Depth through thought

OUCC News 20th October 1999

Volume 9, Number 18

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Welcome to all the Freshers who've turned and signed up for a bracing trip down Swildon's, heralding the humble start of illustrious careers as the next generation of great cave explorers. And to those who just turned up.

Conserving Draenen

My religious experience of last Sunday was to feel the satisfaction of having laid nearly half a kilometre of conservation tape in some of Draenen's valuable gypsum lined passages around the Snowball area, and to have returned to the log book on the way out to discover that Adrian Fawcett and another caver from The Chelsea had conservation taped Players' Tunnel on their way round the round trip. A good feeling to know that conservation of this so far uniquely protected system is still ongoing, and that some sorely late jobs are getting done.

A less good feeling came from discovering that the fat-boys' bypass to Slaughter Canyon into Big Country has been in regular use. This passage, which contains some very fine calcite formations, offers a marginally easier route into Big Country, but was conservation taped off soon after its discovery. When we originally taped it off, we were careful to arrange the tape so that the main formations could be viewed from the Big Country end. In addition, we had taped and dry-stone walled the Three Amigos end of the passage to leave no ambiguity that the passage should be conserved. The fine "diving dolphin" formation at the far end now has a series of muddy boot marks on it. I wonder who's they are? If they are yours, just think to yourself about whether the extra couple of minutes saved was really worth it.

So far it hard to establish who has re-opened this taped-off passage. But we gather that it was still closed just over two years ago, so it is unlikely to be the original explorers of Big Country. So far this is the second taped-off passage to my knowledge that has been rail-roaded by cavers anxious for a minor short-cut. The other being a rift in Perseverance that was taped off, with a warning notice, because it had been in use by roosting bats. In this case the notice had been removed too. This short cut saves about 8 seconds of caving.

Self-righteous nonsense? Well, lets hear what you think.
Tim Guilford

Back to Big Country

After a lovely Saturday wafting about the Black Mountains in the misty autumnal air, hovering above kestrels and waving at territorial grouse displaying desperately at my paraglider as I slid past three feet above the heather, a days grovelling in the dark seemed silly. And the prospect of carrying, all the way through Slaughter Canyon, drills and batteries and strange bits of metal rod invented by Lev , added an icing of ridicule to our plan for Sunday.

So it was no surprise that Me, Lou Maurice, Ben Lovett and Martin Groves sidled our way only slowly into a late start from the Lamb and Fox car park (which incidentally now contains a mock-up garage and café for a BBC filmset - or was Brian having us on). The trip in was slow because batteries, whichever way you adjust them, are heavy. But it was nice to go somewhere that felt different, since its three years probably since I'd been to Big Country.

We got all excited in Gone In The Years, and whilst Martin and I conservation taped this crystal festooned passage (found originally by Nig Rogers, and once the original route into Snowball and the rest of Draenen now thankfully bypassed and left relatively undisturbed), Lou and Ben dug and squeezed their way into a10 metres of new passage.

But all this was a delaying tactic really because the real aim was to revisit a small draughting rift I remembered off the side of the main downstream Big Country passage. By way of yet another detour we had a good furtle in the downstream choke ("Rock fight at the OK Corral"), and admired the huge termite mound mud banks reminding you all the time that this place floods to the roof. And by 7pm we had reached the dig site. Time to start work.

And in a rare frenzy of efficiency Ben and I took it in turns to drill and whack and crowbar our way through the rift until, come 10.30pm, it looked almost big enough for a small person. Deploy Lou, who had been snoozing in the cold nearby. Plip! And straight through, Lou commented that she couldn't find the squeeze (well, I found it alright). Three years in the waiting and what lay beyond? Lou wasn't sure, since it involved hanging head down in a contorted corner trying to peer into the continuation. Good enough to go back to at least.

The trip out was slow, because batteries, which ever way you carry them, are heavy. And we emerged finally at 2.30am just about in time to dress for the office.
Tim Guilford

Expo Bivibags !

Has anyone accidentally taken any bivibags home after this years expedition. We are missing two, which need to be returned.
Thanks: Simon Goddard

Moving Cavers

For sale

One pair of climbing boots: size 38 (5-5.5), very good condition - they don't even smell! Only £25. Contact Rob Garrett if interested.