Arun Paul, Ben Honan, James Perry, Jennifer Ryder, Rebecca Diss, Zaeem Najeeb, Ana Teck, Remy Joel, Callum Coppell, Dan Martin
The trip started a bit chaotic, Diss, Ana and I were fuelled off manic energy. Getting the minibus took a while as the Blackett entrance wouldn't open for us (and cars that arrived after us). One beautifully maneuvered bus later, no more dents added, and we escaped out of the main entrance. Derude sandstorm was poorly timed but at least occurred. Didn't even rock up to checc too late, they had even kept us a parking space for the minibus. Very happy to see how the t-shirts came out, promptly did not wear mine because I wanted to keep it nice. Ginger ale is pretty good, you can make it very strong without tasting it much, those that hate gin will hate it but eh they are wrong anyway.
After a few hours the minibus horn goes off continuously, turning it on and off fixes this for a few hours then it starts again. Only way to stop it was to leave the key in the ignition with electrics on, it also wouldn’t start at this point. The key is kind of odd, you are able to take it out whilst it isn’t fully twisted to off which you can’t normally do.
I appear in stores at a fairly early time and am feeling fairly manic after a stressful tube journey but eventually go and get the bus with Jennifer. The barriers on Callendar road refuse to acknowledge our existence. There is drama. Something about reverse and 6th gear. The journey is delightfully smooth (probably due to the late leaving time - we should do this more often!). I fail at entering the Tesco car park and we park outside Go Outdoors and walk to Tesco because this is reasonable. Something about a terrifying small bridge. Arrive at CHECC at midnight ish and pitch tents in a muddy field which involves crossing a small river on a potentially slippery bridge with no sides.
We spend the evening in a small classroom esque space occasionally being approached by very drunk people including one very enthusiastically sweary human with pink hair and a guy who told us far too much information about his girlfriend.
At some point in the night the bus horn decides to start blaring continuously. The only fix seems to be leaving the keys in the ignition. It also sort of wont start sometimes.This is fine.
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu II: Arun Paul, Jennifer Ryder
I get up early and go and check on the bus, it's functional. Deciding that the mysteries of union minibuses will forever be unknown to me, I just accept it's working and thus we can go caving. So much faff then commences. I had to be back for the slov talk at 17:00 so was pretty sad cause it didn't look like there was any point in me going caving. Arun offered to run the bus as a shuttle so that others could cave for longer. Ben stole my camera for the photography course as well.
Me, Arun and two Liverpool cavers (Liam and Anna??) went into OFD2 to head towards the bedding chambers, somewhere I had been on the Sunday of my first weekend caving. Arun had been more recently so the survey was hardly used. This is the second trip me and Arun had re-enacted, we had gone to vespers two weeks earlier. It's quite fun going back and seeing how you do.
I genuinely have no idea of the way from the brickyard to the chambers. It's all just muddy cubic rocks. The climb up to them I remember purely for the fact I slipped down it a few times before being dragged up. This time was much more successful, that surface has much friction. Arun threw the rope up to me, I found where to attach it by following the rub marks back to the natural. Everyone gets up it without too much bother after a brief explanation to Anna about how to get up things without arm strength. It's very rare I can pull myself up things.
Fun scrambling around at the top, I try and dove through a small gap and just succeed at throwing my back into the roof. We eat cheese and chocolate and the have an incredible idea. Cave horror stories with the lights off…
What if another person appears? What if someone disappears but you can't remember who they are? What if you don't realise anything is different?
And of course descent gets named, then sanctum and mercy drowning jokes ensure. I hate to think what the poor Liverpudlians thought of us. The way to the bedding chambers from gnome passage is roughly opposite the turning for corkscrew. We popped down for a quick look at wedding cake then headed out. One short but fun trip!
The talk occurred, it was a mess. The WiFi there is terrible and then my Google decided it needed two step verification in an area without phone signal. Eventually managed to transfer the slides from my phone to Jacobs laptop. People got back from caving happy, I put a extortionate amount of cheese on the chili baked potato and all was well.
Then the horn starts going off again so the key is left in, it was also showing engine malfunction warning. Decision was made to check the bus early in the morning in case it won’t work for the drive home.
Cwm Dwr: James Perry, Rebecca Diss, Zaeem Najeeb, Ana Teck, Remy Joel, Callum Coppell, Dan Martin
We were somehow awake until 5/6am so very easily missed breakfast and were at some point awoken by a Jennifer in a hurry wanting to go caving. Speedy changing occurred and we were maybe in the bus ready to leave at 11am? Oh and the bus seemed to just work so that’s interesting. Much faff by other humans occurs and we discover breakfast probably could have been had. Devastating. Arun gives us cold tea from a hidden earth mug which I instantly regret drinking.
