Depth through thought

OUCC News 22nd November 2000

Volume 10, Number 14

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A busy weekend in South Wales saw the club staying at WSG, with a few stragglers kipping out at Blackwalls, the Lamb & Fox hut. after the MCC dinner. Saturday saw a some new passage discovered down south, and some conservation re-taping done in Gilwern passage. Thanks also to those (Chris, Lev, JC, Lou) who helped carry out junk from the brew-stop and camp in Dollimore series. Sunday, many of us went down OFD for a romp about in , er, where was it now. Anyway, looking forward to some trip stories for next week.

PDCMG meeting Sunday 

This coming Sunday is a meeting of the Pwll Ddu Cave Management Group which manages policy on Ogof Draenen. Anyone is welcome to go and express opinions, and OUCC has a voting representative in Chris Densham so let him know what you think (for example about whether the Chelsea Surveyors should be allowed to re-open the second entrance to continue surveying in the South of the cave - one proposal up this time round).

Dick's off 

As some of you may have heard I have been posted to Zambia for 2 years with VSO. I am aware that there is both limestone and caves in Zambia but not much more than that. I am pretty keen to find out more so if you know yourselves or of anyone else that might know something about caving in Zambia could you please pass it on. As an incentive, those who send me the most information will be the most likely to get an invite for the Zambia 2000 caving expedition to find the deepest cave in the world...(maybe?) Ta, 
Dick Gerrish

The Pres goes caving!

Sad days indeed when this is newsworthy. However, during a week in the Dordogne, I took a couple of days to go caving with Andy Cave, a "Rock Steady Crew" member who now lives in Padirac, near the famous and very spectacular eponymous Gouffre. My last trip with Andy had been to the further reaches of Daren Cilau to dig in "Dweebland". I remember well Andy producing huge HUGE spliff from his kitbag once we had cleared the entrance crawl, lighting up and consuming same before continuing fast and mellow into the beyond. But that was in the days of the hurtling brown Volvo of Doom.

First trip planned was to bottom "La Pucelle", a cave much attempted on the OUCC Dordogne/Lot trip a couple of years back. The cave is rather like a super-Swildon's, or possibly more like a cross between Swillies and OFD streamway. It's quite long, lots of streamway with short climbs and pitches. It helps to know which ones to rig and which ones to sneakily climb or just put a tape on for a boost; here Andy was the man-who-knows. To the bottom in a bit short of 4 hours, all very enjoyable end in the best possible taste until the last half-hour when I was clearly running out of fuel. Andy had packed massive amounts of home-made bhajis, and once they had taken hold about half an hour into the way out, I was enjoying it again. It's just top-notch caver's caving, really, no waiting about, lots of water, balancy in places, thuggy in others, good formations here and there, and a sense of no-nonsense moving down the main line. Out after a bit less than 8 hours total, with my caving French somewhat improved (Alain(?) and Carole had English a bit more limited than my French. (Andy of course pretty well bi-lingual)).

A couple of days later, after canoeing down the Dordogne, castle stomping, etc., I was back to do the area's deepest, Igue de Viazac (270m, I think). This has a lot of development at depth, with the end still being pushed when it's dry enough to get diverless access to the limit, but we agreed to just do the near-vertical entrance series and out, for a gentle day's ropework. Andy, Carole and me this time. Carole had about a quarter the combined age of the rest of the team and is as fit an every day caver in a big limestone area might be expected to be, so Andy and I were prepared to force the pace (downwards). A bonus was that all but the entrance pitch was rigged, so we only had to take an 85m rope. A further bonus is that IdV is even closer to the roadhead than Pucelle (which is itself about as far from the road as Lost John's).

The first stage of about 45m lands on a big ledge ("palier"="landing"), still in daylight. Next stage drop into a big, belling out chamber of great spectactularity that sets the scene for what is to come. The first rigged pitch has an "interesting" take off (how DID they put that bolt in the roof over there ?) and bells out even more. Then comes the Indiana Jones stuff: the obvious route on (Martel's route) is a 60m blind shaft. A wire traverse has been rigged over this to reach the way on. By "over this" I mean just that: initially close to the wall, you soon leave it and shuffle directly across the middle of the pit. Beyond this is a short passage to "Puits de l'Echo": and it does, big time! This is the head of a 150m or so fossil shaft series leading down via a seemingly endless series of shortish drops, largely on steep slopes, to a lake (boat in place) and the big passages below.

We sat on the ledge by the lake, watching the bats on the roof, before the big out. Carole hared off, Andy next and I grunted and grumbled my way up the muddy ropes. Andy waited at the wire traverse and then I went ahead to allow him to so kindly derig the entrance pitches. Carole was already changed as I got to the top rebelay and took a few pictures of my methodical (i.e. slow) changeover. Andy soon followed. A bit under 4 hours total, so we oldies felt reasonably chuffed.

Back to Andy's for an admire of his great house: a partially converted barn, with huge amounts of land out the back, part of which Angie has turned into a nice vegetable garden. It seems to be a good life out there for the laid-back ex-pats who can make do, barter, self-help and relax. Tempting, very tempting.

It would be a great place for the club to go back to for an Easter trip. Guide books are not to be found easily; though in fact there are two: one with full cave descriptions but no location details (privately published, out of print) and one with location details and length and depths, but no other cave details (out of print, but available as a huge download off the web, I think). You really need local info and Andy has it (and both the guide books!).
Steve Roberts


Last week

It's six o'clock in the tower blocks,
Stalagmites of culture shock,
And the trippers of the light fantastic,
Bow down, hoe down,
Spray their pheromones on, this perfumed uniform.

Paul Mann wins with: "That'll be Marillion, somewhere in Misplaced Childhood; maybe Heart of Lothian? Do I win a tinnie? Cheers Paul"

This week

 "...Till suddenly, from Inspiration's pages,
There flash'd a few and flickering beams of light
On distant fragments of Assyria's night.
So have I wander'd in some giant cave,
Whose sides of rock and pendent stalactite
Caught radiance from my torch, at times, and gave
A momentary brightness to some gushing wave."

entries to Steve Roberts this week.

Old Lag's Notes

from "CAM" the Cambridge Alumni Magazine, "Don's Diary"
"To Wells, where my new home out of term is to be in the nave of the restored hospital chapel of the former County Paupers Lunatic Asylum, known as 'The Mendip'."
Steve Roberts