Author Topic: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series  (Read 11072 times)

Offline Andy Sparrow

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« on: April 06, 2006, 05:25:15 pm »
Is anyone familiar with the 20 metre pitch in Great Oxbow Owbow Series of OFD?  According to the survey it connects with Marble Showers - has anyone done a pull-through trip by this route?
Andy Sparrow



Offline Huge

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2006, 09:39:53 pm »
Sorry Andy I've never been down that pitch, just traversed over it.

I just wanted to say that after reading your trip report on the Cheddar forum, I agree that the Upper Oxbow Series is a great trip. I've only ever done it the way you describe - across the traverses, up the chimney and ab down the pitch. I never realy fancied messing about with the sky-hook and I'm glad now that I didn't. I was told once that there were two rawl bolts at the top of the pitch (you can still see the other hole) and that one simply fell out! :shock:

Offline graham

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2006, 10:13:15 pm »
There certainly once were two rawlbolts on the sky hook pitch. I did it some years ago and it was a really quite satisfying route. Makes you wonder how often the SWCC Fixed Aids Officer does their rounds.

Like Huge, I've only ever traversed over that pitch rather done been up or down it. (Real Men do them without ropes!!). The only time I've ever heard of it being done as a pitch was many moons ago when a rescue victim was hauled up it as a more rapid (& dryer) alternative to being carried back up the streamway.
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Offline NigR

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2006, 11:50:38 pm »
Andy,

Yes, the 20m pitch does indeed connect with the Marble Showers Series. At one time, long ago, it was descended on a fairly regular basis using ladders. Can't remember what the belay was but chances are it is something a fair distance back from the pitch head. So if you are thinking of doing a pull-through trip I would advise taking a reasonable length of disposable rope/slings. Even better would be to take a bolting kit and place a couple of anchors. Of course, there is always the chance that someone else has already done this since I last visited the place - did you notice any bolts when you were there?

Regarding the skyhook pitch, it needs two rawlbolts on it for it to work and there have not been two rawlbolts there for a long, long time. So I am surprised you were issued with the skyhook by whoever was acting as Duty Officer at Penwyllt. Best inform someone on the SWCC Committee so that a note can be put in the key cupboard to prevent this happening again.

For future reference, it is worth noting that the skyhook pitch is free-climbable in an upward direction. Safest option is to treat it as a lead climb, placing a bit of protection as you go ( small to medium rocks or hexes). Best way down is to abseil from the one remaining rawlbolt, as you discovered.

Hope this is of some assistance.

Nig

Offline Andy Sparrow

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2006, 11:53:08 pm »
I'm not sure we are talking about the same pitch, which is hardly surprising since yawning chasms abound in the Great Oxbow Series.  I think this one was once known as 'The 62 foot Pitch' and my survey does not seem to indicate any on-going passage to traverse into.  You'll find this one, annotated as P20, half way between Splash Inlet and Mutiny Junction on the new survey.

And yes, my faith in SWCC's fixed aids is a little dented, as could I have been.
Andy Sparrow



Offline Andy Sparrow

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2006, 12:08:07 am »
Thanks for the information, Nig, which you posted while I was writing my previous message.   The fixed aids list was checked before we were issued the skyhook - and it was listed as a skyhook rig.  Urgent review required on that, SWCC.
Andy Sparrow



Offline graham

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2006, 08:29:09 am »
Quote from: "Andy Sparrow"
I'm not sure we are talking about the same pitch, which is hardly surprising since yawning chasms abound in the Great Oxbow Series.  I think this one was once known as 'The 62 foot Pitch' and my survey does not seem to indicate any on-going passage to traverse into.  You'll find this one, annotated as P20, half way between Splash Inlet and Mutiny Junction on the new survey.


Probably not. I was thinking of the pitch down from the start of the traverses which drops directly into the Great Oxbow itself.
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Offline Huge

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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2006, 10:19:38 am »
So was I.  One of the pitches around there is used as the standard rescue route out of the streamway by West Brecon CRT. It's probably the one you traverse over though.

Offline NigR

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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2006, 01:34:00 pm »
The standard rescue route out of the streamway is at the end of Midnight Passage, marked p30 on the most recent survey.

