Depth through thought

OUCC News 3rd May 1995

Volume 5, Number 10

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Another Bit in Draenen

After much indecision on my part, and after failing to get anyone else interested, I went off to Draenen on Saturday (three weeks ago) with Nig Rogers and a friend of his, Alison Maddock. The intention was to look at leads at the end of Nig's extension to Gilwern Passage, principally a pitch and a downstream duck. I arrived first, followed by a group from CSS: "Nig not arrived yet? Oh well, we'll see you down there - we're doing some surveying in the same area". Off they went, ladder in hand. Then Bill Gascoigne arrived: "Eeh, that Nig Rodgers, he's a right pirate!". Hmm, I thought. Would I enjoy today? As it turned out, I did!

Nig & Alison arrived with The Tackle, and off we went. The extension beyond Gilwern is really gorgeous, and has only been discovered for seven weeks. Gypsum flowers decorate the roof, walls and boulders, some of them almost Hungarian in style. There is much snow white stal, all of it pristine. We passed several hopeful looking holes in the roof, before coming to a junction. On the left, the downstream duck, and on the right, the way to the undescended pitch. Nig bolted down the pitch after some lunch, while I ferretted around in the choke at the far end. Nig found only one miserably narrow rift at the bottom of the pitch, which he insisted I 'have a look at'. There were two leads half-way down the pitch, so Nig took the Big One while I took the Little One. The Little One went, in the form of a meandering dried up streamway, but unfortunately it had been found the week before, courtesy of the CSS by a different route. They had intended to descend the same pitch as we had.

While Nig packed the gear, Alison & I went to look at the downstream duck. It looked long, but was quite big and with plenty of airspace. After 20-30m, things started to open up. After another 50m or so of increasingly wide and tall passage, I felt a twinge of guilt and went back to call the others. They didn't want to come through, so, Well Hey, off I went. A small stream wandered between large mudbanks, & the passage just got bigger - 3-4m high and 5-6m wide. After about 200m or so, an inlet came in from the right, and the combined stream sank into the boulder floor of a pretty sizeable chamber. The draught disappeared into the choked far end of the chamber, so I went to follow the inlet.

This immediately split into two, the left branch rapidly became too narrow, but the right branch went for about 40m before it choked. I returned to Nig & Alison, who were chilling out at the duck. We struggled out to the pub for a bit of beer and bullshit. It was a shame not to leave any obviously going leads, but we'd had a good day! Thanks to Alison & Nig for an ace trip.
Chris Densham

Rogered Senseless

Since Chris found the wet bits in Gilwern passage (see above), and Peter Bolt and I found 200 metres or so in Gone in the Years, OUCC-involved finds in Draenen have moved apace. Tony, Urs, John, Jenny and I found around 500 metres last Sunday after Tony dug through a boulder pile at the far end of Gone in the Years (South Eastern extremity of the cave). We managed 520 metres of surveying and found an extraordinary gypsum snowball the size of a pineapple. Politics willing, we will be back to survey the going leads soon, and perhaps push a bit more. Perhaps...
Tim Guilford

Easter in Yorkshire

Washfold Pot While those who didn't make it to Ireland had to do without the copious quantities of Guinness, we made up for it with Old Peculiar in the Station Inn followed by Champagne and Poetry in the rather small, (and not at all well equipped) bunkhouse next door. The following morning while my head was reminding me not to mix my drinks, (or perhaps just not to drink Old Peculiar) Jim was up making tea, and extolling the beautiful day outside.

By the time we'd got up, breakfasted on Crumpets and bilberry jam, been to Ingleton to meet up with Kitty and Maarten, and had an oversuit mending session in the sun, my hangover had started to abate and I even began to look forward to getting underground. Those of us who didn't take advantage of the fine weather for walking and climbing, but opted to carry so Tony could have a look at the sump in Washfold pot, were Urs, myself and once he had been persuaded that he would stop feeling ill as soon as he got going, Steve. After climbing down the entrance there is a bit of horizontal development before a bedding plane crawl leads to the first 40 metre pitch. This was actually very dry and we could hang a rope directly next to the waterfall, where another party had rigged a big deviation. Below the pitch there are a series of climbs which are great fun, and it was half way down these that we met the other party on their way out. At the bottom of these, just before the final three pitches we decided that since Steve was now feeling worse than when he'd started, he should go out with Urs, so Tony and I did the last three short and decidedly damp pitches to the final chamber. Just two minutes after disappearing into the sump (described as getting too tight at a depth of 2.5m), I heard Tony shout, and then saw his light shining back through a two inch slot above the sump pool. It had turned out to be a tight U-tube which came straight back up to an airbell 30 ft long. As we headed back to the surface, we met Urs at the top of the first pitch, and decided to leave the rope in place - we would be coming back.

