Depth through thought

OUCC News 13th October 1999

Volume 9, Number 17

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Freshers' Fair:

Thanks to everyone who helped out at the Freshers' Fair, and to Steve for the photos and Chris for the display boards. Found lots of apparently enthusiastic freshers.... about 200

Membership cards

We now have club membership cards, issued by the Sports Federation. These are free but supplies are limited, so I'll only issue them to those who ask. Their stated function is to "prove that you are eligible to represent the University in sport" but in practice they get you into DTMs for 50p on Wednesdays (wooo) and generally prove to anyone who cares that you're a member of OUCC. If you want one, bring a passport photo along to a club meeting, or post to me at St Catherine's College, Oxford OX1 3UJ.
Hilary Greaves


To anyone who ever has any OUCC photocopying to do - I've got a couple of high value cards for photocopying at Honey's (on High Street). This seems to be the cheapest deal around at 3p a copy. If you want to borrow these for club stuff contact me.
Hilary Greaves

Meet Sec's Corner

Thanks to everyone who showed up for the Presidents Invite. A good time was had by all (including my first ever trip down County) despite the poor weather. Let's hope it's a bit dryer on this terms meets, which are...

Date end of week Place
23,24 Oct 2 Mendip days
30,31 Oct 3 Mendip w/e , MCG
5-7 Nov 4 Yorks, Greenclose: Lost Johns, Rumbling Hole
26-28 Nov 7 Yorks, Greenclose  Gavel Pot
3-5 Dec 8 S Wales WSG 

You can let me know if you're coming at any time. Hope to see you soon!
Rich "not Gerrish" Doyle

The President's Invite 1999

I enjoyed it. Pity about the atrocious weather. For once, the Pres's Saturday trip wasn't a complete cock-up (1997 - failed to find entrance to Little Hull; 1998 - light failed at the first pitch in Penyghent) and we found Flood Entrance (tricky one, that), and went down it. Nice cave with fine passage shapes, and good moves on various little climbs. Last pitch was a bit wet, so we went to the pub instead. I should have look at the guide book more carefully before the trip - it would have reminded me that there is a connecting crawl to the (dry) Bar Pot last pitch from the head of the climb down to Flood's last pitch - something I've occasionally though of looking for and which would have added an interesting completion to the trip. Ho hum. Has anyone been through it ?

Thence to Southerscales for the kids' tea, and to the Schoolhouse for the big nosh. So many people, so little time to chat to them. Many thanks to Paul and Joan for cooking in the Schoolhouse and at Southerscales. My usual crap "speech" and all the wine got shifted. So that's all right then.
Steve Roberts

Dachstein '99

The Dachstein expedition was slightly unusual in that only two of the nine active cavers had ever been there before. Although, curiously enough, five of them had previously been out to the Picos with Oxford. So why had so few stalwarts returned - surely not because of the cable car which carries all caving supplies up to the luxurious mountain hut with its friendly hosts and generous policy of the more you spend the cheaper things are. The hour or so's walk to the cave entrance was also relatively friendly being mostly flat and extensively cairned. The unknown beckoned...

Snablet had lured us all to join him with tales of an imminent connection of two caves to yield a 1500m deep through trip in an 80km system. The cave of interest - Eisturnen Hohle - already 200m deep, only needed extending by another few hundred metres down and across and we'd land in a 70m wide river passage via a 200+m aven. It sounded so simple. However, a review of past log books gave us our first clue. They'd been using the same sales pitch every year since they started going out there and the connection was yet to be made. Any German speakers may also have noticed the second clue - that the name of the cave translates as Ice Gymnastics Cave - something else we didn't appreciate until we arrived. Of course, the good thing about ice squeezes is that the more time you spend in them the bigger they get and after the first 100m depth you leave most the ice behind anyway.

The other problem with these alpine caves is the afternoon thunderstorms. It would appear that there is always an afternoon thunderstorm somewhere in the Alps so, just to be on the safe side, the forecasters always forecast thunderstorms. The only way to know if the forecast for your area is correct is not to cave before lunchtime - so no problem there for those used to cavingin the Picos. In fact, we never witnessed any significant rises in water levels underground but just to be safe the entire cave was rigged in the high fossil passages which were often a bit smaller than the rifts below and did require marginally more technical ropework but far from being arduous this safety minded rigging merely helped the cave to maintain its interest, not that it needed any help, mind you.

The old limit was a fine dry passage curiously named "suitable only for insane worms and geckos." This is in fact, one of the finest 200m of caving anywhere in the world and the hour it takes to traverse it gives you plenty of time to appreciate it's finer points. The "shark's fin" is particularly impressive and the pitch which comes at the end is as spectacular as it is unexpected! Form here the cave gets big with a 5m diameter phreatic tunnel heading off in both directions. Following the draught took us to the head of an impressive 50m pitch into a huge chamber full of loose boulders that funnel into a small hole. Fortunately, for those with an aversion to loose boulders, a friendly rift leads off from the side of the funnel and provides an alternative way on.

>From here the cave is easy going - at least it would be if everything wasn't covered in dry mud. This doesn't last long, however, because a couple of pitches later and you regain an active streamway where everything is covered in slimy wet mud! However, this is preferable to getting wet in the fine, icy cascades since the air temperature is only 4 degrees. The current limit of exploration offers a choice of draughting downstream pitches, one active and one fossil. There are also numerous unexplored side passages around. The draught is strong, a dry sandy campsite has been chosen and the connection next year should be a formality... However, the unexplored karst does rise for another 500m or so, so there's always the next higher entrance to find...

At present, the cave is a bit like 2/7 but without the shaft series. The streamway part exists, complete with London underground, Paris metro and any other underground train network you'd care to include. The 75km of railway tunnel passages which we are trying to connect to are truly amazing with nice flat sandy floors, fine formations and only half a dozen local cavers to explore them. We haven't found the shaft series yet but it has been seen from below. Apparently it's a bell shaped aven over 200m high. Since there's no chance of taking a 200m rope down there in one piece the shaft series, when it comes, looks like being a very big free hang with multiple knot passes. Anyone fancy an alternative to digging in Egbert next year?
Rob Garrett

"Anytime, anywhere"

No, not Limestone Lil's memoirs, but the tale of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Organisation, who have now been going for 50 years. At one time, OUCC appeared to be heading for getting a loyalty card from this worthy crew, with two (or was it three?) rescues in close succesion from Dowbergill passage.

The book is an enjoyable, and at times gripping, read. I found it a lot better than the CRO equivalent ("Race against time"), not least because there are a range of vioces and styles represented. The book is nicely structured, with chapters telling the tales of selected rescues in full, interleaved with chapters telling of the growth of the organisation. The first-hand tales of rescue are excellent - especially the Sleets Gill Rescue ("Geoff Crossley! - they 've sent Geoff Crossley to save us!!") told by Jonny Shaw, and the rescue of Thirza Holden from Birks Fell, told by Thirza and others of her team. Plenty of photos, some in colour, and a coda by possibly the North's most cynical (ex) policeman.

Copy now in the OUCC library.
Steve Roberts

Moving Cavers

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