Depth through thought

OUCC News 3rd March 1999

Volume 9, Number 5

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Not much news on the second entrance for now, except to say that an inspection from the inside two weekends ago revealed that grease has been smothered all over the entrance gate - presumably in an attempt to stop anyone from using concrete to cap the entrance properly.

Mad as a Hatter

Fancy a bit of Madness in your life? Then come on down to Mendip this weekend for some tea with the fairies. Go on, you know you want to. See Rich Doyle/Tim Guilford for details.

Smells like Club Spirit

This is a Presidential rallying call, or whinge, along the lines of "are we a Club, or what?". I was not best pleased by some distinctly "sod you Jack, I'm all right" activities on the last Yorkshire weekend but one.

Worst amongst these was pretty well everybody pushing off as soon as they could on Sunday, even though there were two teams with call-outs outstanding. The two teams were on trips where some kind of action was possibly going to be needed. One departing crowd - who didn't live that far away from Southerscales- were even heard to say, in essence, "right, we'll push off now, so we don't get held up by any call-outs". This left me (and I'd lent out my caving kit), Tony (no caving kit) - who just happened, of his own good will, to drop by "on his way back" from the Lakes to Scorton, Alison (broken foot), Joan, Sandra and Katie to deal with any problems. As it happened, both teams, though well overdue, were all right. But there was absolutely no margin of safety if even one team had had any problems.

This is pretty crap. If you are going to come caving with the Club, expecting the Club to bring tackle, food, booze, and book huts and caves on your behalf, then put a bit back in. This means not just leaving others to sort themselves out or do the dirty work.

I'm also pissed off about the number of people who can't be arsed to cook, wash up, tidy up Southerscales or help keep the hut or van tidy. But one moan a week is enough, so I'll save that till next week. But, maybe following Tim's lead, I should name and shame the guilty parties. Maybe.
Steve "grumpy old git" Roberts

When The Party's Over

Why is it that a caving trip always sounds so appealing when it's 5.30am & you're pissed? Answers on a postcard. In the meantime, well JC, Simon & I figured that in the aftermath of the Annual Dinner someone would have to dilute the politics in this week's DTT, so we headed over to the Mendips for a Sunday play in Swildon's. I was surprised to see the water at the entrance at least a metre lower than last (only other) time I'd visited this one. Simon pointed out that if you counted climbing down the tree trunk there were actually 2 entrances but we won't go into that.

So: we headed on in. (Via the "dry route". I still fail to see where the naming demons can have got their education in basic English adjectives. Sure as 'ell weren't Ockshferd anyways.) Down the pitch, on to sump 1 & as far as the unscary side of 2. Simon & JC were obviously well acquainted with Swildon's' dry humour but for any remaining creatures (of dubious existence I know) as ignorant as me, this'll be the big road signs that greet you as your head emerges from the first sump (among other places) & tell you "WOOKEY HOLE 1 1/2 avoiding city centre". Well I thought it was funny.

Off the passage between the sumps we found a nice little upward smartie-tube which appeared to go indefinitely. After heated competition I was assigned the privilege of going first. Much to my entertainment Simon's displeasure as all he could see was my backside and the occasional water accumulation I deigned to drop on him, & (from what I could make out by the noises, although I'm open to correction) JC's satisfaction as he got to revel in relative comfort and amusement at the general masochism of the whole mission. Unfortunately boredom won in the end, we slid back down before we found out where/if it went & the survey wasn't much help either.

Then it was up to a duckful series which some may know as "the short round trip" with lots of repulsive pretty bits. We turned back just before Blue Pencil passage when a particularly airless-looking duck scared us off. "Fuck that" was the general consensus in a rare moment of sanity.

We had a pleasant and unusual problem on the return journey: despite valiant efforts all round we just couldn't go slow enough to stay underground till the pubs would feed us. Fortunately Simon's MCG hut did us proud on the time-killing front (thanks for the coffee) & we were in the pub at 7 on the dot. Not a bad weekend, all told, although if I got pissed & made a fool of myself on Saturday night please DON'T remind me of the details.
Hilary Greaves

Car Pot

Hilary and the Malcontents had failed to be inspired by Juniper Gulf and its "impressive positions" so she was up for a trip more likely to tickle her fancy. Thrutchy rifts and scrofulous crawling were her heart's desire and having written off King (too long) and Dis (too wet), I was bullied into going down Car. Very much against my better judgement. An alpine start caught us heading up the hill at ten o'clock on Sunday morning with dread in my legs and hope in our tackle sacks.

