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Pippikin Pot - Mistral Hole

Saturday March 10th 2018

Members present: Jean-luc Heath,  Joshua Young,  Martin Albacete,  Olivia Golby-kirk

Report by Olivia Golby-kirk

As I awoke, bright and early on the morn of Saturday, I realised I was anything but bright, having decided to drink far too much at the formal the night before. I had a hangover. And not just any hangover – a, I-Might-Throw-Up-Over-The-CNCC-Chairman hangover. When I arrived at the store, my fears were only confirmed when I promptly expelled the contents of my stomach. Needless to say, Josh and Martin were quite surprised to see me, and everyone was doubtful as to whether I’d make it underground.

After a relatively uneventful car journey, consisting of Josh’s Sick Beats™ and the slow dissolving of the lyrics of ‘Ghost Busters’ into ‘Cave Bastards’, we arrived at the CNCC AGM. I trailed behind our most glorious President and President Elect into the meeting, where I soon realised that this AGM would be much less banterous than the ones I'm used to. I decided the best course of action would be to try and sleep off the hangover, and so I traipsed back to the car and had a nap.

Once being rudely awakened by people who were very much still keen to get underground, we had a quick breakfast before driving over some minacious potholes down the track to Bullpot Farm. Josh was looking perhaps the least enthusiastic to cave I’ve ever seen in my short years, before perking up at the idea of the Bullpot changing rooms. Some deliberation ensued over whether it was cold enough to warrant the £1 day fee to change indoors, before we decided that we’re penniless students and the wind wasn’t exactly glacial. Before long, we were screwing up our maillons and it was time to decant bottled water into supposedly more imperishable metal containers (spoiler: the container perished). I proceeded to get my succulent, artisan Voss Water out of my bag for this purpose, which is when Jean-Luc started his exuberant chatter.

“Voss Vater, it is good for my pen-is, Ja,” he gaggled in the worst Faux-German accent he could muster. German babbling then continued much to the amusement to everyone else, especially Martin.

“This is going on the Go-sip page,” the Spaniard exclaimed, in his best Spanish accent. Jean-Luc then thought that Martin’s interpretation of the pronunciation of the word ‘gossip’ was hilarious, but what was even funnier was Martin’s imaginative, innovative insult: “Wonka.”

Much more faff proceeded, much more than is possible to chronicle here, but at some point around 2:30pm we were ready to head towards the cave. My toddler-esque mannerisms are certainly not ameliorated by a garment which is effectively a giant babygrow, and a stumbled over on the way at least five times before I stopped counting.

By 3pm, we had finally made it to the cave. I’ve certainly heard horror stories about Pipikin, and I was slightly perturbed that Josh’s last trip as President would go as well as his first. It was then that I realised that I had never done a squeeze, ever, really, in a cave. Nevertheless, I was here now, and not feeling like I was going to destroy any cave formations by vomiting on them, and so gracefully (read: tragically) made my way down the first pitch. Upon reaching the bottom, I followed Josh down a couple of little squeezes. Tight, but breathable. Squeezes are fine. I had no reason to cry yet. Jean-Luc then tried to follow on. I watched as his legs emerged above me, slowly, like a reverse birth. And then the legs stopped moving.
“I’m stuck.”

The legs started to flail a bit. Jean-Luc was wedged on his water bottle; he asked Martin to pull him out so he could take it off. Martin, in a perplexing move, then began to push Jean-Luc’s water bottle, to which Jean-Luc simply screamed about not being able to breathe a bit. Martin soon understood what the predicament was and pulled Jean-Luc’s bottle out. He got through a second time without a hitch, as did Martin.

I had a nourishing gallivant ahead with Josh, coming to another squeezy segment. Josh dived on through with all the grace of a spring-loaded gazelle. He recommended me taking my SRT kit off to follow. Is he calling me fat? I pondered, as I elected not to take the advice of the more experienced caver. I dived on through, with all the grace of an ungraceful clock, until I felt my hips sliding down into the tight bit of the squeeze.

“I’m stuck.”

Much like a literal toddler, my first response to any slightly scary situation is to promptly cry. My life flashed before my eyes; would I make into work tomorrow? Will I have to wait until I starve off last night’s McDonald’s? I’d had three burgers, I was carrying some extra weight. Would I drown in my own tears, slowly filling up the crack I was stuck in? More tears followed, until Jean-Luc and Josh simply picked me up by either end and posted me through the squeeze, like a soggy envelope delivered by the world’s most unsympathetic postmen. Onwards we went.

A rather awkward pitchead, with lots of cries of, “Schnitzel,” from the magic reappearing German man lamentably trapped inside Jean-Luc’s body, we descended towards the infamous Stemple. Josh asked us to belay him down as he had to plummet down the squeeze head first. He got through remarkably well, and soon it was my turn. I chose to go through feet first, and wriggled my way through the crack like a tapeworm, wiggling its way through a crack. With much reassurance from Josh, my feet soon hit the Stemple, and I considered climbing down the wall. Perched on the bar, above a five metre drop, I suddenly realised that my best option was to never move again, ever, and live the rest of my days as the Squarking Parrot of Pipikin. Failing that, I should attempt a way down from the Stemple that involved not breaking any of my seven essential bones. To do this, I clipped into the stemple, hopped off down off the bar, and enjoyed swinging there until I realised…

“I’m stuck.”

