Cambridge Underground 1980 pp 3-4


In order to get these BITS back in sync I am going to write about two years of caving. This way people may actually recognise some of what I say.


The year got off to the usual painful start, herding 50 people down Merlin's Cave or Carlswark Caverns. Matters were not helped by the coach turning up an hour late and breaking down on the way. The Yorkshire novices meet in November enabled some 20 people to try combinations of Sell Gill Holes, Bull Pot of the Witches, Tatham Wife Hole, Short Drop Cave, Juniper Gulf and Rumbling Hole, depending on experience and willingness (ie. refusal) to lead novice trips.

Accomodation for this meet, like many others during the year was at The Brown Cow in Bentham, courtesy of CCCC (known as the City club, the 4 Cs, or more properly Cambridge Climbing & Caving Club). As we were finding accomodation the Dales very difficult to find at that time, this was very useful to us, and enabled us to sample the delights of living within crawling distance of a pub and a chip shop. Later in the term Winnat's Head Cave was done and the term ended with the Mendip trip and a selection from the usual list of Manor Farm, Swildons, GB and Longwood.

The Christmas trip to South Wales was not too well attended and neither was the New Year Yorkshire trip which took place in deep snow. The only trip longer than 300 yards was the club's first Pippikin-Link trip and Nick demonstrated how to get frostbite in all fingers by walking on Ingleborough. The continuing bad weather meant that the Lent term's Swales and Yorkshire meets had to be cancelled. The Mendip trip went ahead, and you can guess what was done!. There were also day trips to Giants & Oxlow, and a couple of digging weekends in Ogof Rhewl - the club's very slow dig in North Wales. Aggy and OFD preceeded the Ireland vac meet, which went ahead with great secrecy. This would have been fine if it was a private holiday, but since it was afterwards acclaimed as 'the club expedition' I think it was a little unfair of the organisers to have kept certain club members deliberately uninformed about it.

The Easter term began with the pre-tripos meet during which a variety of Swinsto Hole/Simpsons Pot/Valley Entrance trips were done, as well as Long Churn Cave/Alum Pot, Heron Pot and Disappointment Pot. Later on in the term therw were trips down Meregill Hole, Tatty, Rowten Pot and Juniper and on the post-tripos meet Aygill Caverns, Little Hull Pot, Dale Head Pot, Black Shiver Pot, Alum Pot, Langcliffe Pot, Redmire Pot (by accident!), Birks Fell Cave, and Ireby Fell Caverns were done.

The social atmosphere was reasonably good throughout the year, although peoples' behaviour did tend to degenerate somewhat when drunk. Defacing the property of members of other clubs is possibly going a bit far. There were the inevitable cliques when there is a wide range of abilities in the club. This caused minor problems on the pre- and post-tripos meets with people insisting on doing the trips they wanted to without the people they didn't want to do them with, regardless of what anyone else did. Again, there is no reason why people shouldn't go off and do their own private trips, but on an official club meet the members with experience should have some consideration for the less able people, or else how do those members get experience?

The expedition to Austria in the summer of '79 managed to bottom the club's deepest find, Eislufthöhle, which is claimed to be 506m deep. Personally, I would call it 500m or 510m or perhaps 506m since to me, 506m implies an accuracy of 1m (as opposed to 5m or 10m) but I appear to be out on a limb here!


The larger-than-ever recruitment was awkward as we did not have many 3rd year members this year. Fortunately few people actually caved once they had been introduced to Carlswark/Merlin's. Sell Gill, Alum and Bull Pot OTW were done on the Yorkshire novices meet, and yet more trips in Swildons, Manor Farm and GB were done in the Mendips, along with Thrupe Lane and Stoke Lane in rather wet conditions. There was an unfortunate incident in Manor Farm when a girl novice fell down a pitch which was not lined. Fortunately she was not hurt. The person leading the trip should not have been allowed to do so, and the accident was the result of this 'oversight'.

The Christmas South Wales trip was poorly attended as usual and not much caving was done on the New Year trip either. Magnetometer Pot and a bottle carrying trip in Little Hull for Rob and Julian were done along with the traditional New Year's Eve Penyghent trip. This was successful apart from the fact that a member of MUSS managed to get lost on the way out. He was the friend of a member of CUCC and had asked if he could come on the trip. On the way out he went up Spike Pot Inlet by mistake and was not seen by the next person up the pitch who assumed he had not waited but gone on out. When it was realised he was missing an extensive search was made, including about 300 feet of the inlet. He was not found, and because of the risk of exposure it was decided to alert the CRO - and 23:30 on New Year's Eve is not the best time for this to happen. It is a mystery how anyone could crawl so far up Spike Pot Inlet without realising they have made a mistake since it is very tight. These two rescues come after over a decade without one and obviously point to something wrong somewhere; The first was incompetence and the second was largely bad luck, though I do not think the person should have really been on the trip.

There were trips every weekend of the Lent term, although nothing spectacular was done. In order the trips were Swinsto Hole, Nettle Pot (the Dentdale one), Giants Hole (twice), Oxlow Caverns, Aygill Caverns, County Pot (very wet), Lancaster Hole (ditto), Sunset Hole, Winnats Head Cave, P8, and of course Swildons, Longwood, Swildons, GB, and Thrupe Lane. (Why doesn't anyone ever do anything else!!) Apart from the usual weekend meets, these included a weekend camping at the Hellfire, and a hitch hiking contingent. This was caused by our major problem this year - lack of transport. The Yellow Van is sorely missed; minibuses are expensive to hire, and require one to be 25 years old at one firm in Cambridge.

There was an abortive surveying trip in Magnetometer during the Easter vac, as well as the official club holiday to Ireland. The caving year ended in May with the pre-tripos meet when Rift Pot and Alum Pot were done on ropes and Marble Steps Pot and Diccan Pot weren't.

Although nothing very spectacular was done this year, the social atmosphere has been very good, with no cliques developing, possibly because there were no outstandingly good cavers. There was the occasional digging trip in Ogof Rhewl in North Wales, and a dig was started nearby and named Ogof Ty Mawr but no real progress was made in either, though they both have potential. The 'communist' round system was also introduced which can mean a very, very expensive evening. The club has got into a bit of a rut with the same caves getting done time and time again. We lost the average number of karabiners at the top of the 20 in Swildons.

The club must concentrate on training new members next year, to ensure continuity, and should, I think, discourage the sort of person who just wants to be 'taken down a cave' (though these have been relatively few this year). I would call this year 'moderately successful'. Best wishes to CUCC for the future, and be careful!

David Gibson

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