Incident Report

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Incident Report 2020-05-01T16:26:00+00:00

Marking Line Junctions and Changing Conditions

Incident Date


Incident Description

Not really an incident but worth reporting. It took place on a quick trip into Ilam Main Risings several years ago to check out conditions. Viz was good (5m) but there was very little flow which is unusual for this site. I took the right-hand line through a bedding plane which is quite confined with jagged sides and then where the main line carried on horizontally I came across what I thought was a long belay down to a hole in the floor then continued along through a squeeze before going left into a rift. After a suitable distance I decided Id seen enough of this route and turned to go back to the main passageway. All this time the viz had remained at a steady 5m or more. Turning around I was confronted by maybe 6 inches at max. The fine sediment the restricted nature of the cave and the minimal flow meant that the silt Id stirred up was just sitting there. My immediate feeling was one of surprise and as I felt my way back along the line I could feel a rising sense of unease. I got to a point where my helmet bumped into the ceiling repeatedly and for a moment I wondered whether the line had snaked into a trap. I moved leftwards and squeezed through. I continued and then felt what appeared to be a junction with one line heading downwards. This concerned me as I hadnt noticed this on the way in and wasnt too sure whether it was the long belay Id spotted or something else which I hadnt. The feeling of unease was again growing in me and it took quite a bit to push it back down I could see if unchecked it could turn into panic. I carry on horizontally and eventually emerge back into known territory with clearer viz where I recognised the Grim Reaper sign imported from Florida. I still had plenty of air and took an uneventful look down the main drag before taking a leisurely exit into the sunshine and the tourists.

Lessons Learned

1. The long belay Id spotted on the way in had actually been a side-junction which goes down a tight rift in the floor into a lower bedding plane. Id been confused by this on the way in and thinking it was a belay didnt place a peg marker. If Id not thought about it clearly on the way out I could have ended up trying to go down the rift (It was very tight so I probably wouldnt have succeeded but that would have added to the stress). I should have looked carefully and double-checked on my way in to see whether it was a belay or junction. As I was in doubt it would have been best to place a line marker. 2. Stress doesn\'t just occur when things go wrong it also occurs when things dont happen as you expect them to. The no-viz on the return was a total surprise to me and I had to work hard to keep that sense of worry down especially when I encountered the squeeze and thought I was in a line trap. It also came as a surprise to me that a feeling of unease could potentially and easily grow into something unmanageable if you dont force yourself to stay calm.
Line Management Major
Gas Management Unknown
Equipment Management Unknown
Equipment Failure Unknown
Training Minor
Medical Unknown
Planning Unknown
Procedural Error Major
Cave Environment Major
Weather Unknown
Other Factor Unknown