Depth through thought

OUCC News 25th May 1994

Volume 4, Number 23

DTT Volume 4  index

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page


Some date changes for your diaries. This Saturday (28th May) is a gear mending session. This Sunday (29th May) is the punt party. 11th/12th June is a Gower weekend.

Dragon Van Man is opening a caving shop in Abercrap (close to OFD) sometime in the next two or three months

Expedition News

BCRA membership and Insurance BCRA membership (allowing cheaper insurance and entry to the BCR \conference) costs #15 and is available from Bryan Ellis General Administrator, 20 Woodland Avenue Westonzoyland, Bridgwater TA7 0LQ. He's put some membership application forms in the post and they should be here soon. If your desperate to join today you can mail him directly, or just wait until I get the membership forms through.

On a general insurance note I have been asked to circulate the following information. Bryan is going to be out of action for a couple of weeks so Peter Coven is going to be handling the BCRA insurance he can be contacted at (0543)251791. Peter can not handle credit card sales. The completely adequate Jim

Dan -Yr-Ogof

I was woken at around six by heavy rain and dozed for the next three hours listening to the varying intensity of the downpour. Songs, champagne & strawberries had long since expired, Sunday morning, and the prospect of a flooded out Dan- Yr-Ogof seemed likely. Breakfast moved slowly, another trip down OFD didn't seem much of an incentive to get moving. But then the Dragon Van Man reckoned it might still be on, and Martin Hicks had left Cardiff so we cheered a little, piled ourselves into the cars and rushed over to Penwylt only 15 min late.

Martin, Wlodek and Gareth (Jones) were waiting, A quick change, a bit of paper work, and we drove across the valley in wetsuits. Showing no fear to the dinosaurs, we headed in, no doubt impressing the tourist with our proper cavers kit. Leaping into the 1st lake proved the ineffectiveness of a ventilated wet suit. Open crotch may be construed as sex, but as a wave of chill water passed up my body I felt anything but. Sara was experiencing similar problems with Tony's wetsuit, so our progress through the lakes was fairly slow. Once beyond Boulder Chamber we started to pick up speed. We shot through the long crawl, and tussled with the wobbly chain ladder into Gerard Platten Hall. Pretties upstream, but we were off down stream and into the lower series. We slowed again at the waterfall climb at the start of the Bakerloo series, but were soon stomping along phreatic passage, drawn on by the sound of a roaring stream. A large stream poured out of an impenetrable slot into the deep pool of the Washing Machine. After inspecting the washing instructions Wlodek plunged in, many followed, then whooping and hollering we charged off down the black scalloped phreatics of the Bakerloo Line.

Mazeways duck lay at the bottom of a small hole, three inches of air space in deep water, a very intimidating wallow then out into deeper water. And Mazeways yet more phreatic passage swooping up to sandy passages and down to pools and sumps. Wlodek was beginning to enjoy wetsuits and deep water, he disappeared off to find a sump he could free dive. The rest of us returned through the duck and Wlodek joined us. A quick stomp down Thixotropic Passage and a squeeze through the Camel and we were in the bottom of the Abyss.

While Martin and Tim went off to push another few feet of Suicide Alley, the rest of us set about a combined tactics assault on the climb out of the abyss. Wlodek walked up it, I went for it only to find myself hanging from a knotted rope on a smooth climb with my feet out of the footloops. Feeling frightened and stupid I scrabbled up to safety, clawing myself over the edge gasping and sobbing. Chris, Sara and Steve got up with various degrees of ease. Gareth however chose the slightly epic option. Martin and Tim caught us up and we headed through Avalanche Chamber and north to the rising. Finely scalloped traversing passage, interspersed with boulder aven chambers finally lead to a lofty shingle floored streamway with the water emerging from a beautiful sump. A chain ladder leads on from here into The Great North Road and beyond to the Far North. But we were heading out. The Green Canal was too much fun to be cold, after a short climb down and a Hakka I was warmed up.

