This was a joint caving club trip to the heart of Welsh Wales, I mention Welsh Wales just in case anyone gets confused with us spending a weekend in Camilla, the duchess of, or the other Wales like Geppetto did when he was searching for Pinocchio – ah whales, yes, different spelling.
There was thirteen of us going, twelve were travelling from the north whilst one was meeting us there.
Of the twelve travellers, seven were Smoggies (from Teesside) and five were Yorkies (from York – obviously).
Of the seven Smoggies, four were from the North Yorkshire Moors Caving Club – Hooray; whilst three were from the York Caving Club – Boo. The “unlucky for some” thirteenth member was a former Yorkie who had seen the light and defected to Bangor.
Our weekend plan was simple:- to drink, explore some mines, drink and explore some mines – in that order; but first, we had to get there and we were staying in a mountaineering club’s bunk-house which was designed for twelve so it was going to be cosy.
There seemed to be an utter chaos surrounding the organisation of the transport and thirty five separate emails were exchanged before it was sorted out (although not all of them were transport related); for the benefit of the reader and to get a gist of the mind-set of my fellow cavers, I have faithfully reproduced the email thread – all thirty five of them.
Balk- It’s a fair hike over there and I won't be able to get away from work until 4pm next Friday
Anyone got any bright ideas ?
Looks like we'll need two cars for the Teesside contingent (in which I include JC)
Me - I'm quite happy to drive
Plenty of space in the van for luggage and stuff but only 5 seats including the driver.
I was going to finish work mid-afternoon but I don’t have any specific time to set off. As long as I get a couple of pints in before bed I will be happy.
Who else is finishing work mid-afternoon?
Bindy - Presumably Andy won't be going with the Yorkies? Or maybe he will.
Balk - Apologies, since his exodus from Teesside I have labelled Andy an 'outsider'
There was talk of Chalky coming too, but he's not on the sign-up list ?
Andy - Have you included Pants in your calculations?
Chalky isn't coming.
It looks like a two car job if Pants is included. If so I would rather travel with you lot rather than those Yorky twats. (hang on JC, JD and Pants are Yorky twats). I can leave at any time on Friday. I could meet you smoggies somewhere like Thirsk or Leeds.
I have a seven seater car but there would be no room for kit so if not I can bring a 5 seater car with a huge boot and cup holders for all to the table.
(auto correct on my phone is brilliant. It preferred the term Tory twats and apparently I have 5 sweater car)
Balk - Chalky should hang his head in shame for being a paid up member of Sparkys 'not coming if it’s not in Ryedale' club. He was the one who really wanted to visit a gold mine in the first place.
JC - I can finish work early on Friday and probably meet you in Topcliffe if some else is driving. If not, I have room for two people in the van and you can leave cars at my place.
Andy - Topcliffe sounds like a fair rendezvous point. We can cram in one or two cars as necessary. We could even have an earlier car and a later car.
Bindy - Or a YCC car and a hetro car.
Me - I am happy to take my van as the “early” car, picking up John and Andy in Topcliffe around 4ish I would guess
Who else is in the early car?
Pants - Afternoon y'all, I'll be going from York as I'm currently living down here, so I'll be in the happy young car ;-) Felicia couldn't make the trip due to other arrangements, good, as I don't think we'd both fit in the hut.
JD - Jerry I can be at home for 15:00 on Friday and prefer the early car
Me - Ok, I will pick up JD around 3:30ish then head to Topcliffe to pick up JC and Andy at 4ish
I’m guessing that the later car contains Baulk, Bindy and Pants although I read that Pants is in a Yorkie car too.
Andy - He maybe wished to travel without his pants in a Yorky car so in return would like us to transport his supply of under garments
Bindy - You may need to take a trailer just to carry them.
Sounds like you'll be there early. Not sure what pub Matt was referring to in his email but this one does cracking food and ale.
Last food 9pm though.
Me - Its 231 miles or 4 ½ hours so we should make it although a trailer full of pants might slow us down a bit
Andy - Add an extra hour at least to get around Manchester in rush hour on a Friday.
