Monday 27 May 2024

Fairy - Hillier's Through Trip

After finding myself with a spare bank holiday, I put the call out to Dudley members to see whether anyone wanted to join me for a quick caving trip. A lot of folk seemed to be helping with a project in Yorkshire, but Jonny was free, so the two of us toddled off for some Mendipian fun. I'd been wanting to do Longwood Swallet for some time, having been enticed by the streamway. Unfortunately, predicted thunderstorms put paid to that idea, so we opted for the Fairy / Hilliers through trip instead.
This trip started very pleasantly, with simple clambering over boulders and a short flat out squeeze into a small chamber. Easy caving led to a diversion off the main route, up through a loose choke to Disappointment Chamber. Here Jonny's time in the gym scuppered him from getting his chest through one of the squeezes, so I continued alone through the slightly unnerving choke (it was loose and poorly travelled), so that - as Jonny put it - I wouldn't be disappointed at avoiding disappointment. On reaching Disappointment chamber, I could see why it was given this name: a couple of uninspiring decorations make negotiating the choke not very worthwhile.
Next on the list was the wet crawl connecting Fairy and Hilliers. This was quite unpleasant, and involved getting a rather wet ear when ducking through the lowest point. A tight-ish squeeze followed, and having popped through this, we started down a descending tube. This lead to a narrow crawl which looked very tight to me. Jonny reassured me that it wasn't that bad, so off I went, not entirely convinced that it was the way on. To make matters worse, Mark and Jess had warned me of bad air in this part of the cave. After a few metres of crawling, I was a bit spooked; I was breathing hard, but told myself this wasn't due to bad air, but physical exertion. In any case, it was obvious it wasn't the way on as I turned a corner and it closed down.
Back out of the crawl, we retraced our steps and found the way on. Once in Hilliers, the different character of the two caves became obvious. Hilliers had a lot more boulder chokes with tight contortions and squeezes to complete. Following the polish was easy, though, and before long we were in Cambridge Grotto which was beautifully decorated. Shortly after this we turned around, and retraced our steps, before passing the connection and heading out to the exit rift where we’d rigged a handline before going into Fairy. This was a really fun, sporting trip, and I've that I'm glad I've finally got round to completing it.

Trip Report: Dave B
Cavers: Dave & Jonny
Photos: Jonny B

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