Depth through thought

OUCC News 29th January 2004

Volume 14, Number 2

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,

Climbers dig Draenen

Keith Hyams

Having visited every shop in Pontypool we were getting worried. Neither Tesco's, nor Boots, nor the camera shop, nor Woollies, nor any of the likely suspects had flatpack batteries. We had, however, found a lovely little tea shop which did a wicked fry up breakfast for just £2.40. Unfortunately that wasn't going to help illuminate our way to the dig, although we figured that we'd eaten enough beans between us that with the aid of a lighter we could probably light our way to at least Cairn Junction. Just when we were about to despair, a friendly man in the tea shop told us of a little electricals stall in the covered market which might just have what we were looking for. "That's the last three we got", said the stall owner, as we breathed a sigh of relief mixed with apprehension that the brand of the flatpacks was some bizarre green logoed Welsh make that probably wouldn't even get us as far as the beans.

I thought it wise not to tell the others that I'd never actually navigated my way successfully to the dig. Even wiser still, I thought, not to tell them that prior to my last trip down Draenen, I had no memory whatsoever of the entire area beyond Megadrive. We'd get there somehow, and the others wouldn't know if we took a few minor detours anyway - it was Andy's second trip after Swildon's and the other two, Tom and Adam, had never been caving before. But they were all hardened mountaineers, and assured me that they were up to the challenge. I had no first hand evidence of this (first time I'd met Tom and Adam properly!), but seeing as Tom is an A.C. Irvine fund panellist I figured he must be pretty hard or he wouldn't be there. They'd outvoted me on camping, though. After three hours sleep, I figured that there was no way I'd be arsed to get out of the cave after a hard days digging, but they were having none of it. The idea of camping underground was, apparently, an act just too bizarre to even begin contemplating the performance of. This was coming from people who don't mind bivvying on a tiny ledge two hundred metres up a sheer cliff face. The world works in mysterious ways.

"This is fucking awful, you lot are complete nutters!", Tom cried as we made our way through Draenen's welcoming entrance series. We passed Ben and Claire on their way out just before the rope climb. "Don't worry, you're through the worst of it now", Claire assured them. They looked suspicious. But as we entered White Arch Passage there was no doubting the fact that you really could stand up in this, several times over in fact, and the beauty of caving started to infiltrate its way into the pioneers' heads. (I guess everyone ought to enjoy White Arch passage once, because it doesn't happen again). We reached the dig in good time and I was pleased to find that my post-megadrive Bermuda Triangle allowed this particular trip to pass through unscathed and undisappeared.

The Wilton-Jones' had kindly agreed to let us pick up where they had left off in Hexamine Highways, an area not too far from Big Beauty camp that hadn't been touched since Dollimores was found, when attention shifted to further regions. But it was a promising lead nevertheless, heading beyond the Big Country choke. Just what I'd always wanted, a dig heading towards the Mystery Streamway to call my own, with the added bonus is that you don't even need to subject yourself to the Last Sandwich, Slaughter Canyon, or any other similarly evil crawl to get there!

As we entered Hexamine the cave became noticeably less well trodden and, consequently, less stable. The hardened mountaineers began to get anxious, and accurately, but unhelpfully, pointed out that the hole down which you climb to get into Hexamine was so loose that we'd probably need to dig ourselves out again.

We followed the main passage (Upbeat, becoming Downbeat) to the very end, mostly stooping with a bit of crawling, where an unpleasant sandy dig had clearly had a lot of work put into it in days gone by. With no spade and zero enthusiasm for digging in a body sized tube at a majorly long term dig, we decided to focus our energies today elsewhere and scout other leads further back up the passage. At this point Adam unexpectedly revealed an enthusiasm for inserting his body into tiny side passages which went nowhere. I was rather pleased at this, since it meant that I could suppress my usual enthusiasm for such pursuits and let him do it instead. Even more helpfully, he displayed a willingness to perform acts of death-defying bravery in climbing up into several holes in the roof, which looked pretty interesting. None of them went too far, but the idea of exploring by climbing into holes rather than by crawling into them suddenly enthused the team with the excitement of cave exploration!

We eventually settled on a promising dig (most importantly, one in which we could actually stand up whilst digging) on a side passage and got to work at shovelling shit. Pretty easy shit to shovel as the sand was condensed into layers and so crumbled away without too much trouble, even with a crowbar. But it was still clear that this was a long term dig (return trips planned - diggers needed!), and we were in danger of missing closing time if we dug any longer. We called it a day and headed out to a beautiful starry night and the sound of shotgun pellets raining down on Blackwalls. As we emerged from the entrance, Tom exclaimed "That was fucking amazing, but I'm never doing it again! I've a lot more respect for cavers now I know how hardcore it is!". Let's hope that means we'll be getting fatter cheques from the A.C. Irvine fund this year then!

