dinsdag 26 juli 2011

Ireland- caving TV stars wanted!

"Hi there, my name is Colin Morrison, i am a cameraman/director from west cork. Myself and my production company business partner are trying to speak to professionals/weekend warriors within the speleological circles in order to gain information on the subject. We are in the process of putting together a pitch for a television program to R.T.E. about people that do normal jobs during the week and on weekends they do something out of the ordinary, ie. cave diving/exploring.

If you think you could possibly help me out or point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated.

Thanks a million, hope to hear from you soon. All the best.

Colin Morrison 0870634977."

Posted on http://www.caving.ie/2011/07/tv-stars-wanted

maandag 25 juli 2011

Weron 11.07.2011

July 11th, Monday, Flemish Community holiday, one of the non-frequent days of summer in Belgium used by us as an ideal day for caving.

This time 4 of us, Bram, Hans, Jozefien and me met in the morning to look for adventurous (notice equal proportion of the gender). As it appeared at the beginning of exciting conversation we forgot a 'topo' of the cave we're heading to, Weron in Namur province. But luckily we had Jozefien with us who was there twice, so she knew the way, more or less.

According to the Avalon's website Weron is consider to be a complicated cave where you can find a bit of everything, a classical route which is consider to be relatively easy but also more sportive and difficult paths.

We entered the cave about 12.00, ready to explore, with fully equipped kitzaks and stomachs. From the beginning cave made an impression on me by being complex, so for most of the time I stayed quiet to let Jozefien and others think.

The cave appeared to look like a combination of many meanders which allows you to take and upper way of the meander or to find yourself at the bottom of it. So we took time finding our way and learning to 'equiperen'.

We started taking one possibility but decided to take an alternative as we may needed some rope later, Avalon's website says that you don't need any ropes for this cave, but just in case we took some, for P8 and P4, if someone doesn't feel like free climbing.

I remember us getting squeezed in the meander.

There were also parts were we needed to descend, quite deep and narrow.

We were going forward in the cave, fighting with our own weakness: ropes, narrow passages, steep parts etc. We decided to go back after a moment when Jozefien slipped a little from the wet rock and fell down on her back. That's the scariest moment we had there with the happy ending.

On the way back Jozefien and me got stuck few times, e.g. in a place called 'a window'- hole in the ceiling. Going down through it wasn't so bad, although I tried a jump out while being on the rope, others just wisely used oppose technique.

Getting stuck it's not the nicest feeling you can experience while being in the cave. It makes you and others anxious and tired. Thanks to Jozefien and Bram I managed to pass the window hole. Jozefien had some problems too, but boys allow her to pass smoothly.

How true is the expression that time flies when you're having fun. We went out the cave, and the day was coming up to the end. It was almost 9pm, by our calculations we spent approximately 9 hours inside, and more surprisingly we did not have any food apart from one cookie and one small bottle of water.

That was a real manifestation of fun in the cave, nobody felt like being hungry, thirsty or tired. We all made it sound and safe with big smiles of happiness. Our 'back-up' was glad to hear from us too.
Traditionally on our way back we stopped for a Belgian specialties: friten and beer.


Night excursion to Sainte Anne- 08.07.2011

It was a long, long time for most of us with no caving, so to start properly the summer caving season we decided to pick up something quite and easy to warm up our bodies (Arun's ankle, Hans' arm and my knee) and to 'liven' our spelunking skills. Grotte Sainte Anne was planned by our ordinary team: Arun, Bram, Ewa, Hans and Renaud.
We decided to meet on friday evening at Spekul. While we were waiting with Arun for others we discovered toilet in the back, where you can lock person inside:D Then Bram and Hans showed up. While waiting for Renaud guys started climbing a wall above the Spekul doors and try to sit on the highly situated cornice. When Renaud arrived we packed all the stuff into Hans' car and we were ready to leave Leuven.

While it was my first time to visit Sainte Anne, most of them had already been there, so they knew pretty well the locaction of the cave, and our way in. Sainte Anne was considered as an easy cave with no rigging, but with some nice formation, fossils, river inside etc.
We reached our desination when it was still bright. Soon I realized that the cave is situated just next to the busy road, but we already got used to that, so it was not a problem. We dressed up very fast, I couldn't exactly follow. We sent a message with the information about our activity, and we started climbing some hill in order to get into the entrance. Next to it there were some big rocks meant for climbing sport. According to the origin of the cave it was my first grotte in my caving career, I tried many 'trou caves' , where the entrance looks like a sinkhole and the water comes inside, but this time entrance did not look like that, St Anne was a grotto with the big open arch rock entrance.

