Tuesday 26 December 2017

Best Extreme Caving Video Moments 2017 with Dudley Caving Club

I had uploaded 16 videos to YouTube this year, 17 if you include this one. Six of the videos uploaded this year were filmed in 2016 or earlier but only got edited this year. Another four of the videos are compilations of old clips combined with some new original footage recorded in 2017.
With a scarcity of new stuff it seemed that making the customary annual highlights video wasn't going to happen.

However it has been a very successful year for my YouTube channel, in fact the most successful year to date with caving video views exceeding 1.6 million, so it would have been a shame not to celebrate with a highlights video. Also this year I won the Hidden Earth Video Salon, got a plaque for the best art work produced digitally in the Hidden Earth Video Salon and got a commission to produce the opening video for A Golden Age of Cave Exploration and Science.

In the years 2012 to 2014 an American caver, or should I say Spelunker?, by the name of Rob Spangler uploaded videos entitled Best Extreme Caving Video Moments on YouTube 2012, 2013 and 2014. The videos featured short clips of dramatic caving scenes set to equally dramatic music. Now there's an idea. So here's this year's annual highlights video with apologies to Rob Spangler.

Friday 8 December 2017

The Story of The World of Caving

Hey Hey We're The Dudley
It seems that my opening video for Hidden Earth this year was quite well received as I was approached by Andy Eavis during the conference to make an opening video for A Golden Age of Cave Exploration, an event organised to celebrate 50 years of pioneering British cave exploration and scientific research which took place on 1st - 4th Dec 2017 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
“Something similar to the first part of the video,” was the brief, “I like Hey Hey We’re The Dudley but I suspect that few people in London will know what The Dudley is.” I was flattered, obviously, but a little noncommittal as I’m in the middle having my house extensively renovated and extended, and didn’t know if I would be rendered homeless sometime during the two months I’d got to make the video, and two months to come up with a concept, storyboard it, film it and edit it seemed like a bit of a tall order anyway.

It seemed that another video based on a song was what was being asked for but I had no idea what song or who I might be able to get to sing it, not to mention getting it recorded. At Hidden Earth I had been introduced to Rostam Namaghi and his Anthology of Speleomusic. I fired off an email to him and he very kindly send me his songbook which contains a number of brilliant songs. They are all great but a couple of my personal favourites are ‘Doline’ a plagiarised version of the Dolly Parton classic ‘Jolene’ and Glen Campbell’s ‘Limestone Cowboy’. Unfortunately neither seemed to fit the bill of being an introduction to 50 years of British caving. One other song in the anthology that caught my eye was Paul Simon's ‘The Sound of Silence’ but Rostam had only written the first two lines, “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to crawl in you again.” A week had gone by since Hidden Earth and in spite of some serious head scratching I still had no real idea for the video.

Seven Weeks To Make A Video

It seemed that all of my head scratching might have been in vain as the days were flying past and Andy hadn’t contacted me, and I must admit to feeling a sense of relief. Then on 11th October with only 7 weeks to the event the email arrived. With luck on the previous day Jess had sent her re-write of the lyrics of ‘The Sound of Silence’ and they were very good and fitted the bill perfectly. However my problems were far from over as I now needed a suitable backing track,  a singer and a recording studio.

I couldn’t ask Nige Atkins again, could I? No. I asked Rostam if he would be the singer but trying to arrange a mutually convenient date proved to be too difficult, and also I’d no idea how I could get it recorded at a quality suitable for such a prestigious event. I phoned round friends, ex-colleagues and relations but drew a blank in either identifying a singer or a means of recording. Meanwhile I couldn’t help changing a couple of lines, including the chorus from The World of Silence to The World of Caving. I toyed with the idea of speaking the lyrics in the style of Peter Sellers when he did ‘A Hard Days Night’ as Richard III. I looked through iTunes for a backing track. Perhaps a string quartet? In my searches for suitable music I came across Disturbed's version of ‘Sound of Silence’ and when I imagined Jess’s lyrics sung in this style I thought we might be on to something, and I was able to download from iTunes 'The Sound of Silence (Originally performed by Disturbed) by Karaoke Pro.

