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My first sober cave…. Fermanagh November 2012 – by Barry

My first sober cave…. Fermanagh November 2012 – by Barry

My first sober cave….
Co. Fermanagh, 18 November 2012

Author: Barry Monaghan

Present: Barry Monaghan, Gaelan Elliffe, Robert, Jack and more Shannon Group (FCCC) recruits.

Well this was a strange one, not sure how to begin….

It all starts off with Gaelan’s plans for a Shannon recruitment scheme to be held on the 3rd Sunday of every month. Well I decided to take part in some of the action and with no-one for attending the Hoo on the Sat night it seemed the wisest (least craic) thing to do was drive down on Sunday morning. Well after my nice lie in I set off for Blacklion and on arrival found a small group of cavers (9 I think) chatting in Bloodstones. Much faffing and general time wasting ensued but eventually we decided upon doing Pollnagollum of the Boats and Pigeon Pot II. For a reason I can’t recall I volunteered myself for PNG and found myself going for a swim (fully clothed this weekend!) with Gaelan, Robert, Jack (DIT – a good bunch of folk) and a lady whose name I do not remember.

PNG was muchly its usual self, water levels not too bad but a little on the nippy side. The highlight of the cave had to be doing the duck/sump for the first time, it was a pleasant enough experience and I was lucky enough that my bala stayed nice and dry while inside my helmet. On the way out the group went back through the sump but I passed on the opportunity this time and kept my bala on. Myself and Jack were first out and got changed quickly in the worsening rain, when Gaelan arrived to the surface plans for the Hoo hatched. Soon we were off to the Hoo where we enjoyed a hot coffee courtesy of Gaelan and a warm fire lit by myself, proof that the Hoo is an essential part of every caving trip.

And so from here we went our separate ways, Gaelan to the pub and everyone else home (I somehow avoided the law for once.)

Another civilised QUBCC weekend away…. Fermanagh November 2012 – by Barry

Another civilised QUBCC weekend away…. Fermanagh November 2012 – by Barry

Another civilised QUBCC weekend away….
Co. Fermanagh, 9–11 November 2012

Author: Barry Monaghan

Present: Al Kennedy, David Mathews, Phil Maxwell, Sean “Miner” McAnulty, Barry Monaghan, Conor “Nuts” O’Neill, Roisin O’Neill, Adam Whiteside, Conor “Rocky” Winchcombe and more.

Being one of the club’s biggest trips, there was much preparation to be done. The gear was rallied together, batteries charged, the food bought and then some more food bought. But alas, Friday evening did come and exciting it was.

This trip was like no other trip I have seen. Firstly, so many people but secondly and more impressively was the number of drivers. We even left a car behind!

But all faffing aside with the transport it wasn’t long before the whole lot of us were on the road (some of the luckiest travelling with me in the Mystery Machine/party bus/culchie caving mobile).

With some stops for more supplies and yet more recruits along the way (note: the chippy in Ballygawley deserves another poke, it looked promising though I had already eaten) with more alcohol got in Enniskillen we travelled further into the dark. After arriving I realised I was one of the last groups to arrive. We quickly unpacked the sausages and supplies (for the morning to come) and began on our boozing. After a short while the fun was to start, Adam, Nuts and James arrived and roughly at this point the table traversing began, not many participated but most did have a good laugh (I think in particular at my attempts) from there we progressed to some squeezing challenges, but there wasn’t much of a challenge to be found. At this point I created my own new challenge. Window traversing. The objective, to climb through one window and out another without touching the ground, simple! I think I failed at my own game, Al of course succeeded. Some other trivial things happened that night but my next recollection is being faced with an overwhelming bright light. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if I had fell on the road and a lorry-load of sheep were about to hit me. Turned out I was skinny dipping again with 2 fellow cavers with everyone else watching.

And no, you are wrong. The night was not over yet! After getting warmed up by the means of more rum and whisky, an expedition to the Cascades waterfall came into place, and so led by the lights mounted to our heads we proceeded up the glen to the waterfall where every QUB caver must be baptised/initiated. After the initiation of the newest members we turned back toward the hut. On our return everyone was merry as. But Nuts quickly highlighted our missing troop and so the search and rescue mission began (after MANY head counts by me, sorry folks!) turns out our lost soldier was doing some mighty good hiding in a bush. With everyone united we had a sensible cup of tea before heading to our beds (it was one adventurous night!)

