Depth through thought
OUCC News 9th December 1998
Volume 8, Number 24
|DTT Volume 8 index|
Tonight is, I believe, the last meeting in St. Cross until next term. I think its the Harcourt in Jericho from now on, but if I'm wrong I'm sure someone will correct me soon enough...
This was a colourful Wales weekend: good caving, fun people, and disastrous transport, all rolled together to make excellent entertainment. The fun started when the van broke down at the head of the Clydach gorge. After our excess passengers had hitched lifts to the W. S. G. / Red Lion from Rob/Harvey and then JC who happened to be passing, the van was towed to the cottage by Green Flag which was rather decent of them since we have not paid any premiums for at least two years!
Alpine starts to Daren and Draenen left a potential ten cavers with only one car. The problem was compounded when Martin Hicks, our Leader for Dan-yr-Ogof, phoned in sick. We were left scratching our heads when the darlings at S. W. C. C. would not let us go down OFD instead. Fortunately, at this point Gavin reappeared having forgotten his helmet and light, and so Hilary and I were able to hitch a lift over to Draenen with him and Richard. Of course we were underground well before Tim, Lou and Ben, who had as usual camped in the Draenen car park ready for an early start. They caught up with Hilary and me on the way to Wyvern Hall, and we all trooped together down to the far end of the Wessex extensions. Ben and Lou had been here before, which was just as well because the whole area is incredibly complicated.
We struck gold (or at least barium) at the first attempt, with the draught leading us to a small tube which had obviously not been entered before. Ben and Tim called us all through into a small chamber with a very tenuous roof. This was Hilary's first ever trip in Draenen, first ever long trip, and first exploration trip, so she was sent first through the loose boulders to see what lay beyond. The words "Is it me, or is it blue in here?" will probably not go down in history as the finest ever uttered by an explorer, but they were enough to get the rest of us excited.
She was right - it was blue. Blue-green in fact. Almost the entire wall of the 15 m long by 6 m high chamber that we were standing in was covered in blue-green aragonite sheets, blobs and a few helictites. It seems we had met the mineral vein that runs through Poetic Justice in Big Country and the Reactor Chamber in War of the Worlds. The formations were not as impressive as the ones in Daren, but this did not stop us from making a lot of noise about it, to the bemusement of Hilary. We took it in turns to delicately probe the extremities of the chamber, Tim stripping off to reach the fragile far end, but we could not justify pushing the one possible lead without getting a better idea of the area first.
We headed out to a cold crisp night, and a welcome beer. Gavin and Richard had returned from digging in Yellow Van, so off we went back towards the WSG. We had not got far before Gavin's car overheated and dumped most of its water on the road, while the block of ice inside the radiator made dramatic thumping noises as it started to melt. All water in the area was completely solid, but fortunately Richard was able to produce almost a litre of finest urine which together with my more modest contribution was enough to get us to a garage, miraculously open at 2.30 a.m.
Martin Laverty appeared on Sunday, amid a cluster of uncertainty at the cottage, and took me, William and the club drill off to Roaring to drill some holes in a boulder that was impeding progress at the bottom of the dig. Well, we drilled some holes, destroying two drill bits in the process, and then we came back.
Alison and Richard had been abandoned at the WSG, everyone else having been whisked
back to Oxford. The three of us then had a very relaxing journey home, sitting in the back
of a rescue vehicle as it is towed us to Oxford, courtesy of Green Flag again. A bargain
I'd been trying to get a long trip down Daren for quite some time, so it was brilliant finally to get the chance on Saturday, with Rob and JC. I found the infamous entrance crawl quite good fun - if you're Lev-sized you can basically hands-and-knees crawl or stoop most of the way and limit getting wet to just one side. Of course, if you're Rob-sized then you can't get your shoulders square to crawl and have to get both sides wet in the puddles. After that it's a lot of stomping and a bit of crawling to a nasty fixed ladder, which seems to overhang in places and finishes about a foot below the top of the pitch. Which is nice. The Time Machine is quite impressive - nothing like as big as the London Underground but noticeably bigger than anything in Draenen, say. The Bonsai streamway is lovely, although it goes on a bit. Rock Steady Crews is great fun: running, stooping, occasionally crawling through nice dry sand. Some more easy crawling and some slightly harder crawling before Anklegrinder Bypass, which isn't anything like as hideous as the name would suggest (I'd been worrying about it all the way in), although it does have a short duck in it, which everyone had kept very quiet about.
At the fixed ladder up into the camp, Rob warned that there was some loose rock, which didn't stop me from nearly taking JC out when I got to the top with about a cubic foot of limestone, missing him by about a yard. Rob & JC left me to try and toast myself doing battle with the wonderful paraffin stoves at camp while they had a look at the Blue-Greenies. Then JC came back to put the tea on and I went to check out the pretties. The Blue-Greenies were a lot less blue or green than I'd expected from the name, but they are a stunning display - although in fact by the time you get to them, you've already passed enough pretty things so that the cumulative effect is you're perhaps expecting more. JC wasn't that impressed, although that was probably because he resented the fact that to see them he'd had to leave camp and a cup of tea behind to do some extra crawling.
An uneventful trip out - it's an easy cave to plod out of as the hardest parts are at the start (except for the entrance crawl of course), just by camp when you're fresh and you can take it at any speed as its nice and warm and there are no real obstacles. Its nicely planned so that you have stretches of walking between crawls and climbs to give your arms a rest. There's no nasty Draenen style mud. Even the boulder-hopping is nicer than Draenen.
At the entrance we sent JC out first, giving him a good headstart as he thought he'd be
quite slow, but he still managed to overtake a group from Great Yarmouth who had meant to
go to the Time Machine but didn't like the look of the ladder pitch. Nearly at the
entrance we got attacked by a bat, who was keen to get past us, but there were only a
limited number of passing places. Eventually he got through and we escaped. We managed to
do the whole trip in a bit over 10 hours, including over an hour's messing around at camp.
A really good trip - certainly makes a change from Draenen.
and now JC's version....
Under the cover of night (or at least before 9am), I slipped away with Lev and Rob, our goal the pretties scattered around The Restaurant in Daren. Its a trip I'd fancied for a long time, and needed to do before my knees got too shot. The plan was to be in and out in the day, with time to get back before official last orders at the Red Lion in Penderyn.
Everything started well. We left Whitewalls by 10 and were through the entrance "crawl" in 50 minutes. From then on the goings pretty easy with proper walking passages, a well dodgy fixed ladder, the huge Time Machine, and the pretty but overlong Bonsai Streamway. The fun starts after the Hard Rock Camp, firstly through the excellent Rock Steady Cruise, then to the slightly less pleasant Acupuncture Passages, and finally Anklegrinder leading up to the Camp.
By this time I was more shattered than a shattered pillar and darn sight more interested in a cup of tea than one of the best sets of formations in the country. The Blue Greenies did their stuff, but I was an unreceptive audience. I liked the big blue jobby up in the roof though.
Whether it was psychologically good to be heading out, or because of the magic
properties of tea, the nasty bits didn't seem quite so bad on our return. After the
nasties, I dragged my feet through most of the big stuff, so the entrance was almost a
pleasant relief. They sent me out first so as not to hold things up too much and between
meeting up with another party on the way out, freezing cold soakings and a very scary bat
the time slipped by. We were out by half eight, with plenty of time for the pub. Excellent
trip, though not one I'd care to do every weekend, as I still feel like I received a