DCA/NCA Cavers Workshop

Saturday & Sunday February 28th & 29th 2004

Dear Caver, Please find enclosed booking form for this year's workshop. Please photocopy this and pass copies on to anyone else that you feel may wish to come along.

All the sessions are pre-booked only. Due to number limitations on some of the sessions, we may not be able to accommodate anyone who has not booked their place. The sessions start at 10.00am. You will need to bring with you any personal equipment for the technical sessions; helmet, harness etc. All sessions will end at around 4.30pm.

You will not need bring lamps or underground clothing as all of the sessions are held within the grounds of the Centre. Lunch will be a round 12.30 each day and the usual venues are the Woodbine Café in Hope and the Peak Hotel in Castleton. Meals are not included in the workshop fee.

I have personally confirmed to run the SRT Intro sessions so 'loud singing' will probably be the order of the day if you book on to any of those sessions!

Best wishes, Nige

Nigel Atkins DCA Training officer Wharfedale House Springfield Close Midway Derbyshire DE11 0DB Tel: 01283 210666 Fax: 01283 210777


Saturday and Sunday February 28th & 29th 2004 At the Pindale Farm Outdoor Centre, Castleton, Derbyshire

Please make only one application per form. If you can not get hold of a spare one for a friend etc. we are happy to accept photocopies of this one. Please tick the session/s that you wish to apply for, one session per day. All course fees must be paid in full on application as there are limited places available. Some sessions may be cancelled due to low numbers and we will contact you before the event if this happens. Cheques must be made payable to 'DERBYSHIRE CAVING ASSOCIATION'. Details of the event plus location maps etc. will be sent out on confirmation. Please complete the booking form, and send it together with your cheque enclosing an SAE to:

DCA Training officer, Wharfedale House, Springfield Close, Midway, Derbyshire, DE11 0DB.

ALL SESSIONS ARE £10.00 PER HEAD / PER DAY. Cheques payable to: DCA

LADDER & EMERGENCY Saturday February 28th
LADDER & EMERGENCY Sunday February 29th
SRT INTRODUCTION Saturday February 28th
SRT INTRODUCTION Sunday February 29th
SRT ADVANCED Saturday February 28th
SRT ADVANCED Sunday February 29th
SRT PITCH RIGGING Saturday February 28th
SRT PITCH RIGGING Sunday February 29th
CAVE RESCUE & FIRST AID Saturday February 28th
CAVE RESCUE & FIRST AID Sunday February 29th
CAVE PHOTOGRAPHY Saturday February 28th
CAVE VIDEO Sunday February 29th

Cheque Enclosed: .........................................................
Contact: First Name .................. Surname ..........................
Name of Club / Group .....................................................
Address ..................................................................
Post Code ................................................................
Contact Tel. No:- Day ..................................... Eve .....................................
Fax ..................................... Mobile .................................. E-mail ..................................

Fee must be paid on booking of workshop. Failure to comply will result in the above places being lost without refund. Cancellations within two weeks before activity start date will result in full payment of booked places without refund. DCA reserves the rights to cancel any course at any time for any reason and offer an alternative or refund. We also reserve the right to remove any individual/s from any course at any time if bad behaviour affects the safety of themselves, any course members or DCA staff without refund. I UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THESE CONDITIONS FOR MYSELF AND ON BEHALF OF THE ACTIVITY MEMBERS BOOKED UNDER MY NAME.

Campaign for Adventure - litigation

Through the Campaign for Adventure, an opportunity exists to put in place legislation which will require courts to take into account inherent risk in adventure activities and to have judges trained in handling cases where inherent risks are involved, including taking special notice of expert witness from governing bodies.

To support this legislation we are asking all members to assist with three actions: 1. To write to their MPs asking them to support the legislation. 2. To convince any relevant organisations with whom you have influence that they should join in by supporting the legislation - e.g. AHOEC 3. To inform the Campaign for Adventure of any incidents in the last years where litigation has been threatened through any services supplied domestic, programme, counselling, first-aid, etc. These may have resulted in court, insurance claim, other or no action: it is the threat of litigation which is the key fact.  It is requested that details should not disclose the parties involved by name or specific location, although it will be helpful to have region/county, date and category of client involved [11 year old boy/30 year old woman, etc, full-time paid staff, volunteer, etc. standard programme event, etc.] involved, plus type of claim made.  A description of the incident would be helpful.

A suggested MP letter is available at:

Please forward your replies, however brief, if appropriate with a contact telephone number, as soon as possible but in any case by 2pm next Wednesday, 28th January, 2004 to: <>

All information, however brief, will be helpful.
Thank you. The Campaign for Adventure

(Sent in, but not necessarily endorsed by Steve Roberts )