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All pages containing trip logs (among other things) from the old wiki have been preserved (complete with formatting) in the legacy section of the archive.
Spending 28 hours in Daren Cilau was one of the most memorable caving trips I have done until now. It was type II fun, like all quality caving. Any trip that doesn’t make you wish at least once you were tucked in your bed is barely worth remembering. What follows is a story of friendship, courage and growth. The scene is set on a rainy weekend in South Wales back in February, on which CUCC had the brilliant idea to go camping in the famous Hard Rock Cafe in Daren Cilau. We were a party of five keen, slightly overconfident students and graduates, none of whom had the good sense to check the weather prognosis. The cast is, Tom Crossley, a disillusioned student, Chloe Crossley, Natasha Wilson, second-time caver to whom the appeal of camping in a cave was very much greater than any of the dangers such an activity could entail, Harry Kettle, whose main character trait for that weekend was his hatred for his oversized tackle bag, and me. As is typical of student caving, we woke up at 12:00 after a night of intense partying with Kent. By 15:00 we were ready, we’d had the famous caving breakfast, packed our sleeping gear, cooking gear, alcohol, and all other things you could need in the darkness below. The first sphinx that barred our way was the entrance series, a 517m meter long, half-flooded tight crawl, the pleasure of which was increased tenfold by having to drag tackle sacks, that seemed to get stuck in every crevasse. Very quickly did Harry realise his mistake in taking the largest bag, I was very relieved that I’d arrived at the tackle store after Harry, because I had planned on taking that exact bag. Passing the Vice was as bad as expected, resulting in lots of swearing and lots of tugging on tackle sacks. I have a distinct memory of being stuck between two people, half submerged in water, and to top it off, cold water was dripping on my face. Just thinking about it makes me want to repeat the whole experience. By the end of the entrance series, we were completely chilled to our bones from the cold water, but this is not where the pleasures of Daren stooped. We went around the Loop Route 3 times, before the combined power of the survey Tom had and the fact that he’d been here already helped him remember which way we were meant to be going. How can a ladder be upside down? That is what I asked myself before arriving at the 20-meter pitch and seeing that monstrosity for myself. And you, my dear reader, are doomed to ignorance on the subject of the ladder, unless you visit that cave. At the top of the pitch was a collection of of clay figurines so abstract and varied as to put the Tate Modern to shame. One theme was predominant among the exhibits, the phallic looking argil statuettes. The next segment of our odyssey was the Time Machine, the largest undeground chamber in the UK, so large that caving becomes a 2 dimensional exercise, instead of the 1D we are used to. To help the poor souls erring in those God-abandoned regions, the path had been marked by reflective tags. It is at the end of the Time Machine that we passed KUCC, who seemed to be in no hurry and was casually exploring some side-passages. Some more caving got us to the Bonzai streamway, which is renowned for its many helictites. Curiously, it is still not known how they form. Ruairidh Macloed, a famous academic (you heard it here first), who sometimes likes to partake in the thrills of potholing, believes the process forming them to be one the few truly random ones found in nature, akin to Brownian motion. The last bit before reaching the Hard Rock Cafe entailed some mild wading in water, which was supposed to be only knee deep, but on this blessed day was chest deep. Ah, the joys of caving! We arrived at the cafe at 11pm, tired, but very satisfied with the last 8 hours of caving. We were greeted by some diggers who were smoking a certain plant with a distinct smell under the light of the discoballs that had so tastefully been hung from the ceiling. We cooked some couscous curry in the stove I had brought, drank the port Chloe had heroically dragged along, and were ready to go to bed. This is when the first (un)pleasant surprise revealed itself. My sleeping bag was damp, bordering wet! The drybag, at least so I had presumed, wasn’t very watertight at all, and thus, all of my belongings had been soaked. The sleeping bag had been spared