Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th October

1994 Volume 4, Number 28

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Well, its all about to start again. So, take a deep breath, muster all your enthusiasm, and prepare to have your love of Swildon's bludgened senseless by the novice season. In this DTT, Jim's summary of some of the summer's momentous events, and reports on renewed exploration here. Oh, and it finally looks as if Dave Bell's engine is going to be removed from the hut area (many thanks to Connie Samson, and none to Dave by all accounts).

La Verdelluenga 1994

1994 proved to be another successful year of exploration in the Picos De Europa. As the 1993 expedition, Julagua '93, drew to close a small scale reconnaissance team carried out a series of prospecting trips in the Top Camp area. They found that the very low snow levels allowed access to previously impassable caves. Several very promising sites were noted. La Verdelluenga '94 planned to return to these sites and explore many more caves that we felt sure would no longer be blocked by snow and ice near the surface. However, the winter of 1993-94 proved to be very severe, and although followed by a very hot spring and early summer, many of the sites we had planned to explore were still blocked with snow when we arrived in July 94. The one cave that was still open, F64, was a going concern. As several members of the expedition were only in Spain for the first two weeks groups rapidly pushed into the cave.

The entrance is located at about 1960 m on the NW shoulder of La Verdelluenga. A very convenient 20 minute walk from our camp at the Snow Pole. The cave starts as a series of friendly pitches dropping down about 150 m. At the bottom of Harmless the Fierce Ladies of Cannock were met, beyond a 7 m pitch "Hlegless", Their Sisters. A climb up beyond here lead to phreatic tunnels which ended in a boulder choked area. The severity of the squeezes and the fear involved in pushing a virgin boulder choke slowed exploration in F64. Gavin used a scientific, survey based, approach to search for a squeeze bypass, while Tony embarked on a series of solo pushing trips to the end of the cave. Meanwhile the larger, more fearful expedition members set about finding a less scary and more sensibly proportioned cave. C8 aroused a lot of interest, two pitches lead to a boulder choke, The Nasty Bit, over the top of a 50 m pitch. Wlodek re-engineered this by dropping most of it down the shaft. Below the Nasty Bit the pitch opened out. Unfortunately, the strong draught that had been blowing into the cave up to this point disappeared into one of many possible high windows.

While digging operations were undertaken at the bottom of Hot and Steamy, heroically reckless bolting escapades proceeded overhead to try and find which window was the way on. Returning from one such trip another cave was found C9 (latter shown to be C3). Rocks, large rocks, bounded down the shaft for 12 sec. This was big stuff. At the bottom of the entrance pitches (-110 m) the passage narrowed briefly, and cavers were sucked through the Vacuum Cleaner. Big pitches followed, and although the way on at streamway proved to be too tight, at high level, a way on was found back down to the streamway and more fine pitches. At the bottom of the Entertainer (60m) things took a serious turn, no passable way on could be found, and the bottom of the pitch was overshadowed by a 20 m high wall of loose pebbles and bungalow sized pebbles. A 35 m traverse over the top of the Entertainer, 80 m up, gave a drop onto the boulder pile.

Now the way on leads down The Defenestrator, passing the Meat Cleaver on route. a series of tight rifts and squeezes lead to the head of a 30 m pitch, The Klingon. On the final pushing/surveying trip the pitch was dropped and the streamway beyond explored to a nice sandy floored inlet passage, a campsite for 1995, at -490 m. In F64 Tony's efforts in the boulder choke were rewarded with a fine rift passage this dropped steeply down a series of thirteen pitches in Zodiac Rift, ending at -430 m, in a choked chamber. Adding in the inlet on the entrance pitch, F64 has a vertical range of about 450 m. The draught had been lost somewhere on the last three pitches, so the F64 team are as confident as the C3 enthusiasts of further gains in '95.
Jim Ramsden

Expedition Report

The expedition report is coming along nicely. There are some big gaps due to lack of info on the minor caves. So if you have got the bearing of F74 to La Verdelluenga, I need to know. If anyone wants to make any further contributions to the report can they let me (Jim "he needs discipline") know, soonest.

BCRA Conference Harper Adams College, Newport, Shropshire.

