Depth through thought

OUCC News 10th January 2007

Volume 17, Number 2

DTT volume 17 Index

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in.

Here are the trips planned for Hilary Term (2007):

OUCC 50th Anniversary

Steve Roberts

Richard Gowing, a founder member of OUCC, wrote to me:

"My climbing log records:

"'FIRST MEET OF O.U. CAVING CLUB, 1st December 1957', and describes how we 'went by coach to the Miners Arms where we stopped for coffee, down Cheddar Gorge where we stopped for lunch and did a couple of easy climbs (Sugar Loaf by the easy way, 55ft. mod. and French Pinnacle (40ft. Mod.), then on to G.B. Cave, which we explored by courtesy of, and guided by, University of Bristol Spelaeological Society. Went in & returned by the easy way. Very fine main chamber, several good clusters of helictites; tried several photos.' [I still have prints of some of these.] Came out, had tea at Burrington Combe, returned to Oxford arriving ca. 11.

"My diary for 1957 unfortunately has several gaps and doesn't record the inaugural meeting, but it must have taken place after the diary ends on 16/11/57; I would imagine the first meet would take place pretty soon after that meeting."

Looks like we should plan the OUCC 50th celebrations around the President's Invite , and a do of some kind (in Oxford?) around the beginning of December. I see that Dec 1st this year is a Saturday - so we should have a trip down GB. Maybe Richard would like to join us?

Another wet weekend in Wales

Peter Devlin [16/17 Dec 06]

Having put my name down to do my first Duty Officer stint at Penwyllt I wasn't sure what opportunities I would have to get underground. It seemed a great opportunity to dive the OFD sumps: I've been meaning to get into Dip and Hush for ages. On Friday night I made my way to Penwyllt stopping off to drop off my compressor which was on the blink. Andrew Ward felt that with lots of rain in Wales over the past month I should stay out of Hush and Dip, but might get into Gothic (the one 30m from the entrance).

Being shortly before Christmas Penwyllt was like a ghost town. There was a trip going down Pwll Dwfn though, which I have long wanted to do so I decided to tag along with Al and Tom and dive Gothic on Sunday. Pwll Dwfn reminds me a little of Bull Pot Kingsdale as it is almost entirely vertical. At the bottom of the fifth pitch Tom pointed the sump out to me. It was clear that the sump is a current project and I found some stashed diving gear belonging to Gareth Davies. This gear included a crow bar, so it seems he's doing a little underwater digging. A recent voicemail from him had mentioned a couple of projects he would like help with. At least now I will know what I might be getting myself in for if he wants a partner in crime in the Pwll Dwfn Sump.

I was first out, and at the top of the fifth pitch heard voices. I assumed that the voices were Tom and Al below me and that some quirk in the acoustics of the cave was in operation. Instead it turned out to be Martin Grove. He had come down on our rope while Joel Corrigan and another rigged their ropes behind. The way out was uneventful, bar the b*st$rd squeeze at the entrance. I made it out 1/2 an hour faster than Tom (it being his first SRT trip and second caving trip) so I was well chilled by the time Tom and Al made it out. A brisk walk down the hill in the dark soon warmed me up.

The next I was completely run off my feet with Duty Officer stuff ... NOT as my daughter Catherine would say. I had to collect hut fees from half a dozen people. Excitement peaked when a car pulled up and a Top Entrance key had to be handed out. Come 11 it was deemed that I could go about my own business so I pootled into OFD1. I've been refining my "light" diving gear, caving in a wet suit so no dry suit to lug, caving in my harness with my bottles and regs attached meant I only had one light tacklesack to carry. I was diving with my 3ltr bottles (20 cubic foot I think in old money) so it's quite comfortable to cave in. Not that the step from the entrance to the Gothic sump can count as caving. I'd been there once and remembered it as near the entrance, but it's not much more than 1/2 a dozen strides. The fill in my bottles was abit wonky owing to compressor failure while

filling: 240bar in one bottle and 180 in the other. Five minutes into the dive I noticed how much quicker my air was going than with larger bottles, so I decided I wouldn't be pushing the envelope. About 12 minutes in I turned the dive and started to make my way out. I had heard that the viz in the OFD sumps was worse than it used to be, but I found it good (at least a metre).

