I’d forgotten to set a meet time, but Andy got in touch and spread the word, so we had a decent turnout on this beautiful autumn day. I was aiming for the passages beyond the Hydrophobia crawl, having enjoyed the experience of diving in the cold, crystal-clear water a couple of years previously and anticipating a fight against the elements, I was well covered in the spongy black stuff.
Late arriving Mr. Camm was first up the hill, talking to himself as he made a movie of the day’s outing, but I beat The Director down the hole, finding that the amount of scree in the lower sections made things a bit tight and I settled down for the rest of the party to join me.
Reaching the end of the Gallery, my lack of knowledge of the cave led me to root about in the choke at the end, before retreating to find Matt pointing at the slot down to the streamway. Having followed the Navigator last time, I had a vague idea of just crawling into water and heading upstream – not so simple though, as I entered the canal ahead, finding airspace diminishing until I was flat on my back, hoodless, with my nose in the roof, until, horror of horrors, I got a nose-full of water and the freezing of my head was making me feel a bit groggy. Not nice when one is almost wedged and a spluttering retreat left me facing Andy and Matt, who suggested a crawl off to the right.
Taking this option led to a confusing area of mucky, blocky chambers, with the water audible to the left, where a tight squeeze led me to a gravel bank. I dumped my lead weight, finding my back to be too painful and steeled myself for the fight against the frigid flow, which filled the crawling passage to near half-height and required a lot of effort to make progress against. At least I was warm and convincing myself that the passage would not fill, I actually enjoyed the battle, emerging after ten minutes or so in the spacious passage beyond, following the bang cable all the way to the sump.
Now this is a beautiful spot, where a wide, deep, pool of clear, blue water leads through a low arch to the dive rope, where I paused underwater to enjoy the surroundings before emerging in the deep water beyond. A few minutes of wandering and I reckoned that I’d better return – pulling down past the square edge for the trickier return dive. The water flow down Hydrophobia made for quick progress, with me keeping a good grip on my mask and keys in my bag. Back at the gravel bank, a desperate squeeze – at a different place – brought me back to the chamber and I was soon back in the Gallery.
Turned out I’d missed a large photo party from the Normally Pissed Collective, but back at the roadside all was quiet for the change in pleasant sunshine. This was a thoroughly enjoyable day, although I must remember to only attempt Hyperthermia Passage in a drought in future.