That Sinking Feeling

Ogof Fynnon has always given me the creeps since we started digging there all those years ago. The occasional rock often slides down the slopes of the boulder choke near the bottom squeeze, but these are not life threatening - they just put you on edge. However, I was put more than 'just on edge' the Friday that Eric Downer and I went surveying.

A lot of rain had fallen since the last time we entered the cave, but the conditions on the day were dry. I lead the first section into the chamber above the 'worst' section of the boulder choke, and then let Eric lead as I was having difficulties with my light. Eric passed the wooden supports and carried on down to the climb. As I lowered myself down to the climb, I noticed that one of the supported boulders above me was very much more exposed than what I thought I remembered. I guessed that the rains had washed away some of the soil and that it could be a problem in the future.

I decided to continue on and catch Eric up, but as I started to try to find footing below me, I heard the sound of moving rock. At this point I was still supporting myself on the wooden structure and had not lowered myself sufficiently to find the floor below me. When the noise stopped I assumed that Eric had dislodged a small rock on the slope (like a scree slope) down to the climb. I then continued to lower myself to the ground. As soon as I touched bottom and let go of the wood, the earth moved for me, and not in a way that I like! There were lots of heavy rocks on the move sounds, much of them coming from the big bugger in front of me which, to my dismay, I found I was using as a surf board - but on definately the wrong side! A lot of rock was falling behind, and some to the sides, but nothing hit me. I somehow pushed myself backwards off the rock before we hit the slope. I think I was the last object to hit the slope, and certainly nothing hit me once I landed on my back. I lay there listening to the rock sliding down the slope towards the Eric magnet, but was too amazed to be alive to think very clearly for the next few moments.

Once the noise had subsided, I heard Eric calling my name. Initially I thought he was asking after my health, but in fact he seemed more concerned about the large rock attached to his leg in an unflattering manner. I picked myself up (surprisingly in one piece) and moved down the slope to him in a dazed manner. After much pulling and heaving whilst Eric used a bit of wood I found nearby (I wonder where that came from?) to lever the rock, we managed to shift the bulk of the weight off his leg onto mine. I decided that I liked this arrangement less and with a bit more shoving managed to release my foot. I didn't tell Eric of my predicament at the time as I thought he would not find it amusing to know that we were both trapped. Try as we might, we couldn't release Eric any further, and it was decided that I should go out and call cave rescue. I was not looking forward to climbing the wooden supports where the accident happened, but once I arrived at the spot I found it looking secure(ish). Having climbed up the supports, I called down to Eric to give him some moral support by saying that the climb was safe and no further falls were likely (that day).

Once out of the cave, I ran (in thick furry) down to Godre Pentre. I couldn't find anyone, but guessed that they were all in the church tower cleaning out the twigs as had previously been arranged. Having found Chris Crowley and Andy Todd, I explained the situation and Chris called out the CRO. There followed a period of waiting next to the phone before the police arrived and took me up to the cave. It was decided that the best policy was for me to wait for the CRO and take them to the scene while Chris and Andy started down with a crowbar. By the time the CRO arrived and were ready, I had recovered somewhat from the shock and joined in with gear carrying (a lot of wood). We didn't actually make it very far into the cave before we heard that Eric had been freed by Chris and Andy.

I would like to thank the CRO team for their efforts and Paul Stacey for joining me on a survey gear recovery operation (I graciously let him climb down the wooden supports to pick up the items that for some reason we had carelessly dropped the day before!).

Martyn Pickering