Ben and I were tasked with the job of surveying Ben as far as we could go. As my track record was somewhat dodgy, Ben had the job of disto man, and I was the pointer/tipexer.

There were six of us going down Ben that day, and I believe Dave/Antonia were going to Deflowered Chamber while others were pushing the last parts of Bill (Invasive Species). Jreg and Corin went ahead of us to clear a bolt climb, with Rachael and Jolene bringing up the rear, aiming to push a different climb closer to the surface. After the first major pitch and irritating rift we had lost them all.

Ben and I surveying down Ben did not go as planned. Once we’d finally reached the point in the cave to survey from we realised that our pen was broken. I saw this as a reason to skedaddle, but Ben convinced me to continue down his namesake cave. We adjusted our strategy to firing a bazillion splays and legs without ever exporting them from the Disto and just hoped that Brendan and Tommy would be able to decipher our messy data. Apologies to the two of them, I think there was one bad leg that flipped the whole survey on its head at one point.

We turned around in what was quite a fantastic rift, it extended far upwards to leads that I’m sure will one day be pushed, but it was where we accepted defeat. I left a last little bit of tipex on a big thick prominent stalagtite, that seemed to have some markings from the original ‘70s LUSS(?) exped. I thought about finding Jreg and Corin, but our chamber seemed to go down forever through the floor, and also extend to the side into smaller tunnels. They were still a while below us and out of hearing range, so we returned to the surface.

It was not a fun journey out. The SRT would’ve been a nice challenge had it not involved carrying a large tackle sack with me. For every downwards pitch I could lower it down or drop it then sort it afterwards, coming up meant I had to prussik one handed just so it wouldn’t get trapped. Even then it did get stuck in the worst rebelay in Ben, which was situated in the narrowest part of a rift. The donkey dick was far too long, as I was about a metre ad a half past the choke point before I realised what had happened and had to do a changeover to go and save it. It was a serious dilemma to not just leave it there though.

Normally if someone asked me how I felt about caving I’d say. ‘well it’s exciting, it’s tiring, it’s scary, maybe even frustrating’. However, this tacklesack added a new word to my caving dictionary: apoplexy.

Due to it getting stuck on every single tiny rock, and wrapping itself around every possible rope, I began to become overwhelmed with rage, and ended up throwing the tacklesack around the entrance chamber while I waited to escape. On what I promise is an unrelated note, I wouldn’t recommend kicking a tacklesack, you never know what sort of brickish daren drums will be contained within its hellish depths.

Once out of the cave, we took the trek back at a casual pace and made it back to camp late in the evening. There we found American Mike, he had materialised after what sounded like far too many hours of trekking around the Picos. He had the camp alive with music and strange foreign gins. Glen was using the Landy as a very effective speaker by playing extraordinarily loud music to the whole of the Picos. After a short attempt at sleep, I awoke in a blind panic, unable to find my torch. When I went to find it, Botch thankfully escorted me back, but not before I saw Glen lying almost in his tent, as he gave me the glorious commendation of “Conor’s alright”, or words to that effect. Truly, a ringing endorsement.

Also yes this may be another email test…