Four Weeks To Make A Video

Eventually I had no alternative but to throw myself on the mercy of Nige, and to my complete amazement he said yes. However he couldn’t get into the studio he used for the Hidden Earth video, but he said that if I could find a studio he would be happy to travel. It was now 28th October - just over 4 weeks to the event and I needed to find a recording studio, book it on a date when Nige could get there, get the song recorded and make the video. I was getting quite desperate. Then lying in bed one night with so much going on in my mind I couldn’t sleep I remembered an ex-work colleague had posted a music video to Facebook which featured a member of her family. I sent a message asking her if she could help in any way and she replied that her brother-in-law owned a recording studio in Birmingham! You could have knocked me over with a feather!

Three Weeks To Make A Video

Nige Atkins at ARC Studio Birmingham
The song was recorded with Nige on vocals at ARC Studio in Edgbaston, Birmingham on 8th November - just 3 weeks before the event. In the days preceding the recording session I had started looking through old video clips to see how much new stuff I would need to record. I’d got enough archive footage to match to about half of the song, and Antonia and Andy Freem were kind enough to agree to me using 3 clips from their excellent Dan Yr Ogof video.

I badgered a few Dudley members and we set off for a trip into OFD on 12th November with a shot list and managed to film 9 clips at various locations around Top Entrance. Also on the previous day I had filmed the ‘bustling world above’ on Bromsgrove High Street. The video then came together quite quickly but I was missing clips to illustrate the lines, “And the caving world expands throughout many foreign lands. Exploration opens up our eyes.”

Caver Keith videoing in Cross Rift,
OFD. Photo by Mark Burkey.

Caver Keith And His Hero

When I started caving back in the late 80s the first club I joined was the West Midlands Cave Exploration Group (WMCEG). WMCEG insisted on everyone having a nickname and I was christened Sid after Sid Perou as even in those days I took a video camera on some of the trips.
So Sid was always a bit of a hero of mine. As both Sid and Gavin Newman (another hero of mine) were involved in the video aspect of the conference I was put in email contact with both of them. Can you imagine it, me, Caver Keith, the chap that makes those silly videos, Mr. nobody, a numpty - chatting by email with caving royalty? Wow!

Two Weeks To Complete A Video

Anyway Sid sent me the video he was preparing for the event and in it there was a 17 second Ghar Parau sequence that fitted perfectly with the lyrics. I asked if I could use it and he said, “Yes!” I added a long fade into and out of Sid’s stuff and the video was complete 2 weeks before the deadline. Then disaster struck, my computer decided to trash my complete video library and the backup failed to restore it. I had got a backup of the backup of 'The World of Caving' so all was not lost, but Andy wanted the credits slowing down. I re-imported the video, chopped off the credits and re-did them. The video was finally finished.

Caver Keith Meets His Hero

Sid and Caver Keith. Photo by Mark Burkey.
The video was played to open the conference on the Friday evening and again on the Sunday morning to introduce Sid's session. It did seem to go down quite well with the audience and I got some good feedback from the delegates as well as great comments on YouTube and UK Caving. However it has had one dislike too.

At the conference I was able to chat to Sid on several occasions. It's always difficult chatting to someone that one holds in such high esteem and I hope I didn't burble too much.

On the Sunday I was privileged to be part of a team that filmed an interview with Sid and he was kind enough to do a short piece to camera about my humble efforts, but that's another story for another day.

Sid's Golden Age of Cave Exploration & Science Video

Wednesday 22 November 2017

The World of Caving

Coming shortly to a computer/tablet/mobile phone screen near you a new film by Caver Keith - 'The World of Caving'. Release date Monday 4th December 2017 after its premiere at the Royal Geographical Society. Starring members of Dudley Caving Club with music by Nigel Atkins and contributions from Antonia and Andy Freem plus Sid Perou.

The World of Caving
Update: 4th December 2017

The video

Monday 20 November 2017

Alum Pot - A Classic Yorkshire Pothole

Alum Pot is a pothole with a large open 100 metre deep shaft on the eastern flanks of Simon Fell, North Yorkshire.
The beck which cascades into it appears quite insignificant and the surface of the shaft is clothed with trees, yet it contains one of the best hidden sights in Yorkshire and probably one of the finest abseils in the country. It is a scene that can only be witnessed by cavers, and perhaps goes some way to answering the question, “Why do we do it?”
This video was filmed during the August Bank Holiday but has languished on my computer since then as I was busy with other video projects.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

2,000,000 Caving Video Views

A huge thank you to anyone that has ever watched a Caver Keith caving video.
It is with pride and amazement that I can announce that my YouTube channel now has more than 2 million caving video views.

