By the time the expedition was halfway through we had reached the top of Orgasm Chasm and pushing trips were taking about eighteen hours. After half a dozen short pitches and some nice splashy streamway the cave was looking serious again. The swimming duck was cold and the black Chasm looked bottomless.
When the idea of underground camping was first suggested there was some opposition. Time was short, we had no experience of camping underground and no spare equipment. In the end it was left to Tim, Phil, Dave and Paddy to pack up a tent, sleeping bags, clothes, food and stoves. They established a camp in the dry phreas above the last pitch, finding a chamber with a level sandy floor and no draught.
Tim and Phil stayed at the camp after their pushing trip and reported it a great success. Now that the idea had been tested everyone was keen to use the camp and it was a great morale booster. As it turned out we could have bottomed the cave without camping but it would have been much harder.
We used a lightweight Robert Saunders tent which gave some much needed warmth in a cave air temperature of 1°C. Condensation was potentially a problem but was not serious when the tent was properly pitched. Of the two sleeping bags, one was synthetic and the other down; both performed well with an underlayer of Karrimat. There was also a variety of dry clothes which we wore around camp and while sleeping. For cooking we had an army-type hexamine cooker and a butane stove. The butane stove was sluggish in the cold and easily upset. The hexamine cooker was light and efficient and would be a good choice for any future camping; alternatively a Trangia stove has the same stability and robustness.
Food consisted of corned beef, packet soup, noodles, macaroni, Tabasco sauce, teabags, dried milk, muesli and chocolate. German black bread is a sustaining item which survives the journey underground well. We were close to the stream and found a gallon plastic water container with a tap very useful. Generally camp was very well supplied and towards the end of the expedition there was more food underground than on the surface.
A stay at the camp took about twelve hours with nine of these spent sleeping. We found it hard to sleep for long periods without waking, and judging time is difficult so a watch is a must. For a latrine we used a dry vadose trench a few yards from the camp but this turned out to be a mistake. The moral is - keep your privy well downwind of the tent. In the end we spent twelve man-nights at the camp and it was an experience none of us will forget.