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Try Caving Weekend

by PCW ~, 12 July 2012

Report and pictures by Claire Vivian  

A great weekend was had at SWCC for the Try Caving event last weekend - even the sun (and some cake) made an appearance on the Sunday! We had 10 enthusiastic new cavers over the course of the weekend. Trips ranged from beginners SRT in the Nave in OFD II, to visits to the Trident and Judge and Shatter Pillar as well as OFD I Round Trips. Upon their arrival new cavers were split into 3 or 4 groups depending on their skills and previous experience and then we all went caving. Some great smiles in the photos showing what a good time was had by all!

Watch the brilliant SRT video made by Andy and Antonia in the Nave.

Thanks to Jill and Mollie Brunsdon, Bill Buxton, Andy and Antonia Freem, Paul Graham, Piers Hallihan, Stuart Reedman for their help with leading trips on the weekend. (see feedback below)

Getting ready at Top Entrance - by Stuart Reedman
Stan, Stuart, Bill and Claire in Roundabout Chamber Richard, Julianne and Jenny
Stan in Lowe's Passage OFD1 Gareth in OFD1 Stream
Helen on President's Leap Cottages
Bill and Stan rolling the Sand Crawls

Feedback from Gareth Smith:

It was 8am when my alarm woke me from a deep sleep on Sunday morning and after a swift breakfast and checking that my headlamp batteries had charged I quickly threw all my Caving quiptment into a kit bag and sped off up to the SWCC lodgings. I was already late, and so I rushed to get there. Arriving in the car park I searched for Claire who was helping me find a group to cave with, and once found I was presented with a welcome cup of tea whilst the trip was organised.

The first trip was to OFD2, and a group of 6 (4 members and 2 newbies, myself included) headed off up the hill to the entrance. The day was sunny and hot, but as we turned on our lights and decended into the cool cave a quiet that is not experienced on the surface drew in. We turned off our lights to allow our eyes to adjust and then turning them back on pushed on deeper into the cave. The passags were impressivly large, and dryer than I had expected having been to other caves. Having experienced the grandure of the entrance caves and the enormous drop at arrete we quickly arrived at a tight descent through the corkscrew with a climb down through small passages which spiralled round , often over steep overhangs which were difficult to see until turning up the brightness of the haedtorches illuminated the drops below making us pause to soak in the splendour of the passages below.

At the bottom arrived at a river, which although small filled our boots with cold water and led us onwards and downwards to even more caves filled with impressive salactites and formations. Turning back at this point we proceeded back up towards the entrance diverting only to visit presidents leap. Presidents leap involves bridging a 3ft wide hole that drops down to what looks like the centre of the earth. We one by one inched our way nervously over the precipace each glad when our feet were safely on the other side, it was at this point we discovered that we would be coming back the same way and would have to broach the obstacle again! The way out was quick and reaching the surface and breaking into the sunlight wewere shocked to discover that we had been underground for 3 hours. My appetite had been well and truly whet and after a brief discussion with Claire and Stuart we decided that after a short but well deserved break for food and coffee we would once again decend but this time to OFD1.

The entrance to OFD1 was very different, it had been blasted to make an enterance to what had been planned to be a showcave and evidence of this was to be found in the form of concrete on the floors. The initial passages were flat underfoot and large, and unlike the previous trip we moved at a fast pace as we decended to the river to check the height. Unlike the river in OFD2 the river was deep and fast flowing with plenty of white water to be seen. The height checked and the levels deemed to be quite high but acceptable we decided to go in through the dry route and out via the river. Rounding a corner we were met with a drop of 20m down to the river, and attaching our cows tails to the steel cables we moved out onto the ledge to traverse along the ledge, climb ladders and look down the dizzying drop to the river. Once the drop was passed we moved through the cave at a fast pace walking, climbing and crawling quickly deeper and deeper into the cave pausing only briefly to point out emergency exits from the river in case the water rose.

Hot from the pace we had been setting we arrived at the river, which was flowing at a great pace, and we dropped into the water, our legs turning from hot persperation to icy cold in a matter of seconds. The force of the water was strong and threatened to steal our legs from under us at every turn. We moved steadily but carefully along the river which constantly surprised us by being at one point shallow before dropping into deep pools the next, until we arrived at a pool which looked so deep and wide that we would have to swim. At this point Claire pointed out that there was a scaffolding pole bridging the depths just below the surface of the water, and we proceeded, balancing precariously on the pole like a circus act to the other side. There were to be three more of these crossings in the fast flowing water before we reached the exit point of the river. We headed back up quickly to the surface and emerged into the early evening sun with only the long haul back up to the house giving us time to reflect on our trip and look forward to going again.