The Journal Of The
Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.

Editor: Robin Gray

A bumper Belfry Bulletin for the start of I985, our 50th
year.  I’d like to wish all our members
and all our readers a happy new year.  It
looks a very promising year from here. The club has many exciting projects underway as a means of making the
50th a very special year.  Many miles of
cave will, I am sure, be discovered, and many gallons downed in the process.

We intend to make the publication of the St Cuthbert’s
Report the most complete report ever on a single cave so make sure you get your
copy!  We have the great classic caving
trip well under way and much enthusiasm has been generated by the organisers.

Social events should be even better than usual with the
games, Dinner, and firework night already well in hand and membership in a very
healthy state.  In addition the Belfry
improvements get under way in March so things are looking good for the B.C.

May I take, this opportunity to thank all those who have
helped with articles and typing in 1984 and hope that you keep finding caves
and writing articles in 1985.   

Robin


 

 


University Of
Bristol
Paul Esser Memorial
Lecture, 1985

Our Lecturer for 1985 will be the underwater cave-explorer,
Julian Walker.  He will be describing the
Blue Holes of the

Bahamas
.  For long the origin of these was a mystery
and their penetration considered impossible, because of tidal currents.  He will describe their origin and evolution
and the technique which has been developed for their exploration.  His lecture will be illustrated by slides and
a film.

Julian Walker, aged 23, is a third year student in
Mechanical Engineering at the University of Mancbester Institute of Science and
Technology.

He bas been caving since 1976, mainly in South Wales and on
Mendip, but he has also accompanied some of our people on a joint Bristol and
Cambridge Universities expedition to the Totesgebirge in Austria in 1981.  In
Spain
in 1983 he joined the
Leeds and Manchester
Universities Treviso expeditions, with penetration to a depth of 1169 metres,
the deepest ever for a British team.

He started cave diving in 1981 with the Welsh Section of the
Cave Diving Group under Martyn Farr, and did much of his pool training with us
in

Bristol
.

He has taken part in the Bahamas Blue Holes expeditions in
1982, 1983 and 1984, all of which were led by Rob Palmer, and he assisted in
the discovery of several thousands of metres of new underwater passages.  The biological study of these has been
valuable.

The lecture will be given at 8.15 pm. on Wednesday, 13th
February, 1985 in the large physics lecture theatre,

Tyndall Avenue
,

University of
Bristol
.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Peter Haggett, Professor of
Geography, will be in the chair.

If parties coming from a distance will let me know beforehand,
I can have seat reserved for them. Admission is free.  Write to Dr.
Oliver C. Lloyd, Withey House, Withey Close West,

Bristol,
BS9 3SX
.

12th November, 1984

 

Lifeline

by Tim Large

I have noticed that several members mainly go caving with
friends who are not BEC members.  I
wonder why these people bother to join the club in the first place.  Perhaps it is to have access to tackle and
cave keys for their own group.  The club
is not in existence to subsidise such groups. It also ties up tackle and keys when members may wish to go caving with
other members.  Members engaging in this
practice will please remember that tackle fees and cave key hire fees are due
from non-members in their party.  These
are:

Tackle fee – 50p per person

Cave Key Hire Fee – 30p per
person

If using the Belfry for changing and showers then an
additional fee is due:

Showers & Changing – 50p per
person.

Tackle: Members are still not booking tackle out in the
Tackle Book – PLEASE DO SO.

Ladders are not being washed after trips.  It’s your money that pays for them so look
after them properly.  Make sure you use
spreaders with ladders.  Wire belays are
excellent for thread belays around rock spurs, stal bosses etc of a fairly
large diameter.  They do not take too
kindly to be wrapped several times around scaffold bars and the like.  Once subjected to load they kink
irreversibly.

DO NOT MISTREAT WIRE BELAYS IN THIS MANNER.  Tape slings are the belay to use for small
diameter belay points.

Ropes need washing after muddy trips as well. From the state
of the ropes returned to the tackle store not many people know how to plait a
rope.  The usual mountaineering coils for
rope are not suitable.  So in future
plait your lifelines.  If you don’t know
how then ask someone to show you.

As agreed at the AGM tackle bags are to be provided by the
club for transporting lifelines underground. Make sure you use them for the purpose. They are not to be taken away for personnel use.

 

Committee Notes

 

1984/5 COMMITTEE

Hon. Secretary                         Tim
Large

Hon. Treasurer                           Jeremy
Henley

Hut Warden                               Chris
Batstone

Tackle Master                            Bob
Cork

Hut Engineer                             Dany
Bradshaw

Caving Secretary                        Stuart McManus

BB Editor                                  Robin
Gray

Membership Secretary & BB Distribution             Brian Workman

Floating Member                        Phil Romford

From now on membership administration is being handled by
Brian Workman.  In the future please send
your subscriptions to either him or Jeremy Henley. SUBS ARE NOW DUE FOR THE
YEAR 1984/5.  LAST DATE FOR PAYMENT IS
31st DECEMBER 1984.  IF NOT PAID THEN
THIS WILL BE YOUR LAST BELFRY BULLETIN. Re-application will then be necessary and no guarantee of receiving back
numbers of the BB will be given.

Jubilee Barbecue: The organisation of this event is
being overseen by Brian Workman.  He
need’s your help to make it an unforgettable success.  Viking fancy dress will be the order of the
day.  The scale of this event will be on
a par with last summers Wessex Barbecue. Richard Stevenson has kindly volunteered to organise the games for which
The Wessex Challenge Trophy will be played for.   This was won at the Wessex Buffet in February
1984.  He too will be needing help to
invent and build the various games. 60 volunteers are needed urgently contact
Brian or any Committee Member if you are willing to help.

Jubilee Dinner: This will be held on the usual date –
the first Saturday of October 1985.  The
venue has been booked at The Cheese Pavilion on The Bath & West Showground
at Shepton Mallet.  Catering will be by
Southern Group Caterers who now operate The Caveman Restaurant at Cheddar.  The room will cater for 500 people and the licence
will be until 1am.  We look forward to a
dinner with as many past and present members there as possible.

It is interesting to note that many past members are
rejoining now – many admit to wishing to ensure membership during our jubilee
year.  So come on all you older members
dig yourselves out of the woodwork and those whom you knew when you joined the
club and have since lapsed their membership. We would like to see them all at the dinner at least.

As you should be aware the Committee is only 9 in number at
present.  With many extra jobs this year
more help is required.  We are looking
for volunteers to be co-opted onto the committee to share the workload.  There is room for 3 more.  So how about it.

THE SECRETARY: hereby Gives notice that he has decided to
have a rest from Committee and intends to resign as of October 1985.

Tim Large

 

Mendip Hills Local Draft Plan

Recently the club was sent a copy of the proposed plans for
the future conservation of the Mendip Hills and asked to forward our comments
on them to Somerset County Council which Tim Large has done.  Below is a copy of his letter and the reply
which we have since received from Somerset County Council.  The Draft Plan for The Mendip Hills is kept
in the Library and available for all members interested to study.

Wells,

29th October 1984

Dear Sir,

Mendip Hills Local
Plan

I represent the above club which has been established at
headquarters at Priddy since 1935.  The
members are very interested in the Mendip Hills in particular these interests
include caving, climbing, archaeology, natural history and conservation of the
landscape both above and below ground.

The hills area small and very vulnerable area of outstanding
natural beauty providing habitats for many rare flora and fauna.  These are enjoyed by those persons who have
taken the trouble to learn about such things and treat the countryside with the
care and respect it always requires.

