Depth through thought

OUCC News 6th March 1996

Volume 6, Number 7

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Many thanks to Chris Howes for superbly illustrated talk last week on, well, everything really. It was really well attended, and very entertaining. Do people want to continue having occasional "big speaker" meetings?

Annual Dinner

Apologies for the partial info on the Annual Dinner. Anyway: Friday 8th March, 7 pm in the Moonlight Tandoor Restaurant, 58 Cowley Road. Basically pay as you eat, with possibly communal rice, poppadums and other side dishes, otherwise it gets very complicated. Festive dress (whatever) encouraged. Drinks afterwards at Chris D., 16 Peel Place. Take some quid with you for this as well. Let Me or Kitti know if you come, preferably tonight.
Maarten K.

Rucksacks for Expedition

If there's anyone out there who is going on expedition, does not posses a rucksack of suitable size to carry 3000 m of caving rope or silly 30 lb camping-gaz tanks past Sod 1,2,3 to infinity, and is strapped for cash with all the money spend on racks, oversuits which you can't borrow anyway since they will get totally wrecked then you may be eligible to borrow a rucksack from us. What a sentence eh?
Maarten & Kitti

Expedition Fund Raising

I've had some good news: the Ghar Parau have had their first meeting and made recommendations about how much money we should get. The NCA have had a lot of funding for expeditions withdrawn, so this might have meant that we got less. However, first of all we can expect £450 as a training grant from the NCA. this would be on a par with previous years. then it happens they had some money left over from last year, and they recommended that we get £200 of that as well. And finally, we are recommended for £1000 from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. We might get 80% of the recommended amount which would be really good.

Also, congratulations to Andy King who won the Alex Pitcher award. He gets £100 all for himself.
Pauline Rigby, Expedition Leader

Where is Torca del Vasco?

I am currently interested in a cave in the Vega Aliseda called Torca Del Vasco. It was explored by the G.E. Polifimo in '82, '83, '84 and is the most important of the caves they discovered in our area (up to 1984). I have full details, surveys and UTM Entrance Co-ords: X=341890, Y=788510, Z=1792. It heads roughly in a straight line at a bearing of 100 degrees for about 170m. It descends at an inclination of about -60 degrees to a depth of -242m, at which it became too tight.

Now, in light of last years discovery of Underground Overdrive, this cave is of note as it is a possible feeder for the streamway. So has anyone seen the entrance, or know about how tight the bottom actually is? Also no mention is made of any water or draught in the cave (unless my Spanish translation is wrong). OUCC must have had contact with the Polifimo crew in those days and I'd like to know more.
James "Caving's a bit of a hobby" Hooper.

Marble Sink

Last Yorkshire weekend Harvey Dave and I had a rematch with Marble Sink. On our first try I had jacked at the head of the 4th pitch because it looked like a rift opening directly onto the pitch that I could slip down too easily. Just as well I jacked because Harvey had sprained his ankle, although it took him 24 hours to realise how badly it was sprained.

Well this time it all went better. Speakers Corner was a piece of piss, that's what we said to each other. Its like the first Fierce lady in F64 only a lot easier. We reached the bottom of the cave in about 3 hours. Its nice down there. There are some lovely straws and tiny crystal pools of the type that are only found in little visited caves. It ends in a boulder choke with the stream sinking in pebbles.

I felt rather good, after all this is a hard caver's cave. Going up again I reached the top of the 4th pitch to find Harvey still there, desperately trying not to slip down the slippery rift I didn't like. While still hanging on the rope I managed to give him footholds with my footloops to stand in. He thrashed and got knackered but beat gravity in the end. More thrashing followed in some squeezes along the rift. I derigged the rope and followed, annoying Dave and Harvey by not getting stuck.

