Author Topic: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!  (Read 2434 times)

Online Pegasus

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WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« on: October 05, 2021, 03:47:17 pm »

It's Freshers at the moment and many University clubs are working hard, encouraging a new generation of people to our sport - well done to you all!

Back in the day, I was one of those freshers yet, despite some fun trips and so much effort by BUSS, not many of the intial intake became active cavers and longer term club members.  So what is it that persuades 'newbies' to carry on caving after those first few trips?  For me it was the 55ft pitch in Pool Sink - OMG was it hard to climb that ladder on the way out  :o, I was so, so tired.  I'd never had to push myself like that before, but I did it and the feeling of achievement was huge - I was hooked  ;D

Tell us what you enjoyed about this new sport to keep you coming back for more, what/who inspired you? - what got you hooked?! Repetition is fine - maybe everyone will have similar reasons, not a problem. 

Post your entry on this thread, I'll choose my favourites for a shortlist then over to
If you'd like to add photos please see here on how to do it:

If you are struggling (as there are problems posting photos which we are looking into) PM me and I will add them to your post.

One entry per caver.  Closing date Sunday 17th October 10pm

 :thumbsup: :thumbsup: Many thanks to SpanSet for the fab shiny prize  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Lots more info on the rope here: (thanks to Pete K for the review which I am shamelessly using  :thumbsup: ;D

Good luck!!

Hopefully the entries will make useful reading for those involved in promoting caving :)
Maybe folks will want to discuss this topic further - great, however please not on this thread, start a new one, ta  :thumbsup:

Offline badger

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2021, 04:31:02 pm »
Firstly I would have to say that if I did not look like my Dad then one would think I was from the milkman, everything about caving he hates, Tight spaces, spiders or any creepy crawly, in certain countries snakes. I on the other hand seem not to have a problem with any of those things.
I first went caving as a venture scout aged 17, first cave being Goatchurch, for which I still have an affection for even though it is to all intense and purposes a cave that is the initiation for many. for me it offered & still does a lot of variety in a relative small cave, apart from water it has about everything else, and about the right amount to spike novice/YP interests.
I was told to bring warm clothing which I did, a white woollen jumper with leather patches on the shoulders and elbows, I thought it was perfect, apparently my mum thought otherwise when I returned home.
Back in 1980, the standard beginners light was a hat mounted carbide light. I am glad we have moved on and most cavers these days have some sort of LED light.
The cave itself, I can remember walking into the entrance passage think "this caving lark is alright", I wouldn't say at that point I had the caving bug, that would come many years later, jobs, family, children and not living in a caving area. apart from the few times I went as a venture scout, I did not get back into caving until I was invited to drive a scout minibus to the Dordogne, since then I have not looked back, apart from doing a lot of the must do caves in the UK, I have also had the opportunity to go on overseas expeditions discovering new cave and new passages, and I think that is the bit that really excites me now, going where no one has been before, and just maybe no one will go to again in my lifetime.
The other part of caving that I really enjoy is caving with YP, showing them the wonderful underground, hoping that they will take it up as a hobby, when they can look after me underground, one of my proudest moments has got to be taking a young quadriplegic cerebral palsy scout caving (see report Y&D on BCA website & the operation he had to be able to walk). The joy on his face was priceless and worth him receiving a piggy back ride from swildons to the wessex, not that he had any energy by then to walk 5 metres.
Such experiences I would never have had if it was not for caving.

Offline amboman

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2021, 04:41:39 pm »
What got me into caving were really two things:

Firstly I have noticed from a very young age that I'm claustrophobic and don't like enclosed spaces especially around my head.
I always wanted to try caving as I have been fascinated by the underground and exploring the underground which we normally don't really see. Well claustrophobia put a little stop to that and I had to attend public caves instead rather than venturing deeper into the passages.
Over the last year and a half I've managed to slowly breach this fear of enclosed spaces and have been through some very tight stuff which in the past would have resulted in a massive panic attack. There are still a lot more goals to conquer such as Chamber of Horrors (Giant's Hole) and Porth Crawl (Carlswark Cavern) to keep pushing boundaries and become more comfortable

The other reason I started caving was that I am a keen walker and climber and have climbed some of our countries highest points. I thought what about the lowest points? Caving gives us this unique opportunity to reach depths only a few have managed to see. We are entering territory where miners hundreds of years ago have descended with very basic equipment and candles and it feels like a little treasure hunt following in their foot steps but with safer equipment!
I've had the chance taking part in a dig recently and just knowing you are the first person for potentially thousands if not million of years to shift that mud/clay to push into unknown territory. This is something which I find amazing and keeps me going underground!
We are very lucky in the Peak District of having such huge systems which you can spend hours underground in!

Highlight so far for me has been an impromptu trip down Titan cave and out via JH. Titan has been on my to-do list as soon as I started caving but always put it off as I wanted to get more comfortable with SRT. As the opportunity arose I couldn't say no and it was the most memorable experience to date!