As a policy we are against any so called conservation
measures that include projects to encourage more people onto the hills over and
above, as I have stated previously, those suitably enlightened people who visit
the hill anyway.  I will now itemise
points in the plan which we specifically deplore.

Page 5. Policy L1. This policy is not in the best interests of Mendip Conservation.  As an example of the kind of conservation
policy you propose I refer you to EBBOR GORGE. A classic example of how to ruin the last remnants of a primeval forest
and limestone gorge because of the need to pander to the requirements of the
tourist.  This is made worse by the
publicity the area receives thus increasing its usage.  As a result the once natural pathways have
been gravelled over, wide enough in places for vehicles to drive along, fences
have been placed at the cliff faces, and signposts abound to prevent the tourist
from getting lost.  So it is now not a
pleasant place to visit as many of our members remember, except perhaps in the
depths of winter with snow on the ground.

Page 7. Proposals L5 & L6.  No more advertising displays should be
allowed at all.  These distract from the
landscape – the remote and rugged aspect of Mendip.

Page 16. 4’6  (iii)
Mendip Features Under Threat.
  Being
primarily a club interested in caves we would welcome the opportunity to
examine and excavate any possible cave site before it is filled or destroyed in
some way.  We have much expertise in this
field in co-operation with other caving clubs on Mendip.  The combined equipment is available to carry
out major excavations at very short notice.

Page 30. 6.13. Cavers in my club and in the other major clubs are well aware of the
scientific importance of caves.  We also
have a greater insight and understanding of Bats than many people and take the
utmost care to keep away from roosting sites. We do pass details to the relevant Bat Experts to further their studies
on the subject.  Proposal WR6 appears to
be reiterating that which major Mendip clubs have been doing for many
years.  There are several private
agreements with landowners for the control and general upkeep of the
caves.  In particular our club looks
after St Cuthbert’s Swallet and

Tynings
Barrow
Cave
.  We are also members of The Charterhouse
Caving Committee which controls access to caves on land owned by


Bristol

Waterworks.  This covers the following
caves.

G.B. Cavern      

Longwood
Valley
Sink


Charterhouse
Cave
        Toothache Dig

Longwood Swallet          Timber Hole

Rhino Rift

Any other caves subsequently found on their land would also
come under the same agreement.  Strict
access procedures are in force with a constant eye towards conservation.  Future excavations are strictly controlled
and indiscriminate digging both above and below ground is banned.  Approval for any dig has to be sought by the
Committee from Bristol Waterworks with whom we work closely on all aspects of
conservation, safety and possible pollution problems.

We are also members of The Council of Southern Caving Clubs
which has a membership of around 50 clubs; regular meetings are held to discuss
every aspect associated with caves.  In
particular the Council has access agreements with the landowners of Singing
River Mine at Shipham and Lamb Leer at
East Harptree.  The latter is an access agreement with
Somerset County Council.  It is one of
the oldest known caves being discovered by miners and is listed in the
‘Guinness Book of Records’ as the deepest cave in 1680.  For your information we have to pay a rather
large sum of money for this agreement when after all we are looking after its
conservation and access.  Perhaps your
influence could waive these unreasonable charges when after all we are looking
after an S.S.S.I.

So to sum up there are many responsible caving groups and
individual cavers who constantly look after caves with conservation up most in
their minds.  Tread carefully “Do not
teach your grandmother to suck eggs”. Cavers are a very strong-minded independent bunch of people who will
resist any unjustified interference.

Page 33.  Sporting
Interests
.  Your estimates of cavers
on an average weekend is low.  Last
weekend at our caving club we had over 50 cavers staying over the whole weekend
caving on both Saturday and Sunday. There are 6 other clubs with weekend
accommodation: –


Wessex
Cave

Club – Priddy


Shepton
Mallet
Cave
Club – Priddy


University of
Bristol

Speleological Society – Burrington Coombe

Mendip Nature Research Committee


Green
Ore

Cerberus Speleological Society –
Stoke Lane

Mendip Caving Group – Nordrach

All these are capable of accommodating in the region of 30
people each.  Then there are the day
visitors to

Mendip
Caves
arriving by
minibuses or even coaches.  Also those
staying bed & breakfast or at the various camp sites.

At present the 30 miles of cave passage is reasonably
accurate for those caves of sporting interest. It does not include the various small caves and speleologically
important sites within the area of the plan. It does not include many other caves on Mendip but outside of the plan
area which help attract cavers to Mendip as a whole.

Increases in the number of cavers does increase the demand
for cave access.  But the only area which
greatly suffers is Burrington Coombe. This is because the area is traditionally regarded as ideal for novices
and beginners.  Hence they are used
mainly by Schools, Universities, Youth Groups, Outdoor Centres and the Armed
Forces.

We have accepted that Burrington Combe is the ‘Honeypot’
Area of Mendip Caving and as such is sacrificed to prevent damage to other
caves.  This is the only area where
graffiti abounds, I believe this is a reflection on the type of group which
uses this area led by inexperienced leaders not in touch with Mendip Clubs who
traditionally set the standard of Mendip Caving.  We agree that some cavers need to pay more
attention to the ‘Country Code ‘particularly at Burrington.  The piles of spent carbide near Goatchurch
are appalling, there is no need for it as it could easily be disposed of in a
dustbin.

7:11. Stockcar Racing Near Tynings:  This sport is totally out of character with
the Mendip Countryside.  It causes noise
pollution on the Mendip Plateau which I have recently heard from the top of
Nine Barrows Hill, Priddy.  The narrow
roads which give access to the track are congested enough in summer and the
presence of cars and. lorries towing stock cars only aggravate the situation.  In our opinion it should be stopped
forthwith.

7:12. Motorcycles riding over the Mendip Plateau are
totally out of character and cause noise pollution.  If people wish to visit the Mendip Hills they
should walk and quietly enjoy the countryside as thousands do.

With both the above activities consideration should be given
to the flora and fauna.  Recent research
by the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation on their reserve at The Minories,
Priddy illustrates the damage done to plants and the slow recovery period, if
the recovery is ever the same as before the influx of motorcycles.  Our opinion is that motorcycle trials or
organised trials should not take place within the area of the Plan.

Page 39. 7.22. Proposal HT6.  We do not see any reason to promote Mendip at
all.  By doing so it would increase
pressure on the area and so escalate the conservation problems.  Nothing should be done to encourage more
people into the area.  This will also
apply to Proposals: RT8. RT10. RT11 and RT12.

Page 58. Quarrying. We are always concerned that quarrying can destroy important cave sites
– sites which could be part of underground watercourses, rare cave formations
and archaeological remains.  Where ever
possible we apply to obtain access to survey and study these sites before they
are destroyed.   Any help from the County
Council on these matters would be appreciated.

Page 85. 12.6.7. Proposal SS3.  Particularly with regard to improved car
parking areas with information boards at Deer Leap Ebbor Gorge.  As stated previously this area has already
been vandalised by establishment groups – please do not make it any worse.

Page 90. Burrington Coombe.  As
previously stated this is already a ‘Honeypot’ area not only for cavers but for
tourists.  It would be better to keep the
emphasis on this type of area but without radically changing the character of
the landscape affecting plants, wildlife etc.

Page 92. 12.9.100 Cavers.  This subject has been dealt with before.  The car park at the bottom of the

West
Twin
Brook
Valley

has recently been enlarged.  But we would
not like to see it tarmaced over as this would distract from the rugged area.

Page 98. 12.10.12. Proposal GC4.  This proposal is directly against the
interests of conservation on the Mendip Plateau.  A car park will only escalate the
problem.  Cars already park on the verge
by the ice cream sellers who congregate there on a sunny day.  Even a small car park will soon be filled and
cars will park on the verge as before. The best plan is to make parking impossible along the verges by the use
of large limestone blocks.  This method
has already been used to great effect by The National Trust in Cheddar
Gorge.  Encourage tourists to stay in the
existing ‘Honeypots’ already in existence. Do not spoil the Mendip Plateau.

