The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
Telephone: Wells (0149) 72126

Editor: G.
Wilton-Jones

Bassett’s Notes

COUNTY
CLARE,
EIRE, EASTER
1983.  This very successful meet is only
just over.  Many members forsook South
Wales to visit the

land of
Guinness
at £l.00 per
pint and petrol at £2.79 a gallon.  Even
the falling Pund failed to cut the cost much, but a good time was had by all in
spite of the cost.  Some stayed at Peg
McCarthy’s cottage (first used as a cavers’ cottage back in 1962 when a mixed
party of B.E.C., Wessex and Shepton stayed there) some went for the better endowed
quarters at Kilshanny, and yet others braved the rain, hail, wind and snow
(yes, SNOW) and camped by Doolin Strand. We were all received by the O’Connors as old friends.

Many pints were consumed (though Colin Dooley failed to beat
his 1971 record of 24 pints in one day and 163 pints in a. week) and, believe
it or riot, a great deal of caving was done.

Pete Glanvill & Co. discovered a rather fine extension
to the little visited ‘Cave of the Wild Horses’ (no doubt an article will be
forthcoming).  While Pollnagollum –
Poulelva and St. Catherines – Fisherstreet saw the usual vast numbers of
cavers.  Wormhole got lost again – but
then so did most other people at one time or another.  Bolt discovered the joys of a peat fire, and
Hannah the dog had the time of her life, plus a few of Mrs. McCarthy’s
chickens.

Gussie O’Connor has told everyone that there a big reunion
next Easter – 72 hours of Guinness and plenty of floor space in the intervals –
should there be any.

SIDCOT SWALLET. Andy Sparrow and his men are digging at the
bottom of the cave, and have excavated into a phreatic tunnel.  Progress is slow but steady.  In usual sparrow-style, Andy says he won’t
write anything until there is more to write about (by which time it will not be
news say I.)   Perhaps I can get someone
to extract his notes from the Club log.

 

The Bec Get Everywhere –

Mexico

’82 Expedition

Now it can be told – where the Wart money went and why you
all got conned into buying expensive car stickers, but first our thanks must go
those who did contribute to the trip and our commiserations to those who didn’t
(the ancient Maya curse we discovered should strike you as these lines are read!).

For those not in the picture the Expedition consisted of
cavers from essentially the Leeds/Bradford, Manchester/Stockport and Mendip
areas plus a few odds and sods from foreign parts and Syd Perou’s film crew of
seven.  This made about thirty in all though
with members arriving and leaving at different times this was fairly
flexible.  The BEC contingent was made up
of Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Tony Jarratt, several hundred “Bertie”
stickers and the Belfry Battle Flag.

The organisation of the trip had taken some two years with a
large amount of fund raising, obtaining sponsorship from firms and writing for
permission to work in our chosen area. The bulk of our caving and camping equipment was dispatched by sea in
September of 1982.  The freight shipping
firm of Schenkers did this (and much more) for us gratis.  Without their extremely generous aid and
assistance it is doubtful if the Expedition would have succeeded.

Our chosen caving area was centred on the town of
San Cristobal de las Casas in the forested highlands of
Chiapas-Mexico’s southern border state with

Guatemala
.  This is an area of hundreds of square miles
of limestones and volcanic rocks reaching about 10,000 feet altitude and, in
the

San Cristobal

area, giving a depth potential of some 5,000 feet.  This heavily forested area had been  previously looked at by only a handful of
cavers – mainly American and Anglo – Canadian teams, though a couple of
expeditions by Italians and Belgians had also taken place.   A half down large and generally very wet
systems had been surveyed and the local show cave, Grutas de

San Cristobal
, was known to be over two miles
long and with open passages leading on. Three of our original group had visited the area in 1981 on a
reconnaissance trip and had been very impressed.

The main body of the team left
England
at the end of November planning to meet up with several lads who had left a
couple of weeks earlier to bring down two vehicles from

California
.

A series of teething troubles occurred almost immediately
starting with our discovery on arrival at

Mexico
City
airport that one of the Mexican internal airlines
had gone on strike (just like home).  The
other airlines were unable to land at Tuxtla in Chaipas due to low cloud and
British Airways had lost six of our personals rucksacks – not to appear until
over three weeks later!  After a narrowly
avoided international incident or two at the airport, two vehicles were hired
and we set off on the 800 mile drive south. One of these left the airport late at night and after a FIVE hour drive
through a surprisingly well populated

Mexico
its occupants were somewhat
dismayed to arrive back at the airport! With a population of 14 million – most of whom seem to be trainee stock
car racers –

Mexico City

is sporting to say the least.