Highlights from the Video Vault

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

After dinner speakers R us

Only 9 days before the event Les Williams contacted Mark and asked if he was free on 21st October as he needed an after dinner speaker for the 83rd Wessex Cave Club Annual Dinner. Having not been able to find a suitable excuse Mark then contacted me and asked if I would be one half of a double act.

The slot was scheduled to last for 15 to 20 minutes. Mark's idea was basically for us to trade insults between short compilations of Caver Keith videos. It seemed a half decent idea so for the next 8 days we honed the script and assembled the videos. However neither of us were really confident that it would work with a large unfamiliar audience of about 90 people.

Les said that he could provide a large screen, projector, amplifier and speakers as the Hidden Earth equipment is held in the Wessex stores. All we had to provide was ourselves and a laptop loaded with the presentation and videos.

What could possibly go wrong?

Suitably suited and booted we arrived early at the venue but had to run across the carpark through a cloudburst courtesy of storm Brian. The equipment was already in place so we fired up the laptop, connected the video cable and plugged in the amplifier. The projector worked fine but the audio stubbornly refused to work. With the clock ticking relentlessly to the start of the meal it seemed that our 'well-rehearsed' presentation was doomed to failure. With only minutes to spare we diagnosed the problem. The 3.5mm jack plug was not going into the socket on the laptop far enough to make contact and there wasn't a spare lead! Fortunately I had bought a bluetooth speaker so we connected it up and placed a microphone in front of it. The sound wasn't perfect but it looked like the show was back on. Phew!

Pre-show Nerves

When I said 'well-rehearsed' presentation I may have been slightly embroidering the truth. Cobbled together might have been a more accurate description. During the meal we found out that over the years the great and the good of the caving world had addressed this long established club. The names that every ever knows - The Clive Westlakes, The Martin Farrs, The Sid Perous, The Gavin Newmans and alike, and who are we? Did anyone know us from Adam? To emphasise the point the person to Mark's right during the meal said, "Who is Caver Keith?" - enough said. So to say that we were a little nervous would be an understatement.

At the end of the meal were a number of toasts and then it was down to us.

The Presentation

Mark started with, "During the history of the Wessex Cave Club we understand that you have been addressed by all of the big names in caving."

I replied, "But unfortunately tonight we've got us." It got a small titter from a couple of the audience.

We then played the Potholer Sketch. It's one of my favourite videos and I know that Mark rates it highly too. The odd smile played on a few faces but there were no laughs. It wasn't going well!!!

I then said, "I was introduced to Mark about 8 years ago. I can remember the day vividly. He walked into the windmill like he owned the place and my first impressions were … ". I left a suitable pause and continued with, "What a fat bastard." The place erupted with laughter. Perhaps we were going to be able to pull it off after all.

The exchange of insults continued with Mark slagging off my videos and me slagging off his acting ability. We then played a compilation of video clips entitled "Nah ... He Can't Act" showcasing Mark's acting, starting with the famous Corset video and concluding with the title, A Star Is Born. Having broken the ice with my 'Fat Bastard' remark the bonhomie from the audience continued.

After another exchange of insults we played the third and final video clip compilation entitled "Highlights from the Video Vault" which featured humorous clips of both of us, including Brendan being blown up on the firing range, me stuck in the Lobster Pot, my return to caving following my accident and crashing my drone down Eldon Hole. This elicited laughs in all the right places.

The conclusion revolved around Mark suggesting that it was about time I gave up making videos and me storming off saying that if that was his attitude I was off to find my next 'big star' and shouting, "Les, Les come and be in my videos."

We did get applause, thanks and some very nice comments prompting Mark to post on Facebook, "After dinner presentation with Keith Edwards done and we didn't get lynched or nuffink!"

