|By Mr. President|
Caroline (her second trip!)
Rachel and Robin (will they never learn?)
Maurizio (a year since his last trip)
Dave (of round trip fame)
We were the apprentice team on the trail of Dave's u-bend and his firstmendip through trip! The other is down Priddy green and is lookingincreasingly unlikely short of surgery.
At Robins insistence we calculated that we should allow a maximumof two hours for the trip so that we could make the pub.I winced, I would rather do the through trip. Better keepquiet on that one! It was a through trip but we had to planon turning around if we could not find the way on. Sowe were going to turn around after an hour. I was beginningto resent Robins arithmetic. We had better get a move on.
We started to enter the cave at 8:00pm with bold declarations fromRachel and Robin about knowing the way. I smiled I was not to bedisappointed within yards of the entrance Rachel was floundering. But betterwas to come, after a little while had allowed theirconfidence levels to rise again.
Rachel and Robin were scouting the way ahead while I brought up therear as Maurizio's latin imagination savoured the enclosed crawls.I found them ethusiastically exploring the narrowest of holes in thefloor (barely sufficient to get a helmet through never mind my girth).I hinted that perhaps there might be an easier way. In fact straightahead there was a hole that was positively enormous in comparison.I watched nervously as Rachel extracted herself, and Robin nowfollowed the obvious lead.
Chastened by the experience Robin and Rachel with Caroline in closepursuit were through the duck and squeeze before I reached the duck.Caroline was in the duck and was trying the squeeze out, ignoringall my suggestions to remove her battery. I watched as Caroline'ships seemed to provide the major obstacle to my surprise. But undaunted andseveral attempts later, and I hasten to add, without any help from yourstruly she was through! Meanwhile Maurizio without my advantagedposition was behind me lying in the duck, soaking wet and getting cold.Luckily it was only a mere inch and half, not a patch on the glorious levelsof the previous trip.
I slid through without a problem having pushed my battery through before me.I tried to encourage Maurizio to do the same, but theapprentices seem inclined to ignore my advice these days.Several attempts and the theory that Dave was larger was discardedand Maurizio was more amenable to advice. This helped Maurizioto get even further in trouble and deeper into the breath deprivingchest squeeze. Confidence in himself or me was not the whatI read into his facial expression.
Maurizio was through, he pantingly enquired about whether we wouldhave to do it on the way out. It did not reassure him to learn thatperhaps we would have to come back through the squeeze.
Meanwhile Rachel and Robin our intrepid scouts who knew the cave werefinding other unpromising cracks to insert their bodies down.I was aghast, it was going on for 10minutes before I was finally sure thatRobin was safely out. Caroline took the lead role and crawledon to the connection to Hilliers and Hillwithy. Little did she knowthat she was so-close to one of mendips prettiest sights.
We pushed along the streamway, the fast walk that I remembered replacedwith a slow awkward climb above abd between boulders. Time to ourturn around was fast approaching. My memory was no help and onceagain I had failed to read the guide book. I was worried wewould not find the way.
We reached tar hall this was the furthest point where I had beenbefore. The way on was no obvious and we had turned back under timepressure. An unlikely but possible crack straight on, but lackingthe worn look of a well used mendip passage. I looked up and smiledthere was a way on. Obvious really Royston would have been pround ofme.
However time ticked by, we must be near to turn around time, I beggedmy first extension (wondering what Frank would think). Now whathad Andy Sparrow said -- I could not remember much beyond a u-tubethat could be blocked by water rather easily. Everything else wasa blank. The streamway closed down to a crawl, it did not looka u-tube to me. An unlikely dry squeeze followed by an enclosed30 yard crawl. Ah well it is not the u-tube but we had better find it soon!
After the crawl I smelled fresh air and looked up a large side passageand dangling from the roof was a rope. I did remember any mention ofa rope or a climb. Well take a look anyway. Straight on looked a lessinviting crawl. I looked up from the bototm of the rope, a good 20 footclimb up a polished cliff. The air smelled good, I hesitated beforecalling the others through the squeeze. I looked about and saw itwas an easy climb provided you did not use the route of the rope.I was at the top with no trouble but where now. Had some intrepidmendip caver left the rope as a cruel jest? I traversed the dropand looked for a way on. Suddenly a tree branch caught my light.I shouted the others on. We've found the way on!
I scrambled out and looked about the quarry wondering where the entrancewas within the quarry. Eventually I realised that we were just a 100 yardsfrom the entrance to fairy on the right side of the quarry as you came in. Inoticed that someone has dropped several car tyres to markthe way to the entrance.
Meanwhile Caroline had made it to the top of the climb without my assistanceand was performing acrobatics to making an unusual traverseover the 20 foot drop. Later pronouncing that the climb was certainlynot a beginners trip. I winced I had not roped anyone or helped anyone.It certainly does require a lifeline. Jane's advice unheeded again.
However we were all up and it had taken us just over the planned hour!A little poll indicated that there was little ethusiasm for a returntrip through the squeeze to give us more of a work out. Even Robinwas feeling that he did not deserve a beer (well not quite).We were changed and over to the Hunters (dropping the hire kit off first foronce). Caroline's worst experience was provided on the drive back. Not mydriving but she managed to lick her muddy lips to discoverthat all that is brown is not chocolate.
At the Hunters we found Frank and company full of their latest tripinto Eastwater and their successful completion of the round trip.A reminder that I would rather not have had.
A short but fulfilling trip, not a long horrible that is the next tripreport to write up.
Next trip GB!
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