Depth through thought

OUCC News 18th June 2003

Volume 13, Number 15

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,

Editor's waffle

This is the last DTT of this academic year. Please don't let this stop you from sending me copy. I'll store everything until next term and will publish your write ups then. It would be nice to have a couple or more good original articles to impress(?) and inspire next year's freshers.

Mendip Caving 2003


Having sort of attended this caving meet, I am prepared to say that you missed out if you weren't there; and with exception of Paul Mann I failed to spot any OUCC members.

The meet started off on Friday night in the Hunter's Lodge backroom with a showing of any videos or slides brought along by the caving public. Initially, it didn't look like there would be anyone attending other than the owners of films/slides to be shown and the technical staff and their families, but when I turned round later, there was barely any standing room.

I stayed to watch two films with rarity/historical appeal: A very old black and white comedy film about a man getting ready to go caving and various bits of caving gear flying in and out of his pockets (at least this is what I remember of it). Next was a much longer black and white film, dated 1953, about a group of people, including two women, going caving in GB. This was interesting in that the entrance was minus the block house, and the quality was such that I had no idea this was GB until someone told me afterwards. Someone in the Hunter's also claimed that J-Rat was in this film, with long hair on his head and none on his chin. Surely that was a wind-up (or another film) as, according to my calculations, J-Rat would have been four at the time... There were more films shown, but due to beer having to be drunk and in-laws needing to be said hello to, I left for the bar at that point.

On Saturday, after going climbing and before lying down with a migraine, I watched Andy Sparrow's (and Melanie Lloyd's) latest feature film "A rock and a hard place". I had expected a piece of dramatic fiction, similar to Andy's last film, but instead it was a very nicely done re-enaction of the exploration of the caves of Fairy Cave Quarry. I thought this historical documentary was both entertaining and educational. A sound, interesting, real-life story line, based on interviews with the main explorers, is told in an engaging, sometimes sentimental (or was that the beer?) style, leaving room for humour as well as suspense (if you didn't already know what happened in real life, I suppose). The most amusing bit was when Andy and Nel argued whether the film's total budget had amounted to 32 pounds or 52 pounds in the car back to Cheddar. It just goes to show again that it is perfectly possible to produce great entertainment without silly budgets. You can see it at the BCRA.

Dany Bradshaw and Nigel Taylor then donned their aprons and served burgers, sausages and other BBQed titbits (beer was available in the Village Hall), while the chariot race was performed outside in the heat of the day by a number of teams in full caving kit. I was informed by Snablet that the aim here was not to win, as you have to organise next year's event if you do, but the teams appeared to be trying their best regardless. Possibly, this was just a typical Snablet interpretation of the best strategy. The race involved caving through Swildon's above ground, including the lavatory pan, the 20' (with life line), and sump 1. It was won by the Wessex CC, who will be organising Mendip Caving 2004.

News of old members

"Dear Steve

Thank you for your invitation to this year's President's Meet. I'm afraid that yet again we shall be unable to come, this time because we shall that weekend be completing a cruise from Bergen round the North Cape to the Russian border and back. I was very interested to see the article on the OUCC in the recent issue of "Oxford Today", in particular about the Club's activities in China; as I heard last weekend at Lowstem, <random stuff edited> it looks as if this year's YRC expedition to that country is very much in the balance owing to the SARS situation. I would like to continue keeping in touch with the Club, especially as its Golden Jubilee is not all that far off. I'm afraid I haven't done any proper caving since that enjoyable trip into Kingsdale Master Cave with Peter Friend, but I still keep my gear in order, ready to be taken into something by the younger active potholers in the YRC!

My best wishes for another successful September meet, and for the continuing prosperity of the OUCC.
Richard Gowing (St John's 1959)"

Humajalante Cave

Rob Garrett

¿What do you mean you've never heard of it?... it's a classic. Well a bit of a jolly anyway. Situated in Torotoro National Park, in Bolivia's largest limestone region which is about 15km across and dominated by a huge valley bounded by anticlines. Bolivia's only speleologist offers guided tours, but while I was trying to negotiate a cheaper price he decided that it would be a good idea for me to go without a guide taking a couple of novices with me. Thus, armed with a hand sketch, a bike light, a decent head torch and a single LED keyring between us we set off into the unknown.

As we left the village, a local asked us where we were going before concluding that we were locos. On the 8km hike to the entrance in the high altitude midday heat we passed a park warden who inquired if we had a rope. No... "entonces no ingresan." "Veremos," I replied noncommittally.

[Editor translates "...then you won't get in" (present tense used to express future?) and "We'll see" as the reply. ]

The guided trip goes down a dry fossil route past a sort of portcullis but we failed to find this and went down with the small stream. Some tricky climbs were assisted by tiny chiselled holds and combined tactics. The dry route should come in through a sort of squeeze next to a lake with blind fish and a cascade in a big chamber. Somehow we managed to miss this, too, continuing downstream through big sandy chambers to a sump complete with sump line. Aparently several groups from France, Spain etc. have been here previously to explore.

Thinking this was the big chamber where the dry route came in we crawled off up a small side passage before being forced to conclude that it went nowhere.

There are at least another 7km of reported passage which, according to the drinks session after the trip, descends around 300m before ending at a 200m pitch which has stalled all subsequent exploration... We, however, were short of time and had to head out the way we had come in. Some interesting sections maintained interest as we traversed above the water to stay dry and the walk back under the full moon was only slightly interrupted by a local's football match.

There are 23 known entrances in the area and plenty of potential for fun exploration if anyone is interested. Details on request...