Adventure and Expo Plymouth University ae

Author: ae

CHECC 27-29th November 2015

CHECC 27-29th November 2015

On Friday afternoon 2 mini buses set off for Council of Higher Education caving Clubs (CHECC) Event; which was being held all the way up in Yorkshire! I was in a minibus with Jimmy, Freddie, Olivia, Lawrence, Miriam, Amy and Jack. Before we set off I was already hungry and managed to scrounge some chips and gravy off Lawrence… thankyou Lawrence they were very tasty! We started the long northern journey from Plymouth, with Golden nuggets already being consumed by myself and others.  Jimmy couldn’t wait until we arrived and had already cracked open the litre bottle of dark spicy rum and was already half way through it… his drunken antics had begun! (He did offer us some, thanks Jimmy!) After a couple hours on the road we made our first pit stop for food. We then swiftly got back onto the motorway and stopped an additional time to get changed into our fancy dress outfits (Standard CHECC antics). Our changing rooms were a car park… it was wet and cold, but shortly we were dressed as the ex caving sec Thom Starnes. This attire was bright coloured Hawaiian shirts.. and masks of his face.

We finally arrived at CHECC! It was late and already dark…. But hey still time to party!! Once the minivans were parked up we all went and signed in; we got cool wristbands! The select few were staying in a bunkhouse ‘lucky’ and others including myself were camping.. I was lucky (Or so I thought) as I didn’t have to set up a tent as Noot had arrived a day early and said a few of us could bulk up in his tent! (a 2 man tent). Noot and a bottle of wine firmly attached to his hand found us and escorted us to our tent. The tent did not look like a tent….. It was practically collapsing. I quickly realised Noot cannot set up a tent and from that day forward he must always be supervised whilst setting up a tent!!!! Four of us piled inside the cosy ‘tent’ with all four kit bags in tow. The sardine tent consisted of Noot, Jimmy, Freddie and I and after unpacking (Lots of alchohol) we made our way to the party !!!! We mingled and partied with other University caving groups throughout the country!

Many hours later we eventually made our way back to the mess of tarp and poles which was our ‘tent’. Noot found a loaf of bread and said ‘ahh I’ll put that in the secret compartment’ we later found that the secret compartment was a HOLE in the tent!!! And this loaf of bread got soaked and was in fact Jimmy’s peanut butter sandwiches for the weekend! This was only the start.. Despite the predicted heavy rain, 40mph winds and 2 degree’s temperature we didn’t have to worry about being cold in our tent, as we were all so close. However Jimmy had misplaced his sleeping bag and ending up using poor Freddie as a spooning partner to keep warm; Jimmy quoted “It was survival”. It turned out Noot kept needing the loo in the night and in the scramble to find footwear, used Freddie’s trainers… The predicted heavy rain happened that night… and the tent wasn’t zipped up fully.

Morning came and the clang of pots and pans woke us up, we could hear distinct laughter and Shane quoted “whose trainers are outside..!” with confusion we emerged out of the collapsed tent to Freddie’s horror of puddles in his trainers!  With the addition of a concerned and quite frankly worried Jimmy because he had a numb toe where it had been resting out of the unzipped section of tent during the night! After much laughter we made our way to breakfast!

Shortly after a full English breakfast in a take away tray, we changed and packed our bags for caving. Some of the Adventure and Expo cohort went and did Single Rope Technique (SRT) training and the rest of use headed into a dark muddy cave! YAY!!! We were going to perhaps the muddiest cave in Yorkshire; Mistral. After a commute to the Red Rose caving Cottage we changed into our stylish blue and red over suits and began our walk over the hills to find the cave! On route Jimmy almost lost his wellie in a big muddy puddle and fell over… poor Jimmy (The Spiced Rum was taking its toll!). After hiking over varying terrain, we crossed a stream and witnessed the entrance of the cave.

To get into the cave we had to negotiate a vertical climb down. One by one we made our way down into the cave and we quickly found ourselves in a horizontal chimney like crawling gap we continued through this. We made good progress further into the cave and found ourselves in a large chamber. There Lawrence set up his gopro for a group photo and we then continued throughout the cave.

After a short period of time we came to a very tight corridor where we had to shuffle sideways. The ‘Crab Dance’ was born by Alex Noot and myself. We then stylishly entered a large chasm like chamber with massive boulders filling the centre. We found ourselves scrambling over the thick mud covered boulders… round 1 of the mud fight began. From this we went into a small opening, just big enough to crawl in. The ground was polished limestone, and was perfect for sliding. We pretended to be snakes…..I’m a snnnnnake!

