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Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1

Thursday March 22nd 2012

Members present: Chad B,  Mark Sims,  Toby Buxton

Report by Toby Buxton

Rescue stuff!

After reading that I figured I'd put in something about my experience of the rescue for those who have never experienced one. Here's a bit of stuff about what it's like to be a runner. Most will know all this already, but when I was a fresher I didn't really know what would happen so here it is, just in case :p

If you are caving in a three, and one has an accident that immobilises them, the two remaining must decide (quickly, preferably!) who is staying and who is going. You might decide it's better for all to stay depending on your call out and the cave conditions, but if you don't one of you is the runner. In this case - me.

Being a runner doesn't necessarily mean you run. It's infinitely more important to get out in one piece. The consequences of you suffering an immobilising injury - especially when you are a three - are really rather awful. Two immobilised parties in different parts of the cave, with no contact, one person alone, and both alone when the last remaining mobile caver leaves the first casualty - and they really shouldn't leave their casualty alone! They need to be able to rely absolutely on you reaching the surface and rescue. Narrow the party down to two and you'll soon see why some frown upon 2 man caving. So go at a pace which you can sustain and at which you won't fall and die. If you don't know what this pace is, you probably aren't the runner. If you are, err very much on the side of caution. It's never going to be worth that risk to go a little quicker.

I don't mind caving alone too much and am reasonably quick (I hope), so I was happy to leave Mark and Chad behind. After my false start I got through the connection quickly and out of the entrance in somewhat under half an hour, I believe. I'm guessing though, as time slows down in this situation and I wasn't going to waste any checking my watch! Running is strange - you are not afraid, as the adrenaline of your friend's fall prevents that, but parts of your brain demand that you charge through at top speed, and you have to ensure restraint! The adrenaline makes how much energy or strength you have left irrelevant - all that really enters your brain is getting through the next bit of passage as fast as possible without creating that danger of you getting hurt too. Its a simple state of mind - which might be almost enjoyable if you didn't have that all-important responsibility.

Once you're on the surface, you can let the aforementioned bits of your brain take over to a certain extent and go for it. Still don't get hurt, but you're rather less likely to do so on a path along a hill. As I found out, your legs can only run for so long before they stop moving and you fall down, but if you're going uphill this is fine (if kind of annoying). If you're going downhill, obviously rest them a little rather than fall! You don't need to conserve energy. Nobody ever gets let back down again after they've ran, so you can be fed and then fall asleep (in the arms of your significant other/cuddly friends, unless they're gearing up for rescue!). Demand and reason all you want, but you're not going back down so you may as well have spent you're energy on the run. If you can say accurately you have plenty of energy then you should have used it on the run!

In general, doing the job of runner is the best of a bad bunch I reckon. All you have to do is a bit of speedy solo caving, some running, and when you get back you get treated as if you've been a very brave boy, fed up and then sent to bed. You probably won't sleep, but by this time most people are manhandling a stretcher while standing up to their face in water, so count yourself lucky. The person who stays has a worse job in that they get cold and tired, and have plenty of time for their adrenaline to wear off and worries to creep in. And you really do not want to be the casualty, that's the worst of all (I'm lucky enough to say this is not based on personal experience!). The ones I have the most respect for are those who get out of the pub or into wet gear and soon are dragging the casualty's heavy ass around with little regard for themselves. And the best of those are the ones who do it every time someone gets hurt, for no more reward than respect and beer. That's cave rescue, for those of you slow on the uptake :p In a time when the word 'hero' gets bandied around for twats like footballers, professional cave rescuers are still the very definition of what the word once meant. Cool-headed, tough, stiff-upper-lipped, selfless, and much besides: stuff to aim for If you ask me!