Page 97. 12.10.13. Proposal CG5.  The damage caused by climbers is
minimal.  More damage is caused by ivy
growth.  This plant used to be much less
abundant as old photographs will show. This can be attributed to a reduction in the grazing of sheep, goats etc
in the gorge area, and a reduction in rabbits through myxomatosis.  I suggest that the climbers who remove ivy
are doing the environment a favour.

Root growth within crevices and fractures in the rock cause
weakness which are subject to high temperatures in summer then zero
temperatures in winter.  This will eventually
weaken the limestone blocks which from time to time will fall, sometimes
several hundred feet.  Many ledges in the
Gorge disappear each year, ledges which provide habitats for plants – the
Cheddar Pink and wildlife.

Page 99. Charterhouse represents the last remote and rugged area right in the
heart of Mendip.  Many people who bother
to educate themselves, already enjoy this beautiful unspoilt spot.  It is against all conservation interests and
will distract from its natural character to encourage more people to this
area.  We therefore consider any
management schemes to encourage more visitors against the best interests of the
area and those people who enjoy it as it is. This includes any development to rights of way by means of ugly
signposts.

Page 101.  Priddy.
12.12.9. Swildons Hole
is a very popular cave exciting a ‘classic’ active
streamway.  It caters for all grades of
cavers from novice to experienced.  At
weekends the cave is crowded necessitating queues at pitches.  Also on occasions as many as 40 cars,
minibuses, vans and the odd coach park on Priddy Green adjacent to Manor
Farm.  Some of the local cavers park by
the village hall to avoid adding to the situation.  We are aware that Mr Maine is concerned about
the congestion on the green and underground. We attempt to assist him where ever possible but with cavers coming from
afar communication is often difficult. We agree something needs to be done to preserve the village green
environment.

Eastwater Cavern is not such a major problem being less
popular due to its lack of stalactite formations within easy reach of the
entrance.  At this time our club in
conjunction with the Wessex Cave Club is exploring a new series in this cave
which will answer many hydrological problems of the Wookey Hole Catchment.  This would obviously extend the S.S.S.I. for
the cave.  We also maintain close contact
with Mr and Mrs Gibbons of Eastwater Farm who own the cave and work together
towards minimising any problems which may arise.

Page 104.  Ebbor
& Wookey
.  I have already made
reference to Ebbor at the beginning of this letter.  12.13.8 Ebbor Gorge as I have already said is
not the unspoilt carboniferous limestone gorge………The National Trust have
vandalised it.

Page 109.  Westbury
Quarry. Proposal WQ.2.
 What will the
development of the site for educational purposes mean?  Mendip already suffers from too many cavers
due to its proximity to large centres of population.  Add to this climbing, horse riding, sailing,
gliding, field study groups, scout camps etc, Army Training at Yoxter, Youth
Hostels at Cheddar and Velvet Bottom plus your own outdoor centre at
Charterhouse.  Then you hopefully realise
the Mendips are already heavily used. Any more outdoor centres must be seriously considered before inflicting
more pressure on the area.

Page 110. Battscombe Quarry.  Any further expansion of this quarry beyond
its present “Permission Boundary” would be detrimental to the
character of this area.  Also

Tynings
Barrow
Cave

whose entrance is near to Tynings Farm, has been water traced to Cheddar
Risings.  The projected line of this cave
goes very close to the quarry.  If the
quarry is expanded it could intercept this underground watercourse causing
pollution to the Cheddar Risings which are used as a water source by Bristol
Waterworks.

Page 114. Callow Rock Quarry.  The permission boundary extends a long way
beyond its present extent.  I understand
that this area of the hillside could contain caves.  Whilst protection can be given to cave sites
within quarrying areas we do hear from time to time of caves being discovered
and quarried away before anyone can have a look at them and something done to
protect the site.

I hope these comments enlighten you and that you appreciate
the strong views cavers in this club have on conservation.  I would be only to glad to meet anyone to
discuss problem areas or to give advice and assistance on cave problems in
particular.

Yours Faithfully

Tim Large    Hon. Secretary

 

Below is the reply since received from Somerset County
Council:

Dear Mr. Large.

Thank you for your helpful and informative letter dated 29th
October.

Your comments regarding cave management are particularly
valuable and roughly correspond to those of other caving groups.  The general tenor of your comments on recreation
suggest that you feel even the existing provision for visitors is jeopardising
the wild character of Mendip and to promote new areas will make the matters
worse.  I only wish to say that there is
no intention to promote Mendip as a whole to attract extra visitors, though it
is intended to cater in the best way possible for those who already come and
who will continue to come.  Paragraph 7.4
of the plans refers.  Nevertheless your
view that better facilities will automatically attract more people is noted and
will be taken into account in the amendment of the plan by the Steering Panel,
as will your other comments.

Thank you for your interest and you will be kept informed as
the Plan is refined.

Yours sincerely

Mr Watson
for County Planning Officer

 

 

BEC At It Again

Congratulations to John and Sue Dukes on the arrival of

Elizabeth
weighing in at
seven and a half pounds, and to Robin and Sue Gray on the arrival of Holly
weighing in at seven pounds and one ounce. Both doing well and their daddies!

Overheard in the Hunters:

How do you get a drink out of a pewter tankard?

Buy one.

How much are they?

They are all different prices.

How much is that one?

 

Nogbad Comes Back

by Matthew Tuck

Noggin is king of the land of the Nog.  He is a kind king and he is married to a kind
queen called Nooka.  But not everyone in
the

land of
Nog
is so kind.  For instance Nogbad the bad is always unkind,
and this saga tells how he once caused Noggin a great deal of troub1e………….OR

SEARCHING
FOR
CAVES IN ARCTIC

NORWAY

The plan was that Glyn Bolt and Julie Wotten in their green
Daihatsu would drive up to
Newcastle, followed
by Graham Johnson, Nick Hawkes and Matt Tuck in Graham’s Ford Transit to catch
the ship to

Bergen

leaving on the 14th July 1984.  After one
and a half weeks in Norway, another group of Wessex members including Al Keen,
Pete Hann and Pete Watts would join us at an area 20km N.W. of Fauske, about
1km North of the Arctic Circle.

The object of visiting this area was to walk over a stretch
of exposed Calcite Marble Limestone, searching for caves.  Some of these being used by the Norwegian
resistance to hide from the Germans in 1939. After three weeks in Norway Glyn and Julie would return to

England

leaving a party of six to continue searching

for caves or to push any found.  After four weeks of the expeditions arrival
Pete and Al would return leaving three of us to go down any new discoveries we
were to find!  We would return on 24th
August having spent six weeks walking, caving and surveying – This is what did
happen………….

After spending the day suffering from Mendip Hangovers we
arrived at Newcastle with enough time for a quick swim in the docks, before
battling through picket lines to board the Good Ship Venus.  The 24 hour sea crossing proved uneventful
apart from being tipped out of our pits at 5.30am by one of the crew swabbing
the decks with a high pressure hose.  We
arrived in

Bergen

at 5pm the sun beating down exposing fine views of the Norwegian coastline as
we sailed in.  Was this a sign of things
to come – No.

Driving on the right seemed relatively simple until we came
to a stretch of very long, steep narrow and wet unlit tunnels which blast right
through the mountains.  The Nogs seemed
to drive faster in the tunnels than on normal roads.  After about an hours driving from

Bergen
we stopped for a
brew and saw Julie and Glyn off on the way to sort out some papers what ever
that meant.  We then carried on driving
north towards the E6 which would take us even further north to the Land of the
Midnight Rain.

