Depth through thought

OUCC News 18th April 2007

Volume 17, Number 11

DTT volume 17 Index

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in. This week we welcome Philipp to the hallowed halls of DTT contributors. His write-up brings back memories of my first ever caving trip, under the watchful eye of Jo Whistler ... who found out at the top of the first pitch that I had never done any SRT before ..... happy days.

Please note that I have changed the last weekend of the term to be week 7 as requested.

Please also note that visitors to Bull Put Farm are expected to take away their own bottles and rubbish. There is a new system for Duty Officer who will be responsible for ensuring that hut fees get paid and that visitors clean up before they leave.

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

Rich Gerrish writes: After three and a half years of unwedded bliss, I asked to Jude to make me an honest man during our recent holiday to Tibet. I think the lack of oxygen at altitude must have clouded her thinking because she said yes. Despite a return to sea level she has still not changed her mind so it looks like we will be getting hitched in Scotland around Aug 2008. All the best, Rich

Swinsto Pot

Philipp Jokisch [07.04.07 ]

Chris and Gareth decided to take me on a special adventure for an SRT beginner like me and came up with Swinsto Pot Pull Through. The Kingsdale cave system is in the neighbouring valley and it took about half an hour's drive from Bull Pot farm. It's direction Ingleton on the A65 and just before Ingleton, we turned left up the valley towards Dent. A little after Thornton we stopped at the right side of the street. We got changed into our caving gear and then first entered through the cave's valley entrance.

The reason was to check if the climb out of the main stream system was rigged so that we would be able to get to the valley entrance at the end of the Swinsto trip. It took about 10 minutes crawling and stooping through low water passage to get to the main stream. As it turned out there were some permanent ropes rigged and there was no need to rig our own rope. So we returned to the entrance we came from. We then climbed up the hill in search for the Swinsto cave entrance which we eventually found.

At first Chris and Gareth weren't 100% sure if the entrance we found was the right one. After the short entrance passage there is a pitch down straight away and pulling through meant that we were left a little uneasy at first. We got down the waterfall easily, however, we nearly left in a knot at the end of the rope when we pulled through the rope. Luckily we noticed this early enough and it was still easy to reach the end of the rope. This could have been very embarrassing. We knew for sure that we were on the right route when we realised we were in the famous 280m long crawl through cold water. My knees and hand were so cold after a short while that I didn't feel the pain from the small stones in my knees anymore. In some places one even had to crawl flat out through the cold water. At the end then there are a few short waterfall pitches in a row followed by small passages. It is easy to find your way, one only always has to follow the water on its way down the cave system. The last pitch needs to be done in two steps, we first abseiled down to a platform, pulled through the rope and then abseiled down the second part. We finally arrived in a chamber where it is possible to climb up the mud to the left (which we did, but then returned once we realised that this must be the wrong way) or follow the water down the boulder choke and crawl along a passage that finally joins the main water way. There we joined the stream following it downstream to the right. It is a nice stroll to the point where the ropes are rigged to get out of the stream to reach the valley entrance. We prussiked up the rope and made our way out of the cave through the know passage.

This was a really wet trip down the waterfalls of the Swinsto cave system and crawls through water. Even though we were moving all the time, it was quite cold. I was happy to wear a balaclava. Stepping out of the cave at the end gave us an exhilarating feeling of achievement. This was one of the best caving trips I have done. Highly recommendable.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

Steve Roberts

Kitti and Maarten (OUCC old lags) organised a long midweek get-together for "oldish lags with young children"; three nights in a bunkhouse near Hathersage, with caving, climbing, eating, drinking, etc. as the theme.

This caving area takes me back a long, long way - I haven't caved there much for many years, largely because when I stated caving in Cambridge in the late 1970's, Derbyshire was the only limestone within a day's drive. It was the scene of my first caving trip (Merlin Mine), Ursula Collie's first trip (Giant's Hole) and such incidents as my going down Giant's having left my car keys in a carefully-noted place in the wall, which when I came out was an eight-feet-high snow bank. And my taking someone down P8 in conditions so cold that his helmet froze to his head on the walk back. P8 was also where I lobbed off the top of the climb up t'owd man's rift and plummeted about 40 feet into a stream that luckily was beginning to flood - "Am I all right? Of course I'm ****ing all right! I wouldn't be hopping about clutching my ****ing knee and yelling my ****ing head off If I wasn't all right, would I ?!".

So the trip was already redolent with the odour of past glories, ignominies and ... just the past, really.

Tony and I took Katie, Alex and Susanne Krabbendam down Giant's Hole after a morning climbing at Stanage. I'd forgotten, if indeed I'd ever noticed in the sprint to get down as fast as possible in times gone by, that the entrance passages to Garland's Pot are quite nice in places - especially the bits just before and after Base Camp chamber. The girls thoroughly enjoyed being lowered down the Pot. Alex had to demonstrate to herself that the waterfall was wet by sticking her head in it for as long as possible. We turned the trip a bit of the way into the passages beyond, hoisted them up the Pot, and then sent the girls out, with stern words for them to stick together, while Tony and I de-rigged. So a success for junior caving.

The other trip for me was down Oxlow, which I've done only once before, way back when, where that I demonstrated (fortunately not in a terminal fashion) that it is possible to suicide-rig a figure-of-eight. It's a nice little trip that would form the basis for a good bit of first-time SRT training. Certainly I managed to demonstrate, before getting properly onto the first pitch, most of the numerous ways in which the novice SRT-monger can tangle himself, a tacklebag, the backup rope loop and two cowstails.. The first pitch is a bit constricted and mildly awkward in places, but then it's all big open short-pitch SRT down to the West Chamber - which is impressive.

