Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th May 1999

Volume 9, Number 9

DTT Volume 9 index

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Coming on expedition?

Expedition is approaching, and we need to know if you are interested. Please send the following info to Rich Doyle ( as soon as possible. Name, DOB, address, email, phone, dates likely to be in Spain, next of kin name, next of kin address and phone number, plus any relevant medical details (allergies, asthma, epilepsy, prescribed drugs etc) and any dietary needs. Also send your name, dates in Spain, and insurance details to Paul Mann. Finalised expedition dates: the ferry leaves Plymouth on the 5th of July, and the return leaves Santander on the 26th August. For more details see the expedition website.
Rich Doyle

Extremero 99 First aid training

This is advance notice of the first aid training provided through the University for all expeditions. The training course will consist of 2 x 2 hour sessions, taking place between 6 & 8 pm on Tues 4th week (18th May) and Tues 5th week (25th May). It will be geared towards expedition first aid, and it's important that we get a good turn-out. If you're not going on expedition feel free to come along too. The course will probably take place in the Human Sciences Building, but please tell me if you're planning to come along so I can let you know if there's any change to the venue.
Jo "I Czech everything" Whistler

This weekend

Better safe than sorry. Maybe that means don't go near Lev when he's got a firework. Or maybe it means that preparation for an underground incident is essential. This weekend we shall be practising rescue techniques in Wales, meet at the hut (Bevington Rd) at 6pm on Friday. The bigger the turnout, the better. And many thanks to Lynn for volunteering to be the victim!

Extremero 99 Website updated

There is now lots more on the website, including a new newsletter and lots of information about how to travel to the Picos. Check it out at: [webpage no longer exists]
Jo Whistler

Gear Stuff

I have organised a discount evening at the Camping and Outdoor Centre on Turl St, so you can sort out all your expedition (and other) needs for tents, sleeping bags, rucksacks, boots, karrimats, spare bits and pieces, etc, etc. It will be next Thursday (3rd week or 13th May) starting at 5.30. Try not to be late! We'll get around 15-20% off and their prices are quite reasonable to start with. If you can't make it at that time you can go by and choose what you want and then let me know so I can buy it for you on Thursday.

Just to clear up any confusion - we can get TSA oversuits on the gear order (but only at a fairly small discount, so its probably just as easy to go buy one yourself).

As a third option (in addition to the traditional TSA/Warmbac choice) Dragon have now started making a new kind of oversuit, which is similar to the TSA but much cheaper. Paul tried one out and thought it seemed OK, and Dudley will wax lyrical about them given half a chance - he reckons he's onto a winner. Somewhere over 50 quid is probably close to the mark for the price of the full suit. He will add things to order, such as cuffs, pockets, part breathable fabric, part neoprene, internal braces, bum flap, hood, etc. Therefore, if there are any particular features we think would be useful for Picos caving, or for personal deviance, they could be included. Let me know ASAP if you are interested, as I'll be sending off orders pretty soon.

Finally, if you are buying stuff on the gear order that we get from Dragon, furry suits in particular, then this weekend's rescue practise would be an ideal opportunity to go to the shop and get your measurements taken - that way you know for certain it will fit when you get it.
Lev Bishop

Letter to the Editor

Sir, I'd like to express my disgust at the attribution of the lemming award to myself on the termcard. In all my years of abseiling off the ends of ropes, hanging upside down by the feet from ladders under a waterfall, and falling down pitches with my stop handle caught in my oversuit, not to mention chilling out on the Canalizos main hang beneath a harness-less Rhys Williams, no-one has ever described me as a lemming, nor was I a candidate at the annual dinner. However, no-one had previously called me a 'musical caver' before, either, so perhaps I shouldn't protest too much.
Nathaniel Mumford

Mexican Easter?

Does anyone fancy the idea of wandering into a beautiful virgin streamway bedecked with gour pools, sleeping at the entrance of a cave system with 16 deg.C air coming out, then getting up to warm your back by the 32C outside in the plain? In that case, how about a trip to Mexico next Easter?