We then found ourselves in another large chamber. But this one was the most fun. There was a giant mud slide with a mud pool at the bottom of it. So we all darted for the mud slide and ended up plastered head to toe in mud. Many wellies got sucked in by the mud and Jimmy nearly had to be rescued as he was literally stuck in the mud! Eventually the wellies and Jimmy got retrieved. My blonde hair was unrecognisable it had become a big brown mess, I was a mud monster!

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We then made our way through the cave, and we had a good roll around in the caves stream to clean ourselves. Elegantly perched on a rock I tucked into my mars bar, mud monster’s get hungry too! After some much needed energy we then made our way back through the cave to the entrance and hiked in the dark (With our head torches on) back to the hut. Back at the hut we stripped off…. Don’t worry bikini was still on! And washed our caving kit in a convenient stream outside the Red Rose Cottage; we did our best to get rid of the mud. Then it was time to have a delightful, hot shower and sort out the mud which was caked in my hair. A while later I was clean!!

It was then time to go back to CHECC…. With a slight detour. I was in Luke’s car (A&E oldie) with Noot and a caver from Bristol. As I was very persistent about getting fish and chips Luke kindly detoured to the chippy. After a hard day caving I was rewarded with a nostalgic big bag of chips! Happy Kitkat.

As we returned back to CHECC, Noot and I went to dump our stuff in the ‘tent’…. But there was one massive problem! The tent, which was in fact a failure of a tent!! It was 2 inches underwater. Our sleeping bags were soaked. We took them to the bunk house and left them in the shower to drip dry, we went and found the rest of A&E to see if there were any spare sleeping bags; thank the lord there were!!!! We then came to the realisation that Pete was in a 6 man tent… by himself….. The message didn’t get round to us the previous night. We migrated our kit into the very spacious 6 man tent… only problem here was the zip somehow got broken, and the wind was blowing an absolute humdinger into the tent! We again unpacked (Alcohol) and made our way over to the main hall to mingle and party!

Tonight was crazy games between the different university caving clubs. To start the night there was beer pong, which A&E did very well in. There were interesting talks about a recent caving expedition abroad and one on cave photography. We also did the squeeze box, the human traverse which we won and I took part in the pan and sling. I partnered up with Jack and we did really well, came second out of all the other universities there! We then went back to the main hall and partied into the wee hours of the morning.

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Pete, Noot, Freddie and I made our way back to the tent and got cosy and went to sleep. However the wind was howling and the rain was tipping down and the tent was not zipping up! Thankfully we were in an enclosed side pod but still it was eventful but so funny. There was no sign of Jimmy. We survived the night only to find Jimmy didn’t come back to the tent that night, instead we later found out he slept in a toastie warm bunkhouse of one of the other universities. We had breakfast and packed the tents away…. What was left of them… it was so windy. Back at the main hall CHECC was presenting their AGM and we had a talk from UK CAVING. Not long after we packed the minivans and began our road trip back to Plymouth!

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Met some awesome people this trip and made friends for life! It has to be one of the best and most funny Adventure and Expo trip I have been on so far.

Kitkat ☺

Snowdonia 7-9th March 2014

Snowdonia 7-9th March 2014

The 7-9th March marked Snowdonia take 2 – the second attempt at our annual Snowdonia trip. The first trip was cancelled because of the weather, but we braved the gale force winds this time and had a brilliant weekend as a result.

The Students’ Union did it again! They promised us a minibus and then announced they didn’t have enough buses. To compromise they loaned us two 9-seater MPVs, but we only had one driver. Seb (bravely) offered to drive, despite not having driven since he passed his test 3 years ago. It was an exhilarating ride for those involved – he drove on the hard shoulder, stalled on a sliproad (at 40mph) and nearly wiped out a randomer. Despite his best efforts, we made it to Snowdonia in one piece.

We sat in the hut that night and planned routes for the following day, accompanied by whisky and £3.99 wine. People dropped off to bed one-by-one until just five of us remained, absolutely smashed and unable to head to bed because we couldn’t stop laughing (I can’t even remember why). There was a game called ‘try and open the bedroom door without laughing’, which was impossible, and I think there was a suggestion of the game ‘try and open the bedroom door without getting an erection’. Don’t ask…

Eventually we made it to bed around 3.30ish. I was just drifting off when I heard a loud bang followed by, “Ouch, you c***!” as Will discovered the peril of the low ceilings.

We were woken in the night by something extraordinary. Liam Moran snoring! It’s animalistic.

The 7am alarm nearly killed me.

