Depth through thought
OUCC News 22nd January 2004
Volume 14, Number 1
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Editor: Anette Becher, email@example.com
Welcome back to a shiny new volume of DTT, to the new term and hopefully to plenty of good caving.
"Bring an Empty Tacklesack" were the instructions Pivo gave me. This was for a trip last Sunday into the heart of Hölloch, a famous system south of Zurich. For those who did not meet him at the President's Invite this year (or who have not been in the club long enough to know him) Pivo is a Hungarian caver with a long attachment to OUCC, currently living in Zurich. I spent the Saturday climbing with Almut Scherer, a friend from Oxford of John & Anita's who is now also based in Zurich. Not outdoors on rock - finally it's got a bit chilly for that - but at the totally enormous and fantastic climbing wall in Zurich. Totally superb climbing. Then Almut put me on a train and I arrived at Pivo's for an early dinner, before we drove off towards the Hölloch. The road steepened and deteriorated, and we realised we had overshot our meeting point with the other cavers. As Pivo negotiated a tricky reverse 3 point turn on steep snow, the electrics on his car died, so we had to coast back down the hill towards the village below. "Ah, there are some cavers from Bern!" said Pivo as we sailed past heading for a parking place. Almost reached it - we had to push the car the last few yards. The cavers from Bern had disappeared, so we had to spend the next half hour wandering around looking for a non-existent bar, before we eventually found them in the first place we had put our noses in.
It's always good to meet cavers from other countries - it turned out the German Swiss cavers from Bern were just like most British cavers - friendly, fun, flatulent... After a 2nd dinner, lots of beers + table football we all crashed out crammed into a tiny room rented cheaply from the hotel. After not enough sleep, we went down for breakfast, and our team gradually grew and grew (and my Talisker shrank and shrank) as more people arrived. Before 10 am we set off into the Show Cave above the resurgence. We formed a long crocodile of over 20 cavers. The show cave must be one of the dullest ever, but after a while we were scampering up, and then down, huge phreatic tunnels. Everyone else had huge reflectors on their carbides, and I was soon glad we were such a big team as this lit up the passage beautifully - at times you could see along the passage for a hundred metres or more. Also, all were good cavers and we kept up a good pace. We spent a couple of hours alternately gaining height by climbing up polished ramps then immediately losing it again by sliding down chutes the other side. There were also some impressively engineered ladders, one at least 40 m high. And a rigid plastic boat - to cross a lake that looked suspiciously as though it was only just over welly depth. These were nothing, however, compared with 'Bivouac 1'. This was a robust tent housing a table that could seat 20 on padded benches, with a tap bolted to the wall and a sink that flushed out the latrine area, a well equipped kitchen etc. etc. - more like a Swiss chalet than a bivvy. Everyone else whipped out loaves of bread, ham & cheese, sandwiches, tins of beer etc while I munched on my usual choccy bar. Then we set off again. An hour or so later, after more polished phreatic ramps and one more boating lake, we reached 'Bivouac 2b'. After nigh on 1000 m of ascent and 1000 m of descent we were some 5 km into the system, and back at the same height as the entrance. Bivvy 2b was much like bivvy 1, except it had two big dining tables. Fifty metres from this was... surprise surprise, Bivouac 2a. I could not understand why cavers should go to the trouble of setting up 2 camps so close to each other. It seemed that guided trips often camped here underground, so perhaps competition for bed spaces was a bit fierce?
Looking up into a phreatic pocket in the roof above Bivouac 2a, I was surprised to have pointed out to me a rollmat and plastic cup wedged into the roof. Set up in the '70s, the camps had been considered flood proof for decades. However, both had flooded to the roof 3 years ago and every year since. Anyway, this was our destination. 1970's camping cavers had adopted the Dounreay technique for disposing of their rubbish - they'd hoyed it all down a deep shaft. This shaft was now full. Modern Swiss cavers, conforming to stereotype, had decided to tidy the place up. So, over the last 4 years vast numbers of rubbish carrying trips had been performed to try to empty it again. So, after another enormous feast for some, and another Lion bar for me, we stuffed our tacklesacks full of 70s rubbish and slogged out back to the entrance. Oh well, I'll do (almost) anything once!
In fact, the trip was surprising fun, and the company of the Bern cavers made it a really memorable trip. We were back out in 10 hours as advertised, in time for more beers and chat, playing the usual rewarding game of working out mutual friends and potential future caving trips.
The latest issue of Cave and Karst Science (vol 30, no. 1) has a short article in it on Fossil fish from Ogof Draenen. The latest Descent (175) has articles on Speleotechnics' new caving light, the "nova", a piece on the connection of Hensler's Pot to the GG system (looks an interesting if rather demanding little trip), and a cover picture of Ben Lovett looking grim, tired, but determined (or possibly just pissed-off).
The Yunnan 2003 expedition report is now present, correct and online: http://milos2.zoo.ox.ac.uk/~hilary/yunnan2003/report.pdf
Roll on 2004!