CUCC's 50th anniversary
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Them was the Days
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These are a few excerpts from the journals on CUCC's website, to remind you of some of the highlights of the last 50 years. The 50'th anniversary journal will have some of these 'classics', as well as new material on CUCC's exploits, both ancient and new. If you want to read more, visit the website and buy the anniversary journal & CDROM. If this starts you reminiscing, write it down quickly, and send it to the editor.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/jnl/1971/rungs.htm
With 1970 came the Club's 21st Birthday, but this was not the only feat of longevity to arouse interest and discussion; the pencil rung ladder was now at the ripe old age of 5 years (or even more). It was time to pension the 110 ft. of it off and build a new standard-size ladder. The long vac. term seemed a nice time to do this, and 200 ft. a nice amount to make, with a cost of around £30.
We intended to use again the ferrule method of fixing the rungs, but South Wales Caving Club could no longer supply us with the ferrules and, unable to find any other source, we decided on the taper-pin method -- if it proved strong enough.
July duly came and saw various C.U.C.C. members assembled in Cambridge mainly on the £1-a-day, L.E.A. way, two of us on C.U.C.C. expense accounts. We were given space in the Engineering Department workshops and work began.
Sawing the rungs up took a morning or so, but drilling them, about a day and a half -- an inordinately long time, which our President and guest house-keeper, John Lees, attributed to the absence of his customary "idiot 14 year old" companions. The wire was cut up by the C.U.C.C. Wire Cutting Machine, referred to elsewhere as "this formidable apparatus". Formidable indeed; 70 lbs. of A.C. transformer, electricity fed in at 240 volts and reappearing at 100 amps in two pincers attached to the machine by enormous copper wires with minds of their own. Needless to say, no-one was in a hurry to try it out. Luckily a request to have the thing checked for safety led to one of the Workshop Staff putting a new lead and plug on it, tidying up the loose bits and, best of all, having the first go. The pincers gripped the wire about 1½" apart, switch on, and, with a glow, a brightly coloured flame then smoke galore -- two ends of wire. Dabbing them together a bit produces two pointed ends just right for threading rungs.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/jnl/1972/50yrs.htm
Regular readers of this Journal (if there are any?) will remember that a couple of years ago CUCC celebrated its 21st; in this number we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cambridge caving. Read on and all will be made clear.
It was a clue in Baker's 'Caving', that set us on the trail. He mentions a man called Barton who apparently used to spend several days at a time on his own down Swildons in the early '20's, and who later went up to Cambridge. Further research brought up the following facts:
John Churchill and Christopher Long met up at school; in 1920 they visited Cheddar, and it occurred to them that there was an enormous amount of money in the show-cave business.
In 1921 they went up to Derbyshire to get in a bit of 'hard' caving with some other potential speleologists. A long time was spent perfecting photographic technique in Blue John Mine; they even went to the extent of developing the plates underground. An attempt was also made on Eldon Hole which involed pushing a hand-cart loaded with tackle for 7 miles over the moors. Their real trials began later, when they tried to climb down the 200' pitch on an emergency fire-escape which, by the sound of it, rather resembled a modern knobbly-dog. Perhaps it was just as well that the weather foiled this attempt!
The two of them went up to Cambridge in the same year, and met Barton. That winter Long went to Harrogate and made a solo visit to what was then known of Stump Cross Cavern. He only spent a few hours in exploration, but what he saw persuaded him that the cave continued.
Easter 1922 saw a return visit by a five-strong party from Cambridge. Long had decided on a point at which to dig, and the group was fully prepared to stay underground until the cave 'went'. For transporting their gear they had built a large wooden handcart known as 'the Ark'. They assembled it at Pately Bridge railway station, and loaded it with sixteen hundredweight of food, bedding, ropes, ladders, digging gear and cameras, after which the 'cavalcade set out at 11.30am through the falling snow and the amused derision of the natives.' Arriving at the cave four hours and nine miles later they unloaded the Ark and went underground to sleep.