The next few hours driving were classic. The tunnels became
longer and more frequent, the roads narrower and the gradient steeper.  At one stage we were forced to decide whether
to write off the bumper of an oncoming car or to drive off a 300 foot cliff
into a lake.  The bumper lost, the Nog
didn’t seem to mind – he said it was always happening.

Soon we embarked on an incredible section of the route which
took us high into the mountains by way of a very steep and narrow road.  This would have been brilliant if it hadn’t
have been for the Wally of the year trying to drive his English coach full of
Liverpudlians up the side of the mountains on a road built for reindeer.  The three of us stopped overnight just before
the Sogn Fjord and that night we appreciated snow, mosquitoes and Fray Bentos.

The next day we caught the ferry across the Sogn Fjord in
excellent weather.  After a few more
hours driving we were on the Jo’Otpenneimner Pass; a high mountain pass where
the road reaches 1400m and the surrounding mountains almost twice that.  Red algae stained the snow fields and the
glaciers lay within view. A few more hours driving and we were on the E6
north.  The countryside was less
spectacular but still impressive, each of us shared the driving taking shifts
of four hours each.  We drove on through
the night in order to make time and meet Glyn at the Mo-i-Rana Tourist
Office.  After about 20 hours we reached
Mo to find no sign of Glyn.  Knackered
and annoyed we ate 90 boiled eggs for breakfast according to Julies
calculations and left a note at the tourist office for Glyn.  Only then did we realise that the Norwegians
spoke better English than we did!

We continued North past the
Arctic
Circle
where the Laps drive Mercedes and sell antlers to the
Germans, past the railway with wooden tunnels over it, and past our bed
times.  That evening we camped just
outside Fauske at a place known as the

Dead
Lake
.  At 8pm we were joined by Glyn and Julie who
seemed to have finished sorting out the papers. As we were now well above the
Arctic Circle
we were experiencing 24 hour daylight which was great until you wanted to
sleep!

 

After sleeping off the 30 hour drive we went into Fauske and
then carried on about 40km North where we turned off the 26 and up a side road
which took us closer to the limestone. The original plan was to walk to the limestone from the small village at
the end of the side road, ferrying food and equipment into the area as it was
required.  However we were surprised to find
a hydro-electric scheme under construction in the mountains and a track had
been constructed which took us 10km nearer to our target.  Without this track it would have taken us a
week to walk to the limestone.

On the 20th August we all set off into the hills with enough
food for four nights.  The day before we
had made the same hike but without packs in order to locate a decent
route.  During that walk we saw herds of
reindeer, two moose and came within ten yards of a rare mountain eagle with a
wing span of about eight feet.  About
seven hours and a few route finding problems later we reached the
limestone.  The next few days were spent
wandering around the limestone in freezing rain looking for possible
entrances.  The limestone band turned out
to be very twisted and distorted.  We
found many entrances but they all proved to be either subsoil drainage systems
for the area or heavily choked up.

On the fifth day we decided enough was enough and struck
camp.  It was then I discovered that I
had been sleeping in a three inch deep lake. This camp site, chosen by Glyn on the grounds that it was a reindeer
track turned, out to be a feeder for

Lake
Linnejavre
.  After a very hot fester day and the arrival
of Al and the Petes we all set off at various times heading for an area of
limestone slightly north of the first one lying on the Swedish border.

In order to reach the limestone it was necessary to walk
about 12km around a steep sided lake and then another 5km into the area. Glyn
and Julie took the left hand side, Al, Graham and the Petes took the right side
whilst Nick and I used a rowing boat, which must have been left by the
construction company.  As it was it
proved useful for ferrying Al, Graham and the Petes with their Gear from one
side the lake to the other, having been stopped in their tracks by a 70 snow
field sloping into the lake.

By the end of the day the party was split into three groups
camping between the vans and limestone. The next day Graham, Nick and I walked on and met Glyn on the limestone
with a knife in one hand ready to fight off the reindeer that had attacked him
the night before as he was trying to negotiate a river the size of the
Thames.  He quickly
pointed out some cave entrances which he and Julie had found and then
disappeared with excuses such as “I’ve got to get married in

Oslo
on
Friday”.  What is he talking about
we thought?

Slightly confused by Julie and Glyn’s mysterious ways we
tried to carry on as normal.   We
concluded that there were no caves to be found in this limestone; all the
entrances were heavily choked or re-emerged after 100m.  If this limestone were on Mendip many caves
would have been found however this was not the place to start a full scale dig!  During the walk back along the huge scree
slopes we noticed a great Norwegian type raven circling overhead.  Scattered on the shore line beneath the
ravens roost were five dead reindeer all mutilated by their necks.  We were told later that those birds were
supposed to live for 300 years!!

After another fester day in the hot sun Al, Nick, Graham and
I set off again.  This time we were
heading towards the end of the limestone band which we had missed on the first
walk.  We walked past

Lake
Linejavre

for the zillionth time and reached limestone on the second day.  As we expected most of it was dipping in the
wrong direction and was too thinly bedded to hold caves.  The rest was covered by glaciers.

This walk proved to be the most scenic of the
expedition.  We were treated to fine
panoramic views of the fjord as we walked down from the mountain through the
tree line; down to sea-level in hot clear weather.  A swim in the fjord, and two gallons of
Kulter Melk (a kind of yoghurt that grows in the stomach).  Later we left for Mo-i-Rana.  All the limestone which we had looked at in
the last two and a half weeks proved to be disappointing.  We covered about 70% so it did not seem worth
returning however the walking scenery was excellent.

The area we were heading for was a place called Glomdal in
the Bana district, about 40km from Mo-i-Rana. This is a well established caving area with many well known but fairly
small Mendip type caves formed in marble limestone on mica schist.  The general dip of the limestone in this area
was 15%.  Caves were formed during
Pleistocene glaciations.

During our first few days in the area, we met the Norwich
University Caving Expedition, they had been there for several days and had
found a fairly respectable but not very exciting cave located just off a track
used by the Norwegians when walking to known caves higher up the mountain.  When the

Norwich
group left we discovered two new
entrances to their cave plus an extra kilometre of cave, and two new
connections to their find linking the two caves.  We also met the
St Pierre
family from
England who knew
this area well, and also Stain-Eric Lauritz,

Norway
’s caving executive.  We told them of our plans to look at two
bands of marble limes- tone high up in the mountains and they confirmed that
there were no known caves in that area, but it was worth looking at the
depressions and stream sinks we had noticed on the map.  Before heading for the Devil Holes, as the
locals called them, we visited and walked on the Svartisen Glacier for a day.

We also went on a trip down

Norway
’s only show cave called Grongligrotten.  As show caves go it was the pits however the
tourists were treated to a certain sporting element being made to walk along
streams and climb up unfixed rusty ladders. After a few minutes in the cave we left the main party and wetsuit clad went
don the main streamway, this turned out to be very reminiscent of a Swildons
Sump 1 trip.

We said goodbye to Al and the Petes leaving Nick Graham and
I for a four day stay in Walter Glom’s fishing hut up in the mountains.  Walter Glom is the King of Glomdal.  He lives about two hours walking time up the
valley from the end of the track.  His
house is under a mountain called Glom and next to a huge trout filled lake
called Glomvatnet.  Walters fishing hut
was situated high up in the mountains about six hours from his house.  On the route we passed many caves which we
later visited.  These included
Storbekkengrotten a very pretty but short cave ending in a sump.  It is about 900m and 250m deep.  The marble was smooth and pure white with
blue streaks – like caving in cheese, marble pendants were abundant.

