“I eat too much too die and not enough to stay alive”, so goes the intro to a Manic Street Preachers’ song and it was to be the theme of the trip to the end of Daren Cilau and back by Chris Jones (CUCC) and me.
Ellie and I turned up to Whitewalls on Friday evening to find some of the Cardiff Club sat on the grass outside the hut. ‘Do you want to go to Spaderunner?’, ‘Where’s that?’, ‘The end of Daren – Ian & Traver did it in 10hrs’ ‘Sounds good’. Trip sorted.
The lack of food on the trip was my fault: the whole pack of Mars bars that should have been in my kit bag were either the pack in Sheffield or the ones in my work flat in Leeds; neither of which helped here but I scrounged some from various oversuit pockets and Chris had a good supply of Welsh Cakes and sweets.
Apart from the lack of food, the trip got off to a flying start, storming through the crawl and not hitting any problems until just before reaching The Time Machine. Chris had done the Prices’ Dig-Daren through-trip but never been further in than Big Chamber Nowhere Near the Entrance and I had never been past the first ladder. We took the wrong turn when we dropped down the free-climb and spent an hour searching through the wrong boulder choke and gloopy streamway before realising our mistake. Correction-made, we were off again and reached Hard Rock Cafe (HRC), the first permanent camp, after four hours.
A short food and drink break over, we belted through the sandy passages, interspersed with stoops and micro-crawls. This was great fun – and sweaty work – especially as the tacklesack was back in my posession. As the roof gradually came down and the going became more spiky and crawly, the frequency of humorous props left by the diggers increased: fake hands in the sand, toys, pictures, notes. We enjoyed finding these.
Rock Steady Cruise/Accupuncture Passage (sic) seemed to go on a long way and Chris certainly didn’t enjoy it, being the gangly-half of the pair and wasn’t too happy when I sent him down the wrong crawl temporarily. By the time we dropped down into Ankle-Grinder By-Pass, we took a well-earned water break as we were wearing most of the previous intake in the form of sweat.
We reached Restaurant at the End of the Universe (REU), the second and final permanent camp, at around the five hour mark. We dosed up on sweets, admired the surroundings and impressive mould-fungi and agreed our strategy: dump gear and turn around at six hours. The 10m ladder was impressive and we utilised minimalist belaying techniques (no-kit anymore). The novelty of big, smooth-walled passage was short-lived and quickly descended into sandy stooping and crawling again. After 1 3/4hrs (our turn-around time, passed) we finally reached the end: Spaderunner. We were tired, hungry and thirsty and had both been considering turning around for at least the last 15 minutes but it was done. Now for out.
We raced back to REU, driven by the need for water and food and got there three hours after we left. HRC was reached after another hour and we gobbled down Chris’ Christmas Belgian chocolate (it was very good). From here on the cycle of going from energy-crash to temporary reprieve continued; our progress buoyed-up by water and chocolate breaks. There is a long stretch of passage called Bonsai Streamway – a good half an hour of cave – and neither of us could remember it at all from the way in. We had a good giggle.
At the big ladder I was halfway down the top section when I puzzled over why the belay rope was pulling me down, ‘Chris, you’re pulling on the wrong rope’ ‘Sorry’. At the 45° (sideways) ladder section – the most dangerous bit – it was happening again: another shout, another apology. At the bottom Chris admitted he didn’t really know which rope was which. More giggling.
We were both very glad to get back to the entrance crawl: it was a known; the last hurdle and a lot less tiring than Rock Steady Cruise/Accupuncture Passage. In at 1030, out at 2330: 13 hours total – not bad considering we didn’t know the way.
At the hut we had single-malt whisky from wine glasses and Rosie had saved us not only dinner but swiss rolls & custard! Brillo.