Would we do it again? Possibly if our egos were massaged enough.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Fairy Quarry Caves

We had arranged to meet at the priddy good cafe at 9:30am so of we went, there was myself Liz, Tony, and Dave, we were meeting Kermit for a nice big breakfast, after breakfast we all headed of to the Fairy Quarry for some underground fun.
We got changed and I led the way to Shatter, where I struggled for a few minutes to get the gate open, but after a few mins we were in, so in I go and sign the sign in book with our names and date and off we head further into the dark.
First we came to Canopy Chamber but I couldn’t remember that’s what it was called, next it was Diesel Chamber, with every new part of the cave we came to Kermit said   “where are we now Kay”   to which I replied I don’t know. So further into the cave we go past Erratic Rift and past the Tor Hall, through Pisa Chamber to where Kermit’s favourite part of the cave lies, the angel wing, after Liz had took a couple photos on her gopro we headed up into the Ring Road, which I went straight past the climb up so Kermit pointed it out and up we went.
We then went through to the Pillar Chamber which is absolutely stunning with the white floor and big pillars, we looked at the crawl to the end of the cave and decided not to head down there, instead we headed to the Z squeeze, I went through first so I could show the others how to get down, and off we headed towards the exit, back through all the chambers and passageways, all with Kermit asking   “And where are we now Kay”   I could remember some of them but not all I remembered Frozen Niagara Falls and Pisa Chamber but couldn’t remember the others but hey ho, we made it out and headed into W/L.
We headed into W/L to go and see the original Lilly Pads which we had seen the ones in Shatter so off we went into the deep again to see the wonders that lie beneath the ground, after we had been in and found them which I walked straight past them, ( I really need to open my eyes more ) we then headed out and over to Fernhill.
Fernhill is a circle man made shaft down to a ledge and you use a static ladder to get down to it and another one to reach the bottom of the shaft this is a very short cave but has some really spectacular curtains, which I think are really pretty because they have got loads of different colours in them, after we had spent a couple minutes we headed back out and on pulling up the ladder it got caught on the fixed ladder so down I went to get it untangled so we could pull it up.
After we had all got changed we stopped of at a pub for a quick drink as we were a little bit early for the pub meal we had booked in the Queen Victoria so Kermit headed of to the Wessex to give Mark and Keith a lift to there talk, and Liz, Tony, Dave and myself headed to the Queen Vic for our meal and Kermit meet us there at half 6, we had very nice meals and all headed home.
And Nobody Died Or Nothing.
Signing off


Thursday 12 October 2017

Hey Hey We're The Dudley

Here we come ab'in' down a pot.
We get the funniest looks, well ever such a lot.
Hey Hey We're The Dudley,
And people say we're not quite sound,
But we're too busy caving to put anybody down.

(Theme from) The Dudley

Saturday 7 October 2017

Sump One & Back. Herding Cats In Swildons Hole

Jess and I had a balloon flight booked for the Sunday on the weekend in Bristol, so we thought it would be nice to see if anyone fancied joining us on the Saturday for a day trip in to Swildons Hole.

We hadn't anticipated quite such a response and wound up with 9 people signing up!

We started the day with the now traditional breakfast at the Priddy good cafe, before heading to the green to park up and change. There were several other groups kitting up so we knew it was going to be a busy route.

It was decided due to the number of us that Kermit would take Tony, Liz & Jess in the long dry way and I would head in the wet way with Keith, David, Mike & Kay.
We arrived at the 20ft pitch ahead of all the other parties and so began to rig. As everyone headed down the ladder Kermit and the rest of the party arrived.
As we were the first down we decided to head to sump 1 ahead of the hoards. Here we split in to two groups, one popping through the sump to take a look at sump 2 and the more sensible staying dry to video.
After this we headed up Tratmans Temple and on to take a look at part of the route on. Keith and Kermit decided to have a bimble out at this point whilst the rest of us headed to the greasy chimney.
As we made our way through the mud sump a few of us begun to wonder if there was bad air as we were all struggling just a little more than usual. By the time we made our way up the chimney we were puffing and out of breath and so it was decided we had enough fun for one day and begun to head out taking photo's as we went.
Arriving at the base of the ladder two groups were entering and exiting ahead of us and an hours wait ensued!
As the group were getting rather cold a few of the cavers asked if they could head straight out so I said that was fine.
Jess and Kay helped me de-rig and off we went. They were travelling a little quicker than me and as we headed around a corner I caught what I thought were their lights ahead of me and sped up only to find it was actually David and Liz who had lost Tony and Mike and were wandering around the fossil series. We headed out together from here to find Jess and Kay waiting with Keith but still no Mike and Tony!
Jess headed back in via the dry way and I via the wet way, but it was only after deciding to head back to the ladder and begin the search from there that we found them!
Back at the green Keith and David headed off whilst the rest of us went to the Queen Vic for Butcombe pie and pint :)

