25th - 28th October 2019
This year SUICRO was organised by Stephen Macnamara and Claire Dunphy at the fabulous venue of the Leitrim Marina Hotel, held over the usual October bank holiday weekend the South (i.e. Ireland) avails of, however for us in the North (i.e. Northern Ireland), tis not a bank holiday.
I was really looking forward to SUICRO this year, especially after 2019 so far had been a fantastic point in my life, both with regards to being able to finally pursue and push my limits in caving, but also from the networking I had been doing with cavers elsewhere in the North (mainly with Shannon Group), from the South in UCD and DCU Caving Clubs but also in the UK and beyond thanks to my time at Dachstein. In particular I was really looking forward to meeting up with Axel Hack again after we spent a significant portion of time caving together on that expedition and seeing Emily Punzalan and Petie Barry again, both people I significantly look up to as mentors.
Boating adventures with Miner from Leitrim Village to Drumshambo
For me, I decided to apply my new approach to things this year, that was to be a bit more sporadic with life, in that I would base my trip on driving down and sleeping in my car, such that if floor space arose or better accommodation appeared, I would be able to avail of it at cost. However, I would also have no solid plans for leaving Leitrim, as I would make my decision quite last minute for either heading back on Sunday night or Monday first thing. Of course this was fully dependant on what was happening, if the conversation was great etc. as the Monday midday lectures weren’t disappearing anytime soon.
Although the above sounds great, a bit of pre-planning was made to fill the car with people on the journey down. A few weeks prior, David Botcherby reached out to myself and Kerry asking if anyone was free to give them a lift down to Leitrim from Belfast port as they had managed to snag some great priced £5 ferry tickets!
So, the Friday arrived and after some extreme scurrying to pack my car after sitting in Belfast traffic for about 2 hours, I headed over (to sit in more traffic and almost get into a car accident) to pick David Botcherby, Matthew Woodward and Corin Donne up, and after which we headed on the long, dark and surprisingly lonely road to the Leitrim Marina Hotel.
The Friday night was quite chill, mostly just meeting and greeting with everyone getting to see everyone again for the first time since the Student Caving Forum including Axel whom offered some excellent carpeted floor space for me to rest my weary head (this offer ended up repeating itself throughout the whole weekend, which I was extremely thankful of, especially as it ended up being -3°C on all three nights! I also somehow also managed to arrive approximately 2 hours into the venue before the rest of the QUB gang arrived.
For Saturday, I awoke early for attendance to the ICRO AGM. Overall the AGM was a good experience, with great discussion had all around. It was nice to see Claire appointed as Chairperson for ICRO this year.
Making toast after forgetting the beans outside Tempal Shetric with Botch, Corin and Matthew
After the AGM my plans were a bit all over the place. Originally I was supposed to help Axel out with a paperless survey workshop, however with the three English requiring lifts, I decided to swoosh my plans into a trip into Teampal Shetric. So, I quickly picked the lads up from their house and drove over the parking spot, which was a 50minute drive from the venue. As there was a group of 9 of us going, I decided to bring a hot treat to the cave entrance - that being some beans and bread. However, in my quick spew of throwing all my gear, a couple of us forgot to bring some of the essentials. Firstly, Matthew forgot his helmet and battery light, Corin forgot his chest harness and I forgot to bring the beans!
Teampal Shetric was a nice cave for the areas in which we explored, but in reflection with Emily afterwards it turned out we didn’t go down the really shit side of the cave, the side that absolutely coats you with mud. The hotel food, although quite pricey was fantastic and there were some great talks on the Saturday night, in particular I really enjoyed the, “More than Just Boulders: 25 Years of Ogof Draenen” talk by Fleur Loveridge and also the usual talks by Petie Barry. The standard ICRO raffle was drawn with many prizes won by all these. No Scurion this year for me, instead I managed to win a handy spare Singing Rock Chest Ascender!
Sunday morning again began early for attendance at the SUI AGM. This AGM was of particular interest for myself as the SUI have helped provide me with multiple training events this year, including CF, CL1 and SRT1. As such I was intrigued by what else the SUI had been up to this year. I made sure to voice my strong affirmation that the SUI Student Membership was a fantastic option for the availability of low cost, easily accessible 3rd party liability insurance for all student cavers alike – an option QUB as a club has been very keen to make freshers tail avail of. I also ensured my strong positive opinions of the availability of SUI comfort kits in the various caving regions was noted, in addition to my concerns about how these may be kept in suitably acceptable condition. I would like to wish the best to all those elected for the 2020 Committee positions, including Conor Winchcombe as President, Angela Prior as Treasurer and Camilla Eboli Casella as secretary.
The Sunday adventure ended up being with Sean, Barry, Maria, Eszter, Emi, Conor and Stephen out on the Shannon lakes in Canoes, Rafts and Stephen in his Sea Kayak.
Rafting along the river Shannon
Overall it was a great adventure, heading up through the locks from Leitrim Village on the water for between 3 to 4 hours, finally arriving in Drumshambo for a quick stop off for refreshments in the local pub. However, after exiting we realised the remaining light was not on our side as the clocks had just gone back an hour, so we called for Edel to pick us all up and bring us back to the hotel. Back for food, a chippy was in order after not having takeaway since my return from Dachstein and then, on to the evening talks!
It was nice to see Petie Barry once again give a talk on the progress which has been made in Shannon in his talk, “Shannon Cave: High Level Explorations 2017-2019” especially he talked about the first Shannon trip I was involved with him on, where ‘Turtletime!’ was discovered and surveyed. Following this, the photography competition. I had entered a number of pictures into the Irish Caving category, however on review of the pictures (which were anonymously submitted) by Axel I was informed, had I submitted one of the pictures into the ‘Joy of Caving’ category, I may have had a chance of winning.
Sunday night closed with the traditional pub quiz. The team quickly was formed, consisting of Eszter, Conor Martin, Fergal, Stephen Frawley and the tea master himself, Pádraic, naming ourselves after him as ‘Pour 4 Pádraic.’ The format of the pub quiz was “A Day in the life of a Caver,” split into 7 individual sections. These being;
• Waking up and brewing the Tea, i.e. taste test teas and determine their brand
• The morning Faff – random Irish person fact quiz
• The perfect caver – a picture mash of different Irish Cavers
• Pick a cave! – Determine the names and passages of various Irish caves
• SRT Round – Find out whats wrong with the SRT setups
• Random Pub Chat – Weird and strange facts round
• Father Ted round – Challenges, Raffles, Awards and Prizes!
Petie discussing the recent progress being made in
Somehow, and I’m not too sure how, we managed to come joint second, well joint first as those organising the event were in the winning team!
Sunday night then elapsed into talking crap for the remaining hours before hitting bed for 3am! As you’ve now quickly worked out I decided to stay the Sunday night, which as a result meant I’d have to get up and be on the road for 8:30am to ensure I was back for my 12am lecture! I managed to get Peter Ward into my car, where we proceeded to catch up for the 3 hour drive back.
Overall a fantastic symposium this year, and I look forward to what the next year of caving brings, including next year’s symposium which Veronika managed to somehow rope herself into organising!
Pádraic, the master of tea determining the brand
De-rafting and attempting to not fall in
Closing of the Forum