QUODCUMQUE  FACIENDUM : NIMIS  FACIEMUS

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin,
including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the
committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy
of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be
checked in the time at his disposal.

The usual list of club officers etc., has been omitted from
this B.B. owing to the proximity of publication to the A.G.M.  The new officers etc. will be printed in the
November edition.

Editorial

Clarification

With the A.G.M. fast approaching, and bringing, no doubt,
its usual crop of member’s resolutions and the like, it might be a good time to
prevent any misunderstandings by setting the record straight on a small but
important point recently raised by a member about the status of the current
B.B. team.

In the interests of accuracy, his description of it as the
‘Editorial Sub Committee’ is not a correct description for two reasons.  Firstly, a sub committee is a body set up by
a committee for some special purpose during the lifetime of that
committee.  The B.B. team was set up by
last years A.G.M and must therefore be considered (if it is necessary to label
it at all) as a special committee; a working party or a standing
committee.  In fact, when the club did a
vaguely similar thing in 1957, they called it the B.B. Editorial Board.

But, coming to the second point, the present team is not an
Editorial board.  The chairman of the
A.G.M. made it clear that editorial responsibility – and, in fact,
responsibility for the whole team remained within the present editor.

By defining what should be done and who should be doing it,
the A.G.M. chairman was acting in accordance with traditional practice whereby
the basic arrangements concerning the B.B. are laid down by the general
membership of the club at General meetings. Thus, the B.B. is effectively managed directly by the club
membership.  Further guidance may be found
in the discussion non the constitution and the B.B. in the minutes of the 1970
A.G.M.

Growth Of The B.E.C.

In this issue, the series of articles lately running is
completed.  It would be interesting to
see if any members can draw different conclusions from those in this B.B.  As always, correspondence is welcome.

 

Fifth

Col
umn
– A Birds’ Eye View of Mendip

As a complete change this month, and to convince our readers
that we really are a group (and versatile at that!) we have exchanged our
literary talents for artistic ones, and present our bird’s eye view of the
present club committee.  The editor (that
well know MCP) tells us that our cartoon will probably be too big for all of it
to get printed.  We don’t understand why,
as it all went on the stencil we were given, but conceded that he might just
be right.  If so, we apologise for ‘doing
it to excess.’


 

The Deepest Cave?

Stan Gee, who is well known to
most older club members, sends us this interesting account of his work in

Italy
.

In response to numerous requests in the B.B. I have at last
put pen to paper in effort to tell of some of the recent, and not so recent
doings of a group of friends which includes several B.E.C. members.  For some years, from 1968 in fact, we have
been very interested in the area of the Appian Alps in

Italy
wherein
lies the Antro del Corchia which we have had high hopes that it might become
the deep¬est cave known. These hopes are now all but realised, though we were
‘pipped at the post’ as it were.  However,
we can take some consolation in the fact that it was our researches into the
area which led to this happy state of affairs.

For those of you who like to mix mountaineering with caving,
the Appian Alps are ideal.  Lying some 12
miles (19km) inland from

Viareggio
,
they soar up to 7, 000ft (2,000 odd metres) in parts and provide some excellent
climbing on limestone and marble with runs of 1,000 ft (300m) and more.  The area, though quite remote and wild, is
well provided with good footpaths and several Rifugi of the Italian Alpine
Club.  It abounds with wild life,
including too many snakes for comfort and there are hundreds of caves of
varying depths.  The nearest point of
access is the

village of
Leviglian
– a small
semi-tourist village nestling beneath the bulk of Monte Corchia (5,470′ –
1,677m).  From here, you must walk,
though it is possible to use a recently constructed quarry road, to reach some
parts of the mountain, but in the main you must be prepared to walk for a
couple of hours or more.

I first became interested in the are in 1968 when I led an
expedition of the Derbyshire Caving Club to the Antro del Corchia.  This was something of an epic adventure that
resulted in the extent of the cave being more or less doubled.  A couple of years later, I made my first
excursion into the mysterious area beyond the Corchia ridge and commenced the
programme of research which is still continuing.

My companions on some of these ventures have been Arthur
Ball and Nigel Dibben, both of whom are B.E.C. members, and after some years
Arthur and myself were offered that rare distinction of full membership of the
C.A.I.  A happy situation which has be of
great assistance to our work.