Many tales could be told of the adventures of our two car
loads in the next day or so but to save space a mere pint in the Hunter’s will
ensure that those interested get the full story.  Our arrival at

San Cristobal
revealed more stragglers
lurking in a local bar.  Two Yanks, a
Dutchman, a Kiwi and a couple of émigré English cavers had gathered together
and taken over a local cheap hotel.  This
was necessary as our camping gear was still in the hands of the Mexican customs
and would be there for at least another week! We joined them and settled into an acclimatisation programme of
drinking, eating and sight-seeing in the town – an incredibly colourful spot
and the market place for several local Indian tribes.  It is possible to buy practically anything
here (including Armadillo handbags) and much of our British purchased food,
clothes and essentials could have been obtained much cheaper locally.  One of the team compared the town with

Katmandu
for its
colourful local folk costumes and general atmosphere – and the inevitable
American tourists.

Eventually our gear arrived and camp was established just
outside the town in a field full of delightful hairy caterpillars.  They were our first encounter with

Mexico
‘s
exciting fauna.  The charming little
furry bastards gave a nasty acid burn when touched and were fond of down
sleeping bags!  At last we could go
caving.  This second nasty shock was
accepted as inevitable and so off we trooped into the nearby show cave to get
some idea of what we were in for.  We were
pleasantly surprised.  Essentially a mile
and half of huge dry passage and fantastically decorated chambers with a
temperature of 20 C. (68 F.) made up for all those Eastwater trips last year.   We soon ditched our furry suits and nylon
overalls and took to shirts and shorts for most trips here.  During the next two months many visits to this system were undertaken but only
one minor extension was made despite a lot of searching in side passages and in
the roof.  The big problem here was that
the un-surveyed mile long extension to the cave lay beyond a long static sump
that was only passable in drought.  Local
weather conditions had changed somewhat since the recent eruption of the El
Chicon volcano only thirty miles and the sump obstinately refused to drain.  Our lack of diving gear first made itself
painfully obvious in this cave. 

Several of the team turned their attentions to the hills and
plateau above the town – between the show cave and its presumed resurgence some
10 miles away and about 5,000 feet lower. About fifty caves and shafts were descended up to depths of 300 feet but
rewarded us with nothing but a tarantula called

Stanley
and a story for John
“Lugger” Thorpe to tell in the Craven Heifer.  While checking out a rock-shelter he came
face to face with a mountain lion which luckily decided that Lugger would be a
particularly small and unpleasant mouthful and ambled on.

Some of the others were not quite so fortunate.  A large cave had been found some miles away
in the territory of a local Maya Indian tribe. Permission had been asked of the nearest local who had no
objections.  It seems that the rest of
the tribe did have and on their second visit the lads were taken prisoner by
over fifty Indians armed with machetes and sticks and told that “two
lives”and a heavy fine were required. Our brown trousered colleagues rapidly turned out their pockets and were
only slightly relieved to realise that “two lives” was bad English
for “two hostages”.  After a long
one-sided argument they were released and, like Lugger, escaped without being
eaten.

With little materialising in our chosen area a breakaway
team decided to follow up some rumours heard from a Mexican oil rig boss and
did some prospecting in the Las Margaritas area some 70 miles south east and
closer to the Guatemalan border.  This
area was much lower than

San Cristobal

and gave no hope of a world depth record but had potential for long and
interesting systems.

Many superb caves were explored over some four weeks of
visits – almost all of these being shown to us by a young Mexican fanner –
Oscar Jimenez.  Though not a caver Oscar
invariably knew which holes were open, blocked, large or small and accompanied
us underground on several surveying trips. With his permanent grin and one word of English -“sweat” – he
was a great asset and was paid by us the going rate for a day’s work (about 70p
and as many fags as he could smoke).  On
our first visit he even insisted that ten of us sleep in his house.  This was a wooden building about the same
size as the
East Somerset hut and also the
home of a large turkey which Ian “Watto” Watsom unknowingly used as a
pillow.  The local village dogs soon
began to appreciate our presence.  Never
before had they been stroked or given saucepans full of cremated curried
rice.  Equally delighted were several
small boys who became plastered in “Bertie” stickers and learnt
several useful English phrases.  In
return we got invited to the village New Year’s piss up and discovered the art
of distilling instant brain damage.  After
a few glasses of “Traco” their arms curled up and became useless as
total body failure set in.  Thank God
they wouldn’t serve us with it in the bar.

