Cambridge Underground 1990 pp 55-56

Hop a Long goes caving

by David Fearon

(An account of the other accident suffered by CUCC, told by the victim, who is better known to all the world as Damage. The trip was the CUCC New Year annual visit to Pen y Ghent and as well as Damage starred el Presidente, Juliette and Tim as team Disaster and el Journomuggins, Julian and Chris Sharman as team Rigger. Also featuring a cast of thousand including CR0, CUCC, EXCS, Uncle Tom Cobly and all. (Because Damage let me type it in rather than do it himself I have put in lots of editorial remarks because I was sick of just typing - ed))

Anyone who was there that disagrees with this account of what happened is wrong. (Except the editor who is ALWAYS right - ed)

It was a dark and stormy night, there was a dense fog all over Yorkshire and the cavers were quaking at the thunder and lightning. Well that's the start so how about some reality? Yorkshire weather was Yorkshirish, Jeremy was whimpering not quaking and Juliette emptied her carbide in Bracken's Bottom.

After negotiating the tightest squeeze - Del's wetsuit ("Here you are Dave, you do Pen-y-ghent; lovely wetsuit cheap at half the price; just had a new engine") we set off. The much acclaimed, famed, knee knackering crawl was harmless to the third degree (only for some! - Ed). ULSA ropes were rigged (and hairy) and Team Rigger had rigged so we lobbed off. We met some other cavers who told us that all the pitches after the first 2 were rigged. Our Jeremiah, ohlordlypresidentmosthigh, then had a thought (I know it's unlikely!) and left Larry lifeline behind. Trundle, Trundle, Trundle down loadsa pitches, far too many to count, although I could count the number of lifelines on my positive bank balance. Juliette or someone moaned at me for being impatient on a pitch.

Team rigger were miles away when Jeremy climbed down Myer's Leap. The water was flowing fast and clear over this enormous (??? Ed) drop. I started down, still enjoying my first ever caving trip without knackered knees or ankles. Guess what happened next? The torrents of water were pushing me back and just possibly I was cycling too fast. It's very dangerous on Saturdays in town. Well you know how it is, no toe clips and your feet slip off the peddles but do you put the brakes on? Oh no you knock a Granny for six. I wish I had a bigger vocabulary (so do I - Ed). So I carried on down and some way down I decided to do without the ladder.

My whole life flashed in front of me and I was too busy panicking to see the good bits - a complete lie that actually my brain doesn't work that fast all I thought was

"Oh shit!
I've let go!
What's going to happ..
THUD and nothing,

for a while anyway. I was sitting at the bottom, perrier was pouring over the pitch and Jeremy had his arm around me - an idyllic setting! My left cheek hurt (posterior one that is) and so did my inner thigh. I'd heard things about Jeremy but this!

Jeremy played paternal for a while and after excessive hyperventilation / panic or whatever I calmed down. Tim and Juliette were fretting "Where's it hurt?" "Can you walk?" "Oh it just hurts a bit. Give me five minutes and I'll walk" Tripe. A minute later Juliette was down and I've never heard such a row, talk about keeping up the morale of your casualty! "Lecture, lecture, lecture you're a tosser and you deserve to die, you sub-human pitch leaper, you are SOOO stupid!" I were so 'ard this little pep talk did me no 'arm at all - She was right and I knew it.

Jeremy went off down to the sump and got team rigger. The swines then wanted me to climb up the raging torrent I'd just fallen down (still minus lifeline and no one to catch me!). It was an easy climb with Chris blocking the water. I initially thought we'd need the CRO as the pain steadily increased but as I cooled down the pain lessened.

The next few pitches and bits are not recorded due to the supercooling of my already damaged brain. People were pulling me up pitches faster than I could hobble. I was desperately cold - occasionally too cold to notice. It was a continued effort to shiver let alone move and I was becoming more and more lethargic. Even small amounts of activity made me tired. I waited a long time below the wet 40' pitch getting terribly cold in spite of hugging and being hugged by two paragons of caving pulchritude, Julian and Juliette, who were very good at this. Chris went up this pitch unlifelined - Let's try to make this epic into an EPIC ! I followed, it was fairly easy, I had learned how to move with increased ease (I was colder!).

At some stage we reached the big pitches; whereupon I demonstrated the incredible art of one leg prussiking - I was really disappointed that Jeremy beat me. I went in to a natural shiver temperature zone, this was a great relief. Prussiking was so easy, nice and moderately non-aggravating to my leg. I coiled (more or less) a ladder as Jeremy started going out ahead to stop any possible rescue. Then I set off out with that old dear, mother of many: Julian, who kept going mother mother. After much hugging, going the wrong way and hopping we came to the crawl.

I went into serious autocrawl mode (so did the rest of us - we were sick of place! Ed) - leaving my brain with its pain. It was cold but uneventful. The entrance approached and by now I was convinced getting out of the cave would be a piece of piss. Only the walk back?!

We finally got out. I was propped on either side by Julian & Tim (Error Tim too big! Try Francis). It was dead clear with some frost on the ground. An indeterminate amount of time passed and lights appeared and familiar (some at least) voices could be heard; nice but a bit late though. They kept asking me: "Are you all right?". Why do people always ask this dumb question? Then, because they had gone to the trouble of getting the thing, this bunch of nice people suggested that I get on a stretcher and be carried - I thought they were kidding!

I was manhandled into Tanya's (nice person!) sleeping bag and AN Other-Saint's (sorry forget who) duvet jacket. A cup of wondrous black fluid was offered me and I drank it and it was good. Indeed better that good, then I tasted it and it was 50% black coffee 50% treacle - Yuk!

Then loads of friendly (drunk?) faces just visible behind the glare of their zooms looked down at me. Everyone asked me loads of questions. Apparently the stretcher was crap. I was relieved that it was almost over and delighted to hear cheerful chatter as opposed to the tired, strained voices I had been hearing. My first ride in an Ambulance "Whopeee!!" The pain got worse as I warmed up but that was no problem now.

Major embarrassment - no breaks, no fractures just a bruised bum (and ego).

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