Depth through thought

OUCC News 27th April 1994

Volume 4, Number 20

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The Health and Safety Executive are, it seems, going to insist that from next year University Expeditions will have to certify that they are trained adequately in expedition first aid. This seems a good spur for us to get our act together in advance, and get as many people as possible going on expedition some experience. First, we are going to organise a FA workshop/course. Second, there will be a full practice rescue in the Mendips. Please please please support these initiatives, even if you aren't coming on expedition.

Speaking of rescues, you will all be pleased to hear the John Vernon recovered very quickly after his unpleasant experience in Daren Cilau two weeks ago, in which the Gwent CRO demonstrated their adeptness for fast, efficient, appropriate, and, perhaps above all, cheerful response to a night time rescue call-out. Many thanks to all those who lost sleep that night.

Expedition Fever...

Yes, once again expedition fever is griping OUCC. In a few weeks, the Big Red Happy van will be loaded up with lots of gear and cavers and be driven south where new and exciting discoveries await.

Money matters.

For those of you who haven't paid your deposit, now is the time, a cheque for 125 pounds made payable to La Verdelluenga 94 will do very nicely indeed. Of course OUCC expeditions offer many opportunities to spend money. You've earnt it, why not spend it on yourself before the government snatches away an even bigger hunk. Buy lots of new shiny gear. Gavin has got lots of catalogues for various suppliers, who are prepared to give us huge discounts on a wide variety of loverly speleotoys.

Not only will OUCC expeditions help you spend money but we can offer plenty of opportunities to claw some money back. Two key opportunities are; 1) A C Irvine fund, this is for anybody within four years of matriculation, specifically for expeditions to mountainous areas, in general all who apply tend to get money so application forms, and notes on how best to fill them in will be available from Jim very soon. 2) JCR travel funds, as previously mentioned, many JCRs have travel funds, the only way to find out about them is to ask, but ask soon.


Two Major training events are in the pipeline: The Mendip Bit. we plan to have a multi- expedition-feature style weekend in Mendip. This will include Rescue practice, and survey practice in genuine new bit of cave.
First aid Training. Working on the principle that its better to have as much first aid training as possible, (some is better than none, more is better still) we will be organising a first aid course specifically tailored to the needs of expedition type injuries. details to be announced. That's all from me for now.
Jim (deeply dippy)

Gear order

The deadline for gear orders is next week, so please get your forms in to me by then; if you can get them in earlier it would help. If you haven't got a form yet, please let me know. Gavin Tel: [2]83603(W); 59716(H). E-mail gavin.lowe@ox.comlab

Library news

Most of the library is now back on shelves at Steve & Michelle's house. Some boxes still need to be moved down from the attic. The library contents need cataloguing - the old card index is incomplete and rather out of date. OUCC members are welcome to come and browse. We are missing quite a few of the later (1987 on) Expedition log books. Some were borrowed by proc writers and the like. Can everyone please check ? These are important archive material.
Steve Roberts

Steve in Mexico: Easter 1994

8.5 kilometres of passage were found. Steve got caught in a flash flood and was lucky enough to get away with it; he was in one of the three short sections of a 12km long cave that did NOT flood to the roof. On emergence he went to see some pyramids and to the beach. Caving somehow did not appeal. More on this "in depth" later.

The caves in Mexico, at least in the Cuetzalan area, are rather like OFD crossed with Langcliffe. Except they are hot enough that an alpinex is quite enough to wear; sweating is not optional. The caves are very big, very pretty and spectacular: some pretty hairy boulder hopping, traversing and climbing is needed, as the caves were rigged on the "if you're not 'ard, you shouldn't have come" principle.
Steve Roberts

Vercors 1994

We left a wholly foul Britain and were spirited across the channel by Es and the Van Rouge. Equipped with swimming costumes, a rubber dinghy and sundry caving items, we set off for the Vercors in search of fun and vin rouge. We visited Graham in Grenoble: "It snowed last night, but it will probably all have gone by the time you get there." Mais non, it snowed on us on the way up to the massif, and then just about every day for the next week. The Vercors en neige is a place of beauty; we tried very hard to go caving in it. The first day, the first party set off in search of cave. They got as far as a road with a blockage de neige, so gave up and went cross-country skiing instead. Team Grotte de Gournier did better, and got as far as the man at the entrance lake. "Monsieur, ou est le bateau?". "le bateau, c'est vous". "Oh". Returning avec bateau, and watched gravely by 20 tourists, Urs, Tony and James found it impossible to scull the "Poisson d'Avril with anything approaching dignity. Climbing up beyond the lake, a dry fossil gallery led off. This is similar in principle to the London Underground, but incredibly beautiful. The streamway vert beneath it was the finest anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, with the large catchment area buried under a couple of feet of melting snow, neither this nor any of the following trips felt like following the streamway for very far.

