out I'd accidentally gone into the Acrobat series - probably fun in its own right, but no good for meeting up with the others!

At the muddy saddle I rigged my rope down following the tat, and ran out of rope just at the p-bolt that backs up the y-hang of the big 50 m pitch. This pitch is a beauty - surprisingly narrow, a bit drippy, but with a beautiful deviation high up that drops you clear of rock and water. There is a second deviation lower down, with in situ tat, but I was pleased to see that it made no difference to the one I'd rigged above. At the bottom I could hear the others shouting merrily, and I asked them for the way on. A blast of light directed me into a tight little hole on the left of the chamber, so I rigged a slightly tight traverse to a single bolt which dropped me right into the rest of them.

Kenneth and Peter had gone on to check out the lower traverse, but everyone else was there. I'd had a blast going down with a really good group on an awesome route, and I wanted to get to know some of the new cavers better, so I suggested going out centre with Yuqi and Zoe, aided by Isha. Diss was sent with us to speed things up, and she was quite useful on the way up pulling on ropes when people were climbing.

Yuqi took a while on the first pitch - her sit strap was too tight so she couldn't get her legs up high, and her chest harness strap was fed through the buckle wrongly, so it could never tighten up. There was nothing I could do but wait, and at the top of the pitch there was a nice broad ledge, so I got Yuqi and Zoe onto that (clipping cowstails to the line as if it was a traverse and derigging descenders as opposed to doing it as a proper rebelay) before heading up the next bit. This is also a long pitch with another broad ledge at the top, a bit easier to get off the rope than the previous one, but still a bit tough.

The next section is a bit tighter, in a rift, and has a hanging rebelay. It helps to make the loops of knots such as fig 8s really small so that they are easier to clip into - long loops hang low, and are very tight near the knot where most people can reach. I eventually shoved a spared krab through the knot to act as a clip in point. it was at the rebelay I appreciated how bad Yuqi's chest jammer was - an ancient thing with an all metal handle, and its teeth were so sharp it bit into the rope and wouldn't let go even when the gate was open! I got Zoe to go up the next pitch before me cos I could hear Peter up above and got him to look out for her.

I got up and found the other groups were all up already, and we were quite behind. Not wanting to keep everyone waiting in the cave, Rhys and I agreed that he should take most people out and I'd form a second wave. I begged to be allowed to keep Perry, partially as eye candy and partially as much needed muscle for helping tired cavers up the pitches and free climbs still to come. As Yuqi came up I rigged a second line down on a spare set of bolts and helped her with the high deviation at the top of the Centre pitch - it's not too hard, but when you're tired and a shorter it can be tough. I'd never rigged a second line down to help someone before and felt quite good that I was able to do so quickly and confidently.

With the rest up I finally got to see Isha, who was derigging. I'd assumed she'd be tired, but she was full of excitement and enthusiasm, and insisted on derigging the rest. Shrugging, I sent Perry out first with Zoe and Yuqi, and then followed Diss up. We were soon out on the surface, where the fog hadn't improved (did anyone mention it was foggy?) but we soon saw the minibus headlights and headed for them. They moved the minibus from the normal parking area to the cattle grid, which was a good call as we got there quickly without jumping over any fences. Home, big pot of lentil slop that wouldn't have been out of place in Slov, caving games and booze, and then a blissful first night in the NPC bunk room for me.

Jack Hare

Saturday morning arrived at a very reasonable time with large numbers of sausages and egg-fried bread, bacon, mushrooms, beans - yummy! It’s hard to eat lunch in caves, so chocolate bars are the way forwards. The first day we were doing Notts 1 (logic), in three groups - left, centre and John Adamsons (less logic). Jack put me in the centre group, as the easiest route, because I was stupidly nervous. Augustinus was my fellow novice, and we had Kenneth and Peter as our experienced cavers.

Once again we dragged kit bags, ropes and ourselves onto the minibus and drove off to a random field on top of a random hill. And then, on top of a random hill in a random field in Yorkshire in winter, we stripped down to our undies to don our furries, wet socks, oversuits, knee pads, wellies, harnesses, helmets and gloves. Brilliantly, Jack, Kenneth and Peter then rigged up the side of the bus so we could have a final SRT technique practice. In theory, Rhys, Perry, Esha and the more confident novices went to find the cave, but in fact we then spent an hour or so trying to find a big hole in a bumpy field full of heather and covered in fog. It was unbelievably low visibility, even at noon - we all had our helmet lights on, and regrouping involved a fair amount of “ayyy-ohhhh”ing. But find it we did, and eventually we all descended off a ledge and into the unknown (for some of us, anyway).

