Depth through thought

OUCC News 18th November 2009

Volume 19, Number 14

DTT volume 19 (2009)

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

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And Now for Something Completely Different

Peter Devlin, club weekend Oct 31

I fell asleep in the WSG hut to the persistent patter of rain, wondering what trips water levels would allow tomorrow.

Breakfast consumed, a meandering low energy dialogue saw teams and trips coalesce. I was down for an OFD1 trip with novice Sam plus Mardi, Jenny and James. There had been some helmet skulduggery going on: someone had lifted Jenny's, so at Penwyllt Vince sorted us out with a helmet. He assured me the OFD1 streamway would be ok today, although not tomorrow (storm warning forecast). I duly filled out a docket indicating we were doing the escape route first, returning via the streamway.

At the junction for the escape route I thought we'd check out the streamway, to be sure, to be sure, expecting the water to be manageable. At the step the water was almost up to the top of my wellie. I reckoned that was the streamway out of bounds, but thought we'd go 10 m up to give the team a thrill, then return to do the dry route. Struggling not to get swept away I pushed upstream, having a total blast. Stopping, I checked everybody out, but if they were bricking it they hid it well. Change of plan: let's just go for it!

Past the first scaff bar everyone looked to be doing fine. Given I was having the time of my life I wonder what I would have done had any of them wanted to turn back. Ignored them, I think. Or maybe just misheard them over the roar of the water. Thankfully everyone seemed to be having a blast. The girls were at the back and any time I checked on them they answered with a huge grin.

The little climb just before the first escape chain was pumping water: all the usual holds were obscured by the torrent. The wet bits where the water usually reaches to my thighs had the water chest high on me: keep going. We're committed now. Going downstream in this torrent would be imprudent, wouldn't it? Over a few more scaff bars: where are those smaller potholes? The streamway was unrecognisable, even for a frequent visitor.

All too soon it was over: the junction where the water from OFD2 comes in saw us follow the gentle trickle on our route. Turning the corner at the boulder choke I had a bit of fun with the booming rock: making the boom, then calling back to ask "what was that noise?" Poor entertainment after the adrenalin high of the streamway, but you take your laughs where you can.

A bimble into OFD 1.5 didn't quite see us to the letterbox (see, and we returned to Lowe's Chain and the escape route. Coming down Elephant's Posterior saw some interesting antics: "Stand on my shoulders then sit on my knee", I commanded Mardi. Completing the tension traverse saw me breath a sigh of relief and we progressed on out. After the awkward little climb up into the stal chamber I promised 5 minutes caving to walking passage. I had forgotten to mention the pools of freezing water to be crawled through. I heard the girls shrieking and Sam told me I was no longer his friend.

Almost 5 hours after getting underground we got out to the fading light of day. For me this had been the best trip I had ever done in OFD1 and while the cave had much to do with this, so had the team. Many thanks to Mardi, Jenny, James and Sam for a cracking trip and well done Sam for an outstanding novice trip. Does giving a novice a sound hazing finally qualify me as an OUCC old lag? [You've been qualified for years : SGR]