Volume 35 Number 1 Article 5
Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Jak and Kinghorn were in America, Carmel was in Nepal, Pete Hall in China and Lee in Ireland! The lads felt they were missing out, didn't they deserve an exotic trip? Dave Lacey had promised us a trip to "The Restaurant at the end of the Universe" in Ogof y Daren Cilau to admire the "Blue Greenies". It was a dark Friday night in December 1997 that saw the intrepid trio flying down the outside lane of the M6, heading south for a change. Dave Lacey at the wheel, Neil Pacey as D.J. and Beardy having a kip in the back. Fridays destination was Malvern where crap beer and pizza was kindly provided for us.
After a fitful nights sleep (apprehension!) and a gargantuan breakfast the full team assembled, the three Red Rose stalwarts and Rob (OUCC) and Robs mate Matt. We packed more gear and tackle into the already overcrowded Maestro and set off. After suffering some country & western for what seemed an eternity, we eventually pulled up at Whitewalls (tinged black from a recent arson attack). After the obligatory faff - we could no longer put off the inevitable. In no time at all we were peering into an insignificant little flat out crawl beneath an impressive cliff.
Due to a shortage of lights in the party, muggins (me) volunteered to go on carbide. The next half an hour proved highly amusing to Dave an Neil but a complete nightmare for myself. The carbide's headset had a wobbly bracket so when in a flat out crawl it departed company from the helmet at the slightest movement. An annoying tacklebag added to the misery and bafoonery ensued. My sense of humour failed and I wasn't far off sacking the trip and heading back to daylight.
Fortunately the much more reliable FX3 enabled the 2nd half of the crawl to be passed in no time at all and after the entrance crawl the carbide worked wonderfully. Dave and I visited the "White Company" as unlike the rest of the party I was a Darren Virgin. We caught the others up at the 20m high pitch up to Higher Things. (A contender for the worst ladder in the world). "The Time Machine" was gob-smackingly impressive - but a bit of a pain to walk through. "Bonsai Streamway" was a pleasant change and the Bonsai Tree inlet was very spectacular. A quick diversion up "Crystal Inlet" kept up the interest. It hadn't felt like a long time and we had arrived at the "Hard Rock Cafe". Time for some food and a fag. Lack of experience showed here as Matt was feeling tired, the pace being too much. He made himself comfortable in some sleeping bags and fell asleep.
The rest of us Dave, Neil, Rob and I shot off running through the "Rock Steady Cruise" lovely caving. All too soon however the passage degenerated and we were able to sample the delights of "Acupuncture Crawl" a very hot crawl with some fantastic crystals on the roof. Several pints of sweat later we arrived at "The Micron". A quick shinney down a tightish chimney brought us to water! and although I wanted to visit Psycotronic Strangeways our route led in the other direction through the flood prone "Ankle Grinder Bypass". A superb piece of caving not dissimilar to the Outfell Master Cave in Hammer Pot. At the end of Ankle Grinder a short climb took us to a spectacular chamber "The Icing on the Cake" a fine set of formations in anybody's book.
Not far now to our destination. A couple more minutes took us to another foul homemade ladder and thence to "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" a large underground camp. Dave showed us around (the drinks cabinet) and we got a brew on.
The whole reason for the trip was about to be revealed. In two parties of two we all visited Leona Janes Playpen - alias "The Blue Greenies". A unique and fantastic chamber adorned with pale blue calcite and a wealth of fragile crystals and helictites. Possibly the nicest formations I have ever seen.
A quick exit was called for and in about an hour we were back at the Hard Rock Cafe for more food and to wake our resting friend. Dave, Matt & Rob headed on out while Neil & I festered and fettled carbide. Shortly afterwards we too headed out at racing pace determined to catch the other up. Sweat poured off us as we raced up the Bonsai Streamway, through the Time Machine and past the climb up into Higher Things. Still no sight or sound of the others as we retraced our steps to find the climb up. This was quite a challenging climb for two tired old farts and we were quite happy to reach the top. Finding a set of cows tails on the traverse caused us some confusion - were the others in front and forgetful or behind and lost? It fumed out to be neither and fortunately lots of shouting enabled the parties to make contact. The others were starting the climb up to higher things having made a detour to Crystal Inlet.
From here on out was just plain hard work, fatigue slowly showing. The only other amusing incident was when Dave who was parched, drank great quantities of stream water only to find three feet further upstream was the most horrific fungal growth ever seen by mankind. Serious debate followed as to whether a self inflicted hurl would be the lesser of two evils. Whitewalls was eventually reached after twelve and a half hours by Dave and I and thirteen hours by the remainder of the party. Even so it was half an hour before the majority of the Chelsea returned from the pub.
Even as a self confessed Yorkshire bigot - this has to be one of the best trips in Britain - absolutely fantastic - do it.