By Tim Large

New members:

948       Axel Knutson Jnr.,

Milford St.
, Southville,


Address changes

933       Di Beeching,

Waterloo Road
, Shepton Mallet,

Bob White, Cedar Hall,

Henley Lane
Wookey,’Nr. Wells,



At the recent annual, meeting improvements to the indemnity
chit and permit system was agreed.  To
overcome the constantly increasing files containing the application forms a
revised form will be produced which incorporates the permit as well as a tear
off slip.  In the case of temporary
permits one of these will be completed at each application.  For club members the complete form will be
completed once every 5 years.  In this
way the files can be greatly reduced. From the issuing point of view we can be sure: that an application
(indemnity? – Ed) has been signed. Whereas before we have often taken a persons word for it.


The UBSS have now informed us that the new bolting
arrangements are complete.  They write,
“We have now re-bolted the Ladder Dig with two new bolts with removable
hangers.  The lowest of these is about
two metres above floor level an the next is a reasonable distance up and to the
left.  From the second the series of
existing three eyebolts and chain can be reached.”

“The bolts are TROLL punch-bolts.  Take with you two hangers having
3/8″holes and an open ended spanner.” Eventually the club will provide these for members use.  More details when they are available.


Following the concern shown over the new tackle arrangements
some modifications to the system have now been made.  The box in the Belfry which holds the tackle
store key has had its lock changed.  In
the past, the lock was the same as the Belfry door and so the Belfry key would
fit this lock.  Now this has been changed
and a security lock fitted.  The key for
this is available to members on personal application to the committee.  It is intended particularly for those caving
mid-week as the key can be obtained from any committee member at the
weekends.  I would stress that by
mid-week etc., it means on a regular basis. The number of keys being issued will be kept as small as possible, so if
you are a once in a blue moon mid-week caver, it is doubtful that you will get
a key.  Also if there are two or three
members who normally cave together, then only one key will be issued under the
names of the three, so that anyone of them could use it.  The cost of the key will be the cost of
having a key cut.  Currently it is £1.00

A NOTE OF THE DATE – SATURDAY, APRIL 7th 1979 at 7.00pm.

illustrated talk by Jack Culvert entitled….


The talk will last about
an hour and a half, so there will be plenty of time for the pub.  Jack says that he has about 300 slides.  This should be a good evening.  REMEMBER 7.00pm at the BELFRY, 7th APRIL.

Cuthbert’s Insurance

Some concern has been expressed by leaders and members
regarding this topic.  The Committee have
enforced the recommendation made by the 1976 AGM but when the matter was
discussed again at the March Committee Meeting some points were raised which
should be seriously considered.

  1. The
    Cuthbert’s leader’s are, now insured, but what about the ordinary
    member?  The 1976 AGM also
    recommended that they, too, should obtain suitable insurance cover (third
    party, at least) but no pressure has been placed them (you, the reader!)
    to do so.  The whole question of
    this insurance was sparked off by the Lamb Leer incident.  Although not tested in court, the
    parties were sufficiently worried to settle the matter, with a substantial
    payment; and this was an ordinary caving trip.

    Having gone to all this trouble in respect of Cuthbert’s, it could be
    disastrous if a claim were made against a member on an ordinary caving
    trip, and that person was not insured.  Are we absolutely sure that in those circumstances there could be
    no claim against the club?  (NO. –

  2. The
    main reason for not including the person – person liability in the club
    insurance was the question of cost.  At present we pay about 60p a member, as opposed to about £4 if it
    were included.  At the present
    subscription rates this would mean if we went for the ‘gilt-edged’ policy,
    similar to what we had prior to 1976, the subscription rate would have to
    be increased to about £8.50 allowing for the necessary proportion for life
    members.  In this day and age is
    that too much to pay by comparison with other activities?  Another question for you.  Isn’t one of the reasons for joining a
    club to obtain the benefit of access, information, equipment AND
  3. When
    Cuthbert’s leaders take a tourist trip requested by the Caving Secretary
    what happens if one of the members of that party does something that
    injures the leader?  Should the club
    ensure that party members are suitably insured?

    It appears that the matter is very far from being clear and a meeting has
    been arranged primarily with the Cuthbert’s Leaders and the Club Committee
    on Sunday 20th May 1979 at 2.30pm in the Hunters.  All members interested are asked to
    attend.  This, meeting, obviously is
    only a fact finding gathering and though the Committee can take a certain
    course of action within Club policy it cannot take any major policy change
    without first going to the Club by an EGM or wait until the AGM.

(Ed. I must point out that though Tim’s the Club Secretary,
this column does not represent the official view of the Club Committee and are
Tim’s own reports and thoughts on any Club matter).


Meeting Of The Cuthbert’s Leaders
And The Club Committee

To discuss the matter of insurance for Cuthbert

SUNDAY MAY 20th AT THE HUNTERS AT 2.30pm.  Any member, leader or not, is welcome to

Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

I would like to draw to the attention of readers of the B.
B. to a joint project by the Council of Southern Caving Clubs and


It has long been thought by several people on Mendip that a
permanent collection of caving equipment etc., relating to this area, should be
gathered before they become dispersed and lost.

We are therefore planning two phases:

1)                    A large exhibition in the Museum Lecture room
for about a month, opening for Easter this year.  This will include donations and short term
loans of equipment.

2)                    A permanent display at the exhibition of those
items donated on long term loan.

Would any readers who can assist, either with exhibits or
information please contact Chris Bradshaw at Wells 74382 (evenings) or Mr.
Cooke at

during opening times.

