Recent reports

Sell Gill Holes Cave rescue training

Sunday June 3rd 2012

Members present: Sophie Hentschel

Report by Sophie Hentschel

Ian Peachey joined us in the BPC hut on Saturday night. The next morning he offered to teach Warren (ULSA), John and me some basic SRT rescue techniques, and soon after breakfast we set off from the BPC hut to Sell Gill, Fossil Route. Walking through Horton and the green country side was very pleasant, until we noticed a sheep in a field that clearly seemed to be in agony. It was lying on its back, the head twisted to the side and the legs moving in the air. Different options of relieving the poor creature from its suffering with knives or stones were discussed, but we then decided not to intervene as Ian said that it would harm the good relationship between cavers and the local farmers if they saw some random cavers stabbing a sheep in broad daylight. I'm not sure if this sad view made Warren feel sick again, but he had been complaining about stomach troubles since the night before. In the end he decided to go back and take the next train home.

John, Ian and I walked to Sell Gill where John rigged the first two pitches. Ian then explained us a simple pulley system used to haul up casualties, not without emphasising how important it is not to attempt rescue unless you know what you're doing, and only if the casualty is conscious. Then John volunteered to be the first "casualty" and descended to the bottom of the second pitch. When Ian demonstrated how the pulley system works, it looked relatively easy. It was then my turn to set it up again from scratch, which was not too difficult. Taking in the slack of rope was also really easy. But as soon as John's weight - which is probably only two thirds of my own - was fully on the rope, I could not move anymore or pull the rope throught the pulley. We lowered John back to the bottom and tried various alternative systems, which would have worked perfectly well if we had had some more pulleys and not just descenders and karabiners. However, these different attempts to solve the problem of lacking strength were very useful to learn more complicated pulley systems. In the end Ian had to do the pulling as we simpy didn't have enough pulleys that would have made the hauling easier. Within five minutes John was hauled up, who was sitting comfortably in his harness, munching his chocolate bar whilst Ian and I were sweating and swearing.

Now Ian descended and let me explain everything again to John, trusting us not to kill him with our rescue attempts. We managed to set up the pulley system on our own, but although John is also very strong, he struggled to haul Ian. When Ian arrived at the same level as John in the massive Y-hang, instead of offering help to John (whose hands were rubbed raw by then), he continued to play very convincingly a hangover fresher in distress, pretending to vomit all over the place... He was safely hauled to the top and across the traverse, and I swiftly derigged so that we could make it back in time for Ian to catch his train. It was a very interesting and eye-opening experience to practice rescue in a real cave where one has no choice but not to make any mistakes.
PS: The poor sheep was dead by the time we passed on the way back...