Another cave which Stein-Eric advised us to visit was
Trudihullet.  At the end of this cave was
a very unstable mica-schist boulder ruckle. If this was passed it could lead to about 900m of new cave and a
connection with a cave called Fosshullet with its entrance about 2km up the
valley.   The floor of the cave was
covered in huge loose garnets.  Nick got
through the massive boulder ruckle to no avail. The last cave we visited in the vicinity was Pikhaugrotten No.2 a big
phreatic tube with scalloped marble walls. We were forced to sleep in this cave on fertilizer bags as Walter
Gloms-fishing hut turned out to be crammed full of

Norwegian fogies out on a ramble.

The next morning we were woken by four of the very same
Norwegians crawling over our bodies on a short tourist trip before returning
home.  They didn’t even seem to notice we
were there, just casually crawling over the sodden sleeping bags full of
rotting Englishmen.  The next day we had
a ten hour breakfast in the hut followed by a quick caving trip.  That night we managed to raise the
temperature inside the hut to 45oC smashing the Norwegians record of 22°C on
the iron wood burning stove.  This
however resulted in the whole hut coming close to flash point.

On the way back we stopped off to see Walter and trade some
corned beef for a couple of fags.  He
invited us in and made us coffee that was thick enough to spread on bread.  We ran the two hour walk back in thirty
minutes with mentally heavy rucksacks, speeding on the coffee.  The next day we festered in the heat.  The mosey were worse than ever here, as we
were a lot further down in the forest. The other problem came from the kamikaze flies that attack you in waves
every ten minutes and chew at your flesh until you kill them.

Once again we set off on another quest to find, this time
the Devils Hullet.  Walking most of the
day up, up, up we arrived at the lower band of limestone.  The next lay was spent finding huge entrances
only to discover that they were choked or closed up after about 20 metres.  During the afternoon we walked up to the
higher band of limestone at about 1,000m, more to see the excellent view of
Swartisen Glacier in the good weather than anything.  We also walked to a depression that was
marked on the map.

The depression turned out to be a small lake surrounded by
almost vertical cliffs.  The lake was fed
by melt water and lay on a bed of limestone, we walked around the lake and
discovered that it was draining through a boulder choked hole, under the lake
and into the mountainside.  We moved tons
of boulders over the next few hours but still couldn’t get in.  We returned the next day and dug for a few
more hours. 

Cave fatigue set in as we were making no progress.  A JCB was needed to clear the route for a
huge cave could be discovered judging by the amount of water taken by this
entrance at certain times of the year.

Well and truly +?!! off we walked back to our tents on the
way we were shocked to discover no less than eight cave entrances, including
three with impressive waterfalls falling through pitches, and one huge rift
50ft high and 20ft across.  This was
it!  We walked off down the mountain for
a days fester returning with caving equipment and enough food for four or five
days.

Dumping our gear in one of the entrances we had found we
returned to where we had left our tents in the forest on the previous walk to
save weight.  On the way we all had minor
heart attacks when we discovered a well concealed hut built about 50m from the
lowest cave entrance by hunters from a village 15km away.  It had a grass roof with trees growing in it,
inside four bunks, a table and wood burning stove.  Our luck was in  a gyte not ten minutes from kilometres of
undiscovered cave.  The next day we
returned to our gyte with all the gear, had a brew and then set off towards the
rift entrance.  The cave proved to be
massive about 3 or 4 km long, the biggest in the Rana area.  The huge passages with their magnificent
formations linked up with all the wet entrances we had found previously.  The only problem was there were two sets of
foot prints going right through to the end of the cave!  We were not the first.  Completely +’?*ed off we returned to the gyte
and ate crates of army rations whilst it rained continuously for one and a half
days.

Like rats coming out of hibernation we pulled ourselves
together and headed towards another entrance we had found.  After descending a wet and very loose 50ft
pitch which was definitely un-descended we entered 300m of new passage and then
well, what do you know!  It connected
with the system visited the day before. The other entrances proved to hold the secrets to nothing, so we made a
huge curry out of two days food in a tin bucket, and prepared to walk off the
mountain the following day.  The walk
back proved to be fairly eventful, with rucksacks like builders skips, our
route taking us over miles of bogs and thickly wooded swamps.

On Monday 20th August we began the drive back to Goteburg to
catch the ferry to Scum-upon-Tyne.  This
time we had chosen to drive across
Norway
to Umla in

Sweden

and back down the Baltic coast, because of the better road conditions.  Petrol and food also proved cheaper this way
and as we were broke it seemed the best plan! Events on the way back included a classic early morning swimming the
Baltic Sea and three midnight moose sign nicking
sessions.  We also nearly started a major
international incident at a municipal campsite outside of Goteburg after
refusing to pay £8 to camp in the city’s rubbish tip.  The Governor threatened to phone the British
Ambassador and the Police.  We offered to
do the washing up but he wouldn’t have it! ”More than me job’s worth son”. After an hours debate in the hut
we left.

We soon realised the joys of civilisation we had missed for
six weeks and oh how glad we were to be going HOME!

 

Tales Of The Talking Trees

by Graham ‘BOLT’
Johnson

“Set foot on that side of the river, boy and they’ll eat you
alive”.  The words drifted into
silence amongst the towering spruce trees around us and the speaker puffed
placidly on the well worn pipe that emerged from the bushy beard dominating his
creased face.  His pale blue eyes seemed
to be looking far away into another world and I stirred uneasily at the thought
of being eaten alive, and felt tempted to use the magic pipe.  ‘Yukon Buds’ smouldered in the bowl, home
grown cannabis weaving thoughts of the unreal. We stood on the shores of
Kalka
Island, known as Calice in the days of
the gold rush, while around us swirled the torrid waters of
Alaska‘s
mighty Yukon River on its 2,000 mile voyage to the
Bering
Sea
.  Surrounding us was the
awe inspiring Boreal Forest of such immense size that

England
would
be lost below its green canopy.  Steep
sided spurs and ridges, valleys and creeks worked their way upwards until at
nearly 2,500 ft they burst clear out of the forest and were then only covered
by moss and lichen or the stunted Arctic Spruce.  That was my target, the nearest peaks of the

Ray
Mountains
,
unseen from where I was standing.  The
warmth of the evening sun eased the tension in my mind and sent my thoughts
back to the start of this adventure.

British Airways flight 006 left Heathrow at 1.10pm Monday
9th July and travelling west arrived at

Anchorage,
Alaska
at 1.00pm the same
day.  Confusing!   This is the largest city in
Alaska with the sea to the south and the tremendous snow capped
mountains of the

Alaskan
Range
to the north and
west.  The population is 250,000 which is
over half the population of the entire state of

Alaska
. As with all American cities it is well spread out and crossing to the
Palace Hotel with all my equipment proved a minor epic.  The large unshaven man at reception wiped his
greasy hands over his greasy vest before leading me up the greasy stairs.  I declined his offer to help with the
luggage.  The door to my room opened half
way under his gentle touch and then juddered to a halt, but a well aimed size
12 soon cured the problem and it swung violently open to the sound of
splintering wood.  He turned and walked
away and I stepped into the shabby little room, my rucksack tangling on the six
inch nail protruding from the door that turned out to be as troubling as the
latch.  I crossed the room slid the
window up and poked my head out for some fresh air.  “Hi!” a loud voice spoke from
behind me.  The window rose a few inches
I turned holding one hand on the rapidly expanding lump on top of my head.  A young woman sat on the bed only just
wearing clothes.  She had a contagious
face and against my better judgement I felt my normal look of ‘Smash, Kill,
Destroy’ being replaced by one of simpering stupidity.  Her name was Kate she said.  No she wasn’t a maid.  Did I want company?  Well what did I think she meant?  Were all Australians like me?  Frequently Kate’s face would disappear behind
a large chewing gum bubble only to reappear intact a few seconds later.  Eventually Kate left in a huff when I
explained that my strict BEC vows forbade me to play strip scrabble prior to
opening time.

