Depth through thought

OUCC News 30th April 1997

Volume 7, Number 6

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Ever been caving under a Labour government? [Yes! - SGR] Well, this weekend may be your chance. There's a full-packed term of caving goodies ahead, and it all starts with the Yorks trip this weekend. So, sign up and get caving. And if you don't, then a few miserable bastards might just be going to Wales instead.

Speaking of which.... The BEC have been making progress in Draenen again. Upstream Big Country has yielded 300 metres or so and the promise of further advances under the Blorenge look good, if squalid. Oh, and if you know what's good for you, come on expedition. Nobby knows something about it apparently.

96 Expedition T-shirts

Many people missed out on these wonderfully designed T-shirts first time round, but I'm hoping to put an order in again. So if you would like one, or just need a rag for cleaning the family silver, then please tell me your size and colour. I need 10 T-shirts to make a viable order, which is nearly filled but not quite.
Pauline Rigby.

New Meets Sec Corner

There is a busy term lined up, starting this weekend with a trip to Wharfdale. The club doesn't go there very often so its a good chance to do some different caves. At the end of 6th week (7-8th June) there will be a Wales weekend with a difference. Draenen digging will be banned, although I am sure that there are some newer member of the club who would be keen to find out what all the fuss is about.

Also there will be an Ingleton caravans week at the end of term (21st-26 June), which if last years is anything to go by will be fantastic (don't forget your broccoli).

And don't forget the Annual Dinner on Saturday of 2nd week (10th May) and the Gear Mending and AC Irvine Interviews on Saturday of 7th week (14th May).


Well that got your attention anyway. No, seriously its true. Smirnoff have kindly donated a case of red label vodka to the El Regalon 97 Expedition. So its just another great reason to come to the Picos this summer. Speak to any committee member for more details.

Out of the Blue and Beyond

(Well round the corner a bit, sort of, but it is going somewhere honest).

Not much progress had been made in Draenen for a few weeks, and other cavers had started to poke their noses into our hard-earned leads, so it was about time we got back down the cave and push the limits. Or at least that what I thought when I proposed a camping trip at the Gardiner's Arms one Wednesday (a camping trip down Draenen that is, not one at the Gardiner's Arms). Most of OUCC seemed to have descended into some sort of pit of despair, so Sunday morning arrived to find only me and Andy prepared to sample Draenen's delights. We did, however, make Tim feel guilty and wake Nobby up at 7:45 so the day was not going to be totally wasted.

Draenen apathy seemed to have gripped the entire caving community as we had the entire cave to ourselves bar three lost souls visiting the Arms park. I wasn't sure what we would have a look at. There are still plenty of leads to go at though you need to know where to look. In the event we made good time, so having a look at the end of Out of the Blue seemed a good option. Few people had been up there and none had seriously tackled the terminal boulder choke. We soon found out why. After nearly a 1000m metres of unimpeded passage (4x4m for the most part) you hit an area of breakdown. The stream emerges from cobbles above at the right hand wall and a couple of muddy thrutches along the left hand wall may make progress along undercuts. The best location is to go up about 4m before the stream emerges. This takes you beyond the stream in the open passage, then into a tall alcove. At this point the stream appears to be following a choked rift, which is really draughty (cold at least). Progress can be made high up (which is loose) or trying to go along this rift at stream level. This involved squirming between two rocks into the rift, which will seal you in good and proper if the choke started to move, which was not inconceivable. At floor level the choke is diggable but damp, whilst at head height there is a view through to another small chamber, but the boulder to move could well have held the whole lot up, so I left it at that. Worth forcing if brave/stupid/equipped with bang.

Back in the main passage a hole in the right hand wall opened to a sizeable rift, which had been looked at but not to its obvious conclusion. A few rocks barred progress so it definitely had not been pushed. Progress was pretty easy, with a few rocks to move here and there until the rift widened and started to turn back towards points beyond the choke. Bugger closed in 5m further on, but a way on could be seen. This is again barred by boulders but not ones that threaten life and limb, the only risk being is that removal may completely block the way ahead. Worth another look. This we surveyed, to find out where it was going (35m away from then beyond the choke), and we headed out in time for a pint at the Lamb and Fox. No-one there either bar the land-lord and his dog. Eerie.

We were rescued from Swildon's

Swildon's through trip. Fantastic idea. 8pm start. Bad idea. Worried cavers in the Hunters promising to rescue you at 11.30. Dodgy prospect. Too many unknowns. Tight cave. Hard route finding. Is the mud sump open? Can we free climb the 20? No ladder. Solution: best way to avoid getting rescued (wouldn't it be an embarrassment after all... you know: University club irresponsibility and all that). Resize plans. Go in and do a recce of Priddy Green Sink as far as the Cowsh Avens pitches and come out in time for the pub.

Shit sump is horrible, but otherwise this is a thoroughly entertaining trip, even if it only takes marginally over an hour. Anyway, out in plenty of time, and embarrassing scenario successfully avoided.

Next morning (well, sort of), what better than a photo trip in the upper reaches of, yes, Swildon's. A trip to White Pit was a tantalising possibility (anyone fancy it another day?) for mid-afternoon, but we completely lost track of time taking photos. As you do. Well, as the photographers do. Tim's van was on Priddy Green for over 6 hours, and was now the only vehicle in sight. We must have been in trouble. The nearby resident MRO wardens and the worried BEC simultaneously alerted each other. No-one had seen us charge lights at the Belfry the previous night. No-one knew us from a bar of soap. We looked, sounded, acted like novices. Clearly, we were in dire trouble. No-one takes 6 hours to get to the ladder and back.

Except of course photographers. Pauline had shot, ooh, an entire film in this time, and we were on the way out when we met our rescuers: Estelle and a very nice chap who'd thought about coming to Oxford but chose UMIST instead. The rescue went very smoothly and the two victims exited the cave under their own steam in five or six minutes. But there was still the red tape to take care of. "Can you tell us your surnames please?" (forms had to be filled in; rescues had to be stood down). "And a pint down the Hunters will do".

Our own fault for not leaving a call out at the Belfry, or, at least, for not making them realise that we had been to Swildon's once or twice before.
Pauline Rigby & Tim Guilford

p.s. The pictures make Swildon's look dead exciting.

Cavers Have Moved

Peter MacNab & Anette Becher
32 Fife Park
Strathkinness High Road
St. Andrews
KY16 9UE
Chris Vernon
10 Prebend Street
tel (home): 01234 348475
tel (work): 01234 791876

Jim, Sara and Luke are now living in a small palace in Huddersfield:

12 Occupation Road
(01484)480205 h
(01484)486068 w

John (Hutch) Hutchinson
School of Biological Sciences,
Univeristy of Bristol,
Woodland Road, Bristol,
BS8 1UG. Tel. 0117 9287480.