Depth through thought

OUCC News 1st August 2007

Volume 17, Number 18

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Upcoming dates are:

Here are the weekends for next term


Just a reminder that the annual BEC BBQ is on the 11th of August at the Belfry (Mendip). Last years event was excellent so hope to see lots of you there!!

Expect a bbq, disco and plenty of beer!! - infact it should be just like the disco at the last CHECC event so if you enjoyed that - make sure you come down for this!!

OUCC Chicago Pushing Trip 2007 -

Chris Sinadinos and Dave Legg

WAKEY WAKEY Camp receding at our backs by mid morning and I was giving myself a hearty proverbial slap between the shoulders. Considering that my watch alarm failed to fanfare the latest Chicago pushing trip, and that the other half of the team comprised El Jefe de 'go away - it's not midday yet', this is no mean feat. Mr Legg was fresh up the hill and (a steaming cup of tea and several well-placed tent kicks later) r-r-rearing to go.

The early weather was fair and seemingly settled - perhaps a little annoyingly given the stubborn cabeza-clinging clag, prevalent since my arrival a week previously. I could picture the others lazing about tanning whilst we played about in the mud, but 'twas all good for some speedy progress along the all-newly-cairrned (thanx John) Chicago path.

Thankful for a relatively dry entrance in which to don the dungarees, memories of an emergence into thick mist upon slimy stones before a seriously disgruntled and semi-conscious CD still fresh from a few days before, we changed with surprisingly little faff. Just as I was feeling better about having addressed several slight equipment irregularities from that previous trip, including additional sock to fill overlarge new wellies (since when is this a bloody size 10?!) and a replacement stop for the sheer silliness of allowing my own bobbing to become over half as warn as Dave's, I realised to my pure delight that my bran new, fluffy red furry was still at camp, probably serving as an oh-so-comfy pillow to the still hibernating Yifang. Darn! At least I could use his as a fair swap, I naively told myself before prising out a poor excuse for a club undersuit - the arse rip longer than the zipper itself to present an interesting pre-trip challenge in garment orientation.

CATCH MY RIFT Oversuit valiantly holding the rest together, I followed a suprisingly nippy El Jefe's lead through the entrance series and into the lurrvly rifts. Tacklebag antics less strained than the CD trip, in which I had negotiated several traverses feeling decidely fat and inept, I felt as though me and my cargo gently became at one with karma (ok - occasional smashing and tearing through chossy crap apart).

Slight hiccup towards Boys Are Back as Dave reported a light failure - most conveniently in the middle of a pitch. Having solved this particular dilemma with ample fiddling, the top dog's so-far boundless fitness reserves took the promised-for dip as the hand cramps set in. 'I can't safely use my damn stop' was the glowingly reassuring statement echoing down more than one of the deeper pitches as we furthered our progress into Chicago's bowels. But he valiantly fought on with mangled hands and a dehydrat, and progress we did.

RESERVOIR DOGS The cascading pool sections presented a welcome and, for us, novel Chicago view - the underground camp. Great handiwork by Ben and Fleur, I had to admit, with a carefully positioned blue tarpaulin roof to shield from the persistent (yes, EVEN by UK standards!) rain down from the pitch above. AND, of course, the (in?)famous hammocks. Lurrvly-jubly: look forward to getting all tied up in that later. Honest.

Being on a bit of a role and eager to hit the limit, a nippy flapjack stop took precedence over the possibility of an early brew, and we were quickly own our way. 'Lets go to work', amidst mini reservoirs and well past the Isle of Dogs. Vamos!

Except that I had to do Vamos twice. We were so darn eager that we forgot the survey equipment, and I had to prussik back up the beast to retrieve it. Fetch. So much for on a roll.

THE GRATED WALL OF CHEESE An hour later and finally at the foot of Flawless, ~620m below the surface. Impressive bolder choke unfortunately, and perhaps a little unsurprisingly, still in the same configuration as from a whole 4 days earlier when I had first laid disgusted eyes on it with Densham (you can always dream. how many plastic explosives do the SIE stockpile these days, anyway?). They say that the big one's choke, but I was the one doing that right then.

Never fear, for there's always the possibility of a fantastic welsh wizard to get you out of trouble if you're lucky enough to have him on hand. And we even had two! Mr Ben to wave his magic wand and somehow bolt climb a 50% muddy choss 4m wall of absolute shite, and little old me to be the one crazy enough to actually climb the damn thing and fool around at the top. The wall had a suprise up its sleeve, however, in being stable enough to allow just that, and I was soon rigging down the other side, over a blind pot and across for a slight pendule into a neighbouring window. A further bolt later and we descended into a second, seemingly better sighted pit with a passable rift passage at one end. Walking passage. Yippee!

