Saturday, 13 August 2016 – Saturday, 20 August 2016
With an excellent weather forecast for the majority of the week and over 1200 delegates for the week, Eurospeleo was sure to be one of the major events of the UK caving calendar for the year. It did not disappoint. After arriving at around 5pm with my dad, I walked around re-uniting with some excellent old friends and making a lot of new ones. I had, however, been briefed by Sam Allshorn that I was not to go caving with him tomorrow if I was ‘horrifically hungover’, so in a bid to avoid this I only had £20 cash and left the wine in the car. However, on discovering that the bar took card at no extra charge, my plans changed.
At 4am, after a rather excellent DJ set from Mad Phil, I attempted to text Sam Allshorn to say that I probably wouldn’t make it and went to bed. However, soon I was up and not feeling too bad, so revised this decision. I had got off rather lightly compared to a certain former president of the club, who had been awoken in the middle of the night rather rudely by her partner pissing all over her in their tent. I bought the sorry individual breakfast in a bid to cheer her up. A rather inefficient trip down Penyghent to finish the rigging was had, where Sam Allshorn installed 2 new bolts for a dry descent of the 8th ‘Flake’ pitch (reached by traversing at the high level for about 15m further than the wet descent). The rock there was of rather poor quality, which meant that the placements are rather lower than would be ideal. To add insult to injury, I left the orienteering punch tag in Sam Allshorn’s car, much to his annoyance as this was the only reason I was coming on the trip really. It did eventually make its way down the cave the next day. I also, much to my annoyance, left my wallet in Sam Allshorn’s car; however, this was to play to my advantage over the course of the week.
Monday saw my dad, Kieran O’Malley and myself head down Swinsto for a cracking damp trip. ULSA has done rather well out of the rope deal with SpanSet: I reckon we’ve got almost 300m of free rope out of it! The evening entertainment was a quiz, which was rather disappointing overall, with some rather boring team names and rather sub-par questions, though maybe I’m just a rather sub-par contestant. It was all good fun however, and an excellent evening followed, culminating with a massive piss-up at Alys Mendus’ van where we were shown a mould of her vagina. The night got very messy and soon I had been ‘Irished’, whereby Irish people ply you with tequila.
Next day I was really struggling after 4 days on the lash and had to have a 3 hour nap after watching Julian Todd’s rather unique talk about CUCC’s Austria expo 2016. This talk was a rather convoluted and highly entertaining affair, which featured maybe 2 minutes of talking about the cave found this year and around 10 different histograms for subjects as exciting and relevant as ‘number of trips per day’ and ‘number of years attended by expedition members over the history of expo’ and also featured numerous hang-gliding videos and aerial photos. The best line, perhaps, was this: ‘here is the potato hut [expo’s centre of operations and general hangout]; this is used for keeping the computers dry.’ Hats off Julian; top biscuit. Then I went for a cracking walk up Whernside. I had to be back in time for my first of two DJ sets that week, playing music on the CHECC toga night alongside Tommy Moore of SUSS. This would have been better if Environmental Protection hadn’t got cross with Mad Phil earlier in the week and scared Les Williams into imposing a midnight curfew. Still, a good time was had by all, with featured music being electro-swing, some intense techy house and some good two-stepping drum and bass and neurofunk. There was a minor hitch in the middle where Tommy’s laptop died, but this was easily resolved by plugging in his iPod and playing some Prodigy while we found the charger.
Wednesday of Eurospeleo was a great day of caving with myself, Becka and George undertaking a trip to Friday 13th Series in Penyghent (see the rantbook for further details). The evening featured Basher djing and a banquet in which I did not partake being a skint bastard. This was a sober night (the only one of the whole week) and I was asleep by midnight.
