Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover Picture: The Balcony Formations, St. Cuthbert’s

(Part of a photograph taken by Phil Romford )



Caving – not a lot. It’s been very quiet on the hill recently.  Digs are still being dug and caves are still
being visited but nothing unusual has occurred. The imminent arrival of the Cuthbert’s report must mean that the Cuthbert’s
West or East End Series is about to be discovered.  (I think I know where to look!)

The above is a bit out of date since the big push in
Cuthbert’s is now on, volunteers welcome! The power cable and telephone from the Belfry to Sump 2 are in place and
the electric pump was taken down on the 24th of August.  Pumping proceeded over the bank holiday

New discoveries have been made in Daren, some hundreds of
feet between Spaderunner and Aggie. Someone might even write it up for me!

Please could I have more contributions for the BB.  I’ve only received four since February!

Membership Changes

Three ex-members have rejoined the club.  They are:-

647       Dave Glover,
1061     Kerry Wiggins, c/o Dave Glover (Please
can you send me your address!)
683       Dave Yeandle,


We also welcome two new members, who are:-

Richard Alan Broomhead,           Cheddar,
Fiona Maria Teague,                  


High Flying Caver Drops A Bollock

At the solstice, amidst scenes of intense hilarity, a Hero
slid to glory.

The Wee-sex challenge, the as-ever popular inter-club
obstacle race, took place again at the Belfry. Old Time Served competitors were there in scores, the event being such
that once is enough.  Your reporter had
some difficulty as the BEC made communication impossible with constant
explosions from their excessively disruptive cannon.  The theme “Civil War” had inspired
the host club to concentrate its efforts into perfecting A Cannon.  Fevered creativity had evolved this
remarkable device from something simple to an alarmingly effective weapon
capable of delivering a smack in the ear’ole from a six inch inflated ball over
a range of 150 metres.  Unreasonably excessive
some were heard to say between blasts. Rumour has it that the teams were from the Axbridge, BEC, Shepton and

The course was the usual circumnavigation of the St.
Cuthbert’s depression.  This time, down
the road with the gun carriages then past the Shepton.  Plunge into the Mineries, back towards the
Belfry – BUT – not directly.  Zot’s
innovation was the Star Attraction! Imagine (if you can) the horror that gripped the competitors and the
glee that seized the Old Time Servers as they saw yet more manifestations of
the fevered mind.  A Death Slide!  Zot’s innovation was stretched high from a
tree and plunged steeply swooping into the depression towards the Shepton
Hut.  It finished by unsubtly smashing
heroes into a bank.  Not intentional
perhaps but nevertheless full of potential pain.  Those that had tested the

Aerial Way
were of the opinion that it
might be better to hit the bank with the back rather than risk broken
ankles.  The Gun Carriages had of course
to be transported the same way.  The pulley
was returned by pulling it back up the slide with a long trailing rope.  (LONG TRAILING ROPE!).

Amazing.  Don’t you
wish you’d been there!

The teams leapt into action. Fighting their way through drunken spectators, eager to trip opposing
teams, they raced to the Mineries.  The
Baton was collected from the float by swimming and beating off tackles from
rivals.  I have to report a wonderful
fight which erupted here and wondered nostalgically if anyone could join
in.  Still, I needed to report Zot’s

This is where the game was won and lost.  Axbridge who had been heard to mutter
“Don’t win” were the first to cross and won.  The BEC set up their cannon and with smoke
pouring from the muzzle bombarded those who chose glory.  The Ball was stuffed down the muzzle, the
Breech was held shut with the foot, the Charge was dropped into the firing hole
and the Ball was projected with gratifying velocity where it would.  It was retrieved by a wonderful young man who
raced after it and brought it back time and time again to keep the cannon firing,
giving us the joyful spectacle of Heroes Sliding to Glory Wreathed in Smoke
with the Ball howling past their ear’oles. And Then!

A superhero, naked to the waist, dripping from his efforts
in the Mineries, arrived.  He climbed the
wire ladder to the pulley which was held back with the trail rope to allow him
to place a strop over the hook of the pulley block.  He posed. He kicked his feet clear of the ladder and shot off into the void.  At full tilt – he stopped – abruptly – and he
hung.  He hung, the trail rope between
his legs tied off to a sapling by some over enthusiastic pleasure seeker.  He hung with the rope slicing his oh-be-joyfuls
in twain.  He hung, transfixed, not able
to move.  And then, once more, the cannon
boomed . It missed.  He was not happy –
But we were ecstatic!