I cannot recall the UBS gate, or any specific details about the cave. Don't know way, maybe after two months break I lost my ability to create representation about each cave in my head, but also I was quite anxious to enter the cave after so long period. Anyway what I remember is that the cave was pretty wide, not so complicated, sometimes some boulders, sometimes limestones, most of the time you could also choose the upper way on the rocks, or the lower one with the river, if you wanted to get wet. I remember that it was very hot that day even in the cave, so to cool down we were lying/ planking;) on the rocks for a moment. There was also a minute, where I strained my arm muscle a bit, because I was trying to be careful with me knee:D but I received a professional help from strong hands of Arun followed by softer Hans.

I don't remember where we stopped in the cave considering it as the end of the cave...but I know that we went back the same way. In one place guys decided to try some oppose between the rocks which would lead them to pool with the water. I did not try that, so I landed at the top of the rocks where I could see them at the bottom next to the water. It was my first time to see such a big and deep pool in the cave. The view was great, you could also see the reflex of the rocks from above. Really pleasant impressions, but no ropes needed, so also no gear which means no sjakos, no camera and no pictures this time;)

To enjoy it even more, Bram and Hans decided to try some swimming in the pool conected with diving below some rock, where the rope was set to guide you. First try- Bram, he got into the water he dive, but then he came up and decided to leave the water as it was really cold. He felt even some pain in more sensitive parts of man's body;) Next one, bold Hans. He tried same as Bram, but no result, the rope couldn't have been found. Not feeling cold, he tried from the other side of the rock, if he could reach the rope, and yes, it was successful, he did it, he dove and appeared on the other side of rocks. But straight after he surfeced the water, he said his leg got stuck somewhere between the rocks, the moment which most of people know only from the movies or stories. I got really nervous sitting there above, but it was just a short while after which he released himself.

There was also one place on our way back, where you could swim too, so Renuad and Hans did it ( you can see how it looked like here: http://vimeo.com/9385781, posted by Dennis Verbruggen on Vimeo), then actual run to the exit begun. I was staying with Bram, I was quite careful and slow, I haven't even noticed when others outrun us. We all made it safe and sound to the exit. So high five for us!!! We were happy to wear some dry clothes after all and to celebrated the evening with some beers and chips, thanks to Arun. The time to drive home came. Bram as usually was sleeping in the car, Arun for the first time also tried. About 2am we reached Leuven, said goodbye and went in our own's way. Hand and Renaud still had to drive more to reach their places. Next day we exchanged some few emails to check if everyone is fine with no injuries or allergies after bath in the river which collects all (polluted) water from the "Chawresse-valley", according to Avalon website. Thanks Guys for a great time!

And I have to say it's really good feeling to be back in harness!


Herbeumont (13.05) and Abime de Bemount (14.05) - my ideal weekend

Hans came up with idea: let's have something more than caving, so an adventurous walk in Herbeumont was planned on one day, then the night at Bram's parents' second house, and caving on the other day. The debate about which cave to explore was open. All of us had some suggestions, and when the consensus was made (Trou Ozer), a problem arose: the cave we chose was apparently quite tricky for our limited experience. So much for that idea. Many a new idea were put forward, perhaps even too many, but finally it was decided: Abîme de Beaumont. Renaud checked the rigging requirements so that all equipment could be collected: a lot of ropes, carabiners etc. One of the rope was so long (50m?) that boys had to try twice before successfully packing it in the kitsack!

Renaud couldn't make it for the walk on Friday and even Arun was still uncertain due to project work, but we decided to meet on Friday, May the 13th at 11am at Bram’s place. Arun turned up, which was good news. We packed the car with our things, consisting largely of alcohol drinks, and headed off. We arrived at Herbeumont before 2pm, quickly packed our packs and were ready to leave. Hans prepared the route using his survey map (1cm=250m), and also gave a lesson about small spider-like animals that live in the forest, named ticks, and which have a love affair with skin, especially with the most tucked away parts of the body. After attaching themselves they suck the blood from their hosts and can transmit harmful disease. Now we could really began our adventures walk!