David at the greasy chimney

Tony and Liz at Tratmans Temple

David and Mike from the other side. Tratmans Temple

Present: Keith, Kay, David, Liz, Tony, Mike, Mark, Jess & Kermit

Monday 2 October 2017

Hidden Earth 2017

Hidden Earth is the name for the British Cave Research Association’s (BCRA’s) annual caving conference and Dudley Caving Club had some modest success in competitions at the conference last weekend.
Mark Burkey won several photo categories. Well he would, wouldn't he!
Jess Burkey won the caving cartoon competition.
Keith Edwards's Hidden Earth opening video won in the video salon. Oh and he also got a prize for the best artwork produced digitally.
And finally Mark Burkey was presented with the prestigious Giles Baker Award which is given to a person connected with any aspect of cave photography in recognition of his or her excellence and contributions to the field. Incidentally Mark is the second Dudley member to receive this award. Brendan Marris was awarded it in 2011.

Hidden Earth 2017 Opening Video

Dudley's Successes in the Competitions - The Complete List

Keith Edwards
Winner: Video salon
Best art work produced digitally

Mark Burkey
Winner: Delegate vote for best photograph. Three of Mark’s photos tied for first place
Winner: Best monochrome print
Winner: Best colour print
2 distinctions for colour prints
2 distinctions for digital images
2 merits for digital images
The prestigious Giles Barker Award in recognition of excellence and contributions to the field of cave photography

Jess Burkey
Winner: Delegate vote for best cartoon 

Sunday 17 September 2017

Pwll Dwfn

 I got up on the 17th Sept expecting it to be raining due to the fact it had been forecast to rain so it was a pleasant surprise when it was just overcast, but even so i put on my waterproof hi-vis jacket and trousers and loaded my motorbike ready for the 3 hr ride to South Wales Caving Club.

I set of at 6.20am and arrived at South Wales Caving Club at just after 9am which was alright, and no it hadn’t rained at all so all smiles, I arrived and Mark got up and went and had a look at the streamway, because as of yet we hadn’t decided what trip we were going to do.
In the end, although the streamway seemed ok,  we decided to of to Pwll Dwfn, and so that’s what we would be doing, so off we went to Dan yr ogof car park, and got kitted up. And off we went up the hill and past tunnel entrance towards Pwll Dwfn, and I didn’t moan once about the walk up the hill. ( Okay i may have moaned once or twice.) 

We found the entrance fairly easily as Mark had done the trip the week before and was kind enough to take me down there. So both of us put our srt kits on just inside of the entrance, and Mark headed down the first pitch I followed and off we went, onto the second pitch which I admit I had a little bit of trouble getting my small cowtails out of the p-bolt on the re-belay, I used a little trick that Mark had showed me using my hand jammer and down I went past the deviation, a total of 45m of rope are used on these two pitches.

The 3rd pitch is about 20mtrs of rope with a deviation which i completed without incident happy to report and onto the 4th pitch which had a re-belay which Mark went down first and talked me through what he did to tackle the re-belay, and down I went following him down the pitch, and again using the hand jammers krab I successfully passed the re-belay without to much trouble. This is probably the longest pitch out of the 5, and straight onto the 5th pitch without much of a break. Which has another deviation which we sailed past, we got to the sump at the bottom of the 5 pitches and Mark starts telling me about the 3 pitches upwards, I ask if there is any pretties to which he tells me no so as Mark has already been up them I decide I will give them a miss if there is nothing of value seeing. So we turned round and headed out.

