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Not the Swildons roundtrip!

2 September 2002
By Mr. President
This is the painful story of our attempt to do theSwildons roundtrip last week (28th August).

Frank got wind of the mud sump being open (at long last),so I hastily scrapped my plans for Eastwater or Thrupe Lane.And jumped aboard Franks planned trip, perhaps he will notbe so willing to let me on in future!

Anyhow we were ready in good time. Robin, Frank, Elaine, Nic, myself and our new recruit John Gilbert from Dublin temporarily adding some new blood to the HP based contingent. Nic was the other person on the trip having the dubious honour of her first caving trip with me (she had notched up quite a few but had avoided me until now for some reason).

As usual everyone else was ready before me, and the urge was so strong that they crossed the fields to the cave without me. Frank was keen to make a move -- for the first time in ages the roundtrip was on the agenda.My mouth was watering at the prospect. I bolstered everyone's stories about the need for wetsuits in the ducks. Since no one had one this was not a confidence builder. Frank took charge and we used his brand new kit bag, rope and stylishly tangled ladder pack.

There were at least 3 other parties in the cave as we setoff and I was fearing that everyone would be doing the roundtrip.Actually no one but us was thinking of it. We were in by 7:10pmcertainly good by my standards.

The ladder pitch was already rigged and several ladders left tidily already. I examined the lifeline and used their rig, before adding our line for the return. Frank tried cosmetic surgery on our ladder to bring it up to scratch with the other ladders, but it was a losing battle. We were down the ladder pitch in good time, a steady but gentle pace for which the speed caving fraternity in their arm chairs would have given the nod. Well they'd better do -- anyhow. Before we could break into a sweat we had to go back to the ladder as another party came up out of the cave.

Down on to Tratmans in good time and we were crawling on throughto St Pauls, wading on to the engineering works of themud sump. There are several dams with boards to walk over one of them.A simple mechanism of a raised funnel and bucket has been added to drain thesump by hand. This replaces the ineffective pump that have marked the mainattraction of previous trips!The mud sump was down to less than two inches of water..

The key to the cave is open!! My elation was complete.Now lets see how far we get around the roundtrip. Frankwas advising that the party was tiring. My leadership asdeficient as ever was not hearing, I begged an extension andFrank shaking his head sanctioned we go on to Shatter pot.This is a junction point for the damp link, and near to theSouth East inlets route and a trip of my dreams up into Renaissanceseries which nearly loops back into a Wessex dig in the Oxbowsin the entrance series..

Unfortunately when we made Shatter I was still raring to go onfor the roundtrip. But somehow juggling my dilemma of keepingtogether as a single party. I suggested we go on to do theGreasey Chimmney! My ploy of suggesting just a little bit furtherwas exposed and trampled on by Elaine, I was left sulking.Frank suggested we split but I insisted that maybe some of uscould go on for 10 minutes and then catch the others up.

Robin and John and myself pushed on guiltily. Up the greasey chimney which is 10 yards on from Shatter not much further at all. None of us had a watch and so the 10 minutes somehow turned into we will turn around at blue pencil. Then it was a case of just taking a look at the first duck of the trouble series.

The water was low, the call onwards unresistible. However my consciencewas troubled Frank would be expecting us to return and would probablybe waiting for us. I voiced my concerns. The quickest way backis to do the roundtrip but.. Only I knew this to be the case andmy memory of the trip was reduced to a mere two ducks whilst. Johninsisted the guidebook said there were four. I chewed my lip it wasmuch longer getting to blue pencil than I remembered. Was I right?I was sure I was right! Somehow in this debate our roles reversed.My conscience (honest) was troubled and I councilled a return toFrank just at the moment when John and Robin were won over to my cause.John complimented me on deviousness, and won me over with the commentthat Frank would expect me to go on! Hmm no doubt about that

The water was clear and low. The roundtrip it felt like ages.The first was easy and we were all through without any complaintsabout the cold. Almost immediately my memory was plagued byall the extra crawls and ducks that I has not remembered. Mutteringthat this was not nasty enough for the duck I remembered as the secondone. I guess this was a good confidence builder for John and Robin.Finally we found and passed the second duck, which was tighter and higherbut low and spacious compared to my memories of it.