The next morning we split into five groups. One group did some of the climbs on the west face of Tryfan, another group did the Watkins path, one group did the east ridge of Y Garn, one group did (their own variation of) Atlantic Slab, and Steve went for a valley walk (I eventually forced him to do Y Garn with us). Various stories emerged from the day, such as Lois falling over hundreds of times, Kimberly getting blown away by the wind and Wildblood dropping his bag 300m down a scramble.

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A Chris Wildblood ‘variation’ of Atlantic Slab
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Nearing the summit of Snowdon

My group had a great day on Y Garn. The scrambling was fantastic and we managed to duck out the wind for most of the day. We had to skip the last section of scrambling because it was too exposed in the wind, but found some snow patches to practice ice axe self arrests instead. When we topped out it was almost impossible to walk in the wind and a few people had to remain roped up to stop Kimberly blowing away. My personal highlight of the day was the result of Steve going for a wee in the turbulent wind at the summit – more went on his coat than on the floor. Quote, “It’s so windy I had to shut my mouth”.

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“It’s so windy I had to shut my mouth”
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We roped up for the trickier sections
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*Sigh*

We returned to the hut alive and demolished the spag bol before breaking out the beers and playing some ridiculous games. Cleaning the hut the next morning was… interesting, and was hindered by Steve being, well, himself. We split into four groups the next day – some went and conquered the infamous mine expedition, one group did Tryfan north ridge, another group did Bristly Ridge and the last group did the Cneifion Expedition. The wind had dropped which made the day a lot more pleasant, although there was a bit of cloud on the summits.

The Cantilever at the summit of Glyder Fach
The Cantilever at the summit of Glyder Fach. The group had ascended Bristly Ridge

The day for my group began with doing the 150m climb of Sub Cneifion Rib. It’s the first (and last) time I’ve done a slab climb in walking boots. Some brilliant climbing led us nearly to the base of the Cneifion Arete, which I had wanted to do for ages due to the intriguing description in the guidebook: “get as close to the edge as you dare”. We instantly regretted showing that to Wildblood, who took it literally and decided to do a headstand on the edge. It was a brilliant scramble with a good mix of large holds and fantastic exposure.

Slab climbing in boots!
Slab climbing in boots!
The top of Sub-Cneifion Arete
The top of Sub-Cneifion Rib
Cneifion Arete
Cneifion Arete
"Get as close to the arête as you dare"
“Get as close to the arête as you dare”
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That’s how he gets all the boys
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The top of Cneifion Arete

When we returned to the car park, one bus drove off instantly, therefore missing out on all the fun to follow. We decided the only way to end the trip was a swim in Llyn Ogwen, so stripped down to boxers, ran across the road and jumped in the lake. It turns out Chris Irwin is Bambi when he touches water, as he stacked it twice and impaled his foot all in the space of 30 seconds. As I climbed out I was made aware of my classic rookie error: white boxers + water = transparent.

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Swimming in Lake Ogwen was cold

We started heading back south and stopped at Burger King on the way home, where I made the biggest mistake of the trip. I followed Liam into the toilet, and worse still, it wouldn’t flush. A quote from Liam will stay with me for a while: “That touched the water before it left my ass”.

It was another great trip with a great bunch of people! I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did. Unfortunately, due to exams, that’s probably the last trip of the academic year. Don’t sweat though, I’ve got plenty of wild and ambitious plans in the pipework for next years’ trips, so keep your eyes and ears peeled. Until then, keep an eye out on the facebook page for day trips, socials, Steve bashing and Camilla jokes.

(Sorry the trip report took so long, I sort of forgot about it. And when I eventually came to write it I’d forgotten everything that had happened, so let me know what your group got up to and send some photos my way)

Cheers!

Chris Joyce

BUCS/Peak District Climbing

BUCS/Peak District Climbing

This trip marked the annual BUCS bouldering competition in Sheffield. We enter competitors every year and the university pay for the transport, meaning this is one of the cheapest trips. For those who don’t compete, it provides an opportunity to climb on the fine gritstone of the Peak District.

The trip nearly didn’t happen – I had a phone call 24 hours before the trip from the Students’ Union telling me that they had agreed to hire out more minibuses than they have. For the next few hours they promised us a variety of buses, MPVs, people carriers, cars ect., but in actual fact they had no idea what they had. After much arguing with them, me and Owen eventually managed to work a solution which involved three cars and a big bill for the SU to pick up.

