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Swildon's Short Round Trip
Route: Short Round - Swildon's Hole Including: Mud Sump, Paradise Regained, St. Paul, The Landing, Sump 1, and The Streamway Cavers: David, Maxime, Monika and Romaric Of the grand total of 4 caving trips I've been on, this one was by far the best! It was so different from the other ones as you spent most of the time in all sorts of puddles whether it was walking through them or crawling and hence it was a very wet trip as opposed to the standard dryer ones. This was also the time I could not have been happier that I owned and brought my wetsuit; I'm not sure how others survived in the frigid water. Highlights from the trip included climbing up and down waterfalls and floating in the pools beneath them! There's been nothing more epic in caving so far than floating under a waterfall underground. The dreaded sumps according to everyone turned out to be much less intimidating than they sounded and were actually quite fun. Cheers to more caving! Monika
-- Monika Krolikowski, Oct. 3, 2019. Category: Caving
A bit of a summary of what I got up to: Sunday 8th September - Dragoniairre du Bann Present: Alex Crow, Jess Stirrups, Martin Green, Mark McAuley, Grace Chu, Edd Willats, Luke Brock, Luke Brownbridge Started off with an old favourite. A small entrance tube descends in steps to an awkward pitch head. This drops about 25m (a 40m rope is not enough to pull through but a 60m rope is) to a big calcite slope which is descended as 2 pitches with in situ traverse lines on the more gentle bits of the slope. The final hang is very much in free space and there were some entertaining aerobatics as everyone passed the pitch head. Ultimately you land on a ledge above a small river. At the bottom of the pitch we all donned wetsuits and had a good dunk in the river. I think with hindsight the wetsuits could be kept in tackle sacks for longer providing water levels aren't too high. From the bottom of the pitch you head downstream a short distance before climbing a ramp and entering a series of crawls which include a quite constricted downwards slot I had completely forgotten about (sorry!). The crawls end in another short pitch in a big rifty chamber with the river at the bottom. This is followed to a climb over/through a collapse to another short pitch which drops you in the river. At this point the cave gets quite swimmy and you follow the river out to daylight. You can avoid a lot of the water doing a traverse in the roof after the crawly stuff but I think you always end up in the river at the bottom. Wetsuits are strongly advised, primarily for buoyancy. Its also worth packing a few empty bottles to keep the tackle sacks buoyant. Many photos were taken in the wet bit. Many thanks to Stu Walker for facilitating the car shuffle. Monday 9th September - Cote Patier Present: Alex Crow, Sarah Crow, Tom Crow, Luck Brock, Romaric Masson, Stu Walker Took my parents to the Cote Patier. This is a very big linear system with some nice formations and an impressive doline. Short climb up a ladder followed by lots of walking. Towards the end there is a climb with some lakes with boats. Much silliness can be had here but we turned round before that point. The non Crow family group continued to the upstream sump I believe. Tuesday 10th September - Pebra Present: Alex Crow, Luke Brock, Romaric Masson, Stu Walker, David Walker Another old favourite, a slopping/stepped phreatic entance pitch consumes a ridiculous amount of rope considering it is allegedly only 30m deep. The bolts always seem to be in completely the wrong place. I spent far too much time rigging an esoteric tri-hang half way down (sorry everyone). The bottom of the pitch leads to a short crawl to a huge chamber full of enormous formations. Cue much swearing from those who hadn't been before. It is a very impressive place. There is an up pitch to a high level traverse around the chamber and on to another chamber. David had a look up this but the traverse line wasn't rigged (there was an in-situ rope in previous years) and we hadn't brought a rope for it. Wednesday 11th September - Ardeche River Present: Alex Crow, Luke Brock, Sarah Crow, Tom Crow, Stuart Walkver, Chloe Goodman, Stuart Bennet, Adrian Horrell, Romaric Masson Obligatory kayaking trip down the river. Started off quite a long way upstream compared to normal and the river was ridiculously low. The kayak slides on the weirs were entertaining. Luke and I spent most of the trip trying to get Adrian and Stuart wet with varying degrees of success. There was some jumping off rocks and Romaric went caving. Thursday 12th September - St Marcel d Ardeche Present: Alex Crow, Jess Stirrups and David Walker (Part 1), Adrian Horrell, Stuart Bennet, Martin Green, Serena Povia (Part 4), Mark McAuley, Grace Chu, Luke Brock, Chloe Goodman, Romaric Masson, Stuart Walker (Part 1) After some debate over how many cars we could get away with taking down the track to the cave with our permit for 1 car (we settled on 3) and trying to decide what to do with the enormous gate key we made it to the entrance. The St Marcel is a massive system in every sense of the word and we split into 3 groups going to different areas of the cave. Following a chat at the entrance about keys and books team part 3 bombed off only to find that we didn't have the required key. Once we met up with the others they denied all knowledge of the required key and some excellent poker faces were deployed. After a short period of general piss taking and nearly sending us back to the entrance in search of the key, teams 1 and 4 eventually yielded the key and we could disappear through the hatch to part 3. Teams 1 and 4 continued on through the show cave before splitting up to visit parts 1 and 4 separately. Following the hatch there is a bit of a crawl and a few small chambers before you reach the "horrible duck" and the 500m "laminoir" (bedding plane). Never before have 3 cavers been so disappointed to find a "horrible duck" completely dry. Fortunately the 500m of bedding plane wasn't entirely flat out, there were even some stoopy sections so we didnt completely overheat. Once through the bedding plane we got into the big stuff that the cave is so well known for. Phreatic tubes you really could drive a bus down. We stopped off at a side passage to admire some very fine helictites before stomping off down the main gallery which also has some nice formations. This eventually leads to a short climb up where we could finally use the SRT kits we had been carting around (cowstails useful but you don't really need anything else). The gallery continues some distance (still massive) before you get to what is probably the biggest rift I have ever seen. Sadly we didnt have a disto with us to check but it really was huge. Very very reminiscent of the Noel entrance pitch. Somewhere further on you eventually get to "the squeeze". This is indeed small and awkward and is notable for the way the draft coming through it is strong enough to roar. We were advised that going through the squeeze was pointless but we thought we'd have a look which was a good decision. The other side of the squeeze leads to more big pretty stuff with some pitches. This eventually degenerates into a maze of phreatic passages that continue for some kilometres with multiple up and down pitches. We explored these for a bit but decided we ought to start heading out before we got to the end. Will have to attempt to go all the way some time but it'd be a hell of a trip. Friday 12th September - Unknown Present: Alex Crow and Martin Green Martin and I went to have a look at a cave we had been told about on the condition we didn't tell anyone where it was or take any photos. There is a squeeze which I'm impressed Martin got through followed by some awkward pitches. These lead to a reasonably sized chamber with some exceptional formations.
-- Alex Crow, Oct. 1, 2019. Category: Caving