Back to the caves. This beautifully forested locality contained several fragments of an
ancient drainage system.  All were large,
fairly extensive and packed with superb but generally dead formations.  Broken Indian pottery was found in all of
these and it would seem that they were once used as water collecting sites,
though they are now very dry.  Vampire
bats and hand-sized spiders inhabited these caves and a large wooden cross in a
particularly eerie and not easily accessible chamber added to the spice of
exploration.

Two completely unvisited swallet caves were pushed here and
both were very spectacular.  The wetter
of the two was extremely sporting and the other was notable for its steep water
sculpted ramp passages and sticky white mud. Despite their initial promise both sumped after a few hundred feet and
the huge resurgence 15 miles away was also a disappointment.  An entrance over 100ft wide and 60 ft high
dropped instantly to a static sump.  The
large river emerging from boulders a hundred yards below this cave must flow
through a major system but again diving gear or a bit more luck with the sinks
would be needed t o gain access.

Other large caves in the area were surveyed and a couple not
visited due problems with permission to work in the area which caused us to
reluctantly leave here.

A brief trip to the La Trinitaria area, a couple of hours drive
from Las Margaritas provided us with one of the smallest but most novel caves
visited.  A thirty foot pitch dropped
into a 200 foot long low chamber the floor of which was strewn with over a
hundred human skulls and many limb bones. A lack of smaller bones and the presence of many heaps of ashes
indicated that before interment these bodies had been cremated.  Little could be found at the time to
enlighten us as to the age and archaeological importance of these remains but a
piece of skull was retrieved for Carbon 14 analysis.  Many photographs were taken of this strange
and rather unnerving underground cemetery – including the inevitable “Alas
poor Yorick” snaps!

While exploration in these areas continued to give us fairly
moderately sized but worthwhile rewards another team had commenced work in the
San Lucas/El Zapotal area at the foot of the massif below

San Cristobal
.  Resurgences were believed to drain the high
plateau and several fine caves were discovered and explored.

The enormous entrance chamber of Borohuiz (Cave of the
Jaguar) proved to be a religious site for the area’s Indian population and had
its own semi-pagan legend.  Anyone
entering the right hand passage below the vast entrance would “speak with
God”.  Those daring to explore the
dark left hand passage were therefore going to “speak with the Devil”
and he who was rash enough to stand in the beam of sunlight boring into the
entrance chamber would undoubtedly be struck down for his effrontery.  We laughed at this as well but anyone who has
read the papers recently may have noticed the occasional item concerning Syd
Perou and several other members laid up in a Mexican hospital with severe
histoplasmosis!!

The cause of this dreaded disease lay, we suspect, in a
different, nearby cave which contained vast heaps of dusty guano deposited by
its resident vampire bat population. Giving the affected caver a really horrible dose of fever, dehydration,
nausea, difficulty in breathing and general debility this occasionally fatal
illness is a high risk possibility in caves of the tropical one.

(Doctor’s note:  The
organism causing the disease is a kind of fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, which
causes its symptoms after inhalation of its spores from infected guano.  Normally the illness presents as a form of
chest infection but in a considerable percentage of individuals there may be no
symptoms in the affected person.   The
only way to diagnose exposure and infection then is to perform a simple skin
test.)

Being under the protection of the Bat God the BEC contingent
had been kept from visiting this cave and survived to carry on with the
exploration of a neighbouring system  and
the major find of the Expedition – Veshtucoc”.

Following some heroic free-diving by Dave “Grotty”
Gill a mega stream passage had been found with a couple of vast chambers
comparable to those in the large French systems.  A series of visits had led to the exploration
of a mile of passage, including a second free-diveable sump and terminating in
a third, deep looking pool.  Our only
diving equipment being one mask this was taken down and attached to Bob Cork
who, after a very committing free dive of about 15 feet emerged to discover a
major extension.  Further trips here
gained almost another mile and a half of really impressive cave.  A section of inclined and heavily water
sculpted stream passage over a thousand feet long was the highlight.  Time being short this system was surveyed and
left with eleven possible ways on. Should those left ill in

Mexico

recover enough to continue exploration here it is almost certain that major
extensions will be found.