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Offline nearlywhite

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2021, 05:14:37 pm »
I only went caving as my housemate insisted he was going. He was probably 5'6" and 19 St and I genuinely couldn't imagine him fitting in a cave. Understandably he was indignant at my laughter and he insisted I come along. I remember turning up to a car park outside a pub, a large white van whipped in, the side door slide open and a large man said 'Get in.' That large man reflected about 10 minutes into the journey 'Huh, I guess we could have been kidnappers and you'd have still got in' and proceeded to crack jokes in the poorest of tastes. An early sign that I had found my people.

We did Giants upper series and sure enough, my friend got stuck in a vice. About 15 minutes of good natured encouragement and effort gave way to fear and genuine panic. Everything switched to 'calm him down, let him deflate his chest and get him out'. I was asked to talk to him while they set up a counterbalance with a suspiciously placed bolt in the ceiling (this had happened before). We looped the rope under his arms but he didn't budge. So the gangly brigade (myself and the other large man) positioned ourselves to lift. We cycled through lifting, shifted him left and right, had breaks to calm him down and after an hour and a half he finally came free.

In the effort to unstick him I fell down into the crabwalk and a welly made a solid bid for freedom. A couple of choice words were let out by our glorious leader (Rob M) but it was a quick fix - it was an odd sensation being lifted like a briefcase. We got out and cancelled callout with a minute to spare, I heard the very angry female voice berate Rob and the relief that had been beaming from his face was replaced with sheepishness. We got changed and piled into the back of the van. We then got tailed by the police on the way back to sheffield were pulled over for suspicious behaviour. Safe to say when he caught a whiff of the smelly damp cavers (including the one sat in his pants because he forgot spare trousers) he didn't feel the need to investigate further.

Me and my friend went to the pub later that week to say thank you and bought a few drinks for the leaders. Good natured ribbing, drunken rambling and a proper pub atmosphere (with people that weren't me singing!) made me feel right at home. Plans were made and I never looked back, community with a shot of adrenaline!

PS Here's Badger's article btw

Offline Russell Myers

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2021, 07:16:56 pm »
1968 - 16 year old callow youth in Skipton Venture Scouts enthralled by caving tales with the CPC from my slightly older cotemporaries. After much nagging I got on a caving trip with them - Bar Pot into Gaping Gill . The talk beforehand was of the "big pitch" 110 feet on ladders. To a teenage mind 110 feet horizontal didn't look that far. Stepping off the top of the pitch onto the ladder I looked down and saw twinkly little lights but couldn't comprehend what I was looking at.
A surge of adrenaline brought things into focus, it was mind blowing and one of those brown trouser moments!
I was accompanied by Laurie Todd and Alec Bottomley and after overcoming my fear and wrestling with the swinging, swaying ladder to the bottom we set off to Stream Chamber to meet the other half of the CPC coming the other way down Stream.
The late Tom Austin adopted me and off we went to the Main Chamber - another mind blowing moment. I was hooked!
The long haul to the surface (I felt I did my share) left me cream crackered in the shakehole but ravenous for more. I have never forgotten that trip and kept a lifelong interest in caving leading to some amazing experiences and forming lifetime friendships.     
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Online PeteHall

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2021, 11:16:11 am »
I'm going to have to start a little earlier than caving and talk about climbing first, because if I hadn't started climbing, I'm not sure I'd have started caving, but maybe I'd have found it anyway...  :shrug:

As a kid, I climbed anything and everything I could, so when I got to secondary school and saw a load of climbing holds bolted up the side of a two-storey brick wall, my intrigue was spiked, but as far as I could tell, the climbing wall was never used and other than glancing up at it each time I walked past, I never thought a lot more about it. Fast-forward a few years, I had become pretty disruptive in class, particularly my physics class as I found it ridiculously easy and the teacher (Dr Lungley, or "Lungers" as we called him) was a softly spoken Lancastrian and an easy wind-up target. It got tot the point, where he'd bring in the whole class and settle them down to work, leaving me standing outside the door; once everyone was settled and working, he'd let me in and sit me in the naughty corner out of the way. One day, walking through school, I saw Lungers rummaging in the boot of his car and I noticed it was full of climbing ropes, harnesses and helmets. I asked if they were for the climbing wall, he said yes. I asked if I could have a go and he said yes again. Bearing in mind what a total little sh!t I was to him in class, he really should have told me to piss off and mind my own business, but he didn't and it changed my life.

Within a short time, we'd got a climbing club running on a Thursday afternoon, when everyone else had to play rugby. The sports teachers were quite happy to see the back of half a dozen of us who had no interest or ability at throwing a ball and we were more than happy to hang out at the climbing wall instead of getting shouted at to run up and down a field. Instead of being the kid who was rubbish at "sport", now I had my own sport that I was actually quite good at and I really enjoyed it. The climbing and outdoor bug set in and all my free time was spent either walking or climbing on Dartmoor.

