Depth through thought

OUCC News 31st January 1996

Volume 6, Number 3

DTT Volume 6  index

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page


Editorial Lots of things happened this weekend, principally in Draenen, but no stories submitted I'm afraid. Still, it seems that the Fly trap has all but gone to ground, whilst Annette, Snablet and Vince found 200 metres or so of stuff up Blorens Inlet. Last week too, Boltie et al. found 2km or so of stuff in the waterfall series near the entrance! UK Cavers applying to the Ghar Parau Foundation for expedition funding this year might like to take note of the following:

A first announcement.

A party to celebrate (or something) Steve's 40th birthday will be held on 29th March (Friday) in Oxford. Live band and beer.

No flowers or condolences.

Sports Council

You may already have heard that, for 1996 and beyond, the Sports Council have made some radical alterations to the grant they have made to the Association in the previous eight years. The details are that the NCA's grant will include no money to support caving expeditions. Under our two previous four year plans which ended on 31 December 1995, £12,500 per year had been made available to support expedition travel costs. Grant was allocated to expeditions by the Association on the recommendation of the Ghar Parau Foundation Awards Committee.

The decision to remove this grant follows a change in policy at ministerial level, where it is believed that the Sports Council should be supporting Olympic and competitive sports at the expense of recreational activities. The Sports Council now say that "the programme did not accord with the Sports Council's definition of excellence, since it was largely concerned with geographic and scientific research and discovery rather than sporting excellence". The decision is a slap in the face for all people involved in organising expeditions and for the officers of NCA who are fully committed to supporting British expedition cavers and have worked so hard to obtain grant aid funds to distribute to them.

The Association does, however, find itself with an increased budget for training and some of this money could be made available to appropriate expeditions. In particular, if an expedition has a significant number of younger participants who are on their first expedition, training funds can be made available to support the participation of those members.

I must stress that the amount of money available under this programme can in no way replace what has been lost under the expedition programme, but it is, perhaps, better than nothing. I should also point out that funding from the Foundation's resources, including the Alex Pitcher Award, and the possibility of expeditions being recommended for funding by the Mount Everest Foundation and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, remains unchanged so it is still well worth applying to the Foundation for support.

The details of the Sports Council decision came through early in the New Year and so we have not yet had time to make alterations to the Ghar Parau application paperwork. To minimise the paperwork involved, there will be no need for expeditions applying to the Ghar Parau Foundation for funding to make an additional application to the Association's Training Committee. Most of the necessary information to allow the Training Committee to make decisions about funding expeditions is already contained on the GPF application form but it would be helpful if applicants could provide extra details of the training elements of their trip if they think that they may qualify. This should be presented as an additional sheet if it is not possible to find an appropriate space on the form itself.

Applicants who have already submitted their GPF forms for this year may make a further submission of any additional information they wish to provide in the light of the above. Only one copy of this is required, and it should be sent to the Committee secretary at the normal address by 23 February. Alternatively, it may be faxed or posted to me at the following address by the same date.

Nick Williams

Treasurer, National Caving Association.
71 Pendle Road
Tel 01772 421119 fax 01772 622279
(p.s. Nick is on: Nick Williams <

Dirty deeds down Draenen.

I'd heard the hype. I'd seen the pictures. So I leapt at the chance to go digging down Draenen. Pauline had her eye on a couple of digs in the far South-Eastern corner of the cave, which just so happens to the place most likely to make the next big breakthrough.. or so the story went. I was fully prepared for the hardships of the day to come, being equipped with a mother of a hangover, no breakfast and four hours sleep. James came too. He'd slept in the hut because it smells of caves. I've no idea where the cave is. I can vaguely remember being rudely awoken by a strong desire to chunder in Abergavenny, so I guess its in South Wales. There were no further clues where we got changed as windswept, snow-covered, sub-zero moorland with 20ft visibility look pretty much the same everywhere. James went for a dump and promptly got lost. Meanwhile I got the fright of my life when a huge black devil dog came running out of the mists and made straight for me. Turned out to be an over-sized, over-friendly male Labrador.

The cave held no fear for me now. Following James's return and a Grade IV change (Grade V if it was anywhere else but a mild one by Draenen standards) we were off. The cave itself is never hard, but can be a real pain in places. I hated the boulder hopping, where even with the best will in the world its impossible to look cool as you fall on your arse for the twentieth time on the trip. In comparison the crawls were almost pleasant, and the rifty bits fun and the stomping passages totally excellent. The chosen dig (Flytrap) has potential, but did not reveal it to us on this trip. We made two to three feet's worth of progress in pretty constricted passage, which would be pretty good elsewhere, but not down Draenen. This took us all of two and a half hours, so there was only really time for a touristy trip to The Last Sandwich.

Maybe we should have popped down there first of all, because whilst Pauline wandered along 200m of unsurveyed passage, whilst James pulled enough boulders out of Pick a Stick Aven to produce a body sized squeeze. He edged his way through, stood up and knocked a body sized boulder back into the body sized squeeze. Ooops. Having manoeuvred this obstruction out the way, I followed. (A wise course of action may have been to retreat at this point, but the two walls of hanging death didn't look too bad). None of us were brave enough to scale the boulder slopes so there could be a way on over the top, but I guess some more stabilising is needed.

The way out was without incident, except for being totally shagged and finding the sporting entrance, very sporting indeed. The weather had if anything got worse, so the nearby pub complete with roaring fire, well-kept beers and good company was well welcome. It was also a chance to catch up on the weeks advances, which amounted to about 2km of unpleasant passage near the entrance. Maybe I was disappointed by the hype or maybe my mind is going. Down the cave I was far from impressed, but right now I'm dead keen to get back and pick a few more boulders out of that aven.
Jonathan "JC" Cooper