a bit, because I had wrapped with in many layers of plastic. So off to bed I went, in a soggy sleeping bag. Off to bed, but not off to sleep. Tom, who was sharing a sleeping area with me, seemed to feel the same way, and thus we engaged in a conversation, the topic of which shall stay between Tom and me until the ends of time. At 2am the shuffling and rattling by the Kent Uni Caving Club started. There was some talk of rising water levels and other nonsense which was stopping a grumpy and sleepless me from getting some rest. At 3am, I had definitely given up on the idea of having a good night of sleep as the babble was getting more intense. Tom, again, shared the sentiment, and we had both realized that the water level was actually rising and were aware that if the trend continued, that could be it. Tom was oddly at peace with the prospect, saying that while it wouldn’t be the most peaceful way to go, it wouldn’t be the worst either. On the other hand, I realised that I wasn’t! I still had so much to live for. I had never enjoyed life as much as I had in the last few months, and the prospect of losing it all, made me appreciate it, alas, too late! We decided to get up, and see what was keeping the Kent cavers so entertained. By that point, the main chamber of the HRC was starting to fill with water, where we had most unfortunately hung our gear to dry. A courageous KUCCer was saving any kit that he could reach. Slowly everyone else started getting up and helping with getting as much stuff to higher and drier land. And so, 14 cavers, instead of faffing, were producing some actual results by jointly moving caving kit, sleeping bags, bivies, food to the island that would prove to be the last bastion of dryness in that display of Welsh weather in the nethers of Gaia. By 4am we were all huddled on that tiny island in our sleeping bags, sipping hot drinks, eating chocolate that had expired in 2013, and singing caving songs, and I couldn’t help but think that there were few places I would rather be at that particular moment. Despite the chaos and danger, I was happy. Slowly, we all started to make ourselves comfortable and started going to sleep, now properly exhausted. Around noon (again!) it was decided that it was time to go, which required many steps, such as finding the kit that had been washed away, putting on very wet oversuits and helping with general camp chores. Needless to say that the gear that had been hung up to “dry” was even more wet than when we arrived. The way back was occasionally accentuated by the deep and genuine love shown by Harry to his tackle bag. Enthusiastic about sharing his euphoria, he proposed a Faustian bargain to the four of us, where he would buy three pints to whoever was ready to be liberated from any remaining trace of self-respect and carry his bag to the exit of the cave. Tom, all too eager to play into the devil’s trap, took the bait. This changed nothing much for the rest of us, except for the source of the swearing. The little mentioned champion of this trip was Natasha, who not only had thought that this whole sleeping-in-a-cave business was a good idea before doing it, but seemed to not mind the cold and wet of the entrance series too much and was singing from the bottom (or in this case, from the point furthest away from the entrance) of her lungs while the rest of us were engaging in the caver’s favorite activity, second only to faffing, complaining and wondering what exactly it was about this whole caving business that made us come back every time. We were greeted by nothing less than a snow storm when we came out, and Harry and me, being the cheeky chaps we are, decided to run to the hut, instead of walking with Tom, Chloe and Natasha. The only problem with our brilliant plan was that we had no idea where Whitewalls was actually located. And so, cold and tired, we had to run around to find the hut. In the end, we did, but long after the others had. Remember, slow and steady win the race. That hot shower was arguably the best I have had in my life. Tom was having some slight problems with his body temperature regulation mechanism and had to be undressed by Harry and me and pushed into the warm shower. The breakfast leftovers from 33 hours ago tasted so good, rarely have I enjoyed cold beans, cold eggs, cold hashbrowns and cold bacon so much. After some faff, but less than usual, we were back on our way to Cambridge, were we arrived at 1:30 in the morning, craving only one thing, some sleep to consolidate the amazing memories we had just made. In conclusion, if you happen to find yourself in South Wales on a rainy weekend, and have a group of kind cavers nearby, I would highly recommend you go visit the Bonsai Streamway to see the helictites, and you might be sursprised by a sudden feeling of appreciation, happiness and friendship! Reporting, Wassil from CUCC