Fast-forward another few years and for my 16th birthday, my mother booked for me to do the Cheddar Caves Adventure Caving activity. Her mother had been a caver, and although my mother had tried she had hated caving. But since I loved being outdoors, she reasoned I'd enjoy going caving for my birthday and she wasn't wrong; I absolutely loved being underground. There were two of us plus the instructor, so we were able to go at a reasonable pace and were taken on a few detours off the main route. I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to carry on doing, but unlike rock-climbing, I had no way to get underground off my own back and no knowledge of caving clubs or any route in. So when I saw the caving club at Durham University freshers fair, DUSA, I signed up on the spot.

Still, it wasn't my time yet. I got various emails from the club that went something like this:
Training at the gym Tuesday night from 7. At the weekend we're doing Disappointment, email Little Chris if you want to go.

The idea of "training at the gym" was about as far from my idea of fun as I could imagine. What was "Disappointment", it certainly didn't sound too attractive and who was "Little Chris"?

I stuck to the climbing and hill walking clubs, getting out every weekend and making new friends. One Sunday, I was a bit late back from climbing and only just made it to dinner in college. There was only about one person left in the dining room, "70's Ian" (as he was known, for his long scruffy hair and flared trousers). Since nobody else was there, I sat down with Ian and we talked about what we'd been up to. I was late back from climbing. Ian was early back from caving!

Ian quickly corrected my misunderstanding about "training" at the gym. It was SRT training, ropes, harnesses, jammers; exactly my kind of stuff! Next Tuesday, I was at the gym, with my climbing harness a sling and a couple of prussik loops, but I soon ditched these when I saw a proper SRT kit.

That weekend we weren't caving at all, somebody had heard of an abandoned mental hospital and we'd decided it was a good idea to break in and explore it. We drove up in the old van and met up with a former member, Leon, in an old Volvo. I wasn't caving yet, but I definitely felt part of the club already and these were clearly people I knew I'd stay in touch with for many years (as it happens, I'm caving with Leon tomorrow).

The next trip with DUSA was New Year in the Mendips, where I actually got underground for the first time, since that "Adventure Caving Experience" and only a few miles away. We drove down miles of dark snowy lanes and parked in a non-descript layby, got changed and walked across a field to a small concrete blockhouse with a locked door. Inside were written the words "No Carbide. No Novices". The next day, after a great first trip in GB, we went to Hunters Hole. Shortly after getting back to the hut, I was invited to see Hunter Lodge Inn Sink, where one of the Butcher boys took me and I experienced my first ladder (with no lifeline). Next day, I went digging down Gibbets Brow (with Ed Waters and others). Within my first 36 hours, I'd been to 4 caves, I'd seen the huge Gorge in GB, I'd done my first SRT trip, I'd done my first ladder and I'd joined my first dig! By now I'd definitely got the bug!

I later confessed to my climbing mates that I'd turned to the darkside and I never looked back.  :)

Online aricooperdavis

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2021, 12:09:42 pm »
This is a great thread because I'm rarely reflective about why i enjoy things, so hearing other people's experiences shows me ways that I enjoy our hobby that I'd never noticed before, which allows me to properly appreciate them. I don't think I can add much, though, other than reinforce the themes already here:

  • Challenging yourself
    I was incredibly lucky to grow up in the lake district with amazingly adventurous parents, so I was hooked on the dopamine hit of succeeding at something challenging pretty early on. Unfortunately I was caught in an avalanche on a family winter mountaineering holiday as an early teen, so by the time I encountered caving at school I was convinced that I'd never cope with being stuck in a tight space underground, so jealously listened to the tales of adventure from my friends. When I got to university and spotted the cavers by chance whilst looking for the climbing club, I thought that I had to try it at least once. I was trying to be brave and challenge myself so as to make the most of my uni experience. The attached photo is of my first trip underground, and I think you can see how good it feels to conquer a fear like that, as amboman described.
  • A welcoming community
    When joining clubs I could tell that the climbers were a bit cliquey, and the slackliners wonderful hippy stoners, but the cavers were on my level - super friendly (desperate for members?), very nonjudgmental (quite eccentric themselves?), and always up for a good time. That welcoming caver community isn't just at university, in fact every club I've been to has felt like an opportunity to make friends as much as go caving. Just look at the forum and you can see the friendliness of the caving community - total strangers wanting to give advice, lead trips, offer prizes, etc. just because they're nice.
  • Escape from normality
    There must be something psychologically appealing to weird things like extreme ironing, weaseling, and bog snorkeling. Maybe it's the anarchistic joy of doing something a bit naughty, like Pete's "urbex"? Caving certainly appeals in many ways just because it's a bit insane - who spends their weekend getting cold, muddy, and bruised? And then brags about it in the pub afterwards?? This is a factor that climbing doesn't quite manage, and might explain the type of people that are attracted to caving too.
  • Feeling valued
    Badger's point about the satisfaction in providing young people with such valuable experiences is a really good one, and I enjoyed the feeling of giving back when leading trips for EUSS. I do less of that now because I'm in the wrong county, but volunteer with Devon Cave Rescue and the BCA to get that feeling of doing good. I'm excited to move back to a caving area so that I can help lead trips again!

