Depth through thought

OUCC News 26th January 1994

Volume 4, Number 11

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This week there are three caving reports all from new club members, and lots of news. So no space for me to commit editorial waffle.

Joan's address: is now 4, Honor(?) Close, Kidlington, OX5 2XL. Tel. 370009

Baby Photos: Next week's Wednesday meet. Come see Steve Roberts in sepia tones...

Horsley's Party: 29th January at 81 Blackthorn Court, Soham, Cambridge. All OUCC welcome. See Chris D.

Club Dinner: Will be on 12th March. See Jenny if you want to come.

Lost: Will Jeremy left his Petzl Foot Jammer and rope leg loops in Yorks. Anyone find them?

For Sale: For those first years out there who still need a furry suit I've got a couple of spares I'd like to sell (Unwanted Christmas presents). Almost new and virtually unused in either Green or Blue. very cheep and very warm (well hot!).
Honest Jim

Invite from Pivo:

I managed to get a possibility to go into the Szelek barlangja. Our friends from Kolozsvar expert six guys from Budapest. I phoned with one of them and he told me me I can call people from OUCC. (Most of us going to travel to Italy this term). So, I think three guys can come from OUCC, if anyone is interested.

The start would be on 19th (Saturday) from Budapest. We will go to Nagyvarad by bus and from there we will go to Sokolyos by train. The entrance of the cave is about 20 minutes walk from the railway station of Sonkolyos. Our camp will be in inside of the cave. We will arrive to Budapest on 26th (Saturday) or on 27th (Sunday) February.

This cave is the biggest cave of Romania. It is a very nice and various cave, with 4 levels. The first level is the active part of cave, there are many possibilities to push new parts by chimney- climbing. The other parts are fossil, with "much better formations than you will ever see in Britain" (I've stolen this sentence from last DTT).

Little Neath

Standing in the Welsh field I surveyed a stream, not your common or garden stream for this stream had a mission, to pour water down the entrance of Little Neath, for the enjoyment of Chris "The entrance is a leap of faith" Densham. Jump forward in time, and I am still standing in a Welsh field only a remarkable transformation has occurred. I am now wearing, a pair of Wellies (and a few other bits, and pieces). Boldly going where many ones have gone before, I stepped out into the stream, and slipped on the rocks (the hazards of caving). Having survived this I arrived at Chris's "Leap of Faith". Leaping was right out, but down on your knees was the order of the day, as Chris gleefully immersed himself in the chest high (i.e. knee deep) torrent and slid through the entrance, leaving Chris V. and myself staring in near horror. Believing the entrance series to be just a short one, I followed into the ground, and Chris then tried to follow feet first. The series steadily became worse, as first chin and then right ear were immersed, and the torturous passage sides closed in at customary right angle turns. Some time later the passage actually opened up to a comfortable streamway which we followed down to the canal, a wet crawl which Chris v. and I declined. Instead we saw the sights, sump 1, and backtracked to find the canal bypass. We found a side passage floored by gourpools which Chris D. decided was too nice to be the bypass, so we walked and crawled upstream, to another passage we had seen, but after much ado, it turned to be merely a way of going dryshod past a wet crawl. Back to the gour passage and lo and behold, it was the bypass.

The rest of the trip was just an easy scramble down to the end of the streamway, chocie break and back to the horrors of the entrance. Going upstream has a major disadvantage, as I discovered ware pours down the collar of your oversuit, making escape that little bit more unpleasant when wriggling ear deep in water with your light wrapped round something behind you, but never mind daylight was scented if not seen, and inevitable we emerged ready to face the WSG hut complete with pneumatic drill (alias Pete, resident snorer).
Alex Harding

Ogof Carno

For two days the word was never far away, hovering around the end of my tongue. CARNO. That two year old system of such legend and yore. The cave too seemed to call my name as we walked along the brick-lined adit. 50m, 100m, 150m, deeper and deeper into the mountain., 600m, 700m, 800m, and still it continued, 1000m, 1500m, the light from the entrance became dimmer and dimmer until all of a sudden, turning down to the right, we were in natural cave and the mile long beams of light disappeared from our sights. We crawled through a fair trickle of water to the top of the first ladder, and then on through Desperate Duck, Greasy Pot, Mud Silo, Worm Crawl. I tried to imagine the emotions of the first people down here finding the cave went on and on. Sasha had taught us to "Cave with Honour" and so it was just as well we didn't stay dry as I could keep my wife, kids, and children. We stopped for a rest and some speleo speak just before full moon crawl. After psyching myself up for a wallow in liquid mud, it soon became apparent that the crawl was bone dry. The hydrology of the system is fascinating, and seemingly almost random. The camp lay to the right, through Southern Discomfort, but we decided to go left and head north. The passage was now about 20m high as we found our way on, enjoying the mere experience of walking. Unsure of the way, I traversed along a slight rift to the top of an electron ladder. Down a 25ft inclined rift, I worked my way through a squeeze, and waited in darkness for the others. I was in Carno!