The night was spend listening to the sounds of screeching
women, yelling men, breaking glass, revving car engines, loud music etc.  At 8.30am the next morning I gratefully sank
into the deep seat on the north bound train that was to carry me nearly 400
miles to the interior city of

Fairbanks
.  The young woman occupying the same seat
returned my bright friendly smile with a scowl. Oh well!  The scenery was fabulous
and guides were in each compartment to point out items of interest and give us
historical talks about them.  After great
effort and much smooth talking I managed to lift my neighbour out of her black
mood and she was now talking to me ten to the dozen about what was wrong with
men, the trouble she’d had with men and the best thing to do with men.  I sat there scowling infrequently
interspersing with an intelligent ‘Um’ to show that I wasn’t a tailor’s
dummy.  We reached

Fairbanks
in the early evening and I set off
for my pre-booked hotel.  First sight was
a shock as it looked like a gigantic dusky pink shoe box, however it was run by
five girls (one English), and turned out to be spotlessly clean and neat
inside.  I showered, dived into bed and
slept for a long, long time.

The sound of a tank battle outside my window woke me and I
peered bleary-eyed from behind the curtains. Two ‘dead’ Indians lay on the pavement opposite while a convoy of
pick-up trucks roared and fretted by the traffic lights.  In

Alaska

vehicles don’t require yearly tests and it showed with the ear splitting uproar
from the traffic.  The bars stay open
until 4.00am which accounted for the two dead Indians for shortly afterwards
they rose unsteadily and weaved off down the street.  It was to be a common sight over the next
seven days.  Apart from the Athapaskam
Indians who inhabit the Alaskan interior

Fairbanks

also has its share of Eskimos down from the far north.  Most of the white people here are from the ‘lower
48’ i.e. the rest of

America

and there are a small group of weirdoes (like me) with stars in their eyes –
most of them never leave he bars. 

Fairbanks
can be summed up
as ‘Banks, Bars, Restaurants and Pawnshops’. The big food store stayed open until 10.00pm even on Sundays and their
shopping trolleys are twice the size of ours over here.  You can get four screaming kids in them
instead of one!  In July and early August
there is no night and temperatures can rise to 96 F whilst in winter -50 F is
not uncommon.  The wilderness starts
close to the city and Bears and Moose have been known in peoples back
yards.  A few gold mines are still
operating on the outskirts, but the days of the gold rush are long past.  The next seven days were full of problems, the
first being that part of my equipment continued travelling between
Anchorage and

Fairbanks

for a further 2,000 miles before being intercepted by me.  Getting one month’s supply of dehydrated food
for the journey required a four day advertising stint in the local paper.  Finally like me, you ever write to the
American Embassy in

London

and receive a bright reply from them to the effect that “Yes!  There is absolutely no problem in hiring a
high powered rifle in

Alaska
.”  DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!!

Thursday 19th July!  I
stood by the side of the

Haul Road

that was to lead 150 miles north to the only bridge crossing the
Yukon River.  A
fine drizzle misted the forest covered hills around me as I watched the Taxi
that had deposited me here head south in a cloud of spray.  The final words of the elderly driver added
to the general depression I felt. “Take my word for it boy” he said glancing at the Remington
30-06 semi-automatic rifle resting on the seat between us, “Change that
pea-shooter for something bigger, else there’s a good chance you won’t be
coming back.”  One hour later the
road was still empty of traffic.  A large
white dog walked out of the surrounding bush, crossed the road, wagged its tail
once and sat down along side me.  Shortly
afterwards came-the sound of an approaching lorry and anticipation replaced the
apathy within me.  A massive freightliner
truck appeared and raced towards me and I raised my thumb and ordered the
driver to stop with my full mental powers. A sudden blur of white and my bedraggled canine friend was hurtling down
the road to do battle with the approaching juggernaut.  At the last second he skipped nimbly aside,
spun lightly in his tracks and barked madly at the lorry approaching fast.  As it passed at high speed the scowling driver
shouted something that didn’t sound like a friendly greeting.  Silence again descended.  My new friend arriving back, panting, but
with a self satisfied smirk on his face and resumed his station beside me.  Telling him to leave produced no reaction and
eventually I was forced to chase him away. The next wagon stopped.  The
driver was going 90 miles north to his father’s gold mine and he spent the full
distance telling me horror stories about bears. Eventually he turned off the

Haul
Road
and I climbed out and started lifting the
bags down.  Whilst doing this another
pick-up driver stopped and shouted across.

 “Don’t go down that
road man.  Indians down there don’t like
whites; they’ve just killed seven including a trooper.  Sorry can’t give you a lift.  Ain’t allowed”.  With that he drove off to the north.  I looked around, nothing but forest and hills
like it had been for the last 90 miles. The rain was quite heavy now and a cold south westerly wind was
beginning to blow.  The notion occurred
that now was the right time to check over the rifle.  After much fumbling I worked out how to load
the magazine and was in the process of looking for the safety catch when I
heard the sound of a motor.  Hastily
propping the gun against my rucksack, I ran across the road to be in the best
position for thumbing a lift.  A large
van came up the side road and stopped opposite me.  It was full of Indians, the side door opened
and one alighted and started walking across the road towards me.  Thoughts of Custer’s last stand crossed my
mind and I wondered if anyone would write a song about me.  Halfway between the van and myself he
stopped, turned and faced the others and commenced giving the thumbs up sign as
they checked the lights, indicators then got back in and they proceeded off
south.  As they passed I waved and they
all broke into smiles, the biggest and meanest looking back.  All of a sudden I began to feel quite
cheerful, even the forest didn’t seem so hostile.

My next lift had such a badly shattered windscreen that I
could see three roads ahead of me.  This
is not uncommon as the

Haul Road

is 400 miles of compressed gravel and dirt and has only been open a few
years.  It was built by a consortium of
oil companies who laid the incredible Alaskan oil pipe from Prudhoe Bay in the
far north 800 miles south across some of the most hostile country in the world
to the southern ice free part of Valdez. The pipeline carries 1½ million barrels (48 gallons each) per day of
crude oil and. has to cross 600 rivers, 3 mountain ranges and resist a
temperature range of +100oF to -80oF. Early evening and we crossed the
Yukon River
and glory be! on the far side was a transport cafe and garage for the
truckers.  For two days I marked time
trying to get a lift down river and then on the third day as I mooched around
by the water a big cigar and bushy beard came into view.  This was Professor Ray Baily of

Fairbanks
University
and as it transpired he was
heading for a fishing camp 16 miles down river. Yes I could have a lift and also stay overnight thus allowing an early
start next day.  This seemed a good idea
so we sat and waited for his partners who were travelling upriver to meet
him.  Ray’s little red-haired daughter,
Cara led me back to the café to show me where if I wanted I could buy her an
ice cream!  Later the rest of the party
arrived in a flat bottomed dory powered by an 70 HP outboard and shortly after
we were heading downriver at speed.  Tom
and Bill came from Hillbilly Country – Georgia and

South Carolina
, really nice people but a
wild sense of humour.  Once they knew I
was an ex-navy man, they gave me charge of the boat, so I bombed on westward
completely oblivious to the fact that people had just died on that stretch of
river when hitting rocks just below the surface.  Nobody tells me anything !

