Sunday, 12 October 2014
Saturday night of Mendip saw a number of exciting developments come about. One of these was that no one else wanted to go to Upper Flood, one of the prettiest caves in the UK, apart from Nat and I. After offering it to John and Matt, who both declined, I happily accepted the offer, having seen a great video about the cave at Hidden Earth. I forgot, however, that I would be caving with Andrew Atkinson, an absolute nutter and unforgivingly early riser. We were to meet him at the MCG at 10 next morning. My early night of 8am the previous day and slight improvement of half 5 on Saturday ensured that this plan was destined to fail. I was rudely awoken by Kristian at 5 to 10 after previously being awoken by Bob Butcher so he could try and coerce me into drinking with him at half 7 in the morning (he did give me some water first which was appreciated). We left in the micra at ten to 11. I was feeling reasonably chirpy at this time because Nat and Peachey seemed to be in a similar condition to me despite getting semi sensible amounts of sleep. This feeling was not to last long. When we met Andrew at 11, he told us he had been 5 minutes from sacking us off and going digging.
Secretly wishing wed just slept all day, we got changed. It was on the walk to Upper Flood that I realised I was very ill and that being sick at some stage during the trip was a real danger.
The overall character of Upper Flood conforms well to the Mendip stereotype: lots of crawling through miserable wet bits and a shitty boulder choke. The cave was very dry compared to normal when we went, and I can imagine a total soaking would occur in conditions even slightly wetter. The cave was, however, extremely pretty, with many long straws and impressive curtains. Andrew knew the cave exceptionally well and gave some good insight on the exploration in there (quite an early find in the late 60s, pretty bits only found about 10 years ago, formerly just a huge crawl in wet bits and a boulder choke). The boulder choke was a particularly sad time for me and a particularly happy time for Nat and Peachey who were revelling in my hungover misery. I resolved that being sick would not only be very upsetting with regards to cave conservation but also would only serve to make them happier, so that was off the cards. We persevered to walking passage (only walking if youre a dwarf with no head) and soon the real show was imminent. We took off our oversuits and scrubbed our boots and hands. Interesting fact: wearing gloves is a good conservation effort, as the oil in your hands kills stal. I resolved to cave very carefully.
When we were passing through the first bit of Upper Flood, we thought the pretties were very impressive. The ones we were about to see, however, were unlike anything else Ive seen. Stals which had redissolved were practically translucent, and absolutely huge curtains had astounding banding in them through shades of brown and into the glistening white generally associated with calcite. The sheer number of breathtaking formations in there was quite something. The most unusual formations there were the pork pies, round cylinders of calcite with an eroded upper surface (dont know how these are formed). Suitably awe inspired, we turned round and headed out. Andrew claimed that you could be out in an hour from Pork Pie Passage carrying a drill. In our current state, it took us about 2 and a quarter. Though the threat of projectiling had gone, tiredness and general hungoverness were really hitting me and by the time we got out I was ready to keel over. The thought of nice cake at the Butchers spurred me on however, and we were in Priddy by 5 for some excellent treaties and tea.
Overall, an excellent trip to conclude a cracking weekend. Huge thanks go to Andrew for leading and not going digging. Well worth doing if you get the chance!