The first descent was exhilarating at the time but retrospectively boring, because it got better and better. In part it is simply that you rely on your body and the ropes to get to these otherwise inaccessible places, and in part it’s that the only light is your helmet torch - because each rope is done a person at a time, the long descents are just you alone, in the quiet and the dark. But the appeal is also the caves themselves - they’re so alien, everything is inverted, and the sizes are so extreme. At times you could (if you put your descender on hard lock) reach out and touch both sides of the cave at once, but be unable to see top or bottom. There are great folds of rock which ripple downwards like sheets of wild honeycomb, and your rope trails above you into nothingness. At other times you have to lie close to the floor against water-smoothed rocks and pebbles and all you can see is the rock face right in front of you because there isn’t space to turn your head fully. I learnt that you are not officially stuck in between the walls if someone (read: Kenneth) can still see past you.

I’m glad I begun on an easy route and appreciated these things. We reached the bottom first, and I joined Kenneth singing songs in the dark, deep underground. Once everyone else joined us it was time for hot squash and chocolate bars eaten with damp (muddy) fingers.

Augustinus and I went back up John Adamsons with Perry and Rhys. It was a lot harder than the way down! Maybe just because prusiking is harder than using a descender, but it was also a harder route - lots of switching from ascending to interesting traverses. It’s a lot about technique, upper body strength and willingness to scramble inelegantly as well. (I have one of those, at least). I only nearly-panicked once, and luckily Perry was nearby to tell me to chill out and try lots of different things. But up was definitely more of a workout, and a testing of capabilities, than down was.

I was so glad to get to the surface, tramp across the field, now in both mist and darkness, change back to normal clothes and eat many apple pies back on the minibus. Back at the cottage, whilst dinner was cooking, we unpacked kit bags and did our best to ensure that the base layers would be dry for Sunday (this was surprisingly successful - apparently it’s an advantage of the NPC hut, that it has “a drying room that actually dries”), and then recoiled the rope which had been used, which was incredibly hard on my poor arms, but did at least stop them from going stiff. Dinner was “slop” ie. lentil curry, with tea from a beautifully enormous teapot and the aforementioned wine. And then it was time for caving games.

I picked up the most impressively extensive (but sadly not excitingly coloured) bruise on my forearm attempting to do the table traverse, and Diss and I proved quite good at the pot and sling game, but I was never going to be any good at the “squeeze-machine”. Esha definitely won that one, managing to slide through the two planks of wood almost with ease, even though Perry seemed to feel no pain and Rhys is about the width of the length of a biro (I can say that truthfully because he later measured the gap they were squeezing through!) By this point I’d had enough wine to be feeling significantly less self-conscious, and the games were becoming more of a free-for-all, with the can game going on in one corner, three-table traverses miraculously happening and people trying to pick up cardboard from the floor with their mouths, and vague attempts being made to make the fire burn properly.

Stephanie

Sunday

Lost Johns: Rhys, Perry, Isha

'I love caving.'

I was hungover, so followed Rhys and Isha into Lost John’s. I didn't smile much and just hid at the back with my light on its dimmest setting. Things got slightly better when I left the cave.

Perry-o-dado

Most people were up for a splash around Notts 2 so Isha, Perry and I were free for a quick, cheeky, Lost Johns' rigging practice sesh. Unfortunately the usual car parking spot was full up with other people, presumabley with the gall to have permits to Lost Johns' or something, so we had to walk up from the cattle grid. Thats half the reasons for doing Lost Johns' gone right there.

Once in the cave we climbed over to Dome. I always forget how terrifying the traverse above the stream is. Someone put a rope on it, please! At the first pitch I supervised Isha rigging. Someone else has already been down, so we were careful to keep our ropes untangled. Isha already knew the knots so she was pretty quick. We dropped down the first and then the second in rapid succession. At the the (and first big pitch) Isha rigged a long traverse (following the lead of the other group) and a nice y-hang before dropping down to rig a dev. Perry and and I chilled in the chamber and he became gradually less responsive as I again and again got him to say the "I feel like a pig shat in my head" line from Withnail and I.

I was getting ready to descend when I heard a cry from below. Isha had run out of rope. Change over, back up, have a think. Don't really know how this happened. Possibly the traverse was rigged too far back but we'd only have gained another couple of meters from that. Maybe bring 35m rope next time? Still good experience (when there are knots in the bottom). We had a fuck up rope so could've continued but decided to head out at this point as time was getting on and also Perry had become non-verbal apart from demanding that I turn off my light. Isha derigged behind me. Perry dissapeared in front of me, fleeing my light like some anti-moth. On the surface Perrys condition improved and his normal jovial self returned. Isha's condition worsened as she realised she had lost her watch.

The drive back was good. As is now traditional we googled a random sign. Last time we looked up a church after seeing its minibus and uncovered a bizarre child trafficking scam. The guy himself was driving. This time we googled a sign that said "Woods for Sale". We then spent an hour in a giggling as it turns out that you can become a Small Wood Owner. Also more songs should have pan flutes.