Sitting in the Belfry afterwards, tenderly testing his
tender bits whilst delicately dabbing Dettol onto his damaged dick, Jingles
remarked wistfully, “If only I could catch the Bastard.”

You know, this game is not about wining it’s about

Kangy, June 1990



Digs are proceeding at Morton’s Pot and at the bottom end of
the boulder chamber (dodgy!).  There may
soon be new round trips in Eastwater as the digs are likely to connect straight
to the Ifold series or to the
West End.  I’ll try to get an update for the next BB.

Highland Fling

For some time I had hankered after a trip to Sutherland, not
only to visit some of the most remote caves in Britain but also take advantage
of the excellent diving in this part of the world.  Late last year Brian Johnson (BEC and CDG)
and I fixed a week in May 1990 for our proposed expedition.  At the last minute we were fortuitously
joined by Tony Jarratt, a Grampian SG member and original explorer in the

The 650 mile drive was fairly painless and after leaving
Chard at 9 am we reached the GSG hut around 10 pm at the tail end of a
magnificent sunset in a cloudless sky. After dumping kit we nipped down the local equivalent of the Hunter’s –
the Inchanadamph Hotel.  “Nipped” is probably a misnomer in
that the drive is about ten miles – but the “Inch” is virtually the
only pub in the area!  The locals all
greeted Tony as an old friend, which he was, and the pub’s caver status was
justified by the pictures on the walls and the fact that the landlord’s son has
seen some underground action.  A couple
of pints of 80/- later and we were off back to the GSG hut for a decent night’s

The next morning began like the next four – blue skies and
not a cloud to be seen.  The boast by
J-rat that the hut had the best caving hut view in

was no idle one; on our
left was CuI Mor whilst in the middle distance Suilven reared dramatically
above an otherwise level landscape.  The
hut was surprisingly civilised apart from the notable absence of running water
or toilet facilities.  The latter
deficiency resulted in early morning treks up the hillside behind the hut to
find suitable rabbit holes.

Day one was spent on an ambling drive up to Durness,
frequent pauses being made to photograph the stunning scenery.  At Durness we drove over to Smoo cave.  This famous sea cave in limestone lies at the
end of a long inlet.  Examination of the
sea cliffs to the east with regard to possible “tartan” holes
revealed a coastline very similar to Brixham with a long gear carry in prospect
so we decided to abseil into Smoo. Putting on wet suits in the sweltering heat seemed decidedly
unScottish!  The landward side of Smoo
has several roof holes into which, normally, a substantial stream flows.  A bridge over one of the holes made a
convenient belay point for a 20 metre free hang into a dark and gloomy
pool.  An unspectacular trickle descended
the shaft with us.  A short traverse
around the pool led to a nice piece of stream passage which abruptly ended in
an uninviting sump which has been dived to a semichoked area nine metres down.

Our walk out was enlivened by a meeting with Colin Coventry,
his white dog and an inflatable dinghy. Colin ferries tourists across the pool to the stream passage.  After this diversion Brian and Tony sunned
themselves whilst I tried to look for some submarine caves Steve Milner had
reported seeing in Smoo inlet some years ago. I managed to get the car up a track to within a hundred metres of the
entrance of the inlet and entered the water here.

The steep kelp clad limestone walls drop to a sandy
bottom.  I swam over to the east side and
inspected a hundred metre section to seaward at a depth of about 10 metres
zilch!  I then swam slowly back up the
inlet finding only one area of interest which was in fact a network of flooded
sea caves.  The only other features of
interest were some tiny resurgences in wading depth water on the west
wall.  So, no evidence of tartan holes at

A short distance inland from Durness on the road back to
Elphin we visited a small patch of limestone around a river.  Brian dived the river near some tiny
resurgences but found nothing of interest. Tony and I visited a site he had made some finds at some years ago – two
dry valleys parallel to each other with a resurgence at their base.  One short cave above the resurgence belted
out a cold draught and presumably more passage lies behind the present
end.  Ascending the left hand valley we
passed two unpushed cave entrances one of which yielded the sound of running
water.  The caves were fed by nearby
sinks above the limestone.  Before you
all rush up to Durness I should add that it was only five minutes scramble from
rising to sink so the caves are going to be rather small!

