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CHECC 2020 Why I joined the club entries
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This is the thread that will hopefully be filled with short essays on why people joined their club, and what made them stick around. I’m hoping for heart strong tugging content here, make me feel proud of a club I’m not even a member of!
The prize is a £50 Starless river voucher, donated by our lovely competition hosts, UKC, a huge thanks to them.
You're welcome - come on student cavers, a £50 Starless river voucher is worth having!
*** This is my CHECCretary non-entry to hopefully give some of you inspiration to enter! Have fun! ***
Like most who grew up in the South Wales valleys a classic school trip for us from down there was a visit Dan Yr Ogof, “The National Showcaves of Wales”. My upbringing was no different and had visited there on many occasions. I have vivid memories of those times. Granted mostly of being terrified by that talking dog called Twm... During the summer of my 17th birthday, we as a family again embarked on our bi-decadely pilgrim west across A465 to the Swansea valley to visit the caves. My sister and I naturally attempted and failed to befriend the emus for the umpteenth time. This time though, I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of feathered friends, I was more interested by caves themselves and hearing the Morgan brothers recollection of their fascinating and engaging tale of how they became the first known human eyes to see Dan yr Ogof’s wonders. Despite seeing thousands of caving photos since, one of my favourites is still the 1912 black and white image of those two moustachioed sheep farmers entering the cave in their coracles. (Interesting article about coracles if interested, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/23Fbd5ybr2CFG9BWYYZ7MZh/coracles-the-surprising-history-of-britain-s-strangest-boat)
It was the small slot like door low on the left soon after you enter that caught my eye this time. “Original cavers entrance” the sign read attached to the door. “Hmmm…” was probably how I thought, “Caving sounds interesting…”
Later on in the visit after I eagerly watched the short video by some guy called Sid Perou. “Over nine miles of passageways have been explored (…) and there’s many more to be discovered” the narrator informed me. It soon becomes apparent the reason my visit with my family don't see all the cave is because most don't appreciate a little bit of flat out crawling that's need to see stuff like Cloud Chamber. I was not deterred though by the arguably unpleasant footage of a pair of legs in the Long Crawl. (Here's the video I'm talking about if interested. .)
Eager and keen, I wanted to know how I can explore these places myself so naturally, when I got home I was determined to learn more about caves and caving. I found the likes of Caver Keith and Catchpool1 on YouTube and watched obsessively as rummaged through rarely visited cave related Wikipedia pages. I even learnt what a “speleologist” did!
It would be another year until I actually got my first experience of a wild potholing adventure. Something about A Levels apparently being important made it difficult to do so any earlier. All was not lost though! The armchair caving knowledge I’d acquired meant I could maybe pick a university with a caving club!
Since my first jolly down Giant’s Hole with Nottingham University Caving Club I have been fortunate enough to cave all over the UK and beyond and make new discoveries of my own! I may not have entered virgin cave passage while piloting a coricael – not sure if pilot is the right word there. But I have managed cave with a tache (much to my girlfriends disappointment) and finally go beyond the barrier and explore the wild parts of Dan yr Ogof. I’ve met some incredible people, including that legendary guy, Sid Perou, whom I met at Hidden Earth a few years ago, where I proceed to drunkenly recall how his videos inspired me to start caving. I’ve since graduated from my Mathematical Physics with a little bit of maths but actually more turning up late for 9AM Thursday morning lecture 10 minutes late covered in mud because your quick midweek caving trip turned into a six hour epic BSc (Hons) and have become almost literally a professional caver - you can interpret that as you like. Would my not very confident 18 years old self believed this is how things would turn out? No, definitely not. But as any good digger knows "if she blows, she goes", you follow the draft and with perseverance you find a way through the boulder choke…
That’s why, or how, I joined the caving club.
The following is a little bit cringey but here goes: I personally started caving a couple of years ago when I saw the sheer amount of passion that the Durham University Speleological Association had for the sport and for the club itself at their freshers introduction evening. This is surprisingly not an exaggeration - I've yet to see anyone more excited about a society! I'd gone along on a whim but received the warmest of welcomes, and they convinced me to sign up by deploying a most excellent speech from the treasurer on how the club had given him a home despite his shoulder problems, as well as a cunning bribe of lots of wine and cheese.
On my first couple of trips I was surprised at how the caving club was essentially just a bunch of mates, except that they were determined to include us freshers as much as possible (no matter who we were or whether we actually enjoyed caving). I soon found myself being pressured into coming to Tuesday pub night, finding out all the club history and singing along to 'Caving Matilda'. I discovered that I absolutely loved the sport, but the best part of any trip was always the misadventures and many laughs we had.
I'm not an outgoing person and often find student societies to be cliquey or only offer a veneer of inclusivity, but Durham's caving club was the real deal, with genuinely nice people. On the Christmas Trip we had a big roast, gave out presents, drank wine and played games in front of the fire, and despite half of us only joining two months earlier I felt very much at home. Come the next October, it was my turn to try and infect the new members with some of that same enthusiasm, and I hope we succeeded. Someone recently said that DUSA was like a family, and as cheesy as that sounds it sums up why I stuck around and will be hopefully returning for years to come!
I don't think that's cheesy at all. I'm sure many of us are missing our caving friends/caving family at the moment, I am. You summed up how being welcomed into a caving club can feel, really well :)
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