Depth through thought

OUCC News 22nd November 1995

Volume 5, Number 24

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Sorry, I'll be away next Wednesday, but DTT may still appear via the guest editor, so keep your articles coming. Also, those of you who are writing things for Proc. 14 please start thinking about it: deadlines are passing fast.

Western Picos Survey Project

A couple of weeks ago James and I received from Wlodek the updated survey of C9 in SURVEX form. This prompted me to dig out the copy that Wookey had given me at the BCRA, and try it out. We were very impressed with the ability to view the survey, plan and projected elevation, as well as rotate it on screen in 3 dimensions. In 15 mins playing we spotted points about the development of C9, not noticed in 7 weeks on expedition, and 2 months since, bullshitting. James was even heard to say "Wow wouldn't one of these on expedition be fantastic?", although he then tried to bribe me not to print it.

Practically the first thing we thought was wouldn't it be great to have the ability to view the whole area ( F64, 2/7, Xitu etc) in one go. So we have decided to get the whole of the OUCC data from all of the finds in the last 15 years together on computer, in one format. This will provide a reference for the OUCC library, easily updatable as we discover more, and easily accessible since SURVEX is available for most platforms. We are contacting the SIE, and hope to get data for other caves in the area (e.g. Cabeza Muxa). The planned completion for this project, is in time for next years BCRA, so that it would be possible to have a computerised demo of our finds on display.

Many thanks to everyone who has provided data, promised to get it transferred, or given useful information, so far. We have the F64, C9 and 8/11 surveys, and should be able to get hold of the pre-1989 stuff. However, if you know of the existence of computerised data from the later 2/7 expeditions (1990 - 1992) then James or I would love to hear from you. We don't fancy typing it all in if it isn't necessary.
John techno-Pybus

Explore '95

Explore '95 is the annual event run by the Expeditions Advisory Centre at the RGS in London, to encourage and provide information for expeditions. I went to it last weekend because there was going to be a caver from the Ghar Parau there, and representatives of the RGS. After his opening speech about the importance of exploration and how now was the era of exploration, John Hemming, the director of the RGS, put his foot in it by claiming that there was nowhere left on earth to explore and he included caves!!! I bristled with indignation but refrained from shouting out "And what about the 3rd longest cave in Britain, all discovered in the past 12 months". Apart from Howard Jones of the Ghar Parau, I was the only caver there. Since they'd lost my form, so weren't expecting any cavers at all, I had to stand up and be identified. Howard Jones gave a good talk about fundraising with lots of bullet points and a few bonus pictures of caves thrown in. Other talks included a 'case study' of an expedition to Kanskar Gorge, responsible photography and styles of leadership. Research has only come up with one agreed quality in a leader - courage - so perhaps we should have knife throwing competitions before choosing next year's expedition leader. I had the opportunity to ask whether it would be worthwhile applying for RGS approval for this years expedition and received an encouraging reply. Although some people are dismissive about the benefits of this meeting, I had a useful day.
Pauline Rigby, Expedition Leader '96

Gustuteru 96

By the time you have read this (unless you get it electronically in the morning like me) you will probably have just seen Dave's talk on last years expedition. Next years return is already being planned. We now have a bank account, and official University approval, and all that remains for a successful expedition is some people to go on it (apart from months of planning and hard work and a bit of luck, that is).

If you haven't been about the club long, then, the expedition is one of the things that make OUCC the best University Cave Club in Britain. We have been exploring an area of Limestone mountains of the Picos de Europa, in Northern Spain, for many years. The caves are very different to those in Britain, being very vertical, and a lot deeper than those in Yorkshire. Past Expeditions are where most of us have gained a lot of the experience in hard caving, exploration, and techniques such as bolting and surveying, that the club has.

It is important to remember that you don't already have to have these skills to be welcome along. The Picos de Europa is a fantastic place and spending time there in the summer comes very well recommended. Many people join the club this term, and in 8 months time, are discovering new caves for themselves 500m or more beneath the surface, hundreds of miles away. SRT practises, and club weekends will soon teach you the basics you need to know.

