Incident 49/2017 – July 16th Sun. 15.36 – Robin Proctor’s Scar, Austwick, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 49/2017 – July 16th Sun. 15.36 – Robin Proctor’s Scar, Austwick, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A climber (m,57) fell approximately 10 metres, sustaining shoulder and head injuries, whilst climbing at Robin Proctor’s Scar, Austwick. Team members assisted a Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedic in accessing the casualty, and packaged him for a lower by stretcher down the scree slope below the climb, to a waiting team vehicle. He was then driven to Town Head, Austwick for transfer to the road ambulance and transport to hospital. Volunteer…

Incident 48/2017 – July 15th Sat. 17.05 – Southerscales, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 48/2017 – July 15th Sat. 17.05 – Southerscales, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Just as team members were clearing away after the Ingleton Gala, a call was received to two walkers (m,f) lost ‘somewhere on Ingleborough’. The Duty Controller was able to speak directly with the walkers via mobile phone, and sent a ‘SARLoc’ message, which gave us their location on our mapping software. The walkers had followed another group onto the limestone pavement, and then lost contact with them in low cloud.…

Incident 47/2017 – July 15th Sat. 16.10 – Ingleton Playing Fields, North Yorkshire – Local Incident.

Incident 47/2017 – July 15th Sat. 16.10 – Ingleton Playing Fields, North Yorkshire – Local Incident.

Whilst providing first aid cover for the Ingleton Fell Race and Gala day, one of the last runners home (m,44) slipped and sustained a fracture to his right lower leg as he descended the grass slope just before the finish line. The casualty was splinted and given pain relief, pending the arrival of Yorkshire Ambulance Service. In addition, several runners were treated for minor cuts and grazes upon completion of…

Local Update

Local Update

Once again, plenty has been going on at and around SWCC. We recently had new provisional member, Lucy, spend a week in South Wales for some caving and walking fun. She met many new cavers, saw places she had not visited before in OFD, visited the Neath…

Incident 45/2017 – June 30th Fri. 01.49 – Whernside area, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 45/2017 – June 30th Fri. 01.49 – Whernside area, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A group of six (all m, 16) on a Silver D of E expedition was reported missing in the Whernside area – last known position was approaching the summit ridge at 20.00 on Thursday. As they had tents, sleeping bags and food for two days, this was not treated as a serious emergency, so two CRO members and a Police officer drove around the area, looking for lights.

Incident 44/2017 – June 27th Tues. 14.35 – Ing Scar, Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 44/2017 – June 27th Tues. 14.35 – Ing Scar, Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

The team were called by Yorkshire Ambulance Service to a report of a walker (f, 53) who had fallen whilst walking near Malham Cove, sustaining a shoulder injury. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance was able to land near the casualty and drop off a paramedic, but had to move due to unstable ground. The casualty was packaged and stretchered by team members to a CRO vehicle, and then driven to a…

Photography beyond the sumps……gotta get there first!

Photography beyond the sumps……gotta get there first!
In 2004, whilst on holiday I took my PADI open water and advanced qualifications and haven’t dived since.

I wasn’t what you would call a natural in the water and the training didn’t exactly leave me feeling confident in my abilities, and so, although a nice experience, I figured it was probably not for me.

I have also been reminded of a conversation with my mum when I first started caving. I was keen not to be nagged by her and told her something along the lines of  “No mum caving is really quite safe, far less accidents than climbing, it’s not like I’ll be cave diving….now that’s dangerous!”

Fast forward several years and I get a phone call from an enthusiastic Christine Grosart whom I had met at Eurospeleo 2016 and had been underground with a sum total of once.

After a quick round of pleasantries she dove in telling me she had a cave project in Croatia called Licanke, that a team had been the previous year and this time they wanted someone to come along to help with stills and video. I explained the photography would be no problem, but video would be all new to me and whilst I was happy to give it a go, I couldn’t promise what we would wind up with. I had a flick through the diary at the dates she had proposed and pretty much agreed that I’d be available.

“There’s one other thing,” Christine added, as I was about to hang up. “You’ll need to dive a small sump to get in to the cave.”

