Depth through thought

OUCC News 2nd June 1999

Volume 9, Number 13

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Expedition Sponsorship Films

Kodak have offered to supply us film at their 'normal trade terms and discounts', but we have to order over £250 in multiples of twenty films. I reckon this means that we would have to order 60 rolls of film, and soon because they require four weeks to deliver. Is anyone interested in this amount of film? If soon please contact me NOW as I will have to write off for an order form.
Lynn Mulelly

Lev's Rope Incidents

Because I dislocated my thumb in Yorkshire down knacker-trapper I wasn't doing anything exciting last weekend, so instead I did my best to liven up the SRT practise on Friday. I'd already practised my "no-gear" techniques of classic abseil and holding a fall with a round the body belay (Rich is a brave man for taking that fall), so after the inevitable mid-rope rescues (which went surprisingly well) I tried coping with a variety of gear-failure scenarios.

  1. Failed jammer (and no backup) - using Stop as chest ascender. Worked quite well, once you got the hang of it (you have to pull the tail rope just right). Slightly harder than prussiking one-handed. Change over to abseil was nice and easy (but then I forgot to use a braking krab and lost control of the abseil).
  2. Failed jammer (no backup and no stop) - using croll and wrapping pitch rope round foot. Slightly harder than (1). Only one point of contact with rope, so unsafe. Managed to change over to abseil on Italian hitch with some difficulty.
  3. No working jammers and no stop - using tape prussik knot for chest and wrapping pitch rope round foot. Slightly harder than (2) but still doable. Managed to change over to abseil on Italian hitch, leaving the prussik loop as a cunning autolock.
  4. One jammer, no stop, no harness - using tape harness and rest as (2). Tape was a bit short so slightly uncomfortable but otherwise same as (2).

Conclusions: in a pinch, you can get away with very little gear. I've no idea how hard it would be to pass a rebelay (suspect not much harder than usual) or deal with an awkward pitch head (suspect practically impossible) with these techniques. They'll all be a pain on long pitches as you have to pick up the weight of the rope below you at each step. I was just working out how to do without gear altogether, including the pitch rope (see "An Improvised Acetylene-Fuelled Rocket Propulsion Device, using Empty Beverage Containers", published by the Bull-Pot Supergun team) when half of the Oxfordshire police force showed up to stop Rich from hanging himself. They didn't seem too pissed off when they discover that in fact that's not what he'd been doing, but suggested we contact the control room before future practises...
Lev Bishop

SRT Practice..WARNING !

If anyone arranges SRT practice at the bridge could they please inform Oxford Police Control, As a few police turned up on Friday evening after being informed of someone jumping off the road bridge. I.e. four police cars, one motor bike. Oh and an Ambulance had been called.
Simon Goddard


The prospect of a Sunday afternoon grade 3 trip with Tony, Lev and JC was appealing. Something new for all of us, and within easy walking distance of Southerscales! It seemed Knackertrapper was a hole where you would be in contact with the walls for most of the time. This was particularly attractive, because JC and myself had spent the previous afternoon dangling around and gibbering in Cow Pot. Erin, from the Cambridge team, had appeared to be equipped with the only functioning brain on the trip, and politely directed operations. It became clear that JC was possibly not entirely sober when he put in a deviation rather than a rebelay near the top of the main hang, thereby managing to generate an impressive rub point. I had long since given up trying to rig the traverse, in spite of having some fine Brynmawr rigging to follow. That early morning trot up Ingleborough had clearly failed to clear away the cobwebs generated by the bizarre mixture of spirits guzzled through Friday night.

Anyway, a new day, a new cave. Rumbles of discontent became apparent by the time we got to the bottom of the first two pitches, which turned out to be free climbable. No danger of losing contact with any of the walls! Tony passed the crux, and I followed. Lev promptly dislocated his thumb, then dislocated it again to make sure the first time was not an accident. JC managed to mask his disappointment manfully, and immediately volunteered to escort Lev to the surface. I thought it would be rude to make Tony do a solo trip when he had attempted to be sociable by setting off with a team of four, so carried on down. The crux was surprisingly crux like, and the cave beyond had a surprisingly untouched feel to it. We liked the fact that you have to use your imagination at the head of every pitch. Most of the pitches were free climbable, as claimed in the guide book, and traditional methods were called for on the three pitches that we decided to rig. University Challenge, a rift navigation exercise for the student, gave us more practice at climbing. "At last, the stream!" "Oh, it's a sump". "No sign of a low duck then?". "No". The exit was surprisingly free of navigational errors, we thought. However, the crux and some of the climbing was pretty strenuous for a grade 3 trip. A trip "well consolidated in the grade" suggested Tony. And we only saw 1 bolt to cover all 7 pitches! That's the NCC for you...
Chris Densham

Climbing Spanish Avens

Well, I finally managed a caving trip last weekend, and one that had been planned for a while. Nobby and Fleur met me and Lou at Draenen and after a leisurely gossip session we started out on our 32 hour trip to Prisoners of War. The sight of paragliders floating about above the Blorenge on our way down to the entrance didn't help the desire to go underground, but once we'd finally reached the spectacularly muddy aven and kitted up for an aid climbing session into the unknown that was all forgotten. Two hours, one bolt, and two bolt drivers later I squirmed onto the muddy ledge at the top of the aven and looked into open passage. My experience has rarely been one of success with aid climbs, but this looked different and soon (well, not that soon), we had everyone at the top and pushing into sensible sized passage.

It didn't go far or easily, but by 11pm we had dug and squeezed our way into around 100 metres of new stuff, perhaps the best bit of which was a meandering high level passage connecting this with the other Spanish Aven downstream in Blue Blood. Nobby and Fleur headed out (presumably to reach the surface about 5am), and we camped at Destiny. On Sunday we ambled out and spent several hours digging a high level crawl off Lost In Space, which went nowhere, slowly), and an awkward 30 metre crawl near Mud Ripple Dig, which is still going, and carries a draught. Only problem is it all has to be reversed: you can't even pass to swap diggers. Out in time for dinner at the Lamb.
Tim Guilford

Steve's Trivial Bit

Winner of the 1998 IgNobel prize: LITERATURE. Dr. Mara Sidoli of Washington, DC, for her illuminating report, "Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread."(Journal of Analytical Psychology, vol. 41, no. 2, 1996, pp. 165-78. )
Steve Roberts