Bindy - Then subtract an hour cos you're in a van and can ignore the rules of the road.
Andy - It doesn't matter what vehicle Jerry drives he always ignores the rules of the road!
JC - That's great Jerry. I will see you in Topcliffe at 4 pm.
Me - John, what’s your address?
JC - Bedale, If you are coming down the A19 it's no problem to leave the van in Topcliffe Jerry. In fact there is a job I have to price up just down the road, which I could do Friday PM.
JD - Off Guildford road
Me - Not you, Ya plonker,
Me - John, what’s the Topcliffe address?
Andy - After discussions tonight it makes sense for me to travel over with the Yorkies. It will save me about an hour each way
Me - Balk, do you finish work at 4 or would you be ready to leave your house at 4?
Since Andy has shown us his true colours and defected to the “homo” car by travelling with the Yorkies I can only conclude that he is coming out (assuming he is travelling in the feather duster); either that or he is trying to convert Laura into a ginger jihadi if he travels in the other.
Anyway, it leaves the “hetro” Teessiders (and John) as a party of five which will fit in one van so if you aren’t going to be excessively late and everyone else is happy to be a little later, we should probably go in one vehicle.
Andy - At least I know what I'm dealing with in the bum duster. John on the other hand....... I'll be keeping my bottom firmly on the seat and pray that there have been no modifications!
Bindy - Who is this Andy? Do any of us actually know him?
Not sure if Balk can see his emails but he finishes at four. I was going to meet him there in Grangetown to set straight orf. If we'll all fit in one vehicle it would make sense for us all to meet at yours instead I suppose.
Me - Ok, let’s do that, if you meet Chris at 4 as planned then head to mine, we chuck the gear over then pick up John @Bexley at just gone 4 and John @Topcliffe at half past. If we’re quick with the jumping in and out we will only be half an hour later than planned.
Everyone else ok with that?
JC - Sounds good Jerry. I will be parked outside the Post Office in Topcliffe. The others know where it is.
Balk - Right. I'll leave work at 4pm on the dot, should be chez Jerry about 4:10pm
Shall meet you there Bindy.
JC - If anyone has a spare back up head torch could you bring it please as I have lost yet another one. Ta.
Bindy - Best I can offer is a Petzl Tikka.
If you're lucky, it might just about be bright enough to give you a vague glance of the ledge you've just walked off as your head skims past it...
Andy - I have spare you can borrow it’s not the brightest though
A few days prior to setting off I called in at my local branch of Waitrose to gather some provisions – other shops were available but I refuse to shop in Asda due to the predominance of pikeys, people in PJ’s and dressing gowns, fat girls showing their belly’s and other low-lives.
There’s many more reasons to shop at Waitrose, here’s just a few:
- Because I hate poor people.
- Because I once heard a 6 yr old boy in the shop say “Daddy does Lego have a “t” at the end like Merlot?”
- Because their colour scheme matches my Range Rover.
- Because Tabitha and Tarquin only eat phoenix eggs that have been collected by wizards who share their values.
My shopping list was typical of a caving weekend booze and food shop although I did forget my traditional hangover cure of a litre of tomato juice.
- Cider – in the largest quantity, a box of 20 tins was the best value
- A packet of Tortilla wraps with a hint of chilli
- A packet of “crap” ham – you know, that cheap mechanically retrieved and re-processed stuff that contains more salt and preservatives that it does actual ham.
- A Spanish omelette
- Cheesy coleslaw
- A particularly special chilli and garlic sauce
- A can of beans
- An over-ripe Shropshire blue cheese from the reduced (out of date) fridge.
I left these in the back of the van as the air temp was colder than the fridge so it wasn’t like the stuff was going to go off, however when I got into the van the following morning I revise that thought as there a pungent aroma had pervaded.
It had a whiff of old wet-suit socks about it and from past experiences (and not having any wet-suit socks in the van) I knew it was the Shropshire blue cheese – its odour had made its way out of the cling film wrap, out of the bag, out of the back of the van and into my driving space.
Such was its potency that I decided to leave it there for the next couple of days as the other four travellers were likely to (or not to) appreciate it.