The old entrance to the Antro del Corchia is at 3,600ft
(1,100m) and in 1968 had attained a depth of 2,200ft (670m).  This seemed to be the downward limit though
there was ample room for extension horizontally.  The Antro played tricks on us and did not
resurge where we thought it would but, by a ‘geological impossibility’ it
changed direction and resurged at La Pollacra – some two and a half miles (4km)
in the opposite direction.  Thus it was
that we went beyond the ridge and commenced working much higher up.

In 1972 I had heard of two caves situated near to the summit
of Monte Corchia and as a consequence in 1973 I scoured the area of the summit
with a small party where we found two fluted shafts approximately twenty feet
deep (6m).  At the time we thought that
that they were the two known caves and it wasn’t until the next year that we
found that they were two unknown caves – the known ones being a little further
on.   Thus, in 1975 with a larger party
and well armed with crowbars, hammers etc, we slogged up the mountain in
temperatures of 80°F (27°C) to dong the caves. The geologists laughed.  It was
impossible.  The caves were too old.  There was no water, too much frost shattering
– in short, another geological impossibility.

Twenty minutes work on the first cave produced a shaft of a
hundred feet (30m) and an eventual depth of 250ft (76m) to a boulder choke that
even chemics failed to remove.  This cave
was called Buca del Arturo (Arthur’s Hole). An hours work on the second cave
and we had a similar situation but with an even worse boulder problem. This
cave we called ‘La buca dei massi dandelante’ (the cave of the great hanging
boulders).  The proximity of the two
caves to each other led us to believe that there was something BIG beneath and
1,600ft (500m) above the Antro del Corchia, so were searched for and found the
other two caves, the Buca del Gracchi (Cave of the Crows) which was an open
shaft of 150ft (46m), and the Buca del Cacciatore (Hunters Hole).  Suitably impressed, we returned in 1976 to
dong the Buca del Cacciatare only to find that an Italian group, who’ had been
following our progress, had donged it same months previously to a depth of
1600ft (500m) and a length of two and a half miles (4Km).  Being only a small exploration party, we did
not have the necessary gear to attempt anything on this scale, so it was
abandoned.

I have recently returned from Italy and am able to report
that the Buca del Cacciatore – now renamed Abissa Fighiera is now at a depth af
2,700ft (820m) and heading away from the Antro del Corchia towards a cave
called Tana dell Uomo Selvatico (The lair of the Primitive Man) which has a
depth of -1,034ft(318m).  At the moment
of writing, the Italians are being rather cagey about their finds but I was
able to find out that at -2,700ft (820m) they have encountered a lot of water
and two other galleries one of which is heading towards the Antro.  The Buca del Cacciatore is at an altitude of
5,360ft (1650m) which is approximately 1,788ft (550m) above the old entrance to
the Antro which would give a total depth of 3,965ft (1,220m) to the present
bottom.  It is known that a further 300ft
(91m) is possible between the bottom and the resurgence, which would make
4,265ft (1,300m).  However, there is some
evidence of a secondary and lower resurgence and this will be one of my future
investigations.

In the early part of 1977, another group of Italian cavers
did an epic pegging job from the ‘Canyon’ in the Antro and discovered two new
entrances high up on Monte Corchia.  From
the highest of these entrances, the Antro now has a depth of 2,616 feet (805m)
to the bottom.  Access to the bottom is
now quite easy, as our discovery in 1969 of the ‘New Hope Series’ culminated in
the opening of a lower entran¬ce called the Buca dei Serpenti (Hole of Snakes)
that is accessible by a rough road.  This
route gives quick and easy access to the Stalactite Gallery which was adjacent
to our camps in 1968.  Thus the bottom is
now obtainable in a fifteen hour round trip and an interesting through trip can
be made between the old entrance and the Buca dei Serpenti.

A combination of same of the Italian clubs have attempted to
place same restrictions on access to the whole of the Corchia area and to the
Cacciatore in particular.  In the case of
the Corchia area, this is ridiculous and it is doubtful whether the restriction
to the Cacciatore is legal.  At the
moment, something of a battle is going on between the cavers and the local
authority, which is a quarry workers co-operative. At present, if anyone is
contemplating a trip to this area, they would be well advised to contact me
beforehand so that I can let them have the up to date information.


 

Totes Girbirge 1977

There is, happily, no shortage of
caving articles this month, and we go from the Appian Alps to an Austrian
caving area, with this article sent in (and, of course, written) by Nick
Thorne.

