The first SRT caving trip of the year!
The group was split into two groups. One tackled the Dome first and the other took the Centipede route. I was faced with Centipede first. I had never been caving with ropes before, so every dark looming drop seemed daunting. I was well looked after by the experienced cavers and was able to make my way through the cave, with no problems.
We waited at the Battleaxe Traverse while we waited for group II to catch up. This is where we prepared the cake and practised our candle lighting techniques, so they could be quickly lit when Clare and co arrived. We happily sang Happy Birthday to Clare, luckily she had a knife so we could all have some Cake in the cave after. :)
There was a long traverse to the waterfall, I didn't quite make it all the way along as I ran out of foot holes, and thought I'd only have to come back (I was a bit scared of falling onto my cowstails). And so we turned around and made our way out the cave, this time tackling Dome. The first deviation was amazing, as you could let yourself out into the middle of a pitch. This climb drained most of my energy so I sat/hung in the middle of the pitch for a while to recover. After a few more climbs we were out of the cave. The walk back to the minibus was short and sweet. Soon we were back at the caving hut all warm and dry. For dinner there was a lovely broth with bread. Followed by numerous cups of tea.
Saturday night was full of games. It was fun to join in and laugh as other competed. Rhys won the squeeze competition; was painful to watch.
Why did I go caving? Well, it was on the list of the things I have to do before I turn 25 (just above 'conquering the world' and below 'eating a goat cheese/cranberry burger' if you want to know). I guess that's the reason why I ended up on a minibus to Yorkshire on that Friday evening with twelve other companions of adventure. My mother had told me not to follow people I don't know well, but they had told me there would be tons of chocolate for the week end... And indeed there was!
After a good night at the caving hut to which we arrived at 1 AM ( and which was very comfy by the way), it was time to go to Lost John's, change into the caving outfit, equip the SRT stuff, and get ready to go down!
Where shall I begin? Probably with the entrance which started in the water. Following the stream, the whole group arrived at the traverse. What is it like? Well, you can see you are four meters above the aforementioned water, without being clipped to anything. But somehow, a herd instinct pushes you forward without having to think too hard.
We then split into groups of four. I ended up with Clare, Catherine and Andy. I owe him a lot for the first SRT part:
"Your descender is upside down"
Turns out that no matter how much you do it in the trees, when have to go down a cave, it's slightly different and you start to panic a bit. I waited for Andy for the next SRT section too, but on the third one, I was kind of hesitating: should I keep waiting for him?
Cons: if wait for assistance until you reach the bottom, you'll be frustrated for not having been able to do it without supervision. Come on, grow up!
Pros: You won't die...
Turns out that I irrationally decided to go alone... I am still alive, so I guess I made the good choice.It was quite scary, but very fulfilling too!
I am skipping the rest of the descent, which went pretty well. We finally ended up and met with the other group (Sam, Dave, Caroline, Fiona) and shared Clare's cake underground. Definitely the best way to celebrate one's birthday for a hardcore caver such as her!
Going up is somehow more tiresome, in particular the 30 meters of the Centipede part. On the other hand, it is when you go up that you can really appreciate the beauty of the cave, its eroded surfaces and the feeling of peacefulness that emanates from there. It is also less scary, except for one part, to which I am coming now.
We finally came back to the traverse, which I didn't recognise at first. Remember the aforementioned herd instinct? Turns out that it doesn't work so well when you're just with two other people and when your stamina has been eroded by the going up. The dialogue with Clare sort of sounded like that:
"We can't go there, there's a massive hole in the ground."
"Yeah well, it's the traverse of the beginning, remember?"
"So there's no other way?"
"Ah... Girls go first...After you!" (legendary French gallantry, what else?)
So, I just had to cross the traverse again, telling myself continuously 'don't slip, don't slip, don't slip!' in my head. At the end of it, it took me a little while to realise we were out of the cave: night had fallen already! Anyway it was time for changing back into normal clothes, have some well-deserved beer and chocolate and enjoy a relaxed evening at the caving hut!
The entrance to this cave was extraordinary. After a short walk though a field of grasses we came across a man hole cover. When this was removed scaffolding and ladders extended down. ( Someone had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to avoid SRT here. )
Climbing down the wobbly ladders and scaffolding was exciting as you did not know what to expect. Eventually we reached what looked like a normal cave as the metal work disappeared. Downstream was a little scary, crawling through the stream with rock directly above your head. I'm guessing we reached a sump, as the group around before we got the end of the passage way. Upstream was beautiful. The rock formations were not to be missed. Waterfalls of crystals hung from most walls. You had to be careful to watch where you were heading; I nearly walked into a few stalactites hanging low.
We returned up the scaffolding passage way back to the surface. I was so grateful to see it was still light outside. We walked back to the minibus, in small groups. Even though this cave was only a walking cave, I was more soaked than I was from the first. It seemed completely normal to get changed on a random country road in the middle of nowhere into clean and dry clothes.
When everyone had returned we headed back to the hut to pack up and eat out last meal, before the long journey back to London.
Concerning Sunday, because I was told that a sunny day in Yorkshire was as rare as England winning the football world cup, I didn't want to miss the chance to do some solitary hiking, while others went caving. By the way, I would be grateful if you didn't think that it was just because I used up all my courage in Lost John's on Saturday... Anyway, it was really nice going on the highest point of the area and admiring the landscape after having been so deep underground the previous day.
This trip report is coming to an end. I am aware that some cowardice might have slipped into my narration, but this scary yet exciting feeling is exactly what I was looking for, what I experienced and what I wanted to recount here. It had been a while since I had felt such a sensation of being alive. Things you do as a very beginner are the best, when experience or expertise does not dull your adrenaline surges. It doesn't mean there's no point going caving again now that I've done it, however! Mehdi mentioned a beautiful cave in Derbyshire full of fluorite that's definitely worth seeing. So count me in next when the time to go there comes! I am currently looking at the small rock I took from the Candle as a memory and I feel like next time will be a lot of fun too!
Pierre Blacquerequire('../footer.php'); ?>