Depth through thought

OUCC News 28th May 2003

Volume 13, Number 12

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,


Rowter Hole & JH reopen after lambing - May 2003. The lambing closure applied to Rowter Hole and JH has been lifted.

A weekend of events and entertainment for cavers 13/14/15th June 2003. Priddy Village Hall and other local venues Slide shows, pre-screening of caving videos and general piss-up.

Digging in Draenen

Jonathan 'JC' Cooper

With the Easter activity of re-establishing the camp in Dollimore's Series in Draenen (good) and the alledged killing of Yellow Van dig (very, very bad) Keith and myself spent Sunday and Monday in Draenen prospecting. It was to be Keith's first proper underground camp (ie not Read's Cavern) and my chance to re-aquaint myself with some leads that have probably remained untouched since the months of high activity following the break-through (see DTT Vol 6, 24 and beyond). Keith's idea of a good dig site were badly positioned, mud filled desperate tubes with no prospects, whilst I was happy to dig anything so long as it was near to camp. In the event after a few scrapings at tubes in MS and D itself and side passages off Luck of the Draw we plumped for The Pineapple Patch. This was looked at by me, Tim and Pauline way back and involved a series of low crawls connecting chambers with the classic Draenen V cross-section. It is very well decorated with gypsum crystals particularly in the first crawls which has spears up to 8 inches long. This combination of low crawls and copious gypsum makes for awkward, wearing, nasty (really nasty) progress. This combined with its location, being almost completely enclosed by Luck of Draw, Dogleg Complex and Circus Maximus suggested an unattractive location. On the plus side, over a weekend (8/12/1996) we'd found a couple of 100m of passage via relatively easy digging and had left quite a nice lead, so this was where we chose to concentrate Monday's efforts.

After a few false turns (which helped with orientation) we got to the passage I believed was the lead we'd left 6 years ago. On first inspection it looked none too promising with the roof of a nice 2m wide by 1m tall shaped passage giving out to a loose rockfall. The danger was that we had intersected Circus Maximus, which is a large passage so could be digging through several metres of rock into known territory. Digging commenced, at first easy and safe, then increasingly more necky as the dig adopted a self enlarging style. We took the tactic of using the longest crow gar, prizing away the biggest rocks and letting gravity do the rest. This was fine so long as we could cower beneath the solid roof, but became inevitably more sketchy. We were about to give up, when a little black hole the size of a penny appeared that suggested space beyond. A few well placed levers and Whumph!, this became a football sized hole, then Whumph!, Whumph! (the sound of many falling rocks) and the whole thing caved in.

We were through and soon standing up in reasonable walking passage leading left and right. We went to the right to find footprints. Buggar, we were in known territory but where I could not say. It seemed very unlikely this was a part of the Pineapple patch itself, and my guess is something related to Dogleg Complex but with much less ware than a trade route. As left was the best direction to escape enclosure we headed back to the left hand route, tofind another dig, which Keith was soon through, and after considerably more time was large enough for me. Now we were definitely into new passage with a small chamber and a further dig under the far wall. We again broke through relatively quickly to find larger passage with two ways on. A boulder slope to the left led to a choked climb that I bypassed via a couple of squeezes to a muddy chamber, whilst the main way on led to a mud filled crawl in 2m wide passage. This was easy digging, but long term so we made an impression on it (Frank Spencer) in case it went quickly before heading home. In all about 30m of new passage were found and possibly yet another connection from Pineapple to Dogleg, which might help with loop closure as the passages do not appear to line up sensibly. On the plus side we'd made a little more progress westwards and may be (maybe) heading into blank hillside. In any case the area is ripe with possibility and with a camp worth a bit more attention.

The trip out out was uneventful, except Keith lost the ability to crawl partway through the Last Sandwich. Ask to see his knees as they were the colour of ripe plums.

PS: If anyone happens to find a piece of yellow cord with a small pocket knife, a whistle, an army-style tin opener and a blue minimagalite attached to it, most likely in Luck of the Draw, Pineapple Patch or Dogleg, then Keith would appreciate being reunited with it!

Everybody's Free (to eat at Bernie's)

Keith Hyams

Ladies and Gentleman of the Oxford University Cave Club, eat at Bernie's.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, Bernie's would be it. The long term benefits of Bernie's have been proved by cavers whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience... I will dispense this advice now.

But trust me on Bernie's...

[Web-ed: I would add to this "Be kind to your back - it really is no fun when it's buggered." Believe me, I know.] See also DTT 13.20.