Tony and I concluded that the very last pitch ("hand-line climb"), into the pleasant pool at the bottom, is a local cavers' joke. The rest of the cave is well P-hangered and easy to do: for this last drop, one P-hanger would have given a completely dry hang, but it's been left as a bloody awkward, wet and tricky climb... A rope draped down it converts into a rather awkward but still wet prusik. Still, the rest of the trip is dry and steam-inducing, so the chance to cool down before starting out is actually quite welcome.

Out after 2 hours to a warm sunny afternoon. Thence to Froggatt, where Alex (6) demonstrated that she can climb to the same standard as her father (51). OK, we're talking "mild difficult" level, but still...

Success at Last

Peter Devlin [31 March 07]

My sixth dive (and seventh carry) down to the Wilf Taylor Passage to Bull Pot of the Witches sump was planned for the Saturday. The weather was dry, so the sump would not be resurging like the last dive. I had lined up 4 sherpas in addition to myself: Pete Eastoe, Beardy, Sam, Ray and Steve Robinson, so I thought it would be an easy carry. On the morning the team turned out to be 11 strong: and I only had 5 bags that needed carrying. It seems to be either a feast or a famine with sherpas.

At the sump I kitted up and dived. The last time I had dived this end in good conditions (i.e. not in spate) I had been laying line and belaying my new line to the existing line, so this time I got to the restriction sooner than I expected. Having inserted myself into the slot and forced myself in a metre, I realised I hadn't checked my air before committing myself, so I decided to reverse out and check my air before going further. The mud in the restriction meant that once out I had to go back 5 or 10 metres before the viz cleared enough to let me check my gauges. Reinserting myself into to slot, I got through the tight bit in about 5 minutes without needing to do any digging (just a bit of thrutching). Soon I was back in familiar territory and 14 minutes from WTP I was back in the BPW sump. I tied my line off and caught my breath, then got back in and started surveying my way back. This was my first attempt to survey the sump and the viz approaching the restriction was nil, but I managed to get approaching a dozen readings.

On the way back I explored a side passage, but this shut down after about 3m. Back at dive base I had 10 minutes to start dekitting before the team got back from their bimble. By the time I got back into my caving gear I found that the last of the tackle bags have been taken: I had carried a bottle in, so given the team size I didn't particularly object to someone else carrying it out.

Having now laid line end to end, the scene is set for lighter trips (i.e. 2 man teams, maybe even solo trips) carrying smaller bottles and dispensing with the drysuit, so I hope it won't be too long before I complete the survey and get back to some tourist caving before starting another project.


Peter Collings-Wells writes: As from 2nd April in Wales it is now illegal for people to smoke in any enclosed place accessible to the public. Bernie Woodley has taken legal advice which confirms that this applies to our cottages [ed - ie Penwyllt]. The penalty for not complying is a £50 fine for the individual and £2500 for the owners of the premises. There is also a £200 fine for not displaying 'No Smoking' signs.

Life on Mars

Steve Roberts writes: Or caving, any way. See for stuff about cave entrances seen on Mars.

"Scientists studying pictures from Nasa's Odyssey spacecraft have spotted what they think may be seven caves on the surface of Mars. The candidate caves are on the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano and are of sufficient depth their floors mostly cannot be seen through the opening.. [...] The cave entrances are between 100m and 252m wide (330-828ft). Because in most cases the cave floors cannot be seen, only minimum depths are known: the researchers calculated they must extend between 73m and 96m (240-315ft) below the surface. However, in one image taken of [a cave] by the Mars Odyssey Camera, a floor can be seen. Using the data, the authors calculated that this cave must extend 130m (426ft) below the surface."


Vrinda Manglik writes: Thought this would be of interest (but maybe it's old news):

** Divers find longest cave ** British divers have discovered the world's longest underwater cave system in Mexico. Link

And an article that's a little more informative than the video:

Cave Technology Symposium

David Gibson, BCRA EUG Special Interest Group

This is a memo to various mailing lists, as well as to a range of the 'usual suspects' (from those who have vaguely promised to perhaps give a talk all the way to those who have actually paid their admission fee in advance).

For those of you who dont know or cannot remember, this event is being organised jointly by BCRA's Cave Surveying Group and Cave Radio & Electronics Group, and will take place on 14 April in Derbyshire (UK). See

If you have offered to give a talk or produce a poster, please can you confirm as soon as possible and give me a summary of your talk (anything from 30 words will do!) so I can put it in the programme and attempt to plan a timetable. If I tell you that I have had only one summary so far, but lots of "promises" you'll see the problem I face. It would also be tremendously helpful if you could pay in advance via the web site or at the very least, email me to say youre coming. This is because it is helpful to have a definite indication of how many people are going to turn up. I'm hoping that we can provide breakfast on Saturday morning (bacon or sausage sandwich, or croissants perhaps) but we cannot do that without knowing likely numbers.

Don't forget that, even if you arent planning to give a formal talk, there will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and chat. Bring some equipment with you if you like. Bring your laptop and your favourite bit of software to show off during the coffee breaks. Bring a poster or cave survey. Bring your photos to put on the display boards. Bring your club journals to sell. If you can tell me in advance that you're doing any of this, it helps the planning!

Further information and a provisional programme is available at