As Andy points out, there are lots of holes in the floor in this area so some confusion is inevitable. On my very first visit we missed the correct route up to the calcited chimney (mentioned in Andy's trip report), taking the passage on the left (didn't bother taking a survey). This led to a t-junction and turning right led to the foot of an aven. Thinking this was the climb we were looking for we went up it, having to use slings as etriers at one point. Thought it was a bit hard but put it down to us being useless. It was only when we got back to the hut and started talking to people that we realised our mistake! (The route we took comes out at the top of one of the 18m pitches marked on the survey).

The first pitch encountered after the top of the skyhook (marked p16 on the survey) drops into Deja Rue and you can follow this back through Haydn's Dig to the top end of Midnight Passage, so giving another short round trip.

Another circuit, very seldom done, involves continuing along the main traverse route towards the Marble Showers Series until Sandfill Passage is reached coming in from the right. Follow this into a fairly complicated little system of crawls and you will eventually (with a bit of luck) come into the bottom end of Deja Rue (mentioned above). This is an interesting area and possibilities for new extensions still remain. One dig draughts particularly well and could repay anyone willing to employ modern digging techniques.

Offline Rhys

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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2006, 11:29:16 pm »
Quote from: "NigR"
The standard rescue route out of the streamway is at the end of Midnight Passage, marked p30 on the most recent survey.


Actually, that's a common misconception Nig. That pitch may have been used in the dim and distant past by rescue but it hasn't been practised on or used in anger for a long time. The "standard" rescue route out of the stream is a short distance downstream from Maypole Inlet. On a corner where there's a 2m waterfall at the head of the "cherty ledges" section. The top of the pitch is in some sandy crawls near the end of Crossrift. I've rigged this pitch on two rescues in the last 4 years and attended a team practice there about 12 years ago.

Rhys

Offline NigR

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« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2006, 10:33:25 am »
Thanks for putting me right about that, Rhys. Certainly, I've been there when the pitch at the end of Midnight was used but, as you say, that was in the "dim and distant past" - well over 12 years ago!

Are you on the SWCC Committee these days? If so, could you do something about getting the fixed aids list updated? I am absolutely astounded that a visiting party was given a skyhook only last week. I don't really know if they could have had a nasty accident but if you read their report they definitely seem to think they could have. Better still, re-rig the pitch so the skyhook will work again. I always found it a useful piece of kit but, again, that was a long time ago.

Cheers,
Nig

Offline Andy Sparrow

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« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2006, 11:14:03 am »
Quote from: "NigR"
Are you on the SWCC Committee these days? If so, could you do something about getting the fixed aids list updated? I am absolutely astounded that a visiting party was given a skyhook only last week. I don't really know if they could have had a nasty accident but if you read their report they definitely seem to think they could have. Better still, re-rig the pitch so the skyhook will work again. I always found it a useful piece of kit but, again, that was a long time ago.

Cheers,
Nig


It was me who would have been first up the ladder on that particular trip.  The breaking string prevented three possible scenarios.  One, which is thankfully the most probable, is that none of the links of the skyhook would have pulled through the delta maillon that had been left in place attached to the bolt, and we would have given up.  The second is that the skyhook might have pulled through the delta and safely locked, but this seems improbable.  The third, and 'nightmare' scenario is that the skyhook would have semi-locked or jammed creating the illusion it was safe until it failed during the ascent.  

I would suggest that what is required at this point (apart from urgently updating the fixed aids list) is a simple pull-up system similar to the one used in the Maypole Series of St Cuthberts Swallet.  This would require two bolts rigged with a short chain to form a Y hang.  The chains would unite at a ring or maybe maillon large enough for a cord to pull a rope end through.
Andy Sparrow



Offline Rhys

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« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2006, 01:21:15 pm »
Nig/Andy

I haven't been on the SWCC Committee for a good number of years. Also, I'm not well acquainted with the skyhook system (it always seemed like a potentially dodgy idea to me!) or the pitch in question. I suggest Andy contacts the fixed aids officer and/or the secretary through the links given on this page:

http://www.swcc.org.uk/contact/contactus.php

Rhys

Offline biffa

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2006, 11:06:46 am »
IF THE FIXED AID DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE LIST IN THE COTTAGE IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL SWCC FIXED AID.  You are responsible for checking the list before going underground to check for any reported faults with fixed aids and making your party aware of them.  