Tim pushed up a tricky little climb and eventually we followed him up into a huge boulder choke. Sasha looked confused as we all instinctively split up searching for ways on. I saw one and was sure it continued but the others were nowhere in sight. The whole area was metastable and I needed to be helped off a large boulder that shifted precariously as I put my weight on it. All around the evidence of recent impacts could be seen. Gavin giggling alerted our attention. He had found a freak formation, formed by a slab of rock only partially flaking off from the cavern roof. To the right of this a passage led on! Gavin called us to follow him through a crystal covered passage. No one had been here before. I was for the first time crawling through a slightly draughting passage of discovery. We came out in a bunker-shaped chamber with a mud floor about twice the volume of the hut. Again it was covered in selenite crystals (a transparent variety of gypsum and not gelignite as I first thought). They looked a bit like inch-diameter snowflakes that glistened in the light and were so frail that the painfully necessary act of breathing destroyed some of them forever. The passage led on at floor level into an already discovered boulder choke but any feeling of disappointment was overcome by an overriding feeling of elation. Of six billion people on this planet we had found something new, a respectable 110ft or so of virgin cave, with formations.

Ukey led us out as our thirst for beer grew ever stronger. We had been under for 8hrs to be rewarded with a much appreciated free meal from "Phil the Chippy". As I lay shivering in a blanket in the W.S.G. that night, I closed my eyes and could once again, slowly at first but then ever more clearly, see our selenite chamber. And as I listened closer still, blocking out the snoring and the rain, I could once again feel the silent calling of our cave.
Bill, your Inedible Equipment Officer.

A First Caving Experience

Feeling slightly jealous of an activity that took up Gavin's weekends and involved him having fun by putting himself into wet dark holes, I decided that I wanted to try this too. So one Saturday morning, we planned to go to Burrington Combe for a spot of caving. I'd borrowed a furry and oversuit, and we drove over to the Mendips. Having learnt already that "real" cavers strip off in the freezing cold in the middle of windy moors in order to change into caving gear, I was pleased when the car park emptied immediately after our arrival.

Feeling like a proper caver, I duly stripped off in the car park, hopped around trying to get my socks off while trying not to get my underpants dirty, promptly dropped the underpants on the muddy gravel anyway, and got into the furry suit. As I suspected, the furry suit didn't quite fit. "Oh dear" said Gavin. The crotch zip was no problem. The front zip was stubborn, but eventually yielded to Gavin's superior strength, which then left me wedged in more tightly than Roseanne Barr on the cover of February's Vanity Fair. Except for the velcro fastening over the tummy. Tummy 1, velcro 0. "Oh dear", said Gavin. So we managed to get me into the oversuit, completely abandoning the oversuit front zip, which still left a diamond shape of tummy peeking out. You should have seen it. It was hilarious! I lay back on the car seats and giggled and giggled, being less than no help to Gavin who was valiantly trying to put my socks and wellies on.

I tried lifting my leg up. I managed about a centimetre. "You're supposed to be able to "move" in this?", I asked? "Um, they loosen up whilst you're in there", said Gavin. I wasn't convinced. We stuffed a pink t-shirt of mine down my front to act as a tummy guard, put on the rest of the gear, and off we went. We went up to the front entrance of Goatchurch, and started in. Gavin explained that lots of people go down Goatchurch, so it gets quite worn, and a bit slippery. After sitting down rather rapidly, I agreed wholeheartedly with this description. The Giant's steps are just that. Giant. Gavin suggested I sort of slide down them. All riiight! I like sliding! We went round near the Back Entrance to the cave, and then there were lots more small downwards sections, which I had great fun sliding down. I discovered that being large has its advantages when going downwards, because my weight makes it easy for me to slide down, and my large well-padded thighs are pretty good as friction brakes against the narrow walls. I tried not to think about having to go back up the passages later, when the reverse is true.