Another boringly hot day saw us parked outside the fish farm
at the bottom of the Allt nan Uamh (stream of the cave) valley.  Shouldering our packs we started the hour
long trek to the caves.  “That’s all
the cave water” Tony remarked as we passed a particularly thunderous
cascade near the start.  Ahead lay a huge
dry stream bed, the river emerging from Fuaran Allt nan Uamh the resurgence for
all the cave systems on the hillside ahead. Brian and I were rapidly becoming gob-smacked by the potential size of
the cave system that must lie beneath our feet. Golden eagles soared above the crag to our south as we took a
breather.  A hundred metres above us at
the base of the crag were the dark circles of the bone caves while half way
down the slope were two obvious fossil resurgences both of which, Tony informed
us, issued powerful draughts but ended in hairy chokes.  After half a mile or so the valley bifurcated
and we trudged right up a sort of stairway of peat hags before abruptly coming
across the entrance to Uamh an Claonite. A rocky depression ends downvalley in a low cliff with a boulder pile at
its base.  The boulder pile still has to
be treated with respect and the squeeze into the streamway below proved to be
more technical on the return than it appeared on the way in!

Claonite is a dramatic introduction to Scottish caving.  Now

‘s longest system there is
no doubt that its potential has scarcely been realised particularly since the
discovery of an extensive fossil upper series a few years ago. 

We dropped into a roomy streamway, the stream issuing from a
low choked bedding.  Despite the external
air temperature we soon discovered that Scottish cave water is cold and
plentiful.  Downstream the first cascade
is an easy scramble before the first couple of chambers are reached, one of
which was quite well decorated.  The roof
lowers towards the first sump which we bypassed in a chilly wallow which can
also sump in wet conditions; beyond this a traverse led round the edge of the
deep Bottomless Pillar Pool before we entered Cavity Wall passage with its
heavily fretted yellow and black limestone textures.  Two short attractive cascades followed before
we reached the first Waterslide. Waterslides are a distinctive feature of
Scottish caves, a consequence of the limestones faulting.  They resembled the Fault chamber passage in
Longwood Swallet.  The first waterslide
leads via a duck to the second and sump 2. However a climb above the sump leads to a bypass into much larger older
boulder-strewn passage ending in sump 3.

The 30 metre stretch of passage between the two sumps had
only been entered by J-rat on one memorable occasion.  The way in, the Hole in the Floor, turned out
to have all the attributes of a lobster pot and combined tactics were needed to
retrieve Tony.  He planned to get his
revenge by blowing up the hole in the floor which layoff a rather grotty side
passage from the above mentioned bouldery tunnel.  Brian and I discovered access was easier from
the sump three side, which meant we ran out the bang wire from here.  We then discovered the route to the upper
series lay in a direct line with our original route to the hole in the floor
i.e. we ran out of bang wire rather close to the bang.

Scrambling up the ascending bedding plane leading to the
upper series we fired the charge and left the fumes to clear.  At the head of the bedding plane is a
squeeze, the Brandenburg Gate, into an uphill crawl ending in a standing height

crawls led through phreatic domes into
large sand filled passage.  Tony pushed
one side passage for another six metres through more domes.  The next bit was really spectacular being
more Welsh in size – big bouldery tunnels 3 or 4 metres square ending in
chokes.  This area has to be a diggers
paradise but the question is where do you dig?

Having finished photography and sightseeing we made our way
back to the streamway.  The ominous
stench of bang fumes at the


gate caused some bad moments but fortunately never got worse.  Once out of the cave we peeled off our gear,
munched Angie Glanvill’s apple cake, and returned to the car via the bone caves
confidently leaving our caving kit in the Claonite shakehole.

Brian and I rounded the day off with a dive off the south
ferry slip at Kylescu.  Tony reminisced
about his surveying days while sinking pints from the convenient bar by the
slip.  Two clam divers had just packed up
for the day and several sacks full of scallops lay enticingly at the water’s
edge; unfortunately the tidal race precluded any forays into the deeper water
where they existed so Brian and I spent a happy half hour rummaging around the
car wrecks and other detritus under the slip.

