Depth through thought

OUCC News 1st March 2006

Volume 16, Number 3

DTT Volume 16 Index

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Peter Devlin:

A note from the editor

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 many thanks to Rob for his write-up and please keep the submissions coming. I am still trying to get articles that have been submitted but not published from pod, so please feel free to resend me any unpublished articles.

Also don't forget, it's AGM night .... so if you're in Oxford do come along .... just to make sure you don't get voted in absentia into a job an outgoing officer finds too odious to continue to do ;-)

Some you win and some you lose - Tian Xing tales

Fleur Loveridge and Rob Garrett

Part 2 (Rob): ...Some You Lose (see DTT 16.2 for part 1)

It had been a long expedition. After the early success in connecting Liu Chi Ao Kou Xia to Lan Mu Shu Cave prospects had looked good for getting a 1km deep system. Lan Mu Shu Cave had been pushed down to the master cave which had sumped 100m upstream of Qi Keng Cave to which we still needed to connect. Several tantalizing leads had been pushed both at depth and higher up with the lure of a possible connection enticing us ever further into grim gnarliness but always an impenetrable forcefield seemed to deflect us away whenever we got too close. Then, with time running out we found the "real way on". An obscure hole through boulders led to a short pitch then a short rift which belled out unexpectedly into a large space. On the previous 2 trips this had been partially explored and found to be a shaft 50m across and around 200m deep that split partway down into various disjoint trouser legs. Now we only had time left for one last pushing, surveying, derigging trip and we would only be able to explore one possible way on but it looked good: a draught, a shaft and a stream all heading towards known passage. All it needed was some explorers.

As luck would have it, it was myself and Duncan Collis who had the pleasure of this final push. Everyone else was praying that the derig part would go well and so spare them from the burden of yet another trip into the deep. An uncharacteristically early start saw us trudging through the rain on a trip that had epic written all over it. At the entrance we nearly jacked as the normally dry streambed was in full turf brown flow. Unfortunately it was still passable, as was the low wet constriction and the 200m of spray lashed pitches which get you into the big stuff. From here it was easy going all the way. And so, a few hours later we found ourselves shivering at the base of one of the trouser legs, rain lashing everywhere before gushing down another pitch where we would follow. We'd been hoping for some nice simple horizontal development to carry us to our goal and drop into known cave at the head of a high rift but instead the passage contracted into a series of awkward cascading pots. We descended about another 100m until the cave went horizontal with no further height to lose. However, things were looking decidedly sumpy. Time was getting on, and we still had to survey out and derig but we knew we must be close and there was still a draught...

Ahead the stream slipped into a small rift only passable low down. Then there was brief standing room before it was all crawling. Around a corner and the roof lowered further into a wet muddy crawl with about a 6 inch air gap. Very easy to dig under normal circumstances but not today with the cave in flood and 700 vertical metres waiting behind us to be derigged. I clawed experimentally with my hand but it was clear we were going no further today. With Qi Keng so close to our grasp, the survey later showed a known inlet maybe 50m away, it was time to head out, the connection still elusive.

The derig started well but quickly fell into farce as I managed to drop the survey notes back down the last pitch which I then had to rerig only to find the notes sitting directly under the full force of the cascade. Both rigging and derigging the extreme deviation that avoided the water also involved an additional soaking, just to add insult to injury. Once back to the trouser leg we left the water behind and 200m of prussiking soon warmed me up. Although this was broken by the interminable tedium of rope hauling as an increasingly preposterous pile of rope would be paellaed onto ledges again and again and again. Hours passed as our numbed minds and fingers went through the motions, learning to recognize each rope and mentally placing it in the cave according to how gritty or muddy it was. The brief burst of joy when another knot is reached and the resigned desperation when a knot jams and the rope has to be lowered a precious few inches. But on the whole everything went very smoothly with teamwork triumphing over tedium.

