Depth through thought
OUCC News 29th October 2008
Volume 18, Number 18
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Editor: Andrew Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed in recent weeks. Please keep them coming in. It would be nice to receive more reports from the freshers' weekends.
The first three things I was taught about Mendip caves, ten years ago almost to the day, were that there weren't any of them, that the Swildon's streamway was sporting and that Shatter was shit. Having ascertained that the first of these was false and the second true, it was time to investigate the third.
I was not particularly in a solo caving mood, so I made some half-hearted attempts to recruit fellow suckers to come along with me. The responses included "Wouldn't I get wet?" (Fleur), "No thanks, we're going somewhere nice" (Toby) and "I think I'll go for a walk" (Adrian). At this point I gave up the serious effort to be sociable, and teamed up with the self-named "Wessex Geriatrics Club" for a token-sociable bimble down as far as Tratman's Temple, before they continued on towards Sump 1 and I headed off alone further into the darkness.
I was armed with a plasticated survey (never having got even as far as learning the Short Round Trip route in Swildon's), and initial progress was swift. Shatter Pot already had a ladder on it, the way on continued to be obvious and I was soon bailing ducks, the first (nameless?) duck in Shatter Series and then Gour Pool Duck.
As I was leaving the Wessex, Alison Moody (guru of Swildon's book authorship) had told me two things, the first about route finding in the Gour Pool Duck area (and not mistaking the duck for a pool that could not possibly be the way on), and the second that going into Passchendaele on my own would be a crap idea.
Both of these turned out to be sage pieces of advice. I took the first and blithely ignored the second.
From Shatter Chamber onwards the way on degenerates rapidly, from a well-worn, stable and mostly relatively large motorway to a small, spiky and sometimes loose shithole. ("I died in Hell (they called it Passchendaele)".) Nevertheless I found the way on pretty quickly, initially following the sound of water down to the stream, and then crawling upstream alongside a black plastic siphon pipe and a trail of shredded bits of oversuit. I soon came to the Somme, drank a ceremonial mouthful of water from the rising sump pool, and turned tail to exit.
Except, er, now I wasn't sure which way was out. I soon abandoned the "let's try to autopilot" technique in favour of systematicity, starting from the last certain point, ticking of possible 'leads' one by one, building numbered cairns to mark explored routes that had crapped out, and talking out loud to reassure myself that it was okay because I wasn't underwater, and therefore I was going to get out eventually and it was just a matter of persistence and time. To cut a rather tedious and long story short, it took me an hour to get from the sump pool back to Shatter Chamber, what cannot have been more than five or ten minutes' caving on the way in. Back in the chamber I inhaled the sweet vapours (I had taken a piss in this chamber on the way in, insofar as one can do this without bothering to remove one's wetsuit), and inwardly celebrated the fact that I wasn't lost, alone, in the dark, in a crappy loose bit of cave that people would probably look in last because it was shit and all had agreed that solo cavers wouldn't be stupid enough to go here.
Back at Tratman's Temple I bumped into the first OUCC Fresher Trip, on its way down to do the short round trip with its token fresher. As I was planning to head down to Sump 2 to retrieve a couple of cylinders I had stashed there, they kindly agreed that I could leave my bag of ladder and rope at Tratman's Temple and they would pick it up on the way past after their trip, bonus!
The remainder of the trip passed uneventfully and stompingly. I passed the other OUCC Fresher Trip (on the way down to Sump 1 with its token fresher) at the double pots and strolled out at 6pm to a streaky sunset, a hot shower, a good all-over caving ache and a pot of ham pasta at the Hunter's. All in all a pretty damn good day.
And the verdict? --Nah, it's not all that shit. Well, maybe a little bit at the end.
Having recovered from the weekend's mission to establish that Piss Pot is not The Way To Pontypool (with a name like that, it really shouldn't be The Way To Pontypool anyway), I decided that on Wednesday evening I would set about avenging Afton Red Rift (see here). That I'd left all my caving gear in South Wales was but a small obstacle: out came the well ventilated Warmbac which I don't think had seen service since the last time I was in Afton Red Rift, ten years ago, and off I set. The short version of the story (there isn't a long version) is that I am pleased to announce that, on behalf of Alison Waterfall, Jo Whistler, Paul Mann and myself, I have now finally avenged Afton Red Rift. The entrance rift which was once declared 'possibly impossible' is now eminently possible. I can only assume that the cave must have changed over the intervening decade. In fact, it is now quite a fun cave, and one that I'd thoroughly recommend!
A day to Celebrate and Remember Tony Jarratt.
Visits to various Cave dig sites:–
And many more……More updates on the digs later
Contact Les Williams on email@example.com 01749 679839 or 07941029707
Priddy Village Hall will be open from 3:30 pm with a bar and tea/coffee available. We plan to have some big display boards in the hall so please send digital copies to Stuart (Mac) McManus firstname.lastname@example.org or bring copies of any photos, articles or anything you’d like to put on the boards at the village hall.
We have no idea how many people will come but we hope there’ll be enough for everyone. Food will be available until about 9pm. We plan to have some entertainment throughout the evening but there’ll be a tent outside the hall and hopefully plenty of opportunity to meet and talk as well as enjoying the entertainment.
Keep checking the BEC web site for updates.