The bus gets partially filled with keen cavers, mostly Imperial, some Liverpool and a token Notts who was to cave with other humans maybe. Arun offers to drive and so I get to not drive over that horrific bridge again. Yay.
7 of us are Cwm Dwr bound and so Perry and Zaeem plus Liverpool are one team and Ana and I are another (SWCC only allow 6 people per group). We decide to stagger, with them going in first and us after, assuming we shall meet up quickly. Ana and I faff tremendously but easily catch the humans at the end of the crawl. We go to the confluence, with a lot of exploration of random passages by me and Ana. The sandy stuff near the big shacks is fun and I would like to go back there and roll around some more.
We manage to come back a different way than we came in (avoiding the place with the sketch climb/bypass tube) which was much better imo and featured some mildly attractive helectites.
Ana and I make our own way out at the boulder choke (let the others go first so that Ana can see if she can route find in the boulders) and spend some time chilling in the dark. Catch up with the others at the final ascent to the outside world. A very enjoyable trip.
Some checc evening shenanigans surely occurred. Úna and I won pot and sling (after the sling had to be made bigger because everyone failed - and I couldn't even fit through the sling alone). Ana and I tried and failed to do human traverse (it has worked before!) which i put down to the stress of having many humans watching and time pressure. Something about Brendan and an Irishman.
I returned to CHECC this year with trepidation; it had been a close thing between Ada Myers of Plymouth (a fellow tiny person) and I the previous year, with a sensible unwillingness to lose about a millimetre of bone off each hip being the only thing between her and victory.
I’d expected after a year of caving that this unwillingness would have succumbed to generally lowered standards. But seeing Ada again on the Friday, she made it clear that she had no intention of facing the squeeze machine again – instead, she had risen to unparalleled skill in sock wrestling. Perhaps my title was safe?
I hadn’t considered that Nottingham might pick up two child sized freshers this year. Make no mistake, I own a few jackets and thermals in age 10-11, but these two are solid age 8-9 material. I had met my matches.
The pure masochism of the squeeze machine tends to draw the biggest crowd, and the number of observers thins once the larger competitors reach their (improbable) limits. Watching small people slide through is less entertaining by far. So I waited until the gap between the two planks looked like it would actually be a struggle, with (I think) the only people who had managed it being my two tiny adversaries. It turns out that having someone stand in the middle of a squeeze machine as well as one person on either end is approximately ten times as painful, especially when they shift their weight from foot to foot. This was the first time I’d ever considered the possibility of having to get unscrewed from a squeeze machine.
Swearing loudly, partially directed at whatever sadistic fuck was tap dancing on my spine, I braced my elbows against the planks and forced my way through. It was then I conceded to the two superiorly tiny Nottinghams and retreated to pot& sling.
A wide variety of advanced techniques were being used, none of which seem the least bit advisable. One memorable technique involved the vine being held upside down, which led to the sling becoming caught in an unfortunate spot. Our main competition was a pair who had abandoned the tree/vine system altogether, with the smaller sitting on the larger’s shoulders. This method did well for most of the competition, but the challenge of getting the sling over the second person’s legs toppled them in the end. Diss’s steadfastness as a tree and my ability to crouch at knee height like a goblin got us first place!
A new competition which seemed like fun was a rope squeeze: just a loop of rope which one gets through leg and head first. It would be nice to see it on weekend trips as another creative way to lose one’s dignity of a Saturday evening.
Let's not talk about Sunday? Something about a grape.
At this point I will give up on a proper report and just put the what occurred. Ben and Dan did manage to go caving with Manchester (to Aggy), the rest of us sat around the bus all day. AGM was fun, new positions got made and no one attended the delegates meeting because the bus was far more interesting. Most of what's below was written for the RAC complaint.
09:00 attempts to start bus failed. Horn was no longer going off but the engine malfunction light remained. Attempted to lock and unlock the bus but this caused the horn to start again and then the drivers door wouldn’t open.
09:45 landline phone borrowed from venue as signal was ~10 min drive away and Rebecca Diss (RD) phones the RAC, who say it will be around two hours before mechanic arrives.
