So what is the essence of Adventure? Ironically for an Adventure Leader, leading Adventure Challenges can lead them into the repeating of events many times over, thus for the leader meaning that whilst their occupation seems adventurous, it can at times be far from it. However, a good adventure leader never stops moving on. There is always a new activity, or a new challenge to be sought out. To be honest, if we want to be able to empathise with our challenge participants, it is crucial that we push ourselves outside our comfort zones.
And so, last weekend, I took my next step into the unknown, and ambarked on a journey into the unknown, and into Goatchurch Cavern on the Mendip Hills. I had been for a climb outdoors, in Cheddar Gorge, but to be brutally honest, it was a nightmare! Cold hands, slippery rock, and a biting wind, combined to make a less than attractive proposition. So after a brief VDiff lead, off we popped up the Gorge, and across the tops and dipped down into Burrington Combe. Here we picked up our static rope, helmets and headtorches, and off we trudged up the hill to the uninspiringly named 'Tradesmans Entrance'! Now, I have actually caved three times properly in the Mendips, but in recent times I have taken to venturing into the beginnings of Goatchurch under my own steam (with my daughter a couple of times) ... the only thing is, that entering the normal entrance of Goatchurch, one can walk easily around 30 - 40 metres into the cavern, but then things change dramatically and one has to struggle dramatically into what looks like a tiny hole. So, we have said 'no-thanks' we'll turn round, and head home!
That was until last weekend, when we started down into the steep slithery 'Tradesmans Entrance'. Once again, as we entered the cavern, I have to admit to a certain sense of trepidation, but in hindsight, this was laced with the unmistakeable frisson of excitement of true adventure. This is the great feel of putting one's best foot forward into the unknown, without really knowing what one will find around the corner. Truly the essence of adventure is the feast for the senses that ensues when one has to push physically, to dare, and as a reward, the intrepid are treated to sights, sounds and experiences new and fresh!
Our adventure took us down, and down, through a fascinating series of squeezes, tunnels and caverns. Using our 40 metre rope we were able to give ourselves a clear trail back out of the cavern. But then of course, the rope ran out, and so we found ourselves pushing off into the real unknown.
Once off the end of the rope, we only explored very tentatively, a few minutes off in either direction, exploring small caverns, and tasting the excitement of a hidden undiscovered underground world... Best of all, we turned back whilst we were enjoying our adventure, in the knowledge that we can return again soon to explore further, we haen't completed our journey, we have only just started... great!