Depth through thought

OUCC News 20th January 1993

Volume 3, number 2

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I hope the introduction of a new header ("Caving") in this week's Depth will not shock too many readers, Not that we've managed to do much recently with so much water around (well, I suppose there would be no caves without it). Bored weekends above ground may have had something to do with this week's gear review, though, so that's some consolation. No doubt it will spark correspondence. Can anyone offer a male perspective? Expedition issue femidoms?


Brown Hill New Years Day

The final day's caving at New Year, the last crack at Brown Hill for quite a while. Most of the regular team were ill, or already departed for enhanced climbs, so Steve and I mugged Andy Tharrat of the Pennine on New Year's day, while he was at a low ebb. "Sure, I'll carry for you", he said, "just speak a little less loudly please".

The Mild Bunch (not to be confused with Notts Pot Team Clusterfuck of a few days before) assembled at Bernie's at 1l o'clock or thereabouts precisely. In order of Brown Hill old laggishness, they were: Steve Roberts (seen too much, been there too many times); Tony Seddon (with a surfeit of carries); Jenny Vernon and Steve Phipps (two trips apiece, and therefore beasts of burden - designated cave fodder); and Andy Tharrat (one previous escapade down here 12 years ago). Having been down a couple of days previously on a cobble clearing expotition with Tim, we were expecting no trouble. we all arrived at the sump, apart from the tap of one of Dougherty's (kindly lent) bottles which was lost in Marmite passage. This was despite some very gentle handling, prompted by Mark's stratagem for ensuring his bottles' kind treatment, which involves blowing them to 25% more than their working pressure.

With a fond farewell, and a cold in the head, the diver was launched. A quick kick to the end of the line, and then into the brown again. At first, the same wide, comfortable and occasionally silty passage, then a sweep to the left and an enlargement, perhaps 4 metres wide, nearly 2 metres high in places. The floor cleared, displaying large, well developed scallops and being a complete pain to the diver, who was carrying snoopies and silt belays, but no lead. The line end was tied off to a redundant lump of plastic pipe after around 65 metres, with the passage still at around 5 metres depth, and still wide open.

The next diver here should bring along a harpoon to deal with the fine, de pigmented trout which lives in the sump with the washed-in survival bags and bottles. It would make a change from soup and mars bars, and its big enough to feed a carrying party. Without the necessary gear, the diver emerged with nothing more interesting than two empty reels, and the lost tank which had lodged itself nose-down in the silt a few yards in.

The exit was snappy, apart from the diver dosing at the base of the pitches. Kingsdale was being the best part of the Dales, the Marton being the best part of Kingsdale. All that remained was to find the best pint...
Tony Seddon

Roaring, 30/12/92

With several of us feeling like an easy day, after lots of strenuous caving and walking already done, Steve, Steve, Jim, Paul, Sam, Dave H. and I set off for a trip down Roaring on ladder. Due to an unfortunate mistake in timing, the Red Van team arrived to late to save Dave and Jim from the pub, but we eventually got underground. Because of the cold weather, the boulder chokes were quite dry, although not without enough water to trickle down your neck. Eventually, we came to an impressive traverse line (about 20mm rope) over a pit (which Jim told us was blind), and we traversed across to a tube. This led a pitch which we rigged with two ladders (just in case it was the long pitch). It turned out to be about 4m. This led to a narrow muddy rift, which ended in a climb. I found myself standing in 2 feet of water, with Jim close behind. The place I was standing in was barely large enough for two people, so I bent down and saw a duck, leading to the sound of a waterfall. Since Jim been here before, I assumed the duck wasn't as bad as it looked, and immersed myself. A couple of meters crawling led to a stream, where there was enough headroom to sit up, and a waterfall. We duly rigged the pitch (this did need both ladders) and Jim descended. By his light, we saw a pool at the bottom, with a ladder disappearing into the sump. We decided not to all go down and stand in the pool. Dave noticed the problem first. Although he was using a carbide light, which is difficult to use in a long duck, he had managed to go off towards the way out, only to return along the main stream.

