Disclaimer : In the absence of a log book and the presence of my own elephant (shrew) like memory I hereby absolve myself of any pretence to accuracy in the following bullshit.
This, my third Easter trip to the Burren, Co. Clare, started with an exhilarating rally style drive through South Wales (having stopped on the way to pick up a stray German/York caver at the Coventry juggling championships??). The hairy driving technique (as opposed to Wookey's hairy driver technique) ensured that we missed all the normal tedious waiting for the ferry bit, while another group tried the alternative method of arriving for the return ferry on the way out (or something) and thus made up for all the queueing time that we had cleverly avoided. One O.K. crossing and atrocious drive later we arrived in Doolin to find we weren't staying in the hostel that I had confidently navigated to, luckily everybody was still in the pub so we had a nightcap or three and descended into our respective pits.
Since our party (Tony, Gill, Sam, and Heike) had arrived late, Sunday as opposed to Friday or Saturday we found that everybody had done all the caves already (Wookey did them both on the same day apparently [I did? - Ed]). So to kick off, it was the Poul na Gollum/Poul Elva system which I knew like the back of my head, this turned an otherwise boring stomp into an interesting trip. Notably I was volunteered to climb down what was later identified as a 30' ladder pitch in 'Branch Passage', this dropped into a delightful rift passage with two feet of gloop at the bottom and no way on at the end. For future reference, the correct way on as you walk up the main passage is low on the left, if you reach a 30' waterfall with a deep plunge pool then you've gone too far.
Evenings started as they meant to go on, in the pub, and with a choice of three, all with fine folk music and smooth, creamy Guinness, who could possibly resist the temptation (even Olly was seen once or once with a glass in his hand). Of course all was not perfect, and as the weekend approached we discovered that every year on Good Friday the whole of Ireland runs out of Guinness and the pubs shut. This ensures that Saturday (and Sunday and.....) are 'good crack' - an Irish term meaning that twice as many people try to drink twice as much for twice as long and have a damn good time in the process.
Back to the caving - Poll an Ionian (Controversial bit here). Most people managed to get a trip down this fantastic cave, housing (allegedly) the largest free hanging stalactite in Europe (the World?) I found the '59 Extensions particularly fun with loads of sticky mud, but beware the pointy rock in the squeeze. Also beware the local farmer who, during our time in Ireland, succeeded in concreting up the entrance for good (or at least until it can be negotiated off - chemically or otherwise!)
St. Catherine's/Fisherstreet/Aran View Swallet - The Grand Canyon of Burren caving, what more can I say? 4.5 km of stomping, splashing stream passage and more. Silly buggers trip of the week must go to Olly and Clive who made the first trip of the newly formed C.U.C.C. (Cambridge Underground Cycling Club) down Fisherstreet Pot on bicycles hired at the Hostel. By the way, going downstream, the correct way to do the waddle is to sit in it and get washed down, it's much more fun than crawling!!
By Thursday various groups were getting bored of St. Catherine's - Fisherstreet, Fisherstreet - St. Catherine's, Aran View - Fisherstreet - St.Catherine's etc. etc. and decided to do other things. The York went digging (by digging I mean five of them sit in the sun whilst one or two try to lose a lump hammer in a hole that had a partially restricted view of the sun). Tony, Dan, Penny and others managed to find some horses and had by all accounts a very pleasant day riding.
Friday was perhaps one of the more eventful days, somebody had been bumped into the day before by some cave divers (Brian Judd & friend no less) "Oi, you're cavers aren't you?" they cried and in a fit of stupidity the aforesaid somebody agreed to round up some more brain deficient cavers to carry bottles to sump 5 of :-
Poll na Gceim. This is currently the deepest cave in Ireland and is predominantly SRT pitches straight into sump 1 which had been drained, as had sumps 2,3 & 4. The trip is no worse then a damp Swildony one until sump 4, which is 'orrible, as I approached all I could hear was grunting, spluttering and the bottle Becka had carried down spontaneously emptying itself. For me, going out was worse; lying in the squeezy bit with my SRT kit jammed behind the pipe, only my nose and forehead to breathe through and no light since I had knocked it on the roof and the bulb fell in the water. For further details see my much acclaimed writeup in the logbook. Friday evening, what with no pubs open, turned into a cavers pentathlon, with the usual daring table traversing etc., it was surprising how many people could not pick up a chair by the end of the evening (read this as you will?!!!); I was in full literary flow and succeeded in finishing the first line of the Poll na Gceim writeup. [In Mr Judd's Descent write-up of this trip we were all described as Yorks cavers & Sam failed to get mentioned at all - Ed]
Things grew quieter after Saturday (it logically follows that pubs are not things, since they stayed just as lively), the York contingents set off for Dublin with only a day and a half to get there in time for the ferry, and strange non-caving folk moved into the hostel - Germans, French, Australians, Irish in fact it was just like being back in Cambridge. So much for getting away from it all.
Sunday saw my last trip, Faunarooska. Note on finding the entrance:- On ascertaining the correct area in the fog follow Tony, who did a fine job of not going down the squalid unobvious holes but waited for the blinding great caved in (by cavers not gravity) entrance before risking any mud on his smart caving attire. The cave itself is lots of well decorated windy, rifty passage and just as you think it can't get any better there's about 15 metres of ridiculously pretty stuff after which the passage changes character and gets quite big. Well worth a visit.
Sunday night was spent to some large degree fettling the Wookmobile which developed a starting problem later identified as absent-minded diesel management and nobody got any sleep due to the collection of drunken drunks waiting for a non existent bus outside the hostel. On Monday the last of us left the emerald coast of the emerald isle and made our way to Rosslare for the return journey arriving back just in time for the pub on Tuesday night to organise the next weekend's caving escapade.
Fermanagh next year??