Finally, after the 20 hour mark had slipped past unnoticed, our ultimate goal had was close at hand. The rope was almost all in place at the top of the much loathed, aptly named, "Comedy of Errors" pitch. There would be great rejoicing all round when the others heard the news that they would not have to descend that pitch again. Except for one small hitch. With the pitch derigged and only a few score metres to go the rope snagged and wouldn't come free. I lowered, tugged and tweaked, coaxed and threatened but there was nothing for it except to redescend which meant rerigging. Laboriously I stirred my mind into action fumbling to tie the necessary knots and lowered myself over the edge. Fortunately, the cave was feeling generous as the offending jam was only a dozen metres down and before we knew it our job was done. We each selected a not-too-heavy tacklebag, turned our backs on the mountain of rope that nearly blocked the passage, and headed for the surface with a new lurch in our stagger.

We hardly noticed the soaking water on the remaining pitches and by the time we were halfway through the 400m entrance crawl we were feeling rather good. We felt even better when we met the next wave of the derigging party who had come bearing gifts. They were quite pleased when they heard how far we'd managed to derig - some 200m further than the consensus had predicted. Then, finally, the surface where the final derigging party was just setting off and, more importantly, beer was waiting. Not quite the celebratory beer we'd been hoping for but well-earned and just as welcome nonetheless. "Right." said Duncan, "Time for a sesh!"

Search phrases

Steve Roberts

Yes, once again, it's well past midnight, I can't go caving because of lurgy, I've just finished some work instead... and it's time to amuse myself with a quick look at search phrases that have brought cyber-wanderers to the OUCC website.

Amongst the rarer ones are: "boulders in the way of success", "spoon on nose", "unguinal canals", "furtling", "italian sausage notts" (makes you wonder...), "giles getting wet" (say no more), "toad in the hole pterodactyl" (strange recipes?), "easy instructions to reverse a car around a corner", "are alcove ceilings dangerous?" (depends if cavers are poking them or throwing rocks at them, I guess), "my space nude wives", "brown hill no sweat" (yes, indeed), "team wimpy", "hugging squeezing someone really tight", "medical advice on sitting in a cold draught", "wot is dtt", "pictures of vaginal insides", "james hooper mind" (crazy search, crazy guy), "the origin of zimmer frames" (they could have just asked me) and "completely impervious to pain", which is doubtless matched with "dislocated shoulder gymnastics".

As ever, let us hope they all found what they were looking for. Or something.

Fat Bastard's Nemesis

Peter Devlin [club weekend 24 to 26 Feb '06]

In a moment of temporary insanity I decided to join Gavin and Gareth on an Easegill route finding (for me route learning) trip. The plan was to go in County, through Mancunian bypass to find Easegill Aven then come out Spiral Staircase and Wretched Rabbit. My first problem came trying to climb Poetic Justice: I found it tight at the chest, so with my not so hot climbing skills had trouble getting up. Gareth had to tie on a line which I put my Kroll on as an aid to climbing. When we got into the crawly bit just after Mancunian Bypass I found it quite tight: my chest kept getting stuck: whenever I relaxed I could feel an extra 1/2 inch for my chest, but every time I tensed to move I kept getting stuck. I eventually got through, though not before tearing my undersuit on the roof (I had taken the top of my oversuit off as I was hot). Once through the tight pit (probably not more than 3 metres) I was somewhat dismayed when we could not find the way on and we had to go back through the tight bit. At least this time I knew I could make it through and I learned that small regular movements were better than larger, less efficient ones. I did feel a twinge of envy at the effortless ease with which both Gavin and Gareth slipped through though ... I don't know if the little side passage I had trouble with has a name, but decided it should be call "Fat bastard's Nemesis" .... Although I will hasten to add, it was my chest not my generous gut that presented the problem, you are no doubt thinking "he doth protest too much".

A moment of mirth was provided when on the way out of Spiral Staircase I called out to Gareth who was just around the corner that I was having a brief rest. Gareth thought I had declared that I was depressed. The notion that 3/4s of the way through a caving trip, you would simply stop caving and announce that you were depressed amused me.