First some climbing in a really brisk tempo, then some parts of going down to cross the viaduct where we saw the local river Semois. A good spot for a bungee, but we didn't have any elastic and the viaduct was fenced off. Bram tried to crawl beneath the fence. Arun tried to climb it from above. We stopped few times to take some pictures at viewpoints. To make it more adventurous Hans guided us steeply downhill to and through an old railway tunnel of about 1100m in length.

The next adventure was crossing the Semois. We saw many tadpoles and dragonflies at the river and took pictures before crossing the river in case we lost our cameras on the way. We took off our shoes and rolled up our trousers, dipping our feet into the water. Surprisingly it wasn’t so cold. The current of the water was readily detectable. Many stones/boulders covered with some seaweeds were making more fun to cross the stream. We all made it safe to the other side.

We stuck to the embankment which was tricky clambering in some sections and then turned to climb straight up the hill at a certain point. It was steep and a pretty demanding climb. I was about to die at the top, even my cheeks were pulsating from the heart in my throat but of course for Hans and Bram’s fitness condition that was nothing. After almost no recuperation they wanted to do some jogging. Why not, yep, we tried! Arriving at the last viewpoint, Hans explained geocaching to us, and after a few moments Bram found a geocache container filled with things like toys and trinkets as well as a small notebook where we logged our discovery.

Back at the car we set off for Nadrin, Bram's second residence. The place was amazing: 2 floors, one ceiling, almost no walls at all, a lot of beautiful home made decoration. Bram started a fire in the fireplace, we opened champagne brought by Arun, and started preparing our typically Belgian supper: mashed potatoes, sausages and apple mousse. Arun, as a vegetarian, got some a falafel.

Our next adventure: tick inspection. We even checked each other with the help of some spare eyes, small mirror. The victims: Bram, Ewa and Hans. With the help of some tweezers and the fireplace to eradicate the bastards we got rid of most of them. The remainder were killed by the heat of sauna which we took afterwards. That’s the way life should look likeJ. It was Arun's first sauna. Bram and Hans had tried it few times, but probably not so often as me, so it was my turn to show my macho nature there. We took our time in sauna, then drank some few beers sitting at the table enjoying funny, sometimes weird conversation. After 2am we went to bed.

After a short night and a wholesome breakfast, we cleaned up the house left to meet Renaud at the ‘Bim bam boom’ cave. We met at the car park and by 11am we were ready to enter the cave. Renaud had visited this cave some time earlier so he knew where to find the entrance. Bram did the rigging, followed by Hans, then Arun, me and caring Renaud. First thing to be achieved: a narrow 3 m pit, to be fully secured. Using the rope to descend, I learned a new technique: that you can descend using your rem/break since it was tight enough to do opposée. Then some squeezing parts reminding letter ‘S’ including actual entrance to the cave where we need to use UBS key. Another narrow pit of few meters to descend. Next move, the dippiest pit of 35m made with some deviation and fractions to pass. I got thorough explanation how to do it in case I still haven’t learn it;). The sound of taut rope going through the musceton was brining a lot of scenario. After that no more tightness.

We found ourselves in a big room with some great in size and quality rocks and calcite formations. And then came the moment to put on a brave face, moment to climb slipper rocks 8m above without a rope, in order to rig the rope. We had a one freelancer, crazy Hans as a volunteer. He climbed ‘the horse’ with some shaking-tiring moments, then he had some rope-work to do including using a lasso to make a natural hook, making a knot to connect not enough of rope to descend. Placing the rope at this moment was rather difficult. It took appropriate amount of time.

When all of us climbed over the horse back we found each other in the second big room, we moved to the third one, some low rocks to climb and crawling. I was the last one, Bram was in front of me, I was glad all ropes part had finished, now the easy part, stepping on the rock, pulling my body up and one bad movement and my knee was screwed. I was screw too. I was screaming a little bit from the extreme pain I felt in my knee. I couldn’t move it or bend it, it felt like something inside my leg turned into the wrong position. Boys came to rescue me, but they could understand what happened and why I cannot move to make enough space for them to reach me. After a while I felt that my knee came back to the right position. They came to me asking very seriously what happened, if I am ok, or should they call emergency. They asked me to be honest with them. They also told me that if I am able to do it we’re turning back trying to leave the cave. I was really angry, I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to finished the cave. I didn’t want to disappointed them. But I realized quickly that it s was out of the question. Tears flowed around my face.

