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Scared the bejesus out of myself today.

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Tribal Chestnut, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. Tribal Chestnut

    Tribal Chestnut Well-Known Member
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    Currently sat in the kitchen nursing a large cooking brandy as I’m still feeling rather hyper.

    I visited Pierre’s Pot in the Mendips with a friend earlier.

    The first ten minutes of caving were rather innocuous, only made slightly awkward due to transporting four bags of diving gear, but a pleasant bit of cave that I’d happily take my daughter down.

    Four lads from the BEC joined us in the cave so we let them pass when there was room.

    The first obstacle was a vertically shaped squeeze, requiring a feet first move down at about 25 degrees or so.

    One of the BEC lads, none of whom were big, had a bit of a struggle here but made it through.

    I passed the bags through, then thrust myself through without two much discomfort - not too tight considering I was in a two piece 5mm wet suit and caving overalls.

    Next up was a short clamber down a bouldery section. Nothing tight, just a case of being careful not to upset any of the timber supports, which seemed to be carefully positioned right were you want to be.

    Down to the next squeeze.

    My friend remarked on how tight it felt, having seemed much roomier when she did it a good five or so years ago.

    Bigger BEC lad got down to it, hips through and then got stuck around his chest, climbed back up and we swapped so I went down.

    Couldn’t even get my hips through.

    When I started to cave last year I’d always said bollocks to this stripping off malarkey, if I can’t get through in what I’m wearing then there’s no point.

    However, I was now there and couldn’t turn the trip just because of a stupid suit, so off came the top, still leaving the lower half on.

    Back down to the squeeze and could probably ease down another inch, but no more.

    I was seriously considering myself beaten at this stage but couldn’t turn until I’d tried everything.

    So down to my pants it was to be. A sodding miserable experience as I was trying to strip off in a space not much bigger than the seat of a chair, and wet suits are a bitch to remove when you can actually move your god-forsaken limbs.

    Suit off and overalls back on. Full of grit, mud and cold sweat. Nice.

    Into the squeeze, kind of hoping that I’d still not fit and that would be the end of it as caving in pants only is just for the hardcore and/or insane - i.e. not me.

    Sadly I got through the bastard. Bit of a fight but I made it. Even had a go at getting back up again, just for peace of mind, needed a bit of effort but all good and no drama.

    Big BEC then assisted greatly by passing the remaining two bags and my suit down.

    Next up was another vertically shaped rifty squeeze thing.

    Small BECs helped here as I passed the luggage through and they manhandled it down, surprisingly gently. Good lads.

    Then on through the squeeze myself. Bit of a superman manoeuvre needed - weight on lower arm to stop you slipping down into the squeeze as the upper one reaches on ahead to try and pull you through. Legs scrabbling behind, offering scant assistance. Through ok and an easy descent, but sodding painful with no underclothes to take the edge off the rock, presents the stream way.

    We said our goodbyes to the BEC boys, all of whom had eventually managed to get through the bastard squeeze, & headed on.

    The sump is reached via a moderately crap, cobbley crawl, however there is a small but suitably spacious chamber prior to this where you can kit up.

    Kitted up, my friend went in first - the plan was to just see how far she could get, as the sump hadn’t been dived for a few years, digging and clearing as much of a way through as was feasible.

    After about 25mins she returned. First describing it as ‘shit’, she then quickly back tracked and said it was ‘ok’. She had pushed on to a point where to make further progress felt like she was forcing herself too much. Thankfully, though, she managed to clear a lot of cobbles and silt from the route.

    I then headed down to the sump, crawling backwards over the rocks and cobbles, having to lie completely flat at one point.

    Reg in I secured the line in my right hand and eased onwards, belly down, feet first.

    I’m somewhat bigger than the other diver, so still had to sweep some shite out of the way, kind of kicking backwards and sideways with my feet and using my left arm to help dig the crap from underneath
    me.

