Depth through thought

OUCC News 7th June 1995

Volume 5, Number 15

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In all, OUCC found about 200 metres of passage in Draenen this weekend. And to bring you up to date, we have been promised our own key, and have an MCC key to keep until this arrives. If anyone wants a trip down, do it. From the point of view of exploration, there is no time like the present. On the other hand, if you fancy helping me do a photo trip (Descent wants two articles off us by 20th June, and we have no pictures...), please feel free to volunteer...

Presumably, things went well in Yorkshire, but I await articles... I gather, at least, that this time we did the rescue...

The finding of Mr Ugg

Tim, Pauline, James and I spent 12 hours grovelling about in the mud down beyond Gilwern passage (Draenen) last Sunday. Tim and Pauline seemed to have a rather frustrating time trying to find a way through a boulder choke in St. Giles, down to the streamway running below. I elected to go with James, to do a mixture of taping, surveying and pushing. First we finished taping tram-lines from the boulder choke to the end of St. Giles (Passion fruit chamber). Next we tied in the St. Giles survey with the permanent survey station (pss) at the ladder climb up to reach Sanitiser, and then we went pushing....

We looked at three of the four potential leads downstream off Sanitiser, and the upstream section. Unfortunately, upstream choked almost immediately, but might be worth re-visiting with a crowbar when we get desperate. Downstream, the first lead was a low, sandy crawl/slither-on-stomach thing which we pushed for about 25m and surveyed in to pss no. 9 in Sanitiser. Again, possibly worth re-visiting with digging tools. The second lead (off at pss no. 17) was no good, but the third was the way into Mr. Ugg.....

After about 20m of crawly, squirmy, rifty passageway we intersected a fairly large rift running parallel to Sanitiser (at least it felt like it). Down to the left were several junctions, but everything seemed to close down pretty quickly. Up to the right the rift just went on and on. James and I pushed along it as far as we had time for, then surveyed out to pss no. 17 in Sanitiser. This rift, hereafter referred to as Mr. Ugg, and branches off it are definitely promising for pushing, and the caving is fun; proper wriggley, squeezey, climby, rifty stuff. So, as James had predicted all along, Mr. Ugg is there, and going, and all ready and waiting for the next OUCC team to find....
Jenny Vernon

Clerical Error

Meanwhile, back at St. Giles... Pauline and Tim attacked the boulder choke. The plan, foolish as it turned out, was to break into the streamway under St. Giles at a point sound located by me on a previous trip. The reason? Well, I had been looking at a wonderfully decorated crystal streamway found by Chris and Steve on their bonanza discovery day (OUCC's best ever in Britain?). It was so delicate that I decided to try and find an alternative route in, and, I thought, had succeeded when I joined the streamway via a junction. So, to avoid risk of damage, Pauline and I were diffing into the streamway.

Well, whilst this might well have avoided damage to the formations, damage to us was well on the agenda. Serious damage in fact. Our first attempt thankfully went too tight before it went too dangerous, but our second was nearer to the nominal edge. Rocks, moved, boulders moved, big boulder moved. One moved onto my finger. Then my foot (which had to be crowbarred out). Eventually, after some extraordinarily creative headfirst vertically down boulder choke digging from Pauline, we opened a hole. Pauline had a worry in it, Tim had a panic, and James got through, ripping his caving gear to reveal acres of bare bollocks in the process. We gave up.

Instead, we cleaned off, and gingerly crawled across crystal pools to push the storming lead that I had left two weeks before. In fact, we managed to leave the place virtually unspoiled, and entered the rift with its extraordinary orange cracked mud (which we traversed over). Then to the junction, and into the big stuff. About 40 metres of it, before the terminal lead. Selfishly, I dropped down the going hole first, to find.... 1 metres before a total stoppage. The last laugh was on me.

We then spent several hours digging at several leads, and Pauline did a contorted squeeze into a blank chamber, before time ran out and we surveyed out. Well, this certainly is one of the most beautiful oxbows I've ever seen, and confirms that the delights of Draenen are ours to find. We didnt find much new passage, but we did tie the leads up. well, almost....
Tim Guilford

Getting excited in Hungary

Thursday evening saw me back in Hungary and enjoying some beers with the Budapest cavers. When asked if I wanted to spend the weekend caving in the Bukk National Park (just south of Arsehole-Hedge) how could I refuse? So the following evening we set off from Budapest - Moha, Yorki, Nora, Ildiko, Hoppa (now minus the crutches but not the name) and I. After several stops for refreshment of the distinctly alcoholic variety (warning - playing pool in Hungary seems to involve drinking lots of alcohol if you win and even more if you lose) I was soon unconscious.... The next thing I knew, I was standing in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere and we were pushing the van out of some mud. One liberal coating later and we were there - a converted stable in the middle of a forest. A group of cavers from Debrecen were there (including Katinka), more alcohol was consumed and the scene was set for a fine weekend's caving.

Saturday saw a short jolly down Diabaz cave. Fine white limestone, some pretty stal and some good climbing. Despite warnings that the cave would be wet, it was about as wet as Swildon's after a summer drought. Nonetheless, a good warm-up for the following day's trip, the highlight of the weekend.... Istvan-lapai cave is Hungary's deepest cave at around 250 metres. The entrance series is very reminiscent of Xitu - lots of short and medium pitches take you straight to the bottom of the cave, where you meet the streamway. However, the rigging was distinctly unlike Xitu. In true Hungarian style, fixed ladders were the order of the day. However, these were not the comfy, solid, secure fixed ladders that we got used to at New Year. Oh no. These ladders wobbled. They had rungs missing. They had bends in and went through squeezes. The most memorable ladder was on a 30m pitch (!) - the sections of this ladder seemed to be hinged together rather than securely bolted and halfway down a constriction virtually forced you off the ladder altogether. This seems to bother Hungarian cavers not one bit, but I became very glad of my cowstails. Nonetheless, we got in and out of the cave much more quickly than if we had been rigging for SRT.

At the bottom, some scrambling on mud and onto the bypass to the first sump. A short climb up and I was face-to-face with a piece of engineering the likes of which I have never seen before in a cave - the Wire Bridge, something straight out of an Indiana Jones film. Three thick metal wires span a 20 metre traverse, one at foot level is the one you walk on and two more at arm height are the ones you clip your cowstails on to and hold on to. There was actually a slide of this at Moha's slide show. Gingerly, I wobbled my way across, the bottom too far below to be visible by carbide. Soon, we climbed down again to the sound of roaring water and I found myself in OFD streamway. Much splashing, traversing, getting wet and a second sump bypass (no traverse this time) we came to the third sump - the end of our trip. One Wire Bridge and countless fixed ladders later, we emerged to sunlight, warmth and birdsong. Time to get changed and head for the nearest bar. A classic trip.

Monday saw some digging in a shakehole near the cottage - very efficient, with a winch and buckets to haul the spoil out. Disconcertingly, this included scaffolding from the previous time this shakehole had been dug but which had since collapsed. Looking down the 10m shaft that has been dug so far, I was told that this cave had a depth potential of some 400 metres. Clearly, caving bullshit is the same the world over.

Monday evening and back to Budapest. They are now making weekly pushing trips to Jozsef crystal cave. I'm not sure if they have permission, but they've got a key and they're pushing it anyway. Some 15 metres of passage has been found during the two trips so far and apparently there are many leads. Hopefully, I'll be on a pushing trip soon. Watch this space....
Steve Phipps