Depth through thought

OUCC News 3rd February 1999

Volume 9, Number 2

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"Second entrance, second entrance!", do I hear you all shout? Ok, ok, here's the latest news. As usual, this is my interpretation of events, and not the views of the PDCMG etc etc. However, I now believe it is important that some form of written record be made of events surrounding operations at the second entrance, because the PDCMG (yes, that's the representative body for cavers like you and me) has been seriously duped over this issue. Again. For this reason I am taking the unusual step of naming individuals I believe may be involved.

You may remember from DTT 9.1 that an attempt to block usage of the now "private entrance" before New Year was reversed by someone digging open the choke again. Ben Lovett, the Draenen Conservation Officer made another attempt at stopping continued use of the entrance, as agreed by the PDCMG, by disabling the private lock and placing a bolt through the new gate. Last week, both had been sawn off or somehow removed. Clearly, someone is still hell-bent on using the entrance, and making a mockery of the PDCMG's efforts to manage conservation in the cave democratically by consensus between interested parties. Stuart France wrote a letter of complaint to the PDCMG about the closing of the entrance by our relatively minor dropping of the choke inside. The argument, although I have not seen the letter personally, seems to be that this would be prejudicial in event of a rescue. Such arguments were of course considered in great depth before the PDCMG's decision to close the entrance in the first place, and the overwhelming consensus was that second entrances cannot, on balance, be justified on grounds of making rescues easier. If you'd like me to go through these arguments again, let me know!

Still, Stuart France's apparent concern about maintaining a rescue entrance in some form sits strangely with some additional modifications to the entrance which appeared last week. (As an aside, although it is not certain, it seems likely that it was Stuart France who re-opened the entrance after its original closure, although its use by the G5 surveyors subsequently is virtually proven). A scaffolded ladder structure has now been placed in the base of the entrance, and a sort of stone-walled path through the debris has been built. I am relying on second-hand reports of this, but it seems inconceivable that these changes are commensurate either with solely emergency use of the entrance, or, in fact, with the requirements of regular use by any normal caver. The addition of a 20-30ft length of steel cable further into the cave beyond the entrance is also a puzzle. Apparently, it looks almost as if the private entrance is being prepared for a visit by non-cavers.

Stuart France may not be responsible for these alterations (although he is known to have entered the cave last week) in which case he has my apologies. But cavers concerned about preservation of the unique status and crucial remoteness of some areas of Ogof Draenen should be aware that someone has a very strange project underway, that seems to require a second entrance, modified in a way completely unnecessary for an emergency rescue, and without the advice of, consultation with, or backing of the PDCMG.

Yesterday Ben Lovett placed another padlock on the entrance. I wonder how long it will last.

From Olly...

"A team from National Semiconductor is visiting us tomorrow to talk about their frequency synthesisers. They will have an applications engineer with them to answer all of our questions, but who is it? I'll give you two clues: he's blonde and he's vague....." Olly's e-mail is: <>

Yorks weekend

Prior to last weekend, the only trip I had done in Ease Gill was down and out of Pippikin. So when it was suggested that we should go in Top Sink and come out of Mistral, via Molluscan Hall and Serendipity, I didn't fully grasp the implications, and just said "ok." The reasoning behind the roundabout route was so that we could collect numerous pieces of club gear which Nobby had left in obscure places months before. And it was fun!

I saw some famous pretty places such as the Minarets (on the cover of Northern Caves 3), and also plenty of less well travelled connections as well, although we never made it to Serendipity. Worried about missing last orders, Rob and myself separated from the group and rushed out through some horrible crawls, then ran back over the surface and rigged Link for the others (Nobby, Fleur and Rob's friend Matt). But we still missed the pub! All in all a tiring but interesting and varied trip, and it was really good to see Nobby/Fleur/Matt again.

On Sunday I went through Simpsons with Jo, William, and the two novices Beth and Lucas. This was fun, except that we managed to jam two ropes in Slit Pot. Also Beth hurt her ankle when she slipped on a boulder. Back in Oxford she realises that it is actually fractured, and she is spending all this week resting at home. I hope she comes back...Rich Doyle

Molluscan Hall (in a roundabout sort of way) Two and a half weeks ago, Nobby and I were due to get a lift to the dales on the Saturday morning from Dave Lacey. At the appointed hour, Dave arrived, but the weekend was starting badly. "Can I use your phone, my car's been broken into and all my caving and climbing gear has been stolen". Direct line were called, and the police, and the only trouble came when Dave had to explain the words 'chalk bag' to the person on the end of the phone, whilst I pointed out that he should also add his underwear to the list of missing items. Finally, we set of. Only to progress 30 yards down the road, via another car and a wall. Yes, Dave has now written of another car. So it was back to my house for tea, more phone calls to Direct Line and breakfast. Things were not going well.

Assisted by Katie's car, we did make it to the dales on Saturday, but by the time we did, there seemed to be no other option but to drink. Despite none of us liking Sherry, the Bull Pot of the Witches sherry from new year went down very smoothly and we were soon ready for a night in the Martyn. Followed of course by the usual BPF mayhem until the small hours.