Rhys

Notts 2: Jack, Kenneth, Alex, Peter, Isha, Yuqi, Zoe, Stephanie, Augustinas, Diss, Sam

I would not go in there.

I love Notts 2. I love getting a novice to lead the way. I love seeing how they respond to the Escheresque nightmare, the eldritch horror, the sheer mind-boggling nonsense that is digging out a cave and propping it up with dodgy scaffolding and electrical wire and bent ladders. Augustinas did us proud down to the drippy chamber, and then Diss lead us up stream. We practised keeping together by stopping when we couldn't see the light of the person behind us - this worked quite well and when we emerged out of the narrow streamway Yuqi lead the way, bravely through the deep water. We got to the nice white column at the top end of one streamway, and I took lots of photos that all looked worthless later on - ISO was too high.

On the way back, Kenneth and I decided to try and make it out of the cave without using our hands, folding our arms behind our back in imitation of a much loved old lag. This was fun in the deep water, and we decided to explore up another inlet, with Zoe going first until the water began to get seriously deep. The way back through the streamway bruised my shoulders as I continuously used them to prop myself up, and I even got most of the way up the free climb before I realised that others in the group might need my help and stopped fucking about.

Back to the NPC, reheated slop and packing away, and off down the M6 and back to an uncertain world.

Jack Hare

Luckily, Sunday morning was just as polite with its arrival as Saturday was, and I was up in time to drink tea and butter toast before breakfast. The cave we did on Sunday, Notts 2, was very different from Notts 1, because it is a streamway, so mostly we travelled horizontally, but also because it was discovered by cave divers and then dug down to, so the entrance is both man-made and completely insane.

There’s a tiny, square hole covered with a drain cover, and until you slither through you can’t see what’s below, which is a maze of scaffolding bars (to prevent the shaft from collapsing) and ladders, which seem to be barely attached to anything. It’s like a steampunk jungle gym, or dystopian Jimmy G’s. Jack described it as “Escher-esque” which would be apt except it doesn’t convey the chaoticness and disorganisation of the shaft. But it was great fun to climb down - less fun on the way back up because I kept bumping my head (thank goodness for helmets) and shoulders (ow) on random bars and bolts. The next stage was narrower, and one side of the shaft was breezeblocks, so loads of footholds, to do a sort of “brace and shuffle” trick. The last part of the entrance was a very low, horizontal slither and a bit of zig-zagging to find a big enough gap to drop through (“falling with style”) before we regrouped in a large cavern, complete with “rain” coming through the ceiling.

Finally we actually entered the streamway, which is exactly what it sounds like - a stream along the bottom of an ancient river which has worn away the rock along its path. Serpentine is the only word for it. And very narrow, but very high, so that random boulders are wedged at strange angles high (or not so high, I nearly walked into a few) above our heads, including a trio of rocks forming a natural arch, complete with keystone. The water level ranged from ankle deep to waist deep plus - we turned back from an exploration when it became too deep to wade through.

And this was where we found limestone formations. Not so many stalactites or -mites, but a few full columns and hundreds of delicate straws of all different lengths, and beautiful ripples which looked like huge ear flaps, or melted candle wax. I think these must form along the edges of impact holes - all the rock is dinted, everywhere, without looking damaged, because of the smoothing from the water rushing past. It was less sparkly than Notts 1, which had lots of tiny water droplets to reflect helmet lights, and I wonder whether the shape of the cave affects how the water forms and collects.

At the far end of the cave we ate our chocolate bars and posed for cave photos, before squelching as far as we possibly could through a tunnel and up a mud rise - the sand forms this incredibly thick, clay-like paste, and I had horrible visions of either losing a wellie boot or falling face down into it! Luckily (I guess) on the way back we passed through the deep water again, so we got clean(er). This time I fell behind Zoe, who was in front of me, and was struck by solitude, despite the comfort of others’ lights behind me. The cave somehow seemed more sinister, deeper and twistier, without a fellow caver to follow.

Back at the cavern we emptied a surprising amount of water - although by no means all of it - from our boots, refueled and realised just how muddy we were (well, I did, everyone else was, if anything, expecting worse), before beginning the climb back to the surface. Lots of hooking of elbows to pull up to the next foothold, and boy but did my arms complain about it on Monday! But it wasn’t too tricky, and it was satisfying to get into and out of a cave underground without using gadgets, even if the occasional ladder was involved!

Back at the cottage before we headed back to London, we sorted kit, even going as far as separating the different kinds of crab, whilst feasting on crumpets and brie, then packed up, finished up the curry, cleaned up, loaded up the minbus, and off we went. Pretty soon I was tucked up in bed, with the mud out of my hair but not out from underneath my fingernails, achy and bruised but happy. Looking forward to my next trip!

Stephanie

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