Depth through thought

OUCC News 8th May 2013

Volume 23, Number 2

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

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Eastwater Cavern 30th March, 2013

Thomas Leung

Also present: Ben Heaney (BEC)

I am going to describe a not so common cave where you would expect to see beautiful formations - Eastwater cavern. For those who have been to Eastwater, the rocks are described as dark and gloomy. The common freshers' trips in Eastwater are either the Upper Series round trip via 'Halleluiah hole' or the Lower Series 13 Pots round trip. However, trips involving West End series are not very common for a reason - it is wet and involves a number of tight squeezes. However, the Regent Street in this series is worth a visit.

On Saturday the 30th of March, a relatively warm and sunny morning, Ben and I decided to have a go by simply taking a copy of the survey and started the hunt of Regent Street. We did this cave also in quite a ridiculous way - SRT. Well, as all the ladders in the Belfry had been taken to Ireland and I didn't bring any of them with me from Oxford, that's the only way to tackle the problem. To make things worse, we only found a 32m, 11mm rope in the Belfry tackle store just for a 35ft (about 10m) pitch. So, we took our own SRT kit, with another tackle bag filled with the 32m rope and another 8m dynamic rope as hand-line for the Dolphin's Chimney, then started our hunting.

The way in from the entrance to the Lower Series was easy enough - made our way through the entrance boulder choke, took the short cut to avoid the rift of the Upper Traverse (it is difficult if you have tackle bags with you, better to avoid), did the slide to reach the cross road, climbed down Dolphin's Chimney (free climbable, but better with a hand-line, as climb back up may be difficult). We met another group when we reached the 35ft climb to the lower series. Then we put on our SRT kit, with a smile on our face thinking how ridiculous it was, as this part is always being done by using ladders. I started rigging and eventually both of us got to the bottom of the climb. It took less than hour and half from the entrance, which was very good progress.

From now on, the exploration started. We first followed the rift upwards to a place called 'Hard Rain Aven', which I have been to twice. There was a gap on the right heading upslope, which looks impassable, but you can push to get through and eventually pop out into a tiny chamber (you can just about sit up right) with many small loosen boulders. Ben Hudson climbed this last time during the 2012 freshers' trip, and described it as horrible, as he stepped on a mud bank in the little chamber and it suddenly collapsed. So I headed in first and Ben Heaney followed. However, when we got out of the chamber, we met the same group previously we met at the 35ft climb; they just finished their 13 pots trip. It turns out we did a loop and back to the same point, and it means that the horrible climb Ben Hudson did last time can be avoided.

After we asked for directions from the group, we headed west, through a short crawl into Ifold Series. The key here was to follow the little stream, and eventually saw a horizontal tube where the water flows in. That's the way on. When I first looked at it, it seems wet, miserable and tight. I turned back first time just half way in, since it got narrower and narrower. After read the survey, I decided to give it a push. It was alright, I was only half wet. (Note that it was dry for several weeks and the water level was very low; it will be a 'no go' during rainy season, as the tube will be half filled with water.) The rest of the exploration was relatively easy after this wet crawl - just followed the rift towards the west by going either up-slope or down-slope, of course with a survey, description will be better.

We eventually got to the Regent Street of West End series. You will never see a passage with 7-8m height and 70m long in East water. Its squeezy nature means you cannot stand properly most of the time. It is another story when you are in Regent Street. You can never reach the roof. We walked along the first 40 metres of the passage, with only a few stalactites on the wall and reached a huge stalagmite about 4 metres height. We climbed this stalagmite (it is allowed) and got to the rare part of the passage - a medium sized chamber with lots of twisted straw on the celling, curtains on the sides. The final section was taped, but we could still see what was beyond. Just right next to the tape was several what's called 'Termite Hills'. They are little cone shaped, white coloured formations.

After taking some photos, we started our way out. Everything was fine except we need to do the wet crawl, on the way back, against the flow of water which was truly unpleasant. We did the trip in 6 hours, as we got lost a bit in the West End. However, it was a nice trip and Regent Street is worth a visit as you will be surprised by the size of it in Eastwater.