Depth through thought

OUCC News 20th October 2010

Volume 20, Number 5

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Andrew Morgan

Trips this term:

Digging in Yellow Van Passage in Ogof Draenen

Chris Densham

I was committed: there was no choice. I fumbled with the button and dragged myself out of bed. I had agreed to a demanding mission: to do a worthwhile digging and surveying trip in the Dollimore's Series of Ogof Draenen while making it back out in time for - joy of joys - the next meeting of the Pwll Du Cave Management Group. Also, I had the club key. Unfortunately, as a result of the digging of the Drws Cefn entrance, the days of easy access by combination lock were over. As I pulled into the Lamb & Fox car park, Fleur, Ben, Chris S and Jess from the Cambridge were breakfasted and ready. Fleur was running a tight ship today. "Feeling strong?" I cheerily asked Chris, who incautiously answered in the affirmative. Soon everyone was fully laden with the clobber I had brought - drill, capping gear, scaff bars and clips.

"Been to Yellow Van before?" I asked Chris. "No?" Another incautious answer. I had my volunteer 'Digging bitch' (his words not mine!) It was Jess's first trip into Draenen and she did well to keep up with those of us who knew, nearly by heart, which boot to put on which boulder, and which shoulder to shrug to bounce along between the walls of Indiana Highway.

There was some competing to carry the scaff bars forward - a competition in which I reluctantly had to concede defeat to Fleur.

There were to be no Spackhead awards on this trip (DTT passim). At the Out of the Blue drinking fountain my breakfast sandwich came out, in surprisingly good shape. Fleur, Ben and Jess climbed up to survey progress in the Grotto Passage dig, while Chris squared laboured under the full complement of kit down to Yellow Van. Pointing out the spacious cavity at the end, I mused that it had taken a dozen years of sporadic digging efforts to get the front beyond the line of vision of the starting point. Never mind - the Mystery Streamway couldn't be far ahead. This was the third trip in a row which was strictly time limited by having to get out in time for a PDCMG meeting. At least this provided the motivation for each trip to happen. The 'passage', or rather the route between boulders, was doubling back behind what I had originally thought to be a solid wall, but upon excavation was appearing to be more like a double-wardrobe sized slab. The dig was crawling round the back of the wardrobe. I rattled the scaff bars I had pinned under the boulder ceiling on the previous trip, and persuaded myself they offered more than psychological support. Then I began capping the boulders I had drilled on the previous trip. Pop!

The 1st boulder was now in more amenable chunks but they were wedged in by the second boulder I had drilled. The second boulder in pieces added to the puzzle. As I prised the pieces out from behind the back corner of the wardrobe, a small rock fell on my head. I looked up to see a small trickle of crumbs dribbling from the top of a micro-wave oven sized boulder, supported by a double-toaster sized rock directly above the scaff bars. To my surprise, both bars were now locked solid

- the pair of boulders was now sitting on them! I carefully extracted all the capped fragments together with a third boulder and passed them down for filing. Gingerly I installed the 2 new bars we had carried in. The dig was safe to go on, but it was already time to go out.

We all coincided at Out of the Blue, and were out of the cave by 6 pm as scheduled, in time for dinner at the L&F - with the PDCMG meeting for what I feared from the last 2 meetings would be an unhealthy dessert.

PDCMG meeting.

Chris Densham

I found the previous meeting in December 2009 very frustrating as it suffered from a number of interventions with the apparent purpose of derailing proceedings. Nevertheless there was just time for the motion to be passed that "There should be no access to Ogof Draenen though Drws Cefn". At this point, OUCC veteran Martin Laverty announced the resignation of his other club the Grwp Ogofydd Garimpeiros from the PDCMG, which was to be expected since members of the GOG were principally responsible for digging the Drws Cefn entrance.

Since the last meeting the secretary of the PDCMG, Fleur Loveridge, has done an amazing job at maintaining access to Ogof Draenen under conditions of extreme provocation. To anyone interested in getting a flavour of the latest sorry episode in British caving - or to anyone who is at all interested in human behaviour - I would strongly recommend reading her secretary's report at

As it happens, the meeting passed in an amicable manner and was constructive, possibly due to being held in the Lamb & Fox, or possibly due to the landowner making the decision for us that Drws Cefn should be permanently closed, or probably due to the absence of the most vociferous backers of further entrances to Ogof Draenen. I couldn't help wondering what the next chapter in this long running saga might be.