Flew back from Jordan in the AM, airport faff then on the Tube to Burlington House, Picadilly, to attend a conference on Water Sustainability with the ever-delightful Lydia Leather. Bus to Leeds, late as usual. Arrived at 1am, at the Fenton at around half 1. Good crowd still there and excellent to be back in one of the finest pubs Leeds has to offer. Then back to the Bunkhouse which has been immensely improved since my last visit.
No rest for the wicked. 4 hours later awake to head up to the Dales to be laughed at and hopefully learn a few things about what those rescuers (the people I often see but know not so much about) do before they find me. Small problem: I had arrived straight from the desert with no caving gear and no warm layers. Luckily Brendan was on hand with all my gear (and a lift to the Dales) and K Brook was able to lend me some cave layers, cheers! Despite leaving later than we had intended we arrived just as the intro talk by CRO Big Man Martin Holroyd was beginning. I was pleased to learn that ‘the person at the top of the pyramid in any rescue is the casualty’, meaning that I am one of the most important people in the UK rescue scene!
After this we split into several groups to learn about the various aspects of rescue that come into a CRO callout to a more challenging cave. Casualty Care, comms, stretchering, rigging and specialist skills such as bolting and capping were all covered. The most useful aspect of the whole learning process was learning the nuances of the CRO procedure and getting an overview of the logistics involved in initiating a callout and what comes next. A really instructive and well-run day with a great bunch of people from CRO, and also a chance for me to catch up with a good number of mates I hadn’t seen for some time.
After a quick few pints in the pub, CSJ, Peachey and I headed off to Leck Fell to get a quick couple of hours digging in with Richard at Not Meridian Pot. The shaft had grown substantially deeper since my last visit, and the amount of spoil at the surface was impressive. After a quick stint at the face, I let Peachey have a nose and got into a good rhythm pulling buckets with CSJ. Towards the end of the session, I went back down to the face for a bit to help remove a very large boulder with some wire. Once this was done, there was a hole that I could squeeze through head-first (to the displeasure of Richard, but to me it felt totally safe). I then popped through into almost walking-size passage, real passage with no mud to dig! Exciting times. This continued forwards to a constriction which had a slight echo beyond and a faint draft. This would require capping to progress further so at this point we called it a day and made for the surface, the Dump, and Beer.
At the Dump, we found KBrook and Adam Aldridge, who had apparently abandoned their freshers after bundling them onto a train at Horton and had then driven to the NPC to see Imperial, before realising we were not there and leaving. Good form was had all round, with KBrook providing some serious mirth before disappearing to his very uncomfortable car bed. Myself, Matt Burke and Stu Coxon tried to convince the other patrons of the benefits of vegetarianism, with limited success (probably because most of us were quite pissed).
I awoke in the living room sprawled in an armchair, an indication that I had drunk rather too much and that today could be a day of acute pain. I had forgotten to buy any food for breakfast, so coffee was all I was allowed to fuel me for the day (probably not recommended for rescue). We would be doing some practice at removing a casualty from Sand Cavern in GG, via Bar Pot. I was on the rigging team, and got some good experience using one of the CRO pitch radios, a dead handy bit of kit. It was also clear first-hand how one small miscommunication or missing bit of kit can severely slow down operations and impede progress. I then had a quick stint at doing the haul at the top of the pitch, getting used to the rig and learning the ins and outs. It didn’t feel quite as efficient as a counterbalance haul for such a long free-hang but it did work. Then back down the hill for tea and medals, and eventually back to Leeds to make ready to sail to Ireland later that day. A cracking weekend with great people, huge thanks to all in CRO who put such time into organising and delivering the sessions. Looking forward to the next one.