Le Canyonisme aux Alpes Maritîmes
CU 1999 Contents Page Next:
The Torrente de Pareis bites
Austria expedition archive

Cambridge Underground 1999 pp 37-40

Fermanagh '98

Steve Jones

After much ranting about dinners we went caving; an overnight drive to the ferry, and a drive up excellent quality roads from Rosslaire to the border (some of them even had more than 1 lane -- in Dublin). Dismay amongst the majority mounted as we trundled along the dirt track to the cottage, leaving civilisation far behind. The cottage (Agnahoo) has character. It also has an outside tap, no electrics (log-fire heating, candle lighting) and no toilet. My comment was "it grows on you". Penny's reply was "only when it's stopped growing on the walls".

After a quick shopping trip into Enniskillen (and a not so quick wait whilst Penny phoned the missus) we headed into Marble Arch -- the local showcave -- to try to find the Royal Holloway group who were digging at the end of the system.

The holiday habit of playing in boulder chokes was initiated but finally we got into the cave only to find the tourist path gated. Paul and I both tried traversing under the walkway but found the climb back up too hard (the alternative was a long swim -- strangely unappealing in furry suits). Common sense, light failure and cold meant that we headed out the way we went in after a lazy intro. trip.

The Holloway group emerged having found a 12 foot loop at the end of Mexican Way and a potential upwards dig in a choke, abandoned as it rather resembled a game of Kerplunk. Introductions were carried out and we all cooked. Some of us ate -- the rest not having the asbestos stomach required for a rather warm dhal.

Next day we visited Cascades Rising. The entrance series is low, wet and rather sporting. Finding the way through took a long time, moving quite slowly as all possible dead ends were exhausted. Near the end I dived as usual into a boulder pile whilst everyone else wandered around the outside laughing loudly. The streamway once reached is most impressive with big passage and good formations. After a few deep sections we reached a low crawl. Whilst a discussion on what to do carried on I had a nose and turned back once I saw the sump bypass. It was decided to turn back, as Penny was freezing in borrowed gear consisting of a cardboard (ex-furry) suit and Pete's digging oversuit, several sizes too vast - a whole new experience for "Little" Pete's gear!!

Late next day we drove across the moors to Noon's Hole -- named after the first man down it (his trip was seen as just punishment for betraying large numbers of people to the authorities). The cave has a superb entrance shaft going down over 80m in a single pitch with several rebelays avoiding the water/ledges. Earl's skills at cutting bits of rope were again shown to be wanting as we had at least 2 feet of spare rope at the bottom.

Sadly, the cave at the bottom of the pitches is a bit miserable, consisting of lots of narrow muddy rift passages. First the Afternoon Series, connecting via the tight, awkward Crucifixion Crawl to a larger rift -- High Noon's, which is considerably better but still rather too much like hard work (welly-tugging mud), though it does get quite pretty in a few places. We climbed into the inlet which connects to Arch Cave and I got left behind - the others went for a look up the main passage whilst I found a boulder choke to look at (again). However, this time the choke was the way on and finally we emerged into Chamber Passage. Time was running short so we abandoned the search for the connection to Arch Cave (supposedly a fantastic streamway) (next time...) and headed out. Duncan decided that Crucifixion Crawl was boring head-first, so tackled it in the novel direction of feet-first (!). Prussking 80m when tired is tedious. On return to the cottage we found that Penny had decided to be a complete star and leave Paul and me some food in the pan.

Thursday dawned -- but none of us saw that bit. Penny decided she felt dirty so threw Paul out of his sleeping bag (well almost -- she tried) to take us swimming -- nice. Much soda bread was eaten, too. By early evening there was no sign of the Duncan, Pete and Tim, so Paul and I went to Tullyhona Rising Cave. The section to the sump is wet and in places low. In other places the water is deep. The passage shapes and the whole atmosphere of the cave, however, are fantastic -- one of my favourite caves. After a brief swim (bracing in furry suits) to find the sump, we spotted the bypass and shuffled our way along the Fenian Terror (a.k.a. the Wetsuit Shredder -- there are a few chert projections in this narrow rift). This is followed by the Crystal Crunch, a passage floored for about 30m with pristine gour pools which must be traversed over. This drops back into the streamway, which rapidly increases to a good size with some excellent formations, though a few have been vandalised. At the duck we turned back as it was a little cold. I took some pictures until Paul decided he was in fact very cold and starting to feel ill. Happily the Fenian Terror is a very effective means of warming up so by the time we returned to the streamway the panic was over and we headed out. This is a brilliant cave with an excellent sporty first bit and exceptional decorations. However, for those who feel the cold a wetsuit would be absolutely essential.

