04 January 2017

Starting the new year underground

A good way to start the new year is to go underground. This year it was all organised in advance; Mick had asked us to help him get some youngsters underground and give them some practice with rope work. On the last Thursday night trip (for me, that is; others had been underground on the 29th but I was in the Netherlands then) of the old year, we had got the venue ready. All we had to do now was rock up!

I had been with Jaco and Marjan, and their son Arthur, the day before, but I had gone home well before midnight. I had had quite a bad cold in recent days, followed by two late nights in a row (dinner in den Bosch with friends, and landing in Manchester at 10PM), and I know late nights make me susceptible to more colds and I didn't want any. I kept my distance from Marjan who was in a terrible shape herself. A pity! It was a lovely night otherwise, with excellent food and men called Baas beating me at scrabble. Marjan couldn't eat the dessert, and vanished to bed before the scrabble started. It was a nice last evening of the year but not for her!

The next day it became clear this lurgy had affected more people, and even inanimate objects. We were supposed to be quite a group, but many bailed out; Phil didn't bring his family because they were all under the weather; Don, Simon and Briony weren't well; Edwyn had to look after a coughing water treatment plant or something and David's car had lost some vital organs. Mick was in a terrible state too: he had bronchitis, but he didn't want to give up.

We met up and got changed. It was cold, but a beautiful day! We walked up the hill to the entrance; Mick needed to take his time as he struggled breathing. We got there, though. And when we got in the hard work for him was over; we rigged the pitches and the youngsters (Zen and her boyfriend Drew) were ready to go. I suggested we go all the way down using the handlines and the short pitch at the bottom, and then back up to the intermediate level, from which the youngsters would prussick up. It started well; we got to the bottom without problems. Drew flew up the bottom pitch; Zen struggled a bit but made it. Then we went up to the big pitch and got Zen into the rope. She went up a few strokes but wasn't feeling it at all. She bailed out! Too bad; this was an excellent opportunity, but one shouldn't do what one doesn't feel good about. We got her out of the rope and rigged Drew up. He did well!

Starting up the hill

 Phil and Milly staring boldly into the wide expanse of the Welsh landscape

We went up and had a sandwich. Then Phil and Paul vanished to look at a mine further up the valley, and to give the dog (who was in better health than Phil's family) some exercise. Zen had had enough of ropes but Drew was up for dropping down the rope he had come up on, and then coming up the other pitch. And so he did! I followed and then we were done with ropes. We de-rigged, assumed Phil and Paul would understand what we'd be up to, and went back to the cars.

Chris took a pic of me with my new caving hat, which I got at the Thursdaynighter Christmas dinner

Walking back to the cars

After a short while Phil appeared. That was Mick's cue for going home; he had to prepare dinner. We waited for Paul and followed. Then followed a nice evening at Mick's with tea and lots of food and lots of cat-fondling (his newest arrival, a veritable panther of a cat, was quite keen on attention). Maybe next time Zen will feel better and get up a rope after all! And let's hope that any next time Mick will feel a lot better too...

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