When I finished my dive I left my bag at the entrance ladder and went for a bimble to check out the streamway as the OFD1 streamway was closed due to high water levels.. I caved with my dive gear on just to see what the 3s felt like to cave in. As expected the 3s were much more comfortable than my larger bottles. All the way there was the sound of water running, sometimes mere trickles. at other times torrents. When I got to The Step the streamway was quite impressive. I stuck my foot onto The Step, the rule being if the water is above it, then the streamway is too high. Standing on the step the water didn't quite reach the top of my wellie, but it wasn't far off. On the way back I only took one wrong turn, but soon corrected my mistake. I had been about 3/4 of an hour underground, but had a pleasant little trip.

Seeing out 2006 at Bull Pot Farm

Peter Devlin [30/31 Dec]

My previous foray (DTT 16.5) to the BPW/Lancs sump having achieved an armslength connection from the Lancs end to my BPW end dig, I had come to the Farm with the optimistic hope of making a two day big push to complete the survey and move on to something different. On Saturday morning it was wet and I was struggling to get a team of sherpas together. Toby, was still in bed, Beardy had other plans, Hilary had marking to do. Harvey was suffering a virulent bout of don'twanttogocavingitus and Simon preferred a trip to stare into the window of a closed flying shop. Once Toby got up at the crack of midday (or 1 to be precise) I at least had a nucleus of a team to build around. Frank offered to help out, and I had given a lift to Rowena, a recent addition to the Cambridge lot, so felt no compunction in asking her to help out. Rowena is a rare example of a caver who is also an open water diver, who has been warned off cave diving by all and sundry. Asking her to carry bottles was just my way of disuading her from taking up cave diving. Rosa's offer of a trip down County with Keith and Arry fell thru as Keith and Arry preferred to go for a walk in the driving rain, so she joined us and the team was complete.

As we moved through the cave the ominous roar of high water echoed, but I convinced myself that was just the main streamway and that my sump (normally static) would be fine. As we turned the last corner and got to Wilf Taylor's Passage we found otherwise. A strong current was flowing down WTP. Had this been a one man carry I would have jacked it in and gone home, but managing sherpa-relations is dicey business, so we dumped the gear and I went to see just how bad it really was. The passage where I kitted up the last time was now running above my wellies with a strong current. At first I thought the line was under water, but when I got to it I found it about a foot or so above the water (as opposed to 3 feet above the water). The viz didn't look great, but I decided that the current would just about let me swim upstream so I decided to dive. We agreed that I would need a little over an hour to get kitted up, do a dive and dekit, so the others went off on a jaunt. At one point as I was kitting up I saw them go down WTP which I thought was abit dodgy given water levels, so I was not overly surprised to see them return some minutes later.

Once I got in I found I was having real trouble swimming against the current. In Florida a technique called "pull and glide" is used to go into flow. There this works well as the caves allow plenty of things to grab. Here I was in a bedding plane with a gravel floor. The current kept pushing me onto the line, or lines to be precise as I had laid my 4mm line alongside the 2mm line that has been in place since Mike Wooding lined the sump 40 odd years ago. The gave rise to a couple of entanglement scares with my fin straps getting snagged on the line. As I went I put in half a dozen tie clips to secure the two lines together, which turned out to be the only useful thing I achieved on the dive. At the 30m mark, so less than halfway to the restriction, I stopped to try and explore a possible side passage thinking the current and viz might be better. This turned out to be an error of judgement and all I succeeded in doing was to create further entanglement risk with my jump reel. At this point I ditched the dive and let the current pull me back to base. I had just been a 15 minute dive, but I had not been so afraid since I got lost in Linley (DTT 15.9). On the way back Toby took us up to see the Colonnades, which I had not been to before. Back at the Farm Keith told me that having walked through the rain to the pub only to find that it had just closed, they had walked back. When he asked how my dive had gone I told him my trip had been about as good as that. We consoled ourselves that we had both learnt lessons from our experiences.

Many thanks to Rosa, Toby, Frank and Rowena for the carry.

On Sunday I got underground with Steve Robinson, another cave diving Red Rose member. We went back to the sump to see whether it was any better, the rain having stopped the previous afternoon. We found the sump back to normal, with no flow and viz back to usual (a metre or so). Hey ho.

I left the Farm with instructions to collect Gavin from the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. Plans discussed the previous night for a naked trip down County had been changed to a naked trip down Bull Pot of the Witches for the evening of the 31st .... it seemed a shame to be going home ;-)