Heroic Thai cave rescuers perform historic feat in Cumbria



A PAIR of cavers have gone down in history as the first people to walk through Britain’s longest cave system.

The pair – part of the heroic team that rescued 13 Thai children trapped in a cave in 2018 – entered the Three Counties cave system on Saturday, September 25.

It took Jason Mallinson of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and Chris Jewel of Cheddar, Somerset 17 and a half hours to travel more than 10 km from Ingleton, Yorkshire to Top Sink in South Lakeland, Cumbria.

Russell Myers, President of the British Caving Association, said: “It’s like reaching the top of K2.

“It’s such an incredible achievement, it’s hard to express.

“You could count in simple numbers the number of people across the country with the skills to complete something like this.”

The cave system is extensive. Straddling Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire – hence the “three counties” – it contains over 90 km of tunnel and has yet to be fully explored.

A route connecting the east and west sections of the tunnels was only completed in 2011 and no one has ever done the entire route in one.

Mr Myers said: “It takes top-notch skills. The two who did it were at the top of their game. It was fraught with potential for failure.

“The equipment is very technical and could go wrong. Throughout the course, caving obstacles like narrow holes and deep pools were present.

At one point, the men had to travel 750 m underwater along a previously unexplored body of water. In total, more than 2 km of the journey took place in submerged tunnels.

“You are talking about a 3-dimensional maze,” Myers explained. “It’s not a straight line from A to B, there are ramifications and sideways. It’s so easy to get lost.

“We weren’t too worried though. Someone pointed out to me that we had half of the best cave rescuers in the country there.

“Again, it’s amazing. We really hope that an event like this can reinvigorate the caving scene in this country.

“The fascination of caving is that you can find places that no one has ever been before.”

He advises people to exercise extreme caution. Caving is dangerous and should not be attempted without the training, knowledge and experience necessary to become a competent caver.

However, those interested can contact the British Speleology Association, the Cave Diving Group of Great Britain & Northern Ireland or the Council of Northern Speleology Clubs.


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