It is many years since
Britain
could offer open potholes for pioneers to explore, and now even
Europe is fast running out of areas of genuinely virgin
limestone.  One area where almost no work
has been done however is the Totes Gibirge in

Austria
.  Cambridge University Caving Club had a short
expedition to that area in 1966 and I went with them where they paid their
second visit in the summer of 1977. Since, in their past, the B.E.C. have shown an active interest in

Austria
,  I thought that members might like to know how
things went.

C.U.C.C. set up camp by a lake in Alt Aussee, a sleepy
little village some 80Km (50 miles) east of Saltzburg.  The scenery is spectacular in the
extreme.  On the opposite side of the
lake to our camp stood the Trisselwand, a sheer rock wall six times taller than
the
Avon gorge!  Our interest was focussed on the nearby Loser
Plateau, a sharply undulating plain nearly 2000m (6,600ft) above sea
level.  Until recently the plateau was
inaccessible to anyone with anything short of a helicopter.  However, a few years ago, a road up there was
built for the skiers and the plateau is now a brisk three quarters of an hour’s
walk along dubious tracks from where the road ends.  The road itself is no trifling effort but a
great autobahn affair zigzagging its way up the hillside.  Near the top, it has a heart-stopping hang
gliders’ take-off ramp.  The road is a
toll road, and a car plus four people would cost about £3.50 per trip.  Before we parted with cash, however, a
curious aspect of local attitudes was utilised. Cavers in

Austria
,
and I believe in other parts of the continent too, are regarded as real
heroes.  The words “Hohlen
Forscher” were all that we needed to gain us free tolls, reduced camping
fees and even free beer!

Once on the plateau, we began prospecting.  The tens of miles of lapiaz have rather
daunted Carl, the only local caver.  He
welcomed our extra manpower, pointed us in the right direction and essentially
said “Explore whatever takes your fancy!”  I found that after the British caving scene,
some adjustment of scale was necessary, both above and below ground.  Looking across the plateau; the Schonberg
looked to be within spitting distance, but in fact it would have been a long
days very tough walking.  Crossing the
lapiaz was a real headache.  Unlike
Yorkshire, this stuff is faulted, folded, over folded and
has patches of tough, hardy vegetation growing all over it.  The plateau can be a very unfriendly place
with its abundance of snakes and its very changeable weather.  In two minutes, prospectors can have their
sunbathing (Oh!, what a giveaway!) interrupted by some very spectacular thunder
and lightning and be pummelled by hailstones as big as marbles.  The run-off from these thunderstorms is so
fast as to be almost comforting.  I am
sure that if one were caught underground in a floodable passage (of which there
are thankfully very few!) and not be drowned instantly, one could almost hold
ones breath until the flood subsided!

When it comes to the caves themselves, finding the deep ones
requires a little thought and a lot of luck. At first we looked at big open shafts, and found many fine and
un-descended examples.  Some were up to
40m (130ft) deep, but they were invariably choked or plugged with snow.  A much better type of entrance to look for is
the horizontal type.  A short section of
horizontal development is all that is needed to protect subsequent shafts from
the debris that chokes the open pots.  An
additional clue for a good site we learned was the presence of a draught.  So healthy an indication of good things is a
draught that we even hammered out the entrance to one cave – a
Yorkshire trick that leaves the continentals absolutely
staggered!  The subsequent hole led to a
fine series of shafts before becoming too tight at about 250m (820ft)
depth.  Although deep, this is nothing to
what Loser could produce with its maximum depth potential being in the order of
900m (2,950ft).

As an example of the type of caves that we were finding, I
include a survey of one of the caves with which I was personally involved.  We are provisionally calling our find the
Eisluft Hohle.  The official Austrian
number designated to a cave initially is only worth superseding by a name when
the cave reaches some 150m (490ft) depth. The cave draughts outwards.  This
we find very puzzling as the cave temperature is considerably lower than that
outside.  The draught varies with the
temperature of the atmosphere – implying a convection draught as opposed to a
stream driven one – and there are no higher entrances that draught in.  Indeed, no entrances on the plateau seem to
take an in-blowing draught.  We are still
thinking this one out and would welcome any suggestions.