The way out we were looking for was a small slot in the roof above a moderately large overflow pool from the stream. The air space above the water was only a few inches, and the roof was very uneven so the only way to find the way out was to get underneath it. I tried looking for it, but decided that an inch of airspace was not enough, and I was getting cold. After a brief rest, I was cold enough not to notice how cold the water was, and ventured in again. Dave, on his fourth attempt, went to the left, and I started to follow the wall to the right. On the way, I found a small chamber where any waves I made bounced back off the walls, and I retreated in panic. Then I saw a smooth bit of roof in the distance. Looking again, it appeared to be vertical, possibly the way out. I ducked under a spike on the roof and found I could stand up. Looking back, I could see lights, so I shouted back to the others to follow me, and climbed up the rift. I then discovered that I was too cold to make any progress in the rift, and had to wait until Dave appeared and I could stand on him. By the time I had reached the boulder chokes again, I had just about warmed up. There is, of course, no mention in the guide of this duck with a lack of direction on the way out.
Sean Houlihane

Gear Review

Femidom: the female condom

This new contraceptive device works on the same principle as the normal condom, providing a physical barrier between penis skin and vaginal wall skin. Instead of sheathing the penis, it coats the vagina. Me being me, I'll try anything once, so it was with inquisitiveness and considerable expense £3.95 for a packet of 3, almost double the price of condoms if you buy them in packs of 12) that I got my first femidoms from Boots.

Don't be put off by the instruction booklet, or, for that matter, the Femidom itself. The instructions make it sound much more complicated than it turned out to be. There are lots of little pictures of women's insides and detailed explanations of how to insert the thing. It even recommends that women practice putting it in the privacy of their own room before confronting their untamed, sex-thirsty men! The Femidom is like a small wind sock (one of those orange tubular flags seen at airports to indicate wind direction) except it has a sealed 'down-wind' (or 'up-vagina') end, and has flexible hoops at both ends. It is inserted like a tampon, but goes in more easily because it is smooth, lubricated plastic, rather than dry cottonwool. You have to sort of scrunch up the small hoop between finger and thumb which makes it feel a bit strange inside. It is hard to tell whether it is in correctly or not, but you soon find out.

My first go with a femidom, I was convinced I hadn't put it in properly because I had just shoved it up without paying too much attention to what was going on. However, once a penis was inside (no points for guessing whose) everything seemed ok and we got down to business. The main advantage of femidoms over condoms are that they give increased freedom and flexibility to women. In situations where the woman is unsure whether the man really will put a condom on before going inside as he says he will, or is just shy about asking about condoms, a femidom can be inserted before love making starts, so any worries are banished before the couple get underway. Other advantages are that femidoms are plastic rather than rubber, and hence are completely odourless. Also, since there is no danger of leakage, even when the penis shrivels up, the man can stay inside after orgasm for much longer. Disadvantages are basically novelty, expense and size. At first, femidoms are more trouble to wear than condoms, just because it takes a while to get the hang of them. They are more expensive, and not as small and easy to carry around (in pockets, wallets, socks etc.) as condoms. Definitely worth a try though.
Anonymous (female) caver.


Useful caving terms

Point of attachment for a rope or ladder above a pitch, usually the hardest part of a pothole to reach.
Device used to start cold cars. Blockage of boulders or mud in a cave. A passive verb; This cave is choked with cold cars.
An irrational fear of narrow, enclosed, wet, muddy spaces from which 99% of all non-cavers claim they would suffer, but only 1% of which actually do. Most cavers are too busy being scared to be claustrophobic.
Protective covering applied to a cavers head to prevent it damaging the rock. Also removes the need for the caver to have a lamp bracket screwed to his skull.
An alternative to the Karabiner - not very rapid.
An aerial sporting venue, pitch black when when peered over.
Bits missing from British roads. A vertical cave.
A type of descender which allows uncontrolled descents when threaded incorrectly.
Yellow holes in the snow found near to cars where cavers are changing.
Scenic valley in the Yorkshire Dales. Low key northern caving club i.e., "You know where you are with the Wensleydale, usually in the Pub".

Author: Glenn M Jones, BNS, Radbroke Hall.