Plan Jack was thwarted firstly by finding the entrance with relative ease and secondly by the too short rope for the first pitch being just long enough. I thought I had all the options covered; no ascending gear on, short rope and novice with no idea how to rerig the belay. Ideal for a mid-rope cock-up and an early retreat to the pub. Alas a big ledge to step off the rope and Hilary knew how to tie a "bunny ear" and we were on our way. First squeeze, to the head of the second pitch was a doddle and no worries for the return as a faffed around with rigging rope and ladder. This lands in a showerbath with "the nastier than it looks, especially on the return" Letterbox down to the horrendous sounding Baptistry Crawl. This was intimidating, but not enough for me to remove all my gear before setting off. The severity of this misjudgement only became apparent when I'd just about past what had instinctively felt like the point of no return. I'd been warned of the grabbing nature of the walls and I was well and truly grabbed. Wriggling only seemed to make things worse (I went further in) until at last I was free and on my way. Tackle was then duly dragged through then Hilary breezed through to join me.

The next pitch again had a surprisingly tight take-off, which I effectively fell off, but to no great harm. Thereafter the cave has a fine character with nice rigging using threadless bolts and naturals. With the advent of the P-hanger for no-thought rigging, its a utter joy to be able to pick the best positioned of a myriad of old bolts and make something up that will probably do the job. A 50m rope was fine for pitches 3 and 4, and the first drop (tight at top) of pitch five. A 30m would probably do for the bottom for those wishing to minimise gear to get through Baptistry. Set off up North Craven Passage as far as some nice-ish formations (Hilary liked the helictites, but that's a secret), then off out again.

No problems until Baptistry on the return, where my mid-squeeze catastrophe was to push my helmet and light through first, then find my left arm was made of plasticene. A bit of crawling combined tactics sorted this out, but no amount of co-operation could help me force my fat arse through the Letterbox. Its a bit of a sod. Once on the other side, it became apparent that time was passing us by, and that we were entering the Call-out zone. Efficiently up the last two pitches and down the hill as fast as our heaving sacks and weary legs would carry us, but still an hour or so late. Thanks to Joan and Tony for coming to check up on us and to Steve for driving round the Dales for us and other stray cats. Excellent trip. Well 'ard, but oh my aching limbs.

Gooseberry Rift

Last Sunday I made a return to Gooseberry rift at the far Southern end of Wessex series in Ogof Draenen, loaded with drill and the company of Ben, Lou and John and Simon Jones. The plan was to persuade our way through a blockage at the end of this merciless little extension into a chamber that we'd seen on the previous trip. Ben went in first and laid the charge, but had a minor epic on his way out back through the squeeze (one of them anyway), so I was despatched to check the damage after detonation. Once through the squeeze at the top of the tight and awkward climb (best done as a Fosbury Flop I discovered) at the end of the tight and awkward rift at the bottom of the awkward climb (hmmm), I decided to try and turn round and widen the squeeze. Hammering the rock went very well indeed. So well, in fact, that the entire side of the squeeze cracked loose from the wall and started tilting back into the awkward climb/chimney thing. Bollocks. Stuck the wrong side of the squeeze, and couldn't risk being crushed by going back. After a bit of discussion, it seemed like the best option was to try and push through into the new chamber to make sure I would have somewhere to go if it came to having to blast the squeeze open with me on the far side of it.

It worked. Now feeling safer, I went back to the squeeze and tried to stabilise it. This worked too, although I had succeeded in making the squeeze even tighter. John and Simon never made it even through the rift, but Ben Lou and I dug for an hour in the chamber in attempt to follow the draught out between large boulders. In the end we made use of having an explosives expert with us (John), and blew the boulder up instead.from a safe distance. Then legged it out in time for the pub. This Mystery Streamway is proving hard to get.
Tim Guilford