Caving trip to Fermanagh, March 2000

After an uninteresting drive down (well I suppose I wasn’t driving) the caving squad met up in Bloodstone looking like suspects from the FBI’s 10 most wanted, only the Irish version - Ireland’s 10 most unwanted. Present were - Stephen "Is he a proper caver" Mc Cullagh, John "Greasey Monkey" Duncan, Stephen ‘Penelope’ Macnamara, Des "Too boring to be slagged" Mc Nally, Duncan "Is that a canoe in your pocket" Foster, Armin " Porno King" Theissen - so called because he wanted to take a dodgy photograph of John, Garrett "Too keen to be a Queen’s caver" Devitt, Ed "Dolly Parton" Whelan- So called because both have big chests and Kate "The Carbide explosives are in the post" Lavender.

After an initial breakfast the three car load met up at the scout hut and after a bit of slagging the journey to Cascades was undertaken. At the cave entrance I undertook to enter the cave first to prove that Queen’s cavers do cave before 12:00pm - Well it was 11:30 am. With all members in the cave Garrett lead the entrance series without taking too many wrong turns - for anybody who has never done this before this was quite an achievement. After the initial crawling’ climbing’ shuffling bit the letterbox squeeze with its bypass were found and with the minimum of effort and most people choosing the by-pass the small chamber was entered. At this point I took over the lead up through the waterfalls over the high level stalagmite passage and up to the ducks whereby the duck’s by-pass needed to be found. After 45 minutes and a lot of crawling through cold water the by-pass was found by me in a place where Des and I looked at 45 minutes previous. Well as they say "It’s only when you go down a cave the second time that you realise how much you didn’t remember from the first time". Once through the by-pass with only the bigger people getting slightly stuck, the ICRO dump was found. From here on route finding was relatively easy - up through the large boulder chamber with its many large boulders - well how else could you describe it and over the scary looking exposed step over (15 foot drop). At the end of the boulder chamber at least three different routes could be taken. The small squeeze through the boulders, the difficult climb or the exhausting easier climb.

With everybody through the boulder choke, Des took over and after explaining about the sharp rocks, he lead us quickly up the main Brandywine streamway. As not many people ever make it this far the Stals and the mud banks were unsurprisingly perfect. Definately worth it. At waist deep (imaginatively named due to the water being waist deep) I did make an effort to traverse but it is impossible first because you have no hand holds and secondly because people tend to pull you into it (Ed). Eventually Sump 8 was reached and at this point the sump by-pass was taken (My God there is a surprising amount of by-passes in this cave). Past the Withywindle sump and some fine mud formations and up into creatures end where apparently a dead rabbit which dug itself in through the roof at least 15 metres above - probably the first ever entrance to the cave. Up to this point it had taken us 4 hours. After a short break the cave was retraced with different people leading different parts of the cave. Luckily we did have three people who for some reason only remembered different parts of the cave but we found our way through. Two bruising, cursing, singing, shouting and slagging hours later the cave was exited into bright sunshine - Another highly enjoyable trip.

Yet again a trip report made up by Stephen Mc Cullagh - it could be based on a real trip, but then again I tend to forget these things.