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Tales of a lesser known caver Part 2

by the Editor.

As no doubt many of you know, there are lots of cavers who go climbing or walking up mountains.  I know of quite a few.  Perhaps it is some of the yearning to visit beautiful places, perhaps it's the thrill. Whatever it is, I was a relative newcomer to the climbing part of this scenario until quite recently.  As part of my work, I needed to attend a course in first aid and since others at the centre where I work wanted similar training, a group of four instructors drove to North Wales last year and booked up the Climbers Club cottage at Helyg near Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia.  On arrival late on Friday evening, we were greeted by a terrible smell; similar to one that used to lurk at the Belfry some weekends after a group had visited.  We fumbled around for light switches and got the place warm by lighting the fire - coal supplied, and the smell gradually faded.  Further unpacking took place and then a fridge was opened and the smell came out and seized me by the throat or was it via the nose.  Yes cavers, you have guessed, it was a very former piece of chicken, still in its wrapper that had been left in the icebox.  Later, after gagging and cleaning the suppurating mess out of the fridge, I looked up the date of the last group.  Two weeks ago!  They had dutifully turned off all the power and complied with the plethora of little notices, forgetting to empty the icebox, but remembering to open the fridge door!  Nature had taken its course, but had been frozen once again when we arrived and powered up the place. Appropriate notes were left in the log!  Anyway, back to the point of the tale.


Snowdon from Plas y Brenin (many mines, few caves)

By now it is nearly 11pm and my comrades suggest a freshen up outside.  Packing two full ropes and a rucsac of bits, we are rapidly off up the road to stop at a blurry shape in the dark.  "Milestone Buttress," Chris exclaimed, Off you go Torbs, it's just like caving as it's so bloody dark you can't see anything.  So, Petzl on, up we go!  After about three pitches, I arrive at something akin to the entrance of a cave. In I go only to find I am snuggling up against a large boulder and a wall.  Well it felt safe, so on we go. More ropy things, a traverse across into nothing and a haul up and I can see a glow below.  F**k me it's a bloody great lake!  I am miles up!  Faint tremors of the legs are followed by turning the light out.  Can't see anything so nothing to worry about. "Off you go Torbs", so off upwards I go, finally reaching somewhere called the top.  By now I cannot see the bottom or the top so it is most cave like.  I can see I am on a ledge and there are a couple of other lights, one above, one below, and then we are all together.  "OK, time to get off and to bed", says Chris.  It's now 1.30 a.m. and I am tired.  A long icy, wet gully descends at a steep slope angle, far to slippery to do without a rope, so tie on and down we go, good cave practice this! Soon I am on a flat bit, then on a path, then I see the road and we are back, hot, sweaty and happy, just like a caving trip but in reverse (you go down to get out).  Well that was all fine and we are still alive so home we go.

About a year later, I am in Snowdon again doing some training and drive past Milestone Buttress.  I stop and go up to find the climb but cannot.  Just like a cave you visit in the dark with friends in foreign places, you can never find the entrance!