I spat out my tea in my lap, and laughed nervously and then realised she was serious. For the life of me, I have no idea why I went and agreed, but that is exactly what I did. We would have 3 months to see if I could be turned from an underwater version of Bambi to someone who wouldn’t be a liability to himself and the team.

This had all happened just before I was due to head off to Meghalaya and so I put it to the back of my mind and headed off for a month.

I had been back less than a week when I got a message that the first thing we would need to do is see if the CDG would agree to me joining as a member specifically for this project.

I would be diving a back mount twinset, the same as the rest of the team, and so would train in this configuration. At the CDG meeting everyone was most welcoming and agreed to my membership with the caveat that Christine took responsibility of me as my mentor.

What have the CDG let themselves in for!
Our first couple of training sessions would be in a pool in Bristol. This would mean driving down from the Midlands after work to meet up for the evening pool session at 8pm and typically getting back in the early hours as the M5 was going through night time closures for road works.

I have to say I think I really did look the part in my shorts, t-shirt and wellies; certainly it seemed to impress the other ‘try dive’ students who all seemed to be pointing at me admiringly!

Rocking the look!
It was immediately obvious to Christine just what she had taken on as I coughed and spluttered my way around the pool with all the finesse of a hippo!

Christine is however a very patient and skilled teacher and, eventually, I begun to grasp some basic diving concepts such as….. how to NOT somersault under water every time I lost my buoyancy…. NOT to try and breathe when the regulator isn’t in my mouth and finally that although you can get away with peeing in a wetsuit in open water this is frowned upon in a swimming pool 😉

With these important basics covered it was time to move on to something more serious.

We then progressed to quarry diving in Vobster Quay and Stoney Cove. Apeks Dive equipment had kindly offered to sponsor me all the dive kit and so I was even beginning to look a little more the part.

Under advisement I had purchased a 5mm semidry, which isn’t dry at all, but a two-piece wetsuit.

The quarry temperature in May was around eight degrees and whilst I pulled on my neoprene the more experienced divers, all in dry suits, looked at me like I was mad. Christine assured me that as the water temperature in the sump would be around seven degrees that it was a good idea for me to train in a wetsuit…she explained this whilst struggling on another layer and getting in to her dry suit 😉
Apeks Kit Talk
All dressed up and nowhere to go!
I didn’t really notice the cold as we submerged – I was far too nervous. This would be the first time I had properly dived in over a decade.  I had been briefed and practiced on the surface the drills we would be performing and Christine would demo what she wanted first and then I would try to replicate.   I would be so engrossed in the lessons I often didn’t even notice the cold until I surfaced with a blue tinge to my skin and lips, and so it would repeat.

Video was shot so I could get feedback between dives and slowly over the sessions I begun to feel I was progressing.

Feedback time
As things slowly begun to drop into place the quarry sessions would become more complex to include: following line reels blindfolded to simulate zero visibility, then lost line searches then gas failures. The itinerary was full on and hard work, but I found the more I was taught the more comfortable I was becoming in the water.

After a couple of evenings in the pool and several weekends in the quarries practicing drills, skills and overhead environments, Christine declared me ready…well she kinda had to.  We were out of time!

Photo’s and video courtesy of Christine Grosart

Incident 42/2017 – June 21st Mon. 16.33 – Horton Scar, Pen-y-ghent, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

Incident 42/2017 – June 21st Mon. 16.33 – Horton Scar, Pen-y-ghent, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

A 5 yr old ‘sprocker’ spaniel fell on rocks and was unable, or unwilling, to move his back legs. The owner requested assistance to get the dog off the hill. A small team responded, and together with a National Park warden, conveyed the dog down to the owners vehicle in Horton, from where the dog was taken for treatment at a local vet. Volunteer hours: 8   *The dog, Benson,…

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Trip date: 17th-18th June 2017


Team; Stuart Bennett, Bob Hall, Elaine Hall, Duncan Hornby, Helen Hooper, Andy Jones, Richard Sore and Claire Vivian


Everyone arrived in Yorkshire on the Friday to stay at the excellent Bunkhouse at Hardraw run by the SWCC members Helen and Andy. Duncan managed to break his record of getting to Hardraw now taking no less than 8½ hours to get there…


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Hardraw Old School Bunkhouse in the glorious sunshine.


