Spring Bank Holiday in Ireland.

A joint Red Rose & Y.S.S. trip.                                         .                                                                                               Extracts from my diary of events:-          

Red. Rose participants. Stu. & Linda Johnson, Charlie & Jo Spurr, Chris Kinghorn, Tom Abrams, Carl Atkinson, Andy Smith & Andy Hall.

Friday 24th. May. Drove up with Tom & Andy to Clapham to meet the others. Had a pint in the New Inn & set off for 2 a.m. ferry. Another pint in Carlisle & on to the ferry.

Sat. 25th.  Drove across N. Ireland from Larne via Belfast. Getting low on petrol at 8a.m., so stop for break in Dungannon. Nowhere open except papershop. Chris climbs up wall of Barclays Bank, Gets shouted at by armed police - much to our amusement - Chris jumped down looking worried. Loose gear came off the roof rack on M1. Not much traffic so we do a U-turn & collect it, arrive eventually at U. Thornhill House (I,C.C. H.Q.) at 9.30am. & wake up others who have arrived earlier. Unload bus & have breakfast. Charlie & Tom are super keen & go caving to Pollnagollum of the Boats. The rest go shopping. Adjourn to Bush Bar to sample the Guinness.

Sun 26th. Very wet day. Original intention to rig Noon’s Hole & Reyfad. abandoned. Pollaraftra is chosen & a cast of thousands sets off. Smooth trip considering the vast number of people, who by now have split into several groups. Barry (YSS member) has light failure in the Bedding Chambers, so while others push on at speed., I stay behind with Linda & Diana to look after Barry & we slowly make our way on downstream to the Gour Chambers. We meet the others coming back at this point, led by Chris bounding along like an unchained gorilla. We make our way steadily back to the entrance., with one near miss, when Di tries to throw herself down a 15 foot pitch - her light’s out by now. Charlie takes pity on her & gives her his spare power pack.

On reaching the surface we realise we have lost Barry. Walk back to the bus - He’s not there, either. Charlie, myself Dave (C.R.O. controller)Anderson mount a search party & find him in the bypass crawls to Sump 1. He gets plenty of stick & is later embarrassed into buying the three of us a pint.

Mon 27th. Better weather, but surface streams still very high. A day for walking & prospecting. We take the bus up various narrow lanes and dirt tracks to drop off rook athletes (Chris & Andy) & long distance walkers. Carry on up more dirt tracks to find the local bar is shut. Eventually arrive at Ramsdon & Sulphur Pots. Impressive area with many open shafts & large streams disappearing underground. Worth a return visit.

Back at U. Thornhill the walkers & climbers eventually return. Chris & Andy look absolutely filthy - Look as though they have been crawling in mud. Apparently, the climb was rather wet & loose.

Tues 28th. A drier day - Noon’s Hole is on at last. The ‘A’ team set off to rig this splendid 300 foot shaft (lead by spiderman Tom) while the ‘Z’ team lead by Chris, set off to rig Prods Pot.
We descend Noon’s via the gully & Tom pendulums across the shaft to get a fine dry hang in a side rift with several re-belays. All goes smoothly at first as Tom, Charlie, Dave, Jo, myself & finally Carl descend.. Carl seems rather slow, but its his first trip on his frog rig. We all assemble at the bottom as Carl approaches the last re-belay, & gets stuck, We wait for ages while he struggles on the rope. Charlie goes to rescue him, while the rest of us contemplate setting up the brewing gear. They arrive at the bottom with some of Carl’s gear looking a bit bent.

From here we carry on through the rather depressing “Afternoon Series” & search for some time for the connecting crawl to “High Noon Series”. This is near the end of “Afternoon Series” & leads up a climb & through an unpleasant crawl. We broke through into large passage & set off along High Noon Right in search of the boulder choke through to Chamber Passage. After lots of crawling, wading & climbing the choke was eventually found. The way through was not so clear & took some finding. Chamber Passage is large, impressive & boulder filled. We searched for a long time in hanging death for the recently discovered route to Arch Cave, without success. Bitterly disappointed, time ran out & we set off out.

Wed. 29th.  Prods Pot. Awkward entrance series (sporting), with fine river passage at the bottom. This pot has 5 pitches, all short & close together, connected, by an awkward rift - definitely not the place for SRT. But that’s how it had been rigged. The ‘A’ team set off in two groups of three & four with Di on her first proper SRT trip. All went O.K. even though Chris’s rigging looked like “a bag of spaghetti”

Thurs. 30th. Cast of thousands assembles at Marble Arch Cave car park. Now a show cave, Get changed in the boiler &. generator house, much to the amusement of the Irish workmen. The first part of the cave now involves a boat trip, from the wet entrance as far as Grand Gallery. Fifteen of us jump into a boat designed for twelve max., & the guide takes us up river. Several people fall into the water in a vain search for a lost torch.
The show cave is well set out & the Skreen. Hill sump has been bypassed by a blasted passage, so you don’t need to use the fly-over. However Carl I decided to take everyone this way from a purely aesthetic point of view. Good trip taking photos in Lignabrocky Way, blinding people with big flash bulbs. Exit to a bright sunny afternoon. Sat round drinking pop & ice creams. - Visit Bush Bar. Vince (the boss) buys us all a beer.

Fri. 31st. Today is going to be a scorcher. The first really hot day this summer. Got dropped off with Charlie, Jo & Di on the other side of Cuiloagh Mountain near Swanlinbar. Fine, long ridge walk, then back through limestone terrain to the I.C.C. cottage. Sun on our backs all day. We looked like beetroots. The keener (more stupid anyway!) members went down Tullyhuna Cave.

That night everyone went for a meal ate too much. Wine paid for by Vince. Excellent meal, Charlie & I presented silly prizes to embarrass various people, (We got off lightly) Evening ended with Charlie slumped in a corner suffering from sunstroke. (He said).

Sat. 1st. June.  Stu, Linda, Tom & Dick went down Pollnagollum - I went for a walk in the sunshine, Couldn’t be bothered getting wet as all my gear was clean & dry & ready to leave. Anyway I had a sore neck from too much sun. Packed up the minibus & set off after tea. Drove as far as Lisburn. Stopped for a Guinness as the ferry was not till 2 a.m. Got locked IN a pub which had security cameras. A right “ruff dive’. Eventually arrived at the ferry terminal after midnight to find that the 2 a.m. ferry does not run on a Sunday. Tried to blame Linda but it turns out to be Stuart’s fault, as he booked the ferry for the previous day. Eventually we all ‘find a nice bus shelter & park to sleep for the night. (Under a No Camping sign.)

Sunday 2nd. Return on midday ferry beautiful crossing on a very warm day. Pleasant journey home. Chris entertains us again by trying to climb the side of the ferry.

A. Hall

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