Two days later we did indeed return. Steve having spent the intervening day recovering. The rest of us did a combined first SRT/clean up/digging trip in Marble Steps, in which Maarten and Kitty enjoyed there first Yorkshire cave and Sharon had her first taste of SRT underground. I also managed to spend a fruitless hour or so looking for the entrance to Yoga Cave, but I will find it next time... After a couple of false starts and the same team as before, we finally made it to Selside and in due course the cave itself. Since I'd already been to the bottom once I only went as far as the top of the last three wet pitches, while Steve and Urs went on down to see the sump pool and help Tony kit up in the wet and draughty final chamber. For details of the dive see Tony's write up in the log book, but he's found the way on and about 40m of sump in total. The cave itself is a good short sporting trip, well worth a visit, and the water is next seen resurging at Turn Tub a long way off. The carry is also a lot more pleasant than Brown Hill, and once an SRT route has been rigged away from the water on the last pitches the sump should be a good dive site.

The next day it rained very persistently, so while Steve went for a quick dip in Joint holes to get his hair wet, the rest of us went to the Cafe Anne to seek inspiration for a caving trip. Instead what we found was hot chocolate and Apple Pie, so we finally gave up and joined the caravans heading back South.
John Pybus

Cavers or Students?

In response to a "cavers digest" posting of rescue statistics, which differentiated between "University" and "established" clubs, I posted a rather foaming at the mouth reply suggested that possibly OUCC and similar University Clubs might be a bit more experienced that, say, the Nempnet Thrubwell Outdoor Club (Cave section, CSCC affiliated), and what did they think they were up to ? I got this reply:
Steve, I note your comments on the BCRC report and would reply in two halves if you would allow me. Part 1 I sympathise with the problem of differentiation between University and other clubs. There is a feeling with (certain) rescue teams that the Universities provide a significant amount of business and, if given the time, the statistics can be used to show whether this is in fact true. (Personal opinion is that clubs provide an equal amount of business and this attitude is a hang-over from the late 80s when there was lots of money around and Universities did provide a lot of customers.)

Certainly, the statistics do not say that University clubs are incompetent, it just reports those incidents to which teams were called involving different categories of cavers. We need some kind of analysis of incidents to allow rescue teams to train members and to have the correct rescue equipment available - what type of group/people forms part of this analysis. Some of the non-university incidents shown an incredible degree of incompetence, even though they do not say so.

That the party in Quaking happened to be very good cavers in fact made a potentially difficult and lengthy rescue over by about 9 pm on New Years Eve and allowed us to see in the New Year above ground. (I was called at 3.30pm approx and had visions of requesting the Scottish elixir to be sent underground!)

Nevertheless, there was a callout and the group said they were members of the relevant University Club and that was duly recorded. From a raw statistic point of view, it would be difficult to distinguish the established and highly competent University clubs from those less capable. This would apply to the so-called recognised clubs as well!

Part 2 Having said that, I am in the process of drawing up a new BCRC Incident Report form in order to gather information that would be more appropriate and would provide relevant information to the teams and the authorities (i.e. the Police to whom the CROs are effectively responsible), and to the caving would in general. I am hoping to complete this exercise by Autumn in time for much of this years reports. This problem of lumping Universities, Recognised Clubs etc together is of some concern, but asking a team to evaluate an experienced club from, say, the NTOSG (CSCC affiliated) would not be practical since it is a very subjective assessment? If you have any suggestions I would happily taken them on board and evaluate them.

That we need to differentiate between clubs, universities, school groups etc is a question I will pose to the teams and to the authorities. There is no doubt that, irrespective of this report, the university managements are becoming more and more concerned about 'events' underground. I have, as BCRC Secretary, received requests for advice on these matters. These have been passed onto the NCA to be handled. Maybe if the figures were to show that university clubs were involved in a small proportion of incidents then there would be fewer complaints. Steve - give the matter some thought and let me know. I will be sending Newsletter to the teams in May and if you would like to draft a (short) report for this I may include it. Pete Allwright BCRC Secretary.

Steve Roberts