Depth through thought

OUCC News 4th August 1993

Volume 4, number 1

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This is DTT volume 4. Why? Because I forgot the last number of volume  3.  Well  why  not. Symptomatic, I suppose, of the psychological break with last term's events brought on by two weeks on expedition in the Picos (this is no idle jibe). So where better to start volume 4 than with a mid-expedition update of events from Spain, brought to you fresh (if such a thing were possible) by some of OUCC's flying oldies back from expedition this weekend. There's some news of caving in Britain too.

Expedition Update

Sistema Sierra Forcada

Part the First in Which Paul and Jim Find Out The Truth.
Something was definitely wrong with the 8/11 = Pozu Cabeza Julagua assignment;

  1. Dave was convinced he was right.
  2. According to the survey the SIE would have to have rigged pitches 1-5 as 3 very strange drops to get to Peanut Crawl and then give up.
  3. It was too far from Vega Ario and Cabeza Julagua to make sense.
  4. Pozu Cabeza Julagua was surveyed in '79, 8/1 1 was marked SIE 84.
So Paul put a postulated cross on the map on the western ridge of Cabeza Julagua. We then waited for a particularly wet and windy zero vis sort of day to go look for it. A fabulous plan, we crapped out and were sat in the refugio by 3pm. A few days later in much better weather, we set out again to do some shaft bashing in the Cabeza Julagua, Cabeza Muxa areas (yes all of areas 11, 13, and 4. Sneaks that we were we had decided to hunt for Bafuno Canal de Texa in the unstated hope of catching Pozu Cabeza Julagua unawares. Cave Finding Frenzy. Within a few yards of 8/11 we found untold goodies; Cock a hoop! With four new entrances to brag about we headed of to Pozu Cabeza Muxa to see if we could find the Bufuno. All we managed to find was a couple of big sheep shelter caves with no going leads. Time marched on we were getting
close to our call out time, so we headed round the 1/4 depression and headed for the col to the South East of Cabeza Julagua. The route got pretty hairy and we were forced round to the summit of Cab Jag and popped out onto the ridge a few yards from the summit, we noticed a rifty looking cleft, it was painted (faded), had some rusty bolts in. This was Pozu Cabeza Julagua, accept no alternative.

Part the Second in Which Rob and Jim Achieve Depth Through Wandering Around on the Surface
Recovering from a 12h+ survey pushing trip to the lower streamway of 8/11 I resolved (well AlkaSeltsered) to free the world from the tyranny of Wet Cheeks and Codiene Phosphate by finding a lower entrance, and I wanted to become dead famous as well. Tony had been getting wired up in the rifts chattering about leaves and grass roots. Taking some rough survey data I figured that the end of the know cave should be 300m North of the entrance. Compass Clino Tape, Rob and me headed north from 8/11. After an hour or so we reached our end point, before we started surveying a grid we had a quick look for caves. Five minutes later we had another fistful of entrances:

We continued into Vega Mohandi, crossed the spring line, and followed the stream to a pretty little sink in the bottom. Back to Ario via the refugio Chug-a-Lug.

It was pretty obvious from the data that 8/11 wasn't going to get any deeper, the mud sump was at the same level as the spring line and a few metres away. So much for the £800 worth of fluoroscein. We did use special stuff not the commercial available crap at £40/kg, or so it would seem (details in the Ario log for the gossip hungry...Ed).

Part the Last: An Overview of Systems
Sierra Forcada (NOT pron. Sarah Fuck Harder)

With all the high level stuff the Tony, Chris, Tim, and Rob have been furtling about in, plus the Map Room inlets the surveyed length should now comfortably exceed 2K.
Jim Ramsden

Hooting Dilophosaurs

Things were about all set up when Tony, Jim, Chris arrived at Ario (I arrived by separate post, via the Trea path thereby executing a perfect accountancy bypass and avoiding Lagos altogether). People had obviously worked hard, and the atmosphere at camp was great. Within a few days, it was becoming clear that 8/11, had reached its obvious terminal depth (though who knows, its a complex system), and was not actually Cabeza Julagua after all.  The REAL Cabeza Julagua is a finely decorated pit in with a couple of big pitches, and where Paul and I found about 50 metres of beautiful calcited new passage. But 8/11 rapidly blossomed into genuine system, reflecting OUCC's commitment to finishing the job properly. Gavin, Richard and Rob pushed the bottom entrance (found by Jim et all, making final surveying and photographic trips much easier, and providing Steve R and the Camp Hungary with the first opportunity for an excellent through trip. Steve P and I had much fun, however, bimbling in the boulders of another cave that Jim had found (bastard), and gone waooah! at beyond the first and lovely pitch (bastard).