Whilst having a cheeky pint in the Green Dragon, Richard and Stuart arrived looking just as frazzled from their long drives. With a fairly early start and knackered from driving it did not take too much for everyone to retire!


Saturday – Meregill Hole

The SWCC group split into two groups; the advance party rigging pitches 1 and 2 but going no further and the rest following an hour later to complete the rigging to the bottom. The reason this was done was that Andy had two clients (Ariana and Lee) who were on an improver SRT course. They were improving their skills and a full trip to the very bottom would not have been appropriate. Andy gave Duncan the opportunity to rig pitches 1 and 2 which he jumped at under his watchful eye, dispensing best practise and advice. Bob joined the advance party and went no further than pitch 2 as he was recovering from a shoulder injury.

An excellent description and rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.


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Andy and his SRT clients (Ariana and Lee) at Meregill entrance.


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Andy abseiling the first pitch.

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Stunning rays of light in the Mere entrance.

Pitch 1 was relatively easily to rig as it was at the surface, pitch 2 had an “interesting” traverse line that lead to the pitch head. It is high up near the roof and you find yourself desperately trying to jam yourself into any place that will hold you as you attempt to rig.

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Lee passing the deviation on the second pitch.
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Bob arrives at the base of the second pitch.


Whilst waiting at the base of pitch 2, to our surprise 3 Wessex cavers came shooting past and overtook us. Stuart, Claire and Richard arrived and Duncan joined their team. Bob, Andy, Ariana and Lee then returned to the surface. Apparently Andy put them through their paces getting them to repeat some of the skills they were learning, so no rest for the wicked!

Stuart and Richard continued rigging the pitches, made more fiddly with the Wessex rigging in place. Big pitches and several hanging re-belays made for a “lonely” trip until we all gathered at the base of pitch 5. It was at this point the Wessex team blasted past us on their way out…

Aware of time we decided to keep the exploration short. With various options lying ahead Stuart who has visited this cave before announced he had “not been this way” and this was reason enough to give it ago. I now know that if Stuart says “not been this way before” that is reason enough not to go there! A painful hands and knees crawl with SRT kit was not what I wanted! Almost at the point of turning around I could hear Stuart ahead saying he was in a stream way which eventually rejoined the obvious stream way which we had ignored.

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Stuart in the Meregill stream way.

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The team (Duncan, Claire, Richard and Stuart) near the base of the 5th and final pitch.


After our team photo we headed out; again a lonely journey as we strung out waiting for each pitch to clear and people derigging. We de-rigged the pitches we had rigged. I was secretly pleased with this as poor old Richard and Stuart dragged out the heaviest bags from the deepest parts of the system, kudos to them! As I (Duncan) had rigged the 2 pitches at the entrance I was the last out and was welcomed by a glorious sunny evening with spectacular vistas that only chapel-le-dale can offer.

We got back to the cars, quickly changed, Bob had been a trooper and waited for us, then a mad dash back to Hawes for food. We were joined by Jo White and the rest of the evening was spent in the Green Dragon in Hardraw talking about Richard’s pants, a topic that just kept on giving…




Sunday – Roaring Hole

A rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.

Due to time constraints Sunday had to be a short trip and Roaring Hole in Chapel-le-dale fitted the bill. We said our goodbyes at Hardraw and headed over to park up and change. The weather was glorious and was promising to be a scorcher.

Stuart came over but the weather was just too good to get him underground, so only Duncan, Claire and Richard entered Roaring Hole.

The entrance is within a section of limestone paving just off the main track.


Duncan, Richard and Claire at the entrance of Roaring Hole.


At the car we had re-evaluated what we planned to do and with time against Duncan and Claire we decided to just do the first pitch and get as far as we could before turning around.

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Looking out or Roaring Hole – saying goodbye to the sunlight.

Duncan installing rigging at the first pitch.


