Depth through thought

OUCC News 6th November 1996

Volume 6, Number 23

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Money, money, money...

Yes, it's that time of the year again, I'm afraid. This is just to remind all you lot that the membership for the club is still ONLY 25 pounds, needs paying soon, I'll be there tomorrow to collect cheques and will be on your heels until you pay up. So there you have it. There will be the termly meeting next week and an accounts report from it goes to the University people, so it wouldn't be very nice to present the club's money resources in red colour. Please bring your cheque books along or get in touch with me (work tel no.275-326). Cheers.

Quaking Pot vs Dave Pauline Harvey and Rob

We were team crap, crap, crap and Rob. Dave was feeling unfit, I was recovering from flu, and Harvey had hurt his back. Harvey thought all his back exercises from the physiotherapist could be incorporated into caving manoeuvres. We were in fine shape for tackling the hardest cave in Yorkshire. Dave tried to get us up early so we'd have a chance to get a bit of sleep after the trip. It didn't work. From my corner of the caravan I could hear Dave trying to light the stove to make tea. A match flared, there was a 'whomph' from the gas and 'bugger' from Dave as it blew itself out immediately. Same happened the next time. When the sixth and final match number failed to light Dave went out to buy some more and I drifted back into sleep again. Breakfast of beans, mushrooms, the cheapest shittiest sausages Dave could find but nice bacon happened in due course, then we started to think about the gear we needed. I went out to buy myself a snap krab and a breaking crab for Harvey. I drew a blank on the steel snaplink braking krab, Ingletheif told me it was uneconomical to sell them, while Steve Round told me there was no call for them in caving.

Underground at midday. An hour later we were at the bottom of the third pitch and things were looking good. 4th pitch bypass next. Tony got stuck somewhere around here. Hmm. Someone had scratched 'defeated ' on the wall above a squeeze. Dave tried it first and came out complaining that his bum is a lot fatter than it used to be. Harness off. He tried an alternative bit of the squeeze. Nope. Forces himself through the lower part of the squeeze and I realised it must be very small indeed as a helmet didn't fit through. Rob stripped down for the squeeze. He had to come out and rearrange his testicles. The squeeze is too small - he didn't fit. A lesser man would have been put off by this but not Rob. With Harvey pulling on the crotch of his oversuit and Dave pulling one leg, Rob got though the alternative bit of the squeeze shouting 'yes, yes, yes'. Very unwise. I stamped on the tackle to get it through. Me last because I am smallest. F**k, it's tight. The rock is in firm contact with both the front and back of my pelvis. In fact the only squeezes I have done which are smaller have been furniture. Wiggle. Pelvis grates through and then my chest jams. This must be why the cave has the reputation it does and we hadn't got to the crux yet. The trip was starting to slow down. It took an hour to put us all through the squeeze.

Although I am writing this up a mere 24 hours afterwards, the order of the various tight and nasty bits that followed is already blurred. The crux itself wasn't the most intimidating obstacle, at least on the way in. Flipping a tacklebag over in front of me, I wriggled horizontally round a bend in smooth almost vertical sided rift. Harvey was right behind me, Dave was under me in the stream dealing with some gear, while Rob was directly beneath me looking for the way on, so we managed to get all 4 of us in the crux simultaneously. The tape on the tacklebag snapped and Dave spent 5 minutes venomously cursing Dragon man and Welsh caves.

Being in continual contact with the rock, we got cold as soon as we stopped moving. So Dave sped on ahead to rig the next pitch. It was the vertical squeezes near the 6th pitch head, where I caught him up, that made me feel a long way from home. The cave had given us tight, it gave us pitches, then it gave us wet in the form of the Wet W, and Fly crawl. A little phrase which has inexplicably stuck in my mind is Urs writing in the log book 'Fly crawl was horrible'. It was. Dave didn't remember it being so wet, but neither could he recall the 4th pitch bypass squeeze being a squeeze!

Then it gave us slimy, muddy, bouldery, loose pitches, 3 of them, before a little pitch landing in Gormenghast chamber. Despite having been there 3 times, Dave has never looked around Gormenghast before, just sat on a rock and eaten a Snickers bar. So he had a look round and I sat on a rock and ate rice pudding. Done it. Big tick. Won't need to come here again. We will not blindly follow Dave down stupid places in future. It has taken us 7 hours so far. Both Dave and I anticipate a slow trip out as Harvey is not going so well since being stuck in the Wet W for 10 minutes. Lying in cold water for any length of time tends to sap your mental reserves, if not your physical ones.

