Tuesday, 23 November 2010
On Friday 19th November I did my first caving trip since the MOAS. I’d been holding back for a while, making sure that I felt well enough and fit enough to deal with the tough environment experienced in caving. It’s a sport where you use every muscle in your body with a particular focus on upper body strength. An area of my body that has undergone a huge amount of trauma in the last year.
We kept it easy and did an easy trip into Swildons Hole in Priddy on the Mendip Hills. Luckily enough we also had two novices with us who had never been caving before so all the more reason to take things easy. The plan was to take them along the “Long dry way” , down the “water rift” to the old “Forty” and then on to the “Twenty”; a twenty foot deep waterfall where the stream plunges over the edge and a caving ladder and life line is required to get down it. At this point we would see how we were feeling and either go further or turn around.
We headed down to Mendip straight from work and met at the Wessex cave club cottage at 18:30. Here we got changed and then headed for the cave. The entrance is quite dramatic where you lower yourself straight into the stream way via a manhole! Just after that there is a boulder ruckle to negotiate all of which had moved since my last visit a year ago so it was interesting to see how things had changed.
As planned we headed along the narrow crawls of the pretty long dry way. I stopped to take some movie footage only for the camera to beep at me to tell me the memory card was full so not much to show there I’m afraid. From here we headed deeper into the cave and the passage steadily grew larger. We met the stream again at the water chamber and headed along the water rift. Soon we were at the first real waterfall, a tricky 8ft climb. Again the passage grows wider and taller and as you head deeper you can hear the rumble of the Twenty growing ever closer.
We got to the top of the waterfall and stopped as planned. Mandy and Alex were doing well and felt fit enough to go on a bit further. I too felt surprisingly good with no aches or pains at all. So we rigged the pitch and gradually made our way down. First me, then Mandy, Alex, Jon, Andy and then finally Mark.
We then headed on deeper into the cave. Again the passage grows quite lofty with stalagmites, stalactites and curtains adorning the cave. We all successfully negotiated the double pots and then down the deep rift below Barnes loop; tight and tricky! We followed the stream way a bit further and then headed up onto the once beautiful Tratmans Temple where we decided was the turnaround point and stopped for a rest.
We made our way out steadily taking a detour up into the fantastic Barnes Loop to show the newbie’s the beautiful formations. Steadily we climbed our way out, Jon providing entertainment at the double Pots by falling in the pool and Mandy on the ladder by showing us how not to do it! Rather than go out the same way we came in we headed out via the wet way and it was interesting to note how the change at the entrance had diverted the stream lower down the cave.
We exited to a cool November evening, time was cracking on and we needed to be quick if we wanted to get a pint and a chilli in the Hunters Lodge Inn.
Showered and in dry clothes we soon found ourselves sat in the warm and busy pub tucking into a well earned pint and food.
I personally was really pleased with how things had gone. It was my first trip since the MOAS and I was a little nervous as to how well I’d cope. Things couldn’t have gone better. I felt fit and well and ready to make a return to caving properly. On the way home in the car I plotted my future progression back to the tougher, longer trips that we were used to and the technical aspects of SRT (Single Rope Techniques). It’s great to be back!