12:00 RAC say they cannot guarantee anyone would get to us that day, University security called at this point as well (as per procedure in bus folder); they say they don't know what to do and don't know why we are told to call them. Members of the caving community that were around then attempted to help us with the bus, OBD came up with no fault. Bus started but then engine wouldn’t stop even with key removed, stopped a few minutes later but then wouldn’t start again. Horn disconnected at this point to prevent sound. Security then give us number of someone from the union (Tom?) who also doesn't know what to do, eventually finds out we do have onward travel cover so the RAC should sort. Checc committee basically promise to get us home if no one helps us. At some point later the RAC say someone will arrive today.
~14:30 Mechanic arrives, had to leave recovery vehicle at the bottom of the hill (road is not fit for large vehicle). Says we won’t be able to drive home (immobiliser issue). Security and Union seems confused as to what we should do. Confirms that RAC will sort out transport for us. Mechanic also needs to use the centre’s phone to call to arrange.
16:00 A second mechanic arrives to look at bus. Way back is confirmed as three of us in the tow truck and five in a hire car. No time confirmed for the hire car
16:45 Minibus is rolled down the hill and bumpstarted to move to recovery vehicle
17:00 Group split, five to wait for car (including RD) and three (including myself (JR)) go into the tow truck. Mechanic agrees that car will come up to the outdoor centre, current knowledge was that this would be faster so prioritisation was made based off that. RD finds missed call (likely due to sat phone being moved into area where it couldn’t call) saying that a hire car will be leaving to come get them in 40 minutes, they don’t leave a number but say they are from calvin recovery. RD group are unsure where car is coming from and assume it may take a while so wait without too much concern.
17:30 JR group plus minibus are left in a layby to wait for the next truck which should go all the way to London.
18:00 Truck arrives but needs to have tail light fixed so can’t leave for a time
19:20 Minibus loaded onto second truck, engine won’t stop running. Reveals that we will have to change to another truck at Leigh Delamere. No contact with RD group due to their lack of signal
19:30 Car hasn’t turned up. RD calls recovery who say they don’t arrange cars, RAC do. Then calls RAC who don’t seem to know anything about the situation and can’t find any records of the car booking. Say they will contact dispatch and call back. No call back happened. RAC called again after some time, different person on phone so situation has to be explained again, they say if RD wasn’t asked about driver status and age then no car was booked. This person says the only option is hire car from airport and puts RD on hold to sort this and then put onto someone else (seemingly by accident) who knows nothing of the situation. Say they will look into it and call back. Phone is running out of charge at this point so group will soon be cut off from contact. Union Tom called and he says there is nothing he can do, group potentially stranded with limited supplies in a field (most things left in the bus). RD passes phone to another person as conversation is going nowhere, this person says similar things in a more assertive manner then passes phone back to RD. RD eventually convinces union Tom to call for taxi to move RD group to Merthyr Tydfil for signal so mobile phones can be used. RAC phoned, new person on the line again, situation explained and then taxi arrives so tell them we are moving to signal and give them a mobile phone number.
20:20 RD moved to signal and phones me, I said what I knew, she revealed that car had never turned up. Truck driver offers to try and put some pressure on to sort this.
21:00 Truck driver phoned office to try and get help for us, gave RD’s number to the RAC. RD worried about tiredness and thinking driving may not be safe if it gets much later. RD group receive voicemail from Europcar at Cardiff airport offering car at 22:30. This would be possible but would involve another taxi and RD is now too tired to drive all the way to London. RD has found taxi driver willing to take them to London but unsure if cost will be covered by anyone. Phones the RAC to sort this.
22:00 JR + bus currently in Leigh Delamere awaiting third truck in the broken minibus, given company number so truck can be checked on. RD group in Merthyr McDonalds for warmth and food whilst trying to arrange a taxi. Several phone calls with RAC for the next hour.
22:15 Truck arrives and says will need another one due to emissions. JR attempts to explain the ULEZ doesn’t extend over campus and driver calls boss. Driver openly using phone to message whilst driving without hands free unit and doesn’t confirm if going all the way.
23:00 RAC says RD group can have taxi, should arrive in an hour and will send text to confirm.
23:30 RD calls RAC again as no text, they confirm it has been requested. RD has taxi confirmation text at 23:35 with eta of 00:05.
00:20 RD group on taxi.
00:30 Truck returns minibus to campus, fault card filled in and left in minibus. Email also sent to transport@imperial account detailing faults. I was highly impressed that the truck driver managed to put the bus back in the correct space. The only thing wrong was that no student driver would reverse in!
03:30 RD group arrive into london.
It was delightful fun I'll have you know.