Daren Cilau – Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Saturday, 22 March 2008 – Sunday, 23 March 2008

This epic trip had been months in the planning. By this I mean someone mentioned it a few months ago and I spent most of Thursday afternoon at work trying to organise a last minute botch-job.
Thankfully we managed to print and laminate a description and survey (thanks to Sma for e-mailing me a last minute description of the way to Restaurant which I already had, but I was too retarded to realise) and buy/borrow some last minute supplies and containers for the camp at Hard Rock.

We met at Whitewalls hut on Saturday eager to get under-way. An entrance was finally made at noon into the uninspiring entrance, hard to believe this leads into such a large system. After hearing so many stories about the entrance series, it was passed surprisingly easily (with only minor objections from my bruised/cracked rib which holly kindly re-injured on Friday by creating a thigh death-grip around my waist – don’t ask), though Si did have the piss taken out of him when he flusteringly yet predictably removed his helmet in the ‘vice’. (only joking Si, I believe you when you say it accidentally fell off at this exact point by coincidence).

Quick progress was made to the Big Chamber No-Where Near the Entrance where we soon progressed to the familiar state of being lost.. ahem, sorry I mean exploring some minor passages. We did this for a while and looked at the ends of Loop route and then Epocalypse passage before deciding to stop following the ‘experienced’ member of the party, and crack out the description. This enabled us to realise our mistake(s) and as the day-trippers didn’t have an especially long callout the parties decided to part ways, with Si and Antony deciding to go look at the antlers after a spot of lunch, with the other three finding the correct way on. It turned out we had ben within spitting distance of the antlers and could have added them to our trip with an extra 30seconds of caving. After a tear-filled farewell we headed back to Big Chamber and soon found the correct way (turn right at Simon’s huge stringy bogey).

The 20m pitch with strange fixed ladder was soon found and some interesting makeshift belaying commenced after which fairly quick progress is made down climbs to the impressive White Passage followed by the very impressive Time Machine.

The going from here-on is pretty straight forward to a hole down into Bonsai streamway and then stompy passage on to Hard Rock Cafe where we were greated by the large England flag. Here I discovered some kind of gear store which I mistook for the actual camp -much to the dismay of the others, before Nick discovered the real camp a little further along and into the start of Kings Road. Sufficiently impressed with the facilities we had a snack before dumping all our camping gear ready for when we returned from restaurant.

Grudgingly we swallowed our apathy, grit our teeth, and set off down the wrong passage. Upon reaching The World’s End we realised our mistake – never mind, anothercorner of the system ticked by accident. We made our way back and quickly found the real way into Rock Steady Cruise. This is probably the most pleasant caving passage I’ve ever experienced, with plenty of crawling passage full of lovely soft beach-like sand. In many parts the way on looked uninspiringly like an abandoned dead-end dig, with only the copious amounts of crap/signs littering the cave around every corner to spur us on. (At one point a fake arm almost scared Nick to death).

This enjoyably passage soon degenerates into the less pleasant acupuncture passage full of sharp rocks that get under your knee-pads and strange gypsum (I think) crystals in the roof.
Finally more crap is encountered (a fishing rod attached to rusty cup) where a rope climb down gains ankle-wrecker passage. This was more reminiscent of a Yorkshire Pothole with lots of sharp milled potholes full of water. (It reminded me a little of the milled passage in magnetometer). This went on for what seemed like ages until we reached the ‘duck’. I’m not sure how exactly this is a duck unless you have a 2metre long head/hunchback, and this was passed with only slightly dampened bottoms. The ladder up to Restaurant/even more crap was finally met at around 11 – 11:30 pm where we all felt a little tired. The ladder was quickly ascended to have a quick look into the Restaurant at the End of t’Universe before turning back for Hard- Rock for supper and bed.

Ankle grinder and acupuncture seemed longer on the way back but we nailed it through Rock Steady Cruise and were very relieved to be re-united with our Daren Drums full of food at 01:00. Nick prepared dinner (pasta with garlic sauce and a block of bully beef) whilst me and Holly proceeded to wash all the sand out of our gear in the streamway/toilet before changing into our nice dry cloths, beautifully preserved by our dry-sacks. This was surprisingly warm… well for the people who brought a decent amount of clothes anyway (Nick only brought a T-shirt and trousers). Then we retired to the ‘bedroom’ where 10 yr old single malt was enjoyed with a fine (tescos cheapest) cigar. Sorry no photos – Nick forgot to charge his camera batteries.

I awoke at 7:00 on the dot ready for work, only to dissapointingly find myself a long way underground. Rogan-josh and rice was sort-of enjoyed for breakfast and much apathy induced dithering about and reluctance to put wet sandy gear back on finally saw us packed and ready to leave camp at 12:00.

The way back was much quicker with us knowing the way and we were back at the end of the entrance crawl in 4 hours. Unfortunately I had developed a pair of red-raw flesh boxer shorts on the way back here due to 20hours of sandy wet boxers. Nice. The entrance crawl took much longer on the way out though we were encouraged by constant gassy emissions from Nick’s arse – breakfast kicking in I’m sure. Holly helped carry my tackle bag through most of the entrance (by this point I’d decided knackered rib and caving aren’t such a good mix ie no left side down caving). Thankfully we did still emerge in daylight, much to the glee of us all, especially Holly who ran around like a mad woman (more than usual) though she refrained from hugging the grassy ground as it had too many rocks in it, apparently.
Brilliant 30+ hours underground, would like to go back to the further reaches now we know the way (though not for a little while), and might not take so bloody long. Respect to Holly for helping a crippled idiot in the exit crawl and for this being her first long caving trip since Birks Fell back at the end of Summer.


guts and wrist are still suffering! my bad with the camera batteries – woops!

Nick McEntyre

Thursday, 27 March 2008