Posted by William Brian Thomas
I caved and potholed for 7 years until marriage in 1970 scooped me up and away from fulfilling my masochistic needs. NB if anyone can think of a name which is the opposite of a Fresher then, don’t bother, I won’t remember it!
I even slid into biospeleogy, discovering, along with dear-departed mate Robert Miff Smith, a unique cave snail since named [by CRG] “Trichoniscoides thomasum”.
About 16 of us meet for four days each June at our annual reunion near Buxton – to chew the cud and imbibe a little liquid. I am persuaded to respond to the Elise Freshwater Blizzard SUSS website “trip report”, containing her amusing and very true post-activity thoughts. My paragraphs are based on Elise’s ten thoughts.
“The pub could close in about ten minutes!”.
Not a chance, as our beloved Joan Prime organises the entire four days with, if not Pinochet Precision, then great background efficiency. The whole reunion purrs along thanks to Joan and her August husband Min/Dave. [we have about six “Dave’s” so this Dave is known as “Min” – you can guess why].
“I’ve never seen so much clear water in my life”.
A big reason for my continuing to cave over the years was being immersed in shocking cold water, whether on a ladder pitch, a stream or an underground pool [such a pool nearly killed me as I tried to exit Porth-yr-Ogof]. I wantonly drank and gulped these underground waterfalls and have lived without any obvious defects – apart from those that you notice immediately on meeting me.
A stunning minority of caves and potholes that we traversed displayed grottoes and imposing stals just around the corner – what unmitigated joy and bliss. We hardly ever saw “rubbish” on any visited cave. On the few mining trips, we were not too surprised by the occasional spade or skeleton. No newspapers, bottles, cans, so I do sympathise with Elise here. However, Min/ Dave Prime reminded me that often there was spent carbide lying around. Also, his expensive rum fudge “dissolved” when in the possession of Alistair Watt when they were both down PenY Ghent – and the fudge wrapper disappeared as well!
“This water and environs are rather glacial and cool”.
Yep, Elise is right on the button for this one but, what a joy to escape said liquid and thaw out steaming upon reaching the surface. I was one of our few members to cave without a wetsuit. No, I did not descend unencumbered by clothing, but wore a skilful set of layered string vests, T-shirts and boiler suit. AND, what is all this about your WELLINGTONS! I cannot believe you current youngsters prefer wellies over trusted boots. What is the advantage of walking around in every cave with two-foot protectors laden with cold water? Plus, no grip on the soles?
Knee pads I can understand – my trips along Rough Crawl in Magnetometer Pot and the bottom of Pen-y-Ghent Pot did not help my knees at all; so, “Chapeau” to all of you that do so protect their genoux. Five of us oldies nearly all drowned in Magnetometer when we started descending with drips [water, not folk] on the entrance 25-foot shaft, but met a flood torrent on the final step out – Min and I tossed a coin as to who would first try to ascend [and thus escape] the by-now-roaring and damp entrance pitch waterfall – I watched Min not so slowly exit up the 10-inch spaced electronic ladder. We got out smartly.
“I won’t fit through”
We lifers have reached the age where, if we are still caving [five of us max} we address that popular phrase when facing the entrance of most openings listed in the caving “spotting” books. Only a group discussion [“we have come this far Dave, it would be a pity to turn back now”} [“Have you brought the oxygen Dave?”] [“It suddenly looks like rain Dave”] resulted in any decent descent.
“I wouldn’t have done that without them”.
Nowadays, for us oldies, “them” are Zimmer frames and hot water bottles. Not other team members Elise. Yet teamwork is absolutely the sine qua none of any caving error. Other members of our team were a bonus – could I trust them? Certainly, five have turned out to be true friends of mine – never there when I need them [above and below ground], always quick to ask me how much money do I have – and where is it? If I got into trouble during my life, I did know unhesitatingly who to call on and e.g. lend £1,000 unconditionally [steady on Bri!]. – two of them are now deceased though.
“I have to block this out, NOW; Don’t Panic”
I concur with Elise on this one. On both her two challenges. “…  “get through a small hole” along with point 6 above. Dave/ Min, Keith [now deceased] and myself were on the first ever G-O-G trip. We squeezed through alright crawling into New Oxlow, but I disfigured my face sliding back up through the new connection. My teammates were having their own travails, but we eventually made it into Poached Egg, slid down into the Crabwalk, and exited rather bruised but triumphant after 7 hours of stressful but wildly exciting caving. We just concentrated on each matter to hand.  “water diving or ducking”. On an early trip, down/through Stoke Lane Slocker, we all had to free dive a two[Min] or six [me]-foot sump. I had to reach up, at other end, for Lord Dave’s arm, but he obligingly withdrew it when he saw my Nife light appearing. I was slightly more successful on my second dive. Min since discovered that said sump is/was contaminated with rat urine, whereupon the feted and celebrated Dr. Oliver Lloyd caught Weil’s disease from said “pond”.
“I don’t trust myself”.
After over 300 trips I eventually reached an uneasy compromise with my inner self. My caving chums regarded me with more than a modicum of respect [indeed I rose to the dizzy heights of SUSS Chairman and Leader of our Team “L” DCRO cave rescue team whilst holding down the onerous position of DCA Librarian! I did have inner qualms though, but I kept them firmly under wraps whilst  trying to descend a fierce wet Battle Axe in Lost Johns [I failed] and  reaching the far end of Aggie’s SSP and thinking of getting back and out.
“Everything is terrifying and unexpected”
Not so, when doing a trip listed in the “book” but certainly true when NEARLY pushing new passages. I say nearly, because myself and Min/Dave nearly found the Kingsdale Master Cave – [ I think the Brooks Brothers did so do], we nearly pushed Rough Crawl at the end of Magnetometer, didn’t find OFD 2, etc. There must be others.
“I can’t wait to go to the pub/home”
A universal sentiment Elise, after energetic and stressful speleological exercise. Some of our 1967 EIRE party took issue with my wanting to go down Poulnagollum EVERY DAY, but it was such a beautiful system and we were only there for 12 days! It helped that I was a masochist, that I was super-intelligent and that I had the common sense of a Greater-Crested Newt. My best friends are nearly all from the world of speleology. Long may they rain!