Depth through thought

OUCC News 17th January 1996

Volume 6, Number 1

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At last, Depth is back on the air, so welcome to the first issue of Volume 6. Over Christmas and New Year, OUCC have been extremely active all over the country, and in future issues I hope to print many of your stories. This week, Steve tells of free-diving the Swildon's sumps. In future weeks, you should hear about the Derbyshire weekend, Yorkshire at New Year, Mendips at Christmas, and of course all the up-dates on exploration in Wales. But the main stuff this week concerns your holidays: Romania at Easter and Expedition Picos in the summer. Remember, anyone can contribute to DTT. Just send writing to me, preferably by e-mail to

Come caving in Transylvania...

This Easter, a club trip is being organised to go caving in Romania. Want to come? We will fly to Budapest (cost is 145 at present, including tax) where we will meet Katinka, Pivo and Steffi to name but a few, then we can travel by either train or van into Transylvania. The area that well be staying in is mountainous with lakes and forests. Each person must carry garlic at all times to ward off Vlad the Impaler who lives locally. There are caves too! Bring your SRT gear. We have several Romanian contacts who are organising accommodation and should be able to show us the caves there. We will probably stay in a hotel. I think that Steffi and I will be paying about $14 (U.S. dollars) a night for a double room with hot water, two meals a day etc. when we go skiing, so cavers might not want such luxury and might demand more squalid accommodation. Travel from Hungary to Romania is about 3000 ft (arbitrary Hungarian currency units) or 15 (sterling). Visas can be purchased at the border or before hand although the situation is under review. Any hard currency goes a long way even if you do go to a restaurant every night and buy a lorry load of people drinks. Come and enjoy...

Chris Vernon is organising most of it. Contact me by e-mail or phone: or 01865 790053

Draenen up-date

There have already been six or eight OUCC trips to Draenen since the last DTT, several this year. On the exploration front, quite a few small finds have been made in the Big Country area, principally up Blorens inlet (heading hideously but enticingly into the Blorenge hill: Chris Densham, Snablet etc), and in Poetic Justice where Jenny Vernon and I found a beautifully decorated chamber (Satanic Verses) with several tight leads going off. Pauline Rigby and I pushed several of these to conclusion on a camping trip later (one still goes - if you can get through and I can't). Pauline and I also broke through the boulder choke dig at the end of Snowball passage to find a crawl sparkling with Gypsum, which James Hooper, Maarten Krabbendaam and I pushed off 30metres last weekend (The Fly Trap). Chris also tied up a lead up Gilwern passage last weekend, but there are still other leads to look at, so let someone know if you want to get involved. Remember, OUCC now has a Draenen key and access is easy.
Tim Guilford

All down the line...

James and I went on a trip I've been psyching myself up to doing for quite a while, free-diving straight down the Swildon's streamway to sump 9. I was a bit jittery before the trip, and I think James was too, but as soon as we got into it it was great fun. It was excellent to be going down Swildon's - which was in fine shape, good and wet, but with warmish water - in a small fast team.

At sump two we kitted up, me with a separate belt for lead, James threading it onto his lamp belt. I spent a while deep-breathing while holding the line and then swooshed through to Swildon's three in a few seconds. James followed and found he hadn't got enough lead - it is best to be over-weighted so you follow the smoother floor of the sump passages. He went back to get some more. Alone in the airbell, the slightly delayed echo of the only sound, my own breathing, gave an eerie sensation that the cave itself was breathing around me.

James returned, with a gutfull of lead, and sump three gave no problems. Splendid tromp down to sump 4, where we couldn't find the line. I spent some minutes furtling about in the sump pool, before digging it up. It was then seen obviously tied to a large flake. Ho hum.

Sump five (Buxton's Horror) was the only really tricky part of the trip. The water levels were high, and the airspace in the ducks between the airbells got less and less with each duck. The last (thank goodness) one took some thought to find the way on - you had to duck right down to see the rising of the roof two feet away to one side, through a 2 inch air gap.

After this it was plain sailing, though the bypass to sump 6 is ridiculous - 300 feet of zig-zag crawling and climbing to appear 30 feet further on down the main passage. The cave here is of a different character, with big chambers and lots of big black rocks. The sump pool at the end of Swildon's 9 is a fine deep-looking black lake. A suitable end.

Coming out was a lot faster than coming in, and soon we were back in the "home ground" of Swildon's two. A couple of flashily wetsuited guys were standing around - they also had planned the trip, but we had left them virtually no lead. We put all the lead back but they decided to go out; strange.

The upper cave was well populated, but we still got out from the bottom in an hour and three quarters, making a total trip of under four hours. A classic trip - and a direct and pleasing line down the cave.
Steve Roberts


FREE with this weeks DTT a copy of the expedition prospectus! Hurry while stocks last.

A lot of information is in the prospectus. What it doesn't tell you is that the deposit this year, which goes towards buying ropes and stuff, is going to be £125 like last year. We'd like to start collecting names. Please give your deposit to Anita as soon as you decide you'd like to come on expedition. If you can give approximate dates then do, but the dates for the expedition are still provisional as we haven't bought the ferry ticket yet. Expedition is exciting and fun and I've put my name down (and afterwards, the hard cash).
Pauline Rigby

Financial help with expedition

If it is going to be your first expedition and you need to buy a full set of caving gear and maybe some camping gear as well, then the cost may be a bit off-putting. Don't fret because there are a number of funds which you can apply to, to bring the cost down to something you can afford. I'll give some details below of the ones I've heard about. Ask me for the addresses to write to.

AC Irvine Travel Fund

Supports expeditions to mountainous regions and has been very good to OUCC in the past. I think last years first timers received £200. You need to be within 4 years of matriculation to be eligible. Applications are made in Trinity term and the interviews will be held on Sat of 6th week in Trinity term. (There'll be a reminder about this nearer the time). But take note, this time if you don't go to the interview you won't get any money.

Alex Pitcher Award

This award is intended for to help somebody to participate in a caving expedition who otherwise would be unable to afford it. I yet don't know the deadline for applications, but I suspect it will be soon.

Adrian Ashby-Smith Memorial Trust

Preference is given to those taking part in their first expedition. There is one award in the scientific/ exploration category. The closing date for application forms is 1st May.


These are often not advertised, but can be quite generous. For example, Queen's College has a 300th Anniversary Trust Fund which gives out chunks of £300. I received £50 from my school (a comprehensive, not a rich private school) for an expedition to Canada 5 years after I had left. (And the rich private school gave me £200 as well!)

Regional Trust Funds

If you come from Manchester then you could try the Manchester Geographical Society (deadline early Feb), or if you come from Wigan then try the Mick Burke Memorial Trust (no deadline). Americans might have success with the Explorers Club Youth Activity Fund (deadline 15th April). The RJ Harris Charitable Trust gives precedence to applicants from Avon/ Somerset/ North Dorset/ Wilts/ South Gloucestershire (no deadline).
Pauline Rigby

For Sale !

For reasons too complex to explain, some copies of OUCC proceedings 11 (1983, Pozu Jorcada Blanca etc.) have surfaced. These are for sale, proceeds to the Proc 14 " fighting fund ". Cost: £3.00, and you will get a FREE copy of Proc 12 and 13 with each purchase (whether you want them or not...).
Steve Roberts