Depth through thought

OUCC News 31st October 2001

Volume 11, Number 3

DTT Main Index

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Well, let's start with a sincere apology for the long absence of Depth Through Thought, OUCC's unofficial newsletter and source of gossip, trip reports, exploration news, and all things speleological. Many of you will know that DTT's lay-off has been not unconnected with Lou Maurice's long and painful illness. So you'll be pleased to hear that DTT's return is not unconnected with her recently accelerating recovery. Lou wishes to thank all the cavers who have been so supportive to her over the past ten months, coming round to Wellington street to play games or watch TV with her, and more lately to take her to the pub or swimming or helping shuttle her around at the BCRA. Sometimes it seemed like it would never end, and now it seems the end may actually be in sight. In fact you can read Lou's report of her first caving trip since becoming ill, below.

But the main reason for the return of DTT is that quite a few people have said that they've missed it. So here it is, issue 3 this year. Just to remind you., please e-mail me copy by Wednesday afternoon, and I'll try and get it in for the evening's issue. Must be loads of expedition stories and reports this summer, even if there hasn't been much caving in the UK. So get writing.

Rumour has it that Swildon's is opening this weekend. Footpath restrictions are lifted around Pwll Ddu, so Ogof Draenen may open soon.

Calling all drivers 

I appear to be about the only driver in OUCC over 21 (ahem) who has passed the minibus assessment. We need more drivers! Anyone with a full license who is over the magic age should sign up for the assessment, or getting trips together is going to be pretty difficult. It's painless and the club pays the fee. 
Steve Roberts

Freshers' Frolics 

Over the weekend of 20/21 October, this years introductory day trips were organised, the venue this time being Burrington Combe due to the continued unavailability of Swildon's Hole due to Foot & Mouth.

On the Saturday somewhere in the region of sixteen freshers plus leaders took in the delights of Goatchurch Cavern. On the Sunday it was the turn of a more select, and I dare say better attired bunch. Representing this years fine crop of future caving gods were Natalie, Anastassia, Anatael, Charlie, Mike & Steve; for the old lags JC, Geoff & the venerable Jim Sheppard; and the young tigers Pippa & Simon.

Departure from Oxford was strangely smooth & hassle free and very un-like OUCC. The efficiency levels reached a crescendo when everyone neatly fitted into two vehicles, and off we jolly well went. Breakfast was taken at the Burrington Cafe and we were underground by midday, unheard of but true!

For Goatchurch we split into two groups and made our separate but interlaced ways around this mecca of Mendip caving. The delights of the 'Coffin Lid', 'Coal Shute', 'Drainpipe', and perhaps even 'Bloody Tight' were forced upon our neophytes, and the challenges accepted and conquered with equanimity by all.

After an hour or so we regained the surface, and after a brief respite wandered over to the nearby Sidcot Swallet. The two girls, Steve & Jim bailed out at this point, not to do with lack of enthusiasm, more to do with aching limbs. The remainder proceeded indian file into Sidcot Swallet, which although short, is quite a pleasant little cave. The climbs and squeezes required a little more athleticism/technique/brute strength & ignorance (delete as appropriate).

To emphasise their enthusiasm and gullibility, Mike & Charlie followed JC & Geoff through the squalid little duck at the end, and thus were able to turn right round and go back through again 'cos there was nowhere else to go beyond! Credit to them however, for passing what is quite an intimidating obstacle for a first trip.

Such credibility was swiftly dismissed as they both then laboured to return up 'Lobster Pot', a tight and holdless vertical tube. Charlie will I'm sure remember the useful and encouraging comments given to him by the rest of the party! Thanks JC for the loan of your head.

It is worth noting that such feelings of being shattered after a couple of hours underground are usual for novices, but not typical once you have been caving a few times. A little better technique, a lot less nervous energy, and not as some might think, some super-human level of fitness, will make subsequent longer and harder trips considerably easier to contend with. Don't give up because you think you're not up to it.