This was one of those days when I never seemed to catch up with myself and just when I thought that I might, some twat would phone me up for advice and such.
I was five minutes late getting home and rushed around to shower and pack a case; others might have grabbed their clobber and thrown it in a rucksack and I normally fall into that category but this day I thought I would fold and pack a small suit case with two changes of clothing, a wash bag and a small purple pillow that I stole from a Premier Inn some months ago. This rushing around ensured that I remained late and thus I was five minutes late picking up JD, we were then five minutes late meeting Balk and Bindy and somehow, we were nearly fifteen minutes late picking up JC; however, once everyone had been securely fastened in, “warp speed” was enabled.
Warp-speed continued for some time but as traffic increased and the dreaded M60 approached warp-speed had to be disabled – the decision to disable warp-speed being the massive deceleration of a white van in front; as the white van man produced two black lines and two plumes of smoke from his front wheels, my ABS kicked in and lifted the back wheels of my van off the road.
JD hit the imaginary brake more than a few times during that journey and JC face planted the back of the passenger seat a couple of times too.
That wasn’t the only time the van had a wheel off the ground, it did it again every time we drove in and out of the track to the bunk-house.
The bunk-house was in a little village called Garreg but we had no real idea where it was, nor where we were for that matter so I used the Sat-nav to find Garreg. After switching it on, it took a few minutes to find its satellites then took a few more minutes to find itself and calculate the route before announcing “your destination is 100 metres on the right” – we were already there. More annoyingly, when we looked 100 metres to the right, we could actually see the pub!
It was unusual for me not to spot it earlier, I can normally sniff out a pub at half a mile.
We had arrived in the village in record time – largely due to the excessive use of the warp-speed and the lack of a real brake pedal on the passenger’s side. We beat the Yorkies who had the key to the bunk-house so we chose to drive straight to the pub and spend a couple of hours in there instead.
Meantime, Andy (travelling with the Yorkies) wasn’t allowed to the pub, he had already drunk a few tinnies in the back of the “bum duster” and I guess the Yorkies had had enough and drove straight past. We said that he should have opened the door and bailed out on the way past but he said he lacked the bottle. (as he only had tins).
It was a shame because he really missed out; not only did the pub serve fine cider, the tall slim barmaid had a shapely derriere and a most delicious thigh gap. I mentioned how inviting it looked – not to her obviously – and it started a discussion about thigh gaps and what it the perfect size.
The ability to pass a Toblerone through seemed to be a good guide although I struggled to visualise the bumper sized Christmas one.
Recently I booked a work colleague into a hotel under the name of Toby LeRone, it seemed like a good idea at the time but he wasn’t best pleased as his name is actually Scott Chegg. He had been Mr Tom A’To and Mr Pat A’To in the past and he didn’t like those names either.
When we eventually left the pub and arrived at the bunk-house, the fire was already roaring and all the prep stuff like turning on the electricity and the water and such had already been done so I went straight up the ladder to secure myself the best sleeping space upstairs.
I put my sleeping bag down closest to the ladder hatch against the wall in a bunk just for two; having slept in a bunk room with Balk and his chainsaw snoring, I was keen to be as far away from everyone else as feasibly possible and as long as he didn’t put his sleeping bag next to mine things would be good.
My two person bunk was opposite a four person bunk and across the end of the room was a bunk for six. I’ve slept in many bunk-houses before and having struggled to find my sleeping space amidst a sprawl of sleeping bodies, I figured that the smallest bunk, closest to the hatch was best.
One particular bunk-house experience perturbed me a little; in typical style I had drunk myself into oblivion before deciding that enough was enough and I should retire for the night. Staggering through the rows of sleeping bodies on racks was like walking through a scene from “invasion of the body snatchers’ which only improved when I saw a fit girlie, half in and half out of her sleeping bag – there was a number of girls in the bunk-house but this one was naked which was a good bedtime bonus. I eventually found my sleeping bag between two complete strangers who had encroached on my space somewhat; in the subdued light and in my incapacitated state I struggled to get into my sleeping bag without falling on anyone and when I finally did, I couldn’t zip my bag up. I struggled and struggled but there was no way that the two halves of the zip would get anywhere near close, let alone fasten. After I while I abandoned the idea and pulled half the bag over myself and fell asleep.
