Tophats, 2am and -2 Degrees

The day started with a squeeze on UoN Portland floor for our club photoshoot, the day ended at 2am using a tophat for warmth in a broken-down Skoda Fabio. Here goes the middle;

Following the previous CHECC weekend which lacked any actual caving I thought hey maybe you can cave on a weekday. Can and should are very different things. The ride down started off with a big ol detour by orientater Pete, the sun was setting before we got into Castleton; this was the first red flag. Lucky for us we got changed into our suits before driving so a quick harness tightening, and then retightening to correct Jacobs loose idea of a tight harness, we were wading up the hill. In went Lyds to rigs the digs, Lorna right after and then Pete, well Pete didn't make it too far before needing some… rearrangements to his harness. So, in I went instead, felt warmer already as soon as we got down the first pitch. The wet and wild descend was a breeze, apart from a complete failure to keep the deviation clipped in, my bad Jacob I let you down. Paid the soggy price for it though by no longer being deviated from that waterfall. Next up: Castleton’s Next Top Model. The quick photoshoot aside with some makeshift lighting, we then went on to the squeeze. Jacob kindly demonstrated it before Lorna attempted, although Lorna had on an srt kit which Jacob did not, Lorna also had a wobbly shoulder which Jacob did not. Surprise surprise Lorna got squashed. Squatty Pete was also defeated. But not ya girl here, Aimee got out free (in srt kit) which I'm pretty proud of tbh. So time to leave, face first, falling water smashing on our face meaning those new buffs got soaked (shout out to UKCaving for those, saved my ears from frost bite). Me Lyds and a Lizzie McGuire sing along sped things up a bit, until we got to the final ascent, with Lorna’s stolen car key in my pocket I was up and out the hole. Pitch black.

So, if you know me you know I can't find my way home from the back garden. I'm standing over miles of cloned looking farms, my wet gloves starting to ice, thinking this was probably an issue. But good ol Martyn, only gone and left his headlights on for me on the road side. So I stumble off knocking my knees on descenders ascenders etc. Nothing looked familiar, but it never does to me, so this was nothing new. This should’ve been the second red flag. 5 minutes later, there's a 6-foot barbed wire wall, I am a 5 foot something gal. A very cold 5 foot something gal, so I'm sorry to whoever’s land I trespassed on, but I also hopped your wall. Then came the quickest change of my life, and also the shakiest; -2 degrees and wet hands made caving feel like a real sport, so did trying to get back into skinny jeans. But did I need a bit of tugging from Louise to get those wet socks off, almost pulled Lorna’s handle off the poor skoda. Also, sorry Martyn pretty sure I mooned you trying to put those jeans on. Fast forward to getting everyone out the cave, in the car, and Jacob on the road to Manchester we start our engines. Yeah no, flat battery. Flat battery at 1:30am. No heater at -2 and RAC are 2 hours away. Everything’s wet, so I take the only dry thing left for warmth, don’t knock tophats till you try em, cheers again for that Louise. Long story short Martyn is a gluten free God send who brought up jump leads, hot chocolate and sesame seed snacks for 5 very cold cavers in Castleton, who love and appreciate him very much. Now it’s 2am, I've finished my coco pops dinner so that’s all folks.

By Aimee Farrow, 29/11/17