    Visibility was what I would have described as true zero earlier today - couldn’t see my finger until it actually touched my mask, but I was making progress, all to aware of the shitty gritty silty mess that could easily screw up my delicate regs, so I tried to make sure that my 2nd reg was always where I needed it.

    This proved to be a little tricky at times as I’d need the free hand to dig my way through, thus temporarily trapping it uselessly down by my side.

    The reg would also often be to the wrong side of my neck as my head was twisted to the other to get through a tight bit.

    I then learnt what true zero vis actually is.

    Suddenly lights out.

    I was convinced that in jiggling my head around to try and get through I’d inadvertently switched off my primary torch and that my back up, which I had switched on at the start of the dive, had become dislodged at some point.

    I managed to get my hand up, switch the torch back ‘on’, but nothing, checked the back up and it was still there.

    Then it dawned on me that, despite not getting even a dim glow from the torches, they were both fine, it was just that the vis was now a little less than what I had previously called zero - I must have been crawling through liquid mud.

    Progress continued, however it was slower and a lot siltier.

    I had no idea of my dive time or the contents of the cylinder that I was breathing from, but foolishly pushed on, head to one side, legs kicking and arms digging, wiggling along the sump in pitch black darkness.

    Then it became light again, and suddenly spacious, I checked myself over and continued on. That must have been the tighter bit that I was told about, now to the end. A few minutes later I experienced the wonderful feeling where you still can’t see but can here properly again as your head enters an airspace.

    Slowly I made my way out of the sump and turned to be face a fairly dismal looking crawl over cobbles.

    Thankfully I’d agreed that I’d see how far I could get and then return - if I made it out of the sump I’d just turn and head straight back through. So unfortunately no crawling this time around.

    I checked my gauges - 70 bar(!) and 230. Not ideal but could be worse. I’ll need to see if I can get hold of or make one of those little gauge reading things so I can hold it up to my mask and focus.

    I also checked my watch - 20mins gone. So a rate of about 1m/min. I normally swim a little faster than that.

    Now, back into the sump. I was expecting the return leg to be dead easy, having already cleared the way, knowing that I could fit and going head first.

    Into the first bit, nice and easy. Then it got dark again, reg hose managed to snag on a pit of rock, impeding progress and almost pulling the reg from my mouth. Not good.

    Head twisted sideways I eased my way forwards, continually losing my back up reg underneath my chest as it rolled under me.

    The cylinder that I was breathing from was dragging it’s knob through the mud, nothing I could do there and then, but it didn’t make me very happy, with visions of it rolling off and the back up being stuck beneath me coming to mind.

    The sump was now starting to feel a lot tighter than on the way in.

    I progressed a few more inches before finding forward progress impossible.

    I must have somehow crawled into the side of the passage and/or a lower undercut.

    Pushing myself backwards, almost dislodging my mask as my helmet twisted around, I kept closer to the line and felt the way on, still in absolute darkness.

    A free flow from the back up then followed, so I fought my way forward until there was enough space to sort it, checked it was still working and tried to carry on, but couldn’t as something was pulling my head backwards as I tried to progress. I got my hand up there and found that the line had somehow wrapped itself around my back up torch.

    I managed to get the line free and carried on, out of the black mud and back into the orange stuff, thinking that I could relax a little now, the worst part was done.

    The passage tightened up again & I had a very very uncomfortable moment as my back up started to free flow again but this time I couldn’t get my arm free to tend to it, nor would I have been able to get to the reg which was trapped under my chest, again. I must have also snagged the hose of the reg I was breathing from as it started to pull out of place as I tried to move backwards.

    Obviously I’d managed to wriggle into another tighter section, away from the line, which was still in my other hand.

    A rather unpleasant moment followed as I fought my way back a little so that I could sort my regs and try to regain the way on.

    It was a proper struggle as my hose had caught on something and the rest of my kit was trying it’s damnedest to keep me in that bit of the passage. I did have some nasty thoughts of not seeing my daughter again at that point, but I got a grip, managed to ease back enough to give me space to stop the free flow and felt my way out of the restriction and onwards.

