Third Times A Charm?


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Photo: after our first attempt.

It was about 4:00 pm, as I was leaning against a wall in my caving kit and sunglasses (the juxtaposition was not lost on me). A small red car appeared trundling down the path towards me and came to a stop next to me. Three people jumped out, Jacob (NUCC), Rhiannon (MUSC) and Ffion (Rhiannon’s sister). Once ready we headed to the entrance of Giants to do the round trip, Ffion’s first caving trip.

This was the second attempt at the trip, first time we turn back a Rhiannon was getting cold. I was the first down the ladder. Jacob was belaying me down but there was too much friction it’s difficult to explain just how painful this battle between friction and gravity for my body was. After the other three had a more pleasant time down we started on the crab walk. This about 500 m of narrow streamway where you can’t put your feet in front of each other and hence have to walk like a crab. A few minutes later “Dammit I’ve lost the water”, Jacob’s water was now flowing down the stream. I only had a small amount of water left so this was the first sign this trip wasn’t to go smoothly. A quick stop Razor Edge Cascade to make sure Ffion did attempt the same head first technique Sam tried last time, as well as a stop to search for my carabiner which popped off into a pool and causing my tackle bag to get a thorough soaking.

At great relief passage we started to require the route description. The rope climb into Maggin’s rift was the first challenge. As I’m near top “Erm that’s interesting, I’m trapped”, I had stood on Jacobs hand while he looped the rope below my foot. I guess karma for the belaying.

Jacob: “Right where next. Briony, where the rest of the route description?”

Briony: “O ye it’s two pages, we need to take it out of the pocket and flip it”

We all look at the wet paper inside the wet plastic pocket.

Jacob: “Right this could be interesting”

I with my surprisingly tiny hands (I’m frequently told this) volunteer for the task. After drying my hand on Jacobs chest (an example of the weird ways cavers bond) I start removing the stuck together paper from the plastic pocket. After a few attempts and rips, it was out. Time for the second step, separate the pages from each other. We were now left with torn pieces of the two pages and no idea which one we wanted.

Jacob: “It’s this one.”

Briony: “No it’s this one, see” pointing at the last line “we’ve just done that.”

Jacob: “Put it on the plastic, gravity is slowly ripping it. Right where the top corner.”

Searching the small piece scattered around us the ridiculousness of the situation hits us. We are somewhere underground with very little water, no idea where next and with only parts of a description.

Rhiannon: “This why Alex’s surveys are so useful, this wouldn’t of happen.”

Jacob: “Wait what, this make no sense, this can’t be right”

Rhiannon: “I think the paper is still stuck here”

Jacob: “Ahh yep that makes more sense”

We read through it few times, remembering as much as possible, and fold in back up. We quickly reach another hand line climb, odd seems like something the description would mention. But I had vague memories of it, or it could possibly be another trip? We climbed up it and read the description again. Could this be the 8m climb on the way to the chamber of horrors? Somewhere we really did not want to end up. Maybe we missed the giant’s windpipe? Back down we went, searching for a turning. In a rock, we could make out GW and an arrow scratched in, so back we went. Still no luck and it was 7:00 pm and no water and only emergency rations left so we made the call to turn back vowing to return.

The way out was straight forward and I always find the Crabwalk quicker this way for some reason, which is odd as is definitely not. We were back out in time to change in the rain and drive off into the fog. Not exactly what we planned for a first caving trip but more realistic I guess.

O ye and it turn out the Giant’s windpipe is after the rope climb, we just need to keep going, you can’t miss it, there a big sign!!!

By Briony Downes-Ward, 25/08/17