Depth through thought
OUCC News 20th November 1996
Volume 6, Number 24
|DTT Volume 6 index|
Sorry for the lack of Depth last week, but I hope your extra lust for club news will be
amply rewarded this week, because quite a lot has happened. Not least, OUCC is back in the
exploration picture again with discovery of more large passage in
to the persistent Last Sandwich diggers Gavin Lowe, Steve Roberts, Nobby Mumford and
Jonathon Cooper. Read on.
Later news (dtt 6-25); Even later news (dtt 6-26).
Many thanks to those involved in helping to recover Lev from the bottom of Cow Pot entrance at the weekend, especially the Red Rose and the CRO. Clearly, walking on the moors is more dangerous than caving.
Finally, Draenen is getting a new gate and this should be fully installed by next weekend. The gate is at the entrance, and a log book (both for logging trips and commenting on bats, damage etc.) is to be placed just inside such that it can be filled in on the surface. For the time being, the old lock will still be on it, so our club key is still good. But you will need it from now, so to remind you: I have it! Just arrange with me if you want to use it.
Nobby and crew will be showing some expeditiony slides, and answering questions about Spain, Deep Shafts, and Vino Tinto.
Jo and I think it would be a great idea to have an OUCC girlie night out. Just have
some drinks and a chat and generally a good laugh. We propose Thursday of 7th week (29th
November), if you are interested, or have any ideas, talk to either of us and we'll
finalise details next week.
Remember the riotous times you had in Hungary at New Year almost 2 years ago? No? Then
either the memory must have disappeared in an alcoholic haze, or you didn't go. Either
way, the chance is here again. Katinka, one of our Hungarian friends, has invited us over
to celebrate New Year in Hungary at a place near Bodszvasilasz where we went last time.
The plan is still in its formative stages (i.e. Katinka only phoned me up yesterday), but
if you may be interested then let me know. A flight out costs about £130 if you are a
student, and once there the costs are low. The more you drink the more you save, compared
with going to Yorkshire (beer was about a tenth of Dales prices last time). If you want to
know what caving in Hungary has to offer, then chat to me, Tim, Chris V (or Martin L if
you happen to see him in Wales this weekend). You won't regret it.
Its happened again. The dig at the end of the Last Sandwich (South-eastish (i.e. Good) position, space beyond, bit loose) was cleared to yield 20 or so metres of passage to a second choke, which was rapidly cleared to break into yet more huge passage.
Saturday morning saw me, Steve, Nobby and Gavin gather at the Lamb and Fox car park. Expectations were high: we had brought three 30m surveying tapes between us. The suggestion of taking them all down to speed up surveying was laughed off: little did we know. The trip to the dig site was low on incident. Gavin gave away his spare Duracell to some guy on his way out with light failure, but this would be OK as we had plenty of spare light between us or so we thought. The dig itself was pretty impressive. The Last Sandwich, a series of crawls and stoops, for a couple of hundred metres, ended in a descending passage nearly full to the roof with rubble. Over several trips, Gavin and Steve and later Nobby had hauled several tons of rubble out to back fill the passage behind them to a depth of 3-4ft for 30ft or so. This had revealed a descending tube down to tight U-bend, then up to a point where the solid roof was replaced by boulders. Rubble tended to accumulate at the bottom of the u-tube and there was no possibility of turning round, so the feet first retreat back round the U-tube, then up the 30 degree slope was no mean feat. Progress was made initially by Gavin poking rubble/boulders out of the roof, pushing them back to me with his feet, where I would scoop them into the spoil tray. Steve then hauled this out, and Nobby hauled the spoil even further away with a second tray to where he was building a not unattractive dry stone wall. Eventually the king-pin was extracted (together with a few of its pals) and me and Gavin vacated the dig dragging decent sized boulders with us.
Steve and Nobby took over. In no time Steve was through to a low passage, about 4ft wide (i.e. bigger than the rest of Last Sandwich) with a bouldery floor. This went for 30m to a wall, but with a draught. Steve returned to the breakthrough to tidy it up and promptly sealed himself in. At the same time Gavin's light which had failed as he extracted the mother boulder, gave up the ghost completely, so things were at a low point. The digging team reassembled (minus Steve) with Nobby gaining valuable experience at the sharp end of retreating as the loose choke falling on top of you variety. A hour later we had re-opened the hole and were sufficiently confident or foolhardy to all get through. (pictures)
The next obstacle (a windy wall) quickly fell with first Nobby feverishly tugging boulders out, then Gavin dementedly hauling out the last few. He was through, and waited for us all to join him before progressing. The passage was at first low, but after a few yards, widened, then the floor fell away sharply and we had intercepted a passage somewhere between 10x10m and 20x20m. It was big. We went to the right (south) leaving the leftwards passage for another day. The passage went (and went) so we started the survey. This was a good plan, as although the passage was huge, it was loose (as I was to find out all too soon), so a more measured tread was a lot safer than whooping and hollering and falling over a lot.
