Depth through thought

OUCC News 4th July 2007

Volume 17, Number 17

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

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The Rescue needs you!

Ben Lovett

Ever been rescued? Ever been on a rescue? Ever thought you might need rescuing? Well if at least the last one doesn't apply to you then you're not getting out enough. Well, tonight I broke one of my golden rules and went to a meeting. This was a special meeting of Gwent Cave Rescue Team and had been called to decide whether GCRT was a viable organisation or not, a matter that has arisen due to falling turn out at meetings and practises.

Essentially 3 people have been running the team for the last couple of years and that's about the same number as turn up for practises - as you can imagine these three are starting to lose heart somewhat.

It became apparent in the course of the meeting that the pattern of caving has been changing over the last twenty years, with groups of cavers now typically comprising of individuals from a diversity of clubs and travelling from numerous locations to meet up on a trip arranged by e-mail. Cave rescue in general and within GCRT in particular is still based around the old local club caving scene, in this case Cwmbran and Brynmawr. These clubs will soon have an average member age with zero's plural.

So who are the local cavers these days and where will the rescue cover come from? Well the local cavers are of course those who cave in the locality, wherever they may live. As far as the rescue cover goes, while there has seldom been a problem with sufficient numbers turning out for a rescue, apparently it now no longer enough just to have a bunch of hard cavers turn up, nail the victim to a plank and drag the unfortunate out. Now you have to demonstrate your professionalism to the Police and insurance companies and that means organising rescue practises that are attended, and having a core of individuals who know what they are doing and can work together.

The bottom line of all this: GCRT is currently coordinated by Paul Nutall -( paul at paulmatthew dot freeserve dot co dot uk ) change the ats and dots to the obvious.

  1. If you cave in the Gwent vicinity and you're not sure if your contact details are on the Gwent call out list please email Paul with them.
  2. On Sunday 30th of September 10.30ish a practise session will be held based at whitewalls and attendance at this will be used to gauge the viability of the team. Essentially if the team has insufficient trained man power to fulfil its role safely, it will have to be wound up.
  3. For true heroes, if you'd like to put your name forward to help out with team and practise admin please contact Paul. Caving ability is not required for this role, organisational ability would be useful.

Places we don't go

Jonathan Cooper

Whilst holidaying in the eastern dales of Yorkshire, I availed myself of the local potholes. As this is a land far, far away from Bull Pot Farm, I knew not the sites of speleological interest. I familiarised myself with the local potholes using a pristine copy of Northern Caves 1, and was tempted by "a complex and impressive river cave". Be warned of its liability to complete flooding, I was not optimistic of penetrating the hidden depths given the deluge of biblical proportions that had been my constant companion over the preceding days. Nevertheless it sounded worth a punt, if only to locate what sounded like a nice trip. My concerns were redoubled on visiting the reservoirs 4.8 km upstream, as they were not only full, but overflowing with considerable force. On approaching the pothole itself, I found that the normally dry river bed was flowing like a veritable river Styx, almost though not completely filling the dark void of the cave entrance. Undeterred I forded the river, fought my way through nettles and just about poked my head underground to confirm that further progress would be foolhardy.

I had slightly better luck in an upstream feeder to this systems (approx 275m north of main entrance). Here the entrance was slightly above river level, so I could get underground and into darkness, and this is where the fun started. The normal route appeared to involve dropping into the streamway and wandering along, as a 500m long grade 1 cave was unlikely to provide too many challenges, unless of course the stream was full. As the stream was full I took a path less well trod along the walls and up, down, round and over various boulders. It was na´ve caving in its purest form; muddy knees and hand-torch in mouth. I went as far as was sensible, turned round to find myself somewhat further from entrance than I had planned and my torch died. Fortunately the spare had managed not to fall out of the pocket, so with a few scrambles I was able to negotiate a passage to daylight.

Both caves looked and sounded like worth a revisit, and with another section of the river cave system accessible further down the valley would be worth the long drive east. In case you are not familiar with the caves of which I tell, they are Goyden Pot (the complex river cave) and Manchester Hole (the upstream feeder) which are to be found in Nidderdale.

A whole Lot of divin' goin' on

Peter Devlin

June 23 to 30

I am just back from my first visit to the Lot/Dordogne. Everyone was complaining about conditions. Rick Stanton was delaying a big push in St Sauveur to push beyond his previous limit of 180m depth, due to poor viz.

For me conditions were better than conditions at home: with 3 to 4m viz I wasn't complaining. However in small cave poor viz is generally not a problem: here the passages were often 5m by 5m or larger. There were times when I found myself swimming in the void with nothing but the line in sight: sometimes grotty little holes where your belly is on the floor and your back is jammed against the ceiling can be comforting ;-).

I started out with the Truffe which had pretty good viz and is a beautiful cave. On Tuesday I dived Trou madame which also had great viz and was shallow: I went a little over 600m in which felt quite remote. At approximately 1.2km there and back this was far and away the furthest I have gone on a cave dive. On Wednesday Gary Jones and I dived the Truffe. This time I went to sump 5, and Gary went to sump 8. With quite a bit of dry caving between sumps we got out around 6 hours after going in. This was a cracking trip, in very pretty cave, by far the highlight of my visit.

All in all I did 8 dives in 6 days. I learnt a lot from Gary and Rick, and got to know the area. This is very different style diving, with alot of depth and lots of long dives. I came away feeling I had just scraped the surface on what is there. No scary moments which is always good. I enjoyed comfort of camping site with toilets, showers, fridges and hot and cold running water.