The following morning saw us sweatily plodding up the Allt
nan Uamh valley trying to find some shade. We soon cooled off in Claonite
particularly as we were humping Brian’s diving kit.  Tony had a return engagement with the hole in
the floor whilst Brian dived upstream sump 3. In good visibility he negotiated the boulders at the start and 10 metres
later became the second man into the area between the two sumps.  Leaving the line in situ but with the belay
directly under the line of fire from Tony’s bang, he then did 3 to 4 as an

The bang successfully completed, we slowly set off out.  The relaxed atmosphere meant I was able to
get several rather nice pictures of the streamway; photographs of Claonite
being in rather short supply.

After Claonite we decided to visit Heidbanger Hole the new
GSG find.  However on walking up the dry
stream bed we found a possible hole which took up thirty minutes effort before
being abandoned for future reference. Eventually it was time for Heidbanger. A loose sided shakehole dropped through a mucky little squeeze into a
low scalloped streamway.  The cave is
notable primarily for the peat it contains which varies in states of
liquefaction from firm through mushy and thixotropic to liquid.  After inserting ourselves in all the visible
orifices we oozed out and made straight for the nearest wee lochan.  Don’t let them con you that all Scottish
caves are clean!

In a slightly cleaner state we set off for a look at ANUS
cave the next valley over.  Brian, who’d
left his kneepads in
Devon, opted out early on
here.  The entrance is in the bank of a
dry stream bed and has been ringed by a boulder dam to keep out debris.  The main cave consists of big roomy chambers
and passages which criss cross in bewildering fashion.  Tony and I eventually found a route to the
static sump extension dug out by Julian Walford and his slaves.  The amount of engineering here would have
done credit to a Mendip dig and to see it here, miles from the nearest road,
was incredible.  There were syphon
systems, railways and pipework everywhere. As this may be the key to downstream ANUS (the main streamway seems to
end in a choke) the means are justified by the potential end.  When we visited it the sump was dry ideal
digging conditions if it hadn’t been the third cave of the day.

Having virtually exhausted the caving potential of the Allt
nan Uamh valley we set off into the sunset, the prospect of a few pints of 80/-
beckoning.  After a morning’s dive
opposite a salmon farm on the road to Drumbeg, notable for the multicoloured
feathers tars and a small docile angler fish we decided to do the Traligill
valley.  The sky had become a little
overcast as we drove up to Glenbain Cottage. We headed uphill to Knockers which can be seen from a fair distance away
as a black triangle on the hillside.  The
Cnoc nan Uamh system, as it is more properly known, has three entrances within
a hundred metres of each other, and, in dry weather a through trip is
possible.  The topmost entrance leads to
a streamway and an upper series of passages and grottos.  All routes appear to unite at the
impressively large Landslip Chamber dominated by a deep black pool.  On the far side a series of crawls led to a
peat floored tube ending in the Boycott extensions.  There seems to be a permanent mass worm orgy
in the mud by the belay bolt.

We went downstream through some nice cold ducks to a cascade.  Tony had descended and crossed the pool below
when I came to look over.  Below me I
seemed to see a projecting rock flake so I half stepped/half jumped on to it.  Two metres below the surface I realised I was
wrong.  Brian felt my advice on emerging “Don’t
jump!” was superfluous.  All I can
remember thinking as I was on dive mode was “Bugger, there go my specs
again”.  Just beyond the plunge pool
the stream passes under a surface pot which Tony insisted I photograph because
he said you didn’t get many caves with banks of primroses in them – true.  The next bit is very photogenic if you have
the right speed film; the stream rushes down through an arch and out into
daylight again before plunging down the Waterslide.  This was really spectacular being a twenty
foot wide ramp descending at 45 degrees carrying the whole stream, superb!  It ends in what we later learnt is not the
sump which is up the slide and off the left. Many pictures were taken here although none capture the dramatic angle
of the feature.

We left the waterslide under a grey drizzly sky and made our
way downstream for a guided tour of the Traligill valley.  The first feature is the stream sink at
Lower Traligill cave which consists of a low sloping
decorated bedding passage leading to a sump of which more anon.  Downstream of this cave was a dry stream bed,
all in limestone, bordered by the odd bedding cave and flanked in places by
dramatically tilted limestone pavement. An abrupt step in the stream bed at a miniature gorge represents the
main stream rising although further downstream by a waterfall there seemed to
be another vigorous resurgence – again more anon.

