Depth through thought
OUCC News 22nd October 2008
Volume 18, Number 17
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Editor: Andrew Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
The trip to Slaughter Stream cave was uncharacteristically organised. We were not only underground by midday, but all 11 of us were down the main pitch as well! Geoff even brought two laminated cave surveys (this didn't stop us getting lost, but at least we found our way back). We split into two teams- those in Geoff's car went to cross the deserts in search of a 2000 year old dog while the rest of us attempted the more usual tourist round trip in the streamway.
Prior to the trip we had been told that the nearby sewage plant sometimes diverted sewage down the cave, so watch out for used condoms, we've all had our tetanus shots, right? and above all, don't drink the water! However, despite the name and reputation, Slaughter Stream was a very nice friendly cave with not a condom in sight. (Editor -there were some rather delightful ‘toilet paper formations’ hanging from the roof though!) We stomped down a beautiful streamway, crawled in comfortable sandy passages, slithered around on some mud, looked at a sump, and walked into lovely bits of scalloped rock protruding from the ceiling. Well, maybe that last bit was just me, but there did seem to be a lot of rocks exactly at head height at one point. I was a bit worried at another bit when the streamway suddenly became chest deep and seemed to stretch out for a long way in front of us, but then Pete demonstrated that the chest deep bit was just a pool and I had found the deepest part, so that was OK. Then everyone else demonstrated that actually it was easier to just crawl round it at the top.
We saw some unfortunate little plants trying to grow in the sandy tunnels, they almost looked like they'd been planted deliberately but I'm not sure anyone would be that enthusiastic about their year 9 science experiment. We didn't manage to find our way onto the round trip but we had some fun looking, and the way we'd come was nice anyway. We arrived at the ladder just in time to rejoin the other team who were at the top. In all it was a really enjoyable trip. It would be nice to come here with more time to spare though, there was plenty more streamway left to look at.
On exiting the cave we found a herd of cows were suddenly very interested in us.
As one, they advanced across the field staring intently at the cavers. Perhaps their friends in the Picos had told them something about us? I don't like to think what though. Luckily it wasn't far to the cars and we all made it back without discovering what the cows wanted to do to us. Then we got changed in the sunshine, went to the pub, and got enormous portions of chips from the local takeaway. We should come here more often.
After a prolonged lazy attitude to donning the furry, a day trip seemed like a good idea. The Forest of Dean is pretty close too. Always good!
We met at the hut and set off in good time for wherever it was that we were supposed to find the key - which we found dangling on an unnumbered door in a little village in the FOD - first go too. Only mentioning this, as was quite amazed by the navigation of the little lanes.
Once at the cave - "Wet Sink or Slaughter Stream" - we split into two groups. I was in one Geoff's, which also consisted of Nick, Alex and Gary. We headed down first as all the kit was Geoff's and he was rigging the ladder.
So, the cave: The entrance is a series of fixed ladders, split into two by a very short crawl (2 metres?). Once at the base of these, is a climb that we rigged with a ladder and life line. It looks like a faff to do this way, but there's apparently been a couple of people slip there and hurt themselves, so life line we did. There's a small area to stand from which the 10m ladder hangs down from a convenient p hanger. It's not quite 10m but 2 ladders are needed. At the base of this was a small slope with lots of space to stand before a short crawl (20m?) to the streamway. The junction was marked by a pole with some blue tape so you'd find your way back.
We headed upstream. I should note here, that there were lots of sniffing sounds from noses suspicious of the local sewage works. There was perhaps a very slight hint that the cave had a more sinister side but it seemed otherwise OK. Even so, when we climbed up the waterfalls, nobody wanted to get splashed. After the waterfall climb we left the streamway to search for Norman, the dead dog...
There were a couple of bats, and for comedy purposes, a particularly large plastic one used to mark the way back down to the stream. We somewhat startled one of the bats, all be it accidentally. So if heading in there again, it should be noted that there could be some and that they should be left alone. The next area to be explored was the three deserts. These are soft sandy crawls with bits you can stoop in, in-between them. On the way to Norman, a dead fox was found. Which was nice... It was in a better state than Norman though, who has mostly dissolved into a white outline of bone-like goo. Also nice...
On the way back, we decided to head to a lower part of the streamway. This involved heading back along the main passageway of the upper section of cave, taking a right before the plastic bat was reached. The chamber you enter is boulder filled and it took quite a bit of hunting around to find the way on which, from the way in is towards the right, hidden under a lot of boulders. From here, quite rapid progress was made, taking the obvious route to the lower stream.
On the way back, most of the party went to explore a side passage, but deciding that I was knackered, I sat it out just to be assaulted by a huge spider and some mosquitoes. Possibly due to the short break, the ladders on the way out were fine. The only hiccup came when we finally arrived back in Oxford to find my car locked in the spots centre, which thanks to Pete, was soon rescued.
So, thanks to Nick for organising the trip, to Geoff for leading it and to Pete for rescuing the car, and everybody else for their combined valiant attempts at eating my chips - even though we failed. Don't ever order large chips from the cave's local. They have weight!