Depth through thought

OUCC News 21st November 2007

Volume 17, Number 24

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in. Many thanks to Rick for his excellent piece! Here are the remaining weekends for this term

The Barred of St Peter's

Rick Padfield

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the cave up with our fifteen novices dead.
Week-days there's nothing so becomes a man
As kit-retention and investment-preservation:
But when the stream of water threatens their unprotected heads,
Then imitate the action of the Gentleman;
Lend me the knee-pads, summon up the torch,
Disguise fair freshers with hard-gain'd mud;
And lend your kit, of terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the tackle-sack
And let the novice underwhelm it
As fearless as doth an ancient stal
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful streamway.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest caver,
Whose friends are drawn of those Spain-proof!
Friends that, like so many OUCC members,
Have in those parts from morn till even prussiked
And sheathed their harness for lack of more cave:
Dishonour not your club; now attest
That those whom you call'd friends were in their turn
Helpful to you when of younger blood:
And as did they, now loan us kit to cave!
Good lag, Whose limbs were bruis'd under England, show me here
The mettle of your gear; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath noble equipment in your house,
And shall not stand like in squeeze-machine,
Straining to make the loan. The weekend's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'Kit for the hut, or Rick, at St Peter's!'

CHECC Student Caving Forum

Paul Savage

Hello one and all - The Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs (CHECC) hold their annual Student Caving Forum in the Winter Term, on the weekend on the 23rd-25th November. Basically, it is a chance for all the Uni Student caving clubs to get together and have a massive party. Last year it was held on Mendip and it was great fun. With this in mind, I have decided to try and organise a group of people to get to Wales this weekend under the auspices of OUCC. This year it's being held at SWCC, where the Wales Fresher's weekend trip stayed. This is what their website says is planned:

+ Explore the caves of the Black Mountains - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, Dan y Ogof and more. + Fully stocked bar on Friday and Saturday nights. + Fancy dress on friday night. + BBQ and stomp on Saturday night. + Introduction and welcome on Saturday morning. + Ticket price still only £15 - this includes accom, breakfast on both + days and BBQ on the Saturday, insurance, stomp etc. etc.

This means all we'll have to pay on top of this is transport, kit hire (?? - I'm not sure how this is dealt with), food Friday night and booze. If you are interested in going along to this (it's honestly great fun - check out for pictures and details) then let me know, along with whether you need kit, whether you can drive and have a car, and if you have any odd dietary requirements. If there's a problem with cars I could always hire one.

I'll need the £15 or at least a deposit before next Friday to confirm places at the weekend - you can come along after but it means you'll be in a tent. I'll be at the Bonfire Weekend this weekend if you want to bring your chequebooks. I realise there's a lot of trips being organised at the moment but this one is worth going to. See you this weekend, Paul

P.S. start thinking of Fancy Dress themes.

A Departure from the Norm

Peter Devlin, November 11-16

Having spent much of 2006 and 2007 dragging dive bottles around underground and digging grotty bedding planes I had decided to spend a week's holiday in the Lake district. It is a comment on the bizarre nature of my mind that I am more comfortable digging a tight bedding plane underwater 40m from air than I am out in the open where there is any exposure at all. Those of you who have helped me at the climbing wall will know that I frequently struggle with my fear of heights. Striding Edge on Helvellyn required some careful management of my mental state as did some of the scrambling on Hay Stacks. In addition to 3 days fell walking I also spent two half days and a full day with a climbing instructor, Mike. Mike started me off with Little Chamonix which was quite a rush. I found the move at the top of the second pitch a little scary, but decided to just go for it and soon was sitting on the saddle at the top of the pitch, trying unsuccessfully not to think of the 30 or 40m drop just behind me.

On day two we did Troutdale Pinnacle, just around the corner. This was up a grade from Little Chamonix and Mike chose to do it in five pitches (as opposed to seven). With a total height of 100m give or take there was more of a sense of exposure, but I quite enjoyed most of it. The bottom of the fourth pitch there is a traverse across an angled slab that involves down climbing. I found there were few hand holds on this, so what with the down climbing I disliked this quite intensely. As I neared the end of the traverse Mike told me I had done it fairly efficiently. My response does not warrant publication. Having done the traverse I had great trouble freeing a nut and got myself into something of a lather (complete with "sewing machine leg" from my posture in sorting the recalcitrant nut). I paused to gather myself, but in hindsight did not do so sufficiently, as I started to struggle with the next bit of the climb. Mike was encouraging me to climb left into more holds, and I reached out without securing a foothold for my left foot, and the next thing I was off the rock. Fortunately I just swung a metre or so, but both Mike and I got a bit of a shock. I soon scrambled up to the stance and tied in to the anchors. We had planned to stop here for a sandwich and I worked hard to manage down the adrenalin that was pumping. The final pitch is a fairly exposed pinnacle so I was worried about my fear of heights preventing my brain from operating. The first bit of the last pitch is fairly easy ground, leading up to a horizontal arete at the base of the pinnacle.

When I got to this point I sat astride the arete to catch my breath and psyche myself up for the pinnacle. Once I started the climbing was fairly easy. I find in general that when I'm moving the exposure isn't so bad. Mike had warned me of a "cheeky little move" towards the top where you have to move left to cross over to the other side of the pinnacle. When I got to this point Mike told me to reach around the corner where I found a bomb proof handhold. This gave me the confidence to move my left foot over and soon I was up that little bit: a long reach and someone telling you where to look definitely helped out. Seconds later I was at the top, moving far back from the top of the crag and enjoying the view across Derwent Water.

I didn't find that my fear of heights got any better during my week in the Lakes, but I found I was able to do climbs that I would never have dreamt I could undertake before doing so. My hope is that as my climbing technique improves I will gain confidence which will help me to manage my fear of heights.