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 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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Alum Pot......a Sunday trip?

After a good nights sleep we headed to Inglesport for a full breakfast to start the day and also to pick up some 60m of club rope.
I had chosen a real classic for the days play, Alum Pot.
Kay wasn't over keen on doing any longer pitches and so we headed in with two rather full kit bags each plus my camera.
Unsure if it was the couple of pints (I'm such a light weight!!!) or just a bit of dehydration but I was feeling quite rough for this one. I'd forgotten to take my sunglasses off and so could hide my heavy lids behind them on the walk across.
We entered via Long Churn. Normally lugging kit doesn't bother me but my head was thudding away and obstacles that I normally skip over were causing me bother. I didn't even try to traverse around the pots and simply sploshed my way through.
We met an adventure group at the Cheese Press and I encouraged Kay to have a go, insisting that I'd made it through with a bit of help so she'd have no bother. After 5 minutes of grunting and squirming she eventually wriggled back out and I admitted I'd never actually been through at all, but it was fun to watch her try :)
Dolly tubs was already roped so I decided to rig the alternative down to the balcony.
Here the sun rays were so impressive I completely forgot about my headache and grabbed for the camera.
After 10 minutes play we rigged down the greasy slab, across the traverse and down the bridge. The 45m was again already rigged so I continued along the traverse and rigged us down the 25m. On the way to the sump we met up with some guys from Manchester Uni and chatted for a bit before heading down to the sump to recce for a future shot of the last pitch on Diccan before we headed back out.
At the entrance we dumped the kit and headed through Upper Long Churn to exit via Dr Banisters. I grabbed the kit bags and my sunglasses and headed back to the van.

Job done all that was left was my 4 hr journey home, hampered by a brake down just in front of us as we were about get on the M6!

The Balcony View to Alum Pot
The balcony View to Alum Pot

The greasy slab
Alum pot sump area at the foot of Diccan
The Steps en route back from Upper Long Churn

Present: Mark Burkey & Kayleigh Wood

Saturday, 15 July 2017

A rather wet Swinsto Pull Through Trip

With only Kay and I available for this weekend away I decided to head up to Yorkshire to introduce Kay to a couple of the Yorkshire classics.

As it was to be just the two of us we had a leisurely 9am start and arrived in Kingsdale at just before noon to a drizzle and mist in the air. We first popped in to Valley Entrance to to rig the exit pitch from Kingsdale Master Cave. I had intended to take a couple of photo's of the entrance series, but it has been a while since I was last there and I'd forgotten the larger passage wasn't until after the pitch and so tied the camera box to the rope with the intention of taking photo's at the end of the trip instead.

We returned to the van to grab the two bags of rope and SRT kits and headed up toward the entrance.....and when I say toward the entrance it was really in the vague direction as I wasn't quite sure exactly where it was!
Kay found a likely looking hole and I popped my head in to it and found a bolted pitch, but it just didn't feel quite right and was closer to the path than I recalled. After a further 5 minutes I was looking down a hole which I was almost certain was the entrance to Swinsto and so kitted up and headed in. As soon as I saw the first pitch I knew we were in the right place.
Soon we were splashing through the Swinsto long crawl to the head of the next pitch. All went as planned until Split pitch where the water was ferocious, far stronger than I'd seen it on my previous two visits. We abseiled down to the ledge where there was no respite from the deluge and struggled to pull down the rope which was being whipped and twisted and fighting against us. After ten minutes we finally won and gratefully continued our way out of the force of the waterfall and on to the next pitches. At Spout chamber again the water coming in was incredible and this time I remembered my point and click and took a bit of video. We finally made our way to the short pitch in to the connecting chamber and on to the linking crawl. I must admit as we made our way through I was wondering if the link ever sumps and was very relieved to see plenty of air space to exit.
As we headed down stream it was all we could do to keep our legs under us and as we reached the short pitch back to the valley entrance series there were waterfalls coming in from everywhere, it was truly spectacular. Where I had lowered the end of the rope on to a cobbled floor just a few hours before was now thigh deep. I grabbed the camera gear and expressed excitedly to Kay that I just had to try and get a photo.
5 minutes later the camera gear was good for nothing, but the shot had been taken and so we got out of the water and headed out.
As we changed we witnessed the Kingsdale Bore, something I had never seen happen before so we gawked at the dry riverbed filling for a bit before heading off to meet up with friends and a well deserved pint :)
A rather damp start to the day
Didn't get any drier in the cave!
Normally dry, The pitch up to Valley Entrance

The Kingsdale Bore

A rather damp trip indeed!

