Saturday 21 February 2015

The sweet smell of success in Manor Farm Swallet

February's club weekend was very well supported as always, with 15 members going underground in the Mendips on the Saturday. A 'Priddy Good Breakfast' had been planned but with so many of us turning up unannounced, service was slow and we had hardly finished breakfast by lunchtime. We then split into 3 groups, one to go into Shatter Cave with a leader, one to go into GB, and one more group, including myself.

Carl had requested a 'wet, tight, awkward' trip to break in his mysterious Plus One, and Brendan wanted to find Nhasa Gallery in Manor Farm Swallet, so with Mike Bonner and Mark B...U...R...Gess completing the group, we set off to have fun in the streamway that runs under the cow pastures of Manor Farm.

As not all the team were yet SRT competent, we took ladders for the entrance pitch. Carl popped down first, followed by his mate Dan, who coped with the ladder very well, as did Mike and Mark. September Rift soon followed. This is pretty much free climbable, but Carl rigged a ladder and handline for extra security and everyone was soon down.

Mike in September Rift

The descent along the streamway down rifts, crawls and climbs was enjoyable, with one highlight being the crawl through a cascade. Towards the end of the passage we started looking for the way on to Nhasa Gallery, which turned out to be an obvious climb up on the left. How we had missed it on previous trips was hard to tell. After an initial chamber, the route on regained the water, leading along to a section of foul smelling sludge where crawling was called for. Carl at first refused point blank to go through the sludge, but the rest of us were undeterred and pushed on through, stirring up the slurry nicely. There was only a very short amount of passage after that, and the air quality was not good, but it seemed only polite to wait for Carl to give up and crawl through the sludge before telling him it was a dead end.

Carl enjoying the water

We did manage to wash some of the visible mud off in the cascading water on the way back out, but the smell of cow s**t somehow didn't leave us, and it was a rather fragrant  group that arrived back at the foot of September Rift. Brendan and I had been looking forward to seeing the others struggle on this tight, awkward rift, but disappointingly everyone seemed to take it in their stride, and the same went for the ladder pitch, though that was a little more tiring.

The boys admiring the curtain formation

With such a swift exit, we were changed and ready to go before 5pm, which is when we made a horrible discovery - not only had I left the tea and coffee stuff in the van with Mark; I'd left the caving cakes there too!

Dan looking disappointingly unbroken by the trip

 Present: Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris, Mike Bonner, Mark Burgess, Carl Knott, Dan 'the mysterious Plus One'

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