WBCRT Rescue Practice, Creek Alley, OFD2, 12 January 2008
We were woken at 7.00 AM by Nick’s alarm clock. Reluctantly, we got out of bed and stumbled downstairs for breakfast. there was no festering to be done this morning, we were off to a practice resue in OFD2.
By 9.30, about 25 cavers were gathered at SWCC for the briefing. A gas tanker chose that moment to deliver and the noise was such that the briefing was delayed by half an hour. We were all assigned roles at the briefing: Steve and I were part of the traverse rigging team, Neil and Chris were on the Heyphones and Annette was underground controller.
We started the long slog up the hill with all the rescue kit shortly afterwards. I had forgotten how taxing it was to carry one tackle sack, let alone the two that I was encumbered with. Poor Steve was the last to choose a bag so he got the huge bag containing 150 metres of rope. An important lesson.
We were heading into a part of the cave that I had never been to: Creek Alley in the Nyth Bran Series, beyond Poached Egg Climb. En route, there is every concievable obstacle in place for those with tackle sacks: greasy climbs, crawls, wide traverses and holes in the floor. Even the boulders in The Brickyard were more challenging with the extra weight.
The rescue scenario was that someone had fallen down a pitch in Creek Alley and we were to haul them up the pitch and over the traverses. My team set about rigging the traverses: one line for the stretcher to hang from and two guiding ropes, one fed out from behind the stretcher and one pulling the stretcher from the front. On the more exposed traverses, there was an additional
safety line for the rescuers.
Unfortunately the pitch was rather “loose” and this caused the pitch riggers all sorts of problems. As a result my team was waiting for more than an hour and I was starting to get cold, despite my extra layers of clothing and a hat. I eventually decided it was safest to go out of the cave. I returned to the surface with a bag of stemples which was hard work. The cup of coffee at SWCC was most welcome, as were the hot showers.
I think that there are several lessons to learn here: pitch hauls take longer to rig and carry out than planned and there is a lot of hanging around during these practices and you need a lot of warm clothes to compensate. We also got valuable experience from the exercise and it was good to network with the South Wales caving community.