Yours sincerely,
Chris. Bradshaw. Feb. 1979


Belfry Jobs

As everyone will know only too well, there is always work
needing to be done at the Belfry and for those with a few minutes to spare, Mr.
‘N’ has produced the following list.  If
every member gave up an hour of his time the task could be finished by the

  1. Septic
    Tank: – land drains to be laid out on top of stones and these in turn to
    be covered with a plastic sheet or poly bags.  The whole lot to be covered by earth.  Topsoil to be made and graded.
  2. Tackle
    Store: –

a)       Old
Stone Belfry – rear wall to be made up to roof and sealed up.

b)       New
steel frame/mesh door to be made up and fitted inside main entrance door.

c)       Store
to be cleared and re-fitted.

  1. Men’s
    Bunkroom Fire Door: – To be repaired, sealed and new panic bar fitted.
  2. Night
    storage heaters in men’s bunkroom to be repaired and brought into use.
  3. Upper
    tier of Alpine Bunk to be repaired.
  4. Shelving
    to be fitted in Library – liaise with ‘Wig’
  5. Potholes
    in car park to be filled with rubble and re-graded.
  6. Formica
    strip or other suitable covering to be fitted to front of sink units.
  7. Stone
    wall around heart to be repaired.
  8. Door
    to men’s bunkroom to be fitted with door closing spring.
  9. Sound
    proofing to be fitted to interior wall of men’s bunkroom and main room.
  10. Shower
    and toilet area (including changing room).  Area to be improved as per Committee decisions (see Hut Engineer)
  11. Proper
    allocation and identification of lockers and cabinet in main room of
  12. Carbide
    store – job complete.
  13. General
    tidying up of site.
  14. Manufacture
    of an A-Z wall cabinet to place members BB’s for collection.

The Odd Note

CG is still in the throes of house building are managing to
get some work carried out in the oxbows in August hole.  Apparently the perched sump is now a
‘suspended duck’ giving free access to the far ends.

Willie Stanton is at long last revising the Swildon’s survey
– probably due to Milch’s continual prodding!

after the Christmas ‘blow-out’ Graham Wilton-Jones and Tony Jarrett set off to
tackle the longest cave system in


Day 3 – Hölloch
Day 4 – Eiger, North Face.

An account by Graham

It’s J-Rat’s fault. He asked if I would go to the Hölloch. Then Milch explained that it was a Shepton trip and everything was
arranged.  As it was only two Shepton
members were going (Rich Kemplerer and the Block of Wood).  Additionally there were two
Wessex (Pete M and Alison H) one
Westminster (Jim Watson) two


(Nigel Anderton and Max McDuff) and three Grampian (Ivan Young, Pete Dowswell
and Dave Warren).  I went along to
represent the BEC and prove that we get everywhere, while J-Rat represented and
all of the other clubs you can think of!

Fore a mere £280 a minibus was hired and a multitude of
forms and certificates filled in or collected to please the EEC
bureaucracy.  On Boxing Day, Block and I
drove the bus on a circular tour of southern


via Mendip and Aylesbury, to catch the Ramsgate-Calais hovercraft early on
December 27th.  We even had a tachograph
to play with, its little lights and dials telling us that if we’d been driving
too long or too fast and us supposedly telling it where we were driving,
eating, working or sleeping. Occasionally we were confused by this wonderful invention, or we
confused it – if you were a tachometer what would you do with both drivers
asleep and the wagon doing 110kph down a frog auto route?  We eventually arrived outside the
Hölloch-grotte Gasthous in the small hours of the 28th.  The house being shut for the night, we slept
in the van, in the snow, under piles of logs, in the wood shed, on the van roof,
on the Gasthaus steps.  Around 5am (they
haven’t heard of the British ‘lie-in’ in Switzerland) and the landlady
discovered Block on the steps and gradually the rest of us stirred and crept
into the comfort of the guest house and the mattresses on the floor that had
been prepared for us.

The Hölloch is situated at the head of the Muotatal valley,
near Schweitz (Schwyz) which is 27 miles south of

. Its single entrance (the little hole 30 feet above is supposed to be
walled up) leads to over 135km of galleries, making this the third longest
known cave in the world.  It was the
longest until Flint Ridge and Mammoth were connected, and now Optimachenka
looks like taking this title.  (Sorry –
Peschtschers Optimistitscheskaja!)  The
Hölloch also has a very respectable depth/height making it one of the world’s
deepest caves as well.  In spring, summer
and autumn, when snow in the shafts above is melting, most of the cave is
inaccessible for the first kilometre as the entrance passage drops down to the
bottom of a deep phreatic loop; this sumps in the thaw or in wet weather.  At times water even comes flooding out of the
entrance, nearly 100m above the winter water level.  In winter time the greatest danger is to
become trapped between the aforementioned phreatic U-tube and a second one ten
minutes further into the cave.

We were aroused for continental breakfast at 9am and then
began the hassle to actually go down the cave. It seems the same as elsewhere in Europe – you arrange everything in
minutest detail, preparing for every contingency and when you arrive ‘ees not
posseeble’ (the weather too bad, the guide in drunk, they’ve heard of your
club, no way can you go down.  And what a
string of excuses we had this time: too many people in the cave already (35,
though the NSS Euro-region Grotto newsletter, suggests that 300 to 400 cavers
at one weekend in the cave is not unusual) bivouacs 1 and 2 full up; bivouac 3
no longer in existence (true) and a dangerous site anyway; the great deity,
Prof. Bogli in residence at Bivouac 1 and not wanting to be disturbed (why not,
we wonder?); the weather warming up and set for a thaw.  Finally we persuaded the landlady, Frau
Suter, who controls the access to the cave, to let us go in as far as the
Wasserdom and then return, which we did.