I'm absurdly grateful to EUSS for the chance to discover such a life-affirming sport!

Offline badger

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2021, 03:14:11 pm »
Rostams narrative reminds me of a time coming back from Toulouse airport, we had flown over with just caving kit to go off to do the penne blanque entrance in the felix tromphe system, 4 days later we drove back to the airport, we had washed in the mountain stream on the way back, pity none of us thought to pack spare undies. going through security with our srt kits, were sent over for a more thorough inspection. the gendarme took one look at a bright shiny srt kit (think covered in french mud) went over to the girl on the x ray machine and politely waved us all through with a raised voice and nice white gloves.

Offline Brains

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2021, 03:20:50 pm »
My first underground experience was being taken down Grimes Graves at about 5 years old, I can recall it being rather cold and dim!
Fast forward a decade and I was into fellwalking and camping, mainly in the Lakes. My guides were A Harry Griffin, WA Poucher and of course Wainwright. Moving on again a decade and I was getting adventurous and started rockclimbing in the Peak and bigger routes in Wales, Lakes, Sea cliffs like Gogarth, Pembroke, Cornwall and Lundy, with the odd winter trip to Scotland
One day we were sat in a steamy cafe in the Peak, having been rained off again from Wildcat. Someone suggested we should go caving and in due course we were at Giants with borrowed/hired lamps, lids and ladders wearing an assortment of old clothes. Of course it was a wet day, the ladder was rigged off a chert eyehole in the full force of the water and away we went on the round trip. We moved fast enough to keep warm, despite being soaked most of the way, with the delights of Crabwalk, Wind Pipe and roof traverse through the grotto.
I was amazed by the rock textures and forms, the decorations and the steamy darkness. The physical exertion didnt really feature as I was quite fit then. The rigging techniques seemed strange to me as a climber, but fascinating. Afterwards we had beers in the Wanted Inn, shivering by the fire. In the days that followed, the smell of damp caving kit reminded me of the experience, as did the inevitable bruises.
The whole experience had me hooked, and gradually I acquired kit and experience, teaching myself SRT dangling from Sloth on the Roaches and joining a caving club. Gradually the climbing tailed off as the caving took over. Since then I have taken many others caving and introduced "children of all ages" to the joys of the dark side  ;D

Offline Henry.M

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2021, 09:12:47 pm »
I joined UBSS (Bristol University) as a fresher in 2018. I arrived at Uni as a cyclist, but quickly sussed out that the cavers were a much more fun and sociable bunch than the cyclists (with a much better taste in beer!). My first trips were in OFD in South Wales, we started out with Cwm Dwr just to the choke and back, then we decided we wanted to do some more and went in Top entrance for a classic little womble. From that weekend onwards I was hooked!

The small club atmosphere and informal nature when compared to so many other outdoor pursuits attracted me, and I was soon caving pretty much every week (we are very lucky to have Mendip so close, so I can go after lectures, or perhaps even during them I suppose  :lol: )
I'm now in the position where I'm trying to attract more freshers to join the club, fingers crossed this works. From my experience so far, offering free beer and cheap caving trips seems to be a winner for recruitment... it remains to be seen how many will be put off by the tight crawls of Mendip!

Photo: My first year in Bristol, a fresher so neat! (Ok maybe I wasn't best pleased by the ice rain on Leck Fell, where we had just failed to find Notts Pot, but I still came back!)

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2021, 07:45:09 pm »
I have wondered about this. Maybe you don't want to read the ramblings of an Old Ruminator for  the pseudonym carries much truth.

In hills and vales and caves and mountains I search my being,
Before saints and sages seeking my true self, I'm kneeling;
Arrays of archives, books, and almanacs give no answer,
My quest seems to eat my interiors like blood cancer!

So it started some sixty years ago. Truly the question is not how I started something but how I persevered with it for those sixty years. The true follower of anything must surely have it in his bones, his soul and his blood.

