Volume 37 Number 1 Article 2
"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome rath outgrabe." (Lewis Carroll)
"Mud - you'll just love this mud" said Claire; "it's just like margarine - oily and clinging and glutinous". Mud - that was the ingredient that enticed me, an aged parent, out of her cosy fell running routine. The Hall of the Mountain King in Mistral, a part of the Ease Gill system, which had not been discovered when I was caving regularly, was where I would find this MUD.
Zig and Zag and Alan Kerr offered to witness this unusual experience - me underground, and even let me borrow some kit from their extensive wardrobe. However the shiny TSA over-suit was slightly on the small size (I don't believe it!) and I only realised how small it was when I could not lift my leg over the stile. Still, it had a backside in it, which was better than my other alternative.
Having descended the daylight shaft, I was surprised that the way on was crawling. I was expecting a high narrow passage like County but, being a Hobbit, I burrowed on, following Claire and the "racing snake" Paul. We stopped to regroup in a small chamber and waited for Zig to come steaming in, pausing to clean his glasses on a wash leather, "They're so much better than hankies" he said. We burrowed on to Dusty Junction where Alan had time to have a roll up and Zig to clean his glasses again.
Then, on to the "Hall of the Mountain King". The depth of the mud was quite astonishing for a small person like me; it was well up to, and sometimes over my knees. The noise of us all slurping and splodging in this chocolate fudge was brilliant.
The syrupy consistency of it made it stick to your wellies and made them
so heavy that it was hard to make progress. We moved in slow motion - like the
creatures of the
black brown lagoon. The way out didn't look
obvious until Paul directed me to a hole, which looked too small for an exit.
With the aid of some liquid brown "margarine" I shot through the hole like
toothpaste out of a tube and into the water. Not that this mud was going to be
washed off that easily, standing in the stream like a chocolate icicle it
stayed welded to me. It was going to be a brown day!
We moved on to Cigalere, and that's when I really struggled. Could I get up the climb in the waterfall? "Put your foot above your head" was the advice the racing snake gave me. After about six attempts and now completely wet through, Zig - the gentleman, acted as a ladder and Paul then hauled me up like a beached whale. A tape was then produced to get me up the next climb as the tight over-suit and the knee length wet socks made it impossible for me to bend my legs, giving me cramp in my calf muscles. What a wimp!
Still, the Cigalere passage was very worthwhile although it was like Russian roulette with the pools, as some were a little deep for a short Hobbit. We stopped when the passage became too low, and happily turned back, I'm no fool. I've heard what was next, a low wet crawl and eight-foot deep canal.
Back to the mud. This is when I found it's a lot harder to climb back out, uphill. The viscose treacle clung to me, and my wellies would not come out - pull - cramp - pull - the other foot went in deeper, - pull - cramp!
I thrashed about, flinging the mud around, which stuck to my glasses and covered my head torch, my whole world was turning brown. I was going nowhere. Paul and Alan returned and had to scoop out the mud, which now encased my "concrete wellies" before I could plod on upwards.
Then followed the climb up the mud banks, and being all greased up we tried to apply friction to the slippery slope - very frustrating, but the exhilarating bit was the slide down the other side - like penguins on ice. Finally a photographic record of the trip was taken at Dusty Junction before we exited.
Like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - you can have too much of a good thing!
With thanks to the cast:
Paul W. - Too fast, too thin and too fit!
Claire W. - It was her fault I was there!
Alan K. - Mr Rollup, never got muddy!
Pete (Zig) - The gentleman caver!
Julie (Zag) - Never broke into a sweat!