From the Gasthaus a walk over, the river and then on a path
criss-crossing a small ravine and zigzagging up its sides takes you to the cave
in a few minutes.  The gated entrance is
at the head of the ravine.  The first
kilometre of the system was once equipped as a show-cave and much of the roof
is marred by the decaying remains of cable insulators.  In places the floor is of level concrete and
there are many concrete steps on the main route and around some of the
oxbows.  Rusting and rotten steel cum
wooden steps, with the odd wire handline, lead eventually down to the Sandhalde
and the bottom of the first phreatic loop. Up to this point much of the beauty of the cave, apart from some
excellent potholes, has been obscured by the show cave fitments.  There are no formations worth speaking of
anyway and it is not surprising that the show cave venture failed.

Many of the upward flowing phreatic slopes, like the
Sandhalde (Sand Slope) are littered with debris, particularly gravel and
pebbles.  On the other hand most of the
downward flowing slopes are broken only by large scallops and sometimes single
vadose runnels, very useful for climbing up. The passages in the next section are frequently wide, arch bedding
planes as the loops zigzag within their narrow band of limestone.  Names like Zimmermanns Angst (Dread) and Bose
Wand (Evil Wall) with its 114 rung steel fixed ladder, reflect the danger of
delaying in this flood pone section.

Several ups and down and another fixed ladder later we
reached the next danger point – the bottom of the second phreatic loop – at the
Keller (Cellar).  Like most of the region
of this cave it was nearly dry.  Climbing
the Alligatorenschlucht we found the Aquarium dry, a healthy indicator.  Entering the Seengang (Lakes Passage) we at
last began to climb away from the entrance passage.  A small steam chattered form the two lakes, Langensee
and Drahtsee (

) and also from a
cleft in the wall, dispelling all my preconceived ideas that the Hölloch is
either flooded or totally inactive. Drahtsee had no wire but a ladder was perched horizontally across it,
although it was possible to traverse round the water.  The passage continued steeply upward
following a bedding plane and joint forming a typical diamond shaped cross
section.  Still the passage remained a
fairly homely size – no squeezes or constrictions, but no huge passage either.  Even when we entered the Riesen Saal (Giants
Hall) there was no impression of hugeness, just a wide elliptical passage with
ceiling at ceiling height type.  We met a
large party of Swiss cavers (or were they skiers?) and one Australian who had
come to ski in

on the non-existent snow.  There is
little doubt that, apart from the length, the cave could be graded VDC.  The Aussie spoke of a squeeze – we think he
did not take off his pack.  Finally we
arrived at Wasserdom, a high chamber where the water cascades out of the roof,
forms a gravely pool on the floor and disappears down a low cleft.

The Hölloch is formed, basically, in the lowest of three
bands of tilted limestone, each band being interspersed with impervious layers
of rock.  At a very few points an
independent vadose system within the middle limestone band has broken through
into the lower phreatic system.  Here at
Wasserdom is one of these points.  The
top layer of limestone is the surface lapiaz, in which there are many shafts,
including one which could provide access to the middle layer vadose system via
a wet, loose boulder choke.

From the Wasserdom we slithered and slipped our way back to
the entrance.  The cave is noted for its
slippery smooth rock – Hölloch is alleged not to mean Hell Hole as some suppose
but Slippery Hole.  Four and a half hours
after entering the cave we were changing in the warmth and comfort of the
Gasthaus.  Not many caving huts can boast
a bar and restaurant among their facilities. Wiener schnitzel and beer to round off the day became a catching habit.

The following day it still did not look as if we were going
to manage a long trip and bivouac in the cave. The weather being reasonable, a small group of us set out to scale the
cliffs behind the Gasthaus, while the remainder went down to the sumps of the
resurgence series, accessible from just inside the entrance to the
Hölloch.  First of all, by mistake, they
travelled round into the next valley to the narrow slot of a resurgence which
has no accessible passages.  We ran into
bother too.  The cliff, about 1,000m high,
proved to be covered in nasty slippery grass, loose boulders and rotting tree
stumps, and we only made it about halfway up. Besides, there was no beer at the top.

Day three found us all in the Hölloch again.  This time route finding was no problem and we
were 2km into the system in about one third of the time.  There was now more water in the cave – a
stream flowed into the now full Aquarium and the reason for the ladder over the
Drahtsee was abundantly clear.  Just
short of the Wasserdom we turned into the Domgang.  This passage is more the size one would
expect of a cave such as this.  Domgang
can be compared with Aggy Daren Cilau for size (the 1,000ft crawl? Ed.).  At Glitzertor (Glittering Gate) were the
passage is coated with Aggy like encrustations of selinite, four Swiss were in
bivouac, undertaking the exploration of a new access point into the upper
series.  One of them showed us the route,
via Hexenkessel (Witch’s Cauldron) and Regenhalle (Rain Hall) to the Himmelgang
(Heaven’s Way) where we lifelined Alison up an awkward little climb beside an
exposed shaft – Todesschlund (Death Hole). The Himmelgang was of normal size, three metres high and wide.  In a smaller passage, just off one corner, we
found the Ruebli (Carrot) one of the Hölloch’s few formations, a 30-40cm long
translucent orange stal.  Just around the
corner of this beautiful, if lonely stal, was a pile of festering filth –
carbide, poly sacks, tin cans, old batteries, etc.  There was a similar dump in the Riesen
Saal.  So many of the continentals do not
seem to care about their caves in this respect. In search of the Galerie des 1001 Nuits we became confused in a maze of,
believe it or not, crawls, so we headed out. We had promised Frau Suter that we would be no more than six hours, and
so we were.

