Depth through thought

OUCC News 30th November 2011

Volume 21, Number 12

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Maypole Inlet Techniques

Fleur Loveridge

Some thoughts on gear for taking novices down Maypole Inlet based on this term's freshers' trips. Apologies if I am telling people how to suck eggs, but I thought what I learnt that weekend might be of use to others. We had three novice cavers, two of whom breezed the Maypole Inlet climb and one of whom struggled a bit. We had taken a rope to put on the climb and on the way down we ran this straight down the rift and tied foot loops in it to offer an alternative to the slightly sketchy traverse which finishes the climb. This worked well with a person stood underneath to aid placement of feet in the foot loops.

Now, we were there at a similar time to Gareth's party and they were taking a route further back in the rift which Gareth said is "harder, but less exposed". From chatting to Lou later it seems that the rift is narrower here and there are some footholds if you know where to look. I want to check this out next time I am them, but at the time I wanted to stick with an obstacle which I knew how to deal with. Although in the end, we did a lot of improvisation, so maybe we should have just tried the other climb.

Now, we only had one rope with us and we left it on the climb, so when we got to the stream we attached some slings and my cowstails to the bolt to give us something to grab hold of on the way up. In retrospect it would have been better to have a short length of thin rope here, but we managed ok with what we had.

When we got back to the Maypole Inlet Climb itself we reversed our descent with some people doing the traverse then the climb and one caver again climbing up the rope loops. This worked ok with a curtained amount of help putting feet in loops, pushing from underneath and pulling from above. It wasn't pretty or stylish but we all got up. From the mid-point at the jammed boulder I then had an idea. At that point I had been sitting on the boulder attached with my cowstail via a jammer to the rope on the climb so I could pull cavers up without the risk of falling down. We now used my cowstails to help our novice caver up the next section of the line. We attached them to her belt, added a sling to the long cowstail where I keep my jammer and then she had a ready-made moveable handhold and foothold to assist with the climb. Plus she was secure. This worked really really well and the main point of this article is to tell people about it as I think it proved to be an excellent technique. But clearly it only works if you have a cowstail, a jammer and a sling.

So my top OFD tips are:-