I was awoken at some point the following morning by some fidgeting and disgruntled noises from one of my two sleeping partner/strangers. It transpired that in my drunken state I slipped one leg in my sleeping bag and one in my neighbours and he wasn’t best pleased about it – although it did explain why I couldn’t get the zip to fasten.
We continued with our drinking and later that evening, the second Yorkie car arrived and the frivolity’s continued.
During the evening I presented my latest caving light; it wasn’t actually designed for caving but it was incredibly bright and it came from China for the princely sum of fifteen pounds and it looked good too.
We went out into the cold night air and tried out our various lights and I was impressed; with the exception of JC’s light, my cheap China light easily out-shone the rest but what it would be like underground remained to be seen.
As the evening wore on and the alcohol intake increased, absorbent food was needed. In the absence of a Teesside Parmo shop I started with a tortilla wrap filled with reconstituted ham, cheesy coleslaw and a good dollop of the latest special garlic and chilli sauce. It fitted the bill perfectly and soon after, the cheese board appeared; Andy supplemented the cheese board with a large jar of an exceptional homemade chipotle chutney which went down very well on a biscuit with a lump of Stilton. (I’m always wary of using the term “chutney” particularly in the present company and their use of the term “in the chutney cupboard”).
It was quite late when I called it a night and I was shockingly drunk; as I was one of the last men standing, the others were all pushing zeds in the bunk room. Up there it was dark and the air was sweaty and filled with the sounds of breathing. I struggled to see where I was but remembering that my sleeping bag was closest to the hatch, I thought I couldn’t go wrong.
Fumbling around, I found a sleeping bag but I couldn’t find the zip and there was a lump in the head end too; I couldn’t work out what was going on and spent some time feeling everything in a bid to create sight and logic with only my drunken hands.
I didn’t work it out for myself but Laura certainly did, “get out, get out ” she said, “this is my sleeping bag and I’m already in it” she exclaimed – poor girl, what a way to be woken up!
I apologised profusely then climbed over her; tempting as it was to “tea bag” her on the way past, I was far too drunk for any shenanigans so I lay down, farted and fell asleep.
When I woke up I found that Laura had put her sleeping bag next to mine but had positioned her head end opposite. Cleverly she had worked out that my bag zip was against the wall and if her bag was top and tail to me, our zips would be as far away as possible. Thus she was safe from me snoring and breathing all over her and also from an accidental grope (although she got one of them anyway).
That morning I thought I had remembered to pack everything but annoyingly, I had forgotten a towel; I dare say I could have borrowed one but I didn’t really have much intentions of having a shower – unless I fell in something nasty or I had the sort of bowel problem that I haven’t had since I was a toddler so it was hands and face and teeth clean with a brisk shake and a drip dry for me.
Our plan for the day was an explore of the abandoned Gwynfynydd gold mine but during the preparations, I had to make three visits to the thunderbox. The combination of cider, cheese and chilli often causes this type of problem but I had a horrendous ring sting that didn’t justify the amount of chilli I thought I’d consumed. I couldn’t work out why it was so bad but I really needed too!
One needs to be sure, bearing in mind the company who were present.
We had openly joked that Andy would have the arse like the Japanese flag, not me.
It was late morning by the time we had readied ourselves and this was not helped any by some of the group walking to the café for breakfast and Pants doing the full English fry-up (with three sausages I might add).
I was quite content with half a Spanish omelette, half a tin of beans and a good dollop of chilli and garlic sauce.
After a half an hour drive we had a covert walk to the mine; disguised as your common or garden walkers with rucksacks, we carried our caving kit to the abandoned gift shop to get changed.
Standing in a semi-derelict building surrounded with the paraphernalia normally associated with gift shops and tourist mine changing rooms was a bit surreal but then, when we were changed, we stowed out bags in the lockers provided – which was handy.