-- Wassil Janssen, Nov. 25, 2020. Category: Caving
Referenced in the following trips: Daren Cilau in South Wales (Whitewalls) [2020-02-14]
Large Pot - NCHECC 2020
Date - 08/03/2020 Present: Laura (NUCC), Wassil (CUCC) (Author) Large Pot round trip The Sunday is usually a lot slower than the Saturday and people are a lot less keen to go caving. Being over-motivated, I not only wanted to go caving, I wanted to go on a “super keen trip” [sic, my own words]. I asked Botch if he knew of anyone doing a trip fulfilling these criteria. I was promptly directed towards Laura from Nottingham, who would cave in Large Pot. Once we arrived at the cave and parked, I realised I had forgotten my oversuit in the BPF changing room. Luckily Laura had someone else’s oversuit that she was willing to lend me. As we were walking up the hill, we started jokingly suggesting that we should just set up the survival shelter Laura had brought, drink tea and then go back and tell everyone we had done the cave. Once we reached the entrance, we realised how ironic the name “Large Pot” actually is. Not only is the cave not a pot, it is tiny as well, almost comparable with Quaking, but with an added bonus, that Large Pot has SRT that needs to be done. Very surprisingly, someone had already rigged Large Pot and had been unreasonable enough to actually do this trip. One particular feature of the cave was that near the entrance the rock was quite sharp and rough. I was at the front of the two person party dong all of the rigging. I had done some rigging before, my first experience being at the Hillwalking SRT training. The first pitch was quite alright, as it’s diameter was a whole meter, which will seem luxurious in comparison with the subsequent pitch. The second pitch starts quite abruptly after a very tight squeeze, because of which, the rope needs to be attached before the squeeze starts. This meant that I was squeezing through a passage barely larger than me, feet first, while having to also pull the rope through my stop. While in there, I could actually hear the echo produced by the pitch, while not being able to see the chamber producing it. That was kind of scary, because it sounded as if there would be a pitch as big as Titan just around the corner. Another slight inconvenience was that the torch I was using started flickering. The only reasonable solution to the problem, I found, was to bang the battery pack against the rock. After much miserable squeezing, I finally reached the pitch, rigged it, and then tried to abseil. The only problem was that the pitch was actually smaller than me. I relaxed my butt and bones and pushed myself through the vertical squeeze. The attentive reader might have noticed that such a squeeze might become a problem on the way out. It turned out hat the rope that had been rigged had actually been left by the Imperial College Caving Club, after they had to leave in a hurry a month ago. It still remains in there to this day. We had planned 5 hours of caving, and the first and second pitch had already cost us 2 hours, so it was almost time to turn around. As I had rigged the cave, it was Laura’s task to de-rig it. I went up the Colossus pitch and reached the very tight bit that had already caused me some trouble on the way in. As I was going up the rope, the passage started getting tighter and tighter. That is when I realised that I had oriented myself in such a way that the rope was attached behind my back. This meant that I was getting constricted by the rope as I was going up the pitch. Upon realising that, it was already too late, the pitch had become so small that it was physically impossible to turn around. I was then forced to go down the pitch, while not really being able to reach any of the three jammers that were designed to only allow me to go up the rope. After a strenuous 20 minutes, I had succeeded in removing my pantin and had gone down the rope by a meter. I turned around and went up again. This time was still painful, but I got past the squeeze. From here on, it was all a breeze in comparison. Laura was following closely behind me and we were out of the cave by the hour. As we were walking back, hail started to fall, to which Laura exclaimed: “This isn’t even type 2 fun, this is just shit”.