My first caving trip came when I was at school. A casual remark from a school friend. Cycling up to the Quantocks with a carbide lamp. That first trip is neither recorded or remembered but somehow its etched into my being and has stayed there. I quickly became a cave digger for the thought of anything yet unknown has thrilled me all of those years. Unknown shipwrecks, unknown cave passages. Dreams littered with the thought of great discoveries. Yes, and given time they came for persistence is the key to reward. Search and thy will find ( sometimes ).
My first " great find " came in 1964 at Holwell Cave. A nice chamber and some great helectites. " The East Series Extension ". Wonders. To see something no human has ever seen. To walk places untrodden for millennia. Can there be a better reward for persistence ? As time went by I thought that I should keep a log and record those wonders. My first logged trip was at Stoke Lane Slocker in 1966. I guess we thought ourselves tough back then. No kit. No wet suits. No real idea what we were doing. I have always stood alone. Done things my way. I look up to nobody. Why should I? I have never needed to follow nor do I want to lead. I just want to be there. Like diving caving has a spiritual nature. Both place you in a foreign environment that you either come to love or be repelled by. The persistence has to be acquired as you get older. Call it motivation if you like. Multiple bends and close calls drove me out of diving but the caving endures. The drive to see something new endures. The dreams endure.
Around 1966 the photography came. My first amateurish images. ( some say they endure ). In a way the photography also became a passion. Looking at this years files alone show that I have already amassed 1260 images. They are my small reward for my persistence and now part of my motivation. Still I strive to popularise the simple aspects of photography. I have always thought that " the moment "is more important than technical perfection. Certainly a lot more fun. The caving years went by and like many my early trips were with college students though I was far too dumb to be one myself. Friendships were formed and some still endure. The two Petes and I still burrow away in the limestone bedrock of Somerset. Caving becomes a wonderful bond for those that persist.
I certainly would not wish to be seen as an inspiration to any new cavers. The whole purpose of life is to be you. To follow your own path in your own way and find the inspiration in things that you achieve. I still recall being close to tears when with others I entered the biggest cave chamber in the UK. They eventually came when I got home. My great honour was to give it a name. " The Frozen Deep ". I dont think of that as a reward rather another step along the road. Discoveries still came at Vurley and Fairy Cave Quarry. The path has not yet reached its end. The dreams still come. Yes I guess you have to find a reason to be a caver. A sadly misunderstood minority. That matters not. Its what you find in it that counts. How you fulfill your humble ambitions in an ever more complicated world. Caving provides simplicity, self awareness, challenges and escape. You can be the great explorer of caverns unseen, untrod and still be home in time for tea. Nothing else on this earth will give you that.
Yes the dreams and plans persist in my 75th year. I go caving or digging now twice a week. Lots more in the log now than 50 years ago. I have some great projects going forward. We have a good team in "The Tuesday Diggers". We have loads of fun out there. Not for me slippers and a warm fire. You could call caving an investment in yourself. Both body and mind improve. Challenges still to be overcome. I am back to the weight I was 50 years ago. Caving gives and at times it takes. Diving took more than I care to recall. Friends and good " buddies  " gone.  Life is yin and yang. I have a wonky finger and a plate in my arm. The Frozen Deep exacted its own measure of repayment. Fair enough for those that dare to tread those hallowed halls. I do worry that caving might wither and die. I cannot use my life and experiences to enthuse those much younger. I can say that life is there for living. Its a gift that must be savoured. How you use that gift is entirely up to you. Caving does provide that pathway. The wonders of nature will always surpass the edifices of man. I will say dont just sit there and seek to be amused. Go find that path and follow it to the end. God Bless all.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2021, 10:54:50 am »
A good question. I cannot truly say when I wasn't interested in caves. I suspect visiting my grandparents in Cumbria gave me some early memories as my grandfather had a copy of Pennine Underground. I wrote about and remember  crawling through a low wet through cave at Halton Gill aged 8. We would visit cave entrances listed in the guide. Then I discovered the caves in Chard (an old stone quarry) and with schoolfriends started digging aged 12 or 13. We used Price's candles to light our way. Shame the caves were not in limestone so we never much! A couple of years later I entered White Spot cave in Cheddar Gorge on a school trip and asked my father about going caving. Off we went with Caves of Mendip to Goatchurch and never looked back. Didn't cave with a club for years although we joined one but I was an avid reader and subscribed to the Spelelologist (even wrote for it aged 16) and Mendip Caver. Then I met the Old Ruminator and the rest is history!

Offline Fishes

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2021, 05:22:42 pm »
Would that have been the Young Ruminator at the time? Or has he always been old?

Online Pegasus

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2021, 07:12:07 am »
Good morning, All - hope everyone had a fun weekend  ;D

A quick reinder re this competition!

Excellent entries so far - beautifully written OR.

The odds of winning 100m rope are pretty darn good, so please do let us hear the reasons what hooked you on caving  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Cheers, Pegasus

Online andrewmc

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2021, 09:38:12 am »
Long story short: it's all Ari's fault :)

I moved to Exeter in about 2012, which is when I started climbing and had immediately gotten far, far too keen about it. I learned top roping, then indoor leading, then sport and then trad climbing, and started doing the Classic Rock routes around the country. But I always had a dark desire for the more 'interior' routes: The Tunnel at the Dewerstone, Lockwood's Chimney in N Wales, Under Milk Wood at Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower. Then, one day in October 2015, a certain Ari posted a FB request in the climbing group for people who could drive and wanted to go caving. My exact response, preserved for posterity was:
"yes. Yes yes yes. Yes 🙂 Yes yes yes yes. Halloween weekend presumably means Sat/Sun 31st/1st Nov?"

Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side...