The cave has three entrances that each shares the
draught.  These soon unite above a snow
slope.  A handline descent of this leads
to the top of Plugged Shaft which is over two hundred feet deep and broken by
numerous but very small ledges.  The icy
draught is at its strongest at the top of the shaft and on a good day
difficulty was found in keeping carbide lamps alight.  Sound natural belays are scarce as all good
looking flakes and threads just come off in your hand, so bolting was the order
of the day.  This was very slow as the
limestone is very hard and rock anchors soon blunted.  Half an hour’s hammering in the cooling
breeze and the snow at the top of Plugged Shaft was nothing if not
soul-destroying.


The shaft descends through snow plugs to a very dubious
platform of dirty snow.  It was while
standing on this that we began to wonder about the degree by which the caver’s
presence alters the cave environment. (I don’t want to worry you chaps – but
it’s melting!)  Further down, the shaft
enlarges and a small rock bridge is met. Behind the bridge is some horizontal passage to a shaft.  As time was short, we left this un-descended
and followed the draught down the main shaft. The shaft ends at a chamber and some short horizontal passage that
thank¬fully marks the end of the snow. Saved Shaft was descended to a chamber and a fearful looking boulder
choke.  The draught filtered enticingly
through the ruckle and, prudence lost, we crawled through to a rift
beyond.  We reached a pitch and descended
32m (105ft) and pushed on to the head of another shaft, when we realised that
we had lost the draught.  We therefore
left this next shaft un-descended and returned and traversed over the pitch
head to another up which the faithful old draught was blowing.  We then descended 30m (98ft) down this one,
past a ledge to a rift passage.  This enlarged
to a reasonable sized chamber with, a choice of routes onwards.  We had just about run out of tackle and, with
the expedition nearing its end, time was short too.  We started the awesome task of de-rigging.
(Yes, we were on ladders!)

We’ve left the cave with enough promise and question marks
that I am sure will drag us back to it next year.  If you think that I’ve been a little rash in
telling you of this unfinished find, then I might warn the would-be pirate that
the Loser plateau is very, very big and the Eisluft Hohle, like many of Loser’s
caves, cannot be seen from more than five yards away!  And, whilst on his wandering’s across the
unexplored lapiaz, the pirate might just find something better than the Eisluft
Hohle.  How about it?  “Noch ein Bier, bitte!”

References:      

Cambridge
Underground 1977
– for details of C.U.C.C, finds in 1976

Cambridge Underground 1978 – to
be published next spring/summer for details of finds on the 1977 expedition.

 

The Growth Of The B.E.C.

 

PART 6 – WHAT IT ALL MEANS

The improve model representing the growth of the club over
the years is shown above and compared with the actual figures.  As may be seen, the fit between the two is
not bad.  The improved model is in three
parts.  The first of these, from 1943 to
1951, has a slightly lower slope than reality over its earlier portion, but the
actual point at 1951 is correct.  The
second part, from 1951 to 1957 is pretty accurate throughout and needs no
further comment.  The final part, from
1957 to 1975 is slightly too high in its later years but, for various reasons,
it is very difficult to correct this in a meaningful manner, and – taken in all
– the model is good enough to explain the main features of the club’s growth
which have been described in detail earlier in this series.

The changes between the three portions of the improved model
have been made just by changes in the decrement (which represents the amount of
satisfaction that members have in their club at anyone time).  It is possible to base a number of scales on
the value of the decrement, and the one used is one in which the figure of 100
would represent perfect satisfaction – a state of affairs which can be defined,
one where nobody ever leaves the club once they have joined.  A figure of 0 would represent complete
dissatisfaction – with no member ever renewing his or her subscription.

On this scale, we would naturally expect to see a figure of
satisfaction nearer to 100 than to 0. For instance, a figure of 50, if applied to the B.E.C. would have
produced a club which would have built up to about 60 members with about 25 of
these leaving and another 25 joining each year. In fact, the simple model gives an average value for satisfaction of 77.

The improved model has, of course, three different levels of
satisfaction.  From 1943 to 1951 it is
80.  From 1951 to 1957 it is 70 and from
1957 onwards it is 86, although there is some evidence for a very slight drop
in the early 1960’s to possibly 83 or 84, but this is too fine for the analysis
to tackle.

With this recording of satisfaction, we have gone about as
far as we can with the figures and from here, we must guess.  What we are looking for are two, preferably
related events which took place in 1950/1 and in 1957 which could have led to
the changes we have noted.