Next years expedition will probably be in July and early August. The costs are a deposit (125 pounds, last year) which buys things the expedition needs (eg rope etc). We pay for food from a kitty of 20 pounds per person per week. Gear, you will need to have SRT gear, and a Carbide lighting system, as well as basic gear, although we get big discounts on our gear order. Insurance, about 70 pounds for the whole seven weeks, less if your only out for part of it. And transport which with the club van would be about 150 pounds. Junior members of the university can apply to the AC Irvine travel fund, which will give money towards the cost. Last year nine of us got 220 pounds each!

If you are interested, then watch this space... More will appear in DTT, or contact members of the expedition committee:

Pauline Rigby -Leader
Anita Milicic - Treasurer
Nobby Mumford -Sponsorship Secretary
John Pybus (that's me that is) - Gear officer
Chris Vernon - Techno stuff
Tim Guilford - Medical

But best of all talk to people who have done it before, and can tell what it was like, and what they thought.
John far-too-YOUNG-for-the-Berger Pybus

Pick-a-Stix Aven (Ogof Draenen)

Last Friday night saw Tim, Snablet, Chris and James playing drinking games and telling stories in the old caravan outside the Lamb and Fox until God knows when. Not surprisingly, Vince and Rich Blake won. But by Saturday morning we were ready for anything and, just about last in the cave, Chris James and I stomped off to The Last Sandwich for another look at an area now officially designated worked out. We only found 25 metres, but we had a great day.

First we dug the choke at the end of Snowball Passage: not up, as the MCC have been doing, with plenty of chemical persuasion, but down. James wondered how on earth they had missed this lead just 5m from where they were digging. Perhaps it had something to do with my having covered it up with rocks several months ago... Still going.

Next James and Chris dug and squeezed into a hideously tight side rift off the last sandwich. Fun to watch anyway. Not still going.

Then we stopped down at "Olly's Junction", and I poked my head into a passage to the right that I remembered ended in a boulder choke. Yes, it did too. A boulder choke directly above my head. Lovely. But it was irresistible. Using long bits of tape I gingerly tied a king of loo chain round what looked like a pivotal rock, sidled back down the passage, and pulled. A few rocks fell. So I tried again. Same response. By this time, there were no safe rocks left to tie tapes round: it was all too pivotal. What to do? By this time James had gone off to push something else, not enjoying the pick-a-stix game very much. But I had another idea. I could crawl to the bottom of the hanging choke, and throw rocks at it. I don't suppose I really thought it would work, but on the third attempt I hit a key stone, and the entire choke plunged downwards. I made it about a metre back down the passage then clung to the roof whilst a sea of boulders cascaded between my legs towards Chris. When the dust had settled, it became clear that there was an aven above full of boulders and that we were sort of emptying it through a funnel at the bottom. Only problem was that we and were in the funnel too.

The next hour and a half was simply thrilling. Chris, at first calling me a madman, soon joined in the fun and hoiked boulders out of the choke with the little blue nun. Three times the choke came down, until, after removing one huge mother of a boulder, it stopped. I crept forward over a passage now strewn with boulder to take a look. As I did so the draught began to change, and blow out through the hole we had made. Up above I stared into a 30ft, gasped with excitement, then almost simultaneously glimpsed the other half of the boulder choke perched halfway up one wall, and shot back down the passage. So, its not over yet...

Next, we found the most exciting lead of all near the end of the last sandwich, and spent two hours digging in hell to find a pinched out rift. Bollocks.

Finally, we looked at a couple of side passages off Junction, one leading into stuff first entered by Pauline 6 months ago, and extended unsurveyed by Nig Rogers. Still going... The other, Urs and Pauline had looked at, and, well, its still going... Since this area is still by far the most southerly point in the cave, I think we'll be back..... soon.

The way out was a little tough, since we had only one working light between three. And when we emerged, we found a rescue had been called for a party of five lost on the Round Trip. Bad news was we were forced to stay in Wales in case we were need next morning, but good news was that the Police gave the pub an instant bar extension all night...
Tim Guilford