That led to me heading to the Belfry with EUSS, where as a climber I was surprised by the late start made by the cavers, and then the lack of navigational skill trying to find the entrance to Cuckoo Cleeves, but then this was caving, not climbing, so I rolled with it :) Eventually we made it to Cuckoo Cleeves and began our descent.
As we descended the steeping-descending passage, I marvelled at the completely alien nature of the passage; I understood the basics of the geology and how the water had dissolved away the rock, but to see it in person was completely different. It was more like scrambling than any climbing, and it was a completely alien space that was not at all designed for people. I immediately knew that I was going to spending a lot of time underground (just as I had known I would be spending a lot of time off the ground after descending from my first top-rope climb). At that point I was quite fit (sadly not since regained!), so when we hit the bad air and beat a hasty retreat, with various members of the party feeling very unhappy about the situation, I was not too badly affected.

Day 2 was the Swildon's Short Round, a rather dramatic trip for someone who had only been down most of Cuckoo Cleeves and back! While three hours is not fast to a local, it's still the fastest I think I've ever done that trip (led by someone who knew it well) and looking back I must have been very keen! :) In any event, I was converted.

My second weekend was CHECC in the Mendips; I had bought myself a set of SRT kit (since I like shiny gear) which sadly did not arrive but I borrowed club kit anyway. This weekend did not go quite as according to plan; the Friday night was (by climber standards) very disorganized (that's our group, not the event) and I think I went to bed reasonably early; then due to a very hung-over (more comatose) President, we didn't manage to set off to Bar Pot until about 3pm (with an extra hour faff for some missing kit), by which time it was getting dark, and so I walked all the way up the hill to meet the endless hordes emerging from Bar Pot who had entered at a more sensible time. I ended up doing just the first pitch, while others in the group didn't even do that; meanwhile the cold horizontal rain made surface conditions a bit miserable.

However later at the CHECC stomp I discovered that cavers like to get naked and I could furiously dance around topless, so I had indeed found my people, all (well, most) was forgiven, and the rest is (relatively recent) history :bounce:

Online aricooperdavis

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2021, 10:24:45 am »
Long story short: it's all Ari's fault :)

Sorry, not sorry  :lol:

Day 2 was the Swildon's Short Round, a rather dramatic trip for someone who had only been down most of Cuckoo Cleeves and back!

Wow, we didn't half throw you in at the deep end! I'd like to say I'm an excellent judge of character and knew you'd love it, but really I think I just got very lucky that asphyxiation followed by simulated drowning is right up your street  :-[

Offline JoshW

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2021, 11:21:28 am »
I first went caving when I was about 10/11 with the scouts, and absolutely hated it. It was cold (trekking through snow over to swildons stays in the memory), I was small and weak, and lacked in any self confidence to give it a go.

a few years later, I returned as an older scout and was taken under the wing of a certain Paul Dold. He spotted my keen nature and either; saw that I could be someone who'd want to get into caving long term/could be a future scout cave leader, or he realised that I was young and dumb enough to be a flash monkey for him. So he then dragged me on whatever trips he could find, squeezing me into awkward positions, laid flat out in freezing cold water nagging me to keep his flashguns out of the water and pointed in the direction for 'just one more shot', before I'd carry his bags out for him because his 'back was playing up again'.

Whether it was my desperate need for attention or an actual enjoyment of the underground, I'm not sure, but I've been caving ever since, even for a short while making some sort of a living out of it. So thank you Paul, RIP.
All views are my own and not that of the BCA or any clubs for which I'm a member of.

Offline Franklin

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2021, 12:19:12 pm »
Climbers Go Caving: Fragments from a distant memory - Bull Pot of the Witches, Early Spring 1980.

Low cloud, rain, snow melt;
Rivers up, path turns stream,
Crashing hole beneath trees, where
Rolling roar, spray and mist rise.

Steep path down, down deep rift
And down again to green light, fallen trees and falling river;
A gap: a vortex of water and too close rock,
Closer still and all wet, cold.

Rock falls back and opens
To depth width, height,
Stray shapes, shadows and glimpsed forms.
Earth all unknown. 

The membrane slips away,
Below, contours drop into dark space:
Empty mountain,
There is nothing there.

("The die was cast"  ;))

Offline Wardy

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2021, 10:25:34 pm »
Well Franklin that's taken it to a different level hasn't it, well done!

My memory was way more basic.
As a youngster I signed up for a long distance walk around the Long Mynd. I chose it as I had never been there before and fancied the adventure of going on my own and pitting my wits against it.
At the time it felt like a big thing and having completed it I was pretty chuffed with my time and being first U18.

A week or two later I got the chance to go down P8 with my local Venture Scouts.
We were only a small group and managed to go pretty much everywhere checking out all the passages that took our fancy. The final challenge laid down was to exit via the old entrance and once I got out I couldn't stop grinning.

The whole experience was mesmerising and on a completely different level to the walk in just 2 or 3 hours.
I found it far more challenging physically compared to the walk as it used muscles I did not know I had.
The environment was all new to me, if it wasn't the water, it was the noise, if it wasn't the waterfall it was the spray, if it wasn't the climbs it was the pretties and if it wasn't the big stuff it was the squeezes, it was just so different.
As for adrenaline well there was a good dose of that compared to the walk and far better camaraderie as well.

