Depth through thought

OUCC News 1st November 2006

Volume 16, Number 10

DTT Volume 16 Index

DTT Main Index

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

A note from the editor

Here are the trips for the remainder of Michaelmas Term '06.

Week 4, 3-5 Nov, Dales staying at BPF, permits: Sunday Rumbling, coordinator: TBD
Week 6, 17-19 Nov, Derbyshire staying at TSG, permits: Titan/JH Saturday, Peak Cavern Sunday, coordinator: Jonathan Cooper, but needs an Oxford based coordinator
Week 8, 1-3 Dec, Wales staying at SWCC, permits: Craig A Ffynnon Sunday, coordinator: TBD
22 Dec - 1 Jan 07, Dales staying at BPF, permits: Deaths Head/Big Meanie, Penyghent .

One small step...

Steve "my neck holds my head up all by itself" Roberts: (Mendip weekend, 22/10/06) 

As many of you will know, I've been a bit hors de combat for about three months owing to some injuries sustained  while not caving. ("Caving is safe and exhilarating!" see here). Last week the X-rays looked good, and I'm allowed to take my neck-brace off during the day. Though, Princess-Fiona-like, at night it is back to the thick-necked ogre.

It was thus with some pleasure I embarked on a trip down (Roll of ominous drums) - Goatchurch. The average age of the team was, I guess, a prime-of-life 28. This will tell you not to have faith in statistics so glibly presented. The three girls and their minders descended successfully as far as the start of the drainpipe, and went out via a series of false leads found by myself, who forgets things, even routes descended about 20 minutes before.

The moment of doubt and pain happened as I followed the girls through the "maze" - squeezing in, turning left, down and back to the main passage through something that genuinely gave me a "I can't get through that" moment. My judgement is getting skewed, as I barely touched the sides, whatever Peter says [ed - the editor is in no position to comment as after a feeble attempt to insert himself he decided there was insufficient likelihood of there being a sump in the passage to justify the effort ;-) ].

The minders then groaned about in the car park while the girls scrambled up the rocks behind to the top. Impressive enthusiasm and route-finding.

Present: <above average age> Steve Roberts, Peter Devlin, Sue Sladden <below average age> Katie Roberts, Catherine Devlin, Rachel Sladden.

Goatchurch Trip

Rachel Sladden [age 9]: (Mendip weekend, 22/10/06) 

I went caving on Sunday. I really enjoyed it. It was my first time. All I can say is that I thought it was going to be very different!

I went caving in Somerset, Barrington Coomes. Because it was my first time, I really had no idea what it was going to be like. I thought it might be scary! I went with my Mum, my friend Catherine, (she invited me to go), her dad Peter, Catherine's caving friend Katie and her dad Steve. When we first got in I thought that it was going to be easy and boring, but as we got further in I certainly changed my mind. I felt it was very hard work but really fun! I loved when you had to lie down. At the end the cave was so slippery that we needed to use a rope! Somehow all the adults managed without the rope. When we got out of the cave I felt it was one of the best days of my life.


Katie Roberts [age 8]

I really enjoyed it though it was hard. The entrance was fun and easy. My favourite bit was the Maze because it was hard and tight but it was fun. The swing made out of a sheet at the hut was fun and I ran down the slope and lifted my legs off the ground.

Catherine Devlin [age 8]

I went caving with my friends Rachel and Katie. It was Rachel's first time caving. We went to Goatchurch in Mendip. That is where I went on my first trip (DTT 15.4) and where Camilla (Katie's friend) came caving with us on her first trip. At the bottom of the cave we ate Dairy Milk, Yorkie and Twix bars. Rachel was very brave and went down the Drainpipe. The adults didn't go down the Drainpipe because it was too tight for them. I hope I go caving with Katie and Rachel again soon.

What the f**k do I know about potholing anymore

Rich Gerrish

Two and a half years is a long time. I don't think I realised this until I walked through the doors of Inglesport to be greeted with shocked expressions and people who could only vaguely recollect my name, although that might have more to do with my unkempt appearance of long hair and scruffy beard that I had let run ragged in recent months. Gavin and I had aspirations to return to Too Long Gone the following weekend but that was soon knocked on the head with the realisation that I had brought Hong Kong's monsoon weather conditions with me and that in less than five days the Dales would metamorphose from bone dry to piss wrapped.

I learned that the dig at the top of Oliver Lloyds aven that myself and Pete Hall had dismissed as being too difficult to dig some years ago had been worked by the Misty Mountain Mud Miners to reveal some beautifully decorated passageway getting ever nearer to the elusive connection with Lost Johns. Fortune favours the brave.

What else had I missed out on?

The following weekend I was ensconced at the Farm and doing my level best to enter a drink induced physical and mental state that would prevent me from going underground the following day. Alas I didn't quite achieve that but the weather did. Streams overflowing everywhere and wet weather apathy set in amongst the small band of hopefuls and we only got as far as the cafe.

Sunday however began dry and the falling water levels prompted Gavin and I to slip out quickly and piece together some obscure parts of Easegill in preparation for his Uber trip to the 19 entrances from the inside [editor: but when is he going to actually do it? ... probably waiting for new entrances to be found!] . It was surreal walking over the fell to County. The sun was shining, I could see for miles and the path was clearly marked. This was definitely not how I remembered it.

