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What caving related thing did you do today?
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Washed and hung out the last couple of weeks caving kit, then finally made myself the glove airer I've been promising myself for the last few years...
A policeman woke me in the night. He said that people park here and overdose sometimes. We talked for a while about why I was sleeping in a truck. My back was cold and stiff and I asked if I could make us tea. Well we sat on top the mountain and had tea and looked at the stars. He talked. He said, "We got ta see an put up with thangs you would not believe." But he didn't say what they were and I looked at the unlit houses in the valley. When he rose to go the east sky was green on bottom.
The water was running all over the mountain, the cave taking enough to make the entrance crawl unavoidably wet and the waterfall climb a downright soaker. I'm not used to cold water caving. I'm skinny, thermally worthless, poorly clothed. The only thing is to keep moving fast, so I laid aside the survey stuff and hustled into an upstream crawl.
This little tube was once the conduit for the discovery of a significant upstream section of cave. While the downstream passage is heavily inscribed and besmoked, this crawl and the passages it leads to are nearly pristine, and are marked only with a solemn list, in carbide, of names and dates from 1931. Only in the clay crawls are any other marks discernible, and here they have received the patina of old age. Until I came here, of course.
I climbed out of the stream and up a breakdown pile. Up there joints led to joints and breakdown after breakdown. But I went there to check out a pit. It was narrow, sculpted, 31 feet deep by laser measurement. I wrestled a slab of rock across the top of this crack, rigged my rope to it, and inched down. The rappel rack ground against the wall in front of me while my spine ground against the wall in back. Once down, I found only another series of narrow, jagged joints, all ending in breakdown.
It is something similar to liberating to struggle against a problem with no one near to help, to have no choice but to succeed. I have long been a fearful man, and often declined difficulty out of fear of disaster. Experiencing real disaster has driven out most of that fear, and it is a blessing that its place has not been left empty, but filled with determination and curiosity. So climbing out of a tiny crack was calming, instead of the terrifying it would have been to my younger self. It took a very long time.
Then, exhausted, I made my way back to the survey gear and worked on drawing cross-sections. Sitting by a still, quiet, pool, unskilled but meticulous, trying to tell the truth on paper about a hole in the ground. I saw a big white crayfish in the pool beneath me. I tried to draw it. But by then the cold had returned, and the pencil was erratic. The shivered sketch looks alien, monstrous. It is a good momento of the day. I climbed out.
The walk from the cave overlooks the highway. I saw a young man with a backpack and a white cane, tapping his way along the guard rail of the four-lane. And the policeman wheeled around, got out to talk to him.
Finally, finally got round to putting all the newspaper and magazine cuttings about various caving stories we've been involved in into a scrap book :halo:
Made the rare move of getting into the car and was greeted by the smell of damp caving kit... :yucky:
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