Depth through thought

OUCC News 22nd January 1992

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So it looks like the newsletter has survived into a second term, spring 1992.  Lots of interesting caving got done over the new year break - with visits to Poland, Lao, and of course Yorkshire and I hope the newsletter will carry reports of such over the next few weeks. So, if you did anything you'd like to tell others about, just let me know.

Lots of caving will get done this term too, even if the there are not too many club trips on the term card. If you want to go, Wednesday nights are the time to cajole the mobile into action. If you are going on expedition for the first time this summer, now's the time to learn SRT in the wild. David Monaghan tells me that there's even an exciting (if contrived) SRT route on the Mendip now: "the space walk" in Thrupe Lane. Spring term is also the time to kick out the old committee and elect a new one (AGM 5th week, I think), so if you fancy feeling important think about whether you'd like to take on a club post.


This summer Dirge and Sally get married. Yippee and congratulations!

We are having a bit of trouble with rooms for Wednesday nights again, so be patient. It looks like we wont be able to have the Prestwich or Larkin, so the North Quad will have to do for now. Currently this is booked for us courtesy of Sue Healy, an OUCC member and JRF at St John's.

What we did on our Christmas holidays...

New Year in Poland

On the 27th December Martin Hicks, Martin Laverty, Gavin and Jenny set out to drive to Poland, with all themselves, their caving gear, ice climbing gear, bivvying gear and cold weather clothes, stuffed into and on top of Martin's Ford Escort.

At first it looked like the whole escapade was doomed to failure. It was organised at the last possible moment. (We only knew that we were going a week before we went.) Gavin and Jenny had minor hassles getting their visas in time. Then on the outward journey the car broke down on a remote section of Autobahn out near the old East-West German border. We had to be towed to the nearest town, and wasted a day hanging around waiting for it to be fixed. Consequently we were a day and a half late meeting Andrzei (good friend of OUCC. Our trip to the caving hut in the Tatra mountains, was further delayed due to the exceptionally snowy conditions.

However, all was not lost. We arrived in time for the New Year's Eve party. The Poles appear to take New Year celebrations more seriously than the British. There was tonnes to eat and drink, mainly vodka of various descriptions, and champagne at midnight. Also at midnight (Russian time) everyone took a short break from their energetic dancing and started shouting in Polish and the thing to do seemed to be to hug and kiss everyone in sight. A bit later a few of us staggered outside into the freezing, snowy night to let off some fireworks. The party went on unceasing 'til about 7 in the morning.

Next day everyone was too dead to even consider caving, but the day after that we went down (or perhaps I should say through) a cave called Zsarna. This involved leaving the hut at midday, walking up a steep-sided valley through the snow to the main entrance (with caving gear in rucksacks), 'doing' the cave (with walking gear in tacklebags), then emerging out of a discreet back entrance at about 2 the following morning. The caving was brilliant; lots of climbs, traverses and abseils, and not a single squeeze, not even a crawl, not even a stoop! (shame - ed)

Next day, rest. In the evening Jenny agreed to go on a trip that was purported to be a 24 hour underground epic. Caving for 24 hours? Starting out at night when you're already knackered from a long trip the previous day/night and little sleep in the day? Going alone with a group of crazy Poles, none of whom speak a word of English, only one of whom you've caved with before? Was this impaired judgement? Was it alcohol induced? Probably, yes, but the caving was great (again). We didn't reach the end of the cave because there was too much water at one point (the weather had begun to thaw by this stage) to get across a lake with a duck in the middle, even with the aid of two air mattresses and two and a half hours bailing! The rumours are true...Poles are hydrophobic, but who can blame them. They're out to have a good time, and if getting wet is unpleasant, then they just don't do it. Their caving style struck me as much more laid back than what I'm used to. If things don't work out as planned, everyone just smiles and shrugs their shoulders and laughs. No-one gets impatient or tense about anything.

There was one last caving trip in the Tatra before we left to travel around a bit, do some sightseeing and visit various cavers in various cities. The last cave was Djimna, which translates into 'Cold' cave. Very descriptive. There were some interesting ice formations near the entrance. Once again it was a fun trip with lots of climbs and abseils (mostly 'round-the-back' jobs) and no squeezes. The cave was vast; loads of interconnecting passages forming a large-scale maze, giving unrivalled opportunity for getting lost (even better than OFD). Andrzej showed us into different clubs' territories within the maze. Unfortunately the 'Gliwice extensions' were blocked quite early on by a sump, so we didn't reach the dig at the end. We bumbled about in the Wroclaw's territory for a while, but Andrzej didn't want to be too adventurous for fear of getting totally lost.

We left the mountains and drove north to Csetohowa where we spent a day visiting a famous Catholic monastery. We also spent a day caving in an area of forested hills just outside the city. It was a bit of an anticlimax after the grandeur of the Tatra. The caves were a bit Burrington Combe-ish; small and well used by novices, but anything is preferable to monasteries so we didn't complain.

So, Poland in summary: A fascinating new culture and language to get to grips with, great mountains, beautiful snow and ice scenery, wonderfully spacious and interesting caves and the best thing of all, fantastically friendly and fun Polish cavers. Lets hope we see some of them here in Britain at Easter.
Jenny Vernon

Expedition News

The Extremero 1991 final report is out and looks excellent. Congratulations to Gavin and the team for such an efficient job.

Huerta Del Rey 1992 is likely to monopolise the newsletter in later weeks, so enjoy the calm for this week. But by all accounts things move apace, and we now have two drills for Fixer to drop down a huge pitch somewhere.

Exploring here...


The Frosty Passage dig continued over the new year break, with Gavin and Tony reporting that despite a sand roof and two perched/wedged boulders blocking progress the place is quite hospitable, and can be worked on in a day trip. The sand seems drier at the far end, and an optimistic view is that the dig is close to a draught that may promise open passage soon.  Oh yes, Gavin asked me to say that he needs a long stiff object for poking there with: any offers?


Wet weather keeps Curious Love pretty flooded, but J-rat did manage to blow up part of the entry constriction before the terminal unpassed squeeze. It will need another chemical persuasion trip or two, but Tony assures me (he's the only one fool enough to inspect the end when its half full of water) that there is space beyond. Not long now...

Tony and I visited last Sunday to place the "teak furniture" at strategic locations in the cave. The furniture comes out next Sunday, so we'll soon know how long we have left to live. We also pushed a climb above Menhir Pot into a high level series of wonderfully decorated galleries. There are huge goured flows, and crystal pool with strange stalactites ending in calcite blobules. All leads from the galleries were pushed to conclusion, so there is little need to visit and risk damaging things.  I hope to take some pictures of the formations, so soon there may even be an armchair trip to Dallimore's.


Proc 14

Gavin has suggested that we try and collect material for the next Proceedings now to avoid a mad scramble and reliance on fading memory nearer the time. Gavin has volunteered to help out, so if you have something that isn't written up in the log book or the newsletter (or details to add to such articles) please remember to pass them to him.

Cumnor Hill

No, seriously, Tony and I really did start digging on Cumnor Hill this weekend. It involved pulling old fertiliser bags out of a grotty sink under a big tree, but its a sink nonetheless. More interesting is another sink nearby, with a real limestone rift feature! We are not publishing the details yet just in case the BEC try and pirate the dig... Depth potential? minimal.  Scenic beauty? minimal. entertainment value?  quite a laugh actually. Anyway, perhaps we should know more about our own local Karst, even if it is pathetically small. Anyone want to help?