Depth through thought

OUCC News 17th February 1999

Volume 9, Number 4

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Second Entrance politics continues to rumble on, so in the interests of making public the facts (and a few of my opinions too) here's what's happened since last week.

You will remember that on the previous weekend, Ben, Lou, Mandy and I constructed a concrete cap over the gate to ensure that the entrance could not simply be opened by cutting off the lock, as had been done on a previous occasion. Last Sunday lunchtime (14th February - very romantic) Lou and I decided to check the entrance cover, but whilst walking round the tram road noticed two people arriving at the entrance with a large rucksack. The sound of sledgehammering started ringing around the tumbles valley. When we finally got close enough to see who it was, we were able to watch John Stevens smashing up the concrete cover, and Arthur Millet throwing the pieces down the hillside. Not particularly being ones for confrontation was didn't challenge them (too late anyway by the time we'd got there), but walked back to the van instead. A later inspection that afternoon proved that the concrete cap had been destroyed, but that the lock had been left intact.

Remember that the PDCMG's decision to maintain only one entrance to Ogof Draenen was taken after a ballot of all interested caving clubs, in which one club voted against, one abstained, and the rest were in favour. It isn't clear why John Stevens and Arthur Millet continue to ignore the PDCMG's decision, even after they have claimed that they will respect it. This is especially puzzling since they appear to have finished most of the G5 surveying now. One temporary solution, which Stuart France has discussed with Boyd Potts, is that they place a second lock on the gate and keep the key. This would allow noone to use the entrance, either to cave through it or to use it to close the chokes more permanently as has been planned. The question of a long term solution would then come up again for discussion at the next PDCMG meeting.

Although the suggestion sounds reasonable at first, and we may have to accept it anyway, cavers should be aware those involved in digging and re-opening the second entrance have already proved in the past that if they feel the desire to use a second entrance they will open it, whatever has been agreed, and whatever they have said. It sounds like another stalling tactic to me. With no proper closure of the entrance, and the issue potentially up for discussion again, the single entrance future of Ogof Draenen, and the enhanced preservation of its remoteness, will again be in doubt.

Oh, and somone is still diverting streamwater into Drws Cefn, the potential third entrance, presumably in an attempt to clear debris constrictions inside. I don't know for sure, because I've never been in it, but I can't think that its a hydro-electric scheme.

On a related issue, work has begun on measures to conserve the formations at Giles' Shirt in Gilwern Passage. Ben, Lou and Adrian (CSS member) last night strated digging a pathway past and away from the formations to stop the erosion of the bank into the crystal pool. The scheme is described as progressing remarkably well.

In case anyone hadn't noticed, Sherry's caving web pages are back on line at: <dead link>.

Enjoying the high life...

I'd just sat down to enjoy my breakfast the other day when my attention was taken by a newspaper article. What had caught my attention was the word "Raptor" in big bold letters evoking happy memories of Entrada del Raptor in Sistema Sierra Forcada. I only know of one person who regularly uses the word so, my suspicions aroused, I resolved to read on. Much to my surprise, my suspicions were indubitably confirmed when I read of the Oxford scientists who were being funded to go paragliding with these raptors to study their interaction with thermals in places like Southa Africa and Spain. No wonder there's not been much digging news from Draenen of late...
Rob Garrett

Diggers strike gold!

I had been planning a particularly lazy weekend. Nothing specific just so long as it didn't require any effort. Everything was going to plan until I got home from work on Friday to find a phone message from Dave. "Did I want to go digging down Quaking?" I called him back, "You've talked me into it." I said.

A quick dinner and 4 hours later I was in Keighley breaking open the seal on a bottle of Ponche. Spanish alcohol - what better way to prepare for a Quaking trip? Another 4 hours later and we decided it was getting late since we wanted an early start.

The next day things started well. Breakfast in the Fountainsand we would have been ready to set off by midday except that all the gear we needed was still at the farm. In the end we finally parked up at just after 2 o'clock and set off for the entrance. Expecting a long trip I had bought two mars bars. Unfortunately, I was feeling hungry and had already eaten one. Dave kept complaining about his hangover.

When we got to the entrance we found a healthy supply of melting ice. It's never a warm cave at the best of times and the wet W's were going to be particularly unpleasant. My attempts to negotiate the tight rift just before the third pitch were interrupted by a loud clattering. I tried to look disappointed when I realised that I'd just dropped the crowbar - our only digging tool - down an impenetrable rift. I only managed to look disappointed when Dave announced that he could reach it rather easily. I wasn't going to get out of the trip that easily after all.

All progressed well from here until just after the crux. At this point the passage is particularly narrow and awkward and progress is made by lying in the stream. If you do it right you can stay mostly dry. By the time I got round a couple of corners I wasn't worried about the wet W's any more...

The dig site is located shortly after the tenth pitch. My first impression of it was the sight of Dave grovelling in the streamway. The stream at this point takes a sharp bend to the right and changes in character - it becomes pleasant and big enough that you don't actually have to touch both walls at the same time. Dave's logic concluded that the real way on must be straight ahead which is where he was digging. As soon as he scraped away the gray silt on the surface we struck gold. Well, a sort of golden brown really. The passage was full of lovely dry sand which yielded easy progress. An hour and a half later and we were two metres into a downward sloping passage. Its dimensions are very much in keeping with the rest of the cave and it's heading on a bearing to bypass the current limit of exploration. However, the start of the dig is at stream level and then it heads down. We'd soon generated a prodigious amount of liquid gold (O.K. more of a liquid brown, if I were to be pedantic) with all the consistency of Mornflakes. The next phase of the dig involves a bag or two of cement so we can build a dam. More ambitious plans involve high pressure self-activating hoses, sluice gates, siphon tubes and a small hydro electric power station but for the time being we'll settle for a smaller crow bar - the one we took was a bit big to wield in a small passage at arm's length and we found it a bit tiring.

The journey out was going fine (we were leaving the bottom half rigged and its surprising how much of the cave you can do without relying on your arms if you're not carrying any gear) until we got back to the crux. At this point I made the mistake of observing that we could still be out in time for last orders. Five minutes later I was in the crux but rapidly becoming detached from one of my wellies. To lose a wellie at this point would mean exiting the crux, turning round, repassing the crux, turning round again, entering the crux bypass, retrieving the welly, backing out of the crux bypass and then doing the crux again - this time without losing the welly. I didn't fancy this idea so I held the welly between my feet and called Dave back. There then followed an intricate mid-crux welly rescue operation which was surprisingly successful. Alas, due to this set back we didn't arrive back at the car until shortly after 11 o'clock. So it was back to the farm to celebrate another great Yorkshire dig site!
Rob Garrett