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Aggy at Easter, one foot deep and flooded

The sun was shining at 7.40 a.m. as I drove across Mendip to Crickhowell to breakfast at the corner cafe with Mac, Bishop, John Dukes and others.  At 8.59 a.m. I walked through the cafe door to cries of, "He’s a minute early," and the rain that had emptied on the campers that morning started again.

Breakfast took an hour, arrived lukewarm in slow relays as the cafe staff struggled inadequately and the air grew steadily more foul from partly digested beer and an unhealthy food eaten the night before.

At about 11.30 a.m. a motley crew of eight signed into the cave and, exhausted by the walk to the cave and wondering what I was doing there, I immediately took up the rear. Aggy really is the ultimate bore for great stretches between little climbs that require longer legs than I seem to have, and sections of stream passage with lively water.  Water - there seemed to be a lot more than I could remember. An hour or so in there were mutterings from the aficionados, "It sometimes sumps before the third boulder choke. Just as well we decided to go this way rather than through Southern Streamway first."

We entered a long canal of deep water which nobody could remember. "Perhaps there was a climb out of the water further back," suggested one. "No, it’s straight on down the streamway," asserted another, so we went on a few yards to where the passage widened and progress could only be made by swimming, the three non-swimmers in the party buoyed up by their wetsuits and encouraged by the rest of us.  The roof came down to a foot from the water.  We turned left, went on for just a few paces, and the roof met the water. Sumped.  Consternation.  Another party caught us up.  We chatted awhile but there was only one thing to do and that was to head back out, disappointed.

However, there was a problem which had delayed us about ten minutes.  Whilst swimming I had kicked off a wellington boot which promptly sank in eight feet of water.  A search had revealed nothing so a makeshift boot of four armbands had been wrapped around my right foot.  Finally, with jokes in very poor taste about spare boots being available from a late cave diver we set off to find that the air space of a foot was now a matter of inches and urgency and much encouragement was needed to get everyone through.  Even amongst the hard-nosed there were signs of singular relief.

Two hours later we were back at the entrance.  My makeshift boot had served its purpose and, for the record books, I became the first person to do one third of the Grand Circle on one foot, four Mars bars, a currant bun, six slices of toast, two cans of coke and a shot from a disposable syringe.

Jeremy Henley