Other caves visited included “El Chorricadero” –
arguably the world’s most sporting through trip.  This high and narrow river cave bores down
through a mountain for a mile and a half and to a depth of 1400 feet.  Requiring only a hundred foot rope for half a
dozen pitches the majority of the system is traversed right in the river.  Progress is generally made by leaping up to
15 feet into deep flooded potholes and by swimming along canals where a
lifejacket is almost a necessity (at least for the non-swimmer).  Just to cap it all on emerging from the
resurgence the knackered caver is greeted by a flock of optimistic vultures.

Fringe activities kept us amused when not caving though only
a relatively small amount of boozing took place (honest).  Vicente Kramsky, pioneer local caver and
professional photographer, gave us much assistance and a superb slide
show.  Tourist attractions and shopping
trips were enjoyed by all and a trickle of Mexican and foreign visitors added
to the cosmopolitan flavour of the camp site. Much more could be written on the trip and everyone has their own
favourite tales but no doubt these will be retold in the pub until you are all
bored to tears.  An expedition report
with surveys, photos etc. is planned and Syd Perou’s film of the trip should be
on Channel 4 by October.

As a conclusion I must say that everyone who went would
return to

Mexico
.  Once there it is cheap to live and there’s
enough cave to be found to last for years. In my opinion the ’82 Expedition was a great success and has paved the
way for future British teams.  Don’t
leave it all for the Yanks – start saving now!

Tony Jarratt  March 1983

 

Up The Wadi

This story begins 12 years ago two weeks after Wookey 22 was
discovered.  If you look through the CDG
N/L’s for this time you will find that John Parker, Tim Reynolds, and Bryan
Woodward explored an Eastwater type ascending rift passage for 200 feet before
getting fed up – not that the passage closed down or became too tight.  However, inexplicably, the passage was never
re-examined and the rest of the work in 22 was dedicated to finding the way on
underwater.  This was eventually achieved
after another five years of effort.

When I started diving in Wookey I started to look through
old CDC N/L/s and found the reference to this passage.  On my first trip to 22 I failed to spot it,
and on subsequent trips I was usually on the way through to 24.  Even a photographic trip to 22 in October
last year failed to turn up anything except a minor grotty loop passage.  However on a trip to 24 in December to
retrieve gear from the push in 25, I happened to have a few minutes to spare
whilst passing through.  I decided to
take a look at water level at the far end of the 22 sump pool where this
passage was reported to exist.  To my
delight there was a passage hidden from casual gaze and from anybody looking
across the 22 rift by a rock flake extending to only a few feet from the water.

I wrote to Trevor Hughes in January suggesting we dived to
22 and had a look at the passage. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it and I had to put off the trip.  In the meantime he and Rob Harper, the
original acrobatic cave-diving team, were busy on a bolt climb up an aven in
22.  They had high hopes of linking it to
Halloween Rift (see last N/L) but on a trip in late January found it closed
down.  Feeling a little disappointed they
decided to take a look at the ‘passage’ on the way out.

The approach is entertaining because the rift slopes at
thirty degrees and is covered by contoured mud which looks like rock.  Apart from the pseudo rock there are also
some mud stals. which Trev found out about when he tried to pull himself out of
the water on one.  After getting out of
the sump pool our gallant explorers then scrambled up the slope for a hundred
feet or so whilst carefully avoiding the loose boulders liberally scattered
about the place.  At the top of the slope
they entered an eighteen inch wide strike passage leading off in a northerly direction.  The roof of the passage was limestone and the
floor dolomitic conglomerate.  It was
muddy and awkward but not difficult sand after a hundred feet of progress they
found a diver’s knife.  The original
explorer’ footprints stopped soon after with the strike passage stretching away
into the darkness.  However clever Trevor
spotted a hole at the top of the passage at this point and disappeared up it
like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe probably showering loose pebbles on Rob
as he did so.  A short squeeze at the top
led to a spot where Trev could stop and admire the view – the view being the
limestone roof rearing vertically and butted against the horizontally bedded
conglomerate.  Beyond this unconformity a
low crawl in the conglomerate led off.  This
was dubbed Cam Valley Crawl in deference to Trevor’s Morris Dancing
interests.  C.V.C. winds for 100 feet
through several low sections and muddy pools before ending abruptly in a cross
rift.  The daring duo descended the rift
– something of a wetsuit snagger – to reach another flat out crawl about 10
feet long.  This opened into a larger
rift which dropped away into the darkness. A fairly easy free climb led to a two foot ledge scattered with more
loose boulders which required some gardening before climbing could be
continued.  Below the explorers a large
passage could be seen and this was quickly reached by an exposed straddle and
traverse along to an easy climb down a mud bank.  Rob did it without a light and only
discovered the exposure on the way back! A quick examination of the passage at the bottom of the climb (about 60
feet vertically below CVC) and it was realised that CVC had linked 22 to the
far end of 23.  Needless there was much
jubilation.  In case you are wondering
where the strike passage went it closed down after about 100 feet in stal.
obstructions.  However its position
suggest it may repay more attention.

