Trip Report by Mark Burkey
After a trip earlier in the year to sump 1 and then the greasy chimney, Andy, Mel, Jess and myself had been planning on going back to have a go at the short round trip.
This time we were minus Jess (after she decided to jump off her new scooter before actually stopping) and plus Dominic.
We knew it was going to be busy as soon as we arrived by the number of cars at the green. Sure enough as soon as we got in the entrance cavers begun appearing from everywhere!
We made swift progress to the pitch head only to have a half hour wait as there was a traffic jam of cavers waiting to descend.
At Tratman's Temple we again caught up a group who were also doing the short round and as we had already lost a lot of time we decided to tag along rather than jump ahead and risk navigation errors.
Everything went smoothly with no surprises to the greasy chimney. Andy went first.....grunt, grunt "I'm nearly there"...THUMP!! “Strike 1”...THUMP!! “Strike 2!”... Fortunately Andy flew up on the fourth attempt as I’m not sure there were anymore swear words left for him to use!
Again with our guides we swiftly made our way through to the Troubles where the other group decided they wanted to get some pictures of everyone going through. Andy was first up.....”Exactly how long IS this?”.......”THAT’S not much airspace”.....”What do you mean on your BACK?!?!” In the end Andy showed us how it was done and just treated the whole thing as a sump and swam under it! Next went Mel and then Dominic who, after a ‘moment’, took to the ducks like, well like a spluttering duck to water. I myself had been so focused on the Birthday Squeeze ahead that I hadn’t even given any of the other obstacles a second thought. At least not until I wedged tight through one of the later ducks with my head half submerged and had to be dragged through. It was at this point I decided I really, REALLY wanted to fit through the squeeze and not have to do the Troubles in reverse.
Andy and Mel flew through the Birthday Squeeze, and I followed family tradition by first stripping off down to my furry. Following advice from Paul (an experienced caver who swore he’d got “corks” through the squeeze before) I eventually went in on my back and was just thinking to myself how well I was doing when everything came to an abrupt halt. I’d reached the tightest part of the squeeze and no matter how hard I pushed I wasn’t going anywhere. I would just like to say that I was very manly at this point and took it in my stride, but unfortunately I can’t. I begun to panic, making some very un-macho noises! However, with Paul wedged in behind me to push against, & Andy telling me there was no way he was going back through those bloody troubles and to suck it up, I eventually popped through like a champagne cork through to a slightly wider part, managed to turn full circle, and actually wound up having Andy pull me feet first out of the squeeze. I’m reliably informed this is a manoeuvre that has never been performed before and certainly gave cause for a few giggles!
With nothing more than a couple of minor navigational errors we were through the sump, back up the pitch and out with no further events.
In conclusion I think it is important for a caver to approach such a challenge with guts and determination, though I do feel a little less guts on my part would have made the whole experience far easier :)
My thanks go to Dominic, Mel, Andy & my new foot-rest, Paul, for getting me through my hardest challenge to date. The ribs are a little sore and tender, but I couldn't have done it without the whole team.
Present: Dominic, Andy, Mel, Mark & around 200 other cavers popping out from everywhere!!!