As we approached the fish camp on the one mile long

Kalka
Island
,
we stopped to inspect the nets set out in the eddies by the river bank.  Not so many fish but a lot of driftwood and
this produced great hilarity which got out of hand when they started throwing
the wood into the boat and the fish into the river.  Madman! We also stopped to inspect a fish wheel, an ingenious contraption like a
huge double ended scoop on a floating platform tethered to the bank.  The current turns the scoop which picks up
fish and drops them into a box on the platform. Later I was to help an Indian fisherman empty his wheel – tear your hair
out you English fishermen – he had over 200 fish the smallest being about 2½ ft
long.  There were King Salmon, Chun and
Sheefish.  The magnificent King Salmon
were running now, working their way easily up the

Yukon
, conserving their energy for the
incredible fight against the ragging mountain torrents.  Those that escaped mans inventions now had
the bears contend with.  Both Black and
Grizzly would be lining the banks of the known Salmon rivers watching for the
flashing silver bodies that hurled themselves up waterfalls or fought through
running water sometimes only inches deep.

Arriving at tree covered Kalka, we were greeted by Robin,
her one year old son Dillon and Rachel. The camp consisted of large tents plus a roughly made smoke house and
covered area for cooking etc.  A fish
wheel was in the process of being built. The smoke house was full of long strips of salmon hanging on racks,
which were smoked until the flesh was hard and dull looking.  The taste was fabulous.  The evening meal was eaten in the open under
the trees and consisted of Sourdough bread, rather like a pancake and thick
Halibut steaks covered with Robin’s special sauce known as ‘Bitsa’.  Bitsa this and bitsa that.  They were breaking camp the next day and
returning to

Fairbanks

with a full load of fish.  It fetches £9
per lb and they sell all they catch.  I
decided to stay with them to help can the fish and clear the camp.  It turned out to be a bright and sunny day
which made it a pleasure to sit by the
Yukon
with the mountains and forests around us as we canned the fish and fought off

Alaska
‘s flying big game
– the mosquito!  Ray told me the problems
I could expect to have with these creatures when I travelled deeper into the
forest.  How right he was!  As the day passed he began to voice worries
about my chances of survival up in the mountains – people disappear yearly into
the wilderness and are never seen again. The last one he knew about froze to death when he failed to light his
fire due to damp matches.  Ray and Bill
set off up river and the rest of us continued with the packing.  By 9.00pm I was fretting at my late start,
but when the two returned they triumphantly handed me a cigarette lighter.  They had just travelled 30 miles along the
Yukon River to swop their cans of beer for this to give
me a better chance in the mountains.  I
felt quite overcome and decided there and then that I would be seeing these
marvellous people again on my return.

With everything packed into the heavily over laden boat, we
set off upriver at 10.30pm.  I stepped
ashore at Canyon Creek by the ice cold mountain stream that rushed into the

Yukon
.  My rucksack weighed 100lb and carrying that
and the heavy pussers holdall just was not possible.  The holdall I stashed high up a tree

hanging from a rope (bears can climb), the intention being
to return later.  Farewells having been
said, I pushed the boat away from the bank and stood and watched as it got
smaller with distance.  Occasionally a
speak of white would show as someone turned to look back and then as they
disappeared round the far bend in the river, all sound was abruptly out off as
though at the flick of a switch.  Silence
pressed down on me and with it came the feeling of extreme loneliness and
vulnerability.  I checked my rifle and
inspected the mouth of Canyon Creek. Within a few yards the river was obscured by dense undergrowth, while
the trees on both sides rose steeply upwards towards the higher mountain ridges
that could be glimpsed in the distance. The steepness of the ground gave the impression of a malenvironment
being crouched over me a tendril of fear wormed its insidious way into my
mind.  Anger at my own weakness pushed me
into action and with frantic scrambling I climbed the near vertical river
bank.  A few more paces and the shining
waters disappeared as the dark and silent forest closed around me.

 

Completely Bergered!

The following brief account is a personal view of a trip I
made to the Gouffre Berger in 1978 when the Cerberus booked the cave.  We camped at the edge of a long rough track
about a mile below the cave.  The camp
site, on the edge of a large meadow, was extremely pleasant apart from the
water carries!

The Berger entrance doline lies at the edge of an area of
lapiaz dotted with trees: not far from the entrance is a plaque in memory of
two French youths who lost their lives in the cave several years ago.  A scramble down one end of the doline gives
onto a short pitch facilitated or not by a makeshift wooden ladder which gives
onto the first pitch proper.  This again
has some wooden artefacts at the top, namely a sort of take off platform.  This pitch gives the flavour of the first
part of the cave namely a series of pitches! After thirty metres or so one drops onto a snow plug and a slither off
down a series of short climbs (
Holiday slides)
debouches into the top of Cairn Hall. This is a large high chamber which one enters at the top on a rather
loose ledge.  The take off for the 25
metre climb is sloping and loose and we used quite a bit of rope protection
here.  It was here that the original
explores rigged a teleferique to transport tackle easily.  After Cairn Hall come the infamous meanders
which although deep are pretty tame after those in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu.  The meanders debouch onto the top of Garby’s
shaft.  The take-off here can be foul if
you rig it the way we did i.e. through a sloping rifty bit which makes getting
off the rope difficult especially when you are tired.  The French rig the pitch higher up which
makes it a lot easier.  The actual pitch,
of the order of 40 metres, drops down the side of a very ancient stale flow,
and ends in a continuation of the Meanders. These end at another approximately 30 metre pitch to the bottom of the
rift the Meanders are located in.  A
further series of three rather dribbly 9 metre pitches winds up at an
enlargement of the passage at the head of the second biggest pitch in the system
– Aldo’s Shaft.  This is about 45 metres
deep and provides a spectacular free hang into a black void.  Rigging here should be accomplished with care
as in our case we quite unnecessarily larded the rope with protectors just
below the take off point when a bit more thought would have made the pitch
entirely free hanging.  We realised our
mistake when a French party who pirated the cave (I think) rigged their ropes
in entirely different positions!

At the bottom of Aldo’s shaft the cave abruptly changes character
and from a silly little rifty squeeze one emerges into the vastness of Petzl’s
Gallery with the ‘Riviere sans Etoile’ babbling past ones feet.  It is one hell of a big passage by anyone’s
standards.  In dry weather the stream is
pretty small and the next obstacle –

Lake
Cadoux
is usually
absent.  Its location is marked by an
area of mud floor and at the far side a boulder dam which is the cause of the
lake.  Beyond

Lake
Cadoux

is the start of the big stal. in Bourgin Hall and just beyond the short Little
General Cascades drops a few metres before the Tyrolean Traverse is
reached.  This is pretty tame in dry
weather and is more easily passed going in as a slither and wade.  Suddenly the stream disappears through
boulders and the big passage becomes gigantic. The presence of Belfry sized boulders indicates the start of the Big
Rubble Heap through which (thankfully) there is a well defined path.  The overall trend is downwards and as the
slope increases one can see in the distance a glimmer of white.  A pile of rubbish and junk marks the presence
of Camp One which was a mess in 1978 (one would gather from a recent letter to
Caves & Caving that the rubbish was a recent British phenomenon which is
terribly unfair) and beyond it the cave levels out as a vast chamber the floor
of which is covered with big gour pools. The glimmer of white is seen to be an array of 9 metre high stalagmites
– one of the most distinctive sights in the world of caves.  This is of course the Hall of Thirteen which
is not as some people imagine named after the number of stals but after the
number in the original exploring party. Beyond here the cave drops steeply through Germaine Hall and a series of
gours which positively dwarf the great gour in St. Cuthbert’s.  A series of relatively small chambers
containing the famous enormous cascade lead to tile Vestibule and a short pitch
back into the streamway.

