Diving in Cwm Dwr

Over the last couple of months I’ve had an opportunity to make some potentially interesting dives in OFD. I was lucky enough to have the sumps downstream of The Confluence as having been dived only a couple of times previously back in the Noughties. The water encountered here is not, I think, the same as that which sinks in downstream OFD2; but I expect that this section of passage will be an inlet to the main flow.

The main activity has been underwater digging, but of such a shallow and benign nature (strong flow whips away silt within a matter of seconds) that it is very nearly a pleasure! In terms of kit, this is a twin cylinder site, the appropriate clothing is a wetsuit and diving vest (both Warmbac) with neoprene gloves as a little luxury. The best thing about this is that the carry in through Cwm Dwr in a wetsuit is actually quite comfortable through the crawls and boulder choke, even after a bit of rain. A bonus is that I’m learning the optimum route through this section of cave.

Thanks are due to various SWCC members for putting me on the trail, and also – and especially – to those Imperial College stalwarts who made the first carry in for me!

The Ario Dream

“The Ario Dream”, Paul Diffley’s film about exploration in the Picos, will premiere at the Kendal Film Festival on Sunday 19th November, 9.30 – 11.00 in the main theatre.

See the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/234550815

Northern Caves III – out now

The long-awaited guidebook to the Three Counties and the North-West is launched today – this is the geographical area of the old Volume 3. Congratulations to Sam, Beardy, and their army of helpers!

The Virtues of Vis-Bot

Generally speaking, cavers in the UK understand the benefits of knowing how caves respond to rainfall (unless your caving takes place solely in Goatchurch). With the advent of very accurate and up to date forecasts online, it is pretty easy to avoid the major weather events that, on their own, can spoil your day; we just need to be alert to key phrases such as ‘thunderstorms’, ‘heavy showers’ or ‘prolonged rainfall’. Not very hard to manage!

However, the other side of the equation is what the weather has already done in our chosen caving area. Saturated ground or snow cover can all make for nasty surprises if you add even a small amount of rain from a warm or occluded weather front. However, this information can be harder to get. For sure, most cavers have the use of their senses; if you sink knee-deep in bog on the way to Ireby Fell, or flounder through snow on the way to P8, you’ll be aware of the potential hazards. To get that information at the planning stage, before you pack the ropes and get an early night for the trials of the day ahead, is a bit harder.

This is where the Cave Diving Group can help. Visit the website at www.cavedivinggroup.org.uk and follow the links to VIS-BOT. Here you will find rainfall graphs for various Dales and Peak locations, plus links to various weather stations on Mendip and other resources. Cave divers will also sometimes post general info on cave conditions where they have been active. Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted, and online reconnaissance is the least amount of effort, as long as you trust the resources! In the case of Vis-Bot, if there is any information given, it is generally spot-on; and if you look up the locations of the various reports you can even get a sense of what the prevailing weather was over the last couple of days eg where the rain was coming from and how heavily it fell on different aspects of slope. All pretty good life-maintaining info.

So raise a toast to the volunteers who help provide this service!

Rearranging the Fan / Waste Interface

I’ve been listening to Iain Abernethy’s podcasts about practical Karate for a few years now. He says a lot of sensible things in his (admittedly non-speleological) field of expertise.

In a recent podcast he talked about re-inventing violence. There are  some forms of karate which describe themselves as being practical defensive disciplines; but, the scenarios in which their techniques would be wholly effective turn out to be elaborately unrealistic (attackers coming at you one at a time is a classic you may have seen in films). What has happened is that a martial art has evolved – moving away from its roots in conflict management, into the arena of a points-scoring contact sport.The point is, this is fine, as long as you don’t then take this highly refined sporting technique and say that it still works as a defensive strategy. The context is wrong. The fact that, in order for the strategy to work, violence has to be re-imagined into something other than its messy reality, suggests that while practitioners describe their karate as a valid defence technique, it is actually something entirely different. These highly-skilled sporting karateka  are so in love with their own expertise that they cannot appreciate its limitations; rather, they (possibly unconsciously) create the types of problems that best  fit their own capacity to solve them.

A few of us – back in the world of caving, now –  are beginning to experiment with the approach of swapping “here is a rope rescue technique, let us find the situation that fits it” for ” if ‘x’ happens, what is the resulting situation, and how can we solve it?”

In an advanced SRT practice last week, we had fun dealing with an array of unconscious casualties, on both Racks and Simples, who had slid into the loop of a rebelay. The rationale was, if an abseiler loses consciousness on these devices, they either hit the deck – traumatic but no longer a mid rope rescue – or their flight is interrupted by rigging, which *is* a pick-off. It was fascinating, and if you’ve never tried dealing with it before (we hadn’t) I recommend giving it a go.

But play safely, go carefully. Once you start tackling problems rather than practicing techniques, it’s all a bit more unpredictable. Much like life, in fact.


Petzl Spelios – to be discontinued

Petzl are discontinuing the Spelios helmet (the Elios helmet with a Duo 14 ready-mounted). We only have size 1 remaining in stock – if you are particularly attached to this helmet / lightset and see one somewhere in a shop, buy it!

Rediscovery of Knight’s Templar cave

The rediscovery of a sandstone grotto in Shropshire, found in true Alice in Wonderland fashion down a rabbit hole, has been widely reported. An underground series of arches and chambers have been excavated in soft sandstone and are believed locally to be an ancient temple used by the Knights Templar, although Historic England says that the excavation is more recent, possibly early nineteenth-century, and that the grotto has been used in recent times for “black magic ceremonies”.

See the full story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39193347. Photo: BBC