The first pitch is a nice friendly pitch with easy access, no desperate hanging rebelays as in Meregill the day before.


Duncan about to descend the first pitch.

There is a wide ledge for the second half of the first pitch which allowed us to take a few action shots.


Claire descending the second part of pitch 1, Richard in background.

We continued our exploration passing through boulder chokes seemingly held up by rusting scaffolding poles.

Duncan near some pretties.

We passed through a few damp patches and finally arrived at Masons Chamber where a rather tight and awkward squeeze into more boulder choke had to be passed. No problem for Claire, a bit more worrisome for Richard and I!

Richard in the squeeze out of Mason’s Chamber.

We eventually got to what we believe is Slab Climb which would have required using a bit of kit to get down safely. This turned out to be a suitable turn around point.

We retraced our tracks and exited into scorching sunshine.

Ingleborough in the sunshine.

We said our goodbyes and then Duncan and Claire made a dash for Newbury so Claire could catch her connecting train. Richard met up with Jo and they visited Mistral to pick up some data loggers.

Incident 41/2017 – June 13th Tue. 12.24 – Path from Gordale Bridge to Cawden Flatts, Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue

Incident 41/2017 – June 13th Tue. 12.24 – Path from Gordale Bridge to Cawden Flatts, Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue

A walker (m,70) was reported to have collapsed on the path from Gordale Bridge to Cawden Flatts. With no phone signal, the caller returned to Malham to call for help and to collect the village defibrillator, because the patient was believed to have stopped breathing. When the first CRO members arrived, the paramedics from the North West Air Ambulance were monitoring the now-conscious patient …

Incident 40/2017 – June 5th Mon. 17.29 – Calf Holes, Birkwith, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

Incident 40/2017 – June 5th Mon. 17.29 – Calf Holes, Birkwith, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

A farmer reported one of his sheep had fallen down the 20m pitch at the entrance to Calf Holes, and was concerned as water levels appeared to be rising due to the heavy rain. A small team attended to find the stream into the pot in flood. An inspection was made of accessible areas of the pitch, but no sign of the sheep could be found.

Incident 37/2017 – May 31st Wed. 15.00 – Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue

Incident 37/2017 – May 31st Wed. 15.00 – Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue

During incident no 36, a caver (m 60) suffered from chest pains whilst at the foot of Gaping Gill where he was helping to manage winch descents of the cave. He rode to the surface in the winch chair where his condition was assessed and stabilized by a Bradford Pothole Club member and Yorkshire Air Ambulance. The casualty was carried by stretcher to the air ambulance that had returned from…

Incident 36/2017 – May 31st Wed. 12.03 – Sand Cavern, Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue

Incident 36/2017 – May 31st Wed. 12.03 – Sand Cavern, Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue

CRO were called to support Bradford Pothole Club (BPC) with the rescue of a young person from Sand Cavern in Gaping Gill. The casualty had descended into the main chamber of Gaping Gill via the BPC winch and was exploring further cave passages with his father when he fell and injured his hip. The casualty was attended to by BPC members and extracted by BPC and CRO from Sand Cavern back to…

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

North Wales Mines Weekend. Anglesey. 13-14 May.
Team: Bill Buxton, Graham Christian, Brian Clipstone, Howard Dare, Peter Dennis, Kevin Diffey, Andy Dobson, Dave Dobson, Spencer Drew, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Mark Hampson, Barbara Lane, Fred Levett, Malcolm Lloyd, Harvey Lomas, Dave Mullin, Angie Peacock, Allan Richardson, Claire Vivian.

First of all, thanks to Allan for organising this! We stayed at the Anglesey Outdoor Centre, the weather was amazing and it was Brian’s 70th birthday. All this provided the perfect backdrop for a weekend filled with mine exploration and good company. 

