Depth through thought

OUCC News 24th April 1996

Volume 6, Number 10

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Chris Densham includes a letter this week about OUCC representation on the proposed Ogof Draenen Management Committee. Anyone with views about this who can't make the Wednesday meets can e-mail DTT. The same goes for anyone with an opinion to express about exploration objectives for this summer's Picos expedition (which will be forwarded to Pauline if it hasn't been sent to her direct).

Expedition '96

Things are hotting up. We're thinking seriously now about specific objectives for Gustuteru '96, and at the Expedition Committee meeting last night we debated the pros and cons of attempting to rig C9 (C3) right from the start. For those of you who don't know, a major stream system was discovered at the end of last year's expedition that may well hold the key to the Culiembro drainage mystery. The obvious thing to do would seem to be to get back in there and push the end. But its a very hard cave, with a lot of rigging, and it ends currently in a sump. An alternative scenario would be to look for a lower entrance to the system (which some think will join 2/7 below choke Egbert: now there's a big prize...). Several old SIE caves look very promising, and end in too tight bits. But we all know what "too tight" means, and since the SIE have said we can push them this looks like a promising alternative. It would have the added benefit of getting novice expeditioners pushing new stuff right from the start, and might get us into C9 beyond the sump

Anyway, the idea is this. Next Wednesday, there'll be a meeting at 8pm in St. Cross to start the debate. The expedition committee will be there to fill you in, and listen to your views about what to do (on this or any other expedition matter). So, we hope you'll all come along an get enthusiastic. After all, prospects for solving the Culiembro mystery have never looked so good.
Expedition Committee


Stressed about exams? Want to get fit for Spain? Come to Weights at Univ. College, 7pm Wednesdays. It's free, fun and totally confidential.

Where shall we cave?

Further to what was discussed at the AGM regarding where to go and what to do in different caving areas of the country, people are most welcome to come and bend my ear if they have any particular caves in mind. I seem to remember Gavin mentioning that he hadn't been in Gingling for donkey's years, and Maarten is keen on another Derbyshire trip in Michaelmas, but otherwise there's been silence on the new ideas front. SO - the green book of power is invitingly empty at the moment... (nb remote areas of Draenen are not exactly what I have in mind )

Muddy Waters

As most people in the club hopefully know, John Stevens of the Chelsea Speleological Society wrote a letter to me before Easter covering a number of points about Ogof Draenen. I replied on behalf of the club, and gave copies of both letters to Peter Bolt for the Morgannwg CC. Ask me if you want to see a copy of either letter. Chris Howes has now sent me a personal letter and another letter from the MCC as a whole (I've brought copies of these along to the bar too). Having dipped our toes in the muddy waters of Welsh caving politics, its now getting close to the top of our wellies! The MCC is proposing to set up a management committee to oversee access procedures, conservation and other matters relevant to Ogof Draenen. As one of the clubs involved with the cave, OUCC is invited to supply one delegate for this committee. A reply is requested by 1 May. I suggest we take this as a compliment for the club and 'university cavers' as a whole, and say that we would be very happy to take part in the committee. Lets talk about it tonight!
Chris Densham

Lost In Space

I reckon its time people were brought up to date on OUCC's exploration in Draenen. As you know, the Snowball area in SE Draenen (discovered by OUCC last May) had been largely written off as unlikely to yield any more passage by the cognoscenti of Draenen discoveries. But the lure of the hollow Blorenge hillside had kept me and a number of other keen diggers hunting for a way on in this most extreme part of the system. Many leads were tried, but most yielded rather little. Gavin started work on the end of The Last Sandwich, and has been making steady progress. Pauline Rigby and me got interested in one final lead East off Snowball. This is what happened over the next 6 trips.

This final lead was an inauspicious hole down in a scrofulous rift beyond a flat out crawl. No draught, but a ring of Gypsum aroused my interest. Pauline and I visited it some weeks ago, and managed to push a few tens of metres of muddy passage to an elbow and tube part blocked by mud. Oh well, we thought. But then we realised that it draughted. Not much, but then neither did the rest of the cave that day. So we dug. After clearing a pass under the constriction we reached a corner, beyond which an almost completely mud-choked passage offered a small draughting hole forward into - well, who could tell. We determined to return. You don't sneeze at a draught... The Sleepcrawler Dig started in earnest.