In Cambridge an article in the Caius College magazine noted that 'A club, known as The Troglodytes, has been formed for the benefit of those in this country who are interested in speleology.' An inaugural dinner (eight courses!) was held on November 25th, at which the guest speaker was E.A.Baker.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/jnl/1977/yscene.htm
I awoke from my slumbers as the minibus rolled up in front of Greenclose, nerve centre of the famous Northern Pennine Club. So this was it. The cottage was bucolic, and dare I say it, a little squalid, but it had that familiar fusty smell common to any well bred cavers' lodgings. Comparing it with the Belfry of my homeland, I think that overall the Northerners' hut was about on a par. The living accomodation was better, the sleeping quarters and showers about the same and the conveniences worse.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/expo/years/1976/report.htm
Why Austria ? -- basically for a change after several successive years in the Pyrenees, but we had been told that Austrian Limestone is relatively unexplored -- something of an understatement as it turned out. We contacted Walter Klappacher (area organiser for caving in the Salzburg region) and he put us in touch with Karl Gaisberger who lives in Altaussee. Karl was invaluable; he knew the area, told us what was worth doing, got us up toll roads free, fixed up a trip in Mammuthöhle, caved with us and drank with us. Jont was essential as Karl had no English and the rest of us no German unless it was Vic talking canoeing. The area is excellent - beer, caving, climbing, walking, canoeing, sailing, hang-gliding if you have a lunatic urge, so a caving expedition can have plenty of sidelines.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/expo/years/1980/report.htm
As the day passed, more rain fell. Some of their friends returned wet and cold, telling of icy dark prusiks up crashing waterfalls. Night fell and still Andy, Tony and John were missing. What had happened ? Were they dangling helpless from a rope ? Were they huddled in a narrow, draughty rift with the flood waters rising around them ?
Well, no. Eating apricots -- that's what they were doing. Happily sitting in a spacious, warm, dry chamber stuffing themselves with marzipan and apricots. Just before the flood pulse arrived, they happened to notice a slit in the wall above the final pitch. Thinking it could lead to a bypass, Tony was forced through to find an abandoned phreatic series. When the flood pulse came, the prospect of 200m of wet prusiking didn't appeal too much to these geriatrics and so they decided to stay warm and dry, waiting for the waters to subside. The chamber was thoroughly explored and surveyed (its the most accurate part of the whole survey). A dig was started, and for want of any more lively entertainment they built dry stone walls up and down the chamber. But slowly our reluctant heroes were getting cold, and despite an imaginative game of I-spy played without light, they were beginning to wish they were somewhere else.
Then the waters parted and Nick and Andy Connolly descended -- using racks rather than wings. "Who are you looking for ? ... What us ? ... alright, we'll come out now ... " and at 3.00 am, five wet, tattered figures emerged to be greeted by a cold drizzle and a pot of burnt rice pudding.
Full article: http://cucc.survex.com/jnl/1992/dark.htm
Whilst I never claimed to have retired from caving, my recent trips have unmistakably labelled me as a born again caver. My one trip per month instead of one a year brings a new level of refinement to the zimmer-frame jokes. The final insult came when Dave asked me to write an article about '70s caving, implying a) there have been lots of changes since then, and b) that I was the only one who could remember. Interestingly, a) is correct. As for b) I'll speak to you later Gibson.
Picture the scene. Your humble author struggling into his well-proven, lived-in wetsuit prior to a quick foray on the Allotment. Amongst the rest of the nouvelle pot-bashers in the party, my wetsuit causes mixed reactions. Mixed, that is between underhand smirks and hysterical laughter, with the odd pitying smile by way of consolation. They, you see, are resplendent in their furry fibre pile undersuits and PU nylon oversuits. They're so much more comfortable and ever so warm. Alright, alright you bastards, lets get on with the trip. At least wellies seem pretty universal nowadays.
Following a quick breeze/wheeze up to the entrance: Lighting. It's still dark down there. Now I've always had a pathological hatred of carbide lamps. My Premier caplamp was only wheeled out when absolutely necessary, ie. 14 hour trips, ie. hardly ever, and even then I always carried an electric backup. The dirty, smelly, unreliable thing cast miserable light and always went out just when you least wanted it to. And lighting it - oh God! I figured on spending half the trip getting/keeping mine lit. The other half was spent illuminating other people getting/keeping theirs lit. Oh God! Oh God! Enter Jean Pierre la spéléologist celèbre sporting this year's model, the Petzl Laser. This natty piece of ironmongery neatly combines the disadvantages of a carbide with the bulky waistband features of an electric cell. You can now get stuck and be in the dark! This is madness. Who on earth is going to buy one?...
Yeah, ok, I did. The piezo striker's pretty good, and the generator isn't that heavy, and it does last the whole trip without a refill, and it has its own electric backup that I've hardly ever needed, and, and, ... oh shut up and get down the first pitch.
CUCC's 50th anniversary
|CU 1999 Contents Page||Next:|
Them was the Days
|Austria expedition archive|