Our final port of call was


– one of the more unlikely British entrances. At one side of a deep plunge pool a short traverse and stoop under
reveals a streamway plunging down at over 45 degrees. Nowhere larger than a
crawl it leads ever upwards through several purgatorial ducks and canals to
suddenly break out into walking sized passage. Unfortunately this ends within 6 metres in a deep sump.  This bit of passage bears no resemblance to
the streamway one struggles up, and suggests there may be more to be
found.  In fact on the way out and only a
couple of metres from the big stuff is a low choked horizontal tube which may
repay a digging effort.  The end is quite
pretty by the way!

The GSG in the shape of Pete Dowswell and others appeared
that night and to welcome them the weather really began to deteriorate.  A damp night was followed by a wet day and
everything seemed to go wrong. Brian and Pete tried to dive
sump (previously passed two years ago to open and going
passage).  Pete kept up the Scottish hard
man image by diving with a single bottle and sleeveless arms to his wet
suit.  Bad vis and line problems led to
the dive being aborted.  We left the kit
in the cave for the next day – oops!

The rest of the afternoon was spent digging in the Waterfall
Rising into which Brian was inserted.  He
reports negotiable tunnel if half a day’s underwater digging was
undertaken.  This site takes water from
Knockers so must be worth some effort particularly as it is so close to the

That night the weather reverted to normal i.e. it rained
hard and constantly.  On returning to
Lower Traligill we found it was acting as a rising i.e.
our kit was 20 feet under.  We took a miner


into Knockers on his first caving trip and the waterslide was
un-negotiable.  Brian tried diving the
sump in Landslip Chamber and found blackout conditions.  The kit from
, at the time of writing, is still making its way south.

All in all it was an excellent week’s caving.  I have left out the tales of Murdo Mcleod’s
hospitality, the delicatessen at Lochinver and the sound of the Battlefield
Band at full tilt. You have to go there to experience these.

Peter Glanvill  June 90.


The Cuthbert’s Report

The Cuthbert’s Report is progressing slowly and proof copies
have been seen.  The format is agreed
upon and quotes have now been obtained from printers.  The total cost will be in the region of
£5,000 – £6,000.  The committee has
discussed this at length and has decided to throw itself on the generosity of
the membership – five members have already pledged a loan to the club ranging
between £100 and £250.  It would be nice
to think that we could attract somewhere in the region of 20 – 30 members to
pledge similar amounts.  Wig is promising
the final production for this years dinner so you need to contact Blitz
immediately with your pledges.  The
alternative is a bank loan at frightening interest rates which will cripple the
club.  We are obliged morally to produce
this report and in some respects the club is becoming a laughing stock in some
caving circles.


Obituary – Bob Drake

On Friday 1st of June Bob Drake suffered heart failure
whilst diving at Brixham when on holiday with his family.

Although not a BEC member Bob was well known to most Mendip
regulars especially the cave-divers in the club.

Bob did a wide range of things for Mendip caving.  He was secretary for the Cave Diving Group
Somerest section, a warden for the Mendip Rescue Organisation and until
recently Secretary of the Wessex Cave Club.

Bob was also senior caving instructor for Avonquay Outdoor
Pursuit Centre run by Avon County Council in

. He was also a midweek digger working at Hillgrove Swallet most Wednesday
evenings.  He will be sadly missed by a
great many people.

To his wife and two children we send our sympathies.

Jeff Price.


A.G.M and Dinner. 1990.

The Annual General Meeting of the BEC will be held at The
Belfry on Saturday, 6th October at 10.30 a.m. prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1990-91 committee
must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 8th September
1990.  However, this BB is going to be
late in the case of those members who have it posted to them so I am sure that
in such a case another week will be allowed. All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are
nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

The Annual Dinner of the BEC will also be on Saturday the
6th of October.

The venue this year is the “Webbington Hotel”,

The tickets are £13 per person and are available from Nigel
Taylor.  With this BB you should get
inserts detailing the arrangements that have been made for the evening, sample
menus and an order form.  Please order as
soon as possible, otherwise the ‘dinner sub-committee’ will be tearing their
hair out, or something like that, anyway!

60’s and 70’s Disco

This is being held at Priddy Village Hall on Saturday 8th
September, 1990 at 8 p.m.  Tickets are £3
and are available at The Belfry or can be obtained at thedoor for  £4.

