Depth through thought

OUCC News 14th October 1992

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Welcome Freshers!

Well, that's the bollocks over with, now the toadying. First, lots of thank-you's: to Katya & David for spending Monday night creating, labelling and dispatching 150 flyers for the novice meeting; to all those who staffed the stall; to Sherry for organising the St. Hugh's Venue, and St. Hugh's for letting her, specially the bar-staff (quick grovel); Sherry & Tony for organising the show; and everyone who's about to lend out their gear to novices... And don't lets forget those·first enthusiastic, then bored, then totally spaced out "compulsive leaders" who make the next few frenetic weeks almost workable: even if they aren't officially official Novice Officer.

Jim is organising a bring your prints session on the 21st October. Any caving snaps welcome, and we'll be putting them on boards or passing them round. Remember Reverend Bown and his subterranean confessional box, or Vicemistress Vernon of Sidcot? Its all in pics. 

Letter to the editor

Dear Editor, I understand that you are merely a compiler. Dear Compiler, I am seriously worried by the fact that we are having to dress ourselves in large teddy-bear outfits. In fact since being repaired some of these have the appearance of panda pelts. Others look like cow pelts. Given the number of "green-minded" people and biologists in the club I would like to make the point that this is perhaps not ideal.  It may also lead to anarchistic bestiality. There is a problem with this: we are past masters at anarchy, but can we rank amongst the masters of bestiality? It may have a great bearing on the number of novices we keep, let alone these high brow discussions on "Eastwater or not": after all, why not Eastwater when Swildon's is York's-like anyway? This club should stop whinging and get on moaning properly about things like the jesus army. In fact we should put potatoes up their exhaust pipes and pop their valves. We should not talk about improper knees that lack balance. We could show some proper irreverence: take 'em down Langcliffe I say; give 'em 8 hours of hanging around in a cave which keeps its reputation safely in Poland. And on a final note, there should be more orange juice drinking to expurge things from the circus. I am yours Sir, the Weakly Nutter.


Rope Washing

Rope washing will be on Saturday 17/10/92. Meet at the bathing place in Wolvercote at 11.00am. (David, Steve, Michelle know where). If the weather's doubtful ring David on Saturday am (241078) to check if it is still on. Everyone on Expedition is expected to attend If you did not come, but like safe rope, you should come as well. Absentees will be frowned upon.

Kit for novices

If you have any caving kit (furry suit, oversuit, wetsuit, helmets &c) that you will not be using this weekend then please leave it in the hut so that it can be dished out to novices. Remember to mark it clearly, because Michelle is going to remove all the unmarked stuff and put it in her garage. A big thank you to Joan, Sherry and David for giving up their spare time this week to make sure that all the club spare kit is functional.

Reconnaissance is Seldom Wasted.

1) There is a bridge up in Bath. Now I know that this is not new, but what is new is the size of the traffic jams it has caused. You would be very foolish to try to drive through the centre of Bath of a Saturday morning. There are sensible routes around the outside of Bath, talk to Dave B if you don't know them.

2) The Pizza Kitchen on the London Road has closed. There is thus nowhere nice in that area for any food. However, there is a second Pizza Kitchen in Bath. On your way in to Bath from Priddy you drive parallel to the railway for about a mile before coming to a big roundabout bisected by the railway bridge near the railway station. Rather than taking the usual turning out of here, take the one after it, up the hill along Wells Road. At the top of the hill the road turns to the right and widens considerably, this is Wellsway. The Pizza Kitchen (1 Wellsway) is on the left hand side of the road, down the first turning on the left. It has the same range of pizzas and is licensed.

3) Most of you know that the entrance to Swildon's has collapsed slightly and that it is now possible to bypass the 8ft climb. For those who don't: to avoid the 8ft climb head to the right and climb down among the boulders as if aiming for the Z-bends. With the entrance to the Z bends on your left, the way through is on your right, along a tube between the boulders, liberally sprayed by the stream from above. The reverse route is blindingly obvious, but stability not guaranteed.

From the van monitor:

Remember that the van is only insured for drivers who are aged over 21 and have held a full UK driving licence for over a year. Thus, although it is kind of you to offer to help, if you don't satisfy both criteria you should not drive the van.

Reminiscing about Swildon's

It was October, eight years ago. A crowded lounge, the air thick enough to slice with a knife, a coke and a piping hot cottage pie and not an inch of space to put them down and start eating. Location: You've guessed it, the Hunter's. Couple hours later fresher Gerhard awkwardly peels himself out of the tatty borrowed wetsuit when someone tells him he's put it on inside out. Well you aren't born a caver are you. Down the dodgy barn staircase, across Priddy Green, past the church, fee paid, across the meadow. Curiosity's rising to a peak. We're Wave Three (of four), Ukey and three novices, so there's a further delay as we let Waves One and Two pass in before us, and another as we watch three dozen rubbery shapes emerge from the tiny blockhouse.

