Depth through thought
OUCC News, 17th July 2002
Volume 12, Number 7
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Editor: Anette Becher, email@example.com
The 'intermittent' summer issues of DTT are beginning to look more regular than I thought possible. Many thanks to everyone for offers of articles and even more thanks to those who actually produced copy! Keep the articles coming - offers are always welcome, too ;-)
Glueck tief, as ever: Anette
For those of you who don't already know, regular-ish expedition updates are being put on the following web page as they come in from Spain via a variety of routes (and media):
John Wilcock: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just to let you know that I have been dowsing around Mendip again, and the car park dig at the Hunter's appears to have a source from the NE (with possibly a connection to Hillgrove and Cuckoo Cleeves, and a continuation west through several large depressions to join St Cuthberts. It will be interesting to see if the dig proceeds in this direction.
I was present at the time that a bang was televised to the bar at the Hunter's - most spectacular, and about 30 cavers were present at the time! I have some photos of this, as does Paul Mann.
In DTT12.6 I cast aspersions on the size of the chamber recently found in the Car Park dig. I have now been informed that it is a 30m chamber - apologies to Mendip caves.
CSS newsletter July 2002 - Brief report on Cwmorthin underground slate mine (N. Wales); looks an interesting trip. Report on trip through Swildon's sumps 1-4 withh bottles; sumps open and lines in good shape. MNRC newsletter June/July 2002 - Railway and hut articles, no caving news.
Geoff and I had agreed to do a trip on Saturday, but hadn't decided where. When he arrived, my first question was "Did you bring a wetsuit?" "No, what were you thinking of?" "Swildon's, down to Sump 9" Geoff went quiet; I took it that he wasn't keen.
We eventually decided to do Eastwater. But 5 miles out of Oxford, I mentioned that a return to Dallimore's was on my hit-list, and suddenly the plan changed.
Dallimore's is a cave pushed by OUCC --mainly Tim and I-- in 1990. It's tight and awkward. Actually, that doesn't do it justice. It's horrid. See link for the gruesome details. For years, nobody would go there, as warnings were passed down from one generation of Oxford cavers to another. But now the young tigers want to return to cap the final squeeze. And I seem to have caught their enthusiasm.
The only problem is, would I still fit? I'm not much bigger than I used to be, but I'm sure I'm not as flexible. And I was scared that if I didn't fit, it would indicate that I was on the downhill slope to retirement.
So against my better judgement, for the first time in over a decade, I found myself getting changed by the side of the A46. My memory of the entrance passages had faded over the years, so we took a few wrong turnings. But nothing can erase the memory of The Nasties.
I crawled in feet-first, and dropped into The Turning Chamber. The word "Chamber" is a slight misnomer: it's not much more than a slight widening in a narrow rift. A small tube leads off at floor level, which you have to enter head-first. It was precisely as I remembered it: pivot at the hips, walk your feet up behind you, wiggle your bum, lower your shoulders, and then drop your head into the tube. That wasn't too bad.
I crawled on through the tube ahead, pushing my helmet in front of me. When we pushed it, we used to just wear balaclavas and headtorches, and leave our cells and helmets at the start of The Nasties. With modern LED lights, I thought I could get away with just holding my helmet in my hand. That was a mistake: I needed both hands to push against the rock. and hold myself in position; and there was nowhere I could place my helmet without risking it falling down the rift.
Ugh! I don't like this! It feels too committing.
I backed out, and reversed the Turning Chamber manoeuvre, to improve my confidence that I could get out. And then in again for another try. Still no good. Holding my helmet ahead of me restricted my movement too much. Only one thing for it: back up again, and find my headtorch from the bottom of my bag. Forward again. Much better now: through a little squeeze; then carry on up over the lump on the left, The Broken Nose; head and shoulders pushed up into a little alcove; bum past The Nose; then drop my legs down through the slot. Excellent.
Geoff followed. He passed The Turning Chamber easily, but I'm sure my wobbling hadn't done his confidence any good. He arrived at The Broken Nose, looking worried, and with his heart beating loud enough to hear. He gave it a good go, but eventually decided it wasn't for him. Dallimore's continues its record of defeating as many cavers as it lets through.
Geoff backed out, and now all I had to do was follow him. Head back up into the alcove; left leg up; looking good; right leg ... won't fit through the slot. Bugger. Try again. Twist my hip to the right: no, my knee won't fit past the nose, and I don't fancy forcing it. Twist my hip to the left: no chance.
This is silly: I'd expected some problems fitting my chest and shoulders through, but not my knees; are they really so much more knobbly than 12 years ago?
Only one thing for it: welly off, and knee pad pushed round out of the way. Back up again; left leg up; right leg ... push a bit ... yes, it's through. Now wiggle back, keeping high, and then reverse back through the previous squeeze. Cracked it.
At least, I thought I'd cracked it, until by headtorch fell off, and tumbled down the rift. Bugger. I wasn't keen to go down there again, particularly without a light. I'll get it on the next trip.
Smooth trip out from there. Back out to the surface at 12.30. What now? There could only be one answer: Swildon's. Geoff wanted to visit Black Hole Series, and agreed to wait if I wanted to dive Sumps 2 and 3.
For years, I'd been rather paranoid about water, avoiding sumps and ducks as much as possible. But then Hilary suggested we do Langstroth, and I couldn't think of an excuse not to, so agreed. Only later did I find out that she'd been winding me up, expecting me to refuse. But neither of us wanted to back out, and so eventually last week we did it. But now I wanted to see how far my new-found confidence with water went: the longest Langstroth sump is 4.5m long; the Swildon's sumps are 8m and 10m.
We kitted up, and headed down quickly. The Black Hole Series was uneventful, except for Geoff losing --and finding!-- a contact lens.
Back in the streamway, we ran into some divers, on their way to push Sump 12. That wasn't what I wanted: I didn't want them hanging around watching while I wibbled. Arriving at the sump, I decided to just wait for them to go before thinking about doing it myself; but the divers took their time kitting up (as divers do), and Geoff was getting impatient, and encouraged me to get a move on. I added a couple of leads to my belt, and walked down to the sump. The divers were now ready, so I let them go first. But then there was no excuse for delaying longer.
A few deep breaths, then head under the water, and pull on the rope; my head hit the lip of the sump; keep pulling; under now; keep pulling; going deeper; then start to rise, and surface in Swildon's 3. Phew.
I got my breath back, and then went through the duck to Sump 3. I could turn back now. There's no reason not to. Yes there is.
A few deep breaths again, and then go for it; hit the lip again, and struggle for a moment to get under it; that's better; keep pulling; flip onto my back to allow me to kick off the roof; I'd like to breathe now; keep pulling and kicking; I'd really like to breathe now; pull and kick some more; fuck; more open now; and then surface. Fucking hell!
The divers were still there, and were polite enough to look impressed. I realised that the sump rope was belayed some 4m from the end of the sump, and so I'd crossed the sump pool under water.
I returned through the sumps, again wishing they were shorter. I realised I was too buoyant; next time I'll use an extra lead. And the sump water went up my nose, and I couldn't see; next time I'll bring a mask. A speedy exit, saw us back on Priddy Green by 4 o'clock.
Two psychological barriers passed in one day; but with plenty of interest beyond. I'm sure I'll be back to both.