Anglesey Outdoor Centre

Saturday we all arrived bright and early at the Parys Mountain carpark. Three members of the Parys Underground Group (PUG) had kindly agreed to take us all in to the mine – no mean feat with almost 20 people wating to go underground! We divided in to 3 groups, one group would do Parys-Mona, the second would do Mona-Parys and the third would explore the upper levels of Parys. I did the Mona to Parys trip and it was a goond one. This was a pretty active trip with a couple of ladders, hand-lined climbs, crawls and wading through water. And plenty to see in the form of Copper Sulphate crystals, snotites, snotite curtains and Bronze Age workings.


The team muster at the entrance to Parys mine
For modern day Parys Mountain, it all began on 2nd March 1768 when a large vein of copper ore was discovered there. Copper was mined at Parys Mountain and then taken down to Amlwch Port where it was processed further before being shipped to Swansea and also around the world. Indeed, the mine later developed into one of the largest copper mines in the world, the largest, some might argue. Apparently, so influential was Amlwch and Anglesey copper that the British navy under Lord Nelson used the metal for sheathing its ships and for use in manufacturing cannons. Incredibly, it seems as far back as 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, local people had discovered traces of copper here and on the trip we were shown evidence of Bronze Age workings (dug out using pebbles).

The through-trip was mainly dry, but there were some sections of water that were waist deep and the connection itself, which was the drainage level between Mona and Parys mines, was constricted and the water was slightly higher here. I was bending at the waist to walk through the passage and the water was a couple of inches below my face. We were told that the water level varied here and at times it was necessary to remove your helmet as there would be only a few inches of air space. The water in the mine was also incredibly acidic (pH of 2 in places; tap water would be around 7) and there were regular wash stations to clean eyes if any happened to splash in your face. I know this doesn’t sound good, but it didn’t cause us any problems in there. 
Above ground is a surreal, alien, landscape with red, yellow and brown hues of ochre. When the light catches it, it is radiant and almost pretty really.

The Great Opencast

Angie crawling through some workings
Fred wading through the lower levels

Bill, Howard, Malcolm and Harvey near a very acidic pool (Photo: Barbara Lane)

Interesting formations. (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Copper Sulphate crystals
Some of the team in Parys Mountain (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Spencer on the summit of Parys Mountain

Trip time: 4 hours.

The afternoon saw us head off to the coast for some exploration. Several of us went to South Stack to look at the lighthouse. It was then time to help Brian celebrate his birthday! How many people can see they had their birthday meal in a yurt with 20 of their friends!

Angie and Claire near South Stack lighthouse (photo: Barbara Lane)

Happy Birthday Brian! (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Sunday
Road trip to Llandudno and the Great Orme! The morning saw us head in to Ty Gwyn mine, which was right on the seafront. We had some very strange looks from people as we were standing there in caving kit and then disappeared down a manhole in the middle of the promenade! Members of the Great Orme Exploration Society were generous with their time and helped us out by leading trips, or providing advice and a survey. This was a nice short trip, around 1 1/2 hours. Plenty of artifacts to look at and mud to stomp about in.

Getting ready to enter the mine.

Ty Gwyn was first opened in 1835 and during its working life produced over £100,000 worth of copper. It finally closed in 1853 after many years of continuous flooding. Copper still lies below sea level there and is perhaps awating a future mining enterprise.

Cleaning up in the sea after Ty Gwyn (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Following this trip, the groups split in two. Some of us headed home and others went on to visit the Roman Shaft on top of the Great Orme and enjoy ice cream in the sun.

Getting ready to go! (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Angie getting comfortable before the abseil.

Fred on his way underground.

Thanks to members of the Parys Underground Group and the Great Orme Exploration Society for giving up their time and arranging trips for us.

Incident 32/2017 – May 20th Sat. 15.26 – The Allotment, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

Incident 32/2017 – May 20th Sat. 15.26 – The Allotment, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue

An 11-year old Labradoodle dog was reported to be exhausted on a walk between Clapham and Horton in Ribblesdale. A team vehicle, with four members on board, was sent to assist. With some coaxing, ‘Sydney’ tottered on to within a short distance of a decent vehicle track. He was carried to the team vehicle and transported to Clapham for a drink and feed. That left two people to set off…

