Depth through thought
OUCC News 23rd April 2003
Volume 13, Number 7
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Editor: Anette Becher, email@example.com
The Vietnam 2003 expedition has returned to the UK, with nearly 45 km of surveyed cave passage under its belt.
Other news is that the Matienzo expedition have allegedly found a new cave 'system', but I haven't heard any more informative details (yet).
Stop Press: I just heard that Rick Stanton and Jason Mallison have managed to dive through the sump at the bottom of Cheve, have broken into 120m of passage and the way is on to the next sump. This is all at -1386m depth, by the way.
Here is something that attracted my attention:
A stalactite, 'retrieved' from Pantmawr Pot Cave in the Brecons for sale on
This offer sparked a flurry of protests from UK cavers, and the offer has since been withdrawn - so don't bother writing to the seller. Nevertheless, an interesting demonstration of what people will try to sell and also on internet self-policing...
January and February had been trying months. I was suffering from a sharp drop in enthusiasm for getting underground, Pete was away in Mulu finding caverns measurable to man (but only if you possessed the number of survey books that could have been responsible for the destruction of a small rainforest) and despite the fact that the Showerbath dig had collapsed making it diggable again, the two people who had visited it in our absence had bailed at the prospect of working it.
Finally my enthusiasm began to creep back and after a Thursday night spent assisting with a dye trace and going to look at a sump pool elsewhere in Notts II, I was ready for a return to our old friend. A few things had changed, however. Thinking that the dig had died, Pete had removed a number of scaff bars and clamps from the cage and along with our alloy proddling stick had moved them all up to Moribund Inlet at the far upstream end of the cave. Having secured some replacement bars from Andy Walsh and received the sickeningly successful tales of the 22Km of cave found in Mulu from Pete, we were once again in familiar territory with scaffold bars over one shoulder and a bag containing the drill and capping gear on our backs. Pete complained about not being able to cave properly, seems that the metre or so wide passage was still to narrow for his Mulu adapted body!
The dig site had improved since I last saw it whilst on a quick recce when showing some tourists the rest of the cave. The pooey mud that had adorned everything had been washed away by floods leaving clean washed boulders and Pete's missing spanner exposed to view. After a quick assessment of the cage, we deemed it safe to resume digging. One of the standpipes was bent, but well held in by bracing scaff and the places where the gaps now were didn't seem to pose any danger. I had a quick attempt at bringing some stuff down, but with our long proddling stick replaced by a shorter one I had limited success. Pete took over and improved the situation whilst I set up the drill and capping bars. With another swap over, I found myself drilling the first of three shot holes into the three largest and nearest boulders. Everything else was either too small or too far beyond the bars to have a go at. It had been a while since I had been in the world of sensory deprivation provided by the ear defenders and scratched goggles that offered me essential protection and my mind was racing over the procedure trying to ensure I did everything right. Soon enough I was sliding the rod into the shot hole and pushing the protective rubber into place. Altering my position so that I was both comfortable and away from danger I toyed with the hammer to get the best grip:
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, BANG!!!
I breathed a sigh of relief, I had done everything correctly and the boulder now lay in several pieces. With renewed confidence, I turned my attention to the second hole. This time, however, the Bang was followed by a shooting pain in my left foot, followed immediately by another shooting pain in the other side of the foot. The boulder I had capped had broken into several smaller and sharper pieces, which had fallen about a metre through the gap in the bottom of the bars, missed my steel toecap and gone direct for the bridge of my foot. I cursed the boulder and then I cursed myself for being foolish before turning carefully to the last hole which thankfully blew without incident. After moving the hardware to safety I then began removing the spoil from the bars and bringing down the boulders from above. In doing this, I levered a rock quickly out from the top section and watched it plummet towards my right foot. With déją vu calling and reflexes snapping into action I whipped my foot away, saw the rock fall clear and then almost fell down the hole after it as I proceeded to lose my balance. What a Muppet!
The dig felt promising again. Boulders came down easily, the draught still blew, black spaces were above and none of the rocks seemed to be Gritstone, which would indicate an unwanted link to the surface. Despite this it was decided that we should head for the pub early, both of us pretty sure that we wouldn't be as fast as we used to be on the way out. How right we were.
"Dear Steve, Are any of your active expedition cavers available this summer? We are again planning to explore the Patin Mountain area and a few other caving areas nearby, in the wilderness between cities Abakan and Novokuznetsk. Best regards Dmitri PERLIEV manager "
Contact him if interested.
We had arranged to meet at 10.30am at the Limekilns in the Clydach Gorge, and for a change everyone turned up on time and raring to go. No moans, groans, or complaints of late nights and sore heads. For once there wasn't even the usual amount of unending faff and delay that plagues the start of club trips. The key was found where it was supposed to be, and without further delay the inaugural meeting of the SSFCC was underway.
Ogof Craig a Ffynnon is a superb system, displaying much of what is best about Welsh caving: sporting climbs and crawls, twisting boulder chokes, great big stomping passage, and decorations to make your jaw drop. I was impressed with the way all the party managed to keep up, and we made good time through the icy cold wallows of Gasoline Alley, and up through the first two boulder chokes. A few muddy chambers gave way to the glory of Travertine Passage with its immense gour pools, and triumphantly onto the Hall of the Mountain King, with its draping calcite flows.
Despite feeling fresh and keen to go on through the arduous crawls of Severn Tunnel, we deferred to good sense, and took this as a good place to turn about. No point in pushing things with a small party, leave 'em keen for next time! Thus with no complaint or disagreement, we made our way swiftly back to the entrance, and changed out of our cold and muddy gear in contemplative silence.
After a pint and a bag of peanuts in the corner of a quiet pub, we commenced our 150 mile journey home, full of talk of caverns measureless to man. If anyone would be interested in another trip sometime soon, please give Geoff O'Dell a ring, hear nothing back, and be another member of the Sad Solo F**kers Caving Club!
[ It's been some time since DTT 13.6, so here is the relevant excerpt from 'A weekend at Greenclose' by Rich Gerrish, as a reminder. (Editor)
After wandering round the fell on a rare, spectacularly stunning day, the four of us, Gavin, Hils, Gareth and myself committed ourselves to the darkness. The cave was already rigged. In fact it was already rigged with what looked suspiciously like Oxford gear. In fact it was rigged with what looked suspiciously like 10 year old and totally knackered Oxford gear! Anyone care to admit this oversight??? ... ]
The gear in Crescent: I cannot tell a lie, it was I. If I'd known you guys were heading down there, I'd have asked you to carry a bottle in return for using the rigging (half-joke). Not ten years old, only been in for a couple (although the gear itself was plenty old when I got to use it, don't take it to Spain!), but lack of people wanting to carry has rather scotched the plans for a proper push on the sump.
PS if you go upstream in Outer Slime there is an OUCC dig (originators Paul Mann, Ursula Collie and myself) - we had a few tens of metres of new stuff many moons ago and called it Slime Travellers.
PPS Should anyone fancy a return en masse to this esoteric little gem then please call me at ADSeddon@aol.com