Tackle and Technique
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On Visiting New Caves
The Editor of last year's journal referred, in his editorial, to 'Cambridge's crippling distance from any major caving area'. The context was financial, but the truth is that the debilities produced are not simply monetary. The gargantuan creative and self-expressive urges of 20 to 30 dedicated cavers are, for 85% of the term, left without a resurgence. The result is a dangerous and potentially destructive flood, which has a double effect, if our experiences are to be believed.
One the one hand, the more introverted members of the Club have tended to become quiet and listless - rather like the pool formed at the entrance to Swildons when the stream backs up - calm but dangerous. These tragic creatures can be seen drifting aimlessly from manhole-cover to sewage-pipe, swinging a couple of well-polished krabs on the end of a bright yellow waistlength. There are even one or two cases on record of such cavers turning to books and computers for the solace they could no longer find in speleology. In short, they go 'treeish' as Tolkien might say. But like his Ents, they carry within their placid exteriors the appalling capacity to destroy whole communities.
On the other hand, an equally disturbing effect concerns the more 'hasty' members of the Club. For many years now the streets of Cambridge have been terrorised by packs of frustrated cavers who have found in such pursuits as boatie-bashing and cord-wangling outlets for their creative energy. With the recent relaxation of Proctorial discipline, the situation had, by last year, deteriorated to such an alarming extent that something clearly had to be done to channel this energy into more productive, or at least less destructive directions.
'Pot-bashing', in the strict sense of the term, provided one such direction and, indeed, led directly to another. For it was in the Trinity College Bar that the solution to our problems was found one balmy summer's evening just before exams last year. We were standing by an open window (incidentally, all ground-floor windows in Cambridge Colleges are barred, just in case there's a fire), when we realised that Nick hadn't bought a round for about six months. We informed him of this, and before you could say 'Norbert Casteret' he slipped lithely through the window to reappear several moments later from the lavatory. A happy half-hour was spent sampling the delights of the 6½-7" squeezes of Trinity Bar to the sophisticated amusement of the large crowd of monkey-suited fascists who inhabit the place. Such, then, was the birth of a new occupation in CUCC. Members had always indulged in what may properly be called armchair caving, but, armchairs being what they are, and cavers being what they are, this had worked out rather expensive. In any case, College rooms are not as a rule supplied with barrels of ale.
A select surveying-party was next sent to the HQ of Cambridge caving - the Jesus College Bar, where a couple of enticing holes had been noticed at roof-level, at the top of three parallel pillars. This time an attempt was made to freeclimb up to them, and a sporting back-and-foot brought Jont to the orifices. Unfortunately a short squeeze led straight back into the main passage and the other aperture proved to be an identical oxbow, so we had another drink, before Nick decided to leave via the window again. To everyone's amazement he succeeded, thus opening up a new and sporting escape route in the event of rapid flooding after Rugby Club Dinners. For the sake of posterity (paternity ? Ed.), however, don't let too many people attempt this trip! And so to the Mitre on Bridge Street - Ind Coope but with DD - where two pillars, set 6 1/3" apart just had to be tried. Access to the bar had previously been rather difficult on Friday and Saturday nights, so, if a new, esoteric route could be forced, things would run rather more smoothly. The results surpassed our wildest dreams, since a pair of wildly thrashing legs tends to clear the whole bar area, enabling Dennis to zoom up and buy drinks for everyone. For a few weeks after their epic push, Nick and Jont were to be seen returning from the Mitre with happy and knowing smiles on their faces, but eventually the secret was out and the myth was shattered as about 15 people went through in one evening. A new 'Ultimate' had to be found.
'B' staircase of Downing College's Kenney Court proved disappointingly trivial, although William did leave his trousers and God knows what else in one of the squeezes there. If you go there, take the opportunity of the Gnomes who even work at lunchtime - they get very irate! The Grecian Pillars of the Pitt CLub in Jesus Lane proved rather more of a challenge, and, to date, only six people have succeeded. They widen towards the top and the classic route involves keeping one foot on the ground at all times. The right-hand side is wider than the left and the bus-queue is usually very amused. Unfortunately, the Pitt Club is not very close to a bar (unless you happen to be a member) which perhaps helps to explain why so few people have done the squeeze.
Whilst on the subject of ale, I should like to say a few words about our tackle-secretary. I should hate it to be thought that he is a mean, selfish sod who never buys anyone a drink but persists in coming round to Jesus at opening time every night to inflict his thirsty, parasitic and alcoholic self on the generous, magnanimous and very poor cavers of that College, so I'd better say a few words about 'T' staircase in Queens' College. This is where the tackle-secretary lives outside drinking hours, and is situated 20 yards from the Queens' Bar, which has McEwan's Export on draught. The staircase itself is a veritable squeeze-machine, and is suitable for a Novices' trip, since the squeezes cover the full range - from boring triviality to Baudelairean difficulty. I can honestly say that whips have nothing on some of these squeezes. Blood was actually drawn from the Treasurer's pelvis in the squeeze outside Guy's room, but this is by no means the tightest on the staircase. This honour goes to the one half-a-storey above which has, to date, been conquered by only three thin men - it measures 6 7/32", and Evan is believed to have given up potatoes with this in mind. There is, however, no truth in the rumour that Martin is to have an operation to remove ½" from either side of his pelvis. Lifelines are advised on the squeezes on this staircase, since they are remarkably similar to Slit Pot in Simpson's.
And there the matter rests for the time being. Many other squeezes have, of course, been visited and passed, but usually by individuals in search of the elusive 5½" ultimate. A survey is being prepared of all the tight spots in Cambridge, but before I close I feel I ought to mention a few general points:
The activity can, by its very nature, be self-defeating. It may have become apparent that CUCC tend to indulge in it only on those very rare occasions when they go out for a drink. Deflation of the chest and the gut become remarkably difficult when several pints of ale have been downed, and the gas in modern keg beer tends to induce nausea when compressed. Physically, the body is unprepared for the disturbances occasioned by a tight squeeze. On the other hand, the resulting raising of the P.T.F. (Pain Tolerance Factor) more than counterbalances any disadvantages caused by alcohol. The loss of inhibitions is also of considerable benefit when squeezing in public places. The pastime has now developed into something of an institution among frustrated members of the Club - both 'treeish' and 'hasty'. Perhaps we can claim to have averted a catastrophe, at considerable cost to ourselves and our pockets. Of course you can't beat the real thing, but when you can't even reach the real thing, you have to make do with what's left.
Tackle and Technique
|CU 1972 Contents Page||Next:|
On Visiting New Caves