25 January 2022

CRTT call-out

I woke up in the middle of the night. What was going on? And the only reasonable thing that could be going on in the middle of the night was indeed going on: a cave rescue callout. There was a party overdue and they needed assistance. It was the same venue as the two New Year's Day callouts! There seemed not to be any casualties. But if you are underground for a lot longer than you expect, you might end up tired, cold, hungry, thirsty and struggling to face whatever challenge it is you might be facing. So we were needed! So I got out of bed. I put my clothes on, put the kettle on, got my kit from the garage, and quickly made a few sandwiches. I figured I shouldn't skimp on supplies; these people underground might welcome them. Soon I was in the car and on my way.

It was very quiet on the roads. And when I got to the scene I parked up and let the controller know I was there. He gave me a quick brief: it was a party of 12, and they were just a lot slower than they had anticipated. When that became clear a group of three had gone ahead to go out and contact Cave rescue. The rest was still in there, but we didn't know where. The controller suggested that the people that were there that already had their outfits on would start walking to the entrance; it is a fair walk. Me and two blokes who arrived just after me would start our way up when we were ready. And then we became four, and we set off at ten to four. We had only just set off when we were called back; we were asked to bring some haul bags and suchlike. So we accepted the additional burden and continued our way. It was a beautiful night, fortunately! That can't be taken for granted in January.

Someone who knew the way very well in the first group had left some tape to make sure we went the right way. Not every one of us was totally at home here. I wasn't. But with the help of the tape we got to the level from which you can see daylight through the Tyllau, if it is light. And the group was there! All of them! Success. This also meant that they had already done all the difficult bits of the mine. The only thing they now needed to do was find the exit, and that was what we were for, and help them as they were tired by now. It was about 5AM by then. I offered hot drinks, But there was less enthusiasm for that than I had thought. But that's okay; what I don't drink I'll just carry down the mountain again.

The group had a rather low average age, and quite a lot of them were women. I was glad I was there! Is is fairly standard, I was the only woman in the rescue team. And given these people were a sizeable group, I don't think any of them would have been uncomfortable with male-only rescuers, as they had each other, I still figured it was good to have female presence there. And it was good to see young cavers who were so much more diverse than we were!

After a very brief break for drinks and snacks we were off. These people had been in the mine long enough! And it was a bit of a scramble to get to the incline. Some of us adopted a particular caver to help them down. There were several who, by now, were quite happy to be taken by the hand. But by this time they had been underground for some 15 hours; who wouldn't? But soon we were on the incline, and even there some handholding was needed, but then we were in the adit. And then it is just a horizontal walk out! I had a nice chat with some of them.

When we were out we couldn't admire the view; it was about 6:30 and it was still dark. And the way is still quite steep in the beginning. And then we got back to the parking lot. The group was staying just 200 m down the road. So we wished them a great rest of their weekend, and they thanked us for our assistance. And that was basically it! I went to change. And we had a little bit of a chat afterwards, but everyone was tired and wanted to go home. And that included me.

When I got home I put my kit in the garage. But what now? Was it time to go back to bed? I had only had some three hours of sleep, if that! But it was light by now. Should I just muscle my way through the day? I supposed that was the better idea, but I was tired. I did have a bit of a snooze, which the cat thought was an amazing idea that she was keen to participate in, but then I had a shower and decided to attack my to-do list. And so I did!

This was the most serious callout I have attended in a long time. I think it went well! Everyone came out in one piece. And that's the important bit.

But it is only January, and we have been put on standby for groups who were late coming out of this very same mine system three times already. And once it led to an actual full team callout. How often will we be asked to show up in the rest of the year? And why this same system?

We think this has something to do with social media. The trip is the Croesor-Rhosydd Through Trip. And it is not unusual to see people mention it on Facebook or YouTube or whatnot. And we think it has become a bit of a must-do for the social media generation. A bit like that it seems you need to selfie on the top of Snowdon, leading to enormous queues near the summit. Now we have one group after the other doing CRTT. And just as not everyone who embarks on a trip to the top of Snowdon is properly prepared, which regularly leads to callouts for mountain rescue, not everybody goes into CRTT with proper preparation. To be honest; the first time I did it I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. But at least I had been doing SRT for some 2.5 years by then. And we got away with it. 

Now it seems that so many people are doing it that even if a small percentage of them need assistance, that will be an impressive array of callouts. But if that's the way it is then so be it! At least I only live 45 minutes away...

Scrambling. Pic by the team

Adit. Pic by the team

Out! Pic by the team

The cat enjoying a post-rescue snooze and snuggle

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