Currently attention is being directed towards finding a
by-pass to the 23-24 sumps because, at present, although CVC bypasses 300 feet
of sump it is a preferable alternative to carrying a bottle through to do the
short 25-24 sumps.  Incidentally, if you
are not a confident climber I recommend you carry a ladder through the sumps to
tackle the final 25 foot climb down into Wookey 23.  A rescue from here would be interesting from
many points of view!

The extension was almost completely surveyed by Peter
Glanvill and Jim Durston in late February and a few photographs have been
taken.  The discrepancies thrown up by
the survey meant that 22 probably needs to be re-surveyed!

Tips for future dives in the area

There are still two questions to be answered about 22.  The first is “Where does the Axe enter?”
and the second is “Does Edmunds’ rift exist?”.  As regards the Axe, as far as the boulder
pile at the bottom of 22 a current is detectable especially in high water
conditions.  This is puzzling because
Parker is supposed to have ruled out the sump pool as blind.  However he did make a mistake over the other
sump pool so perhaps there are ways on. This is suggested by Colin Edmunds find in the early seventies when he
dived to the left of the boulder pile and reported emerging in a rift which was
not 22.  Like the passage leading to CVC
this was never mentioned again in the CDG literature.

If such a rift exists it might provide a route further along
the unconformity and might even provide a clue to what happens to the Axe
between 24 and 21.

PS

Why “Up the wadi”? Well, at the unconformity it has been suggested one is at the edge of a
big fossil wadi (dry stream bed which was out through the limestone and later
in filled by scree cemented into a conglomerate.  Geology lesson over.

Peter Glanvill

Donation                      Top Hut Fund from Brian
Prewer   £10.00.

Quote Of The Issue

Brenda Wilton on awakening one morning
in

Ireland
:-  “12 years wasted. I’m married to a
pillock”.

 

Letters To The Editor

Skipton,
Linton
Falls,
N. Yorks.

Dear Ed.,

An insertion in the next B.B. would be appreciated,
informing ANY B.E.C. members who are participating in the
Yorkshire
w/end on the 25.5.83, that we have arranged a party to coincide with this.  All are very welcome.  Please bring sleeping bags – beds are limited
but floor space is not.  There is a field
for camping, and a leaky caravan, (not to mention a large dog kennel!).  Some indication, from one of our contacts
down your way, as to numbers, would help, as this will obviously affect the
size of the barrel!!!

Thanks,

John and Sue Riley.

I presume John and Sue mean 21.5.83 – the Birks Fell &
Roaring Hole w/end.

*****************************************

Dear Ed,

I enjoyed immensely the humorous recollections of an
‘Incident at Lamb Leer’ on page 4 of BB No 417. As I recall the incident is basically correct and I am very grateful to
Martin for drawing my attention to the error.  At the time I was trying to do about six
things at once to organise tackle at the head of the pitch.  So it just shows that however long you may
have been using any item of equipment you can never relax your
concentration.  What is it they say ‘More
haste less speed!; familiarity breeds contempt!’.  I am sure I will not be the only one in this
situation and hope that this can act as a reminder to all members.

Happy Descending

Tom Big

 

The Boys Of The Hill

Sung to the tune of “Boys of Fairhill” (Irish
Ballad)

Lads and lasses come with me
To the
village of Priddy
In the heart of Mendips on top of the hill
Have a drink in the Hunters pub
There you’ll meet the caving clubs
They’re the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill

Cavers come from miles around
On Saturday nights they’ll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill
The Shepton brood, the RSC
The

Wessex

and the MCG
They’re the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill

Why not stop and have a jar
In that fine old flagstone bar
There’s plenty of barrels of Roger’s good ale
Why not try the Butcombe brew
That’s the stuff for me end you
We’ll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill

In the back room you will find
Music there of every kind
New songs and old songs that they sing there still
Some’s all right and some are good
Some are downright rude and crude
Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill

Bodhrans rattle singers sing
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill
Simon’s on the Melodion
Aren’t we all say the Boys of the Hill
Tony Jarratt’s drunk again

Lads and lasses come with me
To the
village of Priddy
In the heart of Mendips on top of the hill
Had a drink in the Hunters pub
There they met the caving clubs
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill


 


Cam
Valley
Passage

The finding of this particular piece of Wookey Hole’s open
air-filled passage was really the combination of a couple of factors:-

( a ) Pete Glanvill mentioning an
old diving log to Trevor Hughes,

( b ) OCL mentioning the same to
me.

