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NCHECC Caving Report It was emphatically one of the best weekends I’ve had all term - both fun and memorable in more ways than I expected. NCHECC, a summit for caving clubs mostly in the Northern regions of the United Kingdom, was something I’d been looking forward to for a couple weeks already; I’d heard there was so much socializing to be had, and definitely exciting caving to be done! Right upon arrival, I found myself sucked right in - I immediately bumped into Chloe Goodman, an ex-member of CUCC whom I’d befriended from earlier trips. I was introduced to her circle of fellow cavers, and it wasn’t long before I was making new friends over drinks. People were playing drinking games, chatting, playing music, and there was just generally a very relaxed atmosphere. It was a refreshing change from the high-octane high- pressure student life in Cambridge. Though there was no caving to be had that night, it was a good ease-in to the days to come. The next day started off as a logistical rollercoaster; Cambridge’s Caving Club got split up, with each of our four members wanting to go on different trips. I myself wanted to explore caves with a slight technical slant, but successively got denied from each trip I wanted to go on - I simply didn’t have the SRT proficiency required. It was a little demoralising, but eventually I found a group of cavers that was willing to take me in. I formed a group with Leo, Carrie and Pete, from Sheffield, Nottingham and Belfast, all new faces to me. They were super nice and incredibly patient with me - they helped me recall how to set up my SRT kit, and even changed the cave we were going to when they learned I was uncomfortable with SRT. We set right off for the Bullpot of the Witches Cave, just a couple minutes’ walk from the Bullpot Farmhouse. It was an impressive view - a magnificent waterfall cascading down into the ground below, like something straight out of a movie. The entrance, made of limestone and caked in mud, beckoned us into the depths. It took 15 minutes, but slowly I was getting back into the rhythm of clambering over obstacles, finding my feet over uneven cave ground, not slipping… it was just like playing Tomb Raider, except in real life! I managed some intimidating drops, some crawling through cramped quarters, clambering up rocks bigger than me… it was great! And my caving team was excellent; Leo had a real witty snark and was good at keeping pace for us. There were parts of the cave that were real grim though, I remember reaching out to grab a rock for support, only to find that the “rock” was in fact a toad the size of my palm! There were parts of the cave where we had to shimmy 45 degrees along a mud wall, my face less than a centimetre away from the mud. There was so much upper body exertion just to move along - it was great full-body exercise. I spent a good 2-3 hours in that cave, and it was a fantastic run; I’d made new friends and really enjoyed the challenge. I returned to the caving hut to rest up for the impending drinking later that night. It turned out that I’d returned earlier than most other teams, so I busied myself helping with the cleaning and cooking for dinner. When I’d finished, I grabbed some tea and sank into a chair. Just then, some of the York University Cave and Pothole Club members, whom I’d been introduced to last night, came back from their caving trip. I was back into socialising - we were sharing our caving experiences, and reminiscing about older caving trips. It was a real good catch-up After dinner, I retired to the car; I was dead beat. I was just about to doze off when I was awoken by lights. I opened the door, not quite sure who to expect. It was Chloe - she’d organized a spur-of-the-moment evening caving trip and came to get me. It was so exciting; it felt like a real nighttime adventure, the kind you’d read about in Enid Blyton stories. Without any other cavers, and with a mid-sized team of experienced cavers, we set off with minimal faff. There were 5 of us: Jack(trip leader), Corin, Adelaide, Chloe and myself. We were off to Bullpot of the Witches, but via a different route from before. We also brought cider, which we stashed away at the cave entrance. It was real dark outside, and just as slippy as before. This time, we came from a different entrance, one that required SRT to descend. Owing to my lack of proficiency, however, I had the privilege of being lowered down the hole by Jack, attached only by a set of cows’ tails. It was great. We began the scramble over rocks, and the familiar thrill of adventure, of the unknown, coursed through my veins. It was always the spontaneous trips that were the best. It was good bonding time too - I spent time chatting with Jack, and at some point the talk turned educational. We began talking about how stalactites and stalagmites form, and why some are bigger than others. We also looked round for really cool fossils, like crinoid ossicles(granny’s toenails as Jack calls them). But the best part was all the way at the end. We crawled, shimmied, clambered, fell, until we finally climbed out over a pile of rocks, into Bennett’s Chamber. It was a massive hall-like space in the cave, with beautiful limestone formations. Our voices echoed off the chamber walls. I gasped in awe at how beautiful it was. The sight alone, made the entire trip worth it. It was time to head back. I led the way in some parts, maybe because Jack felt I was less experienced than the other cavers, and in that sense I was encouraged to find my own way. At first they made provisions for me, but as it turned out, I managed to handle the obstacles decently on my own. I felt my climbing ability progressing even within the span of that one trip. On our way back out through the SRT bit, Adelaide, Corin, Jack and Chloe made their way out first, while I climbed out attached to the rope. For the most part, I used the ledges and friction against my back for support. It was an exciting challenge. Jack even taught me some derigging once I’d made it out. It was a really beautiful trip. In many ways, it not only brought new experiences, but also reminded me of old ones - caving with good company and just enjoying the moment. I returned feeling a great satisfaction in my heart. It made all the past 7 weekends of working away non-stop, worth it. If Chloe hadn’t organized this trip, I doubt NCHECC would have been as enjoyable for me as it was. I was so happy. After showering, we played drinking games. It was fun for a bit, before we moved onto simply chatting. I had an amazing night, and we had so much to discuss. I only turned in at 5 am, which was a first for me. The next day was a day of rest. I made a trip down to Ingleton, then said my goodbyes to the people I’d bonded with. It was time to go home. NCHECC was without question one of the true highlights of the caving and term calendar. Would definitely recommend! - Zac
-- Zac Yee, March 10, 2020. Category: Caving
Referenced in the following trips: NCHECC 2020 in Yorkshire (Bullpot Farm) [2020-03-06]