Present: Mark Burkey & Kayliegh Wood

Saturday, 8 July 2017

There's nothing more dangerous than sunbathing! A trip in to Longwood Swallet

Jess and I had offered to help man the bars for this year's Priddy folk festival and so put out an email asking if anyone fancied a trip down mendips way on Saturday.
We had a good number of takers and were joined by Keith,  Tony, liz, Mark and Chloe. Chloe asked for a trip on to Longwood, I remembered the entrance series as being tight and as I've put on a bit of weight over the summer months put thoughts of the squeeze to the back of my mind. The gang met for the usual breakfast stop at the priddy cafĂ©, with Chloe and Mark joining a little later. Permits and keys were obtained and we headed off. Due to numbers I would head in with a group of 3 first  and the others would form a separate party. The lid lock was as awkward as usual and it took Mark's dodgey lock picking skills to coax the thing open.  With the squeeze at the forefront of my mind I dove in first to get it out of the way and found the entrance series more awkward than I remembered. Soon I was diving head first down to the letterbox and found it as snug as I'd feared. I exhaled and wriggled to find the widest part, exhaled pushed, wriggled and popped gratefully through. I was soon joined by Jess and then Tony. As Tony is a skinny whippet and could comfortably lie in the squeeze he had the honour of being my model for a quick photo before we thrutched on to the first pitch. Here I called for the ladder only to find logistics had gone our the window and both ladders had been left with the other party! I could hear the others coming down behind us and called to Keith that we'd need a bag moving forward. There were some mutterings and swearing but eventually the bag appeared and the first obstacle was rigged. Our group descended and we're soon joined by Keith,  Liz and Kay.......we had already lost Mark and Chloe who weren't 'feeling it'. As we were now 6 the group elected to stay together for the rest of the trip. We headed straight to and down Swing Pitch and first headed up stream to check out the choked passage and take a couple more photos and video before following get the crawls and cascades down stream to the sump. On our way back I popped in the inlets passage but gave up after ten minutes of samey hands and knees crawling to rejoin the others. Whilst the gang made their way back up swing pitch I grabbed another photo opportunity before joining them at the head of the pitch. We dumped the cameras at this point to do the August route out and headed through a surprisingly dry series back to the foot of the pitch in. At this point Kay and I went back to grab the camera boxes and tackle bag and regretted it most of the way back as everything caught and snagged as we heaved it back towards the entrance. Once again I wanted to get the squeeze out of the way and so shoved through a tackle bag ahead of me and then dove in to join it. I made the mistake of not finding the widest part and instead pushed on wedging myself completely, face full of tackle bag and legs flailing unable to find purchase to push. Jess had a go at pulling me back out but it was obvious there was only one way to go and so braced herself for me to push off. It took a lot more effort to get through than it had on the way in but with relief I gradually felt the constricted grip of the rock release me. The dog leg proved bloody awkward with a tackle bag ahead of me and Jess and Kay would also find the same as they exited. All that was left was to have the usual 5 minutes play trying to coax the lock before heading back to the vehicles. As Jess changed I noticed a large bruise on her side and asked what she'd done....."what I've done" she snorted, "that was you flapping your boots about trying to push off of me!" Karma would get its own back the next morning. I rolled out of the van on the hall green to the sound of church bells. Popped a towel on the grass and sun bathed and had a snooze.  10 minuted later I thought I felt someone stepping on my arm and opened my eyes to find an elderly lady just run me over as she had reverse parked! Who'd have thought of all the hobbies I have that sun bathing would be by far the most dangerous!
Tony in the letterbox squeeze
Tony and Liz at the upstream chokes
Keith and Jess at Swing Pitch
Jess sports a boot shaped bruise....ooops sorry honey!

Present: Jess, Keith, Liz, Tony, Kay, Mark Burkey & Fleetingly Chloe and Mark Burgess ;)

A Video of the Trip

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Mistral Hole

Friday the 30th june.

We had all agreed to meet at either the red rose or the marston arms that would be myself, Jess, Mark, Loz, Mel, liz and Tony. Unfortunately due to events out of mine Jess’s and Mark’s hands we didn’t make the pub. But Liz, Tony, Mel and Loz all enjoyed a drink lol.

Sat  1st july.

