Rescue from Igam Ogam

Several years ago, a possible way on in Igam Ogam was discovered off Snorers Annexe, which various people had been digging out. The way to this dig was down a rather tight rift with lots of sharp bits sticking out, and it was to the dig that Adrian Paniwnyk, Andy Todd and Clive Gardener set off one fine Friday in May 1991.

I can't remember what I was doing that day, but at about 4pm, Clive Gardener returned by himself as he had to leave in the early evening. Sometime later, just as a cup of tea was brewing, a huffing and puffing Adrian (having run all the way back from the cave) burst through the door spluttering something about rescuing Andy Todd. Imagining the worst case scenario, ie. a boulder squashing him flat, I was greatly relieved to discover that he was merely stuck down the rift and the panic subsided and the cups of tea were consumed.

Clive wanted to call out the CRO. I did not! Apart from the fact that they didn't know where Igam Ogam was (I was supposed to be arranging a recce trip for them), it didn't seem that urgent as it was a comfortable dry spot and the stuck person was well insulated against the cold which in fact was the reason he couldn't get out. Also, my own experiance of being inextricably stuck is that you can invariably work your way slowly back through anything you have already gone through with a bit of patience.

After the cup of tea, Adrian and I set off back to Andy armed with a thermos of tea, chisels, a 12lb long handled lump hammer, tapes and slings etc. For those of you who haven't been in Igam Ogam, it is worth pointing out that even carrying yourself through the entrance sump series is an awkward business, and if you have got a 12lb long handled lump hammer etc, it is bloody awkward.

Anyway, having reached the unfortunate victim in record breaking time, we found him in good spirits but absolutely no thinner. A half hour was spent knocking off the more obvious impediments to his escape with the hammer (off the cave that is) and trying to decide if it would be any help if he went for a big crap. We concluded that he should have another go at forcing his body through the squeeze. To aid his ascent, a sling was placed as a foot strap, and this was attached to the hammer handle wedged across the top of the rift. Initial progress was made but soon stopped. Eventually he managed to get his foot into the sling and with strenuous effort moved a few more inches as he straightened his leg. However, he still couldn't get out as the foot loop needed to be moved up, so I rolled it around the hammer shaft and turned the head like a winch. When he stood on the sling, the head was held against the rock which stopped it unrolling and he moved up again. After repeating this several times there was an enormous ripping noise and Andy erupted into the chamber while a large patch of neoprene floated down the rift.

Much relieved that we hadn't had to resort to any more desparate measures such as smearing his body with cooking oil, we exited rapidly from the cave as it was getting dangerously close to pub shutting time. Just as we were about to drive back to the cottage, a convoy of people who had just arrived at the cottage for the weekend turned up to offer assistance, to which we suggested that we were rather thirsty and could they please unblock the road so that we could get to the pub ASAP.

Back at the pub, while he was at the bar buying us loads of drinks, Andy propounded the theory that the only real impediment to his exit had been his wet suit crutch which had caught on the rock. Rather than upset him in his state of trauma however, we readily agreed that the crutch area was certainly involved somewhere in this theory.

As far as I know no one has been back to this dig which is in fact hydrologically extremely significant as it is one of the few known cave passages which passes under a river bed. So if you are a dimensionally unimpeded, outgoing, underground digging sort of person who likes draining/swimming dismal sumps in an environment low on oxygen but with plenty of carbon dioxide, just apply to the author for the precise coordinates because no one else wants to do it!

Chris Crowley