We started going back, first Renaud responsible to take care of me, than me, Arun, and Bram with Hans who were supposed to tidy up all the caving issues. I felt their glances on my knee. The way back was tiring, I was really afraid to use my left knee. During the last narrow part of the cave I was pulled by Renaud. Arun as one of the biggest boys in our caving team met some difficulties to pass narrow passages, but kind Bram let him to use his shoulder-face as a step.

After 5pm boys came out . They looked quite exhausted and sweaty :D. We changed our clothes very fast and we discussed the possibility to go for the beer/ dinner as was planned before. Renaud knew some nice place in the neighborhood were you can try hardly accessible beers so we went for that. The place was really nice. Each of us ordered a beer and the dish. Clumsy Ewa lost part of her cutlery brought by the waiter at the beginning, there were some gossips that it’s not my best day today and then great Arun was trying to support me so he did the same, throw his cutlery on the floor. Beers and meals were delicious. We had plenty of funny conversations, many moment to laugh, oh I really enjoyed this part of our adventurous day! But as old anonymous quote says: “Everything good ends fast”. At this moment we said goodbye to Renaud and 4 of us left to Leuven enjoying nice sunset with some pink and purple tones. I reached my room about 10pm thanks to Arun who brough me and my busted knee back.

Many thanks for care, Boys<3, I am sure I will get better very soon, so let’s start planning our next cave, right? Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?


maandag 11 juli 2011

Zoektocht, deel 1

Hoera! Jassmin en ik zijn getrouwd! En na vandaag zou het grootste deel opgekuist moeten zijn, dus eindelijk wat rust!
Alhoewel... de Spekulozen vonden er niet beter op dan van een blokjes-spel in elkaar te steken. Vind alle blokjes, 1 na 1. Op ieder blokje staat onder andere een vraag waarmee je dan, mits een goed antwoord, op een website komt die dan de tip geeft om het volgende blokje te vinden. In ons bed, in een tas op de kast en nu recent in de buxus-haag hebben we al wat gevonden. Maar voor het volgende blokje moeten we richting Wallonië, ergens vlakbij de baan die we altijd nemen om naar de E411 te rijden. Mss vandaag nog. Mss morgen. We zien wel, eerst nog verder opruimen hier ;-)
En wanneer al die blokjes gevonden zijn, zouden we hopelijk de code moeten weten om een brandkast te openen... de zoektocht naar een schat als het ware!

We houden jullie op de hoogte...

Beauty & De Roest

P.S. Een foto, gemaakt door Sam!

donderdag 7 juli 2011

Senzeille 2011

Last weekend of June (28-29.06.11) another big fest for all cavers/spelunkers took place in Carrière de Beau-Château - Senzeille.

For those who are not familiar with the activity ‘Senzeille’ I can tell that it is a great opportunity to train your rope techniques on big highness. Ropes are hanged next to the wall about 30m high in the highest point, (this is also the beginning of the parcour). And then you follow the ropes, one way (in one direction).You can also join the parcour from few others points. Anyway you will be confronted with many traverse’s, paraploue’s, fractions, deviations, there is also a ladder to try, tyrolean, swing to get a rope moments, descending into the boat and many many more. In total when you sum up the ropes from the parcour it is about 1km in length, enough to practice;-). For less experienced there is also less demanding parcour where you can practice and try to learn new things without being feared of the high.

But Senzeille it is not only about rope training. It is also a great opportunity to meet and talk with other people which sharing the same passion, enjoy the local beer from last steam brewery in Europe. You could immediately noticed its international atmosphere: some French speaking clubs, many scouts, even some women from Holland which came here on purpose. But as it was easy to predict after previous years (as I was told) SPEKUL dominate also this year. We did not disappointed the local club which organized everything. I am not sure if we dominated during the speleo parcour but obviously as one big crazy family! It was given for me to be there also and participate.

