Depth through thought

OUCC News 11th January 1995

Volume 5, Number 1

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In a smoke filled room last night we said our goodbyes to Jimbo, who we'll all miss for his enormous northern wit, enormous enthusiasm, and enormous tummy. Goodbye, that is, until the next Yorkshire trip (and the next, and the next..).

So, happy new year, and welcome to a new volume of Depth, its first issue sparkling with reports of record caving activity by the club over new year. Stories of Yorks and Hungary will go on for several weeks I expect, so send in your own if you want.

Oh, Spain enthusiasts may wish to know that the market has suddenly become flooded with copies of Beneath the Mountains, so now's the time to buy that present for your mum.

1994 Expedition Report

The Expedition Report is at the printers and will be available soon. As well as a full and frank disclosure of the activities of OUCC La Verdelluenga 1994 the report comes with A3 copies of the surveys of C3 and F64. For those who would like big surveys these are available from Gavin, they consist of an A2 survey of F64 (1.50) and an A1 survey of C3 (2.00) or 3.50 for the pair. Due to good financial management the 1994 expedition is able to offer the report for free to all expedition members and their aardvarks. [Link to report]

On a personal note, most of you will know that I've gone, I'm off to work for Zeneca (formerly ICI) at Grangemouth in Scotland. It's worth pointing out that Grangemouth is a lot closer to the Dales than Oxford, so I'll see you there.
Hugs and Kisses, Jim Ramsden

Yorks: The Pybus Perspective

It was on the evening of the 28th of December that I arrived in the pouring rain on the last train to Settle. The Bull Pot farm phone deciding to spend that day out of order, and my total inability to organise anything successfully with James meant that Gavin and Sharon, who had been waiting to pick me up, had headed back to Bull Pot farm half an hour earlier. After some more unsuccessful phone calls I was just contemplating hitching in the rain, when I spotted a familiar face sitting in the cafe. Fenella it turned out had spurned the opportunity of staying in the wonderful comfort of Bull Pot Farm, and was spending the week camping with Mike. They very kindly offered me a space in their tent for the night, in a camp site which had all its facilities closed and a sign displayed saying "Married Couples ONLY, No more than two persons per tent". So I spent a cosy, if rather wet, night listening to the lighting flashes and Thunderclaps getting ever closer together as the Storm closed overhead.

The next morning, however things got a lot better. I met up with Will leading a full scale Clusterfuck in Settle Water Sports, and finally after breakfast in Bernies, got to Bull Pot farm where I could try and dry my sleeping bag out a bit. What I needed was a caving trip, and so a couple of hours (one quick change) later, I headed off with Will, Oli, Mike and Fernely to do Lancaster hole. It took a long time to get everyone down the entrance pitch, but eventually we were at the bottom, and soon found our way to bridge chamber. None of us had been there before but with Will's vague memory of the guide book, and plenty of searching around we managed to find the Graveyard, the Collonades, a 1971 UNCC dig, and to get almost totally lost in the excavated passages in West Montague's Passage - while looking for Fall Pot! On the way out Fernly showed the effects of a long trip on the entrance ladder, while Mike and Oli did remarkably well. As for Will and I, we cheated and Prussiked up the Red Rose's Ropes.

The next day, while others did County or went bird spotting in Malham, I joined Tony and James on a pre-Quaking trip to Low Douk Cave, on Mason Gill. This was after joining Urs and Sara on the first leg of their Dales Cafe crawl at the Naked Man, and seeing James riding off into the distance on a borrowed Quad. The cave turned out to be short, but very nice. Three short pitches, a bit of crawling and then a very nice typical winding Yorkshire stream passage down to the sump. We were soon out and a met up with Urs and Sara again, this time for a visit to the Marton Arms.

Back at Bull Pot farm, yet more people were arriving. Iain and Rob turned up, shortly to be followed by Martin Hicks and Wlodek. Taking the lead from those who were on the quaking team, most people had an early night. The next day, while team quaking provided the CRO with their new years eve entertainment (see James' article probably next week), I was leading my first rigging trip, and Oli's first SRT trip in Cow Pot, along with Rob and Iain. The trip went very well, and the last pitch, into Fall pot has a great free hang at the end, even if it did have a bugger of a rebelay first. This was to provide Oli with quite an epic on the way up, especially as his light had a very dodge connection, and kept cutting out. Below fall pot however we had a good look around in the Lower stream passage, including a trip up into Aardvark country, before we turned around.