Incident 31/2017 – May 20th Sat. 14.33 – North of High Birkwith, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 31/2017 – May 20th Sat. 14.33 – North of High Birkwith, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A Three Peaks walker (f,24) slipped or tripped, sustaining an ankle injury. One of her companions back-tracked about 500m to where two CRO members were staffing a checkpoint on the annual ‘CRO Challenge’ event. A team vehicle was sent, pain relief administered and the ankle splinted, before all were taken to meet an ambulance at Horton in Ribblesdale. Volunteer hours: 6

The Top Five Things I Learned While Going Caving With the Dudley Caving Club by Sarah Lotz

The Top Five Things I Learned While Going Caving With the Dudley Caving Club by Sarah Lotz
It started a couple of years ago. I was trawling YouTube for inspiration for a book I was thinking of writing, idly browsing caving videos. All I knew at that stage was that I wanted to write about an adrenalin junkie who has an unfortunate experience when he breaks into a cave that’s been out of bounds for years (I should probably point out that I write commercial horror fiction!). Top of the heap were a series of superb clips by Keith Edwards of the Dudley Caving Club, which left the other videos in the dust (in the acknowledgements of the book I call him the Spielberg of the caving scene – although I suspect Keith has a far keener sense of humour). I was on the edge of my seat watching them, peering through my fingers like I used to do as a kid when the scary bits of Doctor Who came on. I contacted Keith, and asked him if he’d be prepared to let me pick his brain about the caving scene. He did much more than that; he invited me to visit the windmill and offered to take me underground. Everyone I met at the windmill was welcoming and kind, even though I’m fairly sure they all thought I was bonkers. Talk turned to which route to take me. I’d heard somewhere that if you go underground for long enough, when you emerge you can smell what the air ‘really’ smells like. It was Mark who suggested we do the OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr through trip – five hours should give me that. And so my husband Charlie and I set off to meet Keith, Mark and Brendan on a drizzly Welsh morning.

I did get to smell what the air ‘really’ smells like. That and much, much more.

The trip wasn’t easy, but it was bloody brilliant. And I got the inspiration for half a novel out of it (the other bit is set on a mountain), even if I did get some of the caving terminology wrong.

Sarah and Charlie the start of their adventure
Anyway, in the style of Simon Newman, the book’s protagonist, who as well as being a hapless adrenalin junkie runs a nasty little website that becomes the precursor of Buzzfeed, fake news and all that’s wrong about the internet (and yes, he is what most people would call an arsehole), here are The Top Five Things I Learned While Going Caving With the Dudley Caving Club:

1) A sense of humour helps

And you have to have one to take a neurotic writer and her gung-ho husband under the earth for five hours. It was a big ask, especially as I had zero caving or climbing experience (I have a condition commonly known as laziness), and Charlie is at the other end of the scale – he has no fear.

Keith, Brendan and Mark told us exactly what to bring, were endlessly patient, and at no point, not once, did they ever lose their cool. Brendan even took a photograph of us balancing on a pipe on top of a churning pool, which took a great deal of setting up and generosity.

They are exactly the kind of people I would want by my side in a zombie apocalypse. And they’re also what my brother would call ‘as funny as fuck.’

Sarah negotiating the Letterbox

2) Claustrophobia was the least of my worries

In one of Keith’s Cwm Dwr videos there’s a moment where Mark gets stuck in a pipe (I can’t tell you exactly where on the vid it is – I have only managed to watch it once). Those few seconds of footage made The Descent look like Bambi and gave me nightmares. This trepidation was fuelled by Capetonian friends who, on learning I was going down a big hole, all had horror stories about people getting stuck in the notorious Cango Caves, trapped in a funnel for hours with nothing to look at except an American tourist’s giant arse.

But when I was actually underground, the squeeze bits were my favourite – I loved every second of corkscrewing our way through a boulder choke and scrabbling along a squeeze the height of a microwave. And I didn’t experience one second of claustrophobia. I put this down to the head-lamps, which were far brighter than I expected, and the fact I was being shepherded by the best in the business.