Onwards looking for the sharp left that would lead to birthday squeeze.I remembered the first time I past it and the panic it created butI remembered it as easy with a little thinking.

I entered the squeeze head first and on my chest, and almost immediately was stuck by the thickness of my chest. I backed out and made for another go, and another brains seemed to leave me as I convinced myself that I just needed to get in a little farther and then wiggle about. However every attempt seemed to get me more and more stuck. Robin watched on bemused and decided to have a go. He seemed to make it easily. hmm... I cannot get bigger across the chest, can I? I watched robin go in to one side then slide over, all on his back, using his legs to push him in.

My confidence leaped, If Robin could do it. I will do it, or soI thought. It all started well I got further in than before, butit still seemed so so tight. I sucked in my breath and push hard with mylegs. I was now really far in, but I could not breathe out andI was panting and panicking and not getting my breath. I kept repeatingcalm calm but it was not working. Eventually I did and I decide I wasgetting out, but it was clear I was jammed like a cork withoutJohns help. I was the only one who knew the way on and back. God what amess. Luckily John was able to pull me out the little that matteredleaving me gaspin for breath and clutching my ribs in pain. BeforeI recovered Robin;s tour de force he decided to come backexactly how he had went in and proceeed to do the return squeeze feetfirst making it twice as hard. I watched on anxiously, but hemanaged it eventually.

I was so angry with my self. Fat bastard swearing the need for aradical diet. Robin reassured me that I had gone about it the wrongway. God he knows how to kick a man when he is down! But perhapshe was right, perhaps I had bottled it yes, yes the next time wouldbe different. Robin and John were not so sure that I would get anyvolunteers to accompany me, as it was and Robin repeated thismany times on the way out "F****** miles" to get back!

We now had to retrace our route and get soaked and cold through the ducks again. Silently I was praising our luck that the trouble series ducks were so low and that we could easily pass them the wrong way around. They are not always passable in both directions!

I plodded on my ribs hurting and feeling as if my lungs were half-capacity as we began the long walk back from blue pencil. What other mendip trips are beyond my enlarged figure! I definitely must lose weight! A new fear entered our heads -- had Franks left the ladder out for us? Luckily Frank had done us proud. One final challenge for my tired limbs, My knee pads slipped down making it difficult to raise my legs a ladder rung. I abandoned the ladder and took to the rock with a gymnastic movement taking me horizontal and shaking my head making a mental note about not doing it this way again!

Franks ladder had in the meantime conspired to become even more entangled. Iconfidently grabbed it and promised to sort it out, beforehaving to give up and just stuff it the bag in an even worse mess.Sorry Frank!

We got back to the barn for 11:10pm and found a note from Frank sayingthey would call cave rescue out if we were not at the pub by 11:30pm.We were not sure we could get changed that fast, but somehow we didand Robin was in the Hunters before me and John arrived at 11:25!Robin was grinning wildly as he proudly boasted about getting some beer!When it turned out to be lager I did not complain! Well sometimesLager will do. The girls joked that they would probably do the roundtripbefore me!

Finally it was back to the Frampton homeland where I got an angryreception from the wifey who had been woken by this Martin character!Earlier I had asked Martin to be a call out for us, but had receivedno reply by the 12:00 call out time and was near to calling out thecave rescue. Two near call outs in one night! Since Martin did notreply to my request I had assumed Martin was not prepared.I thought about the near escape and how important Martins call outwould have been. I was so grateful. I phoned him to reassure him we wereout and full of the nights adventure kept him on the phoneuntil he was falling asleep on the other end.

Two cracked ribs, A reputation and an ego in tatters. A damaged relationship with Frank, Martin, Wifey and the feminist contingent wondering if I would ever do the roundtrip! Boy do I need to lose weight!

Any volunteers for the next trip

Dave Grosvenor

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