Depth through thought

OUCC News 8th November 1995

Volume 5, Number 22

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Over the last two weeks, more than 4km of new passage has been found and surveyed in Draenen following a breakthrough in a choke at the end of a passage found some months ago (and stupidly left) by myself and Peter Bolt. This is some of the biggest passage in Britain and for the first time offers the hope of extending exploration under Blorenge mountain. The finds have been made by Bolt, BEC (and exiled BEC) members principally. Two reports of this weekend's trips there are in this DTT. We even found a few grovels ourselves.

Christmas Vac

As now's about the time people arrange their holidays (well it is for me anyway) I thought I'd mention that there's a long Mendip trip booked at the end of Eighth Week from Sat 2nd to Thurs 7th. We've got a St. Cuthbert's permit, a trip to Upper Flood and will be able to do all the classic Mendip caves. I've also booked a room in the Hunter's on the 6th (hopefully with jugs of Guinness). New Year should also be a cracker. (Notts, Rumbling, Lost John's, Long Johns....). We're staying at the truly great, hospitable Bull Pot Farm (of Legend and Yore) from 27th December to 3rd January. (Minus First Week in Oxford Speak) so write it in your diaries.
James "Red Rose Pleasure Bubble" Hooper.

SRT Practice

There will probably (ie. give or take the odd bouncy castle) be another SRT Practice Session on Friday 17th November at New College School Gym from 7-9. This should be followed by a return to Rosy O'Grady's (unless anyone knows of any other live music going on that night). If any new club members are thinking of going to Yorkshire at New Year then it's fairly essential to go to this (though another session could be arranged if there's demand).
James "Classic Abseil" Hooper

Gouffre Berger Query

I've had several people asking me recently about the planned trip to the Gouffre Berger this summer. I know nothing about what's going on so could someone in the know please write a small paragraph in DTT giving dates, sketch plans, information etc.? Who's organising it? Roughly what will it cost etc.? Hay, I know it's a bit early. I can't think beyond tonight myself. But some people are a bit keen on this caving thing. Oh well.

The American Connection

I've recently had a letter from Wendy, who's enjoying herself in Atlanta. Unfortunately there sure ain't no cave club at her ol' Uni. but she's joined the mountaineers you know and sure as 'ell is looking for local cavers. Anyway, she'd appreciate a letter I'm sure. Her address is:

P.O. Box 22125
Emory University,
Atlanta, GA 30322

In the same vein, Mike's address is:

2506 Charlestown La.
Reston, Va 22091


Oxbow Alpha

There are two ways of preparing yourself for a long hard exploration trip in Draenen. There's the Tim approach, of which I thoroughly approve, which involves getting to the Lamb and Fox before closing time the night before, hearing about the newest leads from the people involved, then a night in the car park in Tim's comfy van, a leisurely wake up and a fried breakfast of sausages bacon and mushrooms and, of course, hot tea. But if this is too decadent for you there's always the alternative Chris and Snablet approach. This involves holding a wild party the night before, getting maybe only 4 hours sleep because you have to get up and drive to Wales and a high risk of losing your breakfast which was only a cereal bar anyway. Guess which team was ready to go caving first!

We ambled into the cave together, heading for Big Country, that new bit found by Peter Bolt and not-the-BEC 2 weeks ago. Peter had given us the survey of the new stuff - hot off the press - and suggested a few places to look and told us where they didn't want us to look. However, there's always the risk going into other peoples new stuff that you end up pushing the grotty little leads that they don't want, so that's what we did for a while. Draenen has raised our expectations far too high. With an embarrassing 20m in the survey book, Tim and I decided to go touristing down to the far end of Big Country. The size of this passage is very impressive and we enjoyed that bit.

