Caving for Mountain Podcast Ep.6

Recording 'Mountain Podcast' Ep.6Christopher Sleight recording audio for Episode 6 of Mountain Podcast. This episode features me guiding Chris down Cnoc nan Uamh, one of Scotland’s classic caving trips.

A few months ago I got an email from Christopher Sleight asking if I’d be interested in helping him record a Scottish caving episode of Mountain PodcastI said yes without hesitation. The podcast is a brilliant series of stories and insights into adventure, and I’ve been so impressed with every episode I’ve listened to.

You can listen to the full episode here.

Chris had never been caving before, but he is an experienced climber and hillwalker who has a huge wealth of knowledge when it comes to the outdoors. Knowing this, I wanted to try taking him on a slightly more challenging caving trip than I might usually consider taking a complete beginner on. With the weather playing a crucial role in deciding which cave would be suitable, we made a final decision just a few days before the trip and decided to head up to Assynt.

Cnoc nan Uamh is a varied trip involving crawling, a bit of climbing, some optional easy squeezes, a wet streamway and some nice big chambers. Like most caves it is a fairly difficult environment in which to use equipment like microphones, recording units or cameras, so I was intrigued to see how Chris was going to go about recording our trip. It was impressive to see him handling his first ever caving crawls whilst holding out a microphone in front of him.

Recording in ‘Landslide Chamber’, the second largest cave chamber yet discovered in Scotland.

I had no doubt that Chris would handle the climbing in the cave without any problems, but how well would he handle the tight sections? Squeezes or crawls are commonly the greatest cause of fear amongst novice cavers and it can be hard to judge how somebody will react to the more confined areas of a cave. However it was no surprise that Chris tackled every obstacle with enthusiasm and rapidly learnt how to move efficiently through the cave.

Recording 'Mountain Podcast' Ep.6Chris coming through one of the tighter sections.

I took the microphone at the tightest section and recorded Chris coming through, and then we spent a while admiring the cave formations in The Grotto before climbing down into the streamway for the wetter section of the cave. We spent a while recording the thundering sounds of the stream before putting the equipment away for the crux of the trip. This comprises of two awkward climbs up past waterfalls, the second of which tops-out into a crawl through a small hole. It’s a great piece of caving and it was good to see Chris enjoying it, but I think he was a little relieved to enter the much more spacious passage that came afterwards.

Recording 'Mountain Podcast' Ep.6Recording the sounds of the streamway. Just to the left of Chris is the narrow hole which he’d climbed up through.

Recording 'Mountain Podcast' Ep.6Calcite formations

We spent about an hour talking and recording in Landslide Chamber – the second largest chamber yet discovered in Scotland. It is quieter here away from the drama of the streamway and it is an impressive place, so it was a good spot to pause for some food and to digest our surroundings more completely. Chris spent a while reviewing his audio whilst I took photos and enjoyed the novelty of having company whilst down a cave.

The return trip is slightly harder due to the awkward down-climbs, so the recording equipment got put away until we got back to the surface. Chris was a pleasure to go caving with and he made me feel totally at ease whilst I was being recorded speaking for lengthy periods. It was fascinating to learn about the process of radio production, and I know I will spend more time just listening the next time I’m on a caving trip.

You can listen to the full episode HERE . Please help spread the word about Mountain Podcast, it is a brilliant production. And if Chris gets in touch with you about recording an episode, do it – you’ll have a lot of fun.

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