This was Entrada del Raptor, the third entrance to Sistema Sierra Forcada. A horrible loose boulder slope led down to a squeeze onto a free-climbable rift, into a huge and horrible  loose boulder choke ("Landscape Gardening").  Once apparently free of the looseness, I traversed out to a lovely prominent spike to rig a ladder into the depths. Steve watched. I nudged the spike, just to be sure. It tumbled helplessly into the abyss. I froze. Steve watched. After much deliberation, the remains of the spike still appeared the soundest thing to rig the ladder from, so I did it. Steve watched. I climbed down. It held. "OK, Steve, come on down". To his credit, Steve did It, and we continued gingerly down through perched boulders to hit a streamway (now evidently the main source of water for 8/11). Lovely stuff, but gradually getting into classic Picos meandro. On reaching a nasty corner in the stream, I bottled out, and we returned to safety, buzzing and unbruised.

On the next trip, Tony and I surveyed down to the start of the nasty bit (sorry William!), and then pushed on. I pushed the corner which turned out to be a Z-bend requiring a tight three-point turn "Pmax"(so what's new). Things got better, then worse again (so what's new). Up to find a passable bit, then squirm into a popcorn rift followed by two nasty horizontal squeezes ("The Raptor"). Time to deploy the Seddon. A grunt. An Echo. A grunt. An Echo. A Hoot! He'd done it, and we were into big rifty passage going both ways. Hang on a minute, this is a bit muddy. Then, just round the corner a soot mark, a ladder, familiarity: wet cheeks rift. Well, at least we now had a system: would anyone do the through trip? Another Classic Picos cave. Tim Guilford

Expedition Facts

The atmosphere at Ario was excellent, with huge quantities of cave enthusiasm and little lassitude. Paul (el jefe) was doing a grand job, against odds. Everyone was having fun. Dave B and Sean were having less fun, trying to cave from Lagos with little support. They abandoned the expedition last week. Gavin was exceptionally cheerful, and was busy setting up Top Camp with Steve R and Richard: low snow makes many good entrances promising, so next year may concentrate here. The Hungarian for "Fuck you" and "Polsch Generator" is, curiously, the same word "Bustsmeg"

Swildon's Hole

Lesley, Rob, Paul & Jenny down Swillies On Saturday, two weekends ago, we left the drudgery of Oxford (work, millions of tourists, and grey, miserable, rainy weather) and drove merrily to the Mendip in search of something better. We finally got to the Hunters after having our patiences tested to their limits - it took us an hour and a half to get through Bath. After some grub and a beer we went underground. Nothing very exciting to report, but there were very few people down there, which was good. Everyone off` on their holidays perhaps. We wandered to sump 1. Rob and Paul went on to sump 2 while Leslie and I went off to look at Tratman's. On the way out, at the ladder pitch, our gear had been rigged by another party in a very dubious fashion. They hadn't found our tape (left at the bottom of our tackle bag) and had hung the tackle bag off the bolt at the top of the pitch, so we could use the bag to haul ourselves up at the end. But, instead of securing the bag to the bolt, they had simply looped one of its shoulder straps over the bolt. Not the perfect solution to the problem of how to make a tackle bag act as a tape.
We emerged from the (dry) entrance around 5 o'clockish, to be greeted by gorgeous, sunny weather. What a surprise. Drove back to Oxford, stopping at the White Hart, Fyfield, for a drink, and in Abingdon to drop Leslie off. Everyone had fun, and hopefully we will be seeing more of Rob (Ewing) and Leslie (from the Bradford) in the future.