Cambridge Underground 1996 p 9

In Defence of Caving

by Paul Hammond

Of all the clubs and societies to choose from in Cambridge, the CUCC has to be one of the most bizarre. Firstly, scrabbling around underground is regarded by most of my friends as 'a little odd' and by the rest as 'bloody stupid'. But not only that, nearly everyone in the club is over 25 and has a beard - my first pub meet was somewhat alarming! In fact if I wasn't spotted by Nick I may well have run away and never come back.

But having recovered from the initial shock, I can't understand why there aren't more novices in the club. Who wouldn't want to get out of Cambridge for the weekend and spend it drinking tea and beer, even if you never went underground? I don't know if it is because the novelty hasn't worn off yet but I really enjoy going caving. The standard justification made to non-cavers seems to be something like "the grass looks much greener and the air smells much sweeter when you've just spent four hours crawling around in the dark soaked to the skin by muddy water". This must just be so that one doesn't appear to be a complete lunatic, because caving is most definitely good fun (well, almost)!

Perhaps the most memorable (or the least forgettable) moment of the last year was exchanging places with Duncan in the entrance crawl to Daren. If you ever get the chance to try it then I suggest that you don't. But wait, there were even more pleasurable experiences in store such as stripping off in four inches of snow and trying to pull on a soggy furry suit and wet-socks that had frozen solid overnight. Or perhaps worse, tramping around a hillside for one and a half hours in full caving gear looking for the entrance and feeling like a boil-in-the-bag kipper. Once inside the cave things don t always get any better; trying to wedge myself in a crack 4ft away from the top of a pitch with nothing to push against required a lot of cursing.

Fortunately, to make up for this, there were some more pleasurable bits as well like the huge stomping streamway of Great Douk on my first trip. The waterfalls of Dollytubs and Dr. Bannister's Handbasin were spectacular in full flow and the pull-through trip down Simpson's was really enjoyable because we got quickly through a interesting cave carrying only the minimum of gear. The thing that tips the balance though, and makes caving worthwhile has got to be sitting around in the pub afterwards, and drinking lots of beer!

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