Chris Lloyd (Canadian caver who spoke to the club the term before last about Mexican caves) chatted to some of us in the pub last night, explaining that there is a drought of cavers in Mexico where he lives. There is no drought of water (ask Steve), but Easter is the ideal time to go. So, if you fancy the idea, book your place now. Space is limited by how many people you can fit into the cave entrance!
Chris Densham

Quaking Pot

Having heard Rob and Dave's tales about a promising dig at the bottom of Quaking Pot I was interested to see what they were talking about. I figured that there wouldn't be a better time to do it than when the cave has been left rigged and with a team who knows it as well as those two. I got a lift up to Bull Pot Farm with Rob on Friday afternoon, early as he and Dave were hoping to have another go at their dig down Mistral. When Dave phoned to say he'd be late we moved to the Barbon and started drinking and didn't stop until far too late. Even when I finally did turn in I didn't get much sleep due to Rob and Katie leaving Rod Stewart on continuous repeat, which wasn't quite drowned out by Pete Hall's impressive snoring. When Rob and Katie did eventually call it a night, at 8am, the rest of us decided to leave (making sure we put Rod Stewart on at extra high volume before we left).

Breakfast in Ingleton (Ben almost had a sense of humour failure when Rod Stewart was played on the radio). I got a hard time off the chap in Inglesport when I asked for a thermal top suitable for caving - he claimed if you need one then the people you're caving with are too slow. I'm glad I didn't let him talk me out of it as I was still pretty chilly down there.

The original plan had been to split into two waves, with Dave taking two of his Red Rose friends, Ben and Roger, then me, Rob and Frank (Salford Uni) following later. We were thinking that without Rob we'd have to do things as one large group and were just about to get underground, when Rob showed up at the shakehole, bottle of coke in hand, so we reverted to our original plan.

Up to the 4th pitch, I found the cave surprisingly easy. The 4th pitch is interestingly rigged but not too hard, and then follows a tighter section before the crux. I can see why the Crux has its intimidating reputation as its not at all obvious what to do with it, and not easy for anyone else to get close enough to help you out or offer advice. It's not actually that tight, though, as I demonstrated by squeezing through at the tightest point (unintentionally). After the crux everything gets worse. As I said at the time "there's a little bit of everything that's unpleasant about caving". Its not particularly hard, but there's crawling in freezing water, wallowing in mud, scary loose pitches, and even scarier rigging. The 7th pitch (I think) is a favourite - one dodgy-looking ring bolt (ideally placed as a foothold for the vertical squeeze above the pitch head, mind you); no backup; 15 year old dynamic rope; plenty of rub points, hmm. The very bottom section of the cave is a pleasant piece of small streamway you could almost imagine being part of County Pot, except, like everything beyond the Crux, it feels far too untouched. There are helictites in places where they'd normally get knocked off in no time, and in one place you have to squeeze past a stal curtain whilst you are covered in mud, and yet the curtain is almost pristine. The dig site is actually very promising, and I can see why they're digging it. The second wave had caught the first by now, so we left Rob and Dave to have a dig, while the rest of us had a look at Gormenghast (which was deeply disappointing) before heading out. It was a relatively uneventful trip out - the Crux is indeed somewhat harder on the way out but you have more commitment for tackling it and once you're through you feel you're practically home.

The cave lived up to its tackle destroying reputation. Ben had a light failure, when the bezel, lens, and reflector of his lamp all fell off into some muddy water in an inaccessible rift. However by jumping up and down in the water upstream of this he managed to wash the parts down so that Roger could retrieve them (even the lens). Miraculously, he was able to put it back together and have it work. Ben also suffered from oversuit failure, when he pulled the leg almost clean off of his TSA. Rob's croll fell apart on his way up the 4th pitch. Despite these setbacks and the large group size (six) we managed to complete the trip in around 9 hours, easily beating Dave's pessimistic 15h. The walk back topped off the - as we were running back to the car to try and make the pub it started sleeting horizontally, straight into our faces, increasing in vigour just as we were getting changed.

I'm glad I did the trip, but it really is a miserable place and can't be recommended. Not like Marble Sink, which is tight, awkward and good fun. Its nothing like as hard as I was imagining (don't get me wrong - it certainly deserves respect, but the reputation is worse than the reality). Ben and Roger have sworn they'll be tipexing the description out of their guide books. Personally, I don't think I'll be going back for a while, at least not until someone's been down with a bolting kit and taken it off of its pushing rig. However, the memories of the misery are already starting to fade and the dig at the bottom seems better every time I think about it (I think they made another 2 feet of progress this time). Everything looks a lot better in retrospect, I suppose.
Lev Bishop