I remember being quite impressed with the lighting. (Pat pat, good lamp post, Gavin.) Most of the chambers were smaller than I imagined the average chamber, but that meant that all of it was illuminated. I'd imagined the light just lighting up where you were pointing, and there being a big expanse of blackness everywhere else. By this point we'd got past the Boulder and Water chambers, and were at the Rabbit Warren. Gavin started crawling into a low passage and promptly dived round a corner and disappeared out of sight. After several assurances that it was definitely better to dive downwards headfirst for this section, I followed him, and found myself in the Drainpipe. Then what Gavin had shown me in the guidebook came back to me .... a very small phreatic (look, look, I learned a new word!) tube. Very small is a good description. Gavin whizzed along it and disappeared out of sight. Me, I told myself that I needn't get claustrophobic, because soon I'd get out of there into a chamber. I applied a bit of determination, and inched along, no, scrub that, millimetred along, and out the end of the Drainpipe. Sat down happily for a rest. Not a particularly pretty chamber, by any means, but any chamber that has a decent sitting spot in it can't be all bad. Gavin then tells me this is the end chamber, apart from a short drop from it that doesn't lead anywhere. What, no pot of gold? You mean I millimetred all the way along that stupid Drainpipe for this? Gavin then suggested we turn our lights off. That was interesting; he was quite right in that I hadn't been in total darkness before. Not much that one can say about it, really... it's... um... black. But then we found another use for the darkness......being just the two of you in a dark place far far away from everyone else is quite romantic, we

After being somewhat refreshed, we noticed that my tummy guard had changed colour. It was now red, but my tshirt is pink. Funny, that, I didn't remember seeing any red dirt in the Drainpipe.. Oops! My tummy guard had come off and it was my tummy that was red. Gavin had some sort of a blue hood with him so we used that as a tummy guard. Starting back, Gavin zoomed off with the retrieved tshirt, leaving me millimetring along behind him. Still claustrophobic in the Drainpipe, but I told myself that millimetring would get me out eventually. Besides which, being horizontal is a very comfy position in which to rest. Gavin, in the meanwhile, had decided that he could be of more help if he could see what I was doing, so he whizzed out of the Drainpipe, turned around, then zipped back again to meet me. He probably did a half somersault in the pike position with triple back flip while he was at it, too.

Once the Drainpipe was over, I was feeling happier. Then the climbing began. Although I'm no weakling and practise sports regularly, very soon my strength was no match for my weight. At that moment I would quite happily have swapped with Gavin - I give him my weight and he gives me his strength. A very fair deal! I would go up a passage first, so that if necessary, Gavin could give me a foothold. One passage I started going up, then stopped halfway up for a little rest. Gavin then says "I think maybe I can help you more if I get ahead of you". So I then start thinking about my next foot hold, but I only got so far as thinking "Ok. Right, now, where's my next footh-" when Gavin's whizzed down behind me, up a parallel passage, across the chamber above and down the passage I'm in, and is now standing just above me, asking me how I'm doing. Maybe Gavin's misnamed. He should have been called "Billy".

A few more climbs later, and my knees getting more sore, and we were at the last and smoothest climb. Next to no footholds that I could see. After a lot of huffing and puffing, I'm halfway up, and I ask which side of that rock we have to go. Gavin's not sure, so he whizzes up the right hand side of the slide using invisible footholds, checks that it's the left hand side we want, then comes back down again to behind me. All this is reminding me of the scene in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" where Roger is handcuffed to Bob Hoskins. Here's me huffing and puffing up the climb, while all the while Gavin can just whizz round me. He then gave me several footholds on the way up, which were very useful, and also very impressive - being able to whizz around cave passages fast is impressive, but not as impressive as supporting almost my entire weight by giving me a foothold from below. Back out into the midnight air, and the air smelt cool and sweet. I no longer had to battle with the furry suit and I was feeling relieved that I was out, and pleased that I had managed to do it. We trudged down a stream back to the car park and then collapsed quietly into the nearby cafe, before going back to Oxford and doing something else that I understand is traditional amongst cavers - PIZZA!

My impression of the experience was that apart from not being able to move properly and not being as strong as I would like, it was fun. I'm not going down another cave until I'm in a furry suit that fits properly, though. I was pleased that I actually managed to teach Gavin something: Do remember that failing to make sure a novice has kneepads on could result in them not being very pleased with you when they get purple knees afterwards. Particularly when that novice is your girlfriend and she doesn't feel very sexy with purple knees and calves, and therefore you get further deprived of an opportunity of going inside another wet dark hole later that evening.
Sharon Curtis