Sunday morning dawned to the worst hangover I have had for a very long time. I couldn't face moving and Nobby and I missed our lift to Ingleton for breakfast. Sometime later, I got up and somehow, later still I found myself contemplating going caving. Nobby wanted to do the round trip in Country via Molluscan Hall. Asking route finding advice gave various answers, ranging from "you'll be fine, go for it", to "dismal junction might be a bit dismal", to laughter at the many possible places for error and endless wanderings..

But off we went. My caving was terrible. I felt completely uncoordinated and banged into things everywhere. But somehow we managed to make it along the Manchester Bypass and to the start of Mancunian Way in fairly good time. The Mancunian way offered crawling and more crawling until we arrived at Easegill Aven. It looked wet and we weren't sure of the way on from the bottom. So we rigged for pull through, but didn't pull through. It was wet, but passable, although I wouldn't have like to prussik back up.

Now the fun (?) began. We had to pick our way through the Molluscan Hall area - most of which is not on the survey and barely described in the guidebook (not that I'd read the description, but I think Nobby had). We crawled along at the top of a higher level with the stream below. It was very muddy. More the sort of place that Rob would enjoy really. Then we climbed down to the water level, but everything was loose and I nearly took my foot off with a boulder and the almost took myself off a flake when it moved.

The trip was going down hill. I was tired, hungry and more importantly we were running out of time to make our lift back to Leeds. But where was the way on. The water came out of beneath the boulders, but there wasn't much air space - that couldn't be right. So we climbed up again the other side. Eventually we found ourselves quite high up. Was this the gallery extensions? Would we bypass dismal junction this way. We crawled on in hope, but moral was getting lower. Then a block made its best attempts to fall on Nobby's back just to add to the fun.

Eventually we made it to a pretty little chamber. But there was no way out. So it was back the way we came. Now what? Could we find the connection back into the County we knew or would we have to go all the way back and prussik up Easegill Aven? Nobby had another look at the wet option. He shouted back to me, but I couldn't hear. God, I wished I was on the surface. I wished so even more when I realised I had to go through. It was cold, very cold, and very wet. But we had found Dismal Junction and yes it was Dismal.

More crawling and then stooping led us to nicer passage. Then we reached Platypus junction and Nobby hugged the Platypus. We knew where we were. We were going to get out, even if not on time. We raced through County as quickly as we could. It was extremely wet and very sporting. One of the little cascades in Razor Passage was unclimbable without combined tactics. But we made it out, only one hour late, cold and wet, tired and hungry. But at least it had cured my hangover.

After leaving the rope on Easegill Aven that weekend, it had to be collected this weekend. In the Hill on Friday night, Nobby tried to pursuade Rob to go and collect it, but instead a silly trip was being conceived. How about going to get the wire belay that Nobby had left in Serendipity last June whilst we were at it? And how about going in Top Sink too? And so a trip was planned. Top to Mistral, via Molluscan Hall and Serendipity. Our only failing was to still think it was a good idea the following day.

So Rob, Nobby, Matt, Rich and I set off for Top Sink on Saturday lunchtime. Rob, Nobby and I knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Matt should have done and as for Rich - he had only ever been in Easegill once before, had no idea what was coming and was foolish enough to follow us.

Our first deviation from the traverse came when we took Rich to see Easter Grotto and then to Gypsum caverns, twice. All the rope climbs look the same round there you know. Then Manchester bypass took us to a distinctly less Dismal junction. From here route finding was much easier than the last visit and it was not long before we were back at Easegill Aven and the rope was recovered. However, by the time we were back on the traverse, time was moving on and the possibilities of getting out the same day were dwindling, so we decided to do the Serendipity option another day.

On to Mistral then. Although the pace was slowing and despite our best efforts, it was becoming apparent that we were going to miss the pub. So an advanced party of Rich and Rob went on to rig link, whilst Matt, Nobby and I followed with the tackle. The wormway was just as depressing as I remembered it, with nice froth from the earlier high water levels. It really does feel like somewhere that sumps. We arrived back at the link entrance pitch to find it just rigged, although soon discovered why it is best laddered.

We did miss the pub, but back at BPF we found tea, biscuits and beer and a flat tyre on the red van. Business as usual really.
Fleur Loveridge

Minor Speleomoments

Lou Maurice and I went camping on the Gower this weekend, as a convalescence trip to avoid caving. We forgot the tent. But by dark we had found a suitable cave to sleep in overlooking the sea, and virtually cut-off except at low tide. It was all very pre-historic, with an open fire in the entrance and seals to greet us at dawn.

We determined that is minor error, in which a non-caving weekend had become infected by caving, was to end. No caving on Sunday, just a gentle walk around the rocks at low tide. Miserable failure. Within an hour or so I had spotted water draining down the rock flats long after low tide. It was fresh. Soon we were investigating and had found a normally sub-tidal resurgence coming out of small boulders in a rock pool, which, when dug, eventually revealed one source, a tight fissure in the limestone pumping water. Above was in the cliff was a rift with a squeeze in it blocked by a jammed fishing buoy. Soon removed with makeshift crowbar, and the squeezed pushed to reveal a small flat chamber with no apparent way on. The time was advancing. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

Just walk now. Gently up this lovely valley, called Bishopstone. Sodding great resurgence soon follows. Entrances everywhere. Followed by an impressive sink and then three massive dolines - biggest I've seen in Britain. Might as well just give up and go caving next time...
Tim Guilford