As we were climbing up the rope Mark was telling me how to improve my technique which is a must as it really hurts my arms because I’ve not got the right technique yet, so more practice is required, I think, but even so it was a enjoyable trip even though it was a short trip I am always grateful when Mark will redo trips just so I can do them, we managed to do the trip in around 3ish hours.
All in all a good trip and well worth the trip, if for nothing other than to practice your srt technique. We both made it in and out in one piece and as Mark says “we didnt die or nothing”. 

Those in attendance Kayleigh Wood and Mark Burkey.
Signing off now

Kayver Kay.

Monday 28 August 2017

Back to where it all began. Browgill to Calf Holes Through Trip

I'm something of a late starter in the caving world and didn't begin caving until 2010.

 My first caving trip was Browgill to Calf Holes. We rigged a ladder at the Calf Holes end to exit and proceeded to try and figure out where the entrance to Browgill Was.

I can still recall the thrill and excitement I felt as we splashed through the water to the lower entrance. The carving of the rock, it's colour and texture were mesmerising. I remember feeling a little nervous going through the first crawling section as I imagined just how much rock there was above me and wondered what was supporting the void I crawled through.
I missed the way on of course and stood in awe at an underground waterfall before me. I had a big cheshire cat grin on my face, I couldn't believe that 'normal' people could do things like this, it was another world to me.
After searching around for a good 15 minutes I begun to despair of finding the way on and begun to backtrack. The rope hanging down the rift hadn't been visible from the one direction and it wasn't until I looked from the other I had spotted it. This would be a lesson that I would, in the future, often need to apply to the 3D nature of caves to find the way on.
It seems silly now to me but when we reached the deeply scolloped bedding plane I felt a little claustrophobic and worried that I may get lost. Although Jess had been before she couldn't remember the way on and we spent quite some time in the bedding plane, a lot of it up to my ears in water, searching for the connection.
We eventually found the 'Sausage Press' and at that time I was truly Chunky at 18 stone and huffed and puffed my way through it. I was so chuffed and proud of myself once I managed to get through it I completely forgot my helmet which I had removed to feel less claustrophobic!
I marvelled at just how different the Calf Holes passage was as we stomped down toward the pitch and gawked at the flowstone on the wall....my first formations.
 We waded through the water to the crawl past the ladder and continued on to the final chamber before heading back to do the pitch and out.

It feels like a life time ago since that first trip and although I have been back to the cave many times, Last weekend was the first time I had returned since taking up photography. Below are a few shots I took which embody everything that turned this first foray underground in to a passion which has consumed most of my fee time ever since.

Calf Holes Waterfall
Browgill Entrance
Waterfall chamber Browgill
Entrance crawls Browgill
Calf Holes Main Passage
Calf Holes Main Passage

Present: Mark Burkey, Mark Burgess, Kay Wood, Jessica Burkey, Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey

Sunday 27 August 2017

Our first SRT weekend trip to Yorkshire...

After our long journey up the very busy M6 we finally arrived at the Marton Arms for a well needed pint, we met up with our leaders Mark and Jess and a few other cavers, Mark had already sank a few so we had some catching up to do! After a chin wag and sinking a few drinks ourselves we decided to head to the YSS where we would be stopping. We carefully crept in trying not to wake anyone, which didn’t last long after crawling into our bunks Tony decided to make as much noise as possible by dropping his phone after the first, second and third trip to the bathroom. With our alarms waking us in the morning, we met the women who we were sharing a room with, which we apologised profusely for our drunken bumps in the early hours of the night before.

 Day 1:

