Depth through thought

OUCC News 23rd October 2013

Volume 23, Number 8

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Andrew Morgan

Upcoming trips/events:

The Great Easegill Traverse

Thomas Leung (with the help from Olaf Khler for some route description)

With: Olaf Khler, Mike Hopley, Frances Pope, Nick Edwards, Kayleigh Gilkes Also present: Gavin Lowe, Eabha Lankford, Rosa Clements, Tom Spriggs

... continued from last week.

The way up Pippikin was, at least to me, not horrible but very interesting in a way. Two terms were created by Mike: "flying squeezes" and "superman". These two terms are basically describing the same movement due to the tight and awkward nature Pippikin - put your hands above your head, bend your knees, then jump (or fly) into the tight squeezes side-ways as far as you can. Then, try your best to push forward, ask for help if you get stuck (not for the first person though). It was also the first time I saw Olaf getting stuck in a cave, and he even said "Oh my god" and a four letters word begin with "s" and end with "t". He described the way out of Pippikin as horrible.

Back to the bottom of the sixth pitch, being a under average size caver (skinny and not very tall), I decided to prusik up this 4.5m short pitch first, followed by Mike and Olaf. This proved to be a wise decision later as Olaf was the tallest among the three of us. At the top of the sixth pitch was a tight rift that ended in a small chamber with formations. Then the rift kept going for about 50 metres till a small pool was reached. Then there was a very interesting climb - three foot loops made by slings and ropes hanging from the ceiling, 1 metre above ground. After Mike and Olaf joined me, I stepped into the foot loop and tried to see what was ahead of us. A stooping passage with a low ceiling, not very inviting but it was the way on. After several attempts using my hand jammer, I eventually got into the stooping passage and moved forward. Then I saw the rope of the fifth pitch. Olaf needed Mike to give him a push so that he could get into the stooping passage. Once Olaf was at the bottom of the fifth pitch, I started prusiking again. It was only 3 metres and a junction was reached. I climbed into a crack on the left - where I saw the rope of the forth pitch. It was funny in a way at this moment. The only motivation for me to move on was curiosity - I wanted to see how bad the next section would be.

The forth pitch was straight forward; 8m prusik into a short aven, but immediately after this was another 5.4 metres rift climb. This was rigged in a very interesting way: A huge foot loop made by more than 15 slings hanging down from a metal bar jammed against two walls, a hand line with an unnecessary knot in the middle, and another rope rigged as re-belay connected to the forth pitch. I SRTed the first section of this 5.4 metres rift climb to the metal bar, climbed up and stood on it. In front of me, at my eye level, I could see a tight passage going 30 degree up the slope. I "superman"ed myself side-ways into it with my SRT kit attached to the rope, and found out it was hopeless and not helpful at all - the rope was not under tension and there were no foot holds I could push myself forward. To make things worse, I had my tackle bag hanging below me and partially stuck. After struggling for a while, I eventually found a flake of rock so that I could push myself forward. Then my Croll got stuck. I could see the end of the squeeze so I manned up and gave myself a final push, then popped into the chamber. Just round the corner was the rope of the third pitch.

Olaf was the next who did the rift climb. I suggested him to pass me his tackle bag, so he threw it half way into the tight passage. I went in again head first and just managed to reach it and reversed back to the chamber. I sat in the chamber for quite a while only hearing some painful noises. I then saw Olaf's helmet half way in the squeeze and he was not going anywhere. He got his foot loop and hand jammer tangled and got stuck sideways in the middle of the squeeze. There was nothing Mike could do below him - he tried to pull the rope Olaf was attached to, but only made things worse by pulling Olaf back down the squeeze. So, I used a sling and Olaf attached it to his harness. I pulled the sling in an angle of 45 degree, and at the same time, Olaf tried to push himself forward. It worked but in return Olaf dropped one of his wellies down on Mike's head. So, Mike needed to do the rift climb and rescue Olaf's welly at the same time. He did so by attaching the welly to his chest harness upside down. The welly was safely secured, but the only disadvantage was that his jaw was constantly hit by the bottom of the muddy welly. Before Mike "superman"ed himself into the tight squeeze, he threw the welly and his tackle bag to me half way into the squeeze. Eventually, all of us made it to the bottom of the 15 metres third pitch. It was 21:30, two and a half hours since we were at the bottom of the sixth pitch.

At the top of Third pitch, there were two ways on, either a traverse across the pitch or follow the crawl. I went to explore the crawl while later Mike traversed across the pitch. The crawl didn't go anywhere, but Mike found the rope of the second pitch by going through a horizontal squeeze. Olaf waited for me at the other side of the pitch as he needed some help to pass the horizontal squeeze - using my head as a foot hold. At the top of the second pitch, there was another constriction. It was a short squeeze very similar to the 4.5 metres rift climb. Olaf again needed somebody to step on, and obviously I was that person again. As this constriction was tighter than I expected, it took me four attempts to get through. First attempt, I "superman"ed myself with full SRT kit hoping that I could get through, but I got stuck. Olaf tried to use a sling to pull me out of it, but it was painful and I gave up. Second attempt, I took off my cows tails, hammer jammer and foot loop, but got stuck again. Then, I took off my Croll and Torse. I got stuck again with the harness. Eventually, I took off the whole SRT kit and it worked.

After this tight constriction was a climb through a window into a chamber, then another short tube 2 metres above ground, that popped out directly on top of the 12m deep, blind Cellar Pot. Olaf was in front of me, and we passed the tangled SRT kits to each other through those constrictions and across Cellar Pot. After another short crawl, we were at the bottom of the first pitch and Mike was already out in the fresh air. The first pitch looked extremely inviting after all those tricky climbs and tight squeezes. Olaf prusiked the pitch while I was putting on my SRT kit. At the top of the first pitch I could finally feel the fresh air again. It was around quarter past eleven, so it roughly took us four hours to finish all the six pitches of Pippikin. Olaf took a photo of us at the Pippikin entrance, just to show that we survived the challenge, and we got back to the farm at 23:55, only 5 minutes before our call out.

The next day, nobody went caving except for Olaf and Rosa, who had a short trip down Bull Pot of the Witches.