We aimed to head of around the 10am mark which we did. And present for the trip down mistrals hole was Loz, Mel, Jess, Mark C, Liz, Tony and myself Kay. Mark B was off taking photos of some friends horses so he didn’t join us.
So of we headed with some confidence we would find the cave entrance, we headed past Lancaster Pot so was on the right track and we arrived at the cave entrance within 30 mins, I headed down first followed by the others and we headed for The Gour Hall first which we found with little difficulty im pleased to report, however on the way back a few of the members went the wrong way down a oxbow wont mention names lol.
We got back to just after the Hall Of The Ten and then headed right towards the stream way, which to get there you have to walk through a really muddy chamber and down a hole at the bottom of the chamber, which is very slippery so you have to be very careful not to travel to fast.
We all headed upstream towards the waterfalls, we had to climb up some smaller waterfalls which we all made it up fairly easy.
We made it to the chest deep water right before the waterfall but decided to not press any further as we had been told that the water should only be chest deep but it was in fact deep enough to need to swim a little bit, so defeated a little we headed back down the stream way to the muddy chamber, we headed back through dusty junction, where just after i had to pause for a second to get my bearings before proceeding down the left passage and out back to the sunlight, or rather cloudy sky lol.

After we had got back had a shower and got changed some of our group headed home. So with only four of us left to enjoy the festivities of a red rose bbq we dug in and ate and drank and was merry. Even though our call out had deserted us for a pint at the Marston arms lol.

Sunday 2nd july

Me, Mel, Jess and Mark B got up with the plan of doing a trip into Wretched Rabbit, which after the festivities of the night before none of us really fancied doing it and so we headed to Inglesport for a breakfast with the idea of doing a smaller trip.

Which unfortunately didn’t go ahead as after breakfast we all decided that we would just head home.

Trip report.
Kayleigh Woods

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Photographing beyond the there in the end!

With time fast running out, there were just a few bits and pieces that still needed sorting . On some test dives both mine and Christine’s Peli cases flooded and so all the gear would need to be dived through the sump in dry tubes. For added protection I decided to protect the gear in the same way as I do in the UK and heat seal everything in to bags. Fortunately Ashley was driving to Croatia and kindly took a lot of the heavier camera consumables that I would have otherwise struggled with if I’d had to fly with it.  My normal battered and bruised Scurrion lamp was also deemed not up to the job and so I am eternally grateful to Rolf at Scurrion for the sponsorship of a dive version Scurrion for the trip.

Christine had already shipped my Apeks dive gear (Also sponsored, see the pattern of thanks and recognition here!) , flash bulbs and walkie talkies, so my packing was looking a little more realistic than normal.  At least it would have if I hadn’t needed to stuff  in a bulky wet suit, wellies, helmet, 3 camera lenses, laptop, various chargers etc, etc……still who needs more than one change of clothes anyway!
Licanke resurges through to this impressive lake
Day 1

Although I managed to forget my mobile phone, the flight out went smoothly and we were soon being collected by Richard Walker and being chauffeured to Krnica Dive centre where we met up with Ashley and Robbie.
We were soon fettling gear, analysing gas bottles, putting twinsets together and robbing as much lead as we could get our hands on to try and sink the large dry tubes we would be taking.
Soon Ash’s van was overflowing with kit and it was time to grab a quick bite to eat and head to Fuzine to the house we would be using as our base for the next few days and hook up with Rick.
Krnica Dive Centre
Ashes van gets loaded to the roof!

I tested and re-tested every piece of the camera and video kit, sealed everything into bags, ensured there were spares of batteries, cloths, SD cards, added heat packs to make certain the lenses would not fog, just about everything I could think of as once the kit was in the cave there would be few chances for do overs.
Priorities, the camera gear gets its own bed!

In fact I was so focused on trying to make sure I didn’t mess up on the entire reason I had been invited on the expedition that it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about the impending cave dive itself!

Day 2
The big day

The drive to Licanke was short, only about 10 minutes and in no time we were unloading a vast amount of gear that would need to be dived through the sump. I busied myself by walking my twinset over to the sump pool and went through all the pre checks Christine had taught me., then went back to keeping myself occupied with taking stills and video of the preparation.
Finally it was time. I sealed my camera in to the dry tube and hoped it would all go to plan.

