Notts II- Not II be underestimated
(Picture taken before the disaster of this trip)
Everyone was in high spirits, with lots of cave psyche, we danced to ABBA and ate breakfast together in the hut, excited to all explore a new cave (recommended by Todd who joined us for the weekend at BPC). There had been many chats about what was going on as it was the Saturday (and most eventful day) of the trip, it had been decided we were going to split into two groups comprised of Jonty, Lydia, Jana, Colin and Todd who were going to do Mayday, and the rest of us (Aidan, Liz, Julia, Flo and me) decided to take a shorter, easier bimble underground due to it being the first away trip for the Austrian Delegation of Bangor, as well as Flo’s first ever trip. Oh boy did he pick a good one!
The “Mayday group” had left before us, and had already made their way to the cave before we made it underground. Getting below the surface at 13:00 we were off to a slightly later start than we wanted but still with plenty of time (call out was at 20:00) we slowly made our way down the 50m of scaffold and ladder climbs. Next through a rift, down a ladder, down another short scaffold climb, the 2M rope section and another short easy free climb.
Aidan had climbed down first to assist from below while I was manning the top of the climb, first to get down was Flo (being a giant of 6,4 it was definitely a lot easier for him than the rest of us!) then Liz quickly followed by Julia, there were some nerves but this was handled really well by all parties. When it was my time to climb down I heard voices come from the distance and out of no where appeared a light. Coming from the section behind us came a few members from NPC. We had a quick laugh, a chat and discovered that Bangor are old friends of MUSC while 2 members of their party literally leaped across over the top of the climb very skilfully much to my surprise. They then headed off and we said our goodbyes.
After all of Bangor had gotten down we decided to go and look at some pretties, on the way there we then heard a familiar noise and realised we had met back up with NPC at a cross section, we had another chat and they mentioned to us that this was their “plan 3 cave”
of the day. They went to Mayday and saw a big group of student cavers and instead decided to come to Notts, Aidan and me then had a giggle as we told a member of NPC, who we would later find out was called Matt, that the group that they had seen was the other half of Bangor. I certainly found it ironic that they were here because of us and now kept being stuck behind us in Notts. We later found out that this could not have been better and was much to our advantage.
We said our goodbyes again and continued to the pretties.
Ducking up and down, walking side to side, and climbing through the stream way was definitely worth seeing the amazing formations that were hanging on the ceiling and the walls of the cave. We followed the stream way till it reached Critical thigh depth. No one was brave enough or psyched enough for any deeper water as me and Aidan were worried about people getting cold. We decided we would make a run for the Downstream sump, as the survey made it sound quite close, and then make our swift exit.
After about 25 minutes of walking down a passage towards the sump I started to feel an ache in my knee, which was very strange. I was just about to say to Aidan that I wasn’t feeling the sump check out as it seemed to be taking forever but then yet again we found NPC, except this time there weren’t the few of them, there were tonnes! A couple more had joined their party making it maybe 8 or 10 people possibly up to 12. Aidan then had the same idea as me and Bangor turned around- sumpless.
It felt like forever walking back to the crossroads and my psyche was slowly reducing knowing it would take a while for everyone to get up those two climbs. The surface never felt so far away.
While taking a quick break I told Aidan I was in a bit of discomfort and we made a few jokes. It was decided I would go first up the climbs this time to help the club from above. I walked up to the small free climb and began to climb it, only my knee wasn’t bending very well and it was actually very painful to get up. In the end I needed a boost from Aidan.
Finally making it to my sworn enemy of a climb I began to make my way up. Aidan had come up to my left during this time. I put my left foot in the loop and starting climbing, and then the right. At that moment an incredible pain went through my knee and I fell onto Aidan who had jumped in to brace me when he had heard my yelp and swearing. I couldn’t weight my leg. I looked up at Aidan, who looked back at me and I could read him like a book. He could definitely read me too, with eyes welling up and an 8/10 on the pain scale we both had the familiar thought of “we’re fucked”. Great minds think alike.
I hopped behind where I was standing for Aidan to get the rest of the group up, I was cold and so was everyone else. It felt like an eternity to get everyone up. Flo had gone up first and slipped down 3 times, next it was Liz and Julia was having a little bit of a hard time (honestly so was the rest of us). I could see the cogs in Aidans brain turning, I couldn’t climb out, we couldn’t haul me, we needed to get the rest of the group out and in warm dry clothes. I was just about to say to Aidan to leave me with a foil blanket as I wasn’t found anywhere, anytime soon. Or so I thought!
When all of a sudden NPC had caught back up to us, thank god! I had never been so ecstatic in my life.
With the help of NPC all of our members were taken on their way out of the cave back to Aidan’s car. It was now just the two of us (Aidan and myself) with the majority of NPC.
The situation was explained and a plan was formed. A human ladder was to be made for the climb and then I could potentially be hauled out of the later sections when we arrived there.
I started placing my left food on Matts knee, then some others poor shoulders as two were pulling me from above to get me to the scaffold bar. As my right leg was still out of order it was tough work for all involved. While resting my right leg was grabbed and moved into a foot hold. I shrieked, the searing pain was back and I slipped down the wall. After about what felt like 30 minutes and 50 “you got this Millie” chants from Aidan
I was up on top of the climb.
I had Matt moving my left foot and taking all of my weight to assist me up the next climb which was very wet. At this point I could tell everyone standing below me was freezing and I started to feel really bad. My knee felt like it had been completely smashed in but my only goal was to keep moving to we could all get out.
After some time being dragged we arrived near an area where I had to “crawl” before the scaffold, my version of this was to lay on my side and drag my body along just to try and get some movement in. It was a slow pace. By this point I was able to slightly weight my leg. I was also
starting to rip into Aidan for his last 2 hours of motivation sounding like a broken record. I laugh but I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t there to listen to my bullshit about wanting to “127 hours” myself, my logic being
No knee cap, No Problem. Most importantly he was keeping me calm.
When we got to the scaffold climb It was me and Matt for the first two or three ladders, I say me and Matt, it was mostly Matt. Then some lads on the surface had sent down a hauling device. This then sparked a debate once NPC had heard me and Aidan call it a “D ring” what they called it now I cannot remember but im sure I find out when I buy the 10+ pints I’ve promised.
This was to my great amusent as some of the lads above hollered down some funny yet crude age related jabs at the NPC members below me, Matt and Aidan.
At 19:40 we finally made it out, since having been assisted since 15:40 by NPC’s lucky appearance, it was definitely a long long trip.
I made it back up to the car and got changed as Aidan rounded up the gear, we were then made aware that the Mayday group had returned to BPC. They arrived expecting dinner and yet the easier trip had all the… “fun”
. It was 21:45 before we made it back to the hut, and it was a great welcome. Jana the absolute darling and the rest of the gang had brought cake and wine when they found out from the other parts of the Austrian delegation that things had gone horribly wrong. We ate cake and everyone grimaced at my misshaped knee as I got it out to inspect while I was taking lots of painkillers.
As it was an hours drive to the hospital I went the next morning, I had some x rays and it turns out my knee had dislocated while being underground, it had then been partially relocated while on the rope climb and then sorted out and relocated the rest in Morecambe urgent care - where I spent 14 hours of my day before being collected for the drive back up to Bangor.
- The cake and wine, definitely hit a spot, all I can say is Thank god they did Mayday