January 2013 Inter-Club Trip

All-Ireland Student Caving 2013 inter-breeding trip

 

DIT representatives  - Petie, Jack, Fresher Steve

 

Queens - Barney, Barry Montague, Rocky, Adam Whiteside, Steve Muh

DCU - Shane McGinley, Brian McFaffin, Claire, Mr Kane, Ezter, Orla

UCD - Emi Whatsherface

BONUS CAVERS!: Four of Barney's mates from Dublin

 

By the time I reached the club gear store, soaked to the skin by the relentless rain, I knew that this trip was fated. To compound my misery the traffic held Jack up, so I went into the boiler room to hug the lukewarm pipes and think happy thoughts. When Jack finally arrived he told me that he could have picked me up from my house and saved me the trip through the rain. Oh well. We drove on, picking up Fresher Steve at Blanch, and the rest of the way to Fermanagh was fairly painless, though from Belturbet onwards the only radio station was RnaG, with a bearlachising presenter playing eight minute techno tracks on the turntables. Radio na Life presenter and raging gaelgoir Fresher Steve was not impressed. 

 

At the scout hut we met an assorted collection of cavers from the main student clubs, Queens, DCU, and a solitary UCDer wandering about looking confused among the mismatching furniture. It had been two years since I'd been to the Palace of Blandness that is the Claddagh Glen Scout Hut, so I was really looking forward to the sagging army mattresses and ceiling condensation drips that make the place such a pleasure to visit. That said, it was quite warm inside, though that had more to do with the mild temperatures outside than the quality of the heaters. The main source of entertainment that night was the Fermanimal, a wild beast of the Marlbank who was tempted inside the Scout Hut by the smell of whiskey. Most of us managed to lock ourselves inside the safety of the main dorm while the Fermanimal raged in the main room. We listened with horror as the unfortunate few who didn't make it inside the panic room were ravaged by the beast. Their haunting screams will live with us forever. 

 

We awoke the next morning and proceed to have the slowest morning known to caverkind. The morning became the afternoon, and it wasn't until two when five of us set off in Jacks jeep straight for Gleniff and the Barytes mine. Well, not quite straight. Rocky had forgotten his wellies so we had to head the opposite direction to the Florencecourt Farmers store to buy some. Finally back on the road Jack put the foot down and a few moments later noticed the temperature gauge firmly in the red zone. Shortly afterwards we pulled in with steam coming from beneath the bonnet. A kindly local pulled over and offered some assistance before heading off for some water. He was back 5 minutes later, the radiator was topped up and off we went, back to the Scout Hut to transfer all the gear into Barry Montague's car. The five of us crammed in and headed off in Barry's low slung car. An hour later we arrived at the bottom of the walk to the mine. It was now half three and the weather decidedly iffy. We changed anyhow and braced ourselves for the walk. Up the mountain we went, the wind and rain worsening all the time. Once we were well up into the clouds things got uncomfortable, the wind very intense and whipping us in the face. We were glad to get into the mine. Once in we spent an hour and a half surveying, photographing and exploring. We exited back into darkness and more or less got blown off the mountain, descending in a rapid half hour, visibility only  five or six metres. 

 

The following day was a reprise of the first, though with a slower breakfast and minus the caving bit (not that we actually went caving on Saturday, but we did at least get underground). The heavy rain of the weekend meant that the caves were all tanking, severely limiting the caving options. Eventually a crew did head off for a walk in the Burren (there's a Burren in Cavan too you know) and several of us searched for the leak in Jack's Suzuki. The leak was eventually found and deemed irreparable so we stocked up on water for the journey home. We set off with some trepidation, and with a carload of DCU cavers behind us as backup. Every 3 miles we pulled in and myself and Fresher Steve jumped out, opened the bonnet, removed the radiator cap and topped up the water. By the time we reached Belturbet it was apparent that we could get home without the car stopping but that it was going to be slow. The DCUers sped off leaving us arguing in the jeep. Jack was very keen to devise a hose and funnel contraption that would go from the radiator through the bonnet and passenger window to a reservoir inside the car that we'd be able to keep topped up, even going so far to purchase electrical tape and make an improvised funnel from a lucozade bottle. I didn't think this was worth the effort. Steve made plans to hole up at an abandoned house of a relative in Cavan town and rob the garden hose. Eventually we just kept going at a steady 45mph, stopping every 5 minutes to top up. Steve and I got into a serious groove, getting out of and back into the jeep in less than 15 seconds - we felt like real F1 pit crew. Through rain and snow we inched towards Dublin, with our eyes always on the temperature gauge, the odometer, and somewhere handy to pull over. Almost 5 hours after we left the Claddagh Glen we arrived in the centre of Dublin for a pitstop and then Jack bravely went off alone into the night, his own one-man pit crew for the 3 hour journey home to Kilkenny. 

 

Learning outcomes: Enzo's in Blacklion has shut it's doors; don't offer to take part in a 5 man lift; Premium Dutch lager is neither premium nor Dutch nor lager; the hard shoulders around Kells have nice gravel verges to stop your feet getting wet. 

 

Petie Barry