Stoke Lane Slocker
Saturday, 17 October 2015

On the Saturday of the Mendips weekend, with plently of leaders for Swildons and GB, me, Nat and Matt opted for a non-fresher trip, Stoke Lane Slocker. Having given up trying to read the ridiculously in-depth description, I didnt really know what to expect from the trip, aside from an infamous/awkward sump mentioned in the first paragraph, and some photos of pretty calcite formations.
We managed to find the area of the cave easily enough (with the help of a very schematic map from Mike, and Matts sat nav). Finding the actual cave was a bit harder, and we went into a cave which didnt really go anywhere before actually finding Stoke Lane Slocker.

The route was pretty straight-forward, and we followed a streamway through a duck and the occasional crawl. One notable point was when Matt went through a very tight and unpleasant squeeze in the stream way, followed by Nat who simply went through the obvious wider route just above. We reached a squeeze which lead to the sump. It had mostly opaque, greyish brown water with various bits of detritus floating around in it and a crappy looking piece of cord. Nat was the lucky person to go through first, followed by Matt, then me. Being less than 1m long, it seemed fairly straightforward. Nat had pointed out to me before the trip a sentence in the route description warning that some cavers had contracted Weils disease here. With that in mind, I scrunched my eyes shut, took a deep breath and went for it. Aside from trying to surface too early, it went ok.

Glad to have that part of the trip over, we continued to the chambers with the formations in. The first chamber had a sloping roof covered in the coolest calcite curtains Id seen. The next chamber was even more beautiful, with loads of calcite formations on the floor and ceiling. After a while of wandering around and admiring all the pretty stuff, we decided to head back.
Back at the sump, we all agreed that a head first dive was best, since where we were going to surface was narrow, and if we went feet first, out feet would hit rock before our head was out of the sump. After Matt had gone through, I took a deep breath and went for it. I tried to surface, just to find that I was still in the sump, doing what any calm and sensible caver would do, I panicked. Letting go of the rope, I swam around trying to frantically find air. I eventually surfaced, after swimming into rock a few times with my face. Relieved to be out of the sump, I didnt initially realise that Id not surfaced where I was supposed to, but instead was behind a very confused looking Matt. Then Nat came through, and had somehow done the Sam Allshorne thing as me and popped to surface where I had been a few seconds ago. We soon realised that we had both swam past the airbell after letting go of the cord, and swam through a small slot beyond, cutting the corner of the bend in the passage. Nat had at least done it in a much calmer manner than me (although his first attempt of the sump involved him getting his leg stuck in the cord, and having to bail).

The rest of the trip went quickly, with me pumped on adrenaline, while our idiocy sank in properly (aided by Matt who pointed it out vocally). Getting back to the Shepton, it was pointed out by several people that I had a bruised face, courtesy of my graceful free dive.

Overall, it was a really fun trip with some of the best cave formations Ive seen and an exciting sump story. Cheers to Nat for suggesting and organising the trip and Matt for driving and reading the boring route description.


Matt: ‘I wonder why this squeeze hasn’t been blasted’

Nathanael Dalton

Monday, 02 November 2015