Once underground we bumped into a like-minded group from the Barnsley area, although we didn’t know them, we knew of them. It seemed most bizarre, there are over seven billion people in the world but we didn’t see any of them but half a kilometre below a remote corner of Wales we bumped into some people we knew of and had the sort of conversation we might have had if we had met them in the pub.
The mine was very extensive and I could easily have got lost but after four or so hours of exploring we had seen the best bits and Balk led the way to an alternative route back to the surface.
On the way out we utilised a particularly dodgy wooden ladder, it was so rotten that I could dig my fingers in to the first knuckle and squeeze water from it.
Worse was to come as I climbed ever higher from ladder section across to ladder section and found one section of the ladder resting with its bottom rung on resting on an equally rotten roof prop.
It was some relief to get off it some three hundred feet up.
It was actually only one of many dodgy ladders, as the one we used on the way in wasn’t much better; although that one was steel, it must have been one hundred years old and wasn’t attached to anything – the floating around in space was not for the faint hearted nor for those who had eaten too much chilli the night before.
There was a worse one encountered on Sunday, this one gave way after four of us had climbed it leaving six of us at the bottom and four of us trapped at the top looking for an alternative way back down; fortunately a knotted rope was seen hanging from a different area and a route to it was engineered.
We broke the surface again in a completely different entrance from the one we went in amid a dark and drizzly sky. This entrance was encircled with a high wooden fence which was extremely difficult to climb. Having got over it I thought I would help everyone else over by offering my shoulder for them to stand on; this plan worked well until Laura raised her leg over the top of the fence and in doing so emptied a welly full of water down the back of my neck. Whilst everyone laughed, I cursed but forgave Laura as I don’t think she did it on purpose and if she did it would be no more than I deserved for molesting her during the previous night.
I came out of the mine with half a dozen small pieces of rock which all had an alluring gold twinkle about them, it was very likely that most of the twinkle was Iron Pyrites or “fools gold” but as far I was concerned it’ was all gold because it make a much better conversation piece. In saying that, I have had some detailed looks at the pieces and whilst some shiny yellow flecks are definitely fool’s gold, some flecks have an orangey / gold colour and a different structure and I think these are actually gold – it would be nice if this was true (else, I am the fool).
After the mine trip, the “bum Duster” party headed straight back to the bunkhouse as Laura was cooking a hearty stew for our tea. We, on the other hand, thought a quick visit to the local pub might be a good idea – if nothing else but to ogle at the slender barmaids thigh gap again but sadly she wasn’t there; her replacement – although wearing a fuller figure – also warranted a good leering at as she carried a rack of colossal proportions; I would have needed my caving lamp to complete a top down view.
She wasn’t a Toblerone girl, she was a KitKat girl – and no two finger snack KitKat either, she was the full four finger variety.
We started a discussion about breasts and what size is perfect but we quickly worked out that size is like choosing between Stella, Heineken, Carlsberg & Budweiser etc. We may have stated our
preferences, but in reality we will grab whatever is available.
A recent study found that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than the men who mention it.
After a few pints we thought that our tea might be spoiling and in order to avoid the wrath of Laura (something I have yet to experience) we headed off. After all, we had plenty of booze in the bunkhouse; the Yorkies had brought along a 40 pint polypin of Terrier beer from York Brewery, it was left over from a Christmas shindig they had a week previously and they had priced it at the princely sum of two pounds a glass which was to be dropped into an honesty box. Andy, the greedy twat thought he would exploit the Yorkies rule of “two pound a glass” and found a stein about the size of a pedal bin, god only knows how much it held – considerably more than Andy’s bladder and blood stream could hold I would guess as he was fair to wobbling by the end of the evening.
Much later that evening I followed Laura up the stairs with the comments from the rest of the reprobates that if I was going to touch her up again, I should do it when she was awake. Poor girl, she must have laid there terrified that she was going to get another molesting during the night, and I didn’t have a Toblerone either. Electing not to “tea bag” her again, I waited for her to take the initiative with some “queening” but after a few minutes I figured that my thoughts and her thoughts weren’t quite aligned so I rolled over, farted and went to sleep.