This section of cave begins with the famous canal, again
pretty tame by today’s standards, although immersion if one is wearing dry gear
is not to be recommended unless one is travelling very fast!  Most canal sections can be traversed with the
help of fixed aids (yes, even the Berger has them).  I found the streamway a delight and rather
like a souped up Swildon’s One streamway believe it or not.  There are one or two small climbs but the
only main pitch on this section is extremely obvious  – Claudine’s Cascade.  This is an 18 metre waterfall which the
original explorers had trouble passing. They eventually succeeded using a sort of boom which put the ladder away
from the water.  A boom still remains
there (not the original I hope) and makes the descent fairly dry apart the
bottom 4 metres or so where the water strikes a ledge and drenches the explorer
in wet conditions.  The stream continues
a bit further down another short pitch until the cave changes character yet
again to become frankly Tolkienesque at the
Grand Canyon.  The passage is almost as big as the Great
Hubble Heap but the stream has cut down a deep (and I mean deep) canyon on one
side of the passage.  One descends-a very
steep rubble and silt slope which runs alongside the precipitous sides of the
canyon from the black depths of which can be heard the roar of the stream.  Beyond the Canyon in

Camp
II

is another pile of rubbish including (in 1978) a complete frame tent!  Just behind some boulders is the 18 metre
Gache’s pitch which is normally dry.  At
the base of this the stream is rejoined as a series of two steeply sloping
cascades and an acute bend.  The stream
hurtles over the brim of the Grand Cascade an awesome sight in wet weather
(which is when I saw it).  Only three
members of the Cerberus trip got beyond here to the head of Little Monkey
before the weather beat us.

From what I have adduced some of the most technical caving
in the system lies in the final hundred metres of descent including the biggest
pitch in the cave the wet Hurricane shaft. Let’s hope the weather and ourselves are up to it!

It is worth noting that the most exhausting part of the trip
for myself was the seemingly endless series of entrance shafts.  All those awkward little take offs become a
pain to prusik over and any rope protectors were similarly regarded with tired
un-enthusiasm.  The final straw was the
entrance shaft where we had a particularly stretchy piece of SRT rope which
meant one felt as though one was prusiking it twice!

MEDICAL NOTES

On the 1978 trip the most significant medical problem turned
out to be blisters on the feet. The two doctors on the trip (Tim Lyons and
myself) found ourselves bereft of remedies whilst Ken Gregory (remember the
name) did a roaring trade in blister remedies. Apart from blistered feet and exhaustion those people who wore wet suits
had trouble with skin burns.  I had a
most unpleasant time after my first trip down to the Hall of Thirteen when I
developed perineal (crutch) burns.  These
were treated with great dollops of Nivea cream and I managed to get down to
Grarid Cascade 4 hours later without suffering unduly although I did wear a
thin pullover under my wet suit.  Body
temperature maintenance is a matter of personal preference.  In dry conditions and with a little care I am
sure one can manage with dry gear in the shape of a water proof oversuit furry
suit and thermal underwear (optional) plus a balaclava (remember a third of
heat loss is from the head) for hanging about in at pitches.  I would also strongly recommend gloves for
all the rope handling and immersion (have you heard of Berger Hands).

Feeding underground is a problem.  During a seventeen hour trip I managed on
pilchards and biscuits but morale is improved by warm food.

On the surface there should not be too many problems
provided dietary and alcoholic discretions are kept to a minimum.  For acute diarrhoea the simple and most effective
treatment is using electrolyte replacement.

As regards trauma from accidents the situation is just the
same as in this country with regard to cave rescue.  The carry out will just take longer that’s
all!

As regards medical treatment abroad remember there is now a
reciprocal arrangement with EEC countries. However you require a form obtainable from your local DHSS office.  Don’t rely on the fact that there seem to be
lots of doctors going!

Peter Glanvill

 

Library

Thanks to Unit 2 for the donation of all Newsletters from
Jan. 1971 to date.  They contain much
useful info. on caves and mines in the Surrey,
Sussex
and
Kent areas, with
particular emphasis on the stone workings of the Merstham area of
Surrey.

The latest Cerberus,
Westminster,
Plymouth,
Wessex,

Cambridge
and
BORA publications have also arrived.

Many thanks to Roy and Joan Bennett for their donation of
old BBs and other publications – early Descent sand Speleologist Mag.  These have completed the Library sets.  Several duplicates have been given to Mike
York who, in return, has promised to bind our volumes of BBs once the new
library is completed.

J.Rat.

 

Going Solo

by Lisa Taylor

After reading an interesting article in Descent, about solo
caving the old grey matter started thinking. I’d never considered going down on my own, and the more I thought about
it, the more I wanted to do it.  A solo
trip down Swildons was organised, with the kind help of the Editor (otherwise
known as Sir!)  He gave myself and two
friends a lift to the Belfry and agreed to come down the cave with my two
friends an hour or so later to rescue me when I got stuck or lost.

Walking across the fields to the hole I felt I was setting
off on a great adventure (OK some people have great imaginations).  There was a fair amount of water going down
the hole and there was not the silence that 1 had expected, but instead only
the continuous swirling and crashing sound of water.

I travelled along taking extra care to note the way back and
being especially careful I reached the pitch where I had great trouble undoing
the C-links.  All the way to the sump I
had a great time feeling in complete control, except when the occasional rock shifted
due to the water, making a disconcerting bang, or when I heard the voices!

I reached the sump which was quiet and eerie.  On the journey back, I had the feeling that I
wanted to get back and out quickly and I hurried along in the hope that I might
meet someone, especially my ‘rescuers’  I
reached Barnes’s Loop which gave me a little trouble but after a lot of bum
wiggling finally managed it.  I took
quite a while de-tackling the twenty, and rolling up the ladder (lack of
practice).  When I reached the ‘old 40’
water was shooting straight out at head height. 5 minutes of swallowing water and I was up. ‘

Altogether the cave seemed much longer and harder than
remembered.  When I did finally emerge, I
felt absolutely whacked, probably because I had been tense and therefore
everything was that much harder.

I walked back across the fields where I met Sir, Robin and
Ria my mates.

Then we all went yes you’ve guessed it, down to sump I and
back all over again…..and it was a hell of a lot easier in a group!

 

Announcement

For the last few years I have spasmodically been taking
photographs of St. Cuthbert’s, both nooks and crannies and the main routes in
the cave.  The idea was to put together
an audiovisual presentation on the cave, its history and main features.  I have now amassed a large collection of
colour slides and feel it’s about time I put the thing together, particularly
as this year is the 50th anniversary of the club.

Any members who have anecdotes, photographs (preferably,
slides) of early exploration, the original entrance, leading explorers or any
other features relating to the cave, please let me know.  I will take great care of any material lent
to me – I have facilities for duplicating slides.

Also if anybody has facilities for producing graphic images
on slides, do let me know.  With any luck
I should have something worth showing by the end of the summer.

Many Thanks,

Peter Glanvill, Chard.

Somerset

Wig is in urgent need of
sporting pictures of the August streamway for his forthcoming publication.

Cuthbert’s Report requires
photographs of passages showing shape size and formation.  Do you have any that might be of use.

STOP PRESS

SUNDAY NIGHT /30th
DEC STOP

GRASS HONKS ON WIFE,
FRIENDS AND DOG STOP

WIFE CRIES OUT STOP .

TO NO AVAIL
STOP………………

STOP

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