Friday

Milton, Owen, Kimberly and myself left at 11am on Friday with the aim of getting a few hours climbing in at Stanage before it got dark. Our progress was hindered by FOUR separate traffic jams! Six and a half hours crammed in a mini with gear on our laps was not fun, and we arrived at Stanage Edge just as the sun was setting. Ever the optimists, we headed up to the crag, put our headtorches into ‘stealth mode’ and started climbing. It was Owen’s first trad lead for six months, and it was Kimberly’s first ever trad climb – nothing quite beats throwing people in at the deep end. The wind was so strong it made communication impossible, which meant that Milton and Kimberly started climbing under the impression that they were ‘probably on belay’.

How much stuff can you get in a mini?

After nearly catching hypothermia from belaying in the wind we decided to call it a night. We drove to Hathersage to get some food before heading to the hut and waiting for everybody else to arrive.

Meanwhile, as the others were leaving Plymouth Beki announced that she didn’t have a sleeping bag. There’s always one…

Saturday

We woke up the next morning to a steamy bowl of porridge and the sight of Milton in his boxers (don’t know which I preferred). As a result of the minibus cock up, two of our three drivers needed to drive to Sheffield because they were competing in BUCS. This meant that the rest of us had to be up at stupid-o-clock if we wanted a lift to a crag.

What a day! Owen on Flying Buttress, HVD

It was a glorious sunny day and I was actually quite happy to be out of the hut early. We were the first people on the crag and turned out to be the last to leave. The day began with a few people watching me fanny about on Flying Buttress Direct, a climb that’s been on my list since I first saw it in November. After much hanging around, I decided I couldn’t do it and ended up backing off. The week before, I had mentioned to Will that I wanted to try the climb – he replied “you won’t be able to do it”. So I had to do it.

Gingerly, I had a second attempt an hour later and was pleased to do it clean, although the audience had dispersed. Amie and Libby were busy doing their first outdoor lead climbs and I was surprised to see that even Denzel was on a climb (guess there’s a first time for everything). Owen asked me to show him what VS was like to climb, so I jumped on Hargreaves Original, VS 4c, which turned out to be one of the least protected VS’s around, although the climbing was immaculate. No matter, by the end of the day Owen and Will had both done their first HS leads.

Flying Buttress Direct, E1 5b
As per usual, nobody was actually climbing
What happened at Stanage, stayed at Stanage (except this picture!)

As the sun was setting and we finished the last climb, a crazy northern bloke wanted us to help get his gear back because his mate couldn’t do the route. I tied into the end of his rope, had a bit of a fight to get his gear and eventually got to the top. I cringed when I saw how awful his belay was! He wasn’t even concentrating; he was too busy talking to Will in Northern – phrases included: “I could do with a brew” and “job’s a guddon,” as well as replacing the word “the” with the letter “t”.

Finishing in the dark – the last people on the crag

When we got back to the hut we were greeted with some spag bol. (Sorry Ewan, but it was so much nicer than soup). Adam and Ryan returned from BUCS and told us about their day. Ryan finished joint 31st, Adam 55th, Milton 140th and Will 159th. Beki came 106th in the female category. A good effort all round. Best of all – we beat Marjon!

Climbing Works, Sheffield

The weather forecast for the next day looked okay in the morning and bad in the afternoon. We decided to go to bed early and wake up early, but the people in the bunkhouse upstairs decided to have a party. Just as we eventually fell asleep, I was woken by Denzel and Will, who decided it would be funny to give me pinkeye. Denzel then woke us up again whilst looking for FHM, although insisted he wasn’t going for a tug.

Ryan seemed to enjoy waking up the guys in the bunkhouse above us to get them to move their minibus. It wasn’t even their minibus (which is even better!). We headed out to Burbage North, where there’s some climbing and bouldering.

Will challenged me to climb Long Tall Sally, E1 5b, but I couldn’t even get off the floor. We then made the logical decision to try something harder, so headed over to The Sentinel, E2 5c, which is very exposed (it was gusting 50mph winds). The photo below shows the result of the first attempt.

Just wanted to test the rusty in-situ gear – a good mark for DMM there

I don’t even know what happened. I’d done the hard bit and was comfortably clipping a cam before doing the last two moves to the top. The next thing I knew I was hanging upside down, very grateful for my helmet. I blame the wind. I gave it another go an hour later and got it clean.

It was a day of people pushing their grade – Jack did his first HS, Simon did his first VS (a grimy off-width crack) and Will did most of his first VS (if anybody wants a free torque nut, there’s one stuck in Hollyash Crack). I had to run away from the rockface to stop Will hitting the floor – he went upside down but his helmet took the brunt of the impact (it’ll be sore for weeks!). He was lucky I bothered – a few minutes previous, he had asked me to spot him as he placed his first bit of gear and then preceded to fart directly in my face.