Saturday Myself, Mark, Jess and Tony started our day with a full English at Inglesports, which seems to be the traditional way to start a caving trip. After a satisfactory filling we headed towards Bullpot farm, Red Rose caving and potholing club and had a steady walk over the moor to county pot entrance, we got our srt kits on and climbed down the entrance shaft of the cave. We walked through a very narrow winding passage, me being super careful because it was a brand new srt kit and I didn’t want to scratch it – which didn’t last long clanging it through the tight canyon. We then came to the first pitch, with Mark in front he started rigging and made the decent look effortless, I was to follow. Despite the large breakfast I had earlier shovelled into my mouth, turns out the descent wouldn’t be so easy for me. With a mixture of an old, thick rope and a new descender, Jess watched as I did my checks, I dangled over the first pitch, yet I still failed to move. They all thought it quite comical, a feather could of gotten to the bottom quicker, all 7 and a half stone of me was going nowhere fast! After a few meters Mark was able to grab my feet to pull me down, which still wasn’t an easy descent.. I got to the bottom eventually, just not as graceful as I thought! With one more pitch to do, we carried on through the cave. Mark climbed up Poetic Justice seemingly effortlessly, I gave it a shot but failed, then Tony went for it. I could just see his wellies disappear up the chimney, with a few grunts that followed he made it to the top too. Mark rigged a line and me and Jess climbed up to join them and then we did the crawl to the final pitch, which proved just as difficult for me as the first! We got as far as Eureka Junction in the main drain, past the Wretched Rabbit passage and then headed back. Thankfully, me being the weight I am – going back up the rope was far more pleasant! All in good time, Mark took some photographs and then we headed for the surface. The day ended the same as it had began, stuffing our faces only this time with a curry, Chloe and her partner Mark had joined us for the feast, ready for tomorrows adventure.

 Day 2:

Sunday we awoke to a bit of drama, Chloe and Mark were already outside and told us a vehicle had got stuck on the far car park. I was expecting a car in a pot hole, what I wasn't expecting is a Mitsubishi 4x4 camper van to have completely nose dived into ditch with just the back wheels and boot popping out! Unsure how the owners did manage to get out in the end, seeing the pictures on Chloe's phone, getting the vehicle in must have been an special achievement in itself! After having a giggle at someone else's misfortune, myself and the group headed to Inglesports, you guessed it – for breakfast! The group gained another 2 cavers, Keith and Kay who were already there tucking in! We ordered, ate and pondered around Inglesport. Me and Tony treated ourselves to new under suits, which we tested out later that day. We all collected outside, and headed for our cars to make the trip to Alum Pot. Mark and Jess went ahead to get permission from the farm nearby so we could park on their land. Once we all parked up, we started to get ready and put our kit on, me being the first to be dressed, I was so eager to do this trip! There was a lot of equipment to carry between us, so we all got together and took a bag each. They weren't light! I must have looked like a little donkey, with an srt bag on my back and a rope bag on my front to balance myself out, we made the 15 minute walk to the cave. When we got there we split into 2 groups. Our leader Mark, Keith and Tony stayed at the head of Alum Pot, Keith wanted to get some video footage of Mark doing the 80m pitch – the brave man! Tony stayed behind with them to help. That left our other leader Jess, myself, Kay, Chloe and Mark to head towards the entrance up the hill via Dolly Tubs. We got into the cave, paddling through the passages and dunking into pools of water before reaching the Cheese Press in Long Churn, where Jess and Kay both insisted I give it a go as it was my first visit. So, I awkwardly lifted myself into the tight squeeze, only to find out it wasn't as tight as I had imagined, I slid through it like a knife through butter – this is where my slight, petite build did me justice, making up for my poor descent efforts the previous day on the rope! I joined the others round the corner as they bypassed this route, we then put our srt kits on ready for the first pitch. Kay headed off first followed by Jess to do the rigging, whilst myself, Chloe and Mark waited patiently. I was very nervous about this pitch, I knew it was the highest one Id done so far being 15m in length. By then Mark, Keith and Tony had caught us up, I felt better knowing Mark would be talking me through it as Jess was already at the bottom of the pitch. Both leaders have filled me with confidence on previous trips and I feel safer knowing I'm with them. There aren't many people who I can say that I trust my life in their hands, but Mark and Jess are 2 of them and I feel I'm progressing as a caver through their help and support. I got to the top of the pitch accompanied by Mark, I hooked in my cows tails and took the rope I’d be descending on. I threaded in my descender, tested it by leaning back and locked off. Mark was slapping my hands, telling me to take my hands off the rope and to trust the kit, which is easier said than done being a newbie and dangling over a drop. I did as he said and leaned back, he then instructed me to take the lock off and make sure its clear where I'm going, thankfully it was kinder rope than yesterday, I travelled down it far more easier. I got to the bottom of the pitch where Jess was waiting for me and took over. I hooked my cows tails in once again and did the final pitch with confidence, got my feet on solid ground and shouted the all clear “Rope free!” I turned around and I was not prepared for what was in front of me, I was stood on the balcony pitch looking down into Alum Pot. The pictures on Google do not do it justice, it was breath taking! I was stood in sheer amazement, In ore of the view. We descended once again, this time passing a re-belay where I got a little stuck because my foot loop was shorter than my cows tails. But Jess was to the rescue, she lent me her hand ascender and I was free to move further down the rope. I got as far as the bridge, Tony, Mark and Kay went on to the bottom of Alum Pot, the rest of us started to move back towards the balcony and they caught us back up again after their deeper exploration. We travelled back through the cave, hauling the bags still, only this time they were full of water and wet rope. After climbing the 2 pitches, myself, Tony, Chloe and Mark were free and safe to carry on through the cave to reach the surface, I came out of the entrance with wellies full of water and huge grin on my face with what I had just seen. I already can't wait to go back and explore another entrance, I can’t put into words how I felt about this trip, but proud is perhaps the most fitting.