With John Wilcock on the organising committee, OUCC had someone on the inside. Thus we were poised to storm the BCRA Conference, and come away with lots of goodies and huge bucketful's of kudos. As it transpired it was fortunate that we did turn up in large numbers, we were by far the biggest club contingent at the conference, and were responsible for 90% of the dancing, squeezing, bragging etc. We were unable to carry off any photographic prizes, although James came away with a raffle prize when Tim played the 'My mates got the ticket... but he's not here" stunt; hurray!


Paul Mann; Botswana A 30-45 min talk on the Botswana expedition, He was cut short so the next lecture could start on time. The subsequent lecture then under ran by 15- 20 min. Running short of time Paul had to shoot through his slides, he wasn't helped by the faulty projector in the lecture theatre which bedevilled most lectures in this theatre.

Tim Guilford; History of OUCC in Spain With state of the art visuals and a strong story line, Tim provided one of the best talks of the weekend. Despite running in direct competition with the Mexico presentation Tim filled the lecture theatre.

Jim Ramsden; La Verdelluenga '94 Backed up with the pick of everybodies photographs, and with surveys drawn up in super fast time Jim was able to give an good overview on an expedition that had returned to Britain less than four weeks earlier. "How did you manage to make it sound like you'd actually visited these places?...."

Other highlights included Tim Nichols et al getting down to -905 m including a 165 m freehang, the cave is still going strong with a howling draught. The south Wales round up was good fun, three very enthusiastic presentations, lots going on (M Farr is unsane, but entertaining). The Mendip Round-Up was saved from a shambles by a good slide show on digging with a Hymac. OUCC's Mad Cow inlet looks like being one of the larger finds under the Mendips this year. 09 Overall, another fun conference, dogged a little by technical problems. I was left with the impression that the local caver's organisation was all that stood between success and chaos caused by the BCRA ' oh its all gone wrong ho ho'. So congratulations are due to everyone in Shropshire, many thanks.
Jim Ramsden

Mendip: the comfy bits.

Pauline and Tim visited Dallimore's last weekend, to work again on the inlet squeeze first attempted by Tim and Tony months ago, driven on by a tantalising glimpse into an aven beyond. The position for chiselling is almost impossible, but this time we took technology. Armed with Bosch drill and new feathers and wedges for splitting rock (Jrat or Dragonman, about A38 each set, and you need 3), we sawed our way through the roof constrictions. These things really work! Although the battery gave out after three and a half holes, we still managed to split off two large lumps of rock, and insert Pauline sufficiently far into the squeeze to confirm that there is a good space beyond (I couldn't get as far, so will have to take her word for it). We'll be back...

Further down the cave, we checked out Curious Love. It was, unexpectedly, still easily passable despite the winters of lack of attention, but is was also, expectedly, half full of water. Nevertheless, I think the prospects are good. An echo comes from beyond the squeeze, which is probably only flooded because of a silt bank beyond (Dynorods?). The roof constrictions should be destructible with the feather and wedge system, so perhaps we can now do it without relying on a friendly, and very thin, bang merchant. We'll be back...

Ore's Close Folly Mine proved even comfier. After buttering up the new residents of the farm (by waxing lyrical about Dallimore's cave, and how much we'd found, and would you like a copy of the's one I just happened to have with me), the very friendly John Mathews mentioned a hole in his back lawn.... "Well, actually, that's what we really came to talk to you about..." No problem. So, down we went, to much excitement from the younger sections of the Mathews' family (who had already tried dropping lights and buckets and various objects in what they thought was a well). The entrance is still dangerously loose, and great care is needed to ensure that the ladder avoids the worst bits, and that no one else is in the 100ft or so of entrance series. But the section that fell on Jenny last time has now finished falling pretty much, and seems less worrying. But fuck is it horrid and muddy and cold and loose. Pauline had soon had enough (well, it was her birthday), and we escaped (gingerly) after reaching the top of the second pitch (which needs a second bolt - who on earth rigged the ladder on just one?). Nevertheless, I'm sure there are plenty of comfy bits just round the next corner, and anyway I have persuaded John Mathews that we are going to survey and photograph it (before it collapses). We'll be back... Well, I will. Maybe.
Tim Guilford

Digging in Daren

Having shunned the idea of a nice comfy trip down Dallimore's, Gavin went with James to his Frosty Passage dig in Daren last weekend. Gavin tells me that Frosty looks very unpromising. So, they tried looking at Red Roof, a section of passage up a rope climb reached near the entry point to Red River. Gavin says there's a nice little dig there... I'm sure he'll be looking for volunteers...
Tim Guilford