Depth through thought

OUCC News 1st March 2000

Volume 10, Number 4

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Scraps of the World 

Only sporting trips to scrap yards in Oxfordshire to report for this weekend from your second-hand van man. Mind you, it did get quite exciting when the owner of one scrap yard discovered me halfway through removing the radiator from his run-around van, carelessly parked in the middle of the yard! Anyway, the van blanc now has a functioning radiator, to go with the various other parts of it that also still function.
Chris Densham

Wedding Bells.... 

I had a happy and excited call from David Monaghan this week. He will be getting married this year (probably in the Autumn) to a very lovely young lady, Alison. They met during their busy Sundays with the Edinburgh Conservation Volunteers. It would be ungenerous of me to mention the bit about the 'a girl in thigh length waders' when passing on the words of such a fine and considerate gent as David. Sorry David!

I hope that I speak for us all when I say 'Congratulations, may you and Alison have many happy years ahead.' 
Joan Arthur

Large Pot 

After a late finish to the Spectacle Pot trip, the following day saw one case of a sore head, and one case of a sore leg, so that it was left to Hilary and me to find something to do. As it was raining Datsun Cogs we spent some time trolling through the guide books looking for a challenging but bombproof trip. Large Pot is what it turned out to be.

Our aims for this trip diminished the closer we got to the cave - I have never been so wet and cold before going underground. We finally decided we couldn't be asked to carry the big rope sack, and would settle for the first three pitches and connecting crawls through to the head of Colossus (the way on to Rift Pot).

The entrance pitch of 12m was broken into two sections, wet & draughty, but straightforward, and at the bottom the short awkward crawl to the head of the second pitch commenced. This is basically a section of twisting body sized tube, approached feet first on your left hand side, which deposits you directly over the pitch head, also a tight squeeze.

Due credit to Hilary for contorting herself sufficiently to fix a hanger (obviously her long backwards crawl the preceding day had some benefit). I for one was not a happy bunny getting onto the pitch, kicking around hopefully with my feet trying to work out what was going on. It was a great relief to be through the slot and sliding down the rope.

The third pitch was pleasant, depositing us in Thornton Hall, where two main routes diverge. Following the water lead to the spray lashed fourth pitch and the start of the Red Herring Series. We instead headed for the crawls, climbs and traverses of Secret Seven Passage. This was actually the part of the cave I enjoyed the most. Hilary kept referring to her scratchy 'notes in a bread bag', and telling me we were going the wrong way, but a few squeezes and muddy wallows later we arrived in Pumpkin Passage. Soon we were able to gaze over the calcited top of Colossus (and rather wished we had brought the rope).

We re-traced our steps and de-rigged swiftly with a shocking amount of teamwork. Our smooth progress only interrupted by my bout of swearing at the head of the second pitch. Things had been going smoothly, Hilary was up, and I had got my chest through the tightest part. All that was needed now was a sideways thrutch into the tube, which would be easier if my footloop was on my left boot. So I kicked it off my right boot. DOH! Now there was no way I could see it or reach it to get it back on either foot!

Fortunately Hils had left a nice long changeover loop, and by getting my foot into this, and then getting her to take all the slack out of the rope at the initial belay, I was able to get a leg up off the pitch.

After five and a half hours it was still bloody cold & wet outside, Simon was waiting for us at an otherwise deserted Greenclose, and Hils emptied the fridge in fine style. 
Geoff O'Dell

Making a spectacle of ourselves. 

On Saturday morning the few assembled in front of Greenclose with a view to cave. Simon and Hils had arrived at midnight, played chess and wondered what the morning would bring. A fine sunny day and Geoff as it turned out. Plans had already been formed for a trip down King Pot before I turned up with my penny's worth. Not fancying another trip down that wet-weather classic, I suggested one of the more demanding trips on East Kingsdale. This was my first mistake. My second was to let Hilary flick thru the guide book in search of something that would satisfy her dubious cravings. Spectacle Pot was the cave of choice, with its classic combination of tight entrance series and big pitches beyond conjuring up images of the hours ahead. All was not lost as there always the chance that local knowledge would tell us that it was "Too wet" or local agricultural characters would tell us to "Bugger Off". Neither came to our rescue.

The start of the cave was not too nasty, apart from the large number of sheep carcasses that had found their way down the entrance pitch, their weeping effluent contributing to the small entrance streamway. Fortunately we were not in intimate contact with the stream, until Splutter Crawl. This pretty much lived up to its reputation being tight and nasty and was a taster of what was to come; acrobatic climb/handstand, tight pitch-head, short crawl, duck, long crawl and another tight awkward pitch head to drop out onto the big (50m) pitch. The next pitch was spectacular dropping onto the Great (and very loose) Rubble Heap to be followed by the final "Is it really worth it" pitch. Hilary did her best to put everyone off by getting stuck half way down, then free-falling the last few metres as her Stop went into Go mode, but we were determined to at least dabble a toe in the truly uninspiring terminal sump.

The trip out was not without incident starting with combined tactics to remove ourselves from the bottom pitch. Things went pretty smoothly thereafter until Simon decided that the trip was not demanding enough and set off up a nasty inlet that had disguised itself as the way out. Hilary followed with most of the tackle, and Geoff required a little persuading that the obvious well worn cobbly crawl was not the way we wanted to go. There then followed an hour or so of Simon and Hils removing themselves from a tight spot and pretty much reversing feet first the whole way out of a 50m flat out crawl. Geoff and me spent this time fruitfully, rerigging the utter swine of a pitch head to at least make it passable, and hauling most of the tackle through Splutter Crawl. Pretty much surfaced all together to be greeted with howling gale, horizontal sleet and well dodgy slip-slidy slope back to Braida Garth. Nice trip.

Nervous Breakdown, Ogof Draenen

Ben Lovett, Lou Maurice and myself, with various help from others, have been exploring a short series of new breakdown passages off Three Amigos over the past month. Two weekends ago we dug into 80 metres of small but perfectly formed stream rift ("First Man Standing"), but until last weekend we had been blocked at the main way-on by a nasty boulder choke dig where Ben had tried to crush my finger with a boulder on the first visit. He succeeded. This last weekend, however, we returned in the lightest water conditions I have known in the entrance series to dig our way under a veritable Sword of Damocles at the far and draughting end of the dig. It was nerve-wracking stuff. In the end, pretty much the only useful thing I did was spot those magic muddle ripple markers that suggested we should be going upwards into the choke, not following the rift. It was a committing decision, but once made it didn't take Ben long to collapse everything above the dig with a crowbar, and tickle his way to a relatively safe passage through the choke. Brilliant. Despite the fact that it all lead into yet more scary breakdown passage, the thrill of discovery was palpable in the team. 15 metres, and one further dig later, we reached the current end with an almost open lead into a chamber. So we left it of course. To come back with a video camera this weekend and attempt to film the discovery of new passage live.

The way out was a surprise. The entrance was the wettest I have ever seen it. What the fuck happened on the surface on Sunday? "Nervous Breakdown" is now 140 metres surveyed length.
Tim Guilford