That morning there was still no showering for me, just the hands, face and teeth clean with a quick shake and a drip dry – not even a “squaddie wash” although I don’t know why, I’m fairly sure I would have benefited from one (if not for me but for the benefit of the others).
There was still an unnecessary faff surrounding the morning, I started the day with the other half of the Spanish omelette, the other half of the tin of beans and a good dollop of chilli and garlic sauce (budget boy breakfasting for seventy five pence per day – such luxuries). Whilst the others messed on and Pants cooked a full English fry-up again.
My breakfast could have been better if the microwave was still working but as someone had abused it with an amusing experiment involving silver foil, a light bulb and a nine volt battery, I had my breakfast cold.
When we finally readied ourselves and packed the van Bindy jumped in the front and Andy jumped in Bindy’s place in the back.
People establish themselves in their places and tend to stick to them and as JD was the first in the van and had bagged his seat as front passenger, that was his place. Thus he was horrified to see Bindy sitting in his seat the front as we shot out of the drive (having first negotiated the zig-zag with the back wheel off the ground). When we turned around further up the road and drove back, JD was waiting for us at the side of the road but was most put out to see Andy sitting in Bindy’s seat in the back. The realisation that he was forced to travel in the “bum Duster” was almost too much for him and I thought he was going to cry; it didn’t help that every time he tried to put his caving kit in the back, I pulled the van a few feet forwards and he dropped his kit on the road.
Our plan for the day was to explore some abandoned slate mines just around the corner; to say they were just around the corner is to say that they were approximately two miles away from the bunkhouse by line of sight but were actually on the other side of a mountain which took us half an hour to drive and a fifteen minute walk to access.
The slate mine was vast, it was every bit as extensive as Saturdays gold mine but contained many huge chambers on many different levels, by huge I mean that my caving light had no way of penetrating across them, they were just big black voids to me.
It was for this reason that I had invested fifteen hard earned English pounds on a super Chinese light and I wanted to test it to its maximum. Taking it out of my rucksack and putting in on my head, I turned it on expecting to see the wonders of the void to be revealed to me. In reality, it didn’t happen quite like that as the light wouldn’t actually turn on; I took it off my head and looked at it whilst pressing the on/off button a few times. Like the little kid looking down the end of the hose pipe, the light did a similar trick and turned on to full capacity, searing into my eyes and burning holes in my retinas like a kid scorching ants with a magnifying glass.
The next trick it did was to flash so quickly and so brightly that I thought it would induce epilepsy, then I couldn’t turn it off. After some messing about it appeared to start working properly so I put it back on my head, then it went off again; after that it only worked intermittently when I took it off and refused to work at all when I put it on – bastard thing.
I threw it back into my rucksack in disgust and it repaid me with the epileptic flashing for the next ten minutes; so that’s what fifteen pounds buys – entertainment value for the others.
Something (may be the cold omelette and beans) had given me chronic stomach ache and gas and I was farting continuously; I always generate excessive wind and I can’t hold it as it makes my stomach ache worse so I have to let it go straight away.
I can either do ripping parrps which sound great off an acoustic plastic school chair or I can do the long squeaky ffeeetttrrrpppprrrrpps ones; I can hold them for nearly 5 seconds (an achievement that I am quite proud of) which is also good off a plastic school chair and the duration gives people time to stop and stare. This often shortens my duration as I start laughing and do an involuntary blip to end.
Or I can break the air stream into a series of small parps which I can control to make a basic tune.
JC thought I could do Beethoven’s 5th symphony but in reality I can only do basic things like “Ba-Ba Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool” as an eight fart sequence or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, How I wonder What You Are” as an fourteen fart sequence.
Occasionally (depending upon eating Muesli the day before) I can change the frequency on each step down the stairs and mimic the blips of a six digit burglar alarm in the hall as part of a twenty fart sequence but that is my limit – this is the closest that my family get to being woken up by the dawn chorus.
Some were impressed with this ability and some weren’t; some begged me to stop before I “drew mud” whilst some (like poor Laura) simply ran for cover.