Day four – New Year’s Eve – was warm and blue.  Though the dreaded Fohn was not blowing from
the south, a high pressure pocket had developed just over the Muotatal and this
was holding off the European snows, so they told us.  Several of us decided on a tourist visit to
the Eiger while Jim and the Grampian hard men prepared to wade through the
lakes and bivouac in the cave regardless. In the Hölloch the waters flowed even more strongly and the happy
campers were repulsed.  Other bivouacees
were seen making rapid exit from the cave, many having made extra long detours
to avoid the flood waters that were now creating sumps in various sections of
the cave.  Meanwhile, at the Eiger, three
of us managed to reach the Nordwand station, braving blizzards and spindrift to
do so.  Others walked to various heights
on the approach walk to the face according to their whims.  Using low, devious cunning I avoided much of
the blizzard by walking through the railway tunnels but none of the drivers
would offer me a lift.  J-Rat, using even
lower cunning, kipped in the van all day!

Then came New Year’s Day proper.  Before too much alcohol had been consumed we
decided to head for home the following, travelling via the odd show caves to
make up for what we had missed in the Hölloch. We brought in battery and cassette player from the minibus and saw the
New Year in to the wail of pipes. Actually we did this twice – once for New Year local time and an hour
later for New Year White Man’s time. Frau Suter presented us each with a bottle of Neujahr wine, while J-rat
shared round the whiskey and tried the Highland Fling.  Someone loaded the alcoholic, somnolent Rich
with half full glasses and bottles, then disturbed his humour with a nudge,
much to the delight of the landlord and the company.

The sore heads of New Year’s Day found it difficult to grasp
that it was snowing hard and Dave was trying to drum up enthusiasm for a three
day trip in the Hölloch.  However,
eventually the Grampian contingent plus J-rat, Jim and I headed in towards
bivouac 2 with packs and three days supplies. We began to realise that the Swiss spared no expense or energy in
equipping the cave for the season’s explorations.  Just short of the Riesen Saal we took a short
cut to reach the
Styx and found a handline of
best Bluewater.  Down a short muddy slope
to the Styxsee and there was a fibreglass dory, which must have taken ages to
man-handle there.  We pulled ourselves
individually across the lake, waded round and through several muddy hollows and
then began the long struggle up the Innominata. The series of several long handlines is virtually essential on these
steep, mud covered phreatic tubes.  Two
and a half hours from the entrance we arrived at bivouac 1, which we studied
with awe.  We had to move on though, now
through the wide, elliptical Titanengang, until this petered out close to the
Seilgang (Ropeway).  Here the passage
meets with one of the few faults encountered in the cave and drops down with
unusual steepness via rope and fixed (by faith) ladder, to the second
fibreglass dory, this on the Burkhaltersee. Soon after, at 6.30, after a 5¼ hour trip, we reached bivouac 2.  Just around the corner was 2a, and next to
that the newly built extravagance of 2b.

On our first two visits to the Hölloch there had been a
reasonable draught.  On this occasion
there was a howling gale, making a noise like raging floodwaters at one
constriction, and more powerful than anything I have seen emitting from the EDF
Tunnel of the

.  The bivouacs are in corners and hollows of
the main passage and have been protected somewhat from the wind by the creation
of large polythene sheet shelters.  The
floor has been levelled using sand carried form other parts of the cave, and
there are foam mattresses permanently in position in sleeping quarters.  Permanent water supply is laid on via
polythene pipe form the upper reaches of the system.  Steel and wood tables, vinyl covered, are concreted
into the floor with foam and steel covered seats.  Cutlery, stoves, pots and pans, racks, bowls,
buckets etc., are all brand new – £100’s worth. We settled down to our dehydrated goo, mouth watering as we watched the
Swiss residents consume salad, ravioli, spaghetti and so on.  After a cool (6°) game of cards we retired.

In the late morning, as we lazily breakfasted, the
Liverpool contingent arrived.  They had come in and stayed at Bivi 1
overnight.  While they settled down to a
second breakfast we moved off along the SAC gang.  The memory is of wide, elliptical passages and
very little else.  There was a fair
amount of breakdown as we reached Bivi 3, which seem to comprise a pile of
slabs, a poly sank and a rusty tin can! Not even a level spot in sight! We were then very glad that Frau Suter had dissuaded us from staying
there with the words ‘there is nothing there and it is too dangerous.’  Apparently it was erected one winter and
there was no sign of it the next.  They
tried once more but once again the summer flooding destroyed it, so they gave
up.  As we descended through the dark
brown, worm infested mud towards the lower sections of the cave once more, the
carbides began to run low on water.  This
is one of the hazards of the place, but we were lucky to find a pool at the
Schuttdom.  Climbing the Faule Wand
(Rotten Wall) by its equally rotten ladder and then an electron ladder we
dropped down to the Dreiecksee (

).  Two days earlier this had been sumped but now
we were able to walk around one side with ease. On we tramped, along the scalloped rock or solid mud floor passage,
where the general brown-ness effectively soaked up the glow of our
mega-carbides.  At Minster wall a
handline strung directly from an insecure and bendy piton did not inspire
confidence.  The wall was free-climbable
anyway.  Finally we arrived at the clear,
pebble floored pool that is the SAC siphon. One does not dive through Hölloch sumps. Two hours of extra caving could have taken us to the other side but we
decided to head back towards Bivi 2.

Just above the Schuttdom we left the SAC gang for a low tube
where we actually had to drop down onto hands and knees.  This was to cut out a large loop of the SAC
gang and big Jim really lapped it up, soon learning that Zwerhstollen had
something to do with a dwarf.  A cold,
clear pool, almost invisible, smooth, white rock, stretched right across the
passage and some distance along it. Everyone now got wet feet and blamed me for leading them that way.  We climbed up through the mud banks of the
Lehmtal (Clay Passage and back to the Doline in the SAC gang.  It was decided to try and return to the
bivouac via the Lehmschollengang (

) but, unlike other part of the cave, the
pitches in this were not tackled. However the passage is adorned with fascinating forms, all man made,
carved out of the fine clay deposits. Even A. Bogli has a sculpture there, above all the rest.  Naturally we left our own, in our own inimitable
way.  Returning to Bivi 2 we met up with
Block, Pete and Alison who had entered the cave that morning, when it was still

On the 3rd day we all headed out, enjoying a most
exhilarating slide down the Innominata. Water levels were low everywhere. Two and three quarter hours later we blinked at the snow and the
sunshine from among the long icicles of the entrance, after just over, 48 hours
underground.  The next night we were
struggling through the artic wastes of
with only dim memories of our rapid passage through the damp and draughty tubes
of underground



Ed. note: For those wishing to see a survey of the Hölloch
should refer to the W.S.G. Bulletin


8 Year Olds View of Caving

For a change from the regular
Belfry Bulletin scribe here’s a report of a caving trip by Stu Lindsey’s eight
year old lad David.