On Sunday I had a pleasant, if somewhat chilly dive in Joint Hole, this time making it beyond the first airbell. For a better write-up of a dive in Joint Hole see Tim's piece in DTT 4.8.

So, will Rainbow Canyon finally provide the way on?

Fleur Loveridge

It was a Saturday morning and eight cavers were gathered at the entrance to Ogof Draenen for an early start (i.e. before 11am). This time Martin (lump) Grove couldn't make it, but we were joined by the stalwarts of Martin Hicks, Chris Densham and Rich Bayfield [editor's note: the frighteningly early start is, of course, explained by Tim's absence ;-) ]. Enthusiasm was running high after the productive trip of two weekends previously. But it didn't last long. After mine and Paul's assessment of a 'guaranteed breakthrough' at the just too small rift of Dogleg Complex, Paul had hurriedly put together two sets of drill batteries so we could cap our way to glory. The batteries, though, were bloody heavy. It was left to Ben the Hero to somehow put them both in a tackle bag and disappear into the distance.

We had been trying to make a plan of exactly what to do since the Lamb and Fox on Friday night, but of course it was never really sorted until we got to the brew stop at the end of Out of the Blue. From here Ben, Claire and Chris went to look at Yellow Van, Martin and Rich went with the lump hammer to Rainbow Canyon and Pete was to follow after checking out his shale dig off Circus Maximus. That left Paul and I to our guaranteed breakthrough.

I'd never done any capping before so it was all a big learning experience. And the first lesson was in home made drill batteries - always take a screw driver. Predictably not all was working well, but Paul deftly fixed one set using my tweezers to screw things back together. Then we were underway. The second lesson was to bring your own ear plugs. I am sure there should be a government health warning about sharing used earplugs with some unspecified members of the Red Rose CPC.

At first I watched and passed the implements (caps, proddling stick, safety glasses and hammer) like a surgical operation, but as I got cold Paul suggested I had a go so the adrenalin would warm me up. Aargh, now this was a different matter. The one metre length of the capping rods felt like a safe enough distance, but the bit where you are less than a foot away gently tapping the caps in the drill hole with the lump hammer was some what more nerve wracking. But thankfully it all fired ok at the right time and I even managed not to swear. The next one, in a shallow hole, however, was another matter and expletives flew as well as the rocks.

But sadly it looked like we were not going to get through in one trip, as we had to start a long way back from the constriction to make enough working room. So we were quite keen to make it back to the rendezvous with the others on time so we didn't have an epic and hideous carry out with just the two of us. First back to meet us at the brew spot were the Yellow Van team. Chris was particularly enthusiastic as the snappers placed in the boulders at Lou's birthday party last year had dome some good damage. The draught was good too and they'd identified some new leads to boot.

But the excitement went up a level when the Rainbow Canyon team came back. Here Rich had hammered through his bedding plane to discover a larger passage. He reports:

"Just beyond the tight bedding plane it is possible to drop 1.5m through a small gap into a large canyon passage about 1.5m wide and between 1 & 1.5m high. Bearing leftwards leads down through a chamber to a mud crawl. Beyond this crawl leads to some precariously balanced boulders with continuation passage beyond. Bearing right from the breakthrough point takes you past numerous selenite crystals, beautiful cracked mud and a significant cross passage eventually closing down at a partially mud filled passage. This is passable but probably would need to be dug to allow easier access. The cross passage closes down in both directions after about 5m."

Hence a return visit is now a must, but first there is a small matter of the choke on the entrance to the now penultimate chamber of the Canyon. This has become dangerously unstable (again) and was making some unprompted avalanches with Martin and Rich on the wrong side of it.

So thanks to all the battery carriers, especially Ben, but also Chris, who after trying to get away with carrying as little as possible, got lumbered with two batteries to drag in the Last Sandwich. It was a long trip out, but the advance team managed to make sure the beer was ordered in the Lamb and Fox, and by god it went down well.