Soon enough, daylight came once again and so it was time to find a dark cave to hide in until sunset. The day began with a mighty fry from our resident Chef Maxwell followed by some faffing before 3 groups set off, one to Boho (which was flooded) another to MAC and my own group to Pollthanarees. After a good few hours of kinky fun we left Pollthanarees with a story to tell and went for a gentle stroll through Upper Cradle. The caving all went rather smoothly but did leave a long walk home. On arrival we were baffled as to the whereabouts of the keys and after searching relentlessly gave up and settled down in the back of the mystery machine to huddle up and keep warm.

Soon enough we were rescued by Phil and quickly warmed up with his “Sausage Surprise”. After dinner we made it down to the piano bar which was too quiet for us lot. We soon found our way to a livelier location (Frank Eddie’s) and spent the night playing pool and telling stories, when we went back to the scout hut myself and Miner decided upon a trip to the Hoo, turned out it was just the two of us telling more stories by the side of the fire.

The following day came and after sleeping in we missed all the caving action so Miner set off for home while I joined the three lovely French ladies and Roisin for a good dander up the side of Cuilcagh (we never got to the top but still got a good view!). The day finished of in our usual style, meeting in Wetherspoons for a bite then off home.

SUICRO, Leitrim October 2012 – by Barry

SUICRO, Leitrim October 2012 – by Barry

Major and Baz’s 24hr trip
SUICRO, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, 26–28 October 2012

Author: Baz

Present: Barney, Rocky, James, Barry, Sean Major.

After many years of QUB not showing their drunken faces at the SUICRO symposium, 2012 was to be the year, with Rocky, El Jameso and Barney going down on Friday night and Myself and Major deciding to join in on Saturday.

The two of us set off circa 21.45 from Major’s, after stopping for supplies (alcohol) in Augher followed by another stop at the drive-thru offy we found our way to Drumshambo following the edge of Lough Allen; it was a scenic and dare I say romantic drive. We arrived at 22.45 and found Sean Miner and Pavel coming outside for a break, the booze was opened and soon after my memory started to diminish. I believe I entered a raffle, waved a bottle of whisky at Steve Bus and spoke to some people. The following morning began with Rocky awakening me from the back of the car and after the ICRO AGM and some faffing about we made our way to a nearby mine (suggested and accompanied by Miner of course!). This time it was a coal mine, Arigna, it was a touristy attraction and so we had a guide and silly hairnets under our helmets. It made for a good trip and straight afterwards we left for dinner back at the hotel (10 yoyo’s for a buffet, much food was scoffed so good value it was).

Soon after followed some talks, these included Clare CC’s trip to Poland (look very nice but caves look more remote than the Hoo!), then Eabha’s caving exploits in Portugal (the caves looked decent but even better was the thought of a holiday to Portugal!) and before leaving myself and Major managed to squeeze in Steve Muh’s talk on his (4th i think) journey to the bottom of the world (is he a man or a machine anyway?). Unfortunately the two of us had to leave for home and so made our ways missing some even more exciting talks. We took a scenic detour on our way home into Blacklion and only stopped the once for the PSNI (who never noticed the smell of whisky, maybe i was sober at last).

Freshers Trip, Fermanagh October 2012 – by Daniel

Freshers Trip, Fermanagh October 2012 – by Daniel

First Caving Trip – from a Fresher’s perspective
Co. Fermanagh, 19–21 October 2012

Author: Daniel McKay (Edited By Baz)

Present: Conor “Barney” McAdams, Conor “Nuts” O’Neill, Sean “Major” Barker, Sean Miner, Barry Montague, Al, Steve “Muh” (apparently the sound a cow makes, who knew!), Emma-Louise Rea, Mark Ormerod, Michael Kelly, Tonje Børseth Barca and a few guest appearances.

