Depth through thought

OUCC News 16th February 2006

Volume 16, Number 1

DTT Volume 16 Index

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

A note from the new editor With the start of a new year I have taken on the mantle of putting out DTT. Many thanks to pod for looking after it latterly.

In the meantime, please be patient with any inadequacies I may exhibit as an editor: I'm hoping amateurish enthusiasm will make my foibles acceptable.

So, here are the trips planned for the remainder of this term. I include my email re weekend coordination as a filler ;-)
Week 6, 24-26 Feb, Dales staying at BPF, permit: Death's Head/Big Meanie, coordinator: Tom Evans
Week 8, 10-12 Mar, Dales staying at BPF, permit: Lost Johns (hurray, hurray, hurray), coordinator: Chris Sinadinos
Easter, 14 - 17 April, Dales staying at BPF

We need submissions to DTT, so please, please, please send in anything related to caving: trip write-ups, any kind of news, articles read, talks planned, etc.

Please also send me any articles you have recently submitted to pod which have not been published.

An appeal from the Meet Sec

I was chatting in the pub with Gareth last week re the week 2 weekend in Yorkshire which only Gavin, Gareth and Richard went along on. Gareth thought that one reason why so few went along was that we may not have done a great job advertising the weeked.

Going forward I will use DTT to remind people where we are going, what permits we have and who the weekend coordinator is (if someone has already volunteered).

Since I took on the meet sec role I have tried a number of approaches to lining up weekend meet coordinators. On the basis that most club members are unable to plan which meets they attend far in advance I have opted for a voluntary model. For those of you who have volunteered to coordinate weekends over the last term or so, thank you very very much: your help is greatly appreciated. For those of you who have not, it is time for you to do so. Everybody who comes caving with us more than once or twice a year should be prepared to organise a weekend. We have a dozen club meets a year and if everyone pitches in there is no need for anyone to coordinate a weekend more than once a year. Unless you are doing some other job in the club (either as an officer or helping on the expedition committee or helping out with hut moves ... thank you Simon) you should at the very least be prepared to coordinate a weekend. Not living in Oxford means you can't come along to the Wednesday meeting, but in this age of email not being based in Oxford is not a valid reason for not stepping up. As I come on most club weekends I have a good sense of who comes caving so please please please volunteer.

We no longer hire a minivan so there is one less thing to do. I am prepared to do the OUSF registration to make this easier.

There are some very helpful notes on the website for weekend coordinators (courtesy of Hilary I believe).

I have written up an even more minimalist set of tasks which I can provide to anyone who would like to coordinate a weekend.

Coordinating a weekend need not take more than 1/2 an hour of coordination, so please help out.

A Funny Kind of Easegill Through-trip

Peter Devlin 30 Dec '05

Having negotiated a few days up at BPF between Christmas and New Year I joined Ben and Clare, Pip and Chris (Rogers) on a Lancashire Hole to Top Sink (or maybe Wretched Rabbit) through-trip. Having up to this point point only done a few minor trips in Easegill (for instance Pool Sink to the streamway) I was a little intimidated by the plan, but I felt the Wretched Rabbit option was a good fall-back. We finally made it underground at 11.30 spurred on by a bit of cajoling from the Cambridge lot who were planning a Lancs to Wretched Rabbit trip and were planning on going in after us.

We were concerned about water levels (there was snow on the ground and a thaw was forecast) so we took the fossil route to Stop Pot, with brief stops along the way to admire the usual sights such as the Minarets and Painter's Palette. When we got to the streamway to go upstream to Top Sink the water levels were higher than normal, but not too bad. As we got into the upper reaches of the system we didn't find the route-finding as easy. At a certain point we were looking for the way on up an increasingly scary muddy rift above a respectable drop (10m maybe). There was less and less evidence of traffic so I was happy when we collectively decided that we didn't think it was the way on .... Pip would probably say I bottled it and refused to go any further ;-).

When we got back down from the muddy rift we furtled up a few more unpromising possibilities before deciding that Clare, Chris and I would stop for a rest while Ben and Pip found the way on. In due course they returned having found the penultimate pitch of Top Sink. At the top of this pitch I found the passage to the last pitch quite awkward. Between my height and my girth I found that while the others could mostly walk, I pretty much had to crawl sideways in the water all the way to the last pitch. At this point it was probably between 6 & 7pm and I was well ready to do the last pitch and get out. Ben went ahead intending to come back with encouraging news that the pitch was just ahead.

Instead he brought back the news that the last pitch was not rigged. I think I was too tired to curse! We went on to the pitch just to check whether it could be free-climbed and rigged using one of the two ropes on the previous pitch, but decided this was not an option. Of the whole trip, the bit I found toughest was the crawl between the two pitches in Top Sink. On the way back to the penultimate pitch Pip encouraged words of support: "you're nearly at there" and "you're doing well". I knew at the time the first was stretching the truth while the latter was a downright lie, but her encouragement did keep me focused.

The trip back to the streamway went fine, but I was aware of becoming increasingly tired and had to focus to prevent a stupid mistake from causing an accident. When we got back to the streamway the water was much higher than before. Ben urged us to hurry to get past the streamway. We could all feel the pull of the current and the chill of the sometimes waste-deep water and were all at least a little afraid of it. Being tall I had to crawl at times and found the force of the water on an increased cross section very frightening.

When we got out of the streamway it took us a little exploring to find the fixed ladder in Stop Pot, but we were glad we had the streamway behind us. We got to Stop Pot around 7.30 and had a break to discuss our options for getting out. Our call-out was for 11pm. We decided not to go for Wretched Rabbit as I had never done it and we were concerned about my fitness for it as well as the water levels. In the end we opted for a Lancs exit on the basis that while it was long it was easier.

After a little while of sticking together Clare and Chris went on ahead to explain that we would be late for our call-out and to request a flask of tea. Ben and Pip drew the short straws and stayed to help me out. By this point the trip was already longer than my previously longest trip (a 7 hour Penyghent trip with Gavin and Gareth) and I found that to keep it together I needed to take a 5 minute break every 15 or 20 minutes. Ben and Pip watched me like a hawk, warning me of drops or slippery patches, Pip often going ahead to make sure we never strayed from the shortest route home. As we started to get closer to the exit I felt I might make it out before the "rescue" flask came to meet me. This incentive probably meant that I moved at tortoise's pace rather than at a snail's pace ;-).

Halfway up the Lancs pitch I heard Ben talking to someone and I knew that while there was a cup of tea at the top of the pitch I had managed to make it out of the cave under my own steam. When I got out I found Chris (Fernau) and some of the Cambridge lot who had kitted up and brought out tea and water and Mars bars. I drank the tea from a fluted plastic container cut off the top of a water bottle (the cup having gone hurtling past me as I prusiked up the pitch): probably the best cup of tea I have ever had. At 11.30pm this had been my first 12 hour trip.

I had a cracking trip, from Lancs to Lancs via Top Sink, which that morning I would not have imagined in my wildest dreams I could have achieved, so many, many thanks to Ben, Pip, Clare and Chris. Pip and Ben, in particular, taught me a lot about caving when tired. Their prudent and patient management of the return portion of the trip prevented a setback from becoming an epic. I have come away with a much better sense of the Easegill system, but am determined to get to know it better and to raise the bar on the trips I do.