Andy: I think that you are mistaken in your interpretation of the fixed aids list, beside any fixed aid has an official fixed aid tag upon it (as is stipulated on the piece of paper next to the fixed aids list), including any rope/pull through cords.  My email is up around the club fixedaids@swcc.org.uk and whilst you were up at the club on Monday, as far as I am aware you failed to mention it to anyone.

I have been active as fixed aid officer, including gradual replacement of the rawl bolts within the cave (that actually are official fixed aids) and maintenance of others (notably bolt traverse and the Cwm Dwr entrance).  Why bitch on a forum when my email address is so easy to find on the SWCC site? I would have to say it does seem almost irresponsible for this to be the first place of call, rather than a simple google search for the SWCC website.  If I am not aware of the problem I can not fix it.

Ben Stevens, SWCC Fixed Aids Officer

Offline Andy Sparrow

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2006, 12:48:24 pm »
Quote from: "biffa"
IF THE FIXED AID DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE LIST IN THE COTTAGE IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL SWCC FIXED AID.  You are responsible for checking the list before going underground to check for any reported faults with fixed aids and making your party aware of them.  

Andy: I think that you are mistaken in your interpretation of the fixed aids list, beside any fixed aid has an official fixed aid tag upon it (as is stipulated on the piece of paper next to the fixed aids list), including any rope/pull through cords.  My email is up around the club fixedaids@swcc.org.uk and whilst you were up at the club on Monday, as far as I am aware you failed to mention it to anyone.

I have been active as fixed aid officer, including gradual replacement of the rawl bolts within the cave (that actually are official fixed aids) and maintenance of others (notably bolt traverse and the Cwm Dwr entrance).  Why bitch on a forum when my email address is so easy to find on the SWCC site? I would have to say it does seem almost irresponsible for this to be the first place of call, rather than a simple google search for the SWCC website.  If I am not aware of the problem I can not fix it.

Ben Stevens, SWCC Fixed Aids Officer


Bitch?  I think you will find that the trip report and my other comments  in this particular thread are very simple statements of fact.  Actually, considering the incident of the skyhook could have killed me I have been extremely reserved in my reaction.  On the 1st April we arrived at SWCC for a trip into Great Oxbow Series intending to ascend the skyhook pitch from Midnight Passage.  When we asked to borrow the skyhook the duty officer conferred with another SWCC member who checked the fixed aids list and confirmed that the fixed aid was still current.  The list was checked by SWCC members so I really don't know what you mean by the reference to my 'interpretation' of the fixed aids list.  When we subsequently discovered that the skyhook bolts were not correctly installed this was reported to the same duty officer who issued us the key.  Having reported the incident back to SWCC I didn't feel inclined to make a huge public issue and there is only a brief factual description of events in the trip report.  It was someone else who chose to raise the issue on this particular thread.  Yes, I was at SWCC over the weekend but I chose not to raise the issue as I felt sure the facts would have filtered through to the relevant people.   And now I get this highly aggressive post accusing me of bitching?
Andy Sparrow



Offline biffa

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2006, 03:00:41 pm »
Sorry Andy, the bitching comment was not directed directly at you.  However I feel that all of you who have had your say about this on this forum must take some responsibility to having not made me aware of this potentially (as Andy proved) dangerous situation.

I would be interested to know who the duty officer was (the only recriminations being that I was not informed).

I can assure you that the skyhook up there is no longer an official SWCC fixed aid and does not appear on the list.  The only skyhook that is still a fixed aid is the skyhook up towards the pompom in fault aven.  And all fixed aids (should) have a little metal official fixed aid disc.

Just as an aside, do people think that there should be a fixed aid there, which encourages traffic through what is a delicate part of the cave (my  understanding is that was the reason it was not adopted).

Offline Rhys

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« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2006, 09:47:55 am »
Quote from: "biffa"
Just as an aside, do people think that there should be a fixed aid there, which encourages traffic through what is a delicate part of the cave (my  understanding is that was the reason it was not adopted).