We passed a fair few incoming passages to right and left, before finding a large (5x5m) high level parallel passage along the right hand wall. This was nearly my down fall as I'd had a quick look along it before returning to my chores as survey station finder (i.e. obvious boulders every 30m or so, we could have done with the other tapes). The others had moved on, so I took a short cut down a pretty steep, slippery and loose slope to head them off at the pass. I was the one headed off by a car sized boulder that dropped on my leg. I lost my cool at this point, my leg hurt and in the slow motion footage that I had seen of boulder impacting on leg, there was no doubt in my mind that it was broken. I screamed like a stuck pig, alternating "Fuck! Fuck!" with "Help me!". As Nobby and Gavin hurtled up the still loose slope a still small voice of calm, in the form of Steve, extolled them to take it easy as a second injury would make matters much worse. This had a dramatic effect on my behaviour. I stopped screaming and had a look at my leg. I could get some leverage on the boulder to take the weight off and when I moved the top and bottom did not move independently as if in some way severed, and there was no searing pain. I was OK. The boulder which had pinned me was now mysteriously only the size of a small fridge or even a microwave and it was pulled off me pretty easily. I'd got away with it.
The passage itself continued generally southwestwards (Hurray!) for about 300m. We intercepted a stream coming in from the east after 200m, which could well be the stream from WOW that disappears in the Reactor. This was soon lost as the boulder floor rises to a massive collapse, which fortunately had a 4m climb (tricky on the return) which led back down to the stream. This curls round to the northwest (Boo!). We dropped surveying tools when we had over 500m in the book and romped the next 200m, where the passage ended in a choke which did not have an obvious way on, there are nearby draughting passages. A nice place to turn back given our potential for light failure and the huge number of leads.
We'd like to call the new stuff Dollimore Series in memory of Nicola, unless there are any serious objections, and the large passageway that we treated as the main line will be M S & D for the same reasons (More Screwing and Drinking or More Singing and Dancing).
There is a great deal to do, starting with actually making the breakthrough choke safe.
Bits fell out on the return, and I would not be surprised if it has fallen in on itself
over the week as it dries out. We also need to connect the surveyed section to the rest of
the cave, tape a mainline through the large passage, and put a rope on the climb, before
pushing. Anyone from the club who feels up for the trip would be welcome to help out, with
the obvious carrot of a share in the pushing. There is little hard caving to get to the
break-through, but it is a long way. It takes a fit caver 2-3 hours to get to the end of
the Last sandwich. The plan is to return this weekend and there could well be trips on
both Saturday and Sunday. If you'd like to know more get hold of me, Steve, Gavin or
Nobby. We'd all be happy to bathe in our collected glory.
On the Saturday of last weekend's Yorkshire trip two parties went into the Ease Gill system. I went with Alison, Vera, James (not Hooper) and Fabianne into County Pot, and we had a jolly trip, despite following the stream from Oxford Circus and hence coming out at Platypus Junction without passing Spout Hall and Poetic Justice. However, finally we managed to find Poetic Justice, wrestled everyone through and duly went to Eureka Junction. There the roof was everywhere plastered with mud and grass, signs of a relatively recent flood. We followed the main stream for a while until the really blocky part, where I thought that that was enough for a novice trip and we turned back. James, in the front, bumbled down stream, then left at Eureka and right towards the ladder pitch at Poetic without any directions from me: useful such novices! The way out was obviously much quicker via Spout Hall which was easily located after consultation with a Coventry Caver. So sometime around 7pm we were out, where it was dreadful weather: thick mist and thick drizzle, with visibility down to less than 10 m. It was very hard to follow the path, as even the reflector poles where only poorly visible, and every time we found ourselves walking on grass, I was relieved when we came back into kneedeep bog. We made our way back to Bull Pot Farm and by 9.30 p.m. Vera tasted her first Theakston Best Bitter in the Marton Arms (apparently Theakston does not export to Malaysia).
In the meantime..... Mich, Rob, Bernard, Bill, Lev and Andy had a ladder trip down Pool Sink. On the way out they noticed a dramatic rise in water levels, so once on the surface they decided to have a look in County Pot, to see if our trip had gone out, as Mich thought that the high water levels would mean trouble for a novice trip. Rob went down and found the pitch head devoid of any gear, as by this time our group was already in the Marton Arms. As it was rather pointless to sit with 5 people being cold and miserable outside, Andy, Bernard and Lev went ahead to Bull Pot Farm. Due to a light failure, they had two lights between them, with Lev going without. They lost the way, no wonder. They decided to head downhill, which was much more sensible than a Cambridge Group several years ago, who went uphill and had to bivouac in the snow, getting hypothermic in the process. They found a stream, which they followed and thus came near Cow Pot. Lev, without light, fell in and landed 60 feet or so (!) lower down. He apparently lost consciousness briefly, but regained this and made contact with Andy and Bernard on the surface. They quickly went for help, somehow found Bull Pot Farm, where they met Mich, Rob and Bill and the rescue was called. The Red Rose Cavers, who just came out of the pub, valiantly put on their wet gear and sped to Cow Pot, correctly identified from Andy's and Bernard description. Rob also went back to Cow Pot, a while later followed by the CRO.
Suspecting all sorts of injuries, Lev was tied down in a stretcher by the CRO, hauled out and carried back to Bull Pot Farm, where the ambulance was waiting. I was really impressed with the efficiently, professionalism and easy-going-ness of the CRO people (but don't mention Quaking). Lev was brought to Lancaster Infirmary, where it appeared that he is, given the circumstances, a lucky man. Lev's pelvis was cracked, but not so seriously as needing an operation, and he could walk on Sunday. Some stitches in his head and a cut hand.
On Sunday evening we went to visit Lev in hospital. Asking how he felt: "I am
aching all over." (No bloody wonder!!). "How far did I actually fall?"
"Well, something like 60 feet or so." "Mmmmm." Five minutes later:
"When is the next caving trip?"
Lost: a Petzl headlamp (not a caving thing), with yellow / orange / black elastic
bands. Found: green fleece jacket.
Maarten & Kitti