Well I’ll begin where it all started; the student union of QUB at 6pm on Friday. You would guess seeing as this was the first caving trip I (and most likely the other freshers) was nervous about what caving was REALLY like, but I can assure you that when the whole gang got together all sense of nervous anticipation was lost and replaced with the thought of “this will be interesting” and if I had known what was in store for me… well let’s just say it was better than just ‘interesting’!

So basically, once everyone had gathered together we went off on our merry way to Fermanagh to begin as was stated “a well behaved weekend”, not my choice of words but it left me in eager anticipation of future trips as it didn’t seem all that calm to me! Well anyway, as we were driving down we stopped off at Tesco’s to obtain much needed supplies and even saw a drive-thru off-license (I know strange right?!). Eventually, we found the area, but had no idea where the key for the scout hut was! Oops! Fortunately that problem was solved quickly though so nothing to worry about.

After settling into the scout hut, we decided to have a few drinks and get to know each other better and play a few games for a bit of craic before deciding to “take a walk”, but Barry had his own ideas on this… he decided climbing trees, lying down in the ice cold water and eating pieces of the forest was a better idea! Safe to say we were all having a good time and the actual caving had yet to begin! On returning to the hut, we finished the night off by telling stories before going to bed in the early hours of the morning.

Well on Saturday morning we all had a huge fry, compliments of chef Sean Major, and looking back my mouth still waters at the thought of it! After we had each ate our fill, we went off to the caves and this is where things got really interesting. We arrived at Poll Thanarees and I can remember looking down this tiny hole thinking “how did someone ever manage to find that?” and “hope I get in OK”. I, and everyone else, managed to do it no bother though so we had nothing to fear and I’ll tell you now, the things you see down them caves are amazing! So basically Tonje, Emma-Louise, Al and myself went off on our merry way to discover the caves and see what they were like; looking back, you have no real concept of time down there, we could’ve been down there for minutes or hours! Whatever the measure of time was, I enjoyed the experience thoroughly though. After we eventually climbed out of this cave, we went off to take a look at two more caves firstly we made our way through Cats Hole and after meeting up with the rest of the cavers we made our way to Upper cradle which had a nice stream way waiting inside to help srub some of the muck off! Alas, they were not as difficult as the first but amazing none-the-less.

That night after returning from the caves, we had our showers followed by dinner (delicious!), during which news of the arrival of a certain Sean Miner came to our ears so not long afterwards, we walked over and spent a while sitting around a glorious camp-fire eating marshmallows and drinking some whiskey. Yet again, Barry was the centre of all shenanigans by cutting up a cake with an axe! On a side note, the cake was very tasty and even though I’m usually a very picky eater and can’t stand jam, caving quickly drove that out of me! Finally, we finished off the night by heading over to a local pub and enjoying a bit of friendly banter over a few drinks.

Sunday morning (this day was without a doubt my favourite day), after eating breakfast, two plans had formed for the day. A few cavers, friendly to the QUB senior cavers, had joined the party and they were planning to head off to a more challenging cave, (Poll Na Raftra, I was very excited about this and all plans to go with my fellow freshers to the wet caves went out the window). As such, half our group went one way and half went the other with plans to meet up in witherspoon’s that night for a bite to eat. From what I heard, the wet caves had been a lot of fun but I have to say I wouldn’t have traded my experience for anything.

So as it was; Barney, Steve, four guest cavers and myself went off to Poll Na Raftra (from what I remember, it is said that it would take two whole days to get from the entrance to the exit!) and climbed in via a bit of a tight squeeze to this marvellous cave and began our journey using Steve’s knowledge of the cave system to guide us. Unfortunately, we reached the mud wall a bit too quickly and since we didn’t continue (someday I’ll see what’s beyond that wall), we had to turn back and exit via the way we came in. I really could not stress enough how much I had enjoyed that particular cave system, it was genuinely the perfect cave system for my particular tastes with quite a few challenging obstacles (you could say it was an educational playground! Not to mention seeing the huge stalactites and stalagmites). It was definitely a pity I couldn’t have stayed longer with all the craic I was having! But witherspoon’s and our dinners were calling, we’re only human after all!

