Not Gonna Lie, I Cried a Little Bit

Now this is a story all about how
My body fell straight to the ground
If you can take a minute, just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I fell in steam and was left in Alex’s care.

So… I have developed somewhat of a track record for falling in caves. It’s never been my fault though I swear. This was the worst one though…

Alex and I had been up and down Dican the Friday and had planned a dihedral stream exchange with (originally) 5 people from MUSC that Saturday. Alas, it was Saturday morning, and after my post breakfast nap, there was merely one lonesome MUSC member. Todd.

And so, Alex, Todd and myself ventured forth to Gapping Gills Stream entrance, but not before I had a quick thick moment. Alex and I struck up conversation with a group of cavers who said they were doing Bar entrance and would see us in the cave. Two minutes later I said, “We couldn’t get permits for Bar pot, I wonder who’s doing Bar today?”

I hadn’t done Gapping Gill before, but I didn’t have to do it to know that the walk to any entrance is a long one… And honestly, fuck that walk. If you’ve met me or heard me talk, you’ll know I have bad knees with bolts in them and honestly during that walk I could hear and feel the crunching of bone and bolt with each step. I’m 19, I shouldn’t feel old yet.

This is me after the walk, having lost any motivation to cave.

First pitch of the cave, Todd has the privilege of helping push my ass through a squeeze that isn’t really a squeeze, I just have an unfavourable caving bum and (at this point) no motivation pull it through myself.

Second pitch- “who set this traverse? Where they 7 ft tall?” -Alex. No, we were not just wining for the sake of it. Even long limbed Todd, who uses a sling for a foot loop because he’s actually the BFG, found this traverse a bit naff.

Third Pitch- Fine, no real problems, some nice deviations not like the terrifying ones from Dican.

Fourth Pitch – Alex let me rig, and it was ok expecting I read the rigging guide wrong and attempted a metre-wide Y hang which was actually just a figure of 8 and a deviation, and then I missed the second deviation… But other than that, it was perfect!

Finally, no more pitches, time to find Sand Passage. After about half an hour of exploring (not getting lost) Todd found a wonderfully sketchy 4 metre free climb down into sand passage. Alex went down first, as he is our Mufasa, showing us the way (he doesn’t die so don’t worry).

I was next.

Now, before I went down, Alex ever so caringly said “Don’t worry, if you fall you’ll have a nice squishy me to fall onto” so I thought “Hey! This will be ok!”

My descent starts. I hold the insitu rope and find foot holds with my feet. Nice and slowly. Nice and slowly… Nice and… SHIT. No, not nice. No longer slowly. I fell. Gevity felt more like magnesium as the right side of my body stuck to the ground and sent pain through my body. Alex may have been our Mufasa, but I took the fall. This is how the conversation followed:

Alex: “Lydia, are you ok?”
Lydia (that’s me): “ Just give me a second to find out if I can move”
Alex: “Ok, umm… you do that”
Todd: “Should I head out to get rescue?”
Lydia: “No… Don’t do that. Just give me like, 2 minutes to feel my body and see if it works”
Alex: “You fell on your arm, any idea if you might have broken it?”
Lydia: “Just like, 2 minutes”

Whilst assessing my body through lying on the ground and feeling pain, I then realised I’d hit my head (with a helmet on) on a boulder and now had the begging’s of a migraine. Yay…

We kept going after a 10-minute rest in Sand Passage for me to woman up, and, eventually, found Gapping Gill.

Gapping Gill is Stunning. Hands down, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. For like 30 seconds, I forgot about the pain because I was staring at a hole in the underworld ceiling.

I’d wanted to take photos in GG for a while, it’s been a goal of mine. However, some shit head who used my flash gun at NCHECC forgot to turn it off. So, we had carried the camera kit down… and didn’t use it.

Alex asked if I wanted to go through into mud hall to see the sculptures, but I decided to stay in main chamber whilst the painkillers kicked in to see if I would be up for ascending or if I would be in too much pain. Whilst he and Todd went to mud hall, the team from bar pot came through to main chamber and asked if I was ok. Apparently, I looked ill. When I explained, what happened and where we were staying, they said they would see us at the Dump and check up on me at the party. Thought I was hallucinating because he said party. I do love striking up conversation in caves, but I really wanted them to leave so I could just lie down and crawl into a ball. When they left two things happened: 1) I was going to be sick, and then I was sick in the stream way… So, no more pain killer 2) Not gonna lie, I cried a little bit. I told myself it was because main chamber was so beautiful, but I was lying to myself, I was in so much pain.

When Alex and Todd came back I had a choice. Do I A) stay here and be rescued or B) Woman up.

I did the latter. It was the slowest and most horrific experience I’ve ever had in a cave before. I didn’t tell Alex this but I cried at the end of pitch 2 and then headed up as soon as I saw Todd’s light and realised he was so close behind me. Every prusik felt a bit like a climb out of hell. When I’d finally reached the surface, I threw up again behind a rock and then lay down on the grass. Alex at this point had now spent 2 days carrying tackle sacks containing 100 metres of wet rope. What a beast.

We walked back, go in Alex’s car, grabbed frozen pizzas from Booths and drove back to the Dump (Bradford Potholing Club). Now, explaining the following event will sound somewhat like when Joseph and Mary were taken in at the stables, except Alex, Todd and I are not pregnant virgins. We walked into the Dump to hear laughter and chatting, walked into the kitchen and saw a table covered in food. When Alex began putting our pizzas in the oven we were immediately told to put them away. We were directed to the table and feasted upon the generosity of the BPC. We the drank until I fell asleep on the couch, woke up, and was told it might be time I went up to bed. And so, I did.

Injury aside, I’m going back.

By Lydia Leather, 30/04/2017