On Thursday, I manned the SULSA survey and PDA case stall. Throughout the week, members of the club manned this stall selling numerous surveys and copies of ULSA Explorations Journal II, and also selling the admittedly inferior SUSS products. Brendan also raised an excellent £254 for CRO by selling the PDA cases, so well done to him for that! The club made around £100 from the sale of surveys, with Gingling Hole winning the prize of best survey for the stalls ‘“ well done to Noel and the team! Talks that day were kicked off by Mike Futrell giving a highly informative talk about different ways of processing cave data and different workflows for integrating it with different GIS techniques and databases. Later, Rainer Straub talked about the extremely impressive and beautiful German Blautopfhohle cave system, which is now 13km long after a new entrance was literally bored vertically downwards to avoid the need to dive through the 1.2km sump to explore beyond. A rather good film (despite the horrible and rather odd music ‘“ a woman wailing over highly sub-par synths) has been made about it which you should be able to find online ‘“ try googling it. In addition, Pete Talling and Joerg Dreybrodt gave fascinating talks about caving in Myanmar and the socio-political challenges associated with this. Caves up to almost 10km long have been found in this beautiful country which has a vast limestone plateau offering huge potential for further exploration. After this, Joerg told us about a really nice island-hopping expedition occurring in an archipelago west of Phuket looking for caves on islands in the archipelago. The day was rounded off by a talk about the infamous expedition to Papua New Guinea coordinated by the Brook brothers, given by the expedition biologist. This was a rather entertaining speech: most of the experts he had sent Sam Allshornples to had died before they were able to identify them, and a rather unorthodox collection method for the Sam Allshornples was pioneered after Steve Crabtree fell and split his head open (he thankfully made a full recovery) and the animals flocked to lap up the resulting pool of blood!
The evening was again excellent, with Basher again playing music from the 60’s, 70s and 80s, which basically meant putting a Queen album on to play and then wandering around looking for the pissoir. It was now that my strategy of losing my wallet really paid off, as I was able to scrounge a total of 9 pints off various individuals, but particularly Ian Holmes (he gives 10% of his earnings to charity you know!). We talked politics and other shite, with Botch from SUSS providing entertaining conversation along with Mike Futrell and Christopher Holt from Reading. At around 3am my mind became heavily warped and someone with a very annoying loud American voice was talking so I retired for the evening.
Friday saw the return of Mr Butcher and also Peachey and Katey. However, it also saw the weather turn from glorious sunshine to minging rain and grey skies ‘“ less than optimal caving conditions. Myself, Mike ad Luke enjoyed a bimble down Notts Pot before we returned for my next djing set. This was a heavily dance-oriented event, but again we were given quite an early curfew (‘It must not, repeat not turn into an all-night rave!’). A highly eclectic set was again given, with electro, techno, electro-swing, house and of course the ultimate genre of Drum and Bass. Brendan was visibly on excellent dancing form, and when ‘Bonkers’ by Dizzee Rascal and Wiley’s ‘Wearing my Rolex’ were busted out he really took to the spirit of it (he had clearly rehearsed the dancing in his room and learnt all the words for the occasion). I also got 8 free pints for the honour of djing, which pleased me greatly. The return of Peachey also saw the return of my wallet, and so I could get extremely pissed. 13 pints later, I returned to what I thought was my tent, only to find Katey in it as it was her tent, which I had been using to facilitate storage of food etc in my tent. The Micra had been designated as the after-rave location and proved to be a rather excellent choice for this.
Saturday was the final day of the conference for most. The main attraction that day was the Northern Roundup by Frank Pearson, which reported on the excellent finds in Perilous Pot on Leck Fell by Tim Allen and the Misty Mountains Mud Miners and the Wharfedale-based exploits of the Black Sheep Diggers, along with various diving exploits and conservation efforts such as the BPC cleaning up graffiti in Ribblehead Pot. This talk confirmed what we all knew all along: Yorkshire is the place to be for caving in the UK! We then headed off back to Leeds for a post-conference curry in Nazams followed by the Chemic, where a lot was discussed including Ann Barbers swan-spawning capabilities.
Overall, an absolutely cracking week with a lot of drinking and making new friends, and some caving in between. Huge thanks to the core team which organised the event ‘“ a monumentous effort was made to make it a success and they really delivered. Also, thanks to everyone who was involved in the rigging of caves for the event ‘“ it’s really not often that you get such easy access to the excellent caves we have here in the Dales. 10/10, would speleo again.