Depth through thought

OUCC News 20th February 2007

Volume 17, Number 7

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)

50 Years of OUCC

OU Cave Club is 50 years old in Michaelmas term (Oct - Dec) this year! Three dates for your diaries -

Weekend 14th-16th September - The "President's Invite" the by-now-traditional mass caving, walking, eating, drinking, meeting for all OUCC, past and present. At the Old School House, near the Hill Inn, Chapel-le-Dale, Yorkshire.

Saturday 29th September - The OUCC 50th posh nosh; St Edmund Hall. Likely cost, about £25 all in. If you could let me know if you would like to come to this (maybe with spouse/spousal equivalent), it will be useful to know numbers. Currently I have the Old Dining Hall booked, but max numbers there are about 50, so we'll have to move to the big dining hall if more than that want to come.

Saturday 1st December: The 50th Anniversary trip. OUCC's first ever caving meeting was on 1/12/57, to GB cavern. Let's do it again! Veterans of the 1957 trip especially welcome. (Places on the GB trip(s) will be limited because of permit restrictions.)

A caver in Oxford: No. 2

The Oxford Speleo

As you walk into back quad one afternoon, your eye instinctively scans the "chamber wall". Yep, there's definitely a quad traverse on there. Over doorways, across that windowsill. Might need to use the drainpipe - would it hold? Maybe a long sling for protection on that dodgy corner. Of course, it'd need to be done after dark...

The Speleologist's Manifesto

Apropos references to caving in literature Vrinda Manglik writes:

" is regressing to the cave dwelling, but in an alienated malignant form. The savage in his cave (a natural element which is freely offered for his use and protection) does not feel himself a stranger; on the contrary he feels as much as home as a fish in water. But the cellar dwelling of the poor man is a hostile dwelling, 'an alien, constricting power which only surrenders itself to him in exchange for blood and sweat'--a dwelling which he cannot regard as his own hearth--where he might at last exclaim: "Here I am at home"--but where instead he finds himself in someone else's house, in the house of a stranger who always watches him and throws him out if he does not pay his rent."

-Karl Marx, Early Writings, 1844

"Welsh errors"

Steve Roberts

Error the first. Being stupidly bold in trying to show that the oldies still have some squeeze cred, but finding that seven and a half inches is a millimetre or so below the level of prudence. Much shallow breathing and gentle force got the squeeze machine down to waist level... where the constriction on my diaphragm proved far too much for comfort and probably a bit too much for continued longevity. "Get a spanner please... FAST"

Error the second. Hasty packing. The trip to OFD1 was off, well off, the list due to high water. I offered Sandra a quick bop round top entrance as second best. Even this was called to a halt when I found that rather than packing my nice green fleece suit (size: large medium adult), I'd packed Katie's (size: small 8-year old).

The latter reminds me of an occasion many years ago when I was caving with CUCC. Tim Parker had the habit of packing all his gear in a large fibreglass suitcase. On opening this confidently in Kingsdale, he found that he'd picked up the wrong suitcase; it was full of.... saucepans.

A Spectacular Failure

Peter Devlin [Feb 3]

I had planned to head north for the Red Rose annual dinner and I had an offer from Beardy to join and ULSA trip into Lost John's. Having done passably well at managing to carry my 5 ltr bottles and assorted diving gear through Bridge Cave and getting it to the far side of Sump 4 in Little Neath River Cave on a trip with Gareth Davies, I wanted to see if I could manage my 3 ltr bottles and gear in Lost John's to dive the sump and get it back out. I knew there was plenty of help on hand should I struggle. The dive was incidental: the purpose of the trip was to see how I could manage on my own with carrying all my dive gear on a mainly vertical trip. On Friday evening, I started to have misgivings when Beardy checked my tacklebags: he thought I would struggle to get them both back out.

On Saturday it was decided that Beardy and crew were going to go down Monastery, so I was going to join Sam Alshorn (spelling?) and Mike on the Dome route. In the entrance it was clear that I was going slower than Mike and Sam as they each just had a tacklesack full of rope, to my two heavier bags. On that basis, thinking I knew the way well enough I let them go on ahead.

The cave definitely looks and feels different lugging dive gear and solo caving likewise changes the experience. It very quickly became clear that my dive was becoming increasingly unlikely: the question was really how far would I get before turning around. I missed the step up to the traverse and followed the water down. I did a few climbs which would have been easy with no gear, but solo caving with heavy gear made them a more difficult prospect. I found myself examining each obstacle from the point of view of its reversibility and risk. Solo caving, not sure about the route I didn't want to risk a fall. By now I had spend an hour doing what normally takes 5 minutes (at least that's how I remember it!), so my confidence was not at an all time high. I got to one climb that looked particularly risky and decided I had definitely taken a wrong turn so decided to turn back. I found the traverse and decided to leave the gear and check the route. I crossed the traverse and soon found the first Dome pitch rigged. The traverse which is easy enough with a tackle sack full of rope was not so easy with dive gear, so I ferried one bag at a time.

As time wore on and I struggled with the gear and the cave I considered aborting from time to time but each time I talked myself into continuing a little longer. I eventually got my gear to the bottom of the first pitch. Once down I thought I would try caving with my diving harness on and my bottles on my harness so that I would only have one bag. I got down one climb I felt certain I could climb up, but came to one that didn't look so good. Without gear it looked doable, but I wasn't prepared to take the risk, so 1 hours into the trip I turned around.

When I got to the pitch I clipped the bag to the bottom of the rope to haul up and started to prussik wearing my dive harness and bottles. I soon found this to be a very bad idea as the bottle pull you back to an almost horizontal position. It was a short pitch ( 5 or 7m maybe) so I stuck it out. At the top I found that a traxion and footloop jammer was a very easy way of hauling gear up. Back on the traverse I tried doing it with my bottles on my harness and the bag clipped to me, but after a metre I aborted this and left the bag to come back for. At this point the novelty of going backwards and forwards across the traverse was wearing off somewhat. Once at the far side I managed all my gear together until I got to the point where you turn left on the way out. At this point I decided I would do two carries and continued out with my bottles. On the way out with the last load Dinny caught me up, on his way out to catch the rugby. He helped me by carrying the back end of the tacklesack: it felt so much lighter with a bit of help ;-).

Having been underground less than 3 hours, the main ULSA lot were just going into the cave. Had I had 15 minutes to catch my breath and switch out of my 5mm wetsuit (now with a hole the size of a fist in the arse) I might have been tempted to go back and do a proper trip into Lost John's, but I opted for a walk on the fell instead.

The next day I was considering doing another dive in the Wilf Taylor's Passage sump with my 7 ltr bottles, because my 3s don't have enough gas for the restriction, but I only had one sherpa, so I opted for a dry trip instead. On reflection, bottle carries isn't really the thing for Sunday trips, so I opted for a trip into Wretched Rabbit with Steve Robinson (another Red Rose diver). Having only come out Wretched, I struggled abit to find the entrance, but found it in the end. I was tired from the previous day, so we made it a short trip. About of an hour in I felt I was close to the main system, but the way I had gone was getting smaller and smaller, so we turned back. An hour and a half after getting underground we were out on a frosty, but otherwise glorious day. Slightly disappointed that I had not managed to link up to the main system I had enjoyed the gentle little trip.