Depth through thought

OUCC News 23rd November 2011

Volume 21, Number 11

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

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A Little Expedition - Part IV

Rob Garret

[part 1]

Finding a connection is never easy. This one had already eluded us for 10 years. However, today we could almost smell it. The draught practically had #3 Great Cave written all over it (in little pheromonieroglyphics or something). But, just to be on the safe side, we cancelled dinner so that no-one would worry if we were a bit late out.

Retracing our steps of 2 days before we were soon back at the limit of exploration. Where we'd left it at a short, low crawl which soon opened up into a little chamber. From here there were two ways on. The larger passage descended to the East, away from #3 Great Cave and it took a faint draught. That meant that the combined draught emanated from a body-sized little tube heading up to the west. At least we hoped it was body sized.

In fact, to call it a draught is a bit of an understatement as it was more like a howling gale in the lake district. In lieu of rain was a sand storm of Saharan proportions. It was the sort of place where you could open a factory to sand-blast denim without worrying about health and safety inspectors reporting you for giving your employees pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. It was into this Demon void we were the first explorers ever to boldly wriggle.

It was not the easiest of places to survey but it was clearly heading southwest towards the glorious connection. The Last Trump, as the passage became known, could be heard echoing menacingly throughout the cave for the game was afoot and the inevitable connection was imminent (well, as imminent as it can be when you're inching along a flat out sand-blasted crawl trying to read instruments and write on a wildly flapping survey page whilst trying to pin it down with your ear). Yes, surely that was the last trump sounding over and over and not just Duncan's windy bottom.

After around 100m the roof was beginning to rise to more manageable proportions and, briefly, progress accelerated, gathering momentum towards the triumphant culmination of 10 years hard labour. Briefly. Then, all too briefly balance was restored to the universe as the walls began to close in, compensating for the rising roof. In place of an arduous crawl we now had a tortuous rift. A hammer, had we had one, would have made short work of several of the awkward little protrusions which "added interest" to the passage while also precluding survey shots of any significant length.

Nevertheless, with nothing better to do, we persevered, corner after corner, constriction after constriction, leg after leg until we reached a barrier which seemed a bit more problematic. The sort of squeeze which looked doable if only you could just approach it in the right way. In this case, it turned out that the right way was some kind of elevating hand stand, sliding into a backflip with a half salchow and beyond... relief as the passage visibly widened. Victory? Not quite as there still remained the minor issue of a 5m slightly overhanging aven which needs bolting up. There was a fair bit of Pyrrhic going around though. For now it was time to head home. The connection still waits...