The boulderers seemed like they enjoyed themselves too. They made up their own routes at Burbage North and made a few good videos, although they hated the weather and decided to take shelter in the car.

How many people can we fit in the hire car?

The rain came down at midday and we decided to head to Awesome Walls in Sheffield. It was nice to be warm, but most of us were too tired to climb properly. We stared at their bouldering room, training room and lead wall in awe – it gave us ideas of what High Sports should be like.

Don’t think High Sports will look like this any time soon…

We started heading back to Plymouth at 5ish and Simon hit the road hard. He claimed aggressive driving keeps him awake – well, whatever works I guess?

I’d like to say thanks to the drivers and everybody else who made it such a good weekend. It was soooo much fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite there being far too much “pull my finger” action.

I would also like to congratulate Milton on driving to and from the Peak District without getting his car stuck against a tree and/or the floor, although it turned out he drove the best part of 700 miles without road tax.

Thanks for a good weekend guys, bring on Snowdonia!

 

Chris Joyce

Climbing in the Peaks/CHECC Caving 22/11/13 to 24/11/13

Climbing in the Peaks/CHECC Caving 22/11/13 to 24/11/13

On Friday evening, 15 climbers and 4 cavers departed the south west, bound for the peak district, in search of an adventure. A hold up with getting the minibus meant that the cavers didn’t get to the CHECC event until 12.30 on Saturday morning, and us climbers didn’t make it to our hut until 1.30am. Ever the sensible ones, we broke out the beers and had a catch up with some much-loved older members – Steve Sailsbury, Joe Mortimer, Doug Miller and Christopher Wildblood (yes, that is his actual name) – who had met us there, before heading off to bed an hour or so later.

The sleeping arrangements were split into two parts – a hut and a barn – and the barn was quite literally… a barn. Nevertheless, the proper men (Me, Nick, Matt, Joe and Wildblood) headed out to the barn and en route decided it would be a fantastic idea to go for a climb at sunrise on Chatsworth Edge, which was on the doorstep of our hut.

Saturday:
Four and a half hours later we were woken by my alarm to the ringtone “Constipated Duck”. Only myself and Chris Wildblood had enough enthusiasm to make it out of bed. We geared-up at the hut and went in search of the much underrated Chatsworth Edge, which was a 5 minute walk away.

30 minutes later we found it.

We did an interesting climb – it had a caving-style chimney to shimmy up. Unfortunately I was too, let’s say ‘stocky’, and just got stuck. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and headed back to the hut to be greeted with a steamy bowl of warm porridge and 17 enthusiastic climbers ready to go.

After breakfast we headed to a crag called Birchen. Most people in our group had only done one or two trad leads (where you place the gear yourself) before the trip so this was a good place to start because the grades are reasonable and the climbing isn’t too serious. One of the best aspects of the trip was that everyone just grabbed some gear and got on with it. A few of us wondered round the top of the crag for the morning to check people’s anchors and pass on a bit of knowledge (not that we’ve got any), but everyone seemed pretty confident and seemed to know what they were doing.

Milton and Chris got their first ever trad leads under their belts, so I hope they both enjoyed that. We may have converted Milton to a trad climber… If not, we’re working on it. I think everybody did a lead at some point during the day, which is really good to see. It was nice to watch Alice climb because we’ve found another member who knows their stuff. Anna got a HS done (not bad for someone who started leading last week) and even Denzel did a lead (which means it must have been a good day).

The highlights of the day have to be split into four sections of pure brilliance. Firstly, Doug fell off an E1 6b and took a cam to the chest. Twice. Secondly, a story was floating around that Emily, one of the most content and calm people I’ve met, kicked a rock in pure anger because she couldn’t do a route.

Thirdly, there was the leggings incident; seven of us bouldered up the rock face side-by-side in some of the most striking garments of clothing available on the market. ‘Glorious’ is an understatement. Wildblood couldn’t resist the opportunity to strip down, despite his lack of leggings, so joined the party in just his boxers. Unfortunately, a move which required a high leg involved a few of us seeing a little more than we bargained for. Nevertheless we made it to the top unscathed. Finally, my personal favourite moment of the day had to be watching Steve (last years’ much-missed president of the club) wearing just his Union Jack themed leggings fall over on the downclimb and say, “Oh, I’ve lost all my dignity now”. Maybe it’s a ‘you had to be there’ moment…

Notice that the club members (Me, Will and Anna) are adhering to the A&E code of conduct and wearing helmets – got to keep the SU happy somehow (They were wearing them when they got up there of course…)

We headed back to a fire-warmed hut to be greeted by a delicious spag-bol courtesy of Milton. Much beer was consumed by the fire and we all went to bed happy people.