There's enough ironmongery in the cave to look after as it is. As you well know Ben :-) There's no need for an aid here as the top of the pitch can be accessed relatively easily by an alternative route.

Rhys

PS. Sorry I didn't tell you about this thread when I saw you at the weekend. I didn't want to get into a game of chinese whispers. You needed to hear the full facts from the horse's mouth - I did suggest he contact you directly.

Offline Brains

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20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2006, 11:00:40 am »
Could you explain what you mean by a skyhook please - the only ones I am familiar with are the artificial climbing belay/runner (literally a hook to hang on a ledge) or the big big BIG helicopter. From the way you discuss it it sounds like a variety of pull through system?
Sadly, despite many years of caving I have done very little in South Wales - yet!

Offline NigR

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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2006, 12:23:57 pm »
Hi Brains,

Yes, the skyhook being discussed here is indeed a variation on the pull-through system. Designed by SWCC members back in the 1960's, it is an ingenious item of equipment although it has fallen into disuse in recent years. Hard to describe without showing you one (will try to find a picture), it relies on precise rigging at the top of the pitch. Basically, you need two large rawlbolts, one above the other, with a continuous loop of thin cord (e.g. diving line) running through them. You attach your ladder (and lifeline if you want to use one) to the skyhook, attach the skyhook to the cord and pull it up. It then engages (hopefully!) and up you go. Once back down, you pull the cord in the opposite direction and the ladder (again, hopefully!) comes back down to earth. You really need to be able to see one to fully understand how it works so apologies if my attempted description makes no sense whatsoever. If anyone with a much better technical background than myself reads this (Jopo?), perhaps they could have a go at explaining it better.

It is worth remembering that it was designed and initially used before SRT became the norm. Nowadays it is far, far easier to simply leave a rope hanging down a pitch after it has been climbed so you can prusik up on a return visit. The only point in rigging a pitch for use with the skyhook these days would be on conservation grounds in order to limit the number of people who could get there, although I suppose you could also do it to protect an on-going lead if you were that way inclined.

Presumably, rigging the climb up to the Pom-pom in Fault Aven (mentioned in an earlier post) for use with the skyhook is for conservation reasons. Last time I was there (a long time ago) you simply went up a knotted handline. The only other place I can think of that was left rigged for the skyhook is Steeple Aven at the end of one branch of Tunnel but I would be surprised if it still works. Anyone know of anywhere else?

Cheers,
Nig

Offline biffa

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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2006, 03:54:31 pm »
The skyhook rig at the pom pom is still there, I think it would equally work with a rope (gaffa tape the rope onto the pull through cord).  The thick hairy rope isn't an official fixed aid, but for anyone who is a confident caver is much easier that all the faff with the pull through stuff (not of course that I condone that whilst wearing my fixed aids hat).

Offline NigR

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Re: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2007, 10:50:42 am »
Amazingly, despite all the publicity created by this thread, another party was issued with a skyhook at Penwyllt a week or so ago. This should not have happened! Reading their account in the logbook, complete with diagram, it would appear that the 'nightmare scenario' postulated by Andy Sparrow (i.e. that the skyhook would semi-lock or jam so creating the illusion it was safe) did occur. Fortunately, it did not fail (the downward pressure exerted on the ladder must have been sufficient to keep it in place) and no injury resulted although the person first up the pitch (a highly experienced caver) did get a nasty shock when he got to the top.

Hopefully, this will not happen again. A warning in red pen has been written on the board next to the key cupboard and I have been told that the skyhook has now been removed from the cupboard (this should have been done after the last incident). However, it is worth spreading the word to anyone who may not be a regular reader of this board.

Anyone wanting to visit the Upper Oxbow Extensions should be prepared to free-climb the skyhook pitch (with protection) or go the long way around over the high level traverses and then abseil back down the pitch - this latter option is a better trip in any case.

