Depth through thought

OUCC News 27th November 1996

Volume 6, Number 25

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Last weekend's expedition dinner was enjoyed by all, except perhaps the staff at the Baverstock Hotel. So thanks to Pauline for organising it, and everyone for coming along by what where pretty curious routes for some.

Of course the main news this week is the continuing finds following Steve, Gavin et al.'s breakthrough in Draenen. 2007 metres is the official line as of today, with more to yield next weekend for sure. (Surveys)
Update: 1/12/96 - "Luck of the Draw".
Lots to read about it in this issue.

Oh, please note that the editor's e-mail address has changed.

7th & 8th December

Although there is nothing on the termcard, quite a few people have expressed an interest in doing some caving at the end of 8th week, i.e. the end of next week. I'm quite happy to organise, say, a weekend in Mendip, which we don't seem to do very often, but it won't happen if you don't come and talk to me. Longwood/August, Eastwater, Thrupe Lane, a long Swildon's trip?

SRT Practice

This Friday there will be SRT practice for those who would like to get down things such as Cow Pot a little more slowly and safely than Lev. It will be at 6pm at New College School gym on Mansfield Road - if you'd like to come along, let me know and I'll explain how to get there. Anyone is welcome to come along, including people who might like to help out or lend SRT kit, and we'll probably go for a crafty drink afterwards. This will be very useful for anyone who might be thinking of going to Yorkshire at New Year, or even to the Picos next summer. Speaking of which...

El Regalon '97

For those who don't know, the OUCC El Regalon 97 Expedition to northern Spain is up and running. Last week we put our expedition proposal to OUEC, so hopefully we should soon have University approval, and the response so far has been very good: largely because of the tremendous amount of DEPTH we found last year, well over 20 people have signed up already. Tonight we'll be showing some slides of discoveries in C4 and Torca del Vasco to whet your appetites, and hopefully we'll be giving away FREE copies of the prospectus. You can't say fairer than that.

Monday saw the second meeting of the committee, which consists of:

Nathaniel Mumford - Leader
Jo Whistler - Secretary
Will Jeremy - Treasurer
Fleur Loveridge - Sponsorship Secretary
Jim Ramsden and Olly Hilton - Gear Officers
Tim Guilford - Medical Officer

with help from:

Pauline Rigby - Explosions Officer & Moral Tutor
Boris - Expedition Policy Spider

So, if you're thinking of going to Spain next summer, haven't quite made up your mind or just want to know more about what the expedition consists of, come and speak to any of us and we'll be happy to answer your questions/take your money off you.
Nobby (depth through throat)

Dollimore series revisited

It was very good to be able to repay Peter Bolt for his offer of two years ago - well, not so much an offer, more "there's a train that leaves Oxford at midnight to get to Cardiff at 2.15: YOU BE ON IT and we'll go caving somewhere interesting on Saturday". The "somewhere interesting" proved to be a trip into a cave that I'd never heard of before, Ogof Draenen, and ended with my being deposited by Peter at 2am in the MNRC hut, gibbering incoherently to anyone who would listen about "500m of new passage", "huge amazing cave", "loose slippery boulders".

This time it was our turn to surprise Peter, though he did his best to delay us by insisting on spending about an hour clearing out the loose bit of the breakthrough dig. Then we all went through and duly boggled at the vertiginous suddenness of the transition into MS&D passage. We taped our way down to the junction with "Out of the Blue": "We'll leave that for the next team, better give the Sunday group something to do, even though it's just 500-600m going up to the Reactor".

On to the end of the cave, where none of the side passages went, nor did the choke. We did find another side passage that went south for quite a while in good style, but finally ended in a gloomy backed-up choked area. We headed back to the brew spot at the start of "Into the Black", checking out any side passages, and had a look at the high-level passage that Gavin had thought to come in at the initial dog-leg in the stream. This proved to be a very complex area. Kev and I each disappeared without trace for a while; it took me about 3 goes, finding new bits all the time, to work my way back to Gavin's voice, and we hadn't even spotted that Peter had made his way back to the brew spot. There are lots of leads here; one is open and needs a ladder, and many more would yield to a little crowbar work. All leads head downwards, maybe into bigger passage below, possibly joining "Out of the Blue" ?

Back up the rope climb into what was now christened "Hall of the One", in vague recollection of the Berger, and after the big pinnacle that overlooks the climb down, Peter scrambled up the scree slopes to the top of the chamber and reported passages off. We went up; it's very steep and loose and will need a rope if more work is done up here. One passage got rather squalid, but the other led on in fine style for quite a while before getting low at a junction.

Gavin went on. "There's a few formations down there", he said, "you could have a look if you like". Over a low crawl was the entry into one of the prettiest little chambers I've ever seen: white floor, helictite-encrusted stal, a perfect spiky crystal ball on the end of a straw, and a fallen off cluster of conical stal on the floor rather like a Disney castle. Perfection in miniature.

A passage behind this lot, thank goodness, choked solidly, so we were able to build a route-marking wall round the edge of "Nicola's grotto" that should protect it. Grotto passage itself carried on a short way to a draughting collapse area that looks hopeful.

Time to go, so with "should we, shouldn't we" glances at the other leads, we ambled out without incident to a crisp clear night.
Steve Roberts

Saturday team 2

(Fleur, Alison, JC and Ian) Having heard about the OUCC progress in Draenen all year, the offer of visiting the latest breakthrough in the Last Sandwich was much appreciated. Progress to camp was as quick as my hangover allowed, after feeling like tossing my cookies all the way in the van, it was a relief to get underground. Happily no one had mentioned the crawl to me, all I could do was wonder at the sanity of those pushing such a place in a cave like Draenen - the digging "instrument" on the other side of the breakthrough confirmed all suspicions.