Nothing can be found in the way of external events, such as
the advent of the five day week or the end of petrol rationing.  Caving has already been eliminated, as have
any changes in life at the Belfry.  The
only thing which seems to fit is the B.B. itself.

In 1951, Harry Stanbury – the founder of the B.E.C. and
currently Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer and Editor of the B.B., resigned from
the club committee and all his offices. Reading the B.B. before this date will show that it contained a great
deal of news of club members and of social and other events on Mendip as well as
caving news.  In other words, the B.B.
formed a strong link between the club on Mendip and in

Bristol
and those members who could only
appear at infrequent intervals.  Members
thus tended to hang on to their membership so that they could find out what their
friends were doing and what was going on ‘on the hill’.

After Harry’s resignation, his posts as Hon. Sec. and Hon.
Treasurer were ably filled by the (then) young Bob Bagshaw.  The B.B. proved more difficult to get anyone
to take on and for a year or so it was actually run from

London
by Don Coase and John Shorthose.  Even when Harry was persuaded to come back
and edit it again, it was not the same. As Secretary, he had previously run features like ‘From the Hon. Sec’s
Postbag’ – which he could no longer write. Even members addresses were not published over most of the period 1951
to 1957.

In 1957, the B.B. was handed over by the A.G.M. to a group
of active club members who produced most of the ‘chat’ which members said they
missed and also gave the B.B. a facelift. It is interesting to note that the even more bigger and better B.B.
produced under the editorship of Dave Irwin did not have a corresponding change
in satisfaction.  It seems that while the
club demands a minimum standard from its magazine, a great increase on this has
no proportionate effect.

If any reader wonders why the portions of the curve flatten
out when there has been no change in the figure of satisfaction, this is a
natural function of this type of curve and does not actually mean that the club
is doing any worse.

It only remains to explain the two ‘frighteners’. The second
of these obviously reflects the sudden doubling of the annual subscription in
1974.  The first can be associated with
the opening of the campaign to collect money for a new Belfry.

Thus, in 1975 when the survey ended, the club still appeared
to be ‘on course’ with its satisfaction at a high level.  It would seem that as long as its B.B.
continues to give its members the sort of information they basically want and
the club avoids sudden financial shocks to its members, there is little cause
for concern.

What we cannot forecast is any change in the number of new
members arriving each year.  The figure just
announced by the Hon. Sec. is one of the lowest in the club’s entire
history.  It was worse in 1957 and, like
then, the low figure this year may be an isolated case.  If it is a trend, then it will have to be
watched and acted upon, but here we must be very careful.  At 34 effective years of age, the club has
reached a stage where exactly half its members may be considered as ‘permanent’
and this percentage will rise so that it will become more and more important
not to drive these members away.

What, then, can we do in the future?  It may well be that we live in times that are
changing too rapidly for the type of analysis talked about in this series to be
any of further use.  However, if this
exercise has taught its author anything – it is that guesswork must be reduced
to an absolute minimum if we are to take sensible decisions about anything
which may affect the growth of the B.E.C.

S.J.C.

 

Monthly Crossword Number 79

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Across (Passages)

1. 14-18 vadose cave
features?  (6)
4. Commercial concern as requirement for belays perhaps? (4)

7. London street

in September.  (6)
8. Strongly assert topless speleologist. (4)
10. Serve rat going across. (8)
13. Cry a mixture of salts deposited in caves. (8)
16. Smirk – presumably at young sheep on Mendip. (4)
17. Will keep a climber as warm as anything in Oban or a kilt.  (6)
18. You might need a rope to this a 10 across if handholds are scarce. (4)
19.  Determines metallic content of ore.
(6)

Down (Pitches)

1. It is cricket to make sure a
belay is sound, for instance?  (4)
2. E.G. location of Pollnagollum. (4)
3. Large number on Mediterranean island for possible entrance shaft material.
(8)
5. Turn upside down in vertical cave descent. (6)
6. Alcoholic French pioneer? (6)
11. Untidy leaves in autumn may blow into this cave. (8)
12. Laughable old Mendip inhabitant. (5)
14. The Hundred
Acre field describes its this.
(4)
15. Form of winter mountaineering transport? (4)

Solution to No. 78

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© 2024 Bristol Exploration Club Ltd

registered in England and Wales as a co-operative society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered no. 4934.

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