A sandy and bouldery passage followed, and then we stumbled into Cloud Chamber, falling silent, lights playing on the clusters of straws and stal vaulted across the roof. A difficult place to be, at once confirming how our lives should be lived, and an awful, timeless indifference. How fine it is, how privileged we are to have reached the end of pleasure.
Jim Ramsden

Suicide Alley

Why risk spoiling an excellent sporting trip down DYO? Curiosity I suppose. Last time I went down DYO (probably the nicest cave in the country) Nig Rogers persuaded me and several others to carry large quantities of scaffolding pole and other shoring material. It occurred to me to ask why. "we've got an excellent lead called Suicide Alley, right off the Abyss, but it needs shoring up" Nig replied. Well that's just not good enough, I thought, and probed him further about the place after the trip (after all, being forced to carry scaffolding through the Long Crawl deserves an explanation). Nig referred me to his article in the SWCC Newsletter of 1993, and said if I ever wanted to help push the place I'd be welcome. And so my curiosity grew.

It seems to have been Martin Hicks' fault, the name that is. So I asked him to show me the place last week end whilst the others were scrabbling up the climb from the Abyss. Curiously, he left me at a corner not far into the crawl, and pointed. "Suicide Alley's in there. I'll wait for you." "Why, isnt there any room to turn round?" "Oh yes, plenty". So set off. Another corner followed immediately, and then two squeezes in a bedding plane. Nothing serious though. Then I emerged from the bedding, and was in the start of boulder filled rift. "I'm through the squeezes, Martin". Faintly, "just follow the bang wire", he replied. I did. Up through boulders to a fairly awkward corkscrew squeeze, and things were starting to look loose. But the wire continued, so so did I. Soon I was in a rift chamber full of rocks: horridly recently fallen rocks. Up a short climb, onto more rocks. Wobbly ones. But here the bang wire ran out. No shoring material here after all. No one had been back since we carried the stuff in last year!

Now it was getting interesting. Ahead was a boulder choke squeeze that I took to be the thing Dai Hopkins had passed three years ago, but had never returned to (you can read about that in the SWCC report). Apparently he had entered the start of a stream passage, started a rock fall, reached a tight corner, and turned back. Gingerly I poked my head into the choke. Hmm. But I could hear the stream beyond, and the thought that only one person had seen the stream before was too much. Helmet and belt off, and inched my way into the choke, trying not to touch anything at all. Then my head was out into clean washed passage with the stream gurgling away to the right. As I popped out, and attempted to turn the corner carefully, it proved impossible to avoid touching anything. My shoulder nudged a perched boulder, and it toppled round my head. Oh I thought. Bigger than a breadbox. I mean Breadbin. But I was through the psychological barrier.

Sure enough the rift continued, clean washed and noisy with the stream. A 3 metre climb made a little waterfall, and then further rift to an unpleasant little climb up under perched boulders with a big notice prominently displayed saying "Don't touch". More rift, and above a much wider section allowing me to see into the boulder source. Up there, 5 metres above, the rift must widen out underneath some humungous boulder choke. Best not look up I thought.

Then I reached a tight corner in the stream. This was surely it. The limit of exploration. I climbed up in the rift a little, and squeezed round the corner. More stream passage, wider this time. Fresh, sharp, brittle. Pleasure. I walked on for several metres, then up a wider watery climb and suddenly I was in a sizeable aven-cum-pothole. The stream poured off a ledge about 4 metres up, so I climbed up and looked in. Boulder choke again. In fact the whole place was roofed by boulders. I had gone perhaps 10 metres beyond the previous limit. The end of pleasure.

For now anyway. Perhaps I could have pushed on up the stream: it seemed feasible, but I hadn't looked too carefully. Safety was elsewhere, and I'd been gone long enough, hours it seemed. I forced myself to do the boulder squeeze very slowly, everything very slowly in fact. When I emerged, Martin was waiting, and the others were still half way up the climb from the Abyss. I wonder how long I had really been. I felt numb with the ebb of adrenalin. Time for a dunking in the Green Canal.
Tim Guilford

Fancy the Berger?

Paul Cooper was in Grenoble recently visiting Graham Naylor, along with Richard Gregson. They booked the Berger on behalf of OUCC for (I think) July 1996, but I don't think anyone in OUCC knows about this yet. Paul asked me to pass the message on. Graham created some OUCC headed notepaper just specially to make the booking...! Graham will know all the details and is the man to consult, and to blame.
Tom Houghton