New years eve was spent in the New Inn, where certain people spent time offering drinks to their rescuers, and Urs magnanimously volunteered to drive a van full of drunk cavers back up the steep road. A hard core of drinkers continued into 1995, only to retire after Iain had made his annual trip to the river to expunge the remains of 1994 from his body, when a consultation of the Guardian showed that we would have had another two hours of drinking to go to witness the first dawn of the new year at 0806.

There were quite a number of departures, and only two caving trips the next day, one a trip to Bull Pot of the Witches, by those who couldn't face to walk any further, and a Notts Pot trip by James, Tom Houghton and myself. We had an excellent trip down the left hand route, with James ignoring the rows of P bolts to rig the big pitch of a couple of naturals. Down in the streamway we did a couple more of the pitches, before deciding that we weren't going to trust any more of the NPC's ropes and turning round.

Up on Leck Fell, I had what was easily my coldest change ever. The entrance ropes had half an inch of ice coating them, so it was a good job we had brought a ladder. On the walk back not only did all my SRT gear freeze solid, but ice formed on the inside of my oversuit. After a defrosting session in the Marton, we headed back to Bull Pot where the heating had gone off, it turns out to be on a timer set only for the weekends. The next day I spent doing the waterfalls walk along with Iain, while those that remained did a very Wet Swinsto trip, Only just getting word to the Marton before their callout at 11 o'clock. It took a Classic OUCC Clusterfuck, and several hours kicking at the ice on the road to discover that the van was not going to make it up the hill that night, giving us all a nice walk up in the freezing cold. Due to this we aborted any ideas of caving the next day, in favour of increasing our chances of getting the van packed, and back to Oxford. I'd like to thank everyone for an excellent week, especially those who bought the food, and got so many excellent trips booked.
John Pybus (our man in clothing)

Yorks New Year: Pippikin

When I got to Bull Pot farm it was cold. The heating was off. I had a cold already. Sara was huddled in a corner under a pile of blankets. My car had a reduced number of gears again. A small blessing was that Bull Pot farm has communal mattresses, so I wasn't sleeping on the floor as expected. I wanted to go home, but this seemed a bit daft after driving up from Somerset (broken car anyway), so I had to make the best of it.

Getting changed to go down Pippikin, I discovered that I'd forgotten to dry out my furry from a Daren trip 3 weeks previously. Dave kindly lent me his third spare furry (only one small hole in bum, matched to my oversuit to allow ingress of slimy mud). The others in the Pip team were Will and Tom, but Tom decided that his determination on that day was not equal to his size relative to the cave and went out. The squeezes alternate with pitches and intimidating headfirst dives over deep pots. The most fun one of these involves a semi-controlled, at arms reach, lunge for a stemple over a 15 foot climb, before being able to bring the feet down through the squeeze. Dave was busy with this when I discovered my main bulb had blown. What a brilliant excuse for jacking. Dave wasn't too thrilled about hanging around while I decided if I wanted to. It would have been such a disappointing fiasco of a Yorkshire trip that I continued.

We found Hall of the Mountain King, the muddiest place on earth (but Otter Hole sump and Ores close can challenge this). Will's wellie was sucked off by the mud and it took him ten minutes to put it on again, as everything was so slimy. We found a route from Hall of the Mountain king to Gour Hall (once pretty), which we had tried unsuccessfully to find on my first visit to Pip. It was grovelly, even though the survey shows stomping great big passage at this point. It contained velcro-mud and anti-foothold-mud, whichever made progress the most difficult. I really, really HATE mud. (Heartfelt!). We came to the conclusion that we hadn't followed the main route on the way there so stuck to the big passages on the return and duly got totally and genuinely lost. I couldn't see my feet with the pilot light in the big passage which got very irksome. We came within minutes of emerging to daylight through Mistral. That would have surprised us. It was about then that I realised that I was quite enjoying myself. I am strange and perverse (not perverted, please). The return journey was sporting. I had to light Dave with my FX2 pilot light which was very silly.

After that first evening things just got better and better. I had an almost mud free trip with lots of bright halogen bulb light on New Years Eve. Even the car got better. All the gears came back, but in the wrong places, so I was able to get home without the AA. (Tony's legs came back too, rescued from Quaking). I saw the New Year in at the New Inn in good company and Urs stayed sober to drive us back. (Thank you Urs). In the morning it was so crisp and clear that the snow covered fells of the Lake District could be seen. I've never been to Yorkshire for New Year before cause I reckon its too cold, and it definitely is too cold, but I shall go again anyway.
Pauline Rigby

Cavers of the Surreal or Happy Holidays in Hungary's Holes...

