Depth through thought

OUCC News 8th November 2007

Volume 17, Number 23

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in. I have not received many trip reports since the start of the academic year. If I don't get write-ups I can't put DTT out, which would be a shame. Please encourage people attending club weekends to submit reports. Many thanks to Fleur and Rick for their write-ups.

Here are the weekends for next term

There are no caves on Mendip...

Fleur Loveridge

...or so runs the tale. And certainly I hadn't been caving on Mendip for ages. An aborted novice trip in Lionel's a few years ago. Champagne for Pete's birthday in the double pots three years ago. That's about it. So, I was actually really excited about getting back into Swildons. After all, it is one of the best streamways around and is just so much fun.

Tim had a fit of organisation and the teams were assigned. I had Laura, Anne and Pav as keen newbies and Big Si and Keith to assist. Swildons was very busy. We met James Hooper and co coming out as we waited to get underground and then the Combined Services, West Sussex, the BEC and Aberystwyth at various stages down the cave. My grand plan to escape the ladder queue by heading in the Long Dry Way was foiled. Partly due to our efficiency and partly due to shear numbers in the cave.

Finally we were down the ladder and romping through the fine streamway. Laura particularly enjoyed the double pots, taking a leaf out of the BEC book and just jumping in. We went to look at the gours in Barnes Loop and then decided to call it a day, wary of all we had to climb up on the way out. Again there was a long queue at the ladder, but we were efficient, only to get held up again at Jacobs ladder. Then we emerged, not to a crisp Mendip afternoon, but to a dark drizzly October evening. Still, the New Inn was warm and the Cheddar Ales Potholer was magnificent as ever. I'd had an excellent trip and I think (I hope?) everyone else did too.

A few more beers (and sugar cube wars) in the New Inn and back to the MCG for a fine dinner. Many thanks to the chefs for their hard work. Then it was the usual flurry of standing on pans and other people, contorting ones body around brooms and chairs, except that this time I think us old lags well and truly lost to the youth. Maybe its time to retire, if not with dignity, at least with grace.

As morning followed, the advantage of meeting the BEC in Swildons came about as Lou and I managed to wangle ourselves onto a quick foray into Cuthbert's with MadPhil. We'd both never been in Cuthbert's before and tried to conceal our excitement from a few jealous faces around the breakfast table. As we arrived at the entrance my hydrophobia came out as Phil turned the big tap and the streamway previously shooting into the base of the entrance manhole rings just stopped. Hmmmm, how long would this last? Still my fears were soon forgotten as we slid down the entrance and the famous tight rift. A number of fixed ladders and the fun inclined Wire Rift followed. The cave was also massive, lots of space and unlike anything I'd been into on Mendip before. Phil was very understated about the formations all the way round, but gradually we climbed and scrambled through the cave and every formation was better than the last, culminating in the beautiful September series. Awesome. We were swiftly out, this time to daylight and a well earned brew and cake in the Belfry. What a top weekend. Maybe there are some caves on Mendip after all.

Rick Padfield

The danger of Saturday morning caving departures is that you've had a Friday the night before, and we all know what that means. Bleary- eyed, hung-over and with three hours sleep behind me, I somehow managed to get myself and most of my kit to the hut in time, and even kitted out seven novices, with only one case of giving out two right wellies... And I might possibly have forgotten my own sleeping bag and wellies. Painless drive in the minibus (thanks, Chris), not via Cannock (in-joke, don't ask), and arrived at whatever the hut's called in the Mendips in time for a quick ladder/belay practice before lunch.

Lots of faffing around (well, we did have Tim G and John P in our group...) before us three, Tash and Nick set off and got down Longwood (?) a wee bit past three. I was notionally leading (my first time), which made what was a really fun cave anyway that bit more challenging. For those who don't know it, it's a cracking cave, with a bit of everything - tight bits, wet bits, vertical bits, tight wet vertical bits... Awesome. I found rigging quite challenging - not technically, but psychologically, knowing that the rest of the team is relying on it. So I was quite slow as I checked and fiddled with everything fifteen times, so thanks for bearing with me, people...