Now all should be made slightly less murky.

Trevor Hughes (hereinafter known as Biffo since his Austrian
nickname of Der Grosse Dumkof, whilst more apt is a bit clumsy) and I had been
prospecting in the Wookey 22 and 24 for high level passages for some time.  On the 18th November 1982 we were forced to
halt a 24 trip in 22 for various logistic reasons.  Having time, as well as mud, on our hands we
had a look at all the side passages that we could find.  The upshot of this was a couple of hundred feet
of oxbow passage that had been found by Pete Glanvill a couple of weeks before
and a pair of large avens above the sump at the far end of 22 just disappearing
up off into the gloom, one of which was issuing a healthy trickle of water.  Do not rearrange these words, having seen the
surface I would not like to hear it misquoted as a trickle of healthy water.

Excitement ran high and plans were hastily laid for a return
trip.  I cannot remember which caving
book I cribbed that phrase from (a pint for the first correct identification –
Ed).  Thus on the 28th we dove back.  Biffo had a bit of a problem on the way in
but we managed about 15′ of the climb before the imminent arrival of the
flickering lights syndrome at the forced a retreat to the Hunters

Sunday 23rd January after an unforgivably late start we
trekked in, (actually we dived in but the word dive and its permutations will
get a bit overworked in this article if I’m not careful).  The first and easier of the two avens was
climbed using 4 or 5 bolts plus some epic free climbing at the top by Biffo and
found to close down at about 110′ above water level.  Not, in fact, heading straight for Halloween
Rift in easy walking, sandy-floored passage as had been hoped.

Having been disappointed by this climb (“Genghis’
Revenge”) we then looked at the next one (“The Mongol Hordes
Information Office”) and look was all we did.  It’s the sort of climb that keeps you awake
at night just thinking about it.

Dry mouthed and suitably chastened we pushed on back from
this merciless environment.

To digress slightly, casting back over 10 years to 1971,
John Parker, Tim Reynolds and Brian Woodward during their second trip to the
newly discovered Wookey 22, climbed out of the Northerly end of the sump pool
to enter what they described as an Eastwater type passage which they followed
for about 100′ before getting “fed up”.  It was obviously of no significance as the
main way on appeared to be the large static pool at the far end of the enormous
phreatic main passage.  Subsequent events
are now part of caving history and folklore, the repeated dives by Parker,
Farr, Edmunds, Stevenson and others with Colin Edmunds eventually finding a
small ascending tube from the bottom of the static pool but running out of line
before he could break surface.  Finally
in 1976 Geoff Yeadon and Oliver ‘Bear’ Statham carrying on from the end to
surface in 23 whence three short sumps led to the magnificent Wookey 24.

This small ‘Eastwater-type’ passage had fascinated OCL for a
number of years and he had mentioned it to me a few days before this dive.  Also, possibly a case of great minds etc but
probably just coincidence, Pete Glanvill had mentioned it to Biffo in one of
his many letters.

Back to the 23rd Jan.

Just before we set off for home Biffo suggested that we go
and have a look for this passage.  I had
spotted what appeared to be the entrance on the 28/11/82 trip.  Accordingly we swam to the end of the pool
(why do they always seem colder when you’re swimming than when you’re diving?)
and slipped and slithered our way up about 60′ from the water to the start of a
passage that did indeed strongly resemble the Traverse in Eastwater.  At first we took different levels but were
both soon forced into the bottom.  The
total length of this passage was about 300′ and it got gradually tighter and
tighter, until even the Moodies would have had to turn back.  By the time that I had been as far as I could
go and started to put helmet and cell back on (in this passage it’s difficult
to keep body and cell together) B had long since disappeared up a tightsih,
trenchish passage to the roof.  I could
hear shouts, screams, bangs etc so I knew that everything was O.K.  Moments later, an excited Biffo invited me to
accompany him to the further regions of this particular section of merciless
environment.  I have had more gracious
invitations, QUOTE:-” For f***’s Rob. Come and have a look at this f****r. It’s still f*****g going!!” Who could resist such a blandishment? Slugging up the passage to the roof I found a low phreatic tube, and no
sign of my erstwhile companion.  He had
disappeared again; calling me after him (I was really quite lucky, he called
his cat after someone called Nellie!).  A
short section of easy crawling led to a tight vertical squeeze over and through
mud at the bottom of a 6′ long section of rift, then more low phreatic passage
to the head of a pitch.  This pitch was a
tight vertical rift very similar to the Cuthbert’s’ Entrance Rift but in very
sharp conglomerate.  Then 12′ of bedding
plane, 15 to 18′ of pitch down to a ledge from which the exciting gleam of
water could be seen.  A hairy traverse
and another 15′ free climb took us down into the 23 streamway.  A quick look up and down and then out to find
that the Hunters last orders had been missed. However we managed to arrange a ‘carry-out’ so it was not an entirely
wasted day.