As I was in a plastic over-suit, I ate most of the fragrance as it exited from the neck hole in my over-suit; Balk on the other hand was wearing a cotton over-suit so everyone ate a bit of his. I ate so much I was almost too full for my tea!
Sometime later I discussed Saturday mornings “ring sting” with Andy and he enlightened me as an alcoholic stupor must have removed a part of my memory; it transpired that it wasn’t the chipotle chilli and Stilton on Friday evening that killed me. It was the “Dave’s Insanity Gohst Pepper sauce” that was liberally applied to a chocolate brownie – I had completely forgotten about it, although, it’s fair to say, it didn’t affect me anywhere near as much as it appeared to affect the others (and I’m talking here about the time it was eaten as I didn’t do a consensus for ring sting across the weekend and there is only a certain few I could discuss that with anyway bearing in mind the company).
In one of the chambers of gargantuan proportions, the miners had dumped a pile of waste slate scrap in a corner; to put this pile into some sort of context, I estimated it rose at angle of 45° for 300 metres and still didn’t reach the roof.
Knowing that there was passages off at different levels and an abandoned show mine at the top, it seemed like a good idea to climb it.
It wasn’t a good idea for very long though as the loose slate / shale / scree was unstable and threatened to avalanche at any moment and the climbing was made much harder by the slate giving way under foot. For every foot I went up, I slipped back six inches; some people slipped back further and some people slipped back less – depending upon how big their six inches was.
I was going to discuss this with Laura but I was out of breath and she was some way below me so I didn’t bother so I thought I would work it out for myself. As six inches is a variable scale it goes some way to justifying why women are so bad at reversing and parking cars since the space remaining and the dimension of that space is different; so I thought of another analogy, this time in cookery and the term “knob”. Is everyone’s knob of butter the same sized knob?
My wife makes an exceedingly buttery biscuit but she can’t reverse a car to save her life
I digress, about half way up the slope we paused to reclaim our breath from the chest wrestling monster that makes breathing difficult – I guess this feeling must be similar for the Saturday evening barmaid if she laid on her back – when Bindy spotted a passage heading off and went across to have a look.
Like little lost sheep we all followed; in turn we hauled ourselves up into the passage and eventually congregated at a junction with the bottom half of a female manikin leaning against it. We had no idea why half a manikin was there or how it had got there for that matter; it had clearly came down from the abandoned show mine but it didn’t get there on its own – or so we assumed.
We took all took note that someone had properly screwed it by driving a large wood screw deep into its arse, and somebody else had spray painted an alternative minge wig – instead of the 1970’s welcome mat or the smoothie or the neat Brazilian, this was a reverse Brazilian – a smooth centre with spiders legs and watch springs around the sides.
I attempted to discuss the merits of this design with Laura but she cleverly skirted around the conversation and wisely too; I also chose not to discuss the arse screwing with anyone else either but that was for different reasons.
Apart from the manikin, there was little else to see in that passage as it ended blind so we took turns to lower ourselves back out again and continued our torturous route onwards up the slope.
The abandoned show mine area was quite interesting; as was the abundance of decapitated and broken manikins that littered the various caverns like the aftermath of Taliban suicide bomber in a crowded shopping centre.
We made our way towards the show mine entrance although we couldn’t see it as it used to be since the quarry owners had quarried some of it away many years ago – hence the reason for its closure.
Instead of an abandoned gift shop and café similar to the one we saw the day before, we looked out from the side of a huge cliff overlooking a huge quarry full of huge piles of shattered slate waste. It was an alien landscape which wasn’t at all familiar and could easily be confused with that of another planet. I might have used the word “huge” too many times in that last sentence.
As we couldn’t safely get out from there we couldn’t do a classic “through trip” so we started to make our way back to exit via the same drift we used to get in.
Going down the avalanche of death was good fun; working on the idea that it was going to slide at any minute, I chose to squat on my heals a slide down most of it. Gravity was on my side – which was fortunate otherwise I would have gone up instead of down – so in a chaos of noise and sliding rock, I alighted at the bottom.
