UK caver

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UK caver

Postby Mike Hopley » Dec 3, 2012 2:32 pm

Hi all,

I live near London, England. I've been caving on-and-off since 2002.

My favourite part of caving (so far!) is being part of expeditions that explore deep, vertical caves. I've been on six expeditions with Oxford Uni Cave Club, exploring caves in the Picos de Europa mountains of northern Spain -- most recently on the Pozu del Xitu expedition this summer.

The deepest I've personally been is just over a kilometre. I find depth to be a satisfying challenge -- physically, technically, and psychologically. Going deep underground puts us (mostly) beyond outside help, and I enjoy the sense of remoteness and self-reliance. And occasionally you get to take the first steps into places unexplored and unknown.

I'm interested in improving my SRT, mainly because getting out a deep cave takes so damn long, and so much effort. In Europe, we have a frogging monoculture. I've long been intrigued by American ropewalking systems, due to their much greater effectiveness under the right circumstances. Over the years I've been gradually adapting my Frog system to be convertible into a type of ropewalker -- and then testing it out on expedition.

These forums seem to have plenty of technical discussion about such things. Unlike in the UK, it seems that US cavers use a wide variety of systems, and no one setup is absolutely dominant. Hopefully I may get some ideas...

Cheers,
Mike
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Re: UK caver

Postby graveleye » Dec 3, 2012 3:28 pm

welcome to the forum Mike.

There are frequent discussions about the differences in vertical caving on both sides of the pond and I always find it interesting. Alas, I am still and probably always will be a frogger.
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Re: UK caver

Postby Mike Hopley » Dec 3, 2012 3:52 pm

graveleye wrote:Alas, I am still and probably always will be a frogger.


No shame in that -- it's probably the most versatile method of climbing rope. I'm very much a frogger too -- it's the system that will always work for me, no matter how awkward the pitch. And it can hardly be called deficient, considering how many outstandingly good (and fast!) cavers I know who use it as their only system.
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Re: UK caver

Postby graveleye » Dec 4, 2012 9:29 am

I tried a ropewalker once, and I am sure that if I worked with it and tuned it to my liking, I would enjoy it more. But for most of what I do the frog is less complicated and easier to get in and out of. I'll probably get a ropewalker when I get some cash. They seem to be the bees knees for long climbs.

So, have you done any caving in the US?
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Re: UK caver

Postby Mike Hopley » Dec 4, 2012 10:04 am

graveleye wrote:So, have you done any caving in the US?


Not yet! Only been to the US a couple of times, and not recently. Hopefully one day!
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Re: UK caver

Postby graveleye » Dec 4, 2012 1:17 pm

well if you ever get a chance and come to TAG, let me know and we'll see about showing off our finest.

Likewise, I would like to get over to England to do a but of potholing myself. One day when I get the funds! I'll have to practice passing rebelays of course... we don't do so much of that as you folks do.
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Re: UK caver

Postby Mike Hopley » Dec 4, 2012 2:29 pm

graveleye wrote:well if you ever get a chance and come to TAG, let me know and we'll see about showing off our finest.


Thank you, I'd love to! :grin:


Likewise, I would like to get over to England to do a but of potholing myself. One day when I get the funds! I'll have to practice passing rebelays of course... we don't do so much of that as you folks do.


Feel free to get in touch if you do -- I'm sure we could arrange something.

Likewise, should I ever make it to TAG, I'm sure I would benefit from some schooling in how caving works over there.
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Re: UK caver

Postby NZcaver » Dec 4, 2012 4:28 pm

Welcome to the forum, Mike! :waving:
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Re: UK caver

Postby graveleye » Dec 4, 2012 9:34 pm

Interesting... just tonight our resident cave diver showed our grotto a presentation of his last caving trip to Europe... well mainly Wales, England and south France. Mostly cave diving, but he did get into Wookie Hole and several others. Even some touristy caves.

One thing he kept amazing us with was the "cave huts" in GB.... wow. I mean, I would live in some of those "huts." They were really outstanding. You guys are serious!

My cave hut is my truck or at best my tent! I think we American cavers need to see if we can import this idea!
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Re: UK caver

Postby Mike Hopley » Dec 5, 2012 5:57 am

graveleye wrote:One thing he kept amazing us with was the "cave huts" in GB.... wow. I mean, I would live in some of those "huts." They were really outstanding. You guys are serious!


We're almost spoiled, in some ways. Most of these caving huts belong to a local club, and they are pretty nice.

Also I think we're a bit spoiled by our excellent volunteer cave rescue groups, which sometimes leads to a lack of self-reliance / avoidable rescue callouts (it's very different in Ireland, I'm told).
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Re: UK caver

Postby graveleye » Dec 5, 2012 11:29 am

there was one caver hut that the club bought in 1963.. it was just a wreck of broken stone walls and they have subsequently repaired and rebuilt it. Very impressive.

I see you've found the ropes forum. Welcome to the engaging Cave-Chat! :laughing:
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Re: UK caver

Postby Phil Winkler » Dec 5, 2012 2:29 pm

Not sure if it is still existent, but Butler Cave in Bath Co. VA had the Homestead, an old farmhouse on the property where many cavers slept over the years. In the late 70's I visited and had a lively evening discussion with John Wilson about Indians. Somehow it seemed to be fueled by what was being smoked at the time, I think. Who remembers?

I've seen pictures of the Wessex Cave Club hut and it is mighty fine. Paul Hadfield was a member for years.
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Re: UK caver

Postby Chief943 » Dec 5, 2012 5:59 pm

Yes, the Homestead is still there right by Butler Cave. It's used regularly. This past weekend even.

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Re: UK caver

Postby KENTO » Dec 5, 2012 8:35 pm

Greetings Mike: we do appreciate hearing of your perspective on Vertical Caving. Your Club has been working on Pozu del Xitu a long time. It must be turning into not just a deep multi-drop , but a vast multimile, oops kilometer system.
If you would experiment with any of the systems from our side , look at the Texas system, it's variants such as the "Thre-exas" or the Mitchell System with a good light weight chest roller box. With the fitness you undoubtedly possess after this deep expedition you might find the leg efficiency in slow big steps afforded by these systems worthwhile and adapt to clipping them safely through rebelays not too bad at all.
I mainly Frog in pits infrequently these days. The system stresses my left knee the least of all systems. I hurt my leg snowboarding in a twisting manner several years back. If I could rehab it to the point it was no longer painful I would go back to the Mitchell system which allowed me to haul ass up 140 meter pitches in my younger pre injury days. I am currently 53 and don't intend to give up caving for quite some time. Wish I could go to a Deep Cave again some day before I really retire.
Do drop in for a chat with us from time to time.
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