-- Wassil Janssen, March 19, 2020. Category: Caving
Referenced in the following trips: NCHECC 2020 in Yorkshire (Bullpot Farm) [2020-03-06]
Brendan's Distater Trip - NCHECC 2020
Date - 07/03/2020 Present: Brendan (ULSA) (Trip Leader), Olly (SUSS), Ben T, Wassil (CUCC) (Author), Niall (QUB), Max, Ethan (SUSS), Amber, Bronte, Pauline (YUCPC), Yen (ULSA) Lancaster to Wretched Rabbit This trip was born out of Brendan's desire to organise a disaster trip by having as many people as possible going from Lancaster to Wretched Rabbit. In the end, he managed to convince 10 other people that this was actually a good idea. Very unsurprisingly, the abseil into Lancaster Hole, while being only "0.5% of the trip" (Brendan's own words) took a whole hour. Once everyone had descended into Lancaster, Brendan revealed his true motives for this trip, to which Pauline responded that nothing would be able to kill her enthusiasm for caving. She still didn't know this, but she would be proven wrong. The most enjoyable part of the trip was in the Main Drain, which comes just after Fall Pot. The smooth stone along the underwater streamway made the entire passage look like a really long slide. The end of the stream way was marked by a boulder choke, which unsurprisingly took the whole group only 30 minutes to pass. This is where the general enthusiasm started to fade, as we were all wet and cold and had to wait for everyone to pass the boulder choke. After this there was some more mild wading through the Main Drain which ended in us getting lost. Rather than admitting that he was lost, Brendan preferred to pretend that the loop we were doing was "brand new cave that we had never seen before, and most certainly not 5 minutes ago". Luckily another group of cavers happened to cross our path and told us that the way was actually "that really obvious passage on the left hand side". Soon after we passed the minarets, which was very confusing since there is a very similar passage in OFD, South Wales. It was soon after we had done "65% of the trip, in arbitrary units or cave miles" [sic, Brendan] that we meet the A-team composed of Rob Watson, Emmott, and Botch. This of course led to some banter between Botch, Rob and Brendan, who was happily reporting how much of a disaster this trip had been and how the next disaster movie would borrow its plot from this caving trip. The faff was promptly interrupted by Emmott who was having none of that "boys banter". Seeing in this happy encounter a way to satisfy my inner desire to be more like Radost (Tom Crossley's and David Walker's opinion) and to recoup the lost fun I joined Rob, Botch and Emmott. Ben T (family name remains unknown to this day) decided to do the same. After all of these additions the brilliant A-team had become a mere B-team. Our first act with the new team was to go into a side passage ending in a big hole in the ground, which, in Rob's words, would be annoying to climb around. As we were sat there, Rob discovered a ledge/ridge (was it actually a ledge or something else?), which made him really happy. He then spent the next five minutes saying "I am so glad I discovered that ledge. Its perfectly sized for human usage. I'd don't know why, but it just makes me so happy." In the end we had Emmott pose next to the ledge and I took some pictures. We turned around and caught up with the group that was going to be the basis for the plot of Sanctum 2, i.e. Brendan's disaster group. After seeing how amazingly fast we were, Niall decided to join us too. From here on, everything started going very quickly, because the pace was being set by Botch and Rob (who caves at twice the speed of light, according to David). We reached Eureka Junction in no time and made our way up through Wretched Rabbit. This was to be the first time I had actually been exhausted in a cave because of the sheer speed at which we were moving. Rob Watson was basically running through passages that us mortals had to crawl or crab-walk through. The only sign of Rob's mortality was shown when he missed a turn and went the wrong way. This mistake was blamed on his nose, because we were all just following his nose after all. Upon exiting Wretched Rabbit two very surprising events took place. The first was that it was still daytime and the second was that we were not greeted by snowstorm or some equally unpleasant weather condition. After having all exited the cave, we started making our way to Bullpot Farm, but there was to be a small detour by Cow Bubs, the water basin after the waterfall. Rob, Botch, Emmott and me got naked, jumped into the basin, swam around and got out. Ben T (still haven't figured out his family name) took it a step further and jumped in with his whole gear. I still wonder how he didn't die of hypothermia. We all got dressed and made our way to Bullpot Farm.
-- Wassil Janssen, March 10, 2020. Category: Caving
Referenced in the following trips: NCHECC 2020 in Yorkshire (Bullpot Farm) [2020-03-06]