Depth through thought
OUCC News 28th April 1999
Volume 9, Number 8
|DTT Volume 9 index|
After a seeming lull in Draenen activity, last Sunday saw a photo trip ruckle in the Wessex series, with myself, Ben, Lou and Lev flash clashing with Ian W-J, Dave Barret and others. The aim was to take video and stills of the spectacular anthodite chamber, and of Yanto's grotto (which we never made - you know how photo trips are). It was a horrible trip out and we missed the pub, but thanks to all for their shivering help.
Feeling the lack of caving, I thought it was about time I went off to Mendip (where, oddly, I haven't been for some time) and did something or other. Since, in all my years of caving, I've never done Rhino Rift - the closest I've come was breaking the key off in the lock once - I thought that it might be a good idea to tick this one off.
So Jo and I had a lazy Sunday morning start, ambled down to Mendip, and then found we couldn't get the key at all, as all of Mendip's cavers were out searching for some old codger who'd got lost overnight about 40 miles away.Resigning ourselves to a long wait in the Hunters (oh dear), we went down to Bat Products where Tony Jarrett first of all sold me some NiCad cells for about £30, that I didn't really want any more but has asked him to get quite some time ago when my lights kept blowing up, and then told me that they found the bloke apparently asleep by a river bank, and so all of Mendip's cavers soon be flooding into the Hunters, and finding a key should be no problem.
Indeed it wasn't. Soon, Pete Bolt, Andy Cave, Angie Cave, and all kinds of others rolled up and regaled us with their usual wit and repartee. More to the point, we got a key to Rhino Rift.
As we got changed, the chap who lives in the house just down the road from the changing spot told us that someone there yesterday had had their car broken into and everything stolen, and said we should park down by his house - very welcome. The cave itself is indeed a rift. The initial gravelly grovel fairly quickly leads to a calcited shelf which drops away to the left down a slope to the first pitch. We had found out beforehand in the Hunters that Andy Sparrow had recently p-bolted the cave (I have a bolt topograph in a copy of the Wessex Journal, should anybody want it); however from the appearance of the p-bolts, Andy must have grown about two feet and become ambidextrous. It's a fair old stretch to most of the rigging points.
The first pitch is the one with the boldest take off - a traverse out along the left wall to a y-hang; this drops nicely to a re-belay or (in my case) deviation about thirty feet down, and then a straight drop to a sloping floor. Unfortunately, my estimate of how much rope would be needed to account for the rigging was out by about four inches. It's very frustrating swinging in the middle of a pitch unable, quite, to get any grip on the walls or the floor or anything, despite waving a sling about in vain attempt to lassoo something, anything, to pull in. I thought about just abbing off the end of the rope, but a look at the sloping and rather dubious floor, and the uninviting black space about 10 feet behind me, decided me that this wasn't the brightest idea in the world. I adjusted the knot in the end of the rope to be as a small as possible and as close to the end of the rope as possible, and with a bit of bouncing managed to get enough of a toehold to swing me backwards, forwards, backwards, and then land comfortably up the slope, running away from the black hole as fast as my little legs could carry me.
Jo re-rigged the top to pass a bit of rope forward, and then it was no problem to get to the bottom of the pitch series. The remaining bit of the cave is quite entertaining - from the number of loose rocks, it looks like not many people go down there. The last pitch is now non-existent. Digging has made it into a relatively straightforward climb down the left-hand side of the passage to the final dig and choke. The fourth pitch has a slightly interesting take off, calculated to force large amounts of water inside your clothing as you wriggle through the head of the pitch.
Next time there is a Mendip weekend, pack a few long ropes as well as the normal
"couple of ladders", and give it a try. It's a pleasant three or four hour
Sunday afternoon trip. Best done with no more than three people, though; while the hazard
from loose boulders isn't as bad as the guide book makes out, there are still enough loose
big bits of nasty at the head of the third pitch to be hazardous. Take a 45m rope for the
Steve "the older I get, the better I was" Roberts
Work is now underway to restore the chair's hat. Could anyone help by providing a teeny
on/off switch for the flashing bow tie, and one other similar gizmo (which might take a
bit more battery power to run)? Also someone (was it you, Jo?) offered a bat in lieu of
the missing crystal...is it still on offer? Thanks for any help on offer.