I hadn’t given the dive a second’s thought until now. I slipped in to the cold sump pool and Robbie dropped the twinset down to me.  I would be dived through first, chaperoned by Christine and Rich. I was finally feeling a little nervous. In my training I had never worn a helmet in the water and it felt odd and a little off-putting.
Rich went through my buddy checks and the dive plan. He would lead followed by me, and then Christine.
I dumped the air from my wing and descended in to my first sump.
Me in the 1st sump

I was very conscious of my buoyancy and keeping the sump line within easy reach, but quickly these became automatic as I marvelled at the clarity of the water and the passage itself.  It was almost dreamlike, floating in the flooded passage effortlessly, and all too soon we were surfacing.
Christine eagerly asked how I’d enjoyed it and I think my grin from ear to ear must have answered her.  Throughout the next couple of days the visibility would deteriorate considerably in the sump, but the enjoyment of diving it would not.
Rick in the 1st sump

Back to the job at hand - the dry tube was brought through and the flooded camera boxes dried out and filled with equipment. I was possibly more nervous of shooting video than I had been of the diving, but quickly took to the task at hand and begun cataloguing the equipment being dived through, put on to an inflatable raft and scooted across lakes to the large dry cave beyond where it would have to be carried to the 2nd sump.  

Gear being scooted across one of the lakes

Day 3
Back in my comfort zone

Again we would be mostly shooting video of the gear being hauled. The combination of the fact that the cave had only ever been visited a handful of times and that it will flood during heavy rains meant there would be a lot of loose and moving boulders, which would have to be carefully navigated.

Licanke Main Stream Way
Christine moving kit through the main passage

Rich took a tumble at the sump pool just to remind us that an accident beyond a sump is something to be avoided at all costs. Ash dove the decompression bottles in to the sump in preparation for the push dive and once filming of this was complete I was allowed back in my comfort zone to take some stills on the way out.

The sharp and loose rock was unforgiving

Day 4
The Push

This was what the whole thing boiled down to. Christine and Rich vented their pre-dive nerves by squabbling over who’s neoprene gloves had the holes in them……I kept well out of the way!
I headed straight for sump 2 to set up the camera whilst Richard and Christine  took their time as they were caving in full dry suits and trying their best not to work up a sweat that would cost them valuable body heat on their push dive.
Each diver would have an ‘assistant’ to help them kit up and ensure that everything was checked and re-checked.
I tried to get some shots of them for the record, but both were eager to get going before nerves and the cold could take hold.

Christine checks her bottles ready for the push dive

Ashley and Rik had come up with the awesome plan of taking in a jet boil and making hotdogs so we could keep ourselves busy as we awaited the divers return.
We knew they were diving a fluid plan that would allow for a maximum of 60m and were expecting them to be around an hour and a half.
We spent a little time taking a couple of photo’s and munching hotdogs as the time ticked on….and on.
I had been told I would see their lights at the 6m decompression stop well before they would surface which would give me time to set up the video and capture their return. The hour and a half came and went and still no sign.
Ashley and Rik seemed slightly less concerned as they happily begun eating the hotdogs and buns that had been put aside for our heroic push divers to celebrate with!
At this point a light appeared in the sump pool and we all eagerly took our stations to record their return.

Christine and Rich surfaced, excited and full of adrenaline. There had been a ‘moment’ where in zero visibility the line had snagged on of their many tanks and snapped, separating them. This in my training had seemed the scariest thing I could imagine happening, but fortunately both Christine and Rich are well practiced in their drills and recovered the line before it could pose any risk to them.

Rich with his bouquet of bottles in sump 2

Jubilant, they looked to us for their celebration hot dogs. Ashley looked sheepishly at them and completely lied through his teeth telling them the buns had perished in the water so only a couple of sausages remained for them!

Hot dogs, the perfect caving food!

Later that evening the line data was analysed and was found to have yielded 99m of new passage with the end still wide open. Fortunately the passage hadn’t gone deep and had in fact levelled out somewhat, but it would mean that to push further next year, re-breathers would be needed. 

Day 5
Don’t you pee in your wetsuit?

The final day in Licanke would be spent stripping out all the kit. It would be all hands on deck for this and we soon mastered the best way to perform this by creating chains of people across the various obstacles and passing the kit along. After only a few hours we were packing up the dry tube and trying to get enough weight on it, and failing miserably, for Rich to dive it out.
Christine asked if I fancied being scootered through the sump and I agreed. She explained that I would need to keep well tucked in behind her and keep a hold of her harness strap at her tail end. Once the other side I was allowed to play in the sump pool and eventually resurfaced giggling like a 6 year old.
At some point talk degraded to weeing in your wetsuit and Christine admitted to releasing often in the cold water. I couldn’t help but think that the sump had seemed a little warmer than usual as she had scootered me through and tried to push the image out of my mind!

This has been an awesome experience. I have made some great new friends in Ash, Rick, Robbie, Rich and Christine along the way and got to do something I had never imagined I would be capable of.

The Gang

Report by Mark Burkey