We turned back before the end of the cave, as its prone to flash flooding, there was foam on the roof, and it was drizzling outside as we went in, so we thought it prudent not to go too far... Which meant that it was a short trip, but none the worse for that - really, one of my best caves.

And then the normal evening fooling around. The hut was poorly equipped (no squeeze machine!), so we made do with what there was, in the form of tables, chairs, saucepans and shoe laces. Need more be said? Simon's pictures say it all, really.

I headed off early Sunday morning (bloody work), but had a cracking trip. Thanks, everyone!

Bonfire Weekend in Wales

Peter Devlin 3-4 Nov

The Bonfire night weekend saw me up at Penwyllt doing my stint as duty officer. There was a WBCRT rescue practice, so by 10am I had still not handed out a single key, but I then received a spate of key requests and the next thing I knew there were 11 tickets on board. My plan had been to slope off and dive Hush Sump in OFD 1, so by about midday it was clear things were getting quiet again so I found someone to take over for me for a few hours.

The Wessex were visiting SWCC that weekend, and Stuart Waldren of the Wessex had arrived late and missed the trip into Dan yr Ogof, so he joined me in a trip into OFD 1. Stuart had done a number of trips into Top Entrance, but had never been into OFD 1. Stu was clearly enjoying the trip, making appreciative noises from time to time. I was carrying all my dive gear so didn't have as much spare bandwidth for enjoying the scenery, but it was nice to see the cave being enjoyed.

We got to the sump 20 minutes after getting underground. Going through the boulder choke with two bottles on my harness and assorted other dive paraphernalia is not too much fun, but apart from that this trip is the easiest underground carry I can think if. I had been told there is a stash of lead weights at the sump and Stuart and I looked for it, but were unable to find it, so I kitted up and started my dive. The vis was excellent (4 to 5m). This sump is relatively complex visa vie junctions to airbells, so pegging each one I stopped and had a look at all the airbells. By the time I got to Oxygen Pot, a little over 125m in I had deployed the 4 pegs that I had been carrying and I was starting to get cold so I started heading back, being nowhere near thirds. On the way back I stopped and visited Dip Sump: having visited from dry land it was fun to see from the water. To get from Hush to Dip via dry caving is at least 5 to 10 min caving, whereas diving is under a minute.

Having got out I was just putting away my gear when Stu arrived back. Mustering my resolve I started back through the boulder choke. Stu offered to help with the gear, but I need to practice at carrying all my gear. On the way back I managed to go past the Step, but at least I got to see a bit of the streamway I haven't seen before.

We got out to a lovely sunny afternoon, just 2 hours after getting underground, which I was pleased with given the faff of pre and post dive.

Bonfire night at Penwyllt included the usual mix of fireworks, drunken cavers, squeeze machines, fireplace traverses (or attempts thereof), and the small hours of the morning saw me drifting off to sleep to the dulcet throb of Jimi Hendrix playing All Along the Watchtower.

Collecting hut fees was fun the next morning: 3 sheets worth of folk had signed in, but by 11 I had managed to collect the bulk of the hut fees and had been able to persuade Peter Harvey to collect the rest. That meant a) I didn't have to do the totting up/banking the money and b) I could get underground. I had promised some folks an OFD1 round trip, so we got ready and walked down the hill. In the party was Lizzie (of OFD rescue fame the year before last). A couple of times I was quite worried about her as she is now a fairly timid caver, but if I had been approaching 24 hours in a stretcher I would probably be somewhat timid too. We decided to do the high level route first (I had only ever gone the other way). On the bolt traverse, Lizzie had a bad moment half-way along, but she made it through. The climb up Elephant's Posterior is abit more work going up rather than down, but I quite enjoyed the climbing elements of it.

Going round the route the other way round felt very strange, nothing looked familiar. Going through the grovelly bit just before coming out into Pie Chamber (or is it Pi Chamber?), I was convinced I had gone wrong, but we met another party going the other way so we agreed that we were either both on the route or both hopelessly lost. Soon we were back at Lowe's Chain and the streamway. Being a party of 6, I quite enjoyed the views of 5 cavers behind me in the streamway. Having been very busy at work I had not been underground in about 5 or 6 weeks, so it was great to get underground again.