Sunday:
I turned the light on in the barn. “Sorry Nick, hope you don’t get sunburnt”. (He’s ginger, for anybody who doesn’t know)

We packed our stuff into the bus, cleaned the hut and headed out to Stanage Edge, a much bigger and more serious (and therefore better) crag. Milton did a spectacular job of getting his car stuck – the front of the car was sat on the floor and the back was against a tree stump. Well, who said 20 people can’t move a Mini?

We had a fantastic day of climbing at Stanage. There was a sprinkling of rain in the morning which made the rock greasy and unpleasant, but we stuck with it and eventually it dried to leave some top quality gritstone. Once again everybody was independent, took some gear and climbed which was fantastic and made the trip run so smoothly. Kudos to Will Morts – he jumped straight on a hard climb and stuck with it (although his voice did go a bit high pitched at one point).

As the sun was setting Will and I threw a top rope over Flying Buttress Direct (HVS 5b) and had a bash at some ‘top rope tough guys’ style climbing with some impressive swings. I surprised myself but never quite managed to finish the route, although it’s given me a project for next time. Will did a good job too. As we packed away, Nick and Denzel were finishing a route that turned into their first climb at dusk. Happy that we’d had a brilliant weekend, we headed back to the bus (not before I stacked it about six times in the mud) and went to meet the cavers who seemed like they’d had a cracking weekend too.

Flying Buttress Direct (HVS 5b). This isn’t us – it was dark when we did it so I had to steal this photo off UKC

We left the Peaks (which is beautiful at this time of year) and ended up touring Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-Under-Lime to find an open Sainsbury’s petrol station (don’t ask why it had to be Sainsbury’s) before starting the painstaking journey back to Plymouth. I feel that this is the right moment to give praise to our sat-nav for the weekend – my trusty five-year-old Sony Ericsson W995 with Google Maps V 3.0.0. Not only did it get us everywhere we wanted to be, but it outsmarted the unreliable iPhones and Samsungs, proved quicker than them and always worked. Not to mention the battery lasted the entire duration of the trip. And it costs me £7.50 a month.

A perfect trip was topped off by a phone call from Doug Miller, also on his way back to Plymouth. The phone call went something like this:
“Joyce, I’ve mucked up. I first realised I’d gone wrong when I saw a sign for Silverstone.”

I replied, “You, my friend, are on the wrong side of the country”.

Cheers to all that came – it was fantastic! Big thanks to Ewan for organising it and everybody else that helped out. Thanks especially to Matt and the other drivers, we really appreciate it.

I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did. Bring on North Wales!

Chris Joyce

Lunge for Clunge

 Editors point: All characters and events, especially those that appear risky, fun, dangerous and/or contain genitalia are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cheddar, Mendips 9/10-11-13

Cheddar, Mendips 9/10-11-13

 

Friday

1 minibus and 3 cars left Plymouth University on Friday evening, destination Wessex cave hut, Priddy. I was in Ewan’s car and much beer was consumed en route. Ewan, with the help of many handy kitchen elves made a lovely warm soup when we arrived, and leisure games included the sock-grabbing one while strung up on a harness from the rafters, and pan and sling; a caver classic and my personal favourite. This involved getting intimate with Sam Roberts, who incidentally has a remarkable sense of balance.

Saturday

On Saturday morning we were awoken to the clang of metal pans at 8.30 (keen climbers!) as Chris Joyce had just stirred up enough porridge to feed half of Priddy! The weather was pretty miserable so climbers went indoor climbing at a wall in Bristol. Before this though we all went out and made use of the SRT training tower outside the hut. I took this opportunity to take the cavers through the basics of rigging a life-line from the top of the tower using a Munter’s (/Italian) Hitch and the wire rope ladder, in preparation for the pitch we would need to negotiate later on. Several cups of tea later, 11 of us got kitted up in our blue/red Warmbac boiler suits and prepared to descent on Swildon’s Hole – a short walk away over the merry muddy fields of Mendip.