Three o'clock, and in we go at last. As I sit on the pentagonal steel frame and a genuine stream pours into my wellies (the first and so far the only piece of equipment I've bought), I'm beginning to ask myself what I've let myself into. Oh well, then I do let myself into the cave. A few yards down, at the first opportunity, I slip down a short climb and do a spread-eagle. We reach the Well, and I spend ten minutes at roof level letting another dozen people on their way out pass below me. "Gerhard? Are you still there?" Yes I am, OK I'm following now. The 20 is called the 20 'cos it takes 20 minutes queuing at the ladder, each way (ah, those were the days - ed). We clamber and splash down the streamway, climb up into Tratman's Temple and listen to the distant noise and the eternal dripping, go for a short crawly excursion into the high levels, but soon turn back down, following the water. Ukey's ammo can keeps banging against the walls. What's in it? Top Secret. Sump One. Ukey passes through; I follow, lungs bursting, as I've swum to the far side of the pool under water. Diving back, I do it again. Then Ukey starts unwrapping the contents of the miraculous box. "This is my one hundredth caving trip, you see, and out comes a piccolo bottle of Henkell Trocken. Sadly, this very moment Wave Four has caught us up, wide-eyed and (they say) dry-throated.

The 20 again, 20 minutes spent shivering, and one former OUCC secretary who shall remain nameless tries to tie a bowline round my waist which promptly falls apart. Re-knotted, I reach the top safely. From Water Chamber, we leave the stream and go up the Dry Ways, eventually to find the rather obscure link back to just below the entrance after a lot of poking around. Of the evening I remember little except that the fall which started my caving career had not remained without consequences: as soon as we were warming up in the Vicky Arms, my left middle finger was swelling to three times its usual size.

March 1985: My brother Markus has come over from Germany for a visit, I've organised a wetsuit for him, and We Go Caving. It's my number 8 trip now (7 having been Oxford's first visit to the Daren Cilau extensions, the day after the Time Machine was discovered. I remember the strange atmosphere at White Walls of tired, relaxed joy and fun-making of us visitors, not telling us anything of course, but this is another story. It is also Ukey's eleventy-first trip, and I've packed a bottle of real champagne. And it is Sunday. Not as crowded, though, and we don't have a dozen novices, just a couple. Water levels are low. Five minutes in, and my light dies. "Bother Battery", already a standard quotation attached to me. Tackle master had said he'd charged and checked all the lamps. Everything goes smoothly: five and a half hours caving carrying the dead weight of a dead light. We'd split up into waves again, I think Graham and Sean Hodges went on the Long Roundtrip; we just dived Sump 1 and carried on to Sump 2. Oh yes, Markus got his foot entangled in the guideline on the inward dive, and had to retreat and start again; we had already seen his light. And on the way out, slightly alcoholised and going by what I see by others' lights, I dutifully stumble up the Dry Ways again, this time by mistake.

My third (and so far, last) trip into Swildon's was 3 months later. We went on a Monday. It was a different world. Priddy was empty. We had set off so early that we'd passed the Hunter's long before opening. By noon we were underground, singing against the noise of the sporting stream; I didn't fall down the first climb (but fell off the Well on the way out); we installed a super multi-fail-safe Mark V lifelining rig on the 20 which we all passed within 20 minutes each way, and made it to Sump 2 and back out (including a short stay in T's Temple with the lights turned out) in three and a half hours, without hurrying. Its certainly different on a Monday.

Book Review...

Who was Aveline anyway?
Mendip Publishing have just produced a neat little book on the origins of cave names of Mendip, and its good fun. Whilst some cave names are boring and obvious (Sump 1, Sump 2...), in general the names of passages, chokes and chambers add considerable fascination. Richard Witcombe's book is a nicely produced list of Mendip names and, judging from the entries I know the history of personally, its extraordinarily accurate. "Ant-lion, Dallimore's Cave. A hole in the floor of the Oxford Extensions, dropping into sizeable passage below and likened to the pit trap of the predatory insect, the ant-lion." Yes, that's it! But did you know that Swildon's has an "Oxford Chamber"? Because it is just an alphabetical list it makes no attempt to explain or explore the themes running through the series of names that mark the progress of an exploration period (Soho, Strand, Regents' Street, Blackwall Tunnel). Nevertheless, I look forward to the one on Wales.