Depth through thought

OUCC News 29th April 1998

Volume 8, Number 10

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DTT is back on line for the summer term, so please keep your news, trip write-ups and gossip flowing.

Draenen Access

After Tim made such a fuss about Draenen keys last week (sorry Chris!) it now seems that someone has stolen the padlock from the gate anyway.  In case you don't already know, a combination lock has been fitted temporarily.  I have the combination if anyone wants it (obviously I'm not going to print it here).
Tim Guilford.

Digging in Wolvercote

While some people were off on trivial trips down OD, I bravely cleared vast amounts of silt not too far from 143 GR, and discovered a red-walled chamber containing several seats and a road atlas. I propose calling it "Red Van Chamber" unless there are any serious objections.
Steve Roberts

Pixie Meadows

The Saturday before last (actually 21st March 1988 I think) Chris, JC and I went to have a look at some leads which Chris remembered seeing off of Flag passage (off of St. Giles in the Northwest of Draenen). It was a slightly handicapped team - Chris was caving without his glasses because of the duck and I had even less visibility as I was using a club cell - I could just about see my feet (if no one had dazzled me recently) - I guess I have some work to do as lamp-post! JC was the only one who could see where he was going.

Its quite nice caving around there, with a few pretty bits and its quite unspoilt. The duck is nothing like as bad as I was fearing (apparently it has improved since it was discovered) and there's only a short stretch where you might have to get an eye under the water. We improved the taping in St. Giles a little and then got down to digging. At the first site we chose we managed to shift a few large rocks which were stuck in some pretty solid mud and although we were making progress it didn't seem too promising, so we gave up and found the site Chris originally had in mind. It was a case of moving rocks around in a bedding crawl and after only half an hour or so JC and Chris had moved enough of them that one could get squeeze under a particularly friendly section of roof, which likes to drop bits onto you, into walking passage.

The obvious way on lead to a short pitch, which no-one fancied climbing and instead a short climb up a calcite waterfall lead to over 100m of passage through white rock, with a few possible digs. At a T-junction "upstream" lead to some classic keyhole passage and in the "downstream" direction we found a number of small marks in the mud, which looked very much like someone had been sticking the end of a tiny crowbar into the mud and pulling it out again, which had Chris rather confused for a while, thinking that someone had been there before us. My own theory about the formation of these things is calcite crystals falling into the mud and then dissolving away leaving a void behind, but it was due to a competing theory about mythical creatures with crowbars (along with the need to use names of parts of Oxford) that the discovery was named Pixie Meadows.
On the way out we stopped for some tasty dried apricots at the food cache and Chris had some fudge, which had definitely seen better days - JC and I declined. At the duck, JC discovered that the zip on his oversuit had jammed fully open which must have been pleasant for him.

Last Saturday (28th March) Chris and I returned to descend the pitch. This time Chris had his glasses (and a plastic bag for the duck) and I had a (slightly) better cell. We retrieved the OUCC ladder which had spent the last 3 years in a trickle at the entrance to Dyer Straits (and was in the knackered pile before then!), discovering a fine example of bad rigging. At the pitch head I put in my first bolt, and due to the state of the rock and the ladder (but not my bolting ability), elected to do things properly and put in another.

At the base of the pitch we found the biggest stuff I've found in Draenen, which isn't saying much - not huge, but not small either. There were deep lakes with lovely mud-rafts floating on them, which we unfortunately had to destroy in order to proceed.  I decided to stop surveying in and turn back when it started getting chest-deep with a few inches airspace. A different route lead to more dry passage and one possible dig heading north. We surveyed it and derigged, getting out in time for last orders. It was only on Sunday when we cleaned the mud off the ladder that we realised quite how bad it was - with half the wire worn through in at least one place! It has now found a new use providing access to Chris's loft.
Lev Bishop

Trapped Feet & Rivers of Blood

Last Saturday (25th April) OUCC cavers (actual and honorary) fled from all areas of the country to spend the best part of a beautiful weekend underground in Draenen.  The aim was to visit War of the Worlds North, but, of course, we never got there.  The main reason for this was a "five minute detour" to see Rob's trapped wellie in One Foot in the Grave, Ben, JC and Rob's lead near the entrance.   Expecting to find a hideously perched boulder pile judging by the stories from the previous trip, we arrived to find exactly that.  No prospect of bringing things down safely from below, so we attempted a climb in the rift before the choke.  This led to a tight vertical squeeze then popped me out above the choke looking into the much reported "black space" above the boulders.  I dropped down into a sizable chamber to see a short passage coming in from the right.  Great.  The way on was a smallish inlet rift cascading in from behind another set of chocked boulders.  These looked laughably poised, but despite nearly two hours of chucking rocks at the keystone, JC and I were unable to bring it down.  New tactics are planned.

Meanwhile, Rob, Lou and Lev made a further 50cms progress downstream.  So, tome to leave and get on with the trip.  By this stage Andy was realising that he was still recovering from flu, so decided to trun back at Megadrive (did you make it out Andy?).  It was a pleasantly bimbly trip that finally reached the splendours of WOW after 6 hours of caving. So, with an estimated 20 minutes left before turnaround time we agreed to have a quick look at two target leads in the south before heading out.  JC and Rob went into Soups of the World, whilst Lev and I left a shivering Lou to look at a grovel at the end of a tributary to Blood River.

"2 minutes to meeting time Tim", shouted Lev as I dived into the wet crawl to start levering boulders out of the choke in front."Er, lets just ahve a quick look", I replied.  Barely a minute later I was squeezing through into new passage.  A wet grovel at first, then it opened up into walking inlet passage, a pretty continuation of Blood River.  We followed upstream for perhaps 50 metres, sometimes walking sometimes hands and knees, until reaching a muddy boulder chamber where the stream issued from beneath boulders.  A quick look into a second chamber, then I promptly fell over.

Conscious that rushing isnt good for you in new boulderchokes, we decided to leave and join the other only 30 minutes late.  Several leads are waiting in the area now, so we hope to be back very soon.

Despite pretty extreme tiredness, everyone made it out in about two and a half hours, in time for a few pies at the Lamb and Fox, and a rainy night on the hill.  The last thing I remember was smiling wearily as I closed the back door of my van and watched Lev and JC trying to set up a tent horizontally flapping in the howling wind.
Tim Guilford