On arrival we met Oxford University Caving Club (OUCC) at the entrance. The stream was fairly high, not quite up to the overflow tube. After letting one of OUCC’s three groups go on ahead, we popped down the manhole and were into the thick of it, the cold stream water quickly washing away any remaining cobwebs from the previous night. Lawrence Hylton lead the way, passing Jacob’s Ladder in favour of a route down the long dry way, personally interesting for me as I hadn’t been this way before. We rejoined the stream-way and proceeded to the 40-foot pot which had been rigged with a hand-line by the previous group as the water was gushing down with some force.

At the top of the 20-foot pot we life-lined down the wire ladder left in place by the previous group. This always means a bit of standing around and getting cold, and next time we’d probably split in two groups with Lawrence leading another half of the A&E contingent. A pause at the pitch was inevitable though as the passage was already busy and we now had an OUCC group in front and behind, but in anticipation of the water we’d all brought our hoods which makes such a difference when you’re trying to climb down a ladder with a waterfall gushing down over your head! Chris Wildblood and Rebecca Coombe, two much missed ex-A&E members made an appearance while we were negotiating the ladder and were a welcome addition to the party. A little further down the way one of the party got quite cold hands, and I was glad of the chance to use the new hand warmers – a recent addition to the caving first aid kit.

Down the stream-way everybody got nice and wet jumping in the Double Pots, Simon Thursz making a particular good show by falling backwards on landing, and submerging right up to his neck at the bottom of the second pot. On reaching Sump 1, I declared that we were to turn around and head back upstream towards the entrance. Much to my dismay the majority of the group, egged on by Mr. Wildblood decided that bobbing down through Sump 1 was an excellent idea, so I was of course obliged to follow. After we’d all reached the other side we had a few photos by the Wookey Hole sign before turning and swimming back through the sump. Rebecca led the sensible three who weren’t so inclined to attempt the sump back up the passage and we rejoined them near Tratman’s Temple.Luckily on the return one OUCC group was still behind us so in the end we didn’t need to rig or de-rig the ladder and life-line on the 20-foot pot. Thank you OUCC!

1 1/2 miles to Wookey Hole

I was really impressed by all on the trip, as the Sump 1 return trip is no mean feat for fresh cavers, particularly at high water. Rest assured freshers, not all trips are this cold and wet and you all did really well.

Back on the surface the sun was setting, and after a lovely warm shower in the Wessex changing rooms, Ewan and his merry elves put on a delicious hot veggie curry and rice. Thank you all who looked after the gear and hung it up in the drying room as requested – kudos to you. Those who left piles of wet kit on the floor, not so much.

A few beers later Wildblood instigated a night-time trip down Eastwater Cavern. 8 People joined in on this, including Alex Rowe and Sab Deacon who had only caved once previously. With this in mind we set an ambitious goal of doing the ‘short round’, from the hut and back in one hour. I’m extremely pleased to say we achieved this, give or take a couple of minutes. I had promised the cave would by a ‘dry cave’ for some reason. I would like to say this was a cunning ploy to trick people into coming, however this was purely due to ignorance as when I did this trip a few weeks ago, it was bone dry. As it was, when we arrived at the entrance, a torrent of water was poring down the entrance shaft and I could already feel mutiny brewing in the cold damp air. A round of whisky and we took the plunge (one of our number bottled it half way down the shaft as it was too wet (Duncan if your don’t like your shafts wet I suggest you try some back passages instead).

I’ll not tart it up, the entrance series through the boulder choke was a bloodbath, except the blood was icy cold water crashing on to our heads and seeping under our suits from all directions, and the bath was a tight, awkward squeeze between great lumps of rough grey limestone. We followed the line down through the boulders and congregated at the bottom; I was on the verge of aborting the mission as our callout was at midnight, leaving us just two hours from the start to navigate our route. Being assured that we would ‘boss it’, I led the way down on the left to the Upper Traverse – a diagonal bedding plane that requires nerve as much as physical stamina and technique. This was passed without much of a fuss which was really quite impressive; the fact that we were racing the clock from the beginning didn’t leave too much time for hesitation.

Up the squiggly passage above Hallelujah Hole and sliding down into the Boulder Chamber, we were soon back at the stream-way, where we negotiated the boulder choke in reverse, against the water. Back at the entrance we had another round of whisky and sprinted back to the hut – one hour trip! Well done everybody – so proud of you all.

A pleasant evening was had in the warmth around the fire, and a birthday song for Anne Helene got her back out of bed and down for another beer or two! At 2am it was announced that it would be an early start on Sunday, getting up at 7.30am (climbers wanting to make the most of the sun forecast at Cheddar Gorge) and everybody promptly retreated to bed. Joe Tidball and I stayed up drinking whisky for a while and even got in on the cheese board going round some of the Wessex (WSG) members around the table. We then somehow talked ourselves into doing the Eastwater trip again at about 3am! With only the two of us we managed in about 30 minutes, and the water level had already dropped in volume by about half. I can honestly say a sleeping bag has never felt so good!