In December I went to the Belfry, and it was cold
outside.  On Saturday dad took me caving
down Swildons Hole.  We went over the top
of Jacobs Ladder and comes out at the wet and the dry way.  After then it was a pretty part of the
cave.  We came out at the wet way.

In the afternoon mum cooked the diner, and while my dad
painted the doors.  I helped run around
the table making Belfry Bulletins.  We
went to the pub at night I slept in the car and drunk lemonade.  I slept in the little room.  In the afternoon John Dukes and Sue took me
down Manor farm Swallet.  First we went
down a 58ft ladder climb, and then some passages, and down a 20ft climb, and
then we seed a curtain, and down another climb. I slipped so John lowered me down. Then through Albert’s eye, up through a passage to a beautiful bit.  Then we went up through a hole in the seeling
into NHASA gallery.  It was hard climbing
out.  I think my stay at the Belfry was
mint, and I am going to come again.


That was


first visit to the Belfry and by the sound of it, it won’t be his last –
perhaps Stu is thinking of making an advance application for Dave’s membership
to the club.


New Year, Caving, The Dales

While other members of the BEC
were spending their New Year Celebrations in

and the other Belfry
regulars spending their time in the Hunters, Stu Lindsay was wallowing in the
underground waters of the Easegill system…   

We, my wife Susan and I arrived at the Helwith Bridge Hotel
2 pints to closing time on Wednesday night. The drive up the M5/6 being a rather hectic though exhilarating
experience in the adverse weather conditions. My battered 101 in its three and a half hour jaunt negotiated the perils
of gale force winds, torrential rain and zero visibility when overtaking
convoys of monstrous, mist spreading, juggernauts.

Thursday, the 28th, greeted us with howling winds, more
rain, sheets of it pulsing the Ribble to a raging torrent of foaming, peat
stained, water 5ft over its norm!  Yet 72
hours later this destructive force was relegated to a small, gentile stream,
gurgling effortlessly amidst a million snow capped rocks…alas! to day was
caving day, UGH, the prospects of attaining one or more of the goals in
Easegill (together with
Lancaster, Pippikin and
Link Pot is reputed to be

longest cave system) looked decidedly bleak. Indeed with water everywhere, a
diversion via Ingleton due to a flooded road, made me wonder if we would even
get there!

Setting off from Bull Pot Farm an hour later, twelve one
time keen, eager souls were being slowly whittled away by the sudden drop in
temperature.  The rain became noticeably
heavier, driven relentlessly by the increasing wind, stinging……chilling…..BBBrrr.  It was crossing the top of the Fell that it
really hit us with a vengeance, the open moor offering no respite from a
million stings a minute, snowflakes, gentle snowflakes, frozen into needle
sharp missiles, projected by force 9 winds, yes, these violent, poundings in my
left ear were being caused by frozen snow…..Painfully, eyes squinting and teeth
chattering we covered the final half mile to find the Beck a 2ft deep and 12ft
wide torrent……yeh!

Entry into

was swift, its warmth
beckoning like a magnet to the shivering multitude waiting to descend.  Progress to Straw Chamber (does he mean
Easter Grotto? Ed) was slow but sure, the novices doing quite well.  The water level in the Main Drain was quite
high, although after visiting S.C. the level had receded about 3 inches.  Straw Chamber proved to be a large, mud/sand
covered bouldery ‘passage’ with a bedding plane roof liberally covered with
straws to 2ft in length, best viewed form the far end.  Small bedding plane grottos decorate the
higher parts of the chamber sides, whilst behind the ‘view gallery’ a breakdown
passage reveals numerous sections of false calcited floor (yes he does –
Ed.).  A visit to trident Passage in full
spate proved fun but the water was very cold. The oxbow passage yielding some superb formations, equal to some of the
better known stals in the system.  The
rest of the trip proved uneventful, although the water from Spout Hall outwards
was conspicuous by its absence, the first pitch being almost dry.  The desperate weather conditions on the surface
became increasingly more apparent as the ascent of the entrance shaft was made,
now the moor, ice covered and darkness provided another hazard, ‘Peat Pits’
knee deep hiding in the dark, in the freezing wind, the cold………..hot stew………the
pub…….warm fire…….a few pints. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz a day to remember.

SELL GILL – With the Bar Pot trip being cancelled due to
weather problems, the 29th was taken up with a dinner time session and a walk
to liven up the system for a renewed attack on the evening guzzling record.

So to the snow covered 30th, when four of our intrepid
little band set off intent on doing Sell Gill. In normal friendly conditions one can imagine how pleasant the walk up
from Holm Farm must be.  But on the day
my fortune took me up to savour its delights; the snow had drifted, drifted and
drifted….thus making the simple walk really hard graft.  Yet for the second time in two days I was
caught with my wet suit exposed….the delights of being battered, frozen and
fatigued crossing Casterton fell had taught me nothing!  A cagoule protects those parts other wets
suits do not….YOH!  The perils of caving
– the blizzard swept the fells in sub-zero, howling winds are manifold, so be
prepared and do not underestimate the weather.

