Depth through thought

OUCC News 19th April 1995

Volume 5, Number 8

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OK, here's another attempt to kick start DTT after the (very active) Easter break. I hope that we'll be hearing from people about their personal stories of caving this Easter, but for starters, I've included one from the OUCC Fermanagh trip. There's also some venue politics up for debate, and I expect the source will kill me for including the story about DYO. We operate on a "want to know" basis here, but I will keep the source secret. Send in your contributions, and I'll try and keep DTT regular this term.

The Venue Debate

You probably know my view already. A College bar has several advantages over meeting in a pub, at least during term. Foremost amongst these is the provision of somewhere to show slides or have in a speaker from outside. The beer is also cheaper. You probably also know that OUCC has been dogged by difficulties with College bars. In my view these difficulties are structural to the anachronistic way that the University is organised: there is no adequate provision for University-wide, rather than College-based, clubs, and no proper recognition for sports that don't play matches against Cambridge. Latest in this run of difficulties is the fact that St. Hugh's College, who have for sometime now provided us with a quite suitable venue, have decided to change the rules. Rather than charging us just for those Wednesdays when we have a speaker booked, and require sole use of the bar annexe, they want to charge us every week. I'm not sure what the current rate would be, but at the old rate of 10 pounds, this would amount to nearly =250 pounds per year, more than twice our average yearly support from the University itself. In itself this seems to me unacceptable. Coupled with the fact that we must be quite a money spinner for them already, just in terms of bar profits, it is doubly so. Presumably they bank on organisational inertia of the club overcoming true market forces.

But an alternative has arisen. After some careful enquiries by our members of St. Cross College (we have one SCR and two MCR members at St. Cross, all of who are OUCC Officers), it seems that they do see the attraction of a well behaved, regular group swelling the profits of the College bar, and generally contributing to the College's profile in the University. It seems that the College authorities are prepared to let us use the bar, and the room next door when we have speakers, at no charge. Possible arrangements still have to be discussed with the bar staff, as I understand it, but unless there are objection there, or from members of the club, we will be meeting in St. Cross on Wednesdays from next week onwards.

This disadvantage of St. Cross is that it is a bit like a fortress. The way round this is probably to have a key holder on the door on busy nights, and for people to use the intercom to the bar at other times (and call for someone to let them in). Time lost waiting at the door would, however, be recouped in time saved travelling all the way to St. Hugh's. What do people think?

Fermanagh '95

Shannon Cave

I caved every day during my week in Ireland over Easter, partly because the exceptionally good weather allowed access to many of the systems normally flooded at this time of year. One such system was Shannon Cave, and in many ways it was perhaps my most memorable trip.

Marius Leonard, who ran the places we stayed in, is a local Irish caver with significant extensions in Shannon under his belt (as it were), and when he tentatively suggested taking a group of there, we jumped at the prospect. In Frank Eddy's bar (Irish equivalent of the Hunters) one night, however, other local cavers warned us that Marius' recommendation was a recommendation from hell. Shannon Cave, it seems, has a serious reputation for dropping boulders on people. Who to listen to?

Actually, the answer is was obvious. As Chris Densham, Pauline Rigby and I trogged across the peat moor under a grey sky towards the entrance of the upstream known end of the system that resurges in Shannon Pot five Km away as the crow flies, spirits were high. "Its a bit loose" said Marius of the entrance, and soon we were in a line above and behind him in the first constricted rift passing back rocks that had fallen in since the last visitors. One large boulder Marius could move, but not lift, so we were stuck with a delicate squeeze over a wobbly TV, water pouring down the neck all the while. We later met in the pub the two Irish cavers responsible for bringing this boulder down: on themselves. They have never been back.

Loose, awkward choke followed loose awkward climb followed loose awkward squeeze. But all of us being used to the odd boulder surfing experience in virgin Spanish caves, it didn't seem too serious. After some horrendous route finding, and much OOhing and Aaagghhing about the pleasant streamway we were romping through, we emerged into the main passage. Wow. Storming streamway, huge high avens, beautiful rock sculptures, gave way to periods of route finding through humungous boulder chokes in the stream. Real sport continued right until the downstream choke, only penetrated a year or so before. But Marius, quite rightly, decided that the shoring in his dig, now balanced on virtually nothing, had destabilised too much too proceed to the downstream sump (yes, undived...). So we bombed back upstream to follow up "Mistake Passage", and huge inlet boring some 168 metres into the hill until a boulder choke. Bit muddy I suppose, but we just couldnt keep our hands off the boulders. Marius and I dug in the streamway, whilst Pauline and Chris furtled above. Soon it became clear that this was no idle bumble, and excited shouts from above indicated that the dry team were almost through. And so it was. Pauline, followed by Chris, dropped into the stream again and followed it for a further 15 metres until the choke hit again, and we ran out of time. Just an hour's digging, and we had broken the terminal choke in a major streamway. But then, the whole place was like that. More news of sport and discovery next week.
Tim Guilford

DYO Closed to cavers

Extracted from a totally anonymous letter to the Editor... Did you hear that access to DYO has been suspended, initially for 6 months? It all seems a little complicated but the showcave owner, Ashford Price, put about a story about a cave-rescue dog which had rescued some stranded unfortunate. This story appeared in newspapers and on TV, coincidentally just prior to the start of the Easter hols and the start of the tourist season. Unfortunately, the story was a load of old bollocks and some (unknown) person spilt the beans to the media, who were none too chuffed. Ashford suspects a caver and has banned all caver access to DYO in a fit of pique - or so it seems on the face of things. There is a further twist to the story, however, in that there are strong rumours that access management will be removed from the SWCC's grip and passed to another body. This ban might therefore be first shot in the approaching battle. Watch this space...