To begin a year ago: although, as usual, several of the more experienced members of the club were leaving Cambridge, most of them still came out to Austria on the summer expedition. The lure of Continental caving and the potential depth to be reached, coupled with the sunshine, good food, and the chance to chat up the barmaid in the Schneidewirt, was obviously as attractive a prospect as ever. The caving at least was successful, and with the advantages of a solid base camp on the surface and greater experience of foreign caving, a series of very hard trips finally reached the terminal sump of the Stellerweg system at around -900m, and surveyed the entire cave as well.
And so we returned to Cambridge in the autumn, and to the reality of running a University Caving Club. The academic year started with the usual recruitment for new members, and no expense was spared. Several hundred handouts were distributed at the Societies Fair, and the Squash was remarkable in that we had too much beer. The coach trip to Carlswark got everyone caving in only two waves, which gave the eager novices more time underground, but less time in Eric's. During the first term, all the weekend meets were aimed specifically at novices, and thanks are due to those ex-members who helped lead trips on these meets. The weather was frequently atrocious, but this didn't seem to put people off, though the luxury changing accommodation at Brackenbottom and the Belfry was much appreciated. The younger generation of cavers is rapidly being conditioned into thinking that driving to the entrance of the cave, followed by a hot shower afterwards, is the norm. While I'm not sure this is a good thing, it is undeniably pleasant! The New Year extravaganza was unfortunately the last to be held in the Brown Cow, and we are now looking for an alternative venue for vacation meets. As usual, an attempt on Penyghent was made, and as usual it didn't reach the bottom, but we saved face with a fine trip down King.
At the start of the Lent term, it became apparent that although the number of new first year members was extremely low, we still had quite a large and enthusiastic intake of people from other years, postgraduates, and even some not at the University. This helped to keep the social life more varied and less introverted, and with an unusually large number of cars, and even a venerable Land Rover available, trips became more frequent and versatile. In fact, the club has been in the Dales consistently every fortnight during the year, and often every weekend.
On more mundane matters, the cost of a weekend spent caving is still largely made up of transport, and there seems no way to reduce this. The provision of a University mini-bus seems as far away as ever. However, we received in lieu a grant specifically for subsidising transport. This made a welcome, if slight, reduction in travel costs, now at around £15 each for a weekend. Although this grant was non-recurrent, it is hoped to claim again next year. On the other hand, the tackle front is considerably brighter. It was not necessary to build any ladder, but a number of belays were replaced by new ones made of 4mm wire, which seems worth using rather than 3mm for its better resistance to kinking. Several of the now ageing hawserlaid lifelines were gracefully retired, to be replaced by nylon Super Braidline. Despite some initial criticism, this new rope is light and flexible, and handles well. It is well suited to the now accepted club technique of abbing down pitches and self-lining up. For most pots with small and medium pitches, this technique makes for very enjoyable caving, as it is much faster than double lining. and reduces tackle considerably. It is quite hard on the rope, and this will probably need replacing after a couple of years' use. SRT has continued to be used for a predictable selection of pots, mainly to polish up skills for Austria, and it has been noticed that 'Bolt Rash' is becoming a major problem in Yorkshire. Many popular pots have several anchors above each pitch - mostly incorrectly placed and badly positioned!
Overall, the year has been largely successful, mainly due to the irrepressible enthusiasm of club members. Glancing through the logbook, a number of notable incidents are recorded; there was the Yosemite style descent of Alum Direct on ropes in T-shirt and shorts - in pouring rain, and also recorded are the thin men's repeated attempts on Quaking and Strans Gill. Then there was the party that got lost for an hour and a half just a hundred feet inside Swildons', and the party that got lost on the fell after doing Ireby Fell Cavern while the callout were engrossed in a blue video. Digging trips to the end of Magnetometer have occurred with surprising regularity, considering the horrible nature of the mud to be dealt with. And the perseverance of the club photographers was finally rewarded when they recorded an underground flasher seen in Bruntscar cave. Even while not underground, life for CUCC has been quite varied, involving a fine Annual Dinner in the best club tradition, some memorable parties both in Cambridge and the other place, a remarkable college bar crawl, some spectacular car accidents (one involving a camel!), nightclimbing, room destruction, incidents with wheelbarrows and fire extinguishers, and even just convivial evenings spent drinking in the Granta. It is this unique enthusiasm for everything he does which I think sets the caver apart, and I have no doubt that this promises an exciting future for the Club, and everyone in it.