I’ll put my hands up and say that I fudged this in the book and made it a thousand times scarier than it actually is. (I’m a horror writer – if I don’t tap into people’s fears then I’ve failed). But I have told everyone I’ve met since writing the novel that claustrophobia really isn’t an issue and was the least of my worries.

And when I say it was the least of my worries, see below.

Sarah on the Diver’s pitch
Sarah said it was more frightening than being held up by four armed men and being attacked by lions

3) Screaming doesn’t help

There was one point (shortly after we were posted through the letterbox) where I had to be winched over and down what looked to me to be a bloody great sheer cliff (and what everyone else termed a ‘small ledge’). I did have a bit of a cry on the way down (especially when I realised Keith was filming me). Keith, Brendan and Mark lowered me down inch by inch, never once losing patience or calling me out for being pathetic. Charlie showed me up and crawled down there like a monkey.

I did things on that trip I never thought I would do: reaching for a chain and dangling backwards over the unforgiving stone floor; being shoved up a slippery pipe; being hauled across the yawning maw of a plummeting ravine (more a crevice, but still). And although I couldn’t have been further out of my comfort zone (and admittedly had a bit of a meltdown) I never once felt unsafe.

An expression of pure enjoyment

4) Leave it to the experts

At one stage I remember looking up and seeing Mark scooting up a rock face like Spiderman, and then peering down at us from what seemed to be a huge height. I still have no clue how he got up there.

Charlie practically had to be held back bodily from having a go at this. As Keith had just explained to me in detail how difficult it was to get an injured person out of a cave (and we’d passed a crevice in which a young woman had been trapped for hours), we wisely dissuaded him.

Glad to be out

5) Sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers

There are many things I took away from this experience: That anyone can go caving if they have a crack team with them (even unfit foul-mouthed writers). That the sport is beyond exhilarating, and the unique perspective you get from being under the earth is priceless, rewarding and like being in another world – something few people get to experience. In short, it’s a real privilege.

But most importantly, that the people who make up the caving community are generous, funny and pretty much unshakable.

Keith, Mark and Brendan have a cameo in the book as the rescuers who show up and risk their lives to pluck Simon out of his fictional cave when he runs into trouble (inspired by Keith telling me that only cavers can rescue cavers). I thought this was fitting, as I could picture them doing that.

Thank you, Dudley Caving Club. The novel couldn’t have been written without you.

You all rock (no pun intended)

Sarah Lotz

A Short Video from the Trip


The Book

The book was published in the UK on 4th May 2017.

Incident 30/2017 – May 13th Sat. 23.23 – Descent from Ingleborough, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 30/2017 – May 13th Sat. 23.23 – Descent from Ingleborough, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Two Three Peaks walkers (f,36; f,26) reported themselves lost and exhausted on the descent from Ingleborough, towards Horton in Ribblesdale. A small team of CRO members made a rapid search of the suspected area, soon found the ‘missing’ pair and accompanied them, painfully slowly, to a member’s car, waiting near the walking route. Volunteer hours: 12

Incident 29/2017 – May 13th Sat. 16.57 – Simpson’s Pot, West Kingsdale, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue.

Incident 29/2017 – May 13th Sat. 16.57 – Simpson’s Pot, West Kingsdale, North Yorkshire – Cave Rescue.

Two cavers descended Simpson’s Pot, intent on a ‘pull-through’ trip to Valley Entrance. One (m, 59) was unable to pass the constriction at the bottom of Slit Pot and was unaware of, or unable to climb up to the alternative way on. He remained there, while his companion went out for help. A CRO team went in from Valley Entrance, climbed above the caver and helped him to by-pass the…

Incident 28/2017 – May 11th Thu. 13.02 – Near entrance to Upper Long Churn Cave, Selside, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 28/2017 – May 11th Thu. 13.02 – Near entrance to Upper Long Churn Cave, Selside, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A caver (m, 47) slipped at the middle entrance to Long Churn and, in saving himself from a more severe fall, put out his arm, which caused him to dislocate a shoulder. He then walked up to the upper entrance, hoping that rest would aid recovery. The pain worsened, so he rang for help. The first CRO member on scene assessed the injury, then began assisting the casualty down the…