Diving in Abkhazia

This is the Lake of Morozov at -1800m where all being well Tony will be diving this week.

NB Tony has (deliberately) left his phone in someone’s flat in Moscow so you will not be able to contact him. Please get in touch either on info@starlessriver.com or on the shop landline, 01748 811438, and I will do my best to help. It is just me here at the moment so we may be a little later than usual getting your orders out to you – please bear with us and I will deal with your order or query as swiftly as I can. Thanks!

Ursula

In Praise of Washing Up

It is strange how, as SRT cavers, we don’t look after kit. Unlike cars or washing machines or computers, it’s all pretty eighteenth-century stuff. All your jammers, descenders and harnesses need is a little, little bit of TLC. You can do it at home, in an alpine meadow on expedition, or even – to an extent – underground. Here are a few suggestions. They’re not exhaustive but at least they’re a start…

Harnesses and ropes are pretty tough, but if we wash our SRT ropes when we have used them, then surely we need to extend the same treatment to the cowstails and footloops that get rubbed against rock, dragged through gritty mud, and repetitively stressed in use. Think of the dreadful things you do to your footloops, when you grind mud into the foot section, then repeatedly put your full weight on it, maybe thousands of times!

For this kit, a good wash in warm water is surely the least it can expect. A stream and a scrubbing brush will do, but warm soapy water is even better – this is why we wash our clothes in special machines and not (normally) in rivers. Most of the non-metal parts of your SRT kit are made of the same material as your clothes, so why not treat them in a similar way? Harnesses are sold with notes on their care, so take a moment to read them. As a minimum it should be possible to sneak cowstails and footloops into a caving hut kitchen and give them a once-over in the sink. Just remember to tidy up after yourself or there may be trouble – don’t blame me for that…(As an aside – if you choose to put kit through the washing machine, take the metalwork off first, use a cool – sports – wash, and put it in an old pillow slip to keep it neat if you like. Don’t put it through a hot wash, or force dry it at all!)

If you are camping underground, leaving the kit in running water overnight will help, if you give it a bit of a scrub to break up crusted silt. BUT remember to secure it – having your SRT kit washed away in a flood would be embarrassing.

Metalwork – jammers, descenders, karabiners and maillons – all get treated pretty brutally. They contain simple mechanisms but they can still be delicate with their small springs and fine bearings. Let’s be clear, oiling is not enough. It’s like putting polish on your shoes without taking the crud off them first. The answer is simple – once again warm soapy water is the best treatment. Washing up water is ideal as long as you clean the plates and cutlery first, or you may get complaints! Treat the kit like you would a dirty plate, let it soak and then give it a bit of a scrub. After that, all you need to do is work the moving parts while still in the water (gates and screwgates on karabiners, cams on ascenders, moving plates on descenders). You should feel the mechanism clearing as the combination of movement (to loosen grit) and water (to transport grit away) works its magic. Keep doing this until it all moves as you’d want it to. Perhaps the main advantage of warm water is that it makes this part of the process comfortable, so you persevere until the kit is properly clean!

As for lubricating moving parts, I know that this is a controversial area. So I’ll let people make up their own minds about what to use, while adding that a small application of cooking oil has helped make maillons and descenders work as good as new on several expeditions.

At this point, you must hang the kit up to dry, if you possibly can. Don’t leave wet alloy and wet steel in close connection for long periods of time – the alloy doesn’t benefit from this at all. As I said earlier, force drying or leaving in high altitude sunshine is to be avoided, but generally a dark or at least shaded place can be found to allow kit to drip and air. Don’t put it back in a plastic bag! This is also the best opportunity to check kit for developing problems: wear and abrasion on harnesses; slipping knots on cowstails; loose nuts on descenders; and smooth cams on jammers. This is perhaps the most important part of the process, after all!

It all takes about ten minutes. Just make the washing up bowl your friend!

Tony Seddon

How to get the right size gloves

Measure from the bottom of your palm to the tip of your middle finger to get your finger length in mm. Use the longest finger length to determine your size. If your finger length falls between two sizes, buy the bigger ones.

These are the UK glove sizes based on finger length:

160mm – size 6

171 mm – size 7

182 mm – size 8

192 mm – size 9

204 mm – size 10

215 + mm – size 11

Titan entrance temporarily closed

Access to Titan entrance shaft has been temporarily suspended. The glass fibre rings and the metal stemples in the middle section are showing “signs of severe deformation” and are believed to be at risk of immediate failure. See www.peakdistrictcaving.info.

Empires of Rock

Forthcoming event this week: Andy Eavis, Roo Walters and Frank Pearson will be talking about the most spectacular caves in the world and Cumbria, at the Rheged Centre at 7pm on Saturday 28th November.

Northeast Greenland Caves Project

This is a climate change research project led by Dr. Gina Moseley: the aim is to collect and analyse samples of flowstone from caves in northeast Greenland in order to construct a record of past climate change. The project has support from an august range of bodies but is seeking crowdfunding for the final £67,000. Here is the link to the crowdfunding site: we hope that some of you might feel able to support the project. I expect that every little will help, or, as a boss of mine used to say “Little fish are sweet”.

What our customers did on their holidays

This is Marcus Thomas and some of our New Zealand customers in an exploration of Bulmer Cavern. We hear that the trip went really well with a positive dye trace confirmed on the opposite side of the mountain – giving a potential length of over 200km.

Here are some more pics (photos courtesy of Bee Fradis):

We had an interesting time at Hidden Earth

Many thanks to everyone who came to help, mock and take photos. Picture courtesy of Hatstand, but if he did the photoshopping, he isn’t owning up to it!

The Joy of Caving

BBC Radio 4 interview Dave Nixon on the appeal of caving.

Here is a three minute clip from the interview, which can also be found here.