Last summer while on a visit to the Arabica region of the western Caucasus Mountains with the RED ROSE EXPEDITION GROUP we decided to risk an Andy Hall photographic trip into White Horse Cave .To some of the more faint hearted of you this may seem a foolhardy thing to do but when your hard like us you’ve just got it to do. For this trip we consisted of the afore mentioned Andy, Paul Saville, our leader Jimbo Birchall, two of our Russian friends, Gleb and Vladimir, and myself Keith Wright. The entrance is a daylight pitch of 10 metres to a snow plug and ramp to .the head of the next pitch, Paul went first, followed by myself. On arriving at the head of the next pitch via the icy ramp I was suddenly aware of the noisy approach of the Olympic four man bobslay team which proceeded to run me over.
On picking myself up I saw I was wrong it was a four mouth Keithslay team that had struck me, ”Bloody hell, It’s a good job you were there to stop me,” said Andy ,“Id’ve been down the pitch”. I then had a look at the pitch and wished I hadn’t stopped him. It was only 8ft deep into a pile of snow. I rubbed my bruises and carried on. The pitch led to a horizontal ice tunnel about 25ft in length at the end of which was the main pitch of about 18Oft, split by two ice and snow filled ledges, the last 5Oft of which pops out into a huge boulder filled chamber I arrived there and met Paul and as there seemed to be a delay, followed by a lot of noise, we decided to dump the camera gear and explore.
The chamber descended for about 300ft at about 3Odegrees to a boulder choke. Paul likes chokes. I‘m far too old and wise, so I volunteer to return and see how the boys are doing. This is what I hear ”Andy how do I get passed the rebelay”? “Get your finger out you knackered old fart,” came the diplomatic reply from our very own Henry Kissinger Hall, not the way to speak to our leader I thought. But it seemed to work as 5 minutes later, albeit puffing and panting, Dr Jim appeared out of the roof. But it was a trap. I’d set up my camera and he was left cursing for ten minutes while I took photos that didn’t come out. At this point in the trip, with the team now fully assembled, it was decided to photograph the two main chambers. As Andy and myself organised the lads with flash bulbs and chose the best places to set up our tripods, the Russians much to our surprise produced cameras from nowhere and occupied these very places we’d selected. There then followed various suggestions, not all in accord with the spirit of Anglo Russian cooperation. Andys involved a large boulder and a Russians head, in the end, with one Russian tied up in a corner and the other banished to the far reaches with a flash gun, we were ready.
”Open shutter on one, fire flashes on two, close on three,” said I, ”OK” said Andy,” One two stop”, said I (my film not being wound on)” You cant #*+#*# well do that” said Andy, adopting his press to ride a white horse baron voice. ”Oh yes I can”, said I, They’re my bloody bulbs, so hard luck. ”You just can’t do it”, he said again. There then ensued the granddad of all rows which culminated in me loosing my rag and threatening to clobber his amoeba like brain with my tripod. It was about this time that I began to smell a rat. Hall had been playing with a pocket tape recorder that same morning in camp. Sure enough the little tinker had taped the lot and proceeded to play it back while howling with laughter. After about ten minutes , in which I learned how to count to three we proceeded to take a whole series of shots, much to the surprise of the assembled company, with no further mistakes. We then had a good ratch about but with no success as far as new stuff went.
Then it was time to head out via the snow and ice. Vlad and myself took plenty of shots on the way out but with only moderate success, the reflection from all the white stuff was fooling the cameras. One full stop down would have done the trick. I’ll remember the next time. On the way out the noise was only slightly lower than going in, as mass bumbling under the leadership of our chief B, and Bobsleigh king A, Hall esquire. The story of this trip can’t finish without thanks from Andy and myself to Paul and Jim for being good models and letting of the Pf100 flash bulbs, a heroic act on their part as it blinded them for about half an hour. Thanks lads we don’t normally bumble so much, it will be ok now I can count to three.
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