Alex Seaton, Celia Tinsley, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Jack Halliday, Jennifer Ryder, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Sam Lee, Úna Barker
I arrived a little early and dropped by the Cider Barn to pick up 8 gallons of cider, much to the amusement (and awe) of the local residents and barkeep. Stocked up I headed over to the SMCC - which was occupied by a family of Austrians plus some locals who's house was broken.
I elected not to scare the Austrians by bringing in the whole collection at once (also 8 gallons is hard to carry and there would be people around later to do that for me), instead bringing in only one jug and sharing a glass with Austrian Papa (I did ask his name and promptly forgot it)
The others arrived half an hour later and we settled in for the evening.
Everything occurred nice and late as our only driver was Alex, who kindly got the train to London to drive the minibus to The Mendips. The journey was uneventful, and we arrived at a reasonable time, greeted by some small children on a strange skateboard type thing that I would later find to be excellent entertainment. Dave provided a stomach-pump worthy volume of genuine Cider Barn cider, featuring the delicious rhubarb variety that tasted exactly like rhubarb and custard sweets. The bunk room was inhabited by some humans who apparently lived down the road but had to be out of the house for repairs or some other thing.
Swildons Hole: Celia Tinsley, Dave Kirkpatrick, Jack Halliday, Rebecca Diss, Sam Lee
Wherein we definitely went the right way.
Today I was determined to do the Swildons short round as we were defeated by the ducks and lack of time on the previous trip. No wellies were too large, and no wrong turns were made.
Thrupe Lane Swallet: Alex Seaton, David Wilson, Jennifer Ryder, Peter Ganson, Úna Barker
We got to the cave after a short 10min drive (where we went round in a full circle and only Peter and Alex noticed), parked in the layby and immediately went to have a look to see how high the water was. Yes! The stream was so low, the water was all flowing into the neighbouring Hobnail Hole, and the dam wasn’t even being used. We retreated back to the bus and got changed in the blazing sunshine. The farmer came over to have a chat and asked about how the digging was going, after a few minutes we both realised we didn’t know what we were talking about and he sauntered off back to his tractor.
I was ready first so wandered off to the cave to start rigging the short entrance pitch (at 11:30am, before 12!), a multitude of bolts made this easy and Jennifer and I were soon down in the entrance chamber and were stuck into the awkward, but not unpleasant crawl out of the side of the chamber towards the railway series (not the continuing rift). At this point a lot of faff happened, the result of which caused me to get the laminated survey, and Alex to retrieve a first aid kit from the bus.
After some time we continued, down a pleasant 8ft free-climb and into a nice crawl, which quickly lowered into a muddy squeeze followed by a climb up in a cross-rift and an uncomfortably tight, sharp squeeze that claimed the string from my SRT bag. Emerging in a junction we turned right, up-dip and a short squeeze popped us out directly above Chimney pot. “That’s terrifying,” I remarked to Jennifer, whose head then appeared over the top of the drop.
Rigging a short traverse/backup off a natural to protect the top of the pitch then a rebelay for the main drop off a really good natural I proceeded down and landed at the bottom. Choosing the only passable (by myself) way I popped out again over a larger drop. I secured myself to the in-situ tat so I could get into a position to rig. It took 15 minutes of adjusting to get the rope into a place where it wouldn’t rub on the mercilessly sharp flakes just chilling 2m down the pitch. I got down onto a ledge where the rope landed and tried to find the way on. A 6m ‘free climb’ just past a bold step looked the likely way on, but knowing the real depth of the small hole off the bottom of the climb I attempted to rig this as a pitch off 2 rock bollards. Finding my rope 1m too short, I retrieved the next bag from Jennifer and decided just to re-rig the drop, off the bollards with the 70m rope, instead of forcing people to do a knot pass.
After some discussion with Peter we decided to ignore the guide’s advice to drop down the small, incredibly loose pitch, and instead followed the bolts down to the window pitch, which I estimate at ~50m. Hearing water I put my hood up, which Peter thought was confidence-inspiring, but it turned out to be a good move. Rigging a lovely hang off the bolts I started descending the impressive shaft, landing on a near vertical slab with a torrent running down it, I had a choice between swinging around and finding the Eagle’s nest, or going down with the stream, I chose the latter and enjoyed getting splashed in the waterfall, finding a dry-ish safe place to wait for the others.
After everyone had arrived we explored the streamway, after all getting soaked on a downclimb in the water, and a couple of easy climbs down, the streamway became a sinuous rift, ending in a gravel-watery choke thing after 5min. I volunteered to de-rig (being the only one in PVC) and Alex and Úna disappeared up the pitch, then Jennifer and Peter, Alex put a lovely deviation in on the way up to keep everyone out of the waterfall. After waiting at the bottom for 1hr30, I made my escape, and we were all out in the sunshine at about 6pm.
I would say this is a great cave to do, if you dislike the person at the front/back of the group. I saw Alex once in the cave, for 5min at the bottom and again on exiting, so much so, I felt I had to cave with him the next day. Classic 6hr trip, with excellent faffing potential. Bring lots of slings, and a group shelter for the bottom of the final pitch would be nice!
Some excellent cider, from our favourite Cider Barn, was enjoyed in the evening, as well as some token squeezing.
David ‘Davie Dubz’ Wilson Jr.
Swildon's Hole - 'Super Action':Jack Halliday, Jennifer Ryder, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss
Short round again. Extremely uneventful. No wrong turns. No freak outs over large drops. A fine trip.
NB: As you may be able to tell, I wrote the Saturday and Sunday reports far too late and as a result have forgotten all things.
Swildon's Hole - 'Tarts': Alex Seaton, David Wilson
The other determined group left the SMCC first (Diss, Mr Jack, Jennifer, Peter), half an hour before Alex and I. We successfully blagged a lift off DKP (Thanks!) and got to the cave just after the first group, who’d walked.
They stomped off down the wet way, so I decided to show Alex the delights of the short dry way. We arrived at the twenty just after them and Diss then asked me to set up the ladder and lifeline everyone down, which was done, Alex saying just lower me, then jumping down the pitch, I obliged. I removed my harness, then we went down the streamway. I incorrectly told the others were Tratman’s Temple was (for future reference wait until the white gour pools), which apparently was quite scary, sorry guys.
Alex and I continued, through Sump 1 (which had 10mm airspace) and then up the landing. We first went up a muddy tube, then decided that was too scary when it popped out high above the streamway, so retreated and found the actual way on, just above it. We were soon through the Birthday Squeeze, after some grunting from Alex and some choking from me (on my backup light). Playing the follow the polish game, we soon found our way through a series of squeezes and ducks, which were all very low, (Alex did them all on his front!) so didn’t need bailing.
We found the way into the inlet series from the blue pencil duck, and I then realised if we turned left at all well-polished junctions we would find our way out, surprisingly this worked and, although we hadn’t seen the other group, assumed they had failed to find the way to the greasy chimney and turned around, we continued through the very well-engineered mud sump, that was very low.
Popping out of the real Tratman’s temple into the streamway, I realised the magnitude of my earlier mistake, and catching up to Diss at the twenty, realised the other group was on the way out. We derigged and exited the cave, and began the walk back to the hut, where I was greeted with a slap from a rather wet wetsock, by a disgruntled Jennifer. A nice, no bailing!!!, 3.5hr trip.