Eventually we reached the Pennine way track – so I was told
as it lay under a couple of feet of snow. Huddled behind a wall enjoying a brief respite form the wintry ‘breeze’
the harsh realisation suddenly dawned, we were light on tackle.  One of us was guilty of forgetting a couple
of ladders, so Neil R…peeled off his tackle and bolted off down the hill like a
spring lamb, diving into large snowdrifts en-route, he soon disappeared from
sight.  Progress to the hole was achieved
regretfully demolishing a number of fine snow formations, the wind having
moulded the drifts into arêtes and cornices.

Rigging the First Pitch proved to be very hazardous indeed,
Alan T., at one time appeared to be standing on a snow bridge, it was in fact
the ‘bar belay.’  The ladder rigging was
completed as Neil came bounding over the rise with the missing ladders and a
rosy glow to his cheeks!  In contrast,
the lifelining job I had undertaken was becoming desperately uncomfortable, the
cold wind blowing down the beck cutting into my neck like a razor sharp knife,
the rigid, ice covered rope proving more and more difficult to manipulate – it
stuck to everything including my gloves! Once inside the entrance, the warmth of the cave soon had us tackling
the second and third pitches.  Pitch 2,
an easy 12m, is mostly a gentle free hang, the first bit against a well broken
wall, the third pitch follows straight away, the 14m broken by a steep cleft at
the top while the remainder of the climb being a superb lightly fluted shaft.  The floor of the chambers below the pitches
are of the cobbly type so beware when ascent/descents are being made!  Left, down cave, a roaring 23m waterfall is
encountered; this enters the big shaft about half way down and marks the start
of the main chamber.

Huge, mud choked blocks litter the floor of this 40 x 40 x
30m (est.) chamber.  The stream follows
the left wall down into a walking side passage that gradually reduces in size
to force the caver to a series of wet crawls under stalagmite bridges and ends
at a sump – very promising – oh! for a Mendip dam and…. Not much exploration
was carried in other parts of the cave due to obstinate failure of a
Mendipian’s ‘magic eye’ when photographing the Main Chamber.  Nine times the slaves on two guns
failed…oops.  So it came to pass, an hour
later, poor Mike B. was chipped from his perch by the waterfall, and thawed out
under a handy carbide.  A rapid exit of
the cave was then accomplished, the undaunted photographer trying to salvage
his pride and previous efforts, by snapping some candid action shots on the

At the First Pitch it was found that more snow had been
blown in, the top half of the ladder was frozen into the ice around the top of
the entrance making the last four or five feet extremely tricky.  The final climb up onto the dark, cold, snow
swept moor, in the face of an icy wind, on an iced up electron ladder (sticky
with a dry ice effect) was quite enthralling. To me both trips were great fun
never having experienced such extreme conditions before.  The walk back was far from an anti-climax,
the snow drifts now deeper and more spectacular in the mellow glow of our cap
lamps acted as ramps to propel powder dry snow particles, at bullet speeds,
into our cold stinging faces.  The final
coup de goop was not the frolics of the ten foot drifts but the task of trying
to pack ‘sticky’, stiff tackle into the car! Have you even seen the old comedy sketch trying to get rid of toffee

Unfortunately the next few days were enforced non-caving
day, the weather began to get bad, the wind was dropping and the snow storms
becoming more intense, but shorter, interspersed with clear blue skies and
sunshine.  Yes, the sun does shine on the
dales (in 4 days throughout 1978 I saw sunshine about 5 times!)

After the New Year’s Eve festivities, black pudding and
polony with your ale in the pub and savoury baked taties at the party
afterwards it was with long faces, that a number of sleepiness bodies out into
the crisp dawn air to start the flaming car! Thirty minutes of wasted sleep time was spent in trying to open the rear
engine compartment of the offending VW. THE
SEAT!!!  And so it was, we were all ready
two hours later when it snowed, but this was soft snow, soft, white un-driven
snow, fluttering ceaselessly and silently earthwards.  Some three inches fell in under an hour.  It was still falling when the convoy left the
‘Bridge’ after a record breaking clean and pack fiasco, destination
Leeds.  And so, the
last of my first (last?) visit was spent in the hospitable comfort of Mike
Gisby’s residence.

That night we celebrated our close escape with a few pints
of Darleys Ale at the ‘The Rook’, the YSS local boozer.  The snow had stopped, it was freezing and
time was, we should be heading home……south, the centre of the universe.


St Cuthberts Trip

The following account of a wet
trip into St. Cuthbert’s only to find that the entrance rift was impassable is
given by Martin Grass….          

At approximately 0200 hours on Saturday, Feb. 3rd, Jim
Watson and I entered St. Cuthbert’s for a night time trip, the weather was
freezing and Mendip was blanketed in snow. Although the stream was cold it was not particularly high for winter
conditions.  The party exited at about
0700 hours, just as the sun was rising.

At 1000 hours a walk to the entrance showed the water rising
rapidly as the sun was quickly melting the snow and by 1200 hours the
depression was completely flooded with a pool about 60 feet across in the
bottom of it.  The dams were out and
completely submerged.  I laddered the
entrance rift and tried to descend but could get no more than three rungs down
the ladder before I started swallowing large amounts of water as it was not
only going down the rift but shooting horizontally across it.  Water was even entering at the base of the
entrance pipe.  Graham put the dams in to
see if the water would subside and although submerged, a considerable
difference was made to the rift, in fact enough to get a party who were down if
the need had arisen.  By 1700 hours the pond
had disappeared and the swollen stream was following its normal course.  It was interesting to note that a visit to
Swildons on the same day showed the water was only slightly higher than the
normal winter level.

