Depth through thought

OUCC News 30th September 2008

Volume 18, Number 14

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor:

I have decided it is time for me to stand down as editor of DTT.

News from Hungary:

Steve Roberts

Many OUCC will remember Pivo, who caved with us in Spain and who was on the ill-fated Berger trip.

My Dear, Old Bastards, after spending nine long month in a very small, tight, wet but at least warm hole it was time to go. She decided to leave and in 6 hours she passed through her first, and most probably the tightest squeeze. When she arrived to the outside, she started crying. Well, to be outside is difficult, isn't it?

On the 2nd September, at 6:54 A:M my daughter, Réka was born. 3700 g, 57 cm. She is fine, her mother is OK, but her father has a bloody headache....

Pictures can be seen at: ; Cheers, Pivo

Up the Long Ladder

Peter Devlin [President's Invite Sep 20 2008]

Having done Valley Entrance as a children's trip the last few times, Steve and I decided that Alum Pot would make a nice change of scene for the kids.

Katie, Alex, Camilla and Catherine trudged up the hill with no too much cajoling from Sandra, Thalia, Steve and I. We stopped and enjoyed views of Alum Pot from the top, but the kids were more interested in the mud field to be played in: all suggestions/exhortations to walk around it fell on deaf ears. It's enormously comforting to a parent about to take a child caving that they are so accomplished at being selectively deaf. Crossing the limestone pavement towards the entrance to Upper Long Churn I was thrilled that Thalia appreciated the magnificent limestone pavement: I tried unsuccessfully to share my enthusiasm for this feature with Catherine.

Getting underground we soon got to Dr Bannister's Handbasin. I was to go down first and help the kids off the rope. Standing at the bottom as the Katie came down, the water sprayed off her wellies into my face. The water was bracing and I was glad water levels weren't high. Continuing downstream we soon ran into Paul: Jo and Oliver were downstream, so soon we met up with them. Katie, Camilla and Catherine decided this warranted a mars bar or two. In fairness it had been a particularly arduous trip lasting all of 10 minutes.

Soon we were at the exit of Upper Long Churn where Jo and Oliver were going to leave the cave. We got back underground into Lower Long Churn.

Steve had put me in front for reasons best known to himself, possibly he thought I knew the cave. Following the rule of sticking with the water, I saw the water follow a bedding plane leading to daylight that looked lower than I really fancied, but it wasn't a squeeze so I gritted my teeth and belly crawled to daylight, only to hear Steve tell me I had gone the wrong way and was heading down the Diccan route. Katie took one look at the bedding and refused to do it: clearly a discerning child. Swallowing my pride I grovelled once again in the cold water and rejoined the group down a monstrous passage only a blind fool could have missed.

The passage down to Dollytubs has a couple of fun little climbs down pools filled with chilly water: some of us chose to ignore Steve's suggestions regarding the technique for avoiding falling in. Up to this point it had not been a particularly difficult trip for the girls, but there was some good caving which they were doing very well with. Soon, however we were at the Dollytubs pitch which had been laddered all the way to the bottom (some 55ft/18m). Steve explained to me about the ledge halfway down, then I abseiled down to manage the bottom while Steve managed the top of the pitch. On my way down I was thinking that this was a lot longer and more complex than anything else Catherine had done. The way the cave goes, the person at the bottom can't see what's happening above the ledge, so communication is by shouting only. Adding a degree of complication, there was another party on the traverse from the ledge. At some point it became clear to me that Katie was coming down. I could hear her, but couldn't see her, but it was clear that she was on the ledge, but no longer on the ladder..

With her father 9m above her and me 9m below she was in that classic "on your own halfway up or down a pitch" situation that we have all been through: maybe we weren't 10 years of age though. There followed a dialogue between myself and Katie along the lines of what I thought she needed to do, versus what she felt she could or couldn't do. In the end, as is the way with these things she figured out what she needed to do and got on with doing it. At the bottom there were complaints of hands that had been scraped, but she was in remarkably good shape considering.

Next it was Catherine's turn and a somewhat similar scenario played out.. The advice I had shouted up to her before starting of staying on the ladder had been forgotten in the heat of the moment. Eventually she made it down where Katie, having now had a few minutes to recover was ever so solicitous, giving Catherine a hug. Camilla likewise got off the ladder, but found it easier to get back on the ladder beyond the ledge. Two thirds of the way down, her feet came off the ladder and she life-lined down to the bottom. Soon Thalia and Sandra were down too. At this point everybody was starting to get cold and fed up and the prospect of returning back up the ladder was on the girls' minds. We went down to where the passage opens onto the pot and enjoyed the atmospheric view. Steve brought the girls onto a safe ledge where they could see caver vanishing into the depths below, crossing the greasy slab.

A quick bite to eat and we headed out, Steve and I going first to help folks up the ladder. We tried a couple of variations on hauling but in the end Steve opted for doing the hauling himself. At the top of the pitch we bumped into Urs, Nellie and Paul. It was decided that with folks getting cold everyone would come up before Urs and Nellie going down, and in the end Nellie and Urs decided to come with the rest of us, while Steve and Paul went down to the bottom. Very soon we were within sight of daylight and the girls started chanting, something along the lines of "daylight, hurray"... I remembered back to the early days of my caving, when that first glimpse of daylight spelt release from the fear and exhaustion of a trip that seemed to have devastated me, but had the old lags feeling they hadn't done a proper trip. Writing up the trip in the log book the next morning I had pointed out that the ladder was at about 3 times longer than the next longest ladder pitch Catherine had done. Sandra later pointed out that the same was true for her too.

Knowing full well that had I asked Catherine about the trip at the bottom of the ladder, she would have not had a good word to say, I asked her on the way back to the car if she had enjoyed the trip. She refused to say that she had, but did say she had found it "challenging". She later asked me had I been able to hear her swearing when she was stuck on the ledge. It was a great trip, but particular praise has to go to Katie, Camilla and Catherine for managing their fears. Many thanks to all for a great trip.

President's Invite Alum Pot

Catherine Devlin

I went down Alum Pot on Saturday 20th September 2008 and I found it challenging. It was very wet and at times particularly scary. I did my first 18m pitch. Only when I was attached to ropes and 1.5m down did I realise I had another 17.5m to go [editor - clearly one of these new fangled elastic pitches]. I was absolutely terrified!

I had already strained my right hamstring and before I went down it was starting to hurt more and then after 18m it got really sore.

Steve lowered me down and before I knew it I was in freezing cold water on a ledge. And I was off the ladder. I was terrified. Steve was 9m above me and Daddy was 9m below me. Daddy's help trying to tell me to get my feet over the ledge wasn't much help seeing as it was easier said than done. Katie had already done it at this stage and Camilla was going to come behind me. In the end after Daddy saying to me I could jump and the rope would catch me and it dawning on me to ask Daddy if I can do it, I just got over the ledge and did it.

I didn't find the view of Alum Pot as stunning as I would have if I hadn't been shivering or in pain. At this stage I was glad to come back with Steve hauling me up.

And Daddy bought me new shoes (as promised) and a hot chocolate in Bernie's (unpromised) and I would call that cave trip quite an experience.