The next trip Pauline and I camped at Gone in the Wind (again), and spent Saturday digging. After an hilarious 5 hours of frantic rabbitry we broke through. Was it yet another choked chamber with ensuing dig? No. We had intersected a bigger passage. Sleepcrawler had gone. That night we pushed about 80 metres of crawls and stoops, ending in a flat chamber with two obvious leads. Next morning (or was it afternoon?) we returned to tape and survey. Finally, we started pushing again, but rather than go for the obvious leads we decided on the bizarre strategy of digging at the South end of the flat chamber where nothing was actually visible. It just felt right.

And it was. 30 mins later we broke through again, and Pauline dropped down into another 75 metres of stooping and walking passage. Had we finally broken into the next parallel N-S trunk? it was beginning to feel like it. The way on was blocked by a bouldered constriction, so we decided to return next week with the right tools. Elated, we left the cave.

Next week, Pauline decided that it was time to indulge in a dangerous sport, and ripped her thumb ligaments in a skiing accident. So, somewhat sheepishly, I went in a couple of weeks later with John Pybus to push the constriction. It took just 30 minutes. Beyond, Sleepcrawler just grew and grew. First we pushed a serious of crawls and tall rifts ("Don't Go Skiing"), but at the end of the day we finished off with a high level lead that crawled into a large passage heading N-S. Snow drifts sparkled. A dig up into Red Chamber then led round a choke and up into a huge black passage, driving off in a straight line South: "The Black Run". This ended in a choke which John pushed. "It goes" he cried, and we squeezed through into a hideously loose, and vaguely familiar, boulder strewn passage. And tape. We'd pirated an abandoned MCC dig at the end of Snowball: from the other side. 150m surveyed, we left, buzzing.

Next weekend, JC and I went in again to finish surveying "Don't Go Skiing", and broke through again, off Red Chamber. Another 380 metres surveyed, our biggest buzz was the discovery of "Lost In Space", a 10 metres wide passage that really is the next N-S parallel. This weekend JC and Jo Whistler and I discovered "Bare Hands Breakthrough", and "Tom Cat Alley" to bring the Sleepcrawler series to about 900 metres, during a 16 hour epic trip. The magic 1km next ?
Tim Guilford

Diving Discovery

Have you heard about the discovery in Yorkshire- Alien and Worthog (2 NPC members- divers) dived in to some dry cave (not sure where) and discovered a chamber full of wolf and human bones- apparently the human bones have small heads and large bodies - sounds quite interesting could be Neanderthal men or maybe its just BEC members!.

The Early Days of OUCC

I really haven't much to tell about the earliest days of the club. The first year he was up Peter Crabtree came to me and said "Why don't we, etc?" He was the first secretary and kept the notes and lists. I chaired and organised the first trips (to Mendip and S. Wales) and hunted up kit for those without, etc. I remember a fun trip to Swildon's Sump 1 (and beyond for the keen ones) and a fine trip in Stoke Lane that was somewhat delayed getting out (I had just found a new grotto that I wanted to show off), so that those who had gone to other caves had a long wait in the Knatchbull Arms and were decidedly the worse for wear on the coach trip back to Oxford (much the same today?). We certainly did not think of weight training in those days, save that involved in lifting a glass; you guys are keen!

By Easter 1959 I was starting grad work and planning to come over to Canada with my bride. Peter ran a trip to Derbyshire (his patch) and took the group into Peak one day. Neil Moss (a very nice man, gung-ho, but large for a ferret) got horribly stuck and died there despite the desperate efforts of many (Oliver Wells, my good friend from Cambridge, fixed up an oxygen system and we drove up and hauled the cylinders up to the site and tried to get them down to Neil's face to revive him but it was too late - it was an awful place). That put a damper on the early club, as you might imagine. I came to Canada and lost touch until the later 60s when the early expeditions to Spain were getting under way; I lured the then chair person, John Drake, to Canada as a grad and he is now the VP Computing on this campus. I'll get him to drop you a note but for the earliest times it's better to try to track down Pete Crabtree and his notes or recollections. I haven't heard of him for years. If you find him, let me know.

All the best. Next time I'm in Oxford in term time I'll look you all up at your current drinking hole.
Derek Ford