Depth through thought

OUCC News 11th June 2008

Volume 18, Number 12

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Haiku from a caving trip to West Virginia.

Vrinda Manglik

1. pregnant blue-gray clouds
darken with thunder's promise
shadows fill the ground

2. entering the cave
heavy mud aroma sighs
or lightly inhales

3. still steady darkness
some halo of light is cast
when we turn our wrists

4. stalactites forming
slow and delicate they drip
the rocks here are hard

5. she sculpted this path
leaving canyons in her wake
but flows here no more

6. though we are tracking
streamway footprints and shadows
we won't find her here

Additional links of interest from Vrinda are:

  1. An announcement from Bat Conservation International about a big symposium next week about the white nose syndrome:
  2. A NY Times article from March about the bat deaths. It's several months old, but is quite comprehensive:

Bachelor Boys on the Spree

Steve Roberts

Well, that's what a stag weekend should be about, right? Drink, silly costumes, more drink, lap-dancing clubs, masses more drink, the groom-to be chained naked to a departing cross-channel ferry...

Being a caver's stag weekend, this had a few of those elements, but involved vastly more physical exertion. Saturday, as night fell, saw us bottom-gear-spinning up (and in my case getting off with heart pounding fit to explode and pushing, oh the ignominy) the unfeasibly steep Roman road out of Ingleton after pedalling, and yes occasionally drinking and eating, round much of the north-west of the Dales. Southerscales, Ribblehead, Dent (lunch), Barbondale, Bull Pot Farm (tea), Ingleton (Dinner) and penultimately the Hill Inn ((nightcap).

My "sod this for a game of soldiers" moment almost came as I was pushing my bike, more suited to Oxford commuting than the rigours of cross-country, up the stony track out of Barbondale to BPF. A cup of farm tea was found to be restorative.

Chris looked cool and relaxed throughout as only a near-terminal bachelor can, in period gear and top hat. Looked like he should by rights have been on a penny-farthing.

The President and the Treasurer went caving on Sunday. Roaring hole must be one of the few remaining caves in the Dales with neither P-bolts nor red bolts nor indeed any bolts. Natural caving for caving naturals. This particular caving natural had a small moment of doubt and fear as chest stuck: "i....can't....breathe". Removal of spare batteries , snickers bar and gloves from my chest pocket, and a little spatial subtlety eased the problem, and John and I were soon on our way to what might or might not have been the "final" rift chamber.

Out for tea and buns at 5. What a nice place Southerscales is.

More Marmite please

Peter Devlin 7/8 June

My first outing on gritstone and my first outing with OMC had arrived.

Gritstone had been described to me as the "Marmite of UK climbing", as folks seem to either love of hate it. I knew of its reputation and was keen to give it a good go but had some trepidation. Up at the crag (Windgather) I was told to tie on and start climbing: I hadn't planned on starting out on a Severe. Immediately everything felt precarious: finger jams and hand holds inadequate, but fortunately the climb was short (under 10m I think), so with a degree of encouragement/abuse from above and below I made it up. Next we moved over a meter or so and I was toproping a VS.

Two or three metres up I unsuccessfully tried the crux, but did it too slowly so got pumped. Stepping down I had a rest and thought about the moves. It was clear I could do it, but would have to do the hard bit quickly. Suddenly I was up. Climbing a VS on my second route on grit hadn't been the plan, but it was 10am on Saturday morning and I was well ahead.

My next climb was to lead a HVD which I found relatively easy. A couple of topropes and it was time for lunch. In the afternoon we did some prusiking to simulate crevasse rescue: I kept being told not to use my feet on the rock, but it's hard not to use ingrained caving habits. My next climb was to attempt a lead of a HVD: about a third of the way up, with a difficult move I wasn't happy to do on a lead and no protection within reach I bottled it. Then I tried to lead a VD, but the guide book said protection was scant. Half the way up, with my last gear

3 or 4 metres below I reached up to put a cam in a crack: it felt a bit speculative, but gave me the confidence to step up. When I saw how poor the placement was and that there was no alternative, I decided once again to walk away. Next I tried to lead a Diff just around the corner, but my head was now mashed: halfway up I bottled it and decided to walk up and top rope so that Greg, my climbing partner, could do something other than watch me try things and give up. To end the day, I top roped the VD and with the confidence of the rope climbed up with no difficulty. This may sound disappointing, but with under 20 pitches of leading under my belt building up the judgement of when to climb vs when to walk away is important: I'm not really looking forward to my first fall on a lead.

On the Sunday we went to Castlenaze Crag where I lead 4 routes, 3 VDs and a Diff. Halfway up the last one, with the crux behind me I decided I'd had enough excitement for the day and that I'd done enough. The day was glorious, overlooking stunning scenery over Chapel-en-le-Frith. A great day out! I arrived home sunburnt and the back of my hands well shredded from my first action on grit. I'm already planning my return.