Alex Herriott, Andrew Booker, Clare Tan, Dave Wilson, Jan Evetts, Jana Čarga, Jarvist Frost, Jean Maillard, Kate Smith, Larry, Leo Carlin, Myles Denton, Nathan Daniels, Thomas McCarthy-Ward, William French
Another weekend in subterranean England, reacquainted with whatever part of us made happy by caving. Or in my case, for reasons that will be made clear later, whatever part of me made unhappy as well.
The day started off pleasantly enough. Bullpot Farm was nice and toasty, despite its notoriety for dodgy heating. After the usual faff and fuck-whereâs-my-helmet/cowstails/descender-mayhem the teams set off to take on mighty Easegill.
I was part of the second Top to Lancs team, along with Jarv, Kate and Will. Sunshine made the walk to Top enjoyable; We stopped off at County for a bit so Jarv could pop in and throw a rope down for the Lancs team (Jana, Larry, Alex, Leo, et al).
Once down Top and safely through a meandering, comfortingly tight passage we momentarily caught up with the other Top-Lancs team (Jan, Nate, Jean) to find they were held up by a rather comic knot pass in the rigging of the ~20m first pitch. So we all sat down and bonded while Nathan rigged another rope.
We made our way through the cave as I half paid attention to Jarv's commentary: πr², Nagasaki, Easter Grotto¦ But for some reason about halfway through I felt nauseatingly ill, and no thanks to some general incompetence I was getting increasingly exhausted too. Now, the trip is amazing and Easter Grotto is genuinely stunning, but I found myself cursing the âfucking twatty caveâ as I stumbled along behind the others. I think at some point, lying down during a break, I even told Kate that I would be perfectly content to die caving. Of hypothermia. Not right then, of course. But, you know, sometime in the future.
Anyway, thanks to Jarv, Kate and Will's infinite patience, understanding and care I finally made it to Lancaster Hole. Took me an age to prusik up, naturally. Might even have fallen asleep on the ledge at the rebelay (where Larry had almost died earlier that day when a huge rock fell), because I remember closing my eyes and the next thing I knew, Jarv was right next to me. So he nobly hung off the rope while I took another age to get to the surface. (Sorry!)
Having made Kate and Will freeze their arses off outside (again, apologies all round), I was stripped of my metalwork and harnesses after collapsing on Kate's lap at the cave mouth, and half dragged back to the hut. After I had infinite cups of hot milky tea and sugary chocalatey crispy squares thrust into my hands, been coaxed out of my caving gear, and filled with roast lamb, vegetables and tatties, I felt infinitely better.
After dinner we all relaxed around the fire immobilised by Janâs 10,000kCal treacle tart, put on some music, and the night descended into chaos. You know, those caving games that invariably involve squeezing into any hole of slightly reasonable size, and Jan's incredibly impressive triumphant room traverse.
The hut slowly came to life the next morning. Larry drove me, Alex, Nate, and Thomas into Ingleton to ogle at shiny caving gear and faff while waiting for the sleepyheads to awaken (yeah, looking at you).
We returned to find that no one was up for proper caving, ostensibly because it was criminal to be underground in such lovely weather. So walks, swims and sunbaths were planned instead, while a couple of heroic derigging teams popped underground for a spell.
With evening came the inevitable mad rush to hoover, sweep, pack and finish washing up. Then we zoomed onto the motorway for the agonizingly torturous drive back to London. Highlight of the drive was a busload of some extremely intelligent people giggling at Radio One's 'Everything you ever wanted to know about Sex and Wanking' talk. Apparently, we're all perfectly normal, just normal in different ways.