Depth through thought

OUCC News 28th November 2012

Volume 22, Number 14

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Alum pot via lower Long Churn

24th November 2012

Thomas Leung

Party of six including: Thomas, Tonya, Lukas, David (CUCC), Xian (CUCC) and Bella (CUCC).

Due to the usual relaxed nature of the club (or put it like this: faff), after we packed the rope and all the stuff, drove to the car park, geared up, it was already half eleven (That's an early start for OUCC! - Editor.). While the others were still kitting up, I started following the directions given by Peter Devlin and searching for the Lower Long Churn entrance. The idea of this trip is to do an exchange - one party goes via Lower Long Churn and the other party rigs a tree and does the 60 metres straight down landing on the Bridge. Last time I did Alum was three years ago, so I only vaguely remembered the way.

After passing the impressive Alum Pot main shaft surrounded by trees and brick wall, I headed straight up and reached a marble pavement and started looking for any sign of the entrance. Nothing, I saw nothing but solid grey marble rocks. A short while later, the rest of the group found me and we started heading down-hill following the marble stone. We eventually found the entrance and it turns out I walked too high up the hill.

After Tonya took several pictures of us standing at the entrance, we started our journey into Alum. We followed the water but shortly I went into a dead-end tube and it took me 10 minutes to crawl back to the main stream way. The way on was crawling in a bedding plane at the right hand side of a hole where the water sinks down. After the crawl, we reached a junction. Turning right led us to a 2 m free climb down to Plank Pool where we met another party (not OUCC or CUCC) also heading to the main shaft. While rest of the party were still doing the climb, I quickly went to the pitch head of Dolly Tubs and started the rigging. It was easy enough - 8m down to a ledge, 5 m ahead is another 6m short pitch with a deviation. It landed on the magnificent opening which overlooking the Alum Pot main shaft. It was a bit wet and there was a little waterfall going straight down the shaft. I had a short stay enjoying the view while waiting for the second tackle bag from Tonya.

The next bit was the Greasy Slab which was only 15 metres but very slippery with vegetation and a little waterfall. I then walked across to the opposite side of the shaft. There was a ledge and I started rigging the traverse line and headed to the Bridge. At this point, the other group started their descent of the 60 m from the tree. I saw Vicky shoot down the rope like a free falling little rock. The Bridge was also easy enough to rig - it is a big slab of rock lying at a 45 degree across the shaft and cavers walked on top of it. We eventually all landed at the bottom of the Bridge. The other party, other than Vicky, were getting a bit stuck at the re-belay of the tree rig (it turned out the re-belay became a bit "challenging" after Vicky's descent and the whole thing was re-rigged twice, which is another story). Tonya, Bella, Xian, and I decided to do another abseil to the bottom Alum streamway. Since this was Lukas and David's first SRT trip, it was better for them to go out the same way as it is too much for them to do the exposed 60 m tree rig back to the surface.

So I reached the bottom first and followed the stream, climbed down a water fall, walked across a pool and stopped at the final 10 m pitch overlooking the sump. I turned back and sat on a rock waiting for the others. At this point, the sky was getting dark and it was windy.

After four of us rejoined at the bottom, we started heading out. Tonya and Xian were the first two to prusik back to the bridge, followed by me, and Bella de-rigged the pitch. Then it was the 60m prusik out of Alum. Again, Xian went up first, followed by Tonya, me and Bella. When I was abseiling the 60 with the tackle bag, the sky was in completely darkness and Alum looked like a bottomless black hole. The good thing though, you couldn't see anything and couldn't fall the height. When I got back to the surface and waiting for Bella, there were three walkers getting lost and asking for direction. Eventually, four of us came out Alum, packed the rope and stuff, walked back to the car park with the three hikers, got changed and drove back to the YSS hut. It was a lovely and enjoyable trip.