For days afterwards I wanted to know more - Where did the stream go?, What other caves were nearby? When could I go again? How could I go again? Why had I not done this more before.

All this had already been solved as I emerged from the entrance that night. As I grinned from ear to ear the guy who took us looked me in the eye and said "You really do need help you do".
He duly obliged putting me in touch with a caving club.

So what got me hooked was the generosity of those in the caving community who helped get me started, the real sense of adventure and thrill of the challenge caving presented, the additional complexity of caving and scope to explore and understand caves. I have tried lots of other sports in recent years, but caving is always there as the best thing I have discovered.

As I am not in the competition my entry is just to add to the great stories and poetry above.
It is this and not the politics that we should focus on - Never forget why you first got involved in caving!


Offline vinylspike

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2021, 10:22:25 pm »
I started caving in November 1978 with Bath University Caving Club. My first trips were done in a blur of activity in Burrington Coombe, Swildons and Eastwater. Since then I have returned and carried on twice.
First time was immediately after that xmas break because I wanted to see and experience more and as much of the underground as I could fit in and also because I foundthe cavers I had met, so far anyway, didn't behave in the same way as some of those from other more 'normal' sports that I had come across where cliques existed and maintained separation between themselves and those whose faces didn't fit. The small caving community I had found was happy to let anyone come along and be part of the club and team. Over the next 5 or so years within BUCC and also Cerberus and Wessex, that pattern of inclusivity was maintained and strong friendships created. We all looked after each other.

My second return to carry on happened after a caving starvation period of some 37 years, during which team my ideas about the behaviour of other sports clubs was further reinforced. A change in circumstances led to my getting back into contact with that old group from BUCC and discovering the old team spirit to be alive and well. We are all slightly older of course but that hasn't stopped us getting underground and queuing up outside The Hunters at opening time again. Some minor exploration in my new home location quickly led to me finding myself involved in new teams of cavers and diggers. Here were cavers all just as friendly and inclusive as those from the past and all with the same broad aims and objectives including of course having fun. I quickly remembered what I had been missing; I also rejoined the Wessex!

So for me it's the heady combination of rummaging around underground or digging to try and get underground and the indisputable, persistent camaraderie that caving generates, even when you are not spending vast amounts of time together - long may it continue!

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2021, 10:21:18 am »
  "So for me it's the heady combination of rummaging around underground or digging to try and get underground and the indisputable, persistent camaraderie that caving generates, even when you are not spending vast amounts of time together - long may it continue!"

We like you too Vinylspike now the youngest member of our regular little group.

Online Alex

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2021, 12:59:17 pm »
I first knew I wanted to get into caving after seeing 999 when I was 16 (anyone remember that old series) and some of the cave rescues on there and thinking caving looks awesome! Most people would be put off by seeing that especially what happens when it goes wrong but not me.

However, it would not be until I was about 25 in 2007 I would actually take up caving properly. I had done a few novice trips and always loved it and even abseiled 100m tethered to an instructor down a cave called the Lost world in New-Zealand (very scary at the time). I always recall my first trip with my current club being quite an easy one a romp round Ribblehead caves and I loved it Of course the easiness of the caves did not remain for long. I think by trip 3 I was abseiling down Lancaster hole despite being pissed scared of heights at the time. when I fretted I would be told "Don't worry there's no heights, it's depths".

The trips then continued in difficulty (the BRCC can defiantly provide the harder trips) from there and after a couple of years later I was going down places like Hammer pot. I must admit fecked up on that trip, it was way too hard for my experience level and I ended up getting stuck and CRO were called, though I eventually I managed to rescue myself However, this never put me off, as at this point in my life I had something to prove to myself, I wanted to show myself I am not going to give in I am not soft. This might be explained by my thinking at the time. Throughout my late 20s and early 30s I was still wondering if I was gay (I am of course) but at that time I believed all the stereotypes that being gay somehow makes you a wimp/soft and I thought if I can do the hardest thing I can think of that it would somehow mean I could not possibly be gay. That of course was all bullcrap and I could not be happier with who I am now, your sexuality makes no difference to your personality/toughness. Anyway, despite misguided reasons this effort to push myself did make me into the caver I am today, ready to take on most challenges, but as I have nothing to prove to myself anymore I may back off.

Lately I have been much more interested in exploration and finding places that no one has set foot in before, and I think even at the beginning I wanted to do that, it was the sense of adventure going where no one has been before. That sense of adventure always remained and keeps me going to this day.

So that's me and how I got into and stayed in caving in a nutshell.

« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 01:29:14 pm by Alex »
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline Duncan Price

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2021, 02:46:02 pm »
My entry into the world of caving is well-documented but there's more to it than "I was taken caving by a mate of mine."