On the tickets it says:-

“Bar, Burger and Boogie” and “Come dressed
for the times”

It should be a good evening!


Cave Excursions on

Cebu Island,

Jim Smart

Of all foreign cavers who have visited the
Philippines, only the Japanese appear to have
looked at
Cebu, the archipelago’s ninth
largest island centrally situated in the heart of the Visayas.  In 1982 Obi Shigeru from

recorded a few small caves here many of
which he didn’t even bother to enter.  My
geological map indicated limestone at both the northern and southern thirds of
the island, and when I arrived I was encouraged by the sight of high limestone
mountains in the centre of the island too.

I fixed myself some lodging in


and took a day trip to Argao, a tourist beach resort a few miles to the
south.  An informant in

had spent Christmas here and
remembered his hosts, the Boltiador family, talking of caves in the hills
nearby.  I found Carlito Boltiador
servicing his fishing equipment on the beach. He confirmed the existence of a couple of large caves about two hours on
foot inland at Lantoy.  He said it was
too late to visit them today but if I wished to arrange a return trip he’d get
the N.P.A. to act as my guides.

“The NPA!” I exclaimed

“Nice People of Argao” Carlito chuckled.

Like lots of the speleologically interesting parts of the
is a lively box of fireworks where New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents and Philippine
Army troops carry out a desultory shooting war with each other, and with
bandits, mining companies, “lost commands”, religious groups, illegal
loggers and free-talking beer drinkers. I made arrangements to return to Argao the following week but, as things
turned out, I never had the opportunity. Back in my lodgings I found a note waiting for me.  Some Filipino cavers, who’d been exploring

that very day, had heard I was in
town and they wanted to meet me.

Yes. Filipino Cavers! The Cebu branch of the National Mountaineering Federation of the


contains a small group of active cavers. A couple of weeks later at the NMFP Congress on


I was to discover that several groups include caving amongst their
activities.  Unfortunately their findings
go largely unrecorded.  I telephoned
Cebu cavers and invited them to meet me
in the bar.  Over the next couple of
hours more than half a dozen of these people drifted in with maps and photos
and tales of exploration, and as the beer flowed so we made grandiose plans for
a couple of excursions.  It was dawn when
we finished drinking and, as might have been expected, our activities did not
exactly match our plans.  Nevertheless I
was provided with a good introduction to the potential on

and the two reports which follow are taken virtually direct from my log.

(Only the first appears in this BB, otherwise I’ll have
nothing at all in hand for the next one! Ed.)

Wed March 22 & Thurs March 23, 1989



Cebu Mountaineering
Partnership (Camp): Randy Su, Dindo Sugatan, Junks Muanto, Alex Gonzalve, Ahmed
Lebumfacil, Edwin Mendoza, Bernard Pefta.

B.E.C. Jim Smart.

In the


it is considered good manners to turn up late for an appointment.  Thus if someone invites you to dinner for 7
p.m. “Filipino time” this means you’re expected to show up about

We’d arranged to meet at 10 a.m.  I was the first to arrive, at 10.40 – and for
a stupid moment I wondered whether they’d left without me – and it was not
until 3 p.m. that the entire group had assembled and we climbed into Bernard’s
jeepney for the 44 km. drive to Cantobaco. As soon as we cleared the city limits and turned onto the steep dusty
road that climbs inland we hit cave country. The road followed a frighteningly deep gorge for a while then plunged
into the forest.  At forestry station
Camp 8 we passed several large cave entrances in the high limestone cliffs.

The small

village of
is dominated
by high white cliffs that rise up to 150 ft. or more in places on the far side
of a river.  We obtained permission to
camp down by the washing pool and set off immediately for the caves that we’d
seen in these cliffs.  It was now getting
on for dusk and we met families of guano miners, including little girls, making
their way home after their day’s work.

A bamboo bridge, constructed by the miners, gave us access
to Cave 4.  Ahead the passage formed a
simple loop back to daylight, but a squeeze up over a wooden guano shoot to the
left led to about 250 ft. of walking passage often more than 30 ft. high and very
well decorated.

Our poorly equipped team took a disproportionate amount of
time exploring this cave, and once we regained the surface most were ready to
return to camp.  But Ahmed and I went in
search of a “sink hole” Ahmed told me he’d noticed on his last visit
here.  We descended the cliffs to the
river terrace and then climbed a steep and narrow dry valley.  The sink hole – a vertical pot – was located
in bushes on the west side.

