Depth through thought

OUCC News 1st November 2000

Volume 10, Number 12

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At the end of this month there's a Wilderness lecture in Bristol given by Sid Perou on underground filming. I plan to go if anyone fancies organising a small club trip. We could stay at Lou's and be back on Thursday morning if people weren't keen to drive back after the lecture.

And what happened to trip reports of the yorks novice weekend?

Bonfire Party! 

This years OUCC bonfire party will be next Wednesday (8th November), at Anita and my house (52, Princes St). This is of course assuming our neighbour doesn't object to us having another fire on the spot where we knocked his fence down last time. Anita's volunteered to make some food, but bring along something to drink and something to explode (and no Lev I was referring to fireworks!). If anyone has any spare wood (e.g. old furniture, College Hall's tables, the floorboards from a room you don't use much, ... ) bring that as well and the bonfire will be all the better.

For those who don't know, Princes St can be found off of Cowley Rd, on the left next to the New Inn (about 5 mins walk from Magdalene bridge), and No 52 is on the left hand side about 150m along. 
John "watch that rocket" Pybus

OUCC Song Album 

The club plans to record an album of caving songs, especially those connected to the club, e.g. Yellow Van Speleos, A Boulderchoke, Cave of the Witch's Eye, Dallimore's.

If anyone is interested, and can play something or sing, the initial recording dates are this Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we hope to get the music done, and the singing will be recorded on Sunday. Hopefully we can use St Catz music room as the venue, but this is to be confirmed. We especially need good singers, something the club surely has in abundance! merrily, merrily, 
Rich Doyle

Suicro 2000 

Flying to County Clare in Ireland for this weekend seemed like a crazy enough idea to say yes to, and in the event is wasn't much worse than driving to the Dales. By 1 am on Saturday morning we were in the bar at the Bellbridge Hotel in Spanish Point drinking Guinness, surrounded by most of Ireland's cavers drinking Guinness, at the start if a SUICRO 2000, the annual Irish Symposium of drinking Guinness. Outside the rain lashed and a huge Atlantic sea pounded the cliffs below. Inside the symposium the atmosphere was as warm and friendly as its reputation suggested it would be.

SUICRO is the antithesis of the BCRA. Nothing much happens until around 7pm (which turns out to be drinking Guinness), which turns out to be 8pm, and then a relaxed evening of talks, raffles and video presentations rambles into the night. "When does the bar shut?", I heard one anxious English newcomer ask a conference veteran around midnight on Saturday, rushing for that final beer in a break between lectures. "Monday", came the answer.

John Gunn gave us a speleologenetic journey around the world. There were talks on Irish trips to Siberia (even the talk was laced with Vodka) and to the Pyrenees, and updates on Irish exploration. There were top slide and video presentations from Gavin Newman with spectacular pictures of the great crack in China, flooded stal chambers in the Yucatan, and a screening of his "extreme lives" film about caving in Cueva del Agua in the Picos. There was also much interest in Stuart France and Dave Gibson's latest array of LED Gadgets.

There's no entrance fee, but there's a definitely a three-line whip on buying T-shirts and raffle tickets from which the symposium is funded. And this is no ordinary raffle. With top prizes of free holidays, piles of caving equipment from Dragon, fleeces, Gore-Tex jackets, and even a live sheep, this turned into a mad spectacle as the organisers lobbed handfuls of goodies at those few in the audience whose numbers hadn't come up. I won a white Helly-Hanson thermal top. White!

Cave conservation issues are taken pretty seriously in Ireland, and whilst I ranted on about Wilderness preservation in Pogof Draene, there was much discussion of Clare's own current conservation priority: a plan to build a new show cave at Pol-an-Ionain, a chamber which houses Europe's longest stalactite which is not only of spectacular beauty but will also probably collapse when blasting starts (apparently it is close to critical mass for its roof connection).

Although Guinness seemed to be the major daytime activity for many, there were quite a few caving trips despite the abysmal weather. The caves of Clare are found in the stark beauty of the Burren, famous for its pavement landscapes, unique ecosystems, and ancient Dolmen. We did Polnagollum and Cullaun 2, supposedly the two driest options in the area (see Lou's report below). Both contain full-on river cave bashing in foaming floodwater. Well, you just have to trust the locals and enjoy the spectacular formations in the roof of these meandering canyon dominated systems as you rush past in a flurry of spray. Excellent sporting caving, and the potential for a drier spell is surely excellent. There's a well organised rescue system, lots of good pubs with live music in places like Doolin, and incredible hospitality. Perhaps we should have a club Easter trip to Clare? Special thanks to Tom (for picking us up), Barbara (for putting us up), and Mary (for putting up with us).
Tim Guilford


We scrambled down the large entrance pot of Pollnagollum in a hurry, trying unsuccessfully to reach the rock arch that would shelter us from the torrent of rain that was soaking us through before we even started. To the side a huge waterfall roared past into the cave, wide and white. The way in was on the other side and we crawled along flat out before reaching a large stream passage. Heading down stream was spectacular, with white formations along the roof and walls. Tom the Irish caver with us tried determinedly to persuade Tim to crawl in the water, but was disappointed as he spotted the drier routes over the top. There was always an escape route to a high level traverse so even I was relatively happy about the week of rain that was pouring into the system. The deep canals were deep, but we managed to traverse over them and 800 metres later we reached the pitch that would lead us into the main stream.

We abseiled down on Italian hitches on belay belts as we didn't have a ladder, and pulled through as Tom thought the water levels were OK for the round trip. The stream was different here, not so well decorated, but at one point the walls curved up and up high above is in weird rounded water worn shapes. We reached the junction with the main stream, upstream being the continuation of the round trip. We decided to go downstream as far as the point that sometimes sumped. The meandering passage was several metres high but really narrow above us, whilst the bottom metre was wide and full of fast flowing water. It was an oppressive feeling place and I was relieved when Tom suggested turning back, although Tim, keen as ever persuaded us to continue for another couple of minutes to reach the low section. It was hard work going back upstream and nice to see lights back at the junction.

Some Ireland veterans from UBSS excitedly told us about the "flood pulse" that had just come down the passage we were about to head out of, but it turned out that this just meant the water level had suddenly risen, and apparently it was "perfectly safe". It was hard work but exhilarating battling against the roaring water as we passed fabulous formations and waterfall inlets. I tried to pretend I couldn't see the flood debris on the head high ledges. Hundreds of metres beyond the roaring turned to a thunder and several corners later a huge waterfall inlet cascaded down into the passage the spray soaking us (Tim too which pleased Tom). I thought the going would get easier but for some reason it didn't seem to. Some time later we met a huge party on their way to look at the waterfall inlet. They had come in a dry way and Tom reckoned it would be a good move for us to go out that way as it was such hard work going upstream. We reached the dry route that turned out to be beautiful white moon milk plastered passage containing a small stream. I promptly slipped on the moon milk into a thigh deep pool. At the entrance we met hoards of people about to enter pretty much the only cave that it is safe to go in during wet weather in County Clare. It carried on raining however and even Pollnagollum was out for the rest of the weekend, but we did manage a similarly exciting trip in Culough 2, the much better decorated Irish equivalent of Porth-yr-Ogof.
Lou Maurice