Editors note; This is the first time for several
years that a report of the cave being in spate has been recorded.  The last I know was in January 1974.  The rift is passable by experienced cavers
under these conditions.  Breathing is
difficult but the entrance series to Mud Hall is worth seeing under these
conditions.   The water entering at the
foot of the entrance pipes sweeps across the passage from the pipe and forms
about a 6″-8″ deep stream along the entrance passage.  The top of the entrance rift is swilling in
water and about 6 feet down from the top of the rift, a large jet of water
streaks across the rift from a stal hole in the wall.   The waterfall in Arête is large by any
standard and the Ledge Pitch stream sweeps across the rift hitting the far
wall.  The Wire Rift steps are not
visible as the water forms a white foaming streak down the passage, so loud
that you can’t hear anything else.


Cavers Bookshelf No.1


Edited by Ivan Young

Published by Grampian Speleological Group.  Special Publication Number 1 (Oct.’78).  Price 50p + p&p from G.S.G., 8

.  30pp. A5 saddle stitched.  Printed by
off-set.  5 area maps and 9 surveys

Appin peninsular lies west of Glen Coe.  Many of the caves having been opened by the
G.S.G. in the last couple of years – though they were not the first to explore
in the area.  Though not many of the
caves exceed 1,000ft they are said to be able even the most demanding caver
some good sport.  This concise booklet
gives a brief description of each cave together with surveys of the larger and
more important systems.  Each cave is
located by an eight figure grid reference and is graded numerically, similar to
the northern cave guides.  One
occasionally jolts at the use of Americanisms, for example Speleothems.

Apart from my old platform where the surveys are un-graded,
though they look well drawn though a little cluttered making the detail
difficult to read clearly, the main criticism must be at the size of type.  Six point is too small to read comfortably
and would have appeared much better had the type been 8 point, this would not
have increased the area of printed matter much and it could have been easily
accommodated in the same number of pages. Still, one should not moan too much when the booklet only costs 50p.


Wigmore Swallet

recent digging and breakthroughs.

Again this month we have another
episode in the fight to extend the latest B.E.C. discovery

by Tony Jarrett

Since the breakthrough of 28th December 1977 (B.B. No.359)
most of the work at the site has been in the nature of solidly shoring the
entrance shaft by means of stone and mortar walls, and of constructing a secure
concrete capping for safety reasons (see Stu Lindsay’s article in B.B.
No.368).  The wisdom of this move has
been amply demonstrated by Lord Waldegrave’s delighted thanks to the team and
his offer of any other digging sites on his estates.  Thus, as a public relations exercise this has
been more successful than we had hoped and it is essential that all visits and
further digs in this area are continued in the same tradition.  Incidentally, anyone wishing to visit Esker
Hill and Buddles Wood mining areas should arrange permission first via the
Estate Office at Chewton Mendip.  A
refusal is now doubtful, allowing for the shooting season.

Once the engineering section had been completed their noble
edifice it was suddenly and sadly realised that we may had to go back
underground!  During the early part of
the year various visits had been made to the end, including ‘Wig’, Graham W-J
and Martin Grass’s surveying trip and odd digging visits by Ross White, Claire
Williams, Chris Batsone, Trev Hughes and others.  These investigations had shown that water
sinking at the far end of the terminal chamber could be heard flowing under the
boulder floor in the far left hand corner. Partial removal of these boulders had been attempted but it was
suggested that any further work would require a good dollop of ‘Irish

On 14th October the writer went for a recce dig at this
spot, accompanied by Chris Batstone, Chris Smart and John Turner.  A vast quantity of mud and rocks was removed
leaving a low black hole with a view into open passage and a sofa sized rock
precarious balanced above said hole.  A
good draught could be felt (a peculiar thing about this dig is strangely that
the normally ‘four letter word’ men, burst forth with amazingly long and
intellectual words rarely heard before!

The following morning, accompanied by Alan Thomas, I went
back to the offending boulder, which was duly demolished and an afternoon’s
work by Simon ‘Woody’ Woodman.  Steve
Plumley (the Apprentices) Chris Smart and myself enabled the debris cleared and
a better look at the way on obtained. Unfortunately three more boulders just prevented access, though some ten
feet of clean washed bedding could be seen.

On the 17th, the writer directed
member, Rob Harper, from an Aggy trip and soon cleared more gravel from a bang
arranged by Al Mills (also

during that morning.  We soon squeezed
into the inviting hole to gain some 30ft of low, rock strewn bedding crawl,
identical to Christmas crawl further back in the cave.  A collapsing roof bedding at the end
prevented further progress and was a textbook illustration of passage formation
by breakdown along small joints.  Some
clearing of this new crawl was started to enable more ‘portly’ (i.e. blood fat)
diggers to reach the working face.  The
crawl was christened ‘Pinks and Posies’ as that was what the vocal duo were
murdering at the time.

More clearing trips on 20th – 22nd drastically altered the
height of the passage and amount of hairy roof and wall at the end.  Diggers and sledge haulers were Stu Lindsey,
Chris B., Trev, Tim Large,

and the writer.  Some eight feet of collapse were cleared and
the low bedding plane continuing to draught strongly.

On the 28th November, Trev Hughes, ‘Tuska’ Morrison (WCC)
Rich Maskell (hijacked matelot) and the writer cleared a further four feet of
collapse to reveal an open section of tunnel. This was entered by the two B.E.C. men two days later after gardening
the roof and walls.  The crawl here is
low but wide and after some twelve feet is obstructed by a large slab.  Work continues-

WIGMORE – The formation of the cave.

The writer has a theory on the formation of this small but
interesting cave which he would only be delighted to have further informed
opinions on.

He suggests the initial development began with the local
drainage following a weakness in the mineral vein down which the entrance shaft
was excavated.  This relatively major
joint continues below the vein to the head of Christmas Crawl, being
intersected in hesitation Chamber by several cross rifts, forming minor inlets
from further along the vein.

