I've got a bit behind with reporting Wednesday night caving so this update will only be brief.
I was away for much of August so didn't get in much caving. We did fit in a club trip to Swildon's though. The plan was to go to Manor Farm, so myself, Steve met Dave and new caver Rob there. At we were unpacking kit Dave realised he'd forgotten a ladder so we quickly had to replan. We were already running pretty late so had to abandon any thoughts of visiting a cave which needed a key picking up from anywhere. I managed to pursuede the others that a trip down the pitch in Swildon's would be a good idea. I'd not done it for ages and was keen to practice a bit of easy climbing round the pots. It had been raining a fair bit so I was glad I'd had the foresight to chuck my wet suit in when packing up the gear.
We had a short wait in the first section whilst a group was coming out. Dave took a trickier looking climb down whilst the less adventurous of us waited for the group to pass and headed down the wet slab. The stream runs in this way, so for newcomers to the cave it's a bit of an intimidating entrance. Once you've done it once though you realise it's fine. The water is often amplified in the cave which makes it sound much worse than it really is. I wanted to have a go at navigation for this trip as I'm keen to lead my daughter round some of the easier bits of the upper series. Onwards we went down Jacobs ladder. The cave was drier than the last few times I'd be there which was almost slightly disapointing. Due to our lateness in leaving we made short work of the next section to reach the first mini waterfall climb down. Steve hadn't been in Swildon's before and I was worried he'd find the climb difficult but he made short work of it, as did Rob who is a climber so it was no bother for him.
The ladder pitch went smoothly, we all got a bit of a soaking though. Steve had a quick introduction to lifelining (he'd been practicing and reading up about it at home already) and safely belayed Dave down the pitch.
I took no photos as I hadn't brought my camera ( I really need to get a waterproof case for it, roll on XMAS)
Here is one of Ivan on the ladder from a previous trip - taken by Dave
Beyond the ladder we continued down to the double pots, a series of pools you ether traverse around, fall into or jump into. I'd never fallen into them - so I was no a 'true son of Mendip'. Dave attempted to get me to fall into the pools, but instead managed to get himself well and truly wedged at the top of one of them, much to our amusment, he had the added presure of a large group of cavers from another club watching him. He got loose and jumped into the pot - up to his neck in water! Much ribbing followed..
We soon had the option of the rift or Barnes loop. I'd nearly fallen down the rift on a trip down in this part of the cave, so it always gives me the heebie geebies. We took the option of Barnes Loop. We continued onwards to Tratmans temple. Here is an old photo of it from the MCRA site:
We then went on to the Mud Sump which was clear of water, my memory of the route of is fairly slim, must concentrate harder next time. Pub time was approaching so it was time to backtrack and head out. We went back up through the rift, I made it up with ease (demons finally put to bed, can avoid Barnes Loop in future), Steve had a bit of a wobble but got up okay in the end. Coming out I got pretty cold at the ladder pitch, so made a swift exit once the gear was packed up - Steve complained that I was going too fast, but having forgotten my balaclava I was keen to warm up. We took the quickest exit (much to my disappointment as I really enjoy the wet way) and stomped back to the car. We arrived at 10.45 so I barked at the boys to get dressed really quickly, we were soon just about changed (shoes, no socks etc) and we zipped off to the pub, we realised we couldn't remember the way so had a very swift leaving of the carpark to attempt to keep up with Dave. We made it to the pub at 10.58 where we managed to get food and drinks - so it was an ethical caving trip after all!
A great trip, was good to speed through to the Mud Sump with ease, was a clear indication as to how I've improved at moving through the cave, and also felt good to remember most the route. I'm still get to do the round trip, having done a fair amount of it from either side. There is a section called the 'double troubles' which is the main stumbling block of me. I'm not keen on water especially where you are having to trail an ear in the water. Somehow these seem worse than the sump (which I have been through)
The next trip wasn't until September. The plan had been to do Wet Sink but Dave hurt himself doing football and as there were only 4 of us we decided something easier was in order. None of us aside from Tim had been to Lionals Hole before so me, Tim Rob and Steve headed up to Burrington for a trip there. It started to rain as we approached the cave so it was a relief to get underground. For Rob though not too much relief as I pointed out all the big cave spiders inhabiting the entrance (he's not too keen on spiders..) From there Tim gave us a grand tour of the upper section (easier bits) of the cave. There's a rather nice landmark called 'the tent'
In my mind Lionals was going to be a horrible small crawly cave but from the start it was full of big impressive passage and boulders. The rock was quite sharp, reminded me of the rock in Wet Sink, and full of nice handholds. Here is Tim in the cave entrance series:
In the tent:
Lionals is notoriously confusing, if you can do the round trip you are a true caver. We were not doing the round trip on this occasion due to only Tim knowing the cave. The idea was to get used to various landmarks and to learn various ways on.
Studying the survey
I faced my fears on the traverse (getting in a bit of practice for the scarier one in Eastwater). You basically have to wedge yourself in and shuffle along to stop yourself from falling down the drop and into the hole below. After some more exploring it was time to face the Labyrinth - an area of lots of confusion in the cave. We found our way through to the muddy tube. It was tight and going uphill, none of us liked the look of it. Tim went first, then Rob followed - he was not too sure, but decided to bravely push on (having only been in Swildons before it was a bit of a new experience for Rob!)
We came out into another small chamber which we explored various small dead ends. There only appears to be one way on which looked horrible. Tim had a nose in it whilst we all took a break. It was then time to head out. Tim let me lead out some of it which I just about managed. We had a nose in a sumped bit on the way out, I was the only one silly enough to get into it and get wet, goaded on by Tim for refusing to explore further earlier. I didn't push on too far through it though..
It was then back through the boulders and out of the cave, with me gleefully pointing out more cave spiders :) We had to drive Rob to the pub as his campervan would not fit round the sharp bend (plume of feathers, burrington) his cat who lives with him in the van looked pretty put out it couldn't come too.
I now need to return to Lionals asap to see what I can remember!