Before getting to the end we got distracted by a side passage that hadn't been entered. It's a wonderful thing to be in a place so new that you can tell what is virgin passage and also kind of sad that it's so immediately obvious when just one person has been there. It turned out to be an oxbow (Oxbow Alpha), but halfway along there were 2 tiny passages with a strong draught. We began to get excited. Tim pulled rocks out but then we both bottled the squeeze, me because of my dodgy back and Tim because he was not feeling like it. It was time to go out. We added a few more metres to the book by surveying the oxbow. But another day that squeeze will go without too much of a fight and it could be the next big breakthrough, there've been quite a few...
Pauline Rigby

The Boys from the Black Stuff

Snablet & I prepared for this Sunday morning trip to Draenen in the best of traditions: party Saturday night followed by five hours of drunken stupor followed by the two hour drive to Wales. We met 'Alpine Start' Pauline and Tim in the car park, and they were good enough to make us some tea and dispense Alka Seltzers before the proper underground hangover cure could begin.

We trogged down in convoy to the two week old find, 'Big Country', where Snablet had been, & I hadn't succeeded in being, the week before. It is far from an obvious route, which gave me some consolation. Tim gained no consolation at all from discovering his name written on a piece of paper approximately 1m from the breakthrough point. This was his and Peter Bolt's survey limit several months before, an apparently lethal looking choke that no longer existed. After battering knees along a poxy and irritatingly long tube, we popped out of the wall into 'Big Country'. And is it big! Big Country is a spectacularly wide triangular shaped passage, with a flat roof and convenient walk-ways along either side of a deep valley carved into the boulder floor. We followed it for a few hundred metres South, before turning off to follow the inlet pushed by Snablet et al the week before. The stream comes from the heart of the Blorenge mountain, and the walls are covered in gypsum crystals - you have to be incredibly careful not to touch anything without looking at it carefully first. We set about destroying the charm of the place, leaving the walls draped in unsightly, but hopefully damage preventing tape. Looking without much success at a few side passages and ox-bows, we all reached the end chamber, the survey limit of the previous trip. It is probably the best decorated in Draenen, with gorgeous helictite encrusted stals hanging from the roof.

It was time to do some work: Tim & Pauline headed back, to look at the far South of Big Country, while Snablet & I set about surveying from the chamber & on upstream. We soon reached the limit of exploration, a T junction. The streamway looked best, so we surveyed off into the unknown, hoping to break into fossil passage. Two legs later, we hit a boulder choke. Not to be deterred, we dug down towards the sound of running streamway, and twenty minutes later squeezed gingerly underneath the steep boulder slope. We were back in the streamway! Sounds exciting? Well, it wasn't. The inlet did exactly what you expect inlets to do: it steadily degenerated. Every now and again our hopes were raised by the sight of bigger passage beyond, but nothing lasted for more than a few metres. Except, unfortunately, the streamway, which continued in a dismal manner. The only passage decoration was one solitary straw, and even that was an irritation since it forced us to squeeze through the narrow rift beneath it. The black floor, when you could stand on it, kept collapsing and bruising our shins. So - the Boys from The Black Stuff it was. After four hours of drudgery, at last our wishes were fulfilled. The passage choked - a good dig site for someone enthusiastic...

Back at the junction, we followed the other passage for long enough to decide that following the streamway had been a mistake. Neither of us had a watch with us (oops), but we just couldn't be bothered to do any more surveying. We had just arrived back at Big Country when Tim & Pauline turned up. Out at midnight, totally shagged, all for the sake of 200m of unspeakable passage. Oh well, it were a proper trip. No doubt about that!
Chris Densham

World's biggest lava cave

Kazumura Cave, a lava tube on the Big Island of Hawaii was connected to Olaa Cave on Sept. 22 by Kevin Allred and Mike Shambaugh. The connection makes the Kazumura Cave System over 1100 meters in depth and over 60 kms in length! This makes Kazumura Cave the deepest and longest lava tube in the world. A through trip from the Progress of Man entrance near Volcano Nat. Park to the lowest entrance in Paradise Park (near Hilo) involved 17 rope drops and 50 kms of traverse. This was accomplished 3 weeks ago by Kevin & Carlene Allred, Alan Cressler, Pat Kambesis, Andy Porter, Bob Richards, Doug Strait and Carol Vesely. It was done as a pull through trip and took two days.
Steve Roberts