Reaching the softer marl (?) bed of the crawl, the drainage
gradually eroded this material, following the dip of this bed.  Initially the passage was very low, though
fairly wide in places.  Weakening of the
roof caused collapse into the passage as is at present happening in places.

A junction of small oxbows and inlet in the Santa’s Grotto area
created a much wider section, considerably enlarged by roof collapse to create
a fairly roomy chamber.  The combined
drainage leaving this area once again is concentrated in a single conduit and
the collapse in Pinks and Posies may be due to a continuation of the entrance
joint again reaching the crawl.

It is suggested that the cave will continue its gentle dip
along the bedding being still a low passage until it meets the limestone
junction and then…who knows?

WIGMORE – notes on the survey

by ‘Wig’

The survey was carried out on a single trip during April
19768 and the field notes gathered by Martin Grass, Dave Irwin and Graham
Wilton-Jones using Suunto compass and clinometer and a 50ft fibron tape.  Both the clinometer and compass were
calibrated to conform with the BCRA Grade 5 requirements.

Due to the constricted nature of the lower passage
(Christmas Crawl) the bearings were always forward through leap-frogging was
carried out from the top of the climbs to the entrance shaft.

The extension from the chamber (Santa’s Grotto) was surveyed
by Tony Jarrett et al (Pinks and Posies) soon after it was opened up.  The original is drawn at 1/120 and prints
will be available through the Mendip Survey Scheme.

Total length 237ft; depth 78ft; BCRA grade 5c-d


B.E.C. Caving Reports

some of the 21 issues that are in stock at the Belfry or at
‘Wig’s’ at Townsend Cottage..

Caving Reports have not appeared regularly since about 1972
although there has been plenty to publish – mainly parts of the Cuthbert’s
Report.  Though we had access to two
printing machines people are not apparently prepared to prepare the plates or
stencils for printing the mass of material in the stock pile.  The last part of the Cuthbert’s Report to
appear was the Rabbit Warren Extension (Part H) in 1972.  Parts on the stocks include Cerberus Series,
Maypole Series September Series and the complicated Long Chamber Series.   The New and old Routes and Rocky Boulder
series surveys are complete and await the hands of the printers.  This leaves the Main Chambers and the overall
plan and elevations.  The plan is
virtually complete – a copy can be seen at the Belfry and the elevation is currently
undergoing its fifth redraw in an atternpt to produce a clear and uncluttered

The reports that are available-are:

Report No. 14

Balague 1970 by Roy Bennett.  This reports the club trip to a little known
area in the
Pyrenees together with surveys of
the discoveries made.  One of the feats
of this expedition was the descent of the Coume Ferrat – a 680ft deep shaft
which had previously descended by the French using a winch.  The intrepid BEC group decided that they
would go by ladder – just to chuck some water tracing material into the stream
at the bottom.  However, that was the
plan, the stuff didn’t turn up so they went down because it was there.  Anyway down they went and found some new
passage.  A good read.  11pp plus 4 pages of surveys Price 30p.

Report No.3A

The manufacture of Lightweight
Caving Equipment by Bryan Ellis (1962). Though ladder manufacture has progressed to the use of epoxy resins and
other forms of swaging or crimping the rungs to the wire the method employed in
this booklet’s still the most popular form of ladder construction.  23pp illustrated.  Price 30p.

Report No. 15

Roman Mine by Jill Tuck.  This unique mine discovered by the Tucks in
the mid-sixties is a superb example of a Roman excavated lead mine just
north west of
Newport in
South Wales.  The
report explains the areas where very gold miner’s remains were discovered.   Illustrated with many illustrations and
photographs including that of the 6th century bone comb which is now at the
Museum at

. A must for those interested in the
South Wales
area or in mines generally.  Price
60p.  50pp plus photos and survey.

Report No. 13

Part F St. Cuthbert’s description
of Gour Hall area photos, survey
Part E similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren
Part H similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren Extension
Part A Discovery and Exploration currently under revision.

Report No. 17

Burrington Cave Atlas by Chris
Howell, Dave Irwin and Doug Stuckey was one of our fastest selling publications
(just under 500 in under one year!)  The
Atlas has just been revised by ‘Wig’ and is only awaiting the survey of
Lionel’s Hole.  If all goes to plan (!)
the revised edition should appear (A5 size) about June this year.

Report No. 16

Mendip’s Vanishing Grottoes is a
unique collection of photographs of the now destroyed
Cave in
Cave quarry together with a collection
of photographs of

.  3 COPIES LEFT.  £1 each


Dates for your diary:

March 11th: Lancaster/Easegill; April 29th: King Pot and May
5th: Disappointment Pot & Far Country.

These trips are being arranged by Dave Metcalfe and his
Northern Speleos, who offer a cordial invitation to any BEC member who wants to
join than to just turn up for times and further details phone Dave at
Blackpool 65985.

March 10th: BCRA One day symposium
on Limestones & Caves of
South Wales.  Fee for day £1.00 includes morning coffee and
afternoon tea.

March 17-18th: Peak Cavern and

. Staying at Pegasus Hut.

March 23 M.R.O. Annual General
Meeting, 8pm at the Hunters.

Easter Weekend: Yorkshire –
staying at the
Bradford.  Details later.

to visit


to carry out original exploration work should contact:

Societe Suisse de Speleologie,
Bernard Dudan, President Central, Les Chapons 2, CH-2022 Bevaix, Suisse.

For full details see Vol. 72 British Caver (Spring 1979) in
Club Library.

Copy of 1978 Current Titles in Speleology now in Club



Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

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.

Next month in the B.B.

Horrington Hill Mine (Tim’s Retreat) and survey.  An important discovery of a 1829 Caving


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