Once underground though things started coming back to me, al be it quite slowly. Don't get me wrong; my absence was not from caving itself but from Dales caving and regular caving to be precise. My irregular caving had either been recce trips or big tropical trips, quite different from the continuously body sized passages that had been the norm in my obviously long gone youth. My brain was right back at it. Neurons firing, eyes wide and soaking up the visual information ahead of me. Okay, tight here, drop the shoulder, turn the hips, duck slightly and no worries you're through CRUNCH!!! Staggering forwards I bounced off the other wall before sliding forwards leaning heavily against the wet limestone with the sound of my whole body scraping ineffectually for balance. What had gone wrong? Crunch, bang, crack, OW! I reeled back pushing my helmet up onto the top of my head again. Something was not right and it wasn't the alcohol from the night before of that I was sure.

As the trip progressed and I struggled with the chimney up and over to Poetic Justice I began to realise the problem. My body was a good second or two behind my brain. The intuitive reflexes that I had developed through week in week out misery trips was gone and now this inept transport device for my brain and soul was in need of and MOT. Stumble, stumble, bump.

Fortunately that is exactly what this trip was. An opportunity to tune this weak apparition of my former self. As I lay in the grip of mud and rock in the Mancunian Way, sliding myself forward on toes and elbows only, tiring inordinately quickly whilst Gavin vanished into the distance I learnt again that two and a half years really is a long time.

By the end of the trip though I was starting to come round. Muscle memory began to return like a long lost brother from out of the wilderness and gradually I banged my head a lot less. The water flowing into the legs of my oversuit and out of the cuffs and neck as I rattled through Dismal junction was an inspiration that rekindled the perversions I had long since lost. Pulling myself up right again I shot off in hot pursuit of Gavin who lead the way never missing a beat.

I bounced up the entrance of County overjoyed I had finally found my rhythm and emerged to the Dales I knew and loved. The mist was in, the rain was slashing down and I finally felt at home.

Two days later I attempted a Lancs to Wretched through trip with a couple of friends of mine from Uni. I was not confident I could remember the way but I tried to hide that from my willing accomplices. The survey and guidebook only seemed to confuse me more and in the end we set off, me figuring that it would all come back to me once I was actually underground.

A few wrong turns aside and with the support of two patient friends I schizophrenically talked my way through the whole trip. I think Dan and Graham thought the commentary was for their benefit, or maybe my lame attempts to sound like I knew where we were or where we were going. I think the only person I was trying to convince however was myself. Three hours after we abbed in we were crawling out into Upper Easegill Beck. I was delirious with content, it had been a fine trip and the rat had been well and truly fed in a number of ways.

Leaving the Dales later that day I choked with emotion. It would be another two months, late July, till I returned again and then after that, who knows. My self-imposed exile in Hong Kong has only caused me to realise more, how desperately in love I am with this bleak part of the world and the squalid pursuit of misery we play beneath its fells.

A brief stroll in OFD

Steve "up the elephant's bottom" Roberts

Sometimes it's good to do things backwards. I like streamways, and the streamway in OFD1 is a strong contender for the best in the UK. I think, though, that if one is doing the OFD1 round-trip the slightly greater pleasure in going upstream would have been marred by the steadily decreasing pleasurability of the passages in the upper series.

As it was, we had a look at the stream levels at the step, and decided that they were a bit too marginal to venture into the stream right then. Round over the top, then. I'd not done this bit of cave before. Good fun on the bolt traverse, some mildly wriggly bits, the greasy-chimney style challenge of the elephants arsehole, and a somewhat devious climb up into the big chambers.

These were good stuff. Pristine white gypsum all over the walls, some good stal, and impressive stomping passage. Plus a roly-poly bedding plane for fun. A long descent, then a final slightly awkward rope climb, to the stream. We followed this down to the main-stream, which was pretty boisterous but deemed passable. This was great fun, especially for those of us of ample build who were able to watch the spray being spat up around them without being in any danger of being swept away. Pole-dancing too.

We met Joel C. and the Cardiff crew coming up at the waterfall climb; good to have our judgement over the water levels confirmed, then more splashing, singing and pole-dancing down to the step, Pluto's bath, and out to a wonderfully warm mid-afternoon.

I must get a bigger oversuit. Not only does it pretty well stop me lifting my legs up, but I put my back out putting it on. It really is shrinkage - the sleeves don't reach down my arms, and it needs strong assistance from a helper to get it off over my shoulders. So it's not just that I'm fat.

Team: Lou Maurice, Tim Guilford, Steve Roberts, Yifan Huang.

Another trip down Bull Pot of the Witches

Peter Devlin

October 14 saw a return to the sump in Bull Pot of the Witches. Joined by Beardy, Pete Eastoe, Ray Duffy and Andy Hall we made the sump in record time of 1 hour. Half an hours kitting up then I was off. About a minute later I was back in the tight bit, when suddenly I found that my enthusiasm for digging 5m into a tight little passage was at an all time low. If I'd been on my own I would have turned around and come out, but the moral obligation to one's sherpas is not to be discounted.

This time I had carried a dry diving undersuit to wear under my dry suit, in place of the wet caving undersuit I had worn the last two dives. This meant that I did not get cold during the dive and now that I have my own compressor I can put abit more air into my bottles, so this time I was able to spend an extra 10 minutes digging. I dug another metre or so further than the last time, and also dug out abit the bit leading to the furthest penetration, so some progress has been made.

The next trip will probably be from the other end of the sump (Wilf Taylor's Passage), partly because the way the line is laid I will be able to dig with my right arm, partly because I'm bored with the Bull Pot of the Witches end.