Why Do I Do Caving?

Why Did I Slap a Butt?

Two questions that I shall never be able to answer.

After training me for a while, I know that Gamble and many in the group want me to actually go caving, rather than just go to the pub and drink pints of water. So Gamble mentions a suitable trip, and quite naturally for me, on the day, I am nervous as a porcupine in a room full of balloons. But I need to go. Why? My life has not been the best for the last two weeks.  It’s been miserable for me if I’m honest, I needed “a reset button” (Creg, 2017) by going caving.

I meet Louise, and she’s very smiley, we get to know each other. We all head in the car over to this small village where there’s a car workshop-looking building. It reminds me of my father who used to race and fix cars. I’m soon told it’s a ‘TSG’, and that most of the group stay here for the weekends. Can’t imagine. Suddenly everyone is getting undressed and into their caving suits-  I begin to panic. I’m not ready for this. I can’t do this. When my mind becomes hazy with doubt, I become clumsy and forget things. I forget some of the kit in Gamble’s car and I feel awful and blame myself. I feel really bad for asking him if I can go back in to get it. I wonder if everyone thinks of me the same now. Social anxiety is a wonderful thing. Creg walks in the room and I sigh out such relief. Creg’s presence has a calming affect on me. Mainly because he smiles a lot and helped me through my first caving trip. I meet Henry and we talk together. After dressing up, we walk through the village. I feel like we are all the same YMCA characters. We begin to enter the cave and Sam starts explaining the most wonderful history of the cave. He warns me he could be boring but I find it fascinating. The first chamber is still open to the public, and could light up. I am impressed by this display, mainly because it is big and I know I might have to squeeze later on. I want to stay but the rest move on. We come to a slope used for filming part of Narnia, as I’m told. We slide down and go into a muddy section, where I almost slip off many times. I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust my boots either. Henry seemed to egg me on and trust me though.

We begin to duck underneath a pool of water. It goes up to my knees at first, but the more we trundle in, the higher it gets. Whilst I was warned, it was still a shock to me. It got balls deep. BALLS DEEP. I screamed but everybody else was calm so I felt a little pathetic, really. It was fun though.

The next part I remember is climbing up into a small hole that seems just right for a human to go into. We crawled for a long time. After a longer crawl, with water seeping into all the places you could imagine, I noticed the butt. I could not remember who the person in front of me was, but their butt was close to my face. And for a reason, I cannot say, I just slapped it. BAM. And then, slowly, the person in front turned around and we made eye contact. It was weird. This is the person that has made all the effort to train me. This is the person that I respect so much and think so highly of. The person that had now a look of such horror on his face as he looked back at me.  I resumed by apologising profusely, wondering if Gambles would ever think of me the same.

//Side note: I have since been told that this is an acceptable practice within the club//

The exit to the crawl was small and had a rock blocking the way. I was already panicking most of the way just from being in such a tight space. Whilst I am terrified, these moments build me. I try to get a good angle to get out, but my shoulders get tight against the rock and I panic. It was a trigger. I began to hyperventilate and every horror story that my imagination could conjure up stayed strong in my head. I was between a rock and a hard place. My sense of reason steps in and tells me to stop and listen. Gambles is asking me why I’m panicking and I can’t give a clear answer. I can’t see his face but I can see his light and hear his voice. This calms me down and he begins to guide me out, and Henry too, behind me, is guiding me and I manage to pull through.  We walk through a mudded stone valley, carved by generations of cavers before us. On the way back it was pleasing to slide down. We ate lunch in Moss chamber, to where I was surprised there was no moss. Only later I found out why. Sam gives us sweets and it makes me relax a little. I find out that I have to go the same way back and I genuinely hate the idea.

The eye. The eye was something that terrified me on the way and back. Being wedged between two pieces of rock half way through and seeing a drop down made me wince. I felt my hip bones pressing against the walls. These hips did not lie. My legs were slightly trapped also. The voices started appearing in my head again, telling me I’ll be trapped forever. Gambles was there. I trusted him more than he probably knew in that moment. Henry was also guiding me through speaking. But by this point, it got to much.  I struggled some more and, nothing. I was so scared but also annoyed because I knew the others were waiting for me. Why do I have to embarrass myself like this? My legs were trapped still. I started to hyperventilate.

Everything went black. I heard Henry’s voice, but did not understand what he was saying, and I forgot how to speak. I started to cry. I was so confused with what was going on. I leaned my head on the rock and relaxed. I stayed silent and did the only thing I knew how to, I watched my own breathing. I was glad I was with human beings I trusted, even if I didn’t trust myself. Each and every one of them are special, and for those moments underground, they are the only people I know in the world.  I felt Henry move my leg, he pushed and forced it into a position on the rock and I became much looser than before. I moved. I began to slowly collapse onto Gamble and my feet touched the floor. An amazing moment. “You did well.” I tap him on the shoulder. “ Thank you”.

On the way back, I mostly heard Creg making a lot of noise.  It makes me smile and reminds me to stay calm.  The northern accent makes me feel comforted, and contrasts so much to that of my own. The most fascinating thing I find about the people I cave with is their ability to stay calm, sing songs, and shout inside caves. It is lovely to experience when your anxious and terrified.  We wash ourselves down, and head out through the water pools. I think Gamble might have splashed me so I try to splash him back but end up falling head first in the water instead. I do so again with Creg with the same result. Even when I wade through the water, I end up tripping up and falling in once again.

Coming back to that final chamber is the best part. Why? Because in that same place on the way in where I was scared and apprehensive, I was younger and more ignorant, I was now a different person. I came in with fears and the worries of life and came out with a new perspective, stronger friendships, a new accomplishment. And without realising, your senses are more heightened as you exit the cave. You begin to smell the smell of grass, mud, air, and you hear the running water and the leaves on the trees. Your senses are overflowing with everything that’s going on, that you so easily rejected beforehand. I smell a sweet smell from the other side of the path, it’s a flower. I go to smell it. It smells wonderful! And all of a sudden, in my daily life, smaller things become more heightened in enjoyment. I go outside. And where I used to be scared because my anxiety controlled me, I end up enjoying the more beautiful things: the loud leaves on the trees or the rain that seeps into my hair- how beautiful life is!  The joy of leaving a cave cannot be truly compromised in writing.

So did I “reset”? Yes, yes I think I did.