Suddenly it all went wrong. We hadn't rigged the third pitch and I couldn't climb it. Putting in more effort stopped me from falling, but also meant I was using up strength that wouldn't come back. Bugger. "Its easy" Dave had said. Then he asked me if I was all right and I swore back at him with uncharacteristic vigour. So I was completely exhausted by the time we reached the final crawl to the entrance. I would throw my prussik bag a few feet ahead of me, crawl up to it and use it as a pillow for a while.

We got back for Urs' party before they'd drunk all the beer and eaten all the food - just.
Pauline Rigby

Sunset: the perfect introduction

I didn't exactly plan on taking the Saturday novice trip on the last Southerscales weekend. I had wanted to do Dow to Providence, Yorkshire's only Welsh cave. But rain stopped play, then snow banished it altogether. Never mind. I'd never been down Sunset Hole, and our French contingent seemed keen. So, Rob, Will (with French accent), Mathias, Raphael and I plodded up Ingleborough in search of an entrance or two, and a nice little jaunt down Sunset, the perfect novice introduction.

Actually, the plan was a bit more inventive than that. I thought it sounded fun to try and do a through trip and come out of Lower Sunset, mainly because I couldn't find anyone who'd done it before. It seemed such a harmless idea at the time. But more of that later. There was a lot of water, and the climbs pretty much needed laddering. So a lovely sporting romp down to the 50ft pitch was accompanied by smiles all round. What a great sport. Then followed a minor error. I had placed two good ladders in a tacklebag specifically for the pitch, relegating one of the lightweight ladders for an earlier climb. But whilst I had been off looking for the pitch bypass crawl, Rob had unwittingly got the gear mixed up. By the time I reached the pitch head, old lightweight was dangling. Never mind, ladders don't fail very often. And we'll be lined.

Down we went: exhilarating with the water thundering past, but dry because the fall is diverted beside the pitch. Its what caving dreams are made of. Then up a nasty little rope climb, and we were grovelling about in the far reaches of Sunset's mysteries. Fun actually but it was becoming clear that the novices, despite excellent abilities so far, were less happy with the crawling and grovelling. So, we munched mandatory marathon bars (a model safe caving trip this), and turned round.

When we reached the pitch, a second minor error emerged. No double life-line, no ascending gear. Never mind I thought, I'll self-line using a Stich plate, and ask Rob to hold the bottom of the rope just in case. I'm sure most of you have done this before, and you'll know its ok, but a bit slow and laborious because you have to keep stopping to pull the rope through.

Then it was time for a major error. Just five rungs from the ladder join, 25ft from the bottom, old faithful snapped. 15 years hard slog on the OUCC circuit was just finally too much for the old ladder. Luckily, of course, ladders have a built-in safety feature: a second strand. But it didn't take me long to work out the likely life-expectancy of this one... So, time to get down fast. No, wait a moment. If I go down, then we'll be stranded there until our callout. Oh bollocks, time to climb up instead.

Climbing up a broken ladder, especially over the break itself, free hanging in space is not part of a perfect novice trip. Its what caving nightmares are made of. Up I went, rung by rusting rung, then reached over the break for those lovely shiny rungs of the top ladder. Beautiful. Two hands, but now came the difficult bit. Nothing for the feet to purchase on over the break. So, time to arm pull up the ladder. Once over, I clipped a crab into the ladder, and rested while my legs wobbled with fear. All to conscious of the dodgy self-lining technique I was now relying on, I slowly climbed on up, thinking hard about the tiny little metal strands passing slowly in front of my eyes. No worries, I persuaded myself: ladders don't fail very often.

Once up, I went back to an earlier climb and removed the ladder to replace the broken one, and everything else went fine. Fine, that is, until we found the link to Lower Sunset, and embarked on phase two of the perfect novice trip. An hour and a half of nasty, grovelly, tight, muddy, sheepshitty crawling later, Team France emerged to the glow of a setting sun. One was heard to mutter in French: "I'm going to kill an Englishman".
Tim Guilford

Limestone Lusst

LUSS obviously have more poetic types than us: this little gem was found on the LUSS www site:

"When I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape."

W.H. Auden, "In Praise of Limestone"