CHECC ’09 South Wales Caving Club (Part 1)

By Chris Playfoot

20/11/09 – 22/11/09

So once again the wonderful CHECC weekend was upon us. A staple date in the student caver calendar, I wasn’t about to let work on Sunday make me miss the fun (I was sick… honest…) On Friday, at about 1.30, me, Tom1 and Denise set off in the Micra on our ‘4 hour’ journey to South Wales. After the standard faffing around getting out of Sheffield and the Asda beer visit we were on our way…. Sort of. Heavy traffic on the M1. The joy. Off the M1 onto the next road. More traffic. Blah blah blah you get the picture. After stopping on the Welsh border for petrol I overheard someone saying there was a 10 mile tailback along the road we were travelling on. After ignoring this comment thinking that we couldn’t be held up any longer we took said road. 10 mile tail back. Joy.

After amusing ourselves by putting my green afro wig and power ranger mask on whilst travelling at 0.008 mph we were finally on our way.

8 hours after we set off we arrived at SWCC to the sight of a cast of Alice In Wonderland with a guy frolicking around in a blonde wig and dress. Worth the drive? Yes!

This was to be the start of a surreal evening of video game characters, Hero’s and Villains (SUSS), Tribal warriors / hula skirt wearing oddballs, Alice in Wonderland characters, the Nativity, Real Ale people and various other weird and wonderful ideas. Being the first of SUSS there, we began drinking and getting kitted up in our costumes to give Alice a run for her money. (pictures to follow) The rest of SUSS eventually appeared all in good spirits after the drive down and ready for an evening of hilarity and dancing. (insert memory here)

Suss dress up + beer = funtimes

Alice and friends enjoy the party!

Feeling very worse for wear on Saturday morning we received our bacon butties to fuel us for a days caving (?) and arranged various trips that people wanted to go on. Some people relaxed for the day too. After feeling surprisingly up for a good caving trip after the night before, I got myself a trip down OFD Top entrance with Clare, Peachy, B.J, Rosie, Hector and Tom.

EPIC doesn’t cut it!

What was meant to be a 4 or 5 hour round trip turned into a massively enjoyable game of guess the way on at the bottom of OFD (with a survey)! The plan was to do the round trip up to the Skyhook then drop down the pitch and exit via Sallubrious (spelling?) streamway. After climbing up and down boulders and stomping along big passage we reached the first traverse. A little sketchy but not too bad. Clare who was a little apprehensive about the said traverse, with a mahoosive drop, proceeded to hold peacheys flash gun for him so he could take a picture of her traversing the rift.

Clare in the exposed rift after Peacheys blinding by a flash gun – Photo by Peachey

Whilst this was going on Rosie (being the spritely caver she is) had whizzed up and down the traverse a few times whilst we waited for Peachy to blind himself with the flashgun and for Clare and the rest of us to amble along it at normal speed. (This would be a theme of the trip with Rosie doing about twice as much caving as the rest of us) This popped us out at the bottom of a rickety rope fixed ladder which we climbed into a pretty passage with a few formations. Further along this passage was the start of our various mishaps…. After looking at the survey for the round trip to the sky hook it was decided to go along across a bad step with a drop on one side. No problems there. We then continued along this very well decorated passage with a flowstone inlet going up off to the left with a sketchy fairly exposed climb at the end of it, which we first ignored, ooops. Instead of following the flowstone we continued straight along the passage. This popped us out into a roaring rift passage again with another large traverse with a very visible LONNNNG drop beneath it. After BJ’s novel traverse method of spanning the whole hole horizontally we got across after rigging a rope for those less confident.

B.J’s unconventional traversing above a nice big hole… Photo by Peachey

Presuming we were on the correct path and heading for Sandfill Passage we continued along a streamway then turned right. The sand formations were quite awesome with perfect lines of sediment from where various bits have been layed down at different times. Continuing along this we reached a spectacular floor of gower pools(??) looking like miniature mud cauliflowers which we thought best to traverse over rather than ruin. Part way along this passage up to the left was a perfectly white flowstone formation. After exploring to the end of this passage it was decided there was no way on! Back to the big traverse we went and had a peek along a few of the other passages marked on the survey but to no avail. Then Rosie and Claire went off to climb that previously ignored inlet whilst we ambled along the traverse again. It turned out that this was a promising way on so after we all got up the climb we followed the route found by Rosie and Claire before.

Whilst waiting for the others, a bit of a surreal conversation about my ‘plasticated crotch’ was started by Rosie that went something like this –

‘Chris why’ve you’ve got a plasticated crotch?’

‘Ermm. what?’

‘(Points to crotch) Look you’ve got a plasticated crotch.’

‘Oh you mean the bottom of my zip cover thingy? Yeah it just came like that…’

(or something like that)

After this point we were all feeling good and in high spirits about making some progress and looking at my crotch, with banter about girls and navigation. Upon reaching the skyhook we all got down successfully after rigging a pull through. Now the important word here is ‘through’. After lots of ‘pull’ it did not come ‘through’. Okay lets try all six peoples weight on it. Nope it still didn’t budge. We were all laughing at the sight of 6 people heaving at a rope that didn’t shift. It was at this point we agreed to abandon the rope and get a move on out because we wanted some tea.

‘Erm… guys? Could I borrow a light by any chance?’

Miss Scurion forgot to charge the batteries! Everyones lights were getting a bit dim at this point because of the trip turning into now about 7 hours (of fun I might add!)

After sorting out Rosies luminescence problem we proceeded to head to the corkscrew and out through salubrious as it was the quickest way. After nearing the exit I began to realise how cold and wet it would be outside and was having second thoughts about the walk down to the hut. Think of the food Chris, think of the food…

Overall I think everyone had an awesome trip filled with faff, mishaps, half pulled through ropes, passage that didn’t connect, getting lost despite knowing where we were and light failure.

Cheers guys!

Part 2 of CHECC Weekend coming soon.