Depth through thought

OUCC News 20th February 2008

Volume 18, Number 5

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the write-ups coming in.
Here are the weekends for the rest of  term:


"Finding the stream is easy..."

Steve Roberts [Club Wales weekend Feb 9/10]

"... once we're through the boulder choke". Brave words, and wrong; oh so wrong.

Having been down Cwm Dwr for the first time in probably 15 years just before Christmas, I was keen to put my route-finding to the test. The boulder choke I expected to have difficulties with - but after that, well, even if we get lost, just blundering vaguely in the right direction should get me through. Years before, I remembered never getting to the main stream by the same way twice.


Yes, we did get lost in the boulder choke. I was getting pretty desperate at one point, having thought we'd checked all the possible ways, but then down a hole in the floor I saw lurking in the distance the light-coloured iron bar that marks the way on. From then it was a small wriggle to the "above your head, behind your left ear" rusty iron bar and Bob's your proverbial.

And now the fun, of a sort, began. Could I find the way to Piccadilly? Could I Hell. Much furtling found in no particular order: a streamway that led to a choke; the same streamway else where, that choked everywhere except the awkward little climb we came in; the Smithy; a dead end; an unclimbable drop; another dead end. An finally, up above, a climb to a rifty traverse that must surely just go above the passage we'd just come along. .. but no, it led to a drop down to familiar and welcome territory I knew to be on the way, easy now, to the confluence.

Except.... the stream we came to at a t-junction sumped, instead of leading to that familiar sculpted rock. ARSE! Upstream, maybe would find a passage leading somewhere useful? Yes it did, straight to that said rock, for we were in the flood overflow, which was overflowing quite a lot.

From here it was straightforward, though hard work against pretty strong water. The pools provided their usual fun, especially when Larson, following Elisa, Richard and me, did the classic act (which I must confess we had set him up for) of traversing carefully at full stretch over one deep pool, arriving on the other side, then stepping boldly forwards - up to his neck in the pool immediately afterwards. Larson, I'm sorry for my uncontrollable mirth, but it was irresistible.

Onwards and upwards to Maypole inlet and the way out, to arrive on the surface on a beautiful warm sunny late afternoon that felt like June. What a great place.

Something old and something new

Peter Devlin [Wales Feb 16/17]

An attempt to join Hilary in a revisit to Tooth Cave following on from Steve and Tony's glory days (link), ended for me in ignominious defeat. Hilary did her best to coax me through a tight, awkward muddy bit in the entrance series, but I decided to let Hilary carry on on her own.

Sitting in the pub I had a Eureka moment when I realised that having returned Hilary's car keys and the cave key to the cave (so that she could get out) I was now locked out and couldn't get back into Hilary's van. Fortunately Hilary got out before 10pm so I only had to kill 2 1/2 hours waiting for her on a frosty moonlit night. Not only had my plans for diving a new sump been humiliatingly dashed, but I had had to hang around for the pleasure. Actually it was a fun day: I quite enjoyed the unpredictability of it and I had a lovely walk in the Gower in failing winter light.

At Penwyllt Hilary and I managed to get a night's sleep while other worthies engaged in a rescue of an overdue WSG team in Aggy: we were being held back for the 2nd wave which fortunately was not required. This allowed us to get underground into OFD1 before noon. Some other WSG members were going underground with us and helped us get our gear into the entrance.

At the junction where the escape route joins the main route we met Lisa Williams and Allwen (now 2 1/2 years of age). Allwen stared at us, refusing to smile or wave or engage us in any way shape or form: she is clearly a very discerning child. Later Lisa told us that on getting out Allwen announced "Man and lady swimming in river".

Soon we were at the boulder choke where the plan was to dive Hush Sump. This time I was diving in bigger bottles (7s) so I was looking forward to seeing more of the sump than my previous visit. I took a side passage and came across a junction. In exploring the tight option I managed to completely mess up the viz before aborting and going the bigger way. This later rejoined the tight way and I came to another chamber where I had a choice of routes. One led after 30 or 50m to a tight way going up, not dissimilar to Poetic Justice, and again I tried unsuccessfully to insert myself. On exploring the other way on, it looked good but by then I was starting to feel cold diving only in 4mm neoprene so I returned. Next time I'll wear some more insulation, but at least I know where I want to furtle.

On the way back I encountered Hilary. I tried to give her the OK signal, but it quickly became clear that my erstwhile buddy diving skills have gone to hell, so I bimbled on out. In the car, discussing this encounter with Hilary, she pointed out that while I was trying to give her the OK sign I was in fact blinding her. It's clear that I will need to reacquaint myself with buddy diving protocols if I ever return to dive Florida.

In the meantime, maybe I'll just stick to solo diving.

Vercors 2008

Paul Mackrill

I also have become a member of the organising committee for Vercors 2008. Registration has different prices depending on when people do it. So far there are only 10 peolpe from the UK out of 700 who have put their names down. It is taking place in the Vercors and is in the village where I live. There will be many caves rigged including at least part of the Berger [!]. The dates are 23-30 August 2008. I have been asked to publicise the event a bit more. is there a general website in the UK I could post it on? The main text is below.

Cheers, Paul Mackrill

" Dear Caves Friends, This message to inform you that the preferential rates for Vercors 2008 will end within a week (15th of February). We encourage your club, commitee, federation, association or society to register as soon as possible taking grouped registrations. And you can send us afterwards the list of the confirmed persons when you have it.

All the details are on the "Registration" page of the website. Have a good day and see you soon over there, the Organisation Committee, "