Since then the passage has-been surveyed and further trips
have been made and more are planned in order to see whether it will be possible
to get a dry connection to 24 all the way. Signs are promising.

Further plans include a really thorough search of the known
airspaces particularly 12 and 13.  We
both feel that in the headlong rush to dive the terminal sumps, much may have
been missed en route.  Also there is the
tantalising prospect of where, if anywhere does Halloween Rift enter the
system, or to be more correct as H.R. is thought to be an old outflow, where
does the system enter Halloween Rift. Several possibilities have been tried but the most promising ones so far
are:-

(i)                  “The Mongol Hordes Information Office”
– Gulp!!!

(ii)                An aven just upstream of the static sump
connecting 22 to 23 (there’s a contradiction in terms for you) which we climbed
to a height of about 70 to 80′.  At this
point a tight squeeze gives access to the bottom of a boulder pile which will
almost certainly need an application of Nobels Amazing Rock Remover if further
progress is to be made.

References:-

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No.
66 – Jan 1983

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No.
19 – 1971

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No.
39 – 1976

B. Woodward – Pers. – 1983

R. Palmer – Sunday 10 – 1982

Acknowledgements:-

1.         Cave Diving
Group for permission to reprint.

2.         All those
who have helped either directly or indirectly by loaning their kit i.e.,

Martin Bishop

Bob Cork

Quackers

3.        

Wookey
Hole
Caves

4.         Chris Batstone for selfless
heroism.  Despite never having been to
Wookey 22, he stayed in the Hunters long after his-normal going home time on
the night that we were late just in case we needed help.

 

Meets List, May To July

Date     Trip                               Details                                                             Contact

 

30.4.83            
Devon                           Visits
to all major caves plus some diving M.
Grass

until                                                     

  2.5.83

  6.5.83             Friday Niters’                 Mystery Tour (by the sound of
it)             B. Prewer

20.5.83             Swildons                       Black Hole Friday Niters’                                    B. Prewer

21.5.83             Birks
Fell Cave              Yorkshire w/end,
staying at                                 M.
Grass

22.5.83             Roaring
Hole                 
Bradford
P.C. Hut

28.5.83             Pant
Mawr                     Camping at
Crickhowell                          M.
Grass

29.5.83             Otter
Hole                     Camping at
Crickhowell

30.5.83             Agen
Allwedd

  3.6.83             North Hill                       Friday Niters’                                                     B.
Prewer

17.6.83             Burrington
                    (barbeque)                                                         B.
Prewer

18.6.83             O.F.D.
                         Top Ent. – Smiths
Armoury, out I.                        G.Wilton-Jones

25.6.83             Gingling
Hole                 Yorkshire w/end,
staying at                                 M.
Grass

26.6.83 Dry Gill Cave                 Bradford P.C. hut

  1.7.83             Longwood                      Friday Niters’                                                     B.
Prewer

15.7.83             G.B.
                            Friday Niters’                                                     B.
Prewer

16.7.83             O.F.D.
                         Top Entrance to I
                                              M.
Grass

30.7.83            
South Wales                 Friday
Niters’ B. Prewer

Saturday trip, limited numbers

Martin’s number is still
Luton
35145 at present, though he and Glen should be moving ‘ere long, so look out
for the new number.

Brian’s number is Wells 73757.

My number is Wedmore 712284.

Don’t forget, if you want a trip in a C.N.C.C. controlled
cave, you should normally go through Martin

Leaders for D.Y.O., O.F.D.1, Reservoir, Charterhouse,
Cuthbert’s, etc. are listed in the B.B. and can be contacted direct.

