Depth through thought
OUCC News 18th January 2012
Volume 22, Number 1
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Editor: Andrew Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies: I expect you were all wondering who wrote the excellent article on negotiating Maypole Inlet in the last DTT (21.12). It was Fleur Loveridge. I apologise to Fleur and I shall wash ropes, clean scrambled egg of the bottom of saucepans, or receive some other caver punishment. Ed.
I received the following from Jarvist in response to Fleur's article on Maypole Inlet in DTT 21.12, and he was happy for it to be published in DTT.
Jarvist Moore Frost (Imperial College CC)
The 'earlier' rift climb is a lot easier on the way down (it's almost thin enough to be a 'controlled fall'), and offers a much less exposed 'fairy steps' climb up the wedged boulders to the top of the rift. You can identify it by a dodgy belay of rope around a chockstone. We supplement this with a sling looped around the chockstone, and form a rope ladder out of a set of 8-ft slings. Going under the chockstone, you find a plentifully wide ledge on the right (facing upstream), from which you can sort yourself out & plan the climb down. There's a good crack another metre further down on the opposite side.
We've been doing this the last few years, and it's a lot more fresher friendly than the direct, downstream, route, which involves a sort of leap of faith / scramble out to perch on a little chockstone and then a counter balance off the wall to get around to the ledge from which you can climb down properly. New cavers seem to be far more concerned about these manoeuvres where one 'might' fall, than the actual vertical sections. Experienced members at the back of the party often automatically climb up this route on the return, and then go help at the head of the rigged drop. Rigged, I'd argue that the upstream route is considerably easier in both directions than the 'direct' route.
We now take a ~10m section of 10mm to make the hand line for the actual climb down into the streamway, tied with a few alpine butterflies to give hand holds. Seems to give much better grip and reassurement for novices than a set of slings (for which they often try and just hold one half of the loop, rather than passing their hand through them).
Over many years, as the 'man who knows about engines', I've been associated with many of the OUCC vehicles. All had character. Some were truly awful, some merely ropey. But let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start; assuming, that is, you can get it to start.
My first trip with OUCC was to Wales, in a Landover that sort of belonged to the Club. It might have been George Hostford's. All I know was that it was very uncomfortable and bloody cold. It was uncomfortable because it was the sort of Landrover where those sitting in the back (eight of us, I think) sat bolt upright on hard slatted seats in the back, facing inwards, so that every braking and turn would have made us fall over had we not been jammed in like sardines. The general air was that of a 1950s 4th class Albanian railway carriage (maybe). It was bloody cold because the back 'door' was two canvas flaps inadequately held together with bootlace; also because it was December 1981, a time at which Oxford was soon to be buried under about a foot of snow.
We rumbled over to South Wales. We got about 7/8 of the way round the Grand Circle in Aggy. We got lost. We came back about 7/8 of the way round the Grand Circle in Aggy.
We rumbled back again. John Singleton was driving. John was rather an unstoppable force. Mere limestone was no match for a blundering Singleton; giving rise to the phenomenon of Singletonspeleogenesis, by which a small crevice became a Singleton-shaped tube. John kept tapping the speedo. Apparently it kept sticking, and needed encouragement to tell the driver whether we were doing a normal 40 mph or heading up into the dizzy 50s. Suddenly there was a smash of glass and a curse... as John's 'tapping' went straight through the front of the speedo.
Shortly afterwards, as we headed down the Woodstock road for home and warmth, blue flashing lights: 'Well, sir, how fast do you think you were going'?. The front seat passenger leant casually over, blocking the view of the smashed instrument panel, as John tried to talk his way out of a ticket.
I don't think I went caving in that vehicle again.