After a bit of a late set-off from Lancaster University campus (mainly because of Tim’s late arrival – no surprises there!), a couple of pick-ups, lots of rearranging of gear and a quick beer run, we finally made it to Bull Pot farm having safely negotiated the pot-holes in the road, which had already claimed one of Martin’s tyres on a previous trip. Much to our surprise, we were amongst the first to get there which proved advantageous in terms of bagging the best sleeping spots. It wasn’t long before others started to arrive and alcohol-fuelled chaos quickly ensued, resulting in a rambunctious evening of ‘networking’!
Saturday got off to a late start as a consequence of the previous night’s shenanigans. After a much-needed hearty breakfast, some went caving whilst others dutifully attended the workshops. The surveying workshop, delivered by Madphil, fresh back from a trip to China (and somewhat jetlagged), was great. We even got to play with the Disto X devices to produce a rudimentary survey of the carpark. My cat would have loved it! He has invited us to develop our learning further by kindly offering to take us out surveying underground when he is in the country. A total gent and a very knowledgeable individual.
Once everybody was back from their various caving trips and workshops, more imbibing was undertaken, although some, still feeling a little worse for wear from the previous night, opted to go walking instead to admire the karst topography the Yorkshire Dales is famed for. A late tea saw some head off to bed early whilst others lines their stomachs in preparation for more drunken debauchery. CRO got the inevitable shout when a party of two missed their call-out but thankfully all ended well as it was a simple case of underestimating the length of time it would take to complete their trip. It served to highlight the well-oiled machine that is the Cave Rescue Organisation and it’s worth mentioning that these folks have a fundraiser coming up in May – the Ingleborough Challenge – which is a laid-back marathon or twelve mile run/hike in the 19th. More information can be found on their website, www.cro.org.uk/challenge. It’s worth stating the obvious that these guys rely on donations to keep on plucking out cold, wet cavers from their subterranean playgrounds when things go a little Pete Tong, so you might want to think about entering, getting a team together or just spreading the word.
That brings me nicely onto one of Sunday’s workshops – cave rescue. Big thanks to Glasgow for driving us to Clapham to the CRO HQ, where the workshop was delivered. After an introduction to the background of the CRO and the work that they do, along with some thought-provoking statistics (and a constant supply of tea and biscuits), we were split into three groups. Each group rotated through three workshops. Communication, first aid and rigging. All three workshops were expertly delivered to a high standard and the information gleaned was invaluable. I, for one, feel happier going underground and am keen to add my name to the list of cavers – a nationwide list of active cavers who are able to assist CRO if called upon to do so, though not directly affiliated with them as the processes of becoming a team member are far more involved, as one might imagine. The take-home message is don’t get injured underground! Many call-outs they receive can be avoided by simple planning and preparation, including packing the right gear (apparently, people not having back-up lighting systems is far more common than you might think), researching your cave and being aware of how subtle changes in the weather can affect your underground experience, and taking more responsibility for getting yourself out of situations – in other words, self-rescue, if you are able to.
All in all, a fantastic weekend. Thanks to the organisers of NCHECC for all your hard work in facilitating a thoroughly engaging weekend. Thanks to Madphil for his time, knowledge and patience; to the CRO for being all action-stations on Saturday night and for the comprehensive workshop on the Sunday, and to Steve Gray et al, of Red Rose for the use of their clubhouse at Bull Pot farm.
PS. Has anyone seen my Aeropress coffee maker? I’m lost without it!
With thanks to Tim for writing this report.