 

Subscriptions and Membership

The following have NOT PAID their SUBSCRIPTIONS for 1982/3
if you see them then please give them a reminder!!

 959. Chris Bradshaw
  868.
Dany Bradshaw
1004. Brendan Brew
1005. Jane Brew
  756.
Tessie Burt
  956. Ian Caldwell
  862. Bob Cork
  890. Jerry Crick
  680. Bob Cross
  830. John Dukes
  937. Sue Dukes
  779. James Durston
  771. Pete Ekford
  997. Sandra Ekford
  769. Sue Tucker
  648. Dave Glover
1009. Robin Gray
1010, Sue Gray
1008. James Hamilton
  893. Dave Hatherley
  917. Robin Hervin
920. Nick Holstead
991. Julie Holstead
770. Chris Howell
969. Duncan Innes
930. Stuart Lindsay
980. Dr John Mathews
979. Richard Mathews
938. Kev O’Neil
964. Lawrie O’Neil
990. Jim Pogue
760. Jeni Sandercott
823. Andy Sparrow
772. Nigel Taylor
699. Buckett Tilbury
700. Ann Tilbury
678. Dave Turner
939. Woly Wilkinson
940. Val Wilkinson
916. Jane Wilson
1002. Alan Sutton

This list was correct at 20th March 1983 if you have paid
please ignore this if not please send your subscription to:  Fi Lewis. 63 Portway. Wells, Somerset B85
2BQ.  £10 for Full Membership: £15 for
Joint Membership.

New Members

We welcome the following new/re joining Members

 232. Dr Chris Falshaw, Fullwood,
Sheffield.
1022. Kev Mackin, Yeovil.
  911. Jim Smart,
Clifton,

Bristol
.
1023, Mathew Tuck, Coxley, Wells,

Somerset
.
1024. Miles Barrington, Cheddar,

Somerset
.

Address Changes

Brendan Brew, Hyde Park, Leeds
Keith Franklin,
Redcliffe,
Queensland
4020,

Australia
.
Re-joined Chris Falshaw, Fulwood, Shefield

For

Sale

Badges Sweat Shirt
Stickers

Enamel Pin Badges – Bertie with
BEE across – £1.50 each.

BEC Get Everywhere Stickers –
Sold in lots of 50 – £1 per lot.

We now have a new stock of Sweatshirts and T-Shirts.  The Sweatshirts are maroon with a yellow
Bertie with BEC across in the area of the left nipple!! and the T-Shirts are
white with the standard design as on previous sweatshirts in black.

Sizes: Medium, Large & X
Large

Sweatshirts – £5.50

T-Shirts – £2.50

All these Sales are handled by Tim Large, Wells,

Somerset

Stocks are available at the Belfry at Weekends.

 

N.C.A. Information Report 83/1

Andy Eavis

Grave Dangers of Rappel Racks

There is no doubt that the rappel rack is one of the best
abseiling devices available to the modern caver.  Its principle advantage is on long drops over
75m where other devices require the caver to haul himself down.  Several recent accidents, including two
British fatalities, point to potential dangers of this device.

Both fatal accidents appear to have been caused by the
comparatively inexperienced users removing to many bars.  A minim of three bars is required to prevent
the descent becoming a free fall.

There are several ways of minimising the dangers of
misuse.  Racks must not be used
underground or on very long pitches by the abseiler who has not extensively
used this type of device before. Practice can be done on the surface using a short drop and a weighted
rope to familiarise the caver with the descender;  changeovers, etc. can be completed and the
variable friction properties of the rack mastered.  Shorter pitches underground, bolt changeovers
etc. should be practised before longer drops are attempted.  Once the rack user is well experienced the potential
dangers must still be remembered to prevent ‘familiarity breeding contempt’.  Even very experienced cavers have threaded
these devices the wrong way around or set off without securing the device to
their harnesses

One possible solution to these problems is the modifications
suggested by Keith Lewis in the November issue of ‘Caves &Caving’.  The second bar does not ‘clip’ onto the frame
which should prevent cavers from inadvertently threading the rack back to
front; the third bar has a grub screw through the end permanently holding it
onto the frame to prevent its removal during a descent but still allowing the
bar to move up and down.  The rack is a
good abseiling device for large pitches. Practice, careful use and possibly the Lewis modifications should make
its use as safe or safer than any other descending method.

Further reading: Available shortly, a more comprehensive article by Keith Lewis called ‘A
guide to the safe use of rack descenders’.

© 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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