Other driver dropped out & I was zonked after travelling 700 miles across Europe during the day and wasn't up for Solo'ing it to Yorkshire, so headed down for the homely delights of the Mendips and broke into the BEC. Unbelievably cold on the way down, played Asteroids with the gritters on the M4 and marvelled at the full moon scattering off the deep deep frost in the fields around. Careful drive to Priddy in view of the conditions, but arrived without incident just after midnight, to find the fire still lit.
Fear we woke up a couple of cavers who were similarly hiding from the (all too easily imagined) vomit stained SWCC and planned to do some actual caving...
We had heard rumours of a cave, a cave so close to the BEC hut that one could avoid driving at all, and be back straight in front of the hot hot fire with the minimum of frostbite.
The description was rather lacking, both in how much gear would actually be required, and where exactly the cave was! We set off with an odd assemblage of equipment and a vague sense of direction, popping via the farm to ask for permission. We were rather disturbed by the shake hole, which had a fenced off area of spare tyres. More distressing was the 110V electric cable that had been strung down through the dodgy boulder choke. Apparently, at the digging front (where vast quantities of Bang were being deployed), they had a electric kettle and lightbulb, but had to choose which of the two to run at any one time!
Disturbed by the dodgy ruckle, and suitable warned by the signage fortelling suffocation by poisonous gas should we poke our nose's down the dig, we set off into the gloomy rift. Here it all got a bit fun, the rift was slippery on the direct traverse, whereas the steep crawl was low and rather slippery too. The biggest went via the traverse, a small (ho ho) party completed the upwards squeezing.
Way on was found relatively easily, shot down a dry set of cascades and via the (blow up?) no-longer infamous s-band crawl in a small puddle. Sat down for a spot of lunch, and found the way down to the lower levels on the way back. The size of the pitches was offputting, and after 'umming and 'arring about it for a while, decided to exit gently via having a poke around some corners.
Everyone exited via the crawl way (much easier on the way down), with a little bit of coaxing for those adverse to tight spaces. Exited together into the freezing night, stomped back to the hut and found the fire well built. Excellent!
Nice evening in the hut, preparing some outstanding Cottage Pie action in the new tricked-out oven. Surround sound system driven by Jamie's iPod was pretty impressive too!
GBs: Jarv, Jana, James, ?
What a beautiful cave! Some of the whitest formations I've ever seen. Cave is muddy rift with a few clambors (we avoided the Devil's Elbow), which dumps you in an enormous passage with a stream trickling through boulders. Nice waterfall freeclimb halfway along, which then closed down all-to-soon at the ladder P-bolt climb. Drat, didn't bring the ladder - Rik's description had scared us off. Meandered out looking at all the pretties, met a bunch of female cavers halfway along the white passage who suggested some nice areas to visit. Did so, then came back via the waterfall climb again and a gentle exit to dusk.
Sat shivering in the van (broken heater) while listening to the discs-getting-lost scandel on Radio 4. Longwood guys arrived within their callout, sopping wet and with wild staring eyes - but seemed to have had fun!
Longwood: Rik, Jackin, ?
They took two ladders, but I think they only got to the main chamber before turning around. Sounded horrifically wet - backing up stream even in the open passage, spray filled entrance. 'Sporting' shall we say...