Trou qui Souffle swallowed lots of people over most of the week because (a) we could usually drive near to the entrance, (b) it appeared flood resistant and (c) it had a nice name. The nearby Saints de Glace also had a nice name, and the entrance was eventually reached after three abortive attempts. Above it, a large sign read: "Danger. Passage Interdit". At least on Thursdays, and possibly on other days too. The frostbitten prospective cavers needed no further encouragement, and this, the fourth attempt, was also abandoned. One day, an obese homme de neige speleologique appeared in the front garden of the gites. (The gites, incidentally, was ace, except for the rather subtle location for the HOT WATER switch.) A passing St Bernard, aka 'le speleodog' came and made friends. The penalty he paid was to follow a 20km cross-country skiing outing, by which time he was in need of rescue from his owner, who eventually obliged by taking him away.

The final cave visited was the Grotte de Bournillon, or at least the fossil bits above the huge river. The river was apparently impressive, rolling large boulders along with it. The 'dry' fossil passage also had an impressive river in it, which caused some thought. It was time to drive home: but first, it was time to dig the van out from the final deep fall of snow. The Vercors and its caves are beautiful. The snow deflected us towards more of a skiing than a caving holiday, but we had fun.
Chris Densham (SpeleoDunker)

Dangling in Dip (part II)

As decided in the pub after our previous trip we returned to dip cave the next weekend with the NUCC scaling poles to practice that long forgotten art of aven climbing; maypoling. We hefted the six 2m long poles to the entrance getting a few bemused looks en route. I struggled to lower them down the pitch three at a time while Mark hid at the bottom. I descended and peered around in the gloom. We only had zooms for light as carbide is virtually impossible to buy here, so having just left a very bright sunny Australian day we were staggering and stumbling barely able to see at all. We strung the (heavy) poles between us and lurched towards the 5th series of Dip cave. It was lucky it wasn't a long way from the pitch because it took enough grumbling and stumbling to get them as far as we did:- BANGGG! - "slow down I can't see!" - CLANGGG! - "soddit!"- slide - stumble - DONGGG! - "OUCH!". Well I'm sure you get the picture. It didn't take us long to reach our destination ad we soon had four of the poles assembled (all we needed as it happened) and wibbled and wobbled the heavy 8m section into place (in retrospect I definitely recommend more than two people for this). We belayed the pole and Mark headed up the ladder we'd attached to it into the little passage. He made a belay and I followed up into....
a) Caverns measureless to man?
b) 1000's of metres of high level decorated passage?
c) Approx 15m of crumbly passage with dangling calcited tree roots and washed in soil?
You guessed right, it was c)! Ho hum, well half the fun is in the trying I reckon!

ps apparently there is a 100m aven that needs climbing in Wyanbene cave, now where's that Bosch drill?
Sherry Mayo

Mendip Map Review

The Ordnance Survey continues to expand its larger area 1:25000 maps to cover more limestone areas. A new addition is the Mendips. Two maps Mendips East and Mendip West are now available ($4.50 each at Blackwells) Mendip East goes way beyond Stoke St Michael and down into the Somerset Levels, the dividing line is close to MNRC (marked on the map). quite a few non showcaves are marked (GB, Eastwater and Cuckoo Cleaves, thanks to the efforts of OUCC is now firmly on the map) but errors occur, Charterhouse Cave is marked as Tynings Farm Swallet. Another irritation is the western boundary of Mendip west, this is a few hundred yards west of the summit of Wavering Down, so the map misses out a large chunk of West Mendip Way. Nonetheless a useful pair of maps for locating caves, sorting out new and interesting footpaths, and bridleways.
Jim Ramsden