I set off feeling that although it was a long way out, if we just kept at it we'd be out soon enough. 5 hours later, lying in the water at the crux bypass with a tacklebag and 2 ropes, trying to pass them to Harvey on the other side of the crux above my head somewhere, when Harvey is having enough trouble with his own limbs, I started to feel a bit desperate. The crux is not the kind of place where someone can come back and help you. It seemed that we were on a curve heading towards a tangent (the entrance) and we'd only actually get there at infinity. I totally lost my cool for a while. As I came back through the bypass and then up to the crux, I was panicky and tearful, even though I was perfectly fine and not having any problems. I'd just had enough. Lets jack at the crux on the way out. Tough. Giving up was not an option.`

Quite a while later (about 3am) we reached the 4th pitch bypass and Dave was feeling very ill. I wonder if it was the uncooked cheap shit sausages. I asked him if he would mind not retching on my feet. Then I gave him a piece of licorice which I'd been carrying in my helmet along with Harvey's snotty hanky. That helped because at least when he retched it tasted nice. Dave went up the rope climb, almost falling off it twice, which he attributed to illness, worryingly. But I made an even worse job of it. As I was last in line I was more than slightly bothered by the fact that I almost couldn't do the climb but everyone else seemed to have gone on ahead. When I got to the top I found Dave had waited for me not far ahead. He was feeling better but falling asleep at the head of the 4th pitch, and certain to fall down it after the tacklebag if he did. 'Don't fall asleep while I'm talking to you'.

It's worse hearing someone else struggling and getting stuck than getting stuck yourself because you worry about them just as much as about yourself since you can't get out til they do (when they're in front). At least the stuck person is keeping warm. I spent an awful long time at the head of the 3rd pitch while Harvey worked out the next move. There was just enough room in the dry bit for me and it was very cold, but poor Dave was stuck out on the pitch which had become a waterfall. Each time I looked Harvey's feet were in a different level in the rift, feet below me, at my level, up in the roof. 'Where should I be?' asked Harvey. 'In the Marten Arms', was Dave's standard reply to that question. Rob went in front (don't know how) to find a route through, incidentally leaving behind a tacklebag to haul through the obstacle and somehow, for a few metres (a long way in Quaking where our average speed was less than 50m/hour) I ended up with 2 tacklebags. I lost my cool a second time. Quaking is a special kind of experience, second in my life to Dallimore's. It's physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Not many things do that to you. I wouldn't want them to.

Dawn was breaking as we walked back to the car after 18 hours underground. Dave was still unfit, but Harvey's back was OK. Rob was still Rob. As for my flu, I'm going to have a relapse.

Endnote: According to Tony the 4th pitch is easy and can be done with one leg, so I don't know why people use the bypass.

Digging Down Draenen.

The lure of an untouched boulder choke at the far end of War of the Worlds (Far south east of Draenen, excellent position, full of boulders) enticed me and Gavin for a spur of the moment Saturday trip down God's favourite cave. Plan A (the hidden agenda) had been to get on the trip that broke out of the end of The Last Sandwich (Almost far south east, good position, black space found beyond) but Gavin is a good man and was understandably unwilling to let a parasite such as myself leap in before Steve and his fellow Last Sandwich devotees. Plan B was drawn up with the aim of getting OUCC crowbars into the South WOW choke before some bugger with bang blows it to fuck and still fails to find a way through.

We met at 10:45 at the Lamb and Fox carpark. I was 34 minutes and 23 seconds late. An uneventful trip up to the Midwinter series where we found a large group on their way to Big Country, but via a devious (i.e. wrong) route. They seemed keen to have a recce at WOW with a view to banging some boulder choke (to fuck etc. etc.), so we unselfishly pointed out the route in via Sleepcrawler. Those in the know can chuckle darkly to themselves. Gavin was suitably underawed by the new finds, apart from spontaneously proclaiming some antlers on the wall of WOW as quite nice. My heart almost sang with the simple beauty of the moment.

The choke had three ways in. Over the top was soon blocked by table sized boulders, to the right hand side was breezy, and could well profit from some drill and whack (I believe this is the technical term for the use of Hilti cartridges), and the left hand side was less breezy, but nevertheless chilly enough to encourage industry, and a lot easier to dig. Four hours of shifting boulders got us about 20-25 foot in, and we were principally defeated by the need for a spoil tray as we were starting to move through sandy mud. Acting as human spoil trays was becoming increasingly inefficient, so a swift exit was made to the pub. Good trip. Good to be caving with The Gavmeister again. We are well and truly in there.