A Cautionary Tale:             or - Was I this bad when I started?’

It would look bad in the CR0 report, I could see it now, ‘blind leading the blind’
- ‘what was he doing there with them’ etc. etc. Now what was wrong? I was staring at the two of them hunched over in a maul at the bottom of the split pitch in Swinsto. They’d been told to stand well away from the bottom so what were they up to. They looked up and said something together, the echo, water and the two voices left nothing but garbage for the ears. It was a couple of minutes before it dawned, I’d forgotten how much stronger my fingers were than theirs, Stuart couldn’t undo his krab to get the figure of eight off, so why hadn’t he gone down to the end of the rope? Another dumb question, he’d never been on a rope before today and Gordon’s rope technique, well 1111!. The week before in Lancaster Hole I’d yelled up to him ‘have you reached the deviation yet?’ and of course he’d already passed it by 10ft. Well he couldn’t wear his glasses down the hole could he.
‘Hit....It... With....A...Rock.’

Eventually with them clear, I abseiled down and we had another laugh but each laugh was beginning to get to me as I now realised I should have had someone else along, still, too late now. Stuart had done well getting this far but then we were trapped the moment I pulled the rope down on the first pitch, Stuart’s first abseil. He wasn’t happy. We should have practised, but it had rained on that weekend and we hadn’t had the time. So here we were. No worry about Gordon, I could hear him at the back giving himself concussion on every roof projection on the long crawl but Stuart was whinging about cold feet so off comes my lovely warm wet suit socks. Then as we had to wait for a party on the long pitch I’d asked Gordon to prepare for a feast from the BDH bottle, Chocolate-Chip Cake, a Mars Bar and drink, whilst I rigged the abseil. Disaster’!! He’d let water get into the bottle and soak my Rizias. Now we were on our way to Great Aven. We’d already sung ‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho’ several times and it didn’t sound as if Stuart was joining in anymore. Exhaustion, Hypothermia, Fear, how do they affect you? Was he slowing down? Keep moving. I’d already lied about how far we had to go, and at this rate we’d be out before we entered, so I had to keep him going.

A stroke of luck, we’d caught the ‘experienced’ party in front and got to use their rope into Great Aven. No stopping, no use anyway because my fags were ruined. Down through the boulders and a bit of psychology. Stuart at the front! - Theory: You move faster if you lead.- Practise: I’m using a very large carbide flame which burns his arse. At last we stand up in the Main Passage and as the roof lifts so do the spirits. Remarkable recovery from Stuart, Gordon’s buzzing and has to be calmed down as his head bangs the rocks at the top of the ladder. Like a puppy he’s come up the wrong side and can’t work it out. As fresh air is reached I can feel the tension fall away from Stuart and myself, Gordon doesn’t recognise our car until pointed in the right direction. I hadn’t shown them the exit on our way up, so they were over the moon when there was no walking and by the time we set off home the next trips already being planned, and I need more Grecian 2000.

Ray Duffy

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