And options too! Hmmm.. decisions decisions. We were spoilt for choice between two descending holes and a horizontal continuation of the current rift. Much gear fettling and semi-mystical finger-licking in a somewhat vain attempt to discern the origin of a clearly perceptible chilly but alternating draught brought on a worrying passage of time, and our invincibility was giving way to desperation. Could we find a proper way on before home time? We certainly hoped so... and was that a faintly perceptible rushing river that one could hear with baited breath? Or just fatigue and cave echo?

WAY ON? Not down the holes. A little amusement at Dave's shuffling grunts warmed the otherwise frigid wait as each was ruled out for tightness. The continuing rift passage yielded to two avens in a fork at the left, and two adjacent downward tunnels at the right. The avens were begging for a free climb, so I indulged whilst Dave rigged the more promising of the tunnels. Hmm.. fun to scramble up, but little in the way of results as the left inlet tapered to sand floor after some 15 metres and the right doubled down over the head of the busy Mr Legg at the tunnels. Not to despair - having decided that the draught was, indeed, originating from the tunnel, we were on the right track.

An awkward dog-leg of a tunnel, mockingly offering a perfect deviation thread (on the wrong side and bugger all opposite, of course), and we were into more passage, down a further short pitch. Progress, progress, but no breakthrough, and one needed very soon given the hour. Where were we going? Smooth muddy crawling passage, a bend, another pitch tunnel downwards. Given the survey task on hand, we sensibly but reluctantly decided to call it a day. It was painful given that the reins were to be handed to the SIE with their adoration of the tight and grotty, and we both silently brooded upon whether this rift would be given adequate further probing in future. But such thoughts were for another time.. we had a job to finish and a time limit in which to complete it safely and competently.

A LA CARBONARA After a clubbing-style late night, we returned to camp, my pretty cave sketches and precious survey data close to the chest so as to avoid a Densham-style paper-airplane job down flawless. What was for dinner - MMMMmmmm... what else but spaghetti carbonara?! Ben's nemesis.. my pure joy. I love the stuff, or at least I did then. I burnt all my tongue wolfing it down, and it was worth it. Welshmen aren't as alike in all aspects as in their superbosity, it seems.

And after super - time for bed. All cozy and snug, of course, in my designer furry and having cunningly neglected to bring the balaclava after nagging Pete T to borrow his. Dave to sleep, I laid awake and heard the rush of a swollen streamway. Dave woke and mentioned this on a visit to the toilet pool. Tormenta above? Cold and continuing to lie awake in the darkness, aware of ice blocks for feet and the biblical thunder of rain upon tarp roof. And neck squashed into an unnatural position as I tried to fit into the slug. But otherwise, it was the lap of luxury itself. And I quite liked the hammock. Maybe I'll get one for Xmas.

4 hours' back rest was enough at the time. Up I got, off I went. Dave, surprise, surprise, wanted a lie in. 'Just for a little while'. Hmm. Not for another 5 or 6 hours, or anything along those lines then, Mr Dave? No - of course not! Sweet dreams..

And that, as they say, was that. Steady progress, 4 hours or so out. Spanish cavers at the entrance, quiz me on gear and the nature of the lowest section. Down they went, with nothing more that I could do to control things. Enjoy the rift, fellas. I'm off for a cup of tea.

A Derbyshire Weekend

Peter Devlin [July 21/22]

A meeting to review the CDG examination process brought me to the TSG hut in Derbyshire. Arriving early Friday evening the hut was so quiet that I was reduced to washing ropes for entertainment. Later Dave and Sue Ryall arrived and we went to the pub. The meeting was at 1pm on Saturday so a swift trip into Peak was planned. Dave, Sue and I got underground by 11 and did a swift tour of Buxton Inlet Sump, Lake Sump (usually a duck into Ink Sump, but sumped on the day) and Far Sump. I had never been into Peak before, and I found the streamway very attactive. It was also very useful as a reconaissance for a diving trip as I reckon the carry is an easy one. This weekend Oxfordshire has been underwater, so we expected conditions to be poor, but Far Sump looked gin clear. Dave and I looked longingly and wished we had dive gear, but soon the meeting called and we dashed out to make it back to TSG only 5 minutes late.

On Sunday I took Sarah Conner (a diver who has joined Red Rose) down Eldon to polish off her SRT skills following a training trip in Bull Pot of the Witches. Ann Soulsby of the TSG tagged along as her only other offer to get underground was to do a trip with Jim Lister which would have involved waiting at the sump for him to return from his dive. This worked well for two reasons. Firstly it meant that since I was rigging Ann could keep an eye on Sarah. Secondly Sarah and Ann are significantly shorter in stature than I, so both of them struggled getting off the pitch as I had rigged it. This meant Ann was able to talk Sarah through some SRT problem solving. Owing to an efficient start we were able to get to the bottom and back on the north gully and go down a rebelay or two on the south gully so that Sarah could do a deviation, and still manage to get on the road by 2.30.