Offline Andy Sparrow

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Re: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #21 on: August 29, 2007, 11:20:05 am »
Amazingly, despite all the publicity created by this thread, another party was issued with a skyhook at Penwyllt a week or so ago. This should not have happened! Reading their account in the logbook, complete with diagram, it would appear that the 'nightmare scenario' postulated by Andy Sparrow (i.e. that the skyhook would semi-lock or jam so creating the illusion it was safe) did occur. Fortunately, it did not fail (the downward pressure exerted on the ladder must have been sufficient to keep it in place) and no injury resulted although the person first up the pitch (a highly experienced caver) did get a nasty shock when he got to the top.

Hopefully, this will not happen again. A warning in red pen has been written on the board next to the key cupboard and I have been told that the skyhook has now been removed from the cupboard (this should have been done after the last incident). However, it is worth spreading the word to anyone who may not be a regular reader of this board.

Anyone wanting to visit the Upper Oxbow Extensions should be prepared to free-climb the skyhook pitch (with protection) or go the long way around over the high level traverses and then abseil back down the pitch - this latter option is a better trip in any case.

You know all it needs is somebody, anybody, just to go there and remove the fxxcking string!  Then there could be no possibility of this happening again.   
Andy Sparrow



Offline biffa

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Re: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #22 on: August 29, 2007, 12:28:34 pm »
As I understand the skyhook has now been removed from the cupboard.  When I advocated removing the skyhook from the cupboard last time as an 'interesting piece of history' I was prevented from doing so.

Even though I am no longer fixed aids officer can I reiterate: If a fixed aid is not on the list then it is not checked by the fixed aids officer and as such can not be trusted.  You are advised to check all fixed aids thoroughly before use and not to use them if they appear unsafe.

Of course anyone reading this is very aware of the problem, I will try to send an SWCC email to make everyone in the club aware.

Cave safely

Ben

Offline Andy Sparrow

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Re: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #23 on: August 29, 2007, 01:22:05 pm »

 You are advised to check all fixed aids thoroughly before use and not to use them if they appear unsafe.


Good advice but hardly possible when the bolt is 50 feet above you.  Removing the skyhook is a sensible step but the string should be removed too - otherwise cavers will hoist a rope up without realising the single bolt is old, untested and untagged.

I had some fall-out from our incident which I now feel inclined to comment on.  I reported our experience at the time to the SWCC officer who had issued our key and skyhook and then descibed the events quite factually in this thread and Cheddar CC online logbook.  It came as something of a surprise to me, nearly a year later while visiting SWCC, to find myself on the receiving end of a patronising dressing-down by some stroppy little madam from SWCC committee.  This person, despite knowing very little of the facts, decided to give me quite a lecture on my 'failure to inform SWCC through the correct channels' and my 'bitching about the club' on this forum - despite by her own admittance never reading the alledged offending words herself and being entirely ignorant of my reporting back to the key issuing officer on the day. 

I was inclined to let this go until I read Nig R's report today but feel really angry about this now.  All that crap thrown in my direction over this and yet the persons concerned have failed to prevent the episode repeating. 
Andy Sparrow



Offline NigR

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Re: 20 metre pitch in OFD Great Oxbow Series
« Reply #24 on: August 29, 2007, 02:30:57 pm »

I had some fall-out from our incident which I now feel inclined to comment on.  I reported our experience at the time to the SWCC officer who had issued our key and skyhook and then descibed the events quite factually in this thread and Cheddar CC online logbook.  It came as something of a surprise to me, nearly a year later while visiting SWCC, to find myself on the receiving end of a patronising dressing-down by some stroppy little madam from SWCC committee.  This person, despite knowing very little of the facts, decided to give me quite a lecture on my 'failure to inform SWCC through the correct channels' and my 'bitching about the club' on this forum - despite by her own admittance never reading the alledged offending words herself and being entirely ignorant of my reporting back to the key issuing officer on the day. 


Andy,

Sorry to hear you had problems over this, just wish you had mentioned it earlier. As a SWCC member of 26 years standing, please allow me to apologise. SWCC is a large club, it can attract the wrong type of people and (unfortunately) they can often end up on the Committee. Any idea who this 'stroppy little madam' was? Don't let it upset you and don't let it put you off visiting Penwyllt and caving in OFD in the future.

Interestingly, I received no negative feedback at all after your unfortunate incident despite the fact that (if anything) I was the one complaining about the club on this forum (as I am now). Wonder if anyone will have the guts to say anything to me this time?