So now I’ve reached the conclusion of our epic adventure (everybody say aww), we had already packed our things before heading to the cave, so we just went straight to witherspoon’s and met up with the other half of our group. There myself and the other fresher’s told each other about what we had done and told a few stories about it while, the senior’s talked among each other. It was a nice way to end one hectic weekend and I can safely say… bring on the next round of caving shenanigans!

The Weekend QUB Didn’t Go Caving, Fermanagh July 2012 – by Barry

The Weekend QUB Didn’t Go Caving, Fermanagh July 2012 – by Barry

The Weekend QUB Didn’t Go Caving (13–15 July 2012)
Co. Fermanagh, 13–15 July 2012

Author: Barry Montague (Bazza), QUB Caving Club Treasurer.

Present: Barney, James, Adam, Barry, Sean Miner.

After arriving at the union to meet up, with some faffing and phoning around to see who was yet to show, 4 of us (Barney, James, Adam and Barry) set off in the match box hot box and the culchie machine laiden with our gear. After stopping for supplies (food, cake, alcohol, the usual caving things) in Tesco and sampled some of the local cuisine from Enzo’s. We continued onto el Costa Del Hoo, where we were greeted by the White Elephant and found Sean the Miner residing inside, using the phantom Wi-Fi. We quickly consumed Tesco’s finest cuisine washed down with lots of alcoholic beverages. Later, a strange and rather confused animal appeared, dubbed “the Fermanaghmal”. It had an unusual attraction to the inflatable sheep in the Hoo and attempted to mate with both the sheep and club captain, Barney. For more facts on the beast, the Aghnahoo log book has a detailed version of events. Not much else was too be remembered that night due to the consumption of copious amounts of Scotch, Rum and Herbal medicines.

The following day I awoke with the strange feeling of being warm (and no I was not spooning with a sheep), who knew the Hoo could be warm? After a good breakfast, slightly late, then a march round the surrounding fields while wearing nothing but a sash, a pair of shorts and a balaclava I returned to find Miner awake and the two male lovers still in bed. After much debate with no real agreement on what cave to visit, Sean the Miner suggested visiting an old mine up on the hill side of Mt Benbulbin. Deciding to try something new, we took a spin towards the Glencar Lake side of the mountain. We all noted the Celtic symbol created by the two colours of trees in a plantation on the side of a hill and followed Miner’s lead towards Glencar Waterfall. The following few hours were dull and involved the match box hot box being abandoned at the bottom of the mountain, whilst the White Elephant and Culchie Mobile travelled up the hill side. Much bog was tramped upon and many pictures of old rusty machines taken. Once the mine was located we decided to explore the first level as it looked interesting (Miner got particularly excited and took many notes and gave many boring lectures on the process of narrow vein mining of barytes). On returning to the auto-mobiles it was decided to travel into Manorhailton to purchase supplies for a BBQ back at the Hoo, however, it wasn’t the brightest idea, as it was dark, cold, wet and scary, when we eventually reached the Hoo. In Manorhamilton a few pints were drank in the central bar, and later in a lovely little bar on the same street, we noted the welcoming locals and good drink, and promised to return with epic caving stories. At the Costa del Hoo, the team split, with one group going to find fire wood and kindling, whilst myself and Barney continued towards the Hoo, with our mission being to get the fire going. Later that night, a few Dubs arrived to find the Fermanaghmal sitting in the corner with no shirt causing them to become confused, edgy and terrified of this ancient caving beast. After regaling there technically perfect caving stories, we all hit the hay in the wee hours of the morning.

Those fecking Dubs woke me up before midday on Sunday, I think, really have to think, it was 8.30. The rude awakening shook me, and groggily I proceeded to get fed and visited Bloodstone’s to avail of proper toilet facilities. Whilst wandering back to the car, a strange man, Michael, some how identified one as a fellow caver and proceeded to deftly remove the ear wig from my right shoulder. Michael was here to try caving himself, and after chatting to a few of Shannon Caving Group’s new recruits, Gaelan led the recruits off to go caving. Back at the Hoo, the lover boys were still in bed, and we awoke them and returned to Bloodstone’s. Yet more faffing occurred, it was agreed to go canyoning. After much initial excitement, we gave up after realising our rigging was simply, utterly rubbish. The compass was pointed towards Belfast and we arrived home without exploring one single cave all weekend.