JD asked everyone else to wait at the top so he could take some photos so I had time to study the surroundings. I was sitting at the bottom of an avalanche waiting to happen, in a monstrous cavern, and high above me were a dozen tiny lights twinkling. They were incredibly bright caving lights but they were so far away they looked like stars in the night sky. I wish I could have captured the image as no amount of text could do this view justice.
As we leaving via passages we had already explored, we spent less time looking around and more time striding along. Many times we found ourselves stomping through passages complete with rusting rails and sleeper boards, one particular passage was wet with puddles of an orange ochre to a depth of about 100mm (4 inch in old money) between the boards.
Sometimes I walked in the sludgy water between the boards and sometimes on them, depending upon their spacing; regularly I tripped and stumbled but one time I tripped over some unknown submerged object and stumbled forward. Catching myself with my right foot on one of the sleeper boards I maintained my forward motion although my foot slipped back slightly and with force, it slid off the board and into the sludge puddle behind; with another stumble I caught myself again and continued striding and would have continued on bar for Andy’s cries of “you bastard”.
When I looked back, he was busy trying to wipe his face clear of the orange ochre. I had to laugh, he was covered in what appeared to be tomato soup, it looked like he’d left the lid off a food blender – I couldn’t have done it better if I’d tried.
On the way out we climbed up a steep incline which rose for many hundreds of feet, it was fairly slippery and often involved me hanging on to the rails and hauling myself up. Half way up there was an old rail tub which had left the rails and jammed between the rail track and the roof. I doubt that it had got there from just the process of decay that the mine was enduring as force is an equal and opposite reaction; so it was more likely that some little twat pushed it from the top. Whilst I don’t condone that type of destructive practice, I wish I had been there to see it got – it must have been awesome. Truthfully it was the sort of trick that I would have done when I was younger – and would probably still do if I could get away with it.
At various stages up the incline there were sets of points taking the track from near vertical to horizontal as they headed off along passages or across voids. There were a number of these voids which were incredibly high and a fall from one of these would have undoubtedly been for the rest of my life but I was still drawn to stand on the edge and look down. One particular one was so high that my light couldn’t penetrate to the bottom and I tried to lean a little further out. It at times like these when a little bit of internal string pulls up really hard on the “barse” (the muscle between the balls and the arse) – not that the barse string was going to prevent a fall, a rope would be better.
I was going to ask Laura how that sensation affected her by referring to that area as “the chin rest” but I refrained as I figured she had endured enough blokish abuse for one weekend.
Back at the bunkhouse we had a tidy around and clear out of booze, food and bedding etc; I put the suitcase back in the van in exactly the same condition as it was when I took it out as it remained unopened and the clean clothes inside remained clean – this being my bit to reduce global warming by not creating unnecessary washing.
Greener than that, I even saved water as I managed the whole weekend without a wash; I didn’t really care, I figured we would all be as smelly as each other although Bindy said he had a shower on the Sunday morning and JC said he had a “self-wash”. Apparently he sweated so much on the Saturday night that he had cleansed him-self. I don’t suppose I was that much better as I was still wearing the same clothes and the same pair of underpants that I had on when I left the house on the Friday.
As we left the bunkhouse there was talk of a Indian for tea but conscious of my ability to fall asleep at the wheel I declined as it gone half five and would be gone half nine but the time we got home so I manually engaged warp speed and depressed the pedal to the floor and wedged it down with a stick.
A few hours later, we passed Leeds with Jeff Wayne’s musical “War of the Worlds” blasting out of the stereo – which seemed befitting given the alien place we had just come from – Andy text from the back of the bum Duster to say he had just left the Indian having had a super Naga chilli from the buffet and seen a Toblerone girl too – lucky man.
What a weekend, we covered 541.6 miles and survived to tell the tale.
I did some really great caving.
I ate one Spanish omelette and one can of beans.
My super Chinese caving light nearly gave me epilepsy
I drank thirteen cans of cider in the bunkhouse and I drank five pints of cider in the pub and I had a damn good stare at the barmaids thigh gap!
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