 To top the weekend off, we had the long drive down the M6 back towards Dudley HQ shortly after having a coffee with our club mates. With a Motown cd quietly playing in the back ground we headed through the winding Yorkshire roads towards a more populated civilisation – the dreaded M6. I don't think we had been on the M6 15 minutes, when flashing blues pulled us over onto the hard shoulder. The police officer approached the side of the car where I was passenger, I wound down the window. He had said the reason he had pulled us was because the vehicle was registered to a female owner and the concern was a male was driving. I pointed to the rear of the car and said “Officer, this is my car. We’ve had a weekend in Yorkshire caving and my legs have had it, so Tony has kindly offered to drive us home”. He looked at us and in the back of my car, I think he felt sorry for us, we did look a little worse for wear! – We possibly smelt a little too. He checked our details and said we were braver than him for caving, we could of chatted his ear off about our events that day, but we both kept quiet so he could continue his day. He waved us off and we continued our journey home.

Tony on the first pitch in County Pot

Liz on the 2nd pitch County Pot
Alum Pot

Trip Report: Liz Leavesley
Photos: Mark Burkey

Present Saturday: Liz, Tony, Mark & Jess
Present Sunday: Mark, Jess, Chloe, Mark Burgess, Keith, Kay, Liz & Tony

Sunday 13 August 2017

Phil gets a little hotter in Otter

Phil requested a trip in to the stunning Otter Hole a while back and so a trip was booked. The team would comprise of Jess, myself, Phil, Mike & Kay.

We met our leader, Adrian at the car park at 7.15am kitted and ready to go. Jess had sent out a couple of emails warning that this would not be an easy trip and as we walked to the cave entrance people muttered about just the walk back up the hill would be strenuous enough!

We entered in to the flat out mud wallowing our way through. We kept a good pace, reaching the sump in 45mins, to find it wide open. The next leg of the entrance series begun to wear down Phil, who had not caved since Christmas and by the time we reached the breakthrough he was really feeling the pace.

Mike and Kay were eager to reach the end of the cave and so we discussed options. It was decided we would do the honourable thing.....ok maybe not.....we abandoned Phil with his camera to take a breather and play with photo's and video and headed on through the cave.

Otter hole has a reputation for being breathtakingly decorated and does not disappoint. I had not been further than Long Straw Chamber before and so was surprised as we reached the junction to see Tunnels Left changing character to phreatic boulder strewn passage.

We took a quick look at the final chamber and sump and then headed back toward Phil taking a couple of quick photo's as we went.
Once we reached Hall of 30 and rejoined him we again took a couple more shots before heading out.
Again Phil was feeling the pace so we took it nice and easy to exit at about 6pm.
Unfortunately my camera lens had given up by the time we exited and so we are without the usual mud covered exit shot, but the pic of the suits awaiting to be cleaned gives a good flavour of what we would have looked like :)

Adrian near the hall of 30

Adrian in Tunnels Left

Mike in Tunnels Left

Phil near Hall of 30

Kay in Long Straw Chamber

His and hers matching suits

The new meander suits are no match for Otter Hole!

Present: Mike Bonner, Kay Wood, Jessica Burkey, Phil Lester, Mark Burkey & our leader Adrian Fawcett