Again. The third stuck of the trip. This one wasn’t nearly as exciting though, because I’ve been strung up plently of times before, and a very nice Joshua got me a rope so that I could rig a pull-through to descend on.

Once I was down, it was Jean-Luc’s turn to squeeze through the Stemple. Josh insisted that headfirst was easier, and so Jean-Luc vehemently writhed his way through, and popped out looking slightly aghast. Despite his disquietude, he seized the Stemple and whizzed down the pull-through.

Then, there was one. Martin began to make his way through the squeeze. We saw a hand. We saw an arm. We saw a head. We heard the cry.

“I’m e-stuck.”

And alas, he really was e-stuck. The conquistador of caves himself, so valiant and courageous in the face of holes in the ground, was caught on his hand-jammer. Suggestions from the ground arose: move backwards, move forwards, wriggle up and down. Contortion is not one of Martin’s many hidden talents, and he rapidly started to tire in the half-standing position he was restricted to. The only thing that was left to do was to cut off his hand-jammer.

Jean-Luc prussicked up the rope to cut it, but he couldn’t reach. The knife was passed to Martin, who was trying his hardest to establish what was his safety link and what was a vital appendage. He managed it, with much difficultly, and was soon making his way down the pull-through. Josh volunteered himself for a little adventure back into the nemesis that is the Stemple Squeeze, and managed to return Martin’s hand-jammer to him. He could not rescue the safety-link; the knot had made a home for itself between two other rocks and was adamant it did not want to leave.

Onwards and downwards. A really, really mean traverse followed which I feel personally victimised by. I landed on Jean-Luc’s neck in an attempt to climb down a rope. All normal things, really.

After the traverse, having been promised that all the hard stuff was definitely over, Josh had an epiphany and insisted that the way on was definitely through the low, wet, squeeze and not the spacious, inviting climb. “It’s definitely low,” reiterated Josh, and so Jean-Luc wedged himself into the hole and wriggled his way through. “I don’t think it’s low; I’m below the pitch-head,” Jean-Luc called back, and we all retreated up the climb and got ready to descend. When it was my turn, I rigged my descender and slid down a rocky slope. Once I was at the edge of the ten metre drop, I suddenly realised I’d rigged my descender the incorrectly, and so took it off.

It took me about a second to realise I was now sitting on the edge of a drop with no points of protection, and then the tears set it. The tears are surprisingly warm and comforting, and with their sweet glaze upon my face I re-rigged my descender, being cautious not to make any sudden movements and praying I didn’t slip, and descended to the bottom, where Josh and Jean-Luc looked perplexed as to why I had taken so long.

Once Martin had landed at the bottom with an uninspiring thud, we set off through the cave once again. Soon we were in the wonted, muddy bolder chokes of Easegill, and with minimum trouble getting up the slopes, we soon realised we did not know da wae to Dusty Junction.

Sitting before a delectable choke, we elected Josh to scout ahead and show us da wae, as he was adamant he knew da wae once we had reached the Junction of Dust.

In all honesty, without Josh’s incredible navigation skills, we’d probably still be doomed to wander Easegill as the world’s most tiresome ghosts. He ducked ahead, through the choke, and after literally two seconds, he called back, “Ah… I’ve found Dusty Junction.”

We all dipped under the choke and realised that we hadn’t be that lost at all. Still, lots of Ugandan Knuckles references continued and I think, for one, that Josh makes a very good Queen. To many shrieks of excitement, Jean-Luc had found a gnome-like stal, which we promptly laid down and worshiped. The gnome showed us da wae. Martin, apparently not happy enough with soley worship the stall, simulated a rather rude gesture, to which Josh shouted, “Martin! You don’t have to wank off every phallic object you see!”

Beyond dusty junction, the cave shrank smaller and smaller until we were stopping, and then crawling, and then half-crawling, half-wriggling-widely. The hangover and lack of sleep had finally caught up to me; I began to feel very, very tired indeed. However, I could smell fresh air, which gave me enough incentive to keep moving. Soon, I’d popped out the crawl, and was faced with the final free climb out of mistral.

I just couldn’t do it. I was shattered. It would be slightly mean, though, to be left to die in the entrance forever, so Josh clipped in to me and I was half hauled, half-climbed out.

A slippery walk back: the river had burst its banks. We were soon at the car, though, and more banter followed. I’m not sure how many times I told the others that I definitely was never going to go to Pipikin again, or any other tight cave. Now I’ve calmed down though, and the mud is finally washed out from under my fingernails, I want nothing more than to go to another tight-as-heck cave.