On his previous visit Ahmed had been fearful of entering
this pot but it looked free climbable to me so I scrambled down. After about 30
ft. I ran out of holds but I was able to see the bottom and a second horizontal
entrance. What a find!

Cave 5.  The
walking-sized entrance passage had been substantially modified by guano miners
– they had even had a tramway here at one time so the floor was nice and
level.  Just inside the entrance a large
maze-like series on the left only received a cursory glance before we returned
to the main passage.  Here, after 200ft.,
a bamboo pole led to an upper series, again unexplored.  Formations along the main passage were
profuse but rather dull.  After another
500 ft. we encountered a fork and, though the larger branch was to the right,
we followed the left which was generally comfortably sized rift passage though
occasionally we had to stoop.  At one
point we passed an artificial square-sided well and shortly after we heard the
distant sound of running water.  An area
of intimidating quick sand had to be negotiated before we found the stream – an
enchanting sight; clean passages, white flowstone, little cascades.

Time was against us. We had to leave.  The following
day I retraced our footsteps in this cave and by pacing guessed that that we
had explored about 300 m. of passage.

Back at camp we divided ourselves into two groups each
taking a turn to guard the camp while the other went to the village for
supper.  Then under a full moon we talked
and joked and drank rum late into the night.

Day 2.

By 7 a.m. Edwin, Ahmed, Alex and I were at the entrance to
Cave 3 which is located about 35 ft. up the rockface 300ft east of the washing
pool.  A couple of rickety bamboo ladders
facilitate the climb to the entrance which in turn leads to an awkward tight rift
and a crawl over a bamboo bridge to a high daylight chamber (Cave 2).  A large passage to the right just before this
chamber had previously been explored to conclusion by Ahmed.  A climb up the far side of Cave 2’s daylight
chamber leads to a high rift passage to an old bamboo ladder which can be
ascended for 25 ft. to a large rift chamber 60 ft. high.  From here a passage can be followed north via
a couple of difficult traverses around pots to some easy walking passage with
fine formations.  Finally a crawl between
stal brings one to a small terminal chamber blocked with mud and stal.

Back at the foot of the old bamboo ladder we explored a low
passage to the head of a pitch overlooking a chamber.  A difficult climb down into this chamber
brought us to a choice of two ways on. The northern passage terminated in a 60 ft. pitch (tackle required)
while the eastern one returned us to the large passage explored by Ahmed on his
previous visit.  From here we returned to
the surface since we had still not breakfasted and it was already nine o’clock.

It was hard work ridding ourselves of the stench of guano in
the washing pool before we could go to the village to eat, so it was midday
before I was ready to go caving again. Since everyone had to be back in Cebu City that night in readiness for
the Easter Weekend I only had a couple of hours so I decided to return to Cave
5 to explore the right branch and make a compass and pace survey.  The passage trended north-east, and the going
was generally easy with just the occasional crawl or wriggle through smashed
stal which – like the profuse graffiti – testified to earlier visitors.  Most of the formations were dull and the
occasional picturesque ones damaged or graffiti’d.

Shortly after a 60 ft. aven, a gentle 20 ft. climb led to a
chamber 70 ft. high by 40-50 ft. wide.  A
low passage on the right here was left unexplored.  The main route continues in a north-westerly
direction now and finally in an uncomfortable crawling section – the stream is
heard again though it is necessary to continue into a silent zone for a while
before the passage regains its walking size and the stream can again be heard
and ultimately reached by scrambling 20 ft. down a trench in the floor.  Both upstream and down the stream passage
continues large and inviting but I had no time left to continue my exploration.

Graffiti on the wall announces:   “27 Aug 76 F.G.M.C. Exploration”

Eight names are appended. None of my Filipino friends has any idea who these people are, though I
later heard stories that the upstream section of this cave leads to waterfalls
that no-one has ascended.  It would be
interesting to return here and also to explore the plateau above.  There must surely be active swallets there.

Back at camp armed, but un-uniformed, military men were
expressing rather too much interest in our camping and climbing equipment
(while I had been caving most of the group had been indulging in some serious
artificial climbing on the cliffs). Knowing that we were in a Red Alert area we broke camp quickly, thanked
the landowner and hit the road home.

Definitely an area to return to!

 (to be continued –

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