Sunday

Up at 7.30 feeling surprisingly sprightly so I decided to go and put on the porridge. I didn’t make quite enough to feed everyone; I fear I was over-compensating for Chris’s earlier bid at feed-the-world. Still, this wasn’t too much of an issue as the latecomers seemed quite content to have another dig at yesterday’s porridge which luckily hadn’t developed too much of a crust on top.

We took just 6 cavers today as most people were keen to exploit the sunshine on the crag down at Cheddar. This time destination G.B. Cave! We got changed in the lay-by and then dropped down into the entrance passage. A couple of bats were hanging a little way inside; always nice to see some wildlife. We took our time on this trip as we had 4 hours to play with. After reaching The Gorge we turned right, following the passage down to the natural Bridge where we took a group picture. We took some time to admire the huge stalactites and flowstone in Main Chamber. This really is a huge chamber and it’s often passed through without much regard for its sheer size and the amount of pretties; I’ve walked this route several times now and notice more and more to it every time.

The waterfall was quite high so rather than going down and traversing it, we by-passed up over the flowstone on the right and via the Oxbow. This allowed us to get down to Ladder Digg and the sump at the bottom of the complex. There was organic matter high up the walls suggesting the water had been a good metre or more higher recently, presumably during the recent St. Jude’s ‘storm’. We went up back to the base of the waterfall, before returning by the same route to the Bridge, where we attempted some more photography. Next time we’ll take some more / better lights for photo opportunities here as it’s a great spot for it. I thought it would be fun to go up to the top of the passage to see the car before leaving, but there was a lot of loose rock and, more importantly some deep mud (well, I for one don’t fancy washing off those suits when we get back to Plymouth!) so we headed back up towards the entrance. We had a pause at the junction so we could test people’s navigation / memory, ‘I have no recollection of this place’. Well done people, you didn’t send us down to Devil’s Elbow, ‘ah, this way; the air is not so foul down here; when in doubt Meriadoc Brandybuck, always follow your nose.’

Well done Steph Allen (El Presidente) on your first ever caving trip; you did brilliantly and we’ll miss having you underground more often as you push your climbing career on the surface. Libby Clarke and Charlie Sinclair well done to you too, it was an absolute pleasure – really enjoyed the trip.

Down at Cheddar Gorge we met up with the climbers and walkers and dear old Shaun McCance, and a few of us popped to a cafe in Cheddar for a well-deserved sandwich and a cuppa tea. Back up at the gorge we had a good chin wag before hitting the road back to Plymouth. Back at kit stores the unloading of kit was clockwork and before long it was all hanging back up on the wall ready for the next trip, namely Peak District for climbing and CHECC at Castleton for the subterranean members.

Thanks everyone, I hope you all enjoyed as much as we did. Special thanks to those who cooked, cleaned, and generally made themselves useful – much appreciated. Pictures to come soon!

Thom (Caving Sec) on behalf of your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, and A&E Committee 2013/14

Pridhamsleigh Cavern – Monday 30-10-13

Pridhamsleigh Cavern – Monday 30-10-13

We went and had a scout of Dog’s Hole for a warm up. An inviting little rabbit hole that leads you on quite nicely. Freshers getting to grips with wellies, rocks and bumping heads!

Great Prid trip running around the labyrinth after Bishop’s Chamber, couple of side bimbles and then on to Bear Pit and down to the lake. We all went down the tube reconnecting to the ledge above the lake where we jumped in, and a few of the guys had a swim up to the deep end. The cave was wet today, and the cellars were sumped again. This meant taking the plunge, and for most people this was their first time so very good effort to those who attended. The next ‘duck’ was passed effectively; good team effort pulling people through and maintaining contact at all times. Time to beat a retreat back to the bus; emerging from the Cellars through the slot in the floor and then letting the freshers pick out a route back to Bishop’s Chamber (all passages go there anyway!). The puddle in Bishop’s was knee deep, a recent symptom of Monday’s St Jude’s storm. A mini mud-fight ensued on the way back through the orchard, before crossing the bridge and jumping about in the river to wash our kit off. This left half an hour to amble back to the road and catch the X38 back to Plymouth, before heading out to Pop Up bar for some bobbing-for-apples at the Wednesday Night pre-Halloween Apocalypto el Fantastico-Extravaganza. All in a day’s work!

Thom (Caving Sec)