Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th February 1992

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In the interests of economy and trees, I'm trying out just printing a few copies of the Newsletter this week. So, please share and pass around. If you think its a bad idea, let me know.

Two week's time is the AGM, so please keep your diaries free and remember it's at 8.00. Please help keep the club's heady roll towards democracy going by turning up and taking part, and by encouraging others (even yourself) to think about standing for the club posts. Keen newcomers especially might like to think about helping to run the club next year. If you are unsure about what a post demands, ask an old lag. There's enough of us about...

Our first Gear Review appears in this newsletter. Now that it's hotting up to expedition spending spree time, lets have more peoples' views on what's worth buying and what isn't. Anyone who has "tested" anything, just drop me a note about it. What's the new Warmbac oversuit like, for example?

Sadly, Gavin had his car smashed into in the Daren carpark last weekend, and they didn't just steal his underwear. Judging by the glass there its not uncommon.


The annual general meeting will be held on Wednesday 19th Feb, i.e. 5th week. Any motions for the agenda, and nominations for the posts of the various club officers (also with proposer and seconder) should reach Sean by Wednesday 12th. Don't forget that the meeting will start at 8:00.

If anyone has any suggestions for the annual dinner (end of 7th week) they should also let Sean know.

Tim will be showing some slides of OUCC exploits in Britain next Wednesday, 4th week 9pm: Darren, Brown Hill, Dallimore's...

What we did on our Christmas holidays...

Yorks: a first-timer's view

What better way to get rid of those extra pounds put on over Christmas than to spend a week grovelling around some deep, dark potholes in Yorkshire? Apparently none, for numerous OUCC members, both old and new, tore themselves away from the repeats on TV to converge on the YSS and spend their New Year braving the elements on [missing line...]

Getting there proved to be quite a challenge for some, however. Richard thought he was unlucky when he had to spend 2 hours waiting on a windy motorway bridge, but for poor old Mehmet the van was a whole day late. Imagine his surprise upon having driven all the way from London on Boxing Day to find himself the only person waiting at the hut. Someone did tell the novices in 8th week though that the van would be leaving on the 26th...

Once in Yorkshire, however, and once new brake blocks had been bought for the van, matters improved. Sell Gill was a nice introduction to SRT in the wild and proved that it's slightly more difficult to get round a rebelay in a cave than in New College School gym. At least Steve thought if was. Ireby Fell the next day was wet but impressive. It was foreshortened however when we found that someone had left one of the ropes at the top of the last pitch, meaning that we couldn't make it to the end of the cave. Upon emerging, we spent a frantic ten minutes trying to find the path in near-zero visibility before beginning the long trudge back to the minibus.

Still feeling energetic, on the third day we decided to do a pull through trip down Simpson's, despite Dave Horsley's reluctance. When we got to the cave entrance though and found that neither Dave nor Chris had read the guide book, we started wondering! It was a great trip nonetheless, with loads of abseiling, and only one person managed to get really stuck at the top of Slit Pot.

By New Year's Eve, those of us left felt like something a bit less demanding, so William, Steve and Sam visited Red Moss, despite the temptation to spend the day sitting in a pub rather than change in driving rain. An easy cave, but when the water in the streamway reached our necks, we decided to turn back. In what is no doubt time-honoured OUCC fashion, we saw in the New Year down the pub, where we happened to meet the Cambridge club. Only David and Sam remained behind at the YSS - David "amused himself quietly" while we'll leave it up to Sam to explain what he was doing in the ladies' shower...

New Year's Day unfortunately had to be our last and after rising slightly later than usual, a few die-hards actually went caving, leaving the rest of us to sit around in cafes and tidy up.

Overall, we all had a great time and this trip can be thoroughly recommended for future years.
Steve and Richard

A Rant by Tony Seddon

Mendip Ropework Guide by Andy Sparrow

Those who have seen this book and thought "so Andy Sparrow's teaching people how to red-bolt the Twenty eh? Always thought the guy was a ....." are quite mistaken. This is indeed an SRT guide, but this is not it's sole objective. It might be least prejudicial to approach this aspect of the book contextually.

The work divides neatly into three parts. The middle section, which is simultaneously useful and very boring to discuss, is a basic rigging guide to most Mendip caves. The list is not comprehensive: Dallimore's will not be found but the entrance rift of Pierre's Pot is. This reminds us that the book is directed towards a broad market, the people one meets down Goatchurch who carry bicycle lamps, as well as string wing-dingers, sorry, Daring Single Rope Technicians.

The first part is concerned with practical aspects of ropework on small pitches such as are found in the Mendips. The emphasis is on ladder and line, with some discussion of self- and double-lining, as well as "normal" life-lining down and up. SRT itself is outside the scope of this book, although rigging practice is not, insofar as the same rules apply to the set up of both single-rope and good self-lining rigs. In conjunction with Martinez' and Meredith's Vertical Caving, Sparrow's book provides a comprehensive guide to the basic processes of passing a cave's steep bits. Someone wanting to pick up standard vertical techniques would probably benefit more from getting hold of these two books than from rushing out to buy Dave Elliot's Single Rope Techniques. The breadth of topics discussed is conservative, nothing diverting or esoteric here, but the treatment is liberal, with the only rules constantly observed being those of safety. Unlike Elliot, the authors of these books do not treat their readers as ignorami who will only hurt themselves if given a single opportunity to think, and act upon this thought.

Finally, we come to the section describing SRT routes in Mendip caves. This is not really the time to seriously consider the ethical issues involved in the rebolting of several pitches by Andy Sparrow while the book was in preparation; anyway, it's good argument material. Let it suffice to say that the topos and descriptions are pretty clear, and talking to a party who spent six hours rigging down Mangle Hole suggested that some people will find this section useful. Anyone who's done Thrupe Lane's Space Walk will agree that SRT on Mendip can be a rewarding experience: it's no more contrived than any other route down a system, the damage is minimal, yet the average caver gains a new perspective on a well-known cave.

Anyone who disagrees - write to Tim about it!
Tony Seddon

Gear Review

Bat Products Tackle Bag

A few weeks ago I bought a bombproof tackle bag from Bat Products. It looks like a giant rubberised codpiece, but is more useful for caving. The material is a semi-rigid smooth rubber which claims to be very tough. So far it has been down Dallimore's, Daren, and Thrupe, and remains unscathed despite being used to haul rubble, and to carry BDH containers and drills. This version (14l.) has only one carrying strap, which can be awkward, but this is easily modified. The small capacity makes it unsuitable for Spanish caving trips, but for most of the stuff in this country it's fine, for teams of roughly even capability. Furthermore, aesthetically it's unrivalled by any other tacklebag; even cavers must have some beauty in their lives, and we can't all be Paul and simply look in the mirror.
Tony Seddon

Exploring here..,

Daren : Digging in Frosty passage continued last week end, with Gavin and Tony drilling their way through the boulders that had previously blocked progress.

Small Ads

Car for sale: One speleomobile, ideal for economical transport of cavers and equipment. Forget those Grade 5 changes on Leck Fell in winter - this vehicle has the special feature of tough, wipe-clean PVC seating, allowing muddy cavers to travel in comfort from cave entrances to caving huts without having to get changed first! Offers are invited for this superbly reliable 18 year old Hillman Avenger Estate, tax and MOT included.
Chris Densham

Lost Belt: Simon left a leather trouser belt at SRT training sometime last term. Did anyone find it? He'd like it back before his trousers fall off.

Furry Swap: Tim lent his furry for the novice trip two weeks ago, and someone else's got returned instead. I wouldn't mind, except mine's in better nick. Anyone know what happened?