Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th June 1996

Volume 6, Number 16

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Persistence in Draenen paid off again this weekend, with the Sleepcrawler Extensions reaching 1002 metres surveyed plan length, and a further 50 metres of passage still to survey and going the right way...

Cutting Edge

My sources inform me that the cave rescue Cutting Edge filmed last year and featuring my singing (and Tony in Quaking) will be shown again this Saturday. ie. 8th June on Channel Four at 8pm. Set your videos, plug your ears or tell your parents to go out for the night. No seriously, it shows what a fantastic job Cave Rescue do (Full rescue down Quaking on New Year's Eve, getting to the entrance completely ready in under an hour.) "Essential viewing."
James Hooper.

Ore's Close

Squalid? Yes. Small? Yes. Tortuous? Yes. Generally vile and repugnant? Of course. Interesting? Well, yeeesss, in a kind of squalid, small and tortuous kind of way... Chris and I went to Ore's Close on Sunday on a trip which approached epic proportions once or twice but which was successful, if in a squalid etc kind of way. Underground about 12, we pottered down the first two pitches, dodging falling pieces of the entrance shaft, crawled VERY swiftly under some frightening shoring beneath the third shaft, and got on with my first ever bit of surveying. Some of this had to be repeated, because insistent bladder pressure was affecting the accuracy of my compass readings by 100 degrees or so, but eventually we had surveyed as far as the pitch in the "big" rift, which is the sole redeeming feature of the place ( ie it's merely squalid )

Descending the pitch revealed nothing, the only hint of further workings being a very small, largely infilled hole beneath a completely unstable wet mud slope. However, a traverse across the rift revealed yet another shaft, blocked from above, and the number of shafts so far discovered from below seems to be suggestive of a more integrated network of mining than has so far been thought likely. Moreover, another route, which we didn't look at, leads on in the opposite wall of this 4th(?) shaft - a promising lead, if squalid, small and tortuous...

About this point my light failed, and so began a catalogue of caving horrORES that lasted until we got out. Chris's Zoom thingy decided it didn't want to stay attached to the strap on my head, so I went out one-handed holding my light in the other, and consequently getting lost for 1/2 an hour or so in the process. Climbing pitches one handed is not much fun, so I did the 2nd in the dark and the first about 6 feet behind Chris, who had fun jumping on and off the ladder to allow me to catch up, and we reached the surface at exactly 11 - callout time.

We then spent two hours on Monday night under the bridge at Wolvercote, cleaning our gear in the river in true 18th-century miners style, and polluting the Thames with true 18th-century poisonous mud. I'm sure there are laws against this kind of thing these days...

More Space in Draenen

Team cripple set off for Draenen an hour behind schedule. Tim with a limp because he had fallen out the sky too fast, me with my thumb held on with sticky tape and JC with a terrible hangover that had caused him to sleep through all his alarms. (Are you feeling guilty yet?)

There were 3 good leads still left in Sleepcrawler and we wanted to push them to a conclusion before their existence became widely publicised (putting DTT reports on the internet doesn't count I guess). And that's what we did. The first of these was a roomy flat out crawl to what looked like the underside of the edge of a chamber. I'd had my eye on this for months and spent 45 minutes digging. It went fairly quickly because gravity was on my side when it came to hauling the boulders away ... back into known passage.

Doing the 2nd dig we knew that it was going to connect 2 bits of known cave. On the survey it looked as though the terminal chamber of the Black Run was very close to the dig called 'shallow grave'. We made a vocal connection. It was weird hearing JC walking about above our heads. In one spot we could see his light shining down between the boulders so decided that it would be easier to dig our way through rather than going all the way back round. Tim had been experimenting with his new draught testing kit - waterproof matches - and as JC dug his way down to us, the beam from his light grew stronger in the dense smoke, like a scene from Close Encounters. Boulders and earth rained down into the passage, and ten minutes later we eased ourselves gingerly up through the hole.

Our next dig, an impressive 4m deep, on the other side of the chamber, led to 40m of thin passage, enough to take the Sleepcrawler extensions over the 1km mark. After surveying this we headed back to camp.

There had been a stonking draught in the cave on Saturday, now on Sunday as we headed for the boulder choke at the far end of the extensions, there was virtually no draught at all. But we didn't know this. So Tim lit more matches and we watched the swirls of smoke in vain. So we spent the first four hours fruitlessly digging another big hole at the highest point of the choke. But when there were no more spaces between the rocks and the thing was increasingly filling up with choss, it was time to abandon it. Feeling increasingly despondent we left it and all dispersed to do our own thing.

I went up Chris's dig, heading northwards from the chamber. It was horrible, flat out crawling that goes on and on, and has to be reversed, but unfortunately is in rather a good position. When I came back I was relieved to find that it wasn't the only lead we'd got left. Tim was making progress under the back left hand wall of the chamber. There was no draught in the cave today but there were mud rivulets on the rocks in this corner, sign that it did draught sometimes, and Tim was following them. More depth through thought. For 3 hours Tim stayed in his dig, while JC and I disposed of the rocks he pulled out and dug out the floor so we could sit up at the entrance to the dig. Although it was time to go, the dig was tantalisingly about to go, or not, as the case may be, and after a whole weekend in the cave we had to find out.

Of course the passage we found ends after maybe 50m at yet another dig, but it has some beautiful formations, including a crystal corkscrew.
Pauline 'cartwheel' Rigby

(As I tumbled, in a single graceful cartwheel, towards an area of totally unspoilt mud bobbles and crystal, conservation-minded-Tim cried out 'stop!')


An expedition T-shirt is in production and will cost no more than £7.50 depending on how many people want one. If you would like one then please tell Pauline, and pick a colour and a size. Would anyone be interested in having a sleeveless vest if this can be done?