Apparently things are moving in Draenen again. Some of them rather
dangerously in fact, as JC's report below of digging with Rob testifies.
In addition, I hear rumours that some stuff was found last weekend by Chris
and JC and Lev, but they refuse to give me any details.
Don't forget, we are now meeting in the Harcourt Arms in Jericho outside
El Regallon 97
The expedition report is now almost complete and will be published this
Friday. It has a lovely picture of Jo on the front, and this time
she's caving. However, only sponsors and JC will be getting a copy
in the first round. Expedition members will get theirs after Easter.
Oh, and there's a prize for the first person to spot the topographical
I read in the papers this recently that Pete Livesey had died - I guess
climbing, since the place of death was noted as "Malham" [I now find that
Pete lived in Malham - he died of cancer]. As the obit noted, before he
took up climbing in a big way, Pete was one of the UK's best cavers - and
also one of UK caving's most entertaining writers: "Travels with a donkey"
gives a somewhat different perspective on the big expeditions of the 70's
from that of the more official reports...
Steve fails to go caving again
Well, I did try to raise some enthusiasm amongst OUCC for that strange
and obscure activity called caving the weekend before last. Enthusiasm
was high on Wednesday evening, doubtless fuelled by a few beers, to meet
up in the Hunter's and knock off Stoke Lane Slocker as an entertaining
little tourist trip. By Sunday morning, everyone had dropped out, but by
then I was down at Dirge's at Shepton Mallet anyway. So I didn't crawl
along the pleasant and aqueous entrance series, I didn't test my nerves
and skill against the colossal sump system, and I didn't wander round the
huge and magnificently decorated chambers gasping in amazed and pleasured
wonder. What I did was to charge around various Mendip roads at rather
an excessive speed on Dirge's new motorcycle (well, fairly new - a Royal
Enfield from the early 1960's), walk to the pub and throw sticks for Dirge's
dog. Well, stuff caving then.
Tales of the Lemming
It looks like the competition for next year's Lemming is already strong
with Rob Garrett making a determined bid to retain the trophy. The trip
was only going to be a short one, dodgy lights, lack of cave fitness and
desire to hit the pub early being the principle determining factors. Ben
Lovett fancied having a look around the Waterfall Series, and this seemed
like a good idea to me, Rob and Matt (Rob's pal from work) as we had not
seen that bit of the cave. On the way, there was also a couple of leads
that had not been totally worked out.
As it turned out the first lead was a winner. Short rift passage into
a parallel stream or some sort of inlet. I set about the thrutchy downstream
passage whilst Ben and Rob looked upstream. Stream level quickly
choked but there was a tempting black void above. Only problem were the
finely poised boulders between them and it. Rob set about the climb up,
keeping a close eye on the perilously perched boulders above he carefully
selected his first foot hold, which promptly re-arranged itself to grab
his foot. The Robtrap held him firm. Even if his foot could be extracted
it now appeared to be the chockstone holding up most of the wall. He politely
requested assistance. Ben obliged but was rewarded by the roof hurling
rocks at him, with only their ricochet off Rob softening the impact.
Things did not look too good. Rob was stuck fast. The roof was distinctly
cantankerous. A knife was needed to cut Rob's foot out of the welly and
neither Rob, nor Ben nor Matt had brought one. A brief period of cursing
was rewarded by the spotting of a neat pile of gear I'd shed to tackle
the downstream passage including gloves, mars bar, whistle and penknife.
The welly was cut and Rob's unhelpfully swollen foot was extracted, but
not his wet-sock which was still firmly pinned. Meanwhile, oblivious to
all the fun, I'd turned back from a downstream squeeze to find a distinctly
sorry looking Rob, his welly sticking out from beneath a pile of boulders
and Ben unfazed working how to best negotiate the hanging death.
The direct approach had proved a tadge risky and without tools a considered
dig was tricky. Cobbing rocks seemed like our only option except the best
angle of attack was up the rift beyond the boulders with a small chance
of blocking the route of retreat. Didn't seem to bad so I had a go. Three
well aimed rocks and the worst of the hanging death was removed and I could
still get out. All that now lies between us and the black space is an unstable
bridge which may need demolishing but then we are in. Excellent prospect.
We abandoned the waterfall series in favour of getting Rob's sore foot
to the surface and a trip to Dudley's for one welly and one wet-sock.
Meeting the Irish Cavers.
For those that have not heard, I've been contacted by a group of cavers
from Limerick University who are interested in joining us in the Picos
this year. I'd heard some of them would be in South Wales this weekend
and I planned to track them down. This turned out to pretty easy as Patrick,
John and Tom were going down Draenen on the Saturday, so we made out introductions
and tentatively suggested a trip the following day.
They were staying at the SWCC hut at Penwyllt so after our Saturday
epic an jaunt down OFD seemed ideal, even more so having invested in a
wetsuit at Dudley's. Cwm Dwr to Top was the plan as Rob roughly knew his
way around Cwm Dwr and I reckoned I could find the way out of Top. Excellent
trip with plenty of "Watch out for the deep pothole in the stream" "What
pothole. Arghh! Splooosh! Bugger and Feck!" incidents. Every one seemed
to have a good time even when we blatantly took the wrong route out to
Top. Out to beautiful sunshine.
J "I love S.Wales...and the dales... and the Mendips... but not
Caving in the Vercors
Anyone interested in organising a trip to the Vercors should check things
out with Hugh Penney, a caver who knows the area well and runs a hostel
type thingy there. Here's his e-mail.