After 4 trips in as many days Friday had to be a rest day (excessive hurty bits), so whilst the Holloway went for a dig in the Worst Cave in the World (Springwell rising -- 45m long, all tight, sharp and very wet), we all went for separate day's walking. I wandered up onto the Cuilcagh mountain which is the catchment for the caves near Agnahoo, forms the border with the Republic, and has wonderful views over Fermanagh and Cavan. After a scenic detour on the way down (honest) I arrived back and we all headed into town for the holiday night out -- i.e. a meal (paying for Penny's dinner whilst she legged it to a phonebox...), visiting a few local pubs, waking Pete up repeatedly, and heading back to find QUBCC were also staying at Agnahoo for the w'end and that the hut was therefore rather full. Duncan intrigued those who were still up by muttering something mysterious about owning his sister's dressing gown -- especially mysterious as he has no sister. These comments are being denied.

Saturday was Prod's Pot time, or for Duncan, hangover recovery day. Given the choice between the big obvious entrance shaft and the minute hole, we picked the tiny one with the Elliot bolt. Rigging was a challenge, as beyond the first pitch the remaining four get increasingly difficult with awkward take-offs and thrutchy bits midway down some pitches. However, Tim successfully located and rigged all 5 (2 dead cells abandoned after 3 pitches, stealing Paul's electric) and after negotiating the notoriously 'sporting' boulder at the head of pitch five we landed on a convenient island in the fine, large streamway. This goes for a few hundred metres downstream via some traversable canals and yomping passage to some ducks at which we turned back.

We also explored Papist Passage, a pleasant if slightly muddy inlet -- omitting the inspiringly named Atheist's Arsehole from the itinerary. Upstream there's lots of low wet crawls (Tim and Pete wanted to stay dry for the trip, but once I started on the upstream miserable bit all hope of dry feet was abandoned and they got soggy) and Cascade Inlet comes in. The name summarises the inlet, which is a fine stretch of passage (it had been described as epic by some locals -- lies, methinks, it's fantastic!). Back downstream to the string and up we went. Pete lit Paul at the pitch heads as carbide is highly peril sensitive, going out at the first sign of awkwardness. Paul could easily be identified underground by the repeated sounds of "Toss!" followed by small explosion as he once again set fire to his helmet. By the top of pitch two, Tim's light had also failed (3 batteries in 1 trip -- not bad), so we were all glad to be back on the surface after yet another great trip. A big hotpot for tea and off to bed with scarcely a sign of beer.

The Holloway ran away early Sunday morning. Paul and I attacked Marble Arch again, this time with some slings for the flyover which bypasses the gate. A ladder would be easier on the way back. Water levels were very low throughout the cave. Legnabrocky way (the main section beyond the showcave) has a 'conservation trail' consisting of small signs highlighting damage caused by bad caving practice and vandalism. This is a good idea in principle but tends to be a bit patronising. I suspect that careful use of conservation tape would do more good. There are some exceptional mud formations - both strata and a mud Giant's Causeway - and several areas of very attractive calcite formations. Apart from the Wet Wiggle at the start of Legnabrocky and a few short crawls, the majority of the cave is large walking passage. The trip is less strenuous than the others we did, but not as much fun, so on the way out we played in a boulder choke. Once again we wimped out of exiting via the resurgence (a handlined swim through a series of ducks -- great fun!!), so I'll have to wash my oversuit. Never mind. Overnight driving to Rosslaire, and we slept in the car (the terminal building was locked!) Then home sweet home and sleep for a week. We all agreed we'd had a fantastic holiday. And yes, Agnahoo does grow on you. It's all happening again in '99. See you there!


Pete BennetRHBNC/MCG
Penny EvansCUCC
Tim FrancisRHBNC/MCG
Paul HammondCUCC
Duncan HorneRHBNC
Steve JonesCUCC/MCG


You know who you are. Famed for walking up the outside of mountains in Austria, abseiling down the inside and coming back again. And beards.
Mendip Caving Group -- spawning ground for scrofulous cavers who think digging is fun, and don't have beards (mainly).
Queens University Belfast Caving Club -- joint owners of Agnahoo, therefore top people. No beards spotted. It was dark, though.
Royal Holloway and Bedford New College Caving Club -- aka The Moles, of the infamous Radioactive Hamster sweatshirts... Considerable absence of beardedness.

Le Canyonisme aux Alpes Maritîmes
CU 1999 Contents Page Next:
The Torrente de Pareis bites
Austria expedition archive