Senzeille 2011 was in some way special this year, because it was combined with bachelor party of the two members of Spekul, DDR and Jasmine, the most beautiful and extremely in love with each other and adventure desire couple I saw. So the first whole day, Saturday June 28th was dedicated for them, which of course they didn’t know and didn’t not expected at all. So we met at Spekul at 1pm to discuss some final details and we were read to make our way towards Senzeille. First we got to the beautiful area of lakes, where you could try some windsurfing, water skiing and jet skiing. Our future couple and other few volunteers (Sam, Philip and Wim) decided to try some jet skiing. And the rest (too many to mention everybody :P) were sitting and watching, taking photos, support courageous ones, even also trying to be persuaded to have some swim, yes Caroline:P?. The ones that tried some jet skiing looked like they had a lot of fun and that it was really worth to try.

After that we routed to the forest to have a ‘game walk’. Fortunately it was not raining so we could enjoy our walk with all the funny tasks for the future married couple and their friends. DDR and Jasmine for example had to guess their favorite love position (also show it), the thing they most love about each other, or who they would like to have sex with within Spekulozers. As you can imagine such games always bring lots of smiles, jokes and flushes and this time it worked also. We enjoyed our walk very much.

Afterwards we headed to the Senzeille parcour place where we set our tents, registered in a big tent for the activity and instead of going to practice as we could see others did, we were ready to start the party: big barbecue, with plenty of good food and alcohol. Talking, eating, drinking, time goes by pretty fast. It got already dark, we had also a sweet delicious surprised prepared by Anja and Raf, fresh fried pancakes with ice-cream. It got late also late so some people started leaving in order to sleep and be fresh for tomorrow, some stayed longer almost until dawn. I will never forget the feeling of sitting in front of one table, listening to the conversation in 3 different languages: netherlands, french and english. I was trying to follow all of them with better or worse result.

Some of us woke up early, others at more tolerable time. We had our breakfast and we were ready to do some effort. This time my guardians were Jozefin and Bjorn, the most calm and patient people this world has ever seen. As I could experience at the very beginning Senzielle is not only about making physical effort;) But thanks to Bjorn and Jozefien I did it, the most scary thing, I went over the edge, but believe me I was more sure that I am not going to try that I that I will cause having this beautiful panorama in front of you doesn’t really help you. But thank God, oh sorry, he is not there I managed to overwhelm my shaking enormous at this moment fear.

I was always in good hands, in front I had Jozefien and behind Bjorn. They were always keen to give me some advice or explanation how to deal with some possible difficulty, even if I was asking the same thing for the third time;P. Later also we saw following us Jochem and Caroline. Part of other Spekulozen were also practicing but on different parts of the ‘big wall’.

I have to say that it is pretty tiring being all the time in harness hanging on the rope, especially if you have to wait because of somebody in front of you:D than it becomes really exhausting, even painful, right Bjorn etc. For the first time I also saw the way how to rest and relax hanging, you have to lie down your body into horizontal position on the rope to let the blood flow on all levels. There was also a moment where you had to swing to be able to reach next rope, Jozefine and I put some effort to do this but smart Bjorn used the advantage of being long, like a spiderman he moved his body using some grips in the wall to get the rope. After some time following the parcour I got tired and decided to leave with trust to Bjorn helpful instructions, others continue. About in the middle of parcour there was this boat to descend with crossing the water. As I could notice it took some time for most of the people, Bjorn had to wait about 3 hours there, so I was kind of happy that I left, because it was difficult to get some help at this point, and I might have need it.

While some of us were still on ropes trying the boat, others got heated by sun and decided to decrease the temperature of their body in the pond. Some boats try-out finished being wet because of difficulties with balancing body, others wanted to refresh themselves or avoid being pushed into the water by circumnavigating spekul sharks who were very eager to help.

Although the water wasn’t very clean and clear two of us, Jasmine and DDR tried their diving skills with the equipment and instructors provided. That was the last part of their bachelor party organized by Spekul in Senzeille.

Back to the hanged individuals some cavers did the whole parcour within few hours, some just tried part of it, and others nothing at all, but still everybody was extremely happy and tired. And also the weather apart from not promising forecast spoiled us a lot in fact. About 3pm most of us started leaving…That’s how I remembered my first Senzeille, sure there are not much details in the description otherwise I need to write whole book about what happened there, how much fun I had, and about all those wonderful people I met and I had with me.

Senzeille is another solid piece of evidence why I love caving almost from the first sight. It’s just all those people, no matter what, they will make you feel like you’re a part of this big family with passion of discovering, challenging and exploring caves, body and mind.