My dad has a lot of blame on his shoulders - he took me down every show cave we came across on family holidays in the UK and abroad - Wookey Hole (only open as far as Chamber 3 in those days), Kent's Cavern ... Caves of Drac, Postojna.  His father (my grandfather) had been a shot firer in the local colliery but had been killed in an accident when my dad was 14.  We never really talked about it but I guess being underground was in the family blood though my eldest uncle (who had worked on the surface at the local mines) could never understand why I'd want to go underground for fun.  My dad had been at school with David Penrose (discoverer of Hillier's Cave - named after Gordon Hillier who was head of Norton Hill Grammar school which my dad and his siblings went to) - I think my dad had even been into the caves of fairy Cave Quarry - he had worked there after leaving school.  I spent my youth climbing trees and the rockfaces of local abandoned railway cuttings on the old Somerset & Dorset line but stayed out of the old tunnels.

Unlike my dad - who was good at sport, I wasn't but I liked being in the water or rather under it so when a local BS-AC branch was formed at the newly opened Midsomer Norton pool I joined and when I went to Exeter University I joined the sub-aqua club there.  During the summer break between my first and second years at university I was taken down Swildon's Hole by one Mike Wright (known to Pegasus) and refused to free-dive sump 1.  This failure has always irked me and as soon as I returned to University I joined EUSS where I quickly fell in with other members of the caving club and turned my back (temporarily as it turned out) on diving.  The rest of my spare time at Exeter was spent with the caving club and in holidays I'd visit the caves of my home on Mendip with Mike and his friends from Birmingham University where he'd gone to study.  Not wanting to get a job at 21 I decided to do a PhD. and got a place at Birmingham with a ready-made circle of caving friends in BUSS.

Aside from Mike (who now lives in Canada) there are many other graduates of that fine establishment that are still active in the caving world today but one in particular stands out as an additional influence on me - John Hunt.  John was studying physics but was always pursuing cave digs in various places - Winnats head Cave and some shakeholes on Llangattock.  We called these "John's futile Digs" until one of these "JFD6" (IIRC) located at the bottom of Southern Stream Passage in Agen Allwedd actually "went."  I was on that trip which changed me from a recreational caver to an exploratory one and the rest is history.

I'm sure my dad, Mike and John would like to apologise for their part in inflicting me on the caving world.

Offline ImperialCollegecaver

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2021, 05:11:54 pm »
The streamway rages and disappears around a corner. It was definitely louder than I remember it. I look around at my companion for reassurance. He's several years my elder but new to caving like me, on his very first trip underground, and he seems uneasy too.

'Does this seem familiar to you?'
'Nope' he says.
'Let's backtrack, the others can't be far'.

We walk upstream again for a little while, unnerved by the larger-than-remembered underground stream. Is it raining outside? I can't remember it being rainy when earlier in the day, we walked under the towering, black limestone walls to the entrance.

Eventually I manage a feeble 'I can't believe we've missed the junction'.
'Let's see first if we can find it again'.

We pick our way through the boulders and cobbles of the stream passage and eventually, our dim lights paint a passage we recognise. Northwest Junction.

We have no map, but we know which way to go now and wend our way upstream, in the narrower passage leading back towards the cave entrance, and the promise of sunshine. Minutes pass, with the rush of water, the sound of sinking wellies into the water, deformed, and to our inexperienced ears, so much like voices of the rest of the group.

Where the bloody hell are they?

More caving now. After a couple of clambers, crawls and squeezes, we pass landmarks, familiar to us. And then, voices, for real this time. Lights. The rest of the group.

We realise what must have happened soon enough and have a good laugh.Our party had been split up in smaller groups, sent each on their merry way downstream and on the way back out. We'd been the second to last group, and we'd missed the all important turning, instead heading deeper into the cave than expected, into a stream whose force became ever greater. The last group, sheperding the small units moving through the cave had overtaken us and carried on, merging with the rest.

I'd joined the student cavers earlier that semester, and this was the first opportunity I had got to go underground, unsure of what to expect. The physical exertion had been on my mind naturally, as well as the possibility of finding constrictions a mental and physical obstacle - but I certainly was not prepared for some of the great walking or clambering passages that we saw on that first trip to Aggen Allwedd.

To get lost in that cave, with another 'fresher', ever so briefly, was a defining moment. It appeared that, using logic and observation, we could find our way back. I was reassured and immediately gained a confidence boost for going underground.

My commitment to caving was cemented later that evening, when, despite the bruises blossoming on our elbows and knees, we took part in the traditional caving games. I appeared I had some work to do before completing the table traverse, or competing in the pot&sling using advanced, expert level techniques. I vowed to be back!

Today, after eight years of caving, my interest is as high as it ever was, and one of the aspects of exploration I enjoy the most is the mapping and cartography. I can't imagine why.

Online Pegasus

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Re: WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2021, 06:12:57 pm »
Thanks to every single caver who has entered this competition  :hug:

The posts are making great reading  :thumbsup:

For a chance to win the lovely SpanSet rope - entries for this comp need to be in by this Sunday  ;D

Due to all the entries, I'm inspired to run some more comps and have one lined up already, woohoo!


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