Task one was to contribute to the stability of the breakthrough: Fleur and Alison set to removing a stable boulder from the floor well away from the dig, whilst I built a higgledy drystone wall. JC did something useful instead, and dragged some muck out of the crawl.

Task two was rather more joyful, just go left in the 10 by 10m untouched passage and survey! We soon met a small stream in the floor of the passage, disappearing downstream to the right among boulders in the wall. The fact that we were then heading almost surely to the Reactor choke in downstream War of the Worlds, mattered little: it was new, it was big , it was pretty and it filled in another piece of the puzzle. Conditions for surveying were pretty ideal for JC's team of variable inexperience, Alison and Fleur were getting a first taste of cave surveying, I was training my right eye to use Suunto instruments for the first time. We became half decent after 400m when the (almost) inevitable choke brought us to a halt, though an interesting high level lead in the West wall remains for another day.

There was then a choice :look at the 'screaming like a pig' oxbow to the right of the main passage beyond the connection to the breakthrough, or survey the connection. No contest, off to the screaming pig we went. It turned out to be a high level parallel passage with several windows back into the main one, about 100m long in all. The far end still holds the possibility of a side passage via a relatively easy but loose and exposed climb around to the right. At this point the passage itself ends in a large window above the main passage were the stream from out of the blue joins. It'd be worth checking for things at the level of Screaming like a Pig further downstream in the main passage.

On the way back team 1 caught up with us at the camp, things sounded a bit gloomy downstream, but at least Into the Blue remained a hope for Sunday. A tired exit followed, complete with a light failure, but Fleur's sugar pills and a drink in Lamb and Fox brought all out in time for another drink in the other Lamb and Fox.

Kevin then defected to team 2, to get us over to the WSG (Kebab eating and driving simultaneously no problem) and a late night wine and vodka session where we all ticked off by Nobby for not surveying the breakthrough. Thanks again, and sorry to Nobby for not sorting our priorities out.

Into the Blank Mountain

Boy did I fell rough. It wasn't the 13hour trip the previous day. It wasn't staying up till 5 in the morning. It wasn't the gallons of wine I'd drunk to rehydrate myself. It was the dodgy donner from the late night kebab shop in Abergavenny. Serves me right for lapsing from the path of veggie weirdness. If I was feeling a bit tender, this was nothing to Tim (bad head) and Pauline (bad back) as the early team (2 in the afternoon) took up the baton of pushing Draenen on Sunday. The six inches of snow, 100mph winds and horizontal sleet outside The Lamb and Fox were the only disincentive to an early jack, when Pauline and Tim had a bizarre simultaneous light failure in Indiana Highway.

We pressed on and we were rewarded. Our tasks were to further stabilise the dig, survey the connection, then have a look at a few promising leads, including the upstream Out of the Blue streamway. This had looked good the previous weekend, but looked bad following the discovery of a stream in MS&D (Left), which lead all the way to some point beneath the Reactor. Logic dictated that this was the same stream which entered as Out of the Blue further down MS&D (Right), from some sort of oxbow. Alcoholic stupor, however, earlier in the morning had dictated that it would be a separate streamway boring its way out of unknown territory. Guess which was right. Go on. Guess. Guess.

We duly stabilised the dig a bit, but not so much that faint-hearted can pass without some fear (not us though), and after a touristy trip up to the bit under the Reactor, connected the new bit of the cave to the old bit of the cave. On down MS&D, we had a poke around a small passage (2x2m) just before the start of the large (5x5m) high level (Screaming like a Stuck Pig). This ended at a draughting dig after about 30m heading northish towards the Last Sandwich or Hexamine Highways, and was called The Clique.

Tim was feeling a little naked and underequipped as in the role of spoilsport I had insisted he leave all digging tools behind, and this was a draughting lead. To bent his frustration he and Pauline tried climbing a dodgy looking inlet in the left hand wall, whilst I went for a piss round the corner in Out of the Blue. This will probably be one of the most satisfying slashes I have ever had, not simply because I was desperate by this point, but because I was pissing into a stream that was at least an order of magnitude (that's 10x) or two (100x) bigger than the stream in MS&D (Left). The others needed no second invitation to join me in a romp up a finely decorated 4x4m streamway, that never stopped. We surveyed in for about 370m, walked about as far again and left with the passage continuing for at least another 50m or as far as our lights could shine. It's pretty in places, with the survey ending just beyond a curtain of straws and helictites that all but fill the passage, it's heading south east, and it takes a decent stream. This was, however, whilst the rest of the cave was in flood (wading in White Arch), water in Elliptic Passage, so it may be less impressive at other times, but it does open up another blank section of the mountain.

The trip out was slow but interesting with water all over the place. We were out by 3:30, and the next day was well weird, going into work on the back of two hours sleep in the back of Tim's van. In all we surveyed about 480m, which together with the other passages found makes the new stuff just under 2k already.
Jonathon Cooper

Kisses from Hungary

Katinka has been doing a bit of background organisation since last week: "Another big group has already made reservation in Josvafo for New Year. I have talked to them, so we (Katinka and her friends) are invited. Moha will also be around, though it is not sure yet in the same village or in another. Anyway, we are invited there, too. As you know, there is not much place in Moha's flat, so if you wanna stay in Budapest, please tell us, so we can look for a proper lodging, where the group can stay together. Take the morning plane coming and the afternoon one for leaving. (If you arrive late night, you can take only shuttle service from the airport, which cost some 10 Pounds.) Kisses, Katinka"

I've checked up about flights. December is the expensive season it seems: Students pay about £173 for a BA flight. If you're interested, please get in touch ASAP so that Katinka knows how many people to expect.
Chris "After the hype, the scientists' verdict: CJD to kill hundreds" Densham