A CHILDHOOD memory that has always stuck with me is going on a primary school trip caving and being petrified.
We were visiting the Lake District and were challenged to squeeze through a tight, infamous, passage known as the “cheese press”.
I think I cried — mind you, I used to cry at a trip to the dentist or maths class back then.
So when I heard outdoor pursuits experts, Lost Earth Adventures, had introduced caving to their repertoire I knew this was my opportunity to put right that reoccurring memory.
Also, I’ve lost the puppy fat, now, so I thought I’d be able to fit through those tight spaces more easily.
Lost Earth Adventures’ new caving courses cater for all experience levels to explore underworld caverns, tunnels and holes as a team, in various locations throughout Yorkshire and the Peak District.
Caving is synonymous with these areas — widely considered as two of the UK’s premier potholing destinations, so it would be rude not to take a look, really.
I rounded up three friends, and even managed to peel two of them away from Sky Sports for a drive over to the Yorkshire Dales to take on Goyden Pot Cave near Harrogate.
We met our instructor Tom at a nearby cafe and then headed to the cave.
Lost Earth provided all the equipment needed — helmet, headtorch, waterproof suit, kneepads, waterproof socks – but recommended participants brought their own trainers or wellies and wear some layers, as it can get cold underground.
As we ventured to the entrance of the cave, I started getting a sweat on, probably due to wearing an extra-large boiler suit in the sunshine, but also through nerves — would I get stuck in a cheese press again?
I was glad my friends were there as we all gave each other the encouragement needed to head into the unknown.
Usually the “unknown” to us on a weekend is a new boozer, so we felt pretty proud of ourselves to be up before noon and among the stunning countryside.
Before we slipped in, Tom said that it was down to rain in the afternoon and the cave was liable to flood — so that helped to settle my nerves!
Well, it pretty much ensured I didn’t hang around once we got started.
In all seriousness, I felt in very safe hands having enjoyed past trips out with the Lost Earth team and always returned unscathed.
Besides, if you see a group of ten-year-old Scouts head into a cave before you, I think you can assume it’s safe in there.
But Tom said he has seen grown men give up and flatly refuse to go in at this point.
The entrance was tight but once we abseiled down into the cave it opened up into an impressive large chamber and stream with a labyrinth of passages.
The scale and beauty of the delicate cave formations were fascinating and made me realise there is another, untouched world going on underneath us.
But we warned not to stare too opened-mouthed and watch our footing on the potentially-slippy rocks.
Our instructor Tom had a good knack of pointing to the most obscure-looking hole, which didn’t look humanly passable, and telling us nonchalantly we were off down it.
I later found out when he left the cave that my friend had asked him on the sly to give us a tricky route — but not to let the girls know!
I was secretly pleased he had, though, as I do like a challenge.
Over our two-hour adventure we waded in underground rivers, army crawled over rocks, squeezed through tubes and climbed waterfalls.
The instructor also got us to turn off our head torches at one point and appreciate what real darkness is.
And on the list of what you do want your caving instructor to say is that Tom could navigate his way out, all be it slowly, in the dark if the torches ever failed. Phew!
Despite our initial panicking, by the time we made our exit and Tom gave us the choice of an easy or hard route out, there was only one way we were ending.
It did prove to be the tightest and trickiest passage that required us to snake our bodies from the ground upwards, but the sense of achievement afterwards was worth it.
We were so pumped with pride and adrenaline we stayed on in the afternoon with Tom for a canyoning/gorge walking session in a nearby limestone ravine which required a 40-foot abseil from a bridge into the gorge.
It was an exhilarating day, literally full of lows then highs, which saw us all overcome some sort of fear and pull each other through the other side, the most any of us had ever achieved on a Sunday in a while.
Definitely pint-worthy, so back to the pub it was to raise a glass to ourselves.
Caving prices start from £25, for more information visit www.lostearthadventures.co.uk or call 01904 500094.