The sleepy Hungarian village of Bodsvasilasz rocks to the sounds of splintering furniture, smashing glass and raucous singing. Boom times are now here - the cavers have arrived...

Team wings (Martin Laverty, Lenik Saymo, Tim Guilford, Jenny Vernon and Chris Densham) were met at the airport by a distinctive welcoming crowd, and driven straight up to the Also-Hegy caving region crammed into two tiny Ladas. They found Paul Mann and Steve Phipps ensconced in the bar, having hitched their way over the previous week. Chris Vernon arrived with Moha, Andi and Steffi, and Pivo the next day after an inconveniently timed exam. Home was a gym large enough to house us, about 80 Hungarian cavers, and our Biohazard flag. Moha did wonders on the organisation front, with only one van loaned to Yorki by his company to drive us all round in. All we had to do was get up in the morning, and wait for things to happen.

Our first cave was Owl Cave, or Baglyuk. This was an hour's trog from the gym and was a fun vertical maze, the Hungarian equivalent to Notts pot. I think it was the only non-surreal trip of the holiday. After this it was weird, weirder and weirdest caving. One day, Moha took Jenny, Tim & me for a trip into a "muddy" trip down a side passage of the biggest through trip of the area - Baradla. We changed to the background of a decent sound system and cave disco lights, quickly before the proper caving tourists arrived. Then it was a fun muddy squelch to the border. Yes - through two grilles and we were in Slovakian territory! No time to continue far, though. We returned to the auditorium, squelching furtively from the Styx, to music, bright lights and a large puzzled audience. Tramping on through this huge cave, after a couple of hours we came across... more lights, and more music! Alas, by the time we had dragged ourselves away, we discovered that we had been locked in. A bit of play acting injured by Jenny and suitable grovelling to the Hungarian cave owner later, we found ourselves in our favourite local restaurant. A huge stove and disco had materialised from what was an empty space and dark room the day before.

Meanwhile, Martin, Linik and Pivo had passed the border above ground in search of caving adventure. They didn't get locked up, but they did manage to get arrested and carted off to the 'Slovak Cop Shop' after a pathetic attempt to get away with caving in an illegal border area by hiding their cars with bits of tree.

Other caves we did were the beautiful Meteor Cave, complete with iron ladders, railings and platforms, but no sound system. Kossuth cave was apparently properly wet, green canal style. Surrantos was in the back of an active mine, and we were lucky to be one of the few trips a year to get into it. The miners had finished their shift at 5, and were drunk enough by 6 to extend goodwill to all cavers and let us in. By the morning they were sober, and did not allow another trip to go in. The last cave of the year, and possibly the prettiest, was the Beke-Barlang cave. A short blasted passage leads to a metal bridge over a deep rift. Rather than descend this pitch by a standard caving technique, a large passage with a staircase inside leads down inside one of the walls of the rift to land comfortably on the floor. Tastefully decorated and comfortably sized walking passage winds through a few wet bits to, at last, some real cave: A couple of muddy boulder chokes and the odd bit of crawling. Then you reach the "speleo therapy hospital" with hundreds of PINK PLASTIC SUNBEDS. And blue and green and yellow ones. Well, this is what caving in Hungary is all about. That was '94. As for caving in Hungary in 1995, and our hot and steamy trip back to Budapest, read next weeks instalment...
Chris Densham

Strawberry Way

About three weeks ago Tony and I weaseled our way onto a trip down Ogof Draenen, carrying maypoles. It was a privilege just to get into the new system. Certainly I didn't expect 30 minutes from the entrance to be being hauled bodily up to a hole in the roof via a 40ft maypole with too short a ladder, by my belay belt (alright, battery belt). I suppose its because I was the smallest around. At the top, a steep muddy slope plopped bits onto the crew below as I scrambled gingerly into undisturbed Welsh cave passage. A quick check, and I decided it went far enough to warrant a surveying team. I secured the maypole, placed the pulley at the top of the ladder, and ushered Pete Bolt and Ben Lovett on up. The other, meanwhile, removed the maypole, and left us in search of greater things (yes, we had a bolt kit...).

But after 100 metres or so, things went mad. Wonderful formations appeared, then a junction into a large passage with lovely mud paved floor which romped for 500 surveyed metres until blocked by a beautiful pool containing dozens of red crystal formations: the strawberries. A waterfall, a downstream dig (yuck), and a side passage leading to a tight, and initially muddy crawl ("quality street") - with the sound of a stream beyond a constriction - all popped out of the mountain to please us on this, my first trip down Draenen. Many thanks to Peter, Ben, and the Morgannwg club for their hospitality.
Tim Guilford