    Moments later I was back in the streamway and crawling back out, away from the sump.

    I next had to strip my wetsuit off and get back into the wet, gritty, oversuit for the exit.

    Four squeezes and far too much time later we were then out of the cave.
     
    jps, JimmE, Chimpus and 4 others like this.
  2. JohnL

    JohnL Well-Known Member

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    And you do this for enjoyment? Glad that you are around to tell the tale.:whistling:
     
  3. jb2cool

    jb2cool Moderator
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    Uk cave diving is not for me
     
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  4. Graysyid

    Graysyid Member

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    I had pictures going round in my head as I was reading it. Can't imagine what mental focus it took to remain calm enough to sort out all those issues.
     
  5. Vanny

    Vanny Active Member

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    F ck that for a laugh.
     
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  6. Graysyid

    Graysyid Member

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    Tbh i probably would have had to dump the pants on the way back.
     
  7. splinter

    splinter Active Member

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    I'm currently doing some work at my house which has involved crawling under the floor to fit some new pipes and cables. I had about a foot of space, maybe a bit more, but was dry and reasonably clear apart from some crap the builders left behind. I did not enjoy it one bit and decided there and then that caving is not for me.

    Reading your post has definitely reinforced that decision. You must be nuts!

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk
     
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  8. Tribal Chestnut

    Tribal Chestnut Well-Known Member
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    Wasn’t my favourite dive tbh, but I would go back there, albeit with a slightly different set up - Cyklon regs, hoses in front and something so I can read my gauges.

    I’d also have a rope to assist with shifting the bags bag up.

    And maybe lose a bit of podge from my middle.
     
  9. Wibble

    Wibble Fish don't talk
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    The 'like' was for the excellent description, meaning you got out to write it.

    Slightly lost for words.

    Gosh


    So wouldn't your buddy have donated their longhose if you had problems? :inpain:
    UK cave diving's very different from other countries.
     
  10. Tribal Chestnut

    Tribal Chestnut Well-Known Member
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    it is rather different. Buddy was nowhere to be seen, right when I needed her!
     
  11. Dave Whitlow

    Dave Whitlow Well-Known Member

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    If I ever needed help deciding if I wanted to try UK cave diving.....

    I think I'll stick to falling off the back of boats!
     
    jps, Griffalo and Doomanic like this.
  12. JohnL

    JohnL Well-Known Member

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    :depressed::depressed::depressed:
     
  13. StuartM

    StuartM New Member

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    Nope, nope, nope, nope nope.
     
  14. Chimpus

    Chimpus New Member

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    Well described and well written. Just reading it sent shivers of cold terror right through me.
    Cave squirming is certainly not for me
     
  15. Wibble

    Wibble Fish don't talk
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    Was she the Virgin Mary?
     
  16. Tribal Chestnut

    Tribal Chestnut Well-Known Member
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    Only myself to blame really, my buoyancy was crap.
     
  17. JimmE

    JimmE New Member

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    I’ve always said that cave diving is 100% not for me.

    Recently, having seen lots of caving photos and knowing a few people who are involved, I’ve thought a coupe of times ‘never say never, maybe one day’ - but if I ever have such thoughts in the future I’m going to come right back and read this post again!

    Glad it ended well for you, but that’s pretty much my worst diving nightmare (strangely, about neck and neck with being lost at the surface) right there!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. Wibble

    Wibble Fish don't talk
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    For balance we did go caving a couple of weeks ago in Wales. Brilliant time in a lovely cave which combined all sorts of climbing, shimmying, crawling, traversing, shuffling (running out of adjectives).

    After about half a mile of rightish caving, but not claustrophobic, we entered a large riverbed. Simply amazing experience.

    No diving though.

    What was the name of the cave @Tribal Chestnut?
     
  19. Tribal Chestnut

    Tribal Chestnut Well-Known Member
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    That one was Agen Allwedd. There is diving to be done there, should you be that way inclined, however the caving to reach the sumps is rather strenuous I believe.
     

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