OK, that may not be the most enlivened trip report ever produced, but it is quite hard to be uplifting about Burrington Combe! With a bit of luck those who said they enjoyed it really did, and we will see them again at another more social and productive weekend meet. Here's hoping!
Geoff O'Dell

Churching the Goat

Mutter mutter..... can't go down Swildon's..... mutter mutter.... have to go down Burrington.... mutter mutter... boring, muddy, too small, novices won't like it, boring boring....

We had a great time. From the moment when I slid down the Giant's stairs whooping, followed by Sean, John, Wendy amd Kathy, with Alison acting as brakeperson at the rear, to the "shouting up the drainpipe" session, the scamble back up, and the "novices solo" back round from the tradesman's entrance to the top, it was a hoot. Apart from not having a stream to find, a perfect first cave that will leave any one-time-only novice feeling well exercised and pleased, and any proto-hard-caver wanting more. Which is what you want. Let's save Swildon's for second or third trips.
Steve Roberts

I'll be back....

I had forgotten what caves were like after not going underground for almost a year. It wasn't until I paddled through the first puddle that I remembered that there is a good reason why people wear wellies not sandals. It was momentarily strange to be underground, but then the sound of a stream and the smell of the cave suddenly became familiar again as if the past year hadn't happened.

We reached the first obstacle. An enormous group of Japanese people dressed in smart clothes and shoes. They listened intently to their guide until they became distracted by the clattering sound of my crutches and the surprising sight of a helmeted Tim carrying a chair through the cave. We picked the narrowest steepest part of the concreted stepped passage to pass them, moving forward purposefully as they scattered confusedly back down the steps.

Our guide was cheerful and enthusiastic, despite our strange requests and awkward questions. We passed through pretty formations to the end where we set up the chair and put out the lights, listening to the sound of the stream. We were soon interrupted by the sound of the approaching Japanese who unlike us didn't have torches and couldn't see a thing so we had to turn the lights back on.

Tim, true to form was at the end of the cave at the time he was supposed to be somewhere else. Luckily it was only 200 m back to the entrance of Poole's Cavern, so even at my pace it didn't take long, and for once there was no danger of missing the pub. And we had a lot to celebrate. A few months ago I could not even imagine being able to visit a short showcave, and now at last real caving does not seem so far away.
Lou Maurice

A view from the conference

Very strange, when I first went to BCRA everyone was my age and Jim Eyre was, I don't know, 55. Now everyone is still my age and Jim Eyre, god help us, is 76. Where are all the young cavers?
Ursula Collie


"The water was so cold that it took their breath away. Even Durathror, the hardened warrior, could not stifle the cry that broke from his lips at the first shock. They waded along the tunnel for a short distance before having to swim, and they had not gone much further when Fenodyree stopped and told the others to wait while he went ahead. He drew a deep breath, there was a flurry and a splash, and he did not answer when Colin spoke. 'Where has he gone?' asked Susan. 'The roof and the water meet where he left us,' said Durathror.

Two minutes past before Fenodyree broke the surface again, and it was some time after that before he could speak. 'It is no distance,' he said when at length his breathing was under control, 'and the air is fresh, but the roof is low for many yards, so we must swim on our backs.' Another swirl and he was gone......

Colin held his dive as long as possible, but the icy water constricted his lungs, and he was soon in need of air. He rose to what he implored would be the surface, but his hands and the back of his head scraped against the roof. Flustered he kicked himself into a shallow dive, his stomach tightening, and his head seemed about to burst. This time. No! Again he struck the roof. What was wrong? Why was there no air? Fenodyree had said...ah! He remembered! Swim on your back: the roof is low. That's it. Colin turned frantically on his back: the knapsack pulled at his shoulders and began to tilt him upside-down. He threshed the water and managed to right himself. And then his lips broke the surface. The air rushed out of his lungs, and Colin promptly sank, swallowing a lot of water. He kicked off so violently from the tunnel floor that he nearly stunned himself on the roof, but it quelled his panic, and he lay on his back breathing air and water by turns."

Speleobard: Guess accurately the source for a free beer