Depth through thought

OUCC News 28th November 2007

Volume 17, Number 25

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in. Here are the remaining weekends for this term

Bolting in Notts IV

Hilary Greaves

Following my first-ever UK cave dive two weeks ago, I was back to the Dales for more aqueous fun last weekend. I felt upbeat, bouncing out of the Friday afternoon departmental seminar with a spring in my step and a sense of eager anticipation that I hadn't really had, not like this, since starting caving 9 years ago. This was fun.

As I still didn't (don't) quite have a full set of my own kit together, I stopped off at Greenclose to pick up tanks, harness and weights from Tony, where he, Harvey and Lee Paskin where busily shepherding a gaggle of Brummie scouts into a shape resembling an imminent caving trip. 2 quick cups of tea, a quick expedition bullshit session and a less quick detour via the dive shop in Clitheroe later, I was off, with the grand plan of floating around in the first couple of hundred metres of Joint Hole for a while, and then floating around in the first couple of hundred metres of Keld Head for a while.

This plan didn't get far as, when I got to Joint, I found that my dive computer (the only depth gauge I had) had zero battery. (Obvious Dive Kit Lesson #3,265: never leave your computer, which turns itself on when it thinks it's immersed in water, in a moist bag for a two-week period.) This probably wasn't something I really needed on this dive, but I was feeling cautious, so I decided not to go far. I floated around at the line junction 10m from the entrance for 25 minutes or so, amusing myself with such mundane activities as removing my shears from their pouch, putting them back in again, turning my lights off, swapping regulators, turning them back on again, and winding string around rocks. With a fancy new hood, my head was warmer than on my previous dive [this is not saying much], but my feet were still cold enough to have turned numb by the time I got out. I staggered back to the car, keeping my eyes focussed on my ankles to check I wasn't rotating them through 180 degrees as I walked, and went and defrosted them by a roaring open fire in the Wheatsheaf.

On Sunday morning I met up with Tony in Bernie's, and we headed over to Notts II. Tony wanted to climb an aven in Notts IV (the section of streamway between Sump 3 and the terminal Sump 4); I mostly just wanted to go diving, and Sump 3 sounded nice, although I wasn't averse to the odd bit of original cave exploration where mortals rarely ventured either.

Laden with a couple of bottles and a full set of diving kit, the short trip to Sump 2 [the downstream end of Notts II] via Committee Pot was marginally less short than usual (my first "real" cave dive, Tony commented), but we were soon there. We kitted up and I crawled into the sump. After dragging bottles along the floor of "dry" cave, it was a relief to be floating. Effortless, weightless, beautiful. Sump 2 is a short crawl, followed by a 30m section of streamway and then the 295m Sump 3. The visibility was about 1-2m, and I was heavily reliant on my compass for any idea of what the passage was doing, but it was big and straightforward. I soon surfaced via the 3m pot up into the Notts IV streamway, barely making it there on thirds.

By this point it was already 1.30pm, and I'd promised Gavin I'd be back at the Farm by around 4 so we could drive back to Oxford in good time. Since we'd got underground at 11, and it was reasonable to guess that carrying two bottles up a shaft would take longer than carrying one bottle down a shaft, this meant I should probably have left at least half an hour ago. Oh well. He'd forgive me for putting just one ickle bolt in, wouldn't he, I'd give it half an hour. I went for a romp down Notts IV, poked my nose into the start of Sump 4, and returned to check on Tony's project. It was hard to tell whether the aven was going anywhere - we could see up for about 5m, and the passage was fairly small, but I couldn't really see what it did after that. The climb looked pretty straightforward but there was no obvious natural protection, and it was slimy. I climbed up onto a ledge about 1m off the floor, protected myself using a skyhook and a knot jammed into a crack, and started putting the first bolt in. It was pretty slow, partly because the driver tended to get clogged up with moist mud/gravel mix, partly because holding your arms above your head in a wetsuit is knackering, and partly because I am anyway crap at bolting. By 2.10 I was getting edgy about the time, so I buggered off back through the sump while Tony finished off the bolt and secured his aven-climbing gear to it for a return trip. Oddly, the upstream swim cost me significantly less air (50 bar) than the downstream one had (70 bar). Tony caught me up at the base of the Committee shaft, where we ditched two of the bottles (sorry Tony!), and scrambled out to the 4.15 sunset and an atypically mild Leck Fell change.


Nick Edwards

Last weekend, Paul, Yifan and I made the first OUCC appearance at a CHECC (Council of Higher Education Cave Clubs) event. We managed to depart Oxford around half 6. After stocking up on discounted food from a Tesco Petrol station along the way, we arrived at SWCC about 9ish. Our fancy dress theme of generic GAP year students didn't win any prizes, but wasn't bad for a last minute effort. The prize was won by UBSS with their Miss- theme - Miss Carriage, Miss Treated, Miss Take and Miss Taken Identity being amongst the least tasteful (maybe you had to be there for this to make sense).

On Saturday morning Paul, Yifan, Fay from UBSS and I went down Darren. Fay was rather dismayed at the amount of faff Paul and I deemed necessary before going caving - apparently being underground by 1 isn't an achievement?! We arrived at Darren just about safely, after I took a corner a too fast last minute turn off the dual carriageway. The entrance series was as long and tight as ever, but totally worth it! We made it as far as the antlers, managing just about to not get water in our wellies in the deep puddles. We made a bit of a navigation error on the way out through Big Chamber nowhere near the entrance, almost heading on towards the camps instead of back out. After making our way back through the entrance series (it seems quicker to me on the way out!), we were pleased to find it had stopped raining. We were really glad Whitewalls had finished their showers, and that there was plenty of warm water.

Back at SWCC, it was party time! Good beer, cider wine and vodka were plentiful from the reasonably priced bar, and there was almost enough BBQ for everyone. Oxford 'won' the squeeze competition by getting 100% of our club through the squeeze, although some other people were a bit dismayed as a) there were only 3 of us b) we're all freakishly small. But anyway, we won a book for the club library. Paul and I failed to do very well in both the saucepan & sling game and the body traverse - probably coz I'd drunk quite a lot by that point and my balance was quite off!

Sunday morning, Paul was up stupidly earlier, but I managed to miss breakfast (again) and had only a slice of dry toast to sooth my aching stomach. Paul and I eventually managed an hours wander around OFD top, down as far as Trident / the Judge. Lot's of nice pretties, and nothing too sporting - perfect Sunday afternoon caving! After a quick CHECC AGM and a tidy up we headed back to Oxford, having been there, done that, and even bought the T-Shirt (featuring Oxford on the list of clubs for the first time!)

I think it's really important next year that more of us go along to CHECC. It's an absolutely brilliant weekend, and I think it's really useful for student cavers to meet other student cavers, and also to meet people from other clubs that lack the experienced older members we benefit from having in Oxford. I'm sure 'old lags' would enjoy re-discovering their student days at CHECC too!