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Irish Student Caving Forum 2018

I had only heard good things about this event, so was pretty stoked up about finally being able to attend. I had sneakily registered as a speaker, so was entitled to a luxury bunk, good times. Drove up with Frawley on Friday and was soon well into the boozing and catching up with familiar UK faces. Brendan, Mike, Botch, Michael Holliday and Creg had been enjoying some interesting trips, including a number of trips in an ‘unusual’ state of mind.

As it turned out, there was an incident familiar to myself that evening: a rescue. Some students had got lost in a cave called Cascades, an entrance to the Marble Arch cave system (connected by diving in 2011 by Artur, who sadly died shortly after). Myself, Brendan and Mike were by this point rather too drunk to be of help, and either way had never been into the cave so would have been reliant on someone who knew the way to be in any way useful. As it turned out, no one actually did know the way except Hugh, who was in Dublin, so we all had to wait for him to arrive and then go and find them, which he duly did, and then drive them back to Kiltyclogher at 5am after everyone else had fucked off. Nice one Hugh. The Irish don’t have many rescues (because no one caves very much) so this was a source of great excitement and the familiar Irish trait of overhyping everything way out of proportion ensured that this soon became an unforgettable epic saga.

Next day, we headed over to Noons with what was claimed to be enough rope, but in fact it wasn’t enough by some margin, so instead we did White Fathers on the way home, a short stream cave that passes underneath a prison, quite a nice hangover cure. The catering at the event was some stretch more extravagant and tasty than the CHECC ‘sink on a plate for breakfast, spice to kill all taste chili for tea’ style, but the main downside was that preparation often ran far overdue. Still, great effort. Vegan and veggie all catered for handsomely.

We gave some talks that evening: Botch on CHECC, myself on CUCC’s exped to Austria, and Brendan on photography. Richard Cole gave some apt lessons on ICRO procedure and general ‘how to not get rescued’ (clearly I was too drunk to pay any notice) and Miner talked about mines and the Hoo (we all love the Hoo). Next morning was a very slow affair, with Mike at one of the most hungover apexes I have ever seen him try to haul himself over. We did Pollnagollum of the Boats to try to dispell our sickness, a cave involving a cold swim in quite static water. Even this half-hour outing was too much for Mike, who duly collapsed after the swim and had a snooze as the rest of us finished the cave. We decided that this behaviour was not really on, so indulged slightly less heavily that night.

Next day it rained, which was wank. In an effort to force ourselves to do something with the day, we offered to carry some of Tony’s dive gear into Pollaraftra to the 2nd sump (his long-term dive project in Fermanagh). A very late start combined with some very aggressive cows and an abject failure to find the entrance (nearly an hour on the hill) almost resulted in a crushing and embarassing defeat, but by pure chance the entrance was located on thee walk back after we decided to take an alternative route back to the car. By this time it was nearly 5pm, and we had a callout at  8, so it was going to be tight. We made it with time to spare, however, with the cave taking only slightly over 1.5 hours. I think something like 10 people have been to the end of this cave through the Canals (cold swimming, wetsuit needed), a little way further than the 2nd sump, which should indicate something of the nature of Irish caving.

A great weekend with great company, well organised by QUB (#1,2,3…). Don’t expect to go for the caving though.