The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


Cover by Gonzo

1990 – 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian

Caldwell

                               Graham
Johnson
                               Vince
Simmonds

 

Editorial

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.  I’ve managed to put together probably one of
the biggest BB’s ever.  A big thank you
to all those who helped!  Due to the size
I’ve had to leave out the membership list, St Cuthbert’s leaders list, the
librarians report and a couple of good articles I still have in hand.  They will be in the next BB.

In the last BB I suggested that the BB was not the place for
politics and yet I include another article. The reason is that the issue is very important for the club.  In future years there is a strong possibility
that large grants will be made available to the NCA who will then decide who
gets the money.  We must try to ensure
that the lion’s share goes to the caving clubs who, after all, do the most for
caving.  Read Wig’s article!

You’ll notice that there’s a crossword in this BB, thanks
Alfie.  I was chatting to the lads in the
Hunter’s the other evening and they suggested that there ought to be a
prize.  We couldn’t decide what and
people won’t want to tear up their BB’s (I hope!) so if there are any
suggestions as to how it could be organised, please let me know.

Club Bits

At the moment it looks as though next years dinner will
again be at the Webbington.  Not all
people are happy with this, however, so if you have any ideas for an
alternative venue please write to Mr. N who will investigate.

Vee Swallet and the Maypole and Plantation Junction digs in
St. Cuthbert’s are now official club digs.

There is a meeting at the Belfry on Sunday, 29th Dec to
discuss cooking facilities and other changes at the Belfry.

 

Digging News

Tony Jarratt


STOCK
HILL
MINE
CAVE

The lower part of the mineshaft has been deepened to about
50ft from surface following a wall of miner’s “deads”.  Most of the boulders removed from here are
destined to be used at the Belfry for future building work – a small gesture to
the “Old Men” of Mendip.  A
combination of sticky clay and wet weather has caused a temporary halt here due
to ponding of water at the shaft bottom. Various artefacts (bits of wood!) have been rescued for display in

Wells
Museum

Halfway down the shaft the natural phreatic tube blocked
with clay has been excavated for some 15ft in an attractive and roomy passage
dipping fairly steeply.  It has an infill
of compacted clay, sand and stream deposits and pieces of galena have been
found.  For a short time this was quite a
pleasant dig but recent heavy rain has reduced it to normal Mendip
conditions.  The passage appears to be of
great age – possibly predating the St. Cuthbert’s depression and could be associated
with both the adjacent Stock Hill Fault and the nearby, infilled, Stock Hill
Swallet.

Diggers welcome on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday evenings,
Sundays and Mondays.

WHITE PIT

Situated between Pelting Drove and Sandpit Hole, this
attractive depression has been blitzed by Tusker Morrison using his now famous
“Hymac” technique!  A strongly
draughting choked rift was found which is being dug by Andy Sparrow and
Co.   Access is via a 20ft concrete pipe
and a ladder is required.

GOUGH’S CAVE

Chris “Bollix” Castle is digging a (quote)
“completely useless dig that will re-discover the show cave”. Let us
hope the mud isn’t too sticky ….

HALLOWEEN RIFT

Trevor Hughes is struggling on here and attempting to mine
through solid rock to reach Wookey Hole. If ever there was a labour of love (or rather hate) this is it!

BOWERY CORNER SWALLET

Gonzo informs me that he has airspace in the Corner Dig and
that it’s looking good.  I seem to have
heard (and said) that before – every few weeks for the last 5 years!  He is planning to let it dig itself over the
winter by using the abundant water supplies.

WELSH’S GREEN SWALLET

Vince, Jake and Gobshite, when not in the

Wells Way
(Harptree) can be found in the

Wells Way
(Welsh’s
Green).  This extremely promising
streamway is still fighting back and recently took revenge on Jake for
deflowering it.  While digging at the end
he was pinned to the floor by a lump of ex-ceiling.  This would not have bothered him too much had
not the floor been covered by a foot of water! He will soon get his own back.

ST. CUTHBERT’S SWALLET

Zot, Mike Wilson, Dudley Herbert etc. are digging a couple
of sites of interest.

The first is a few yards up cave from where the plantation
stream appears near Plantation Junction (site suggested by Wig).  The dig went downwards and regained the
stream, any further progress will be difficult!

The second site is opposite the top end of Sentry Passage
near the bottom of the Maypole Series. It could be the ancient continuation of Sentry Passage, predating the
Maypole Series.  The dig is progressing
nicely in a horizontal. mud-filled passage with some old stal. heading into
unknown territory.  Zot tells me that
they now have a draught which could mean that it’s more than just an inlet!

WIGMORE SWALLET

The Piss Pot dig has been abandoned.  Vince and Jake, on an exciting wet trip when
the whole Wigmore streamway was flowing, found that the water sinking in Piss
Pot reappeared halfway up Yeo Pot, through an impassable rift.

Dany Bradshaw and Keith Savory are planning future dives in
the Upper River Yeo and the latter is gradually progressing through the cave
studying and mapping the fascinating geology. Trev Hughes has tidied up the survey and it is hoped to produce a report
next year.  Any good photos of the early
years at the dig would be appreciated.

MANOR FARM SWALLET

Quiet John’s and Tim Large’s dig is in abeyance due to
closure of the cave.

FLOWER POT

Recently reopened by the Tusker/Hymac  Foundation this old B.E.C. dig is back
“on stream” after some 10 years of peace and quiet.  Martin Bishop has thoughts on continuing work
here.  It is interesting to note that
this site lies over the drainage line from Wigmore and Bowery Corner to
Cheddar.

The Flower Pot entrance is locked and is a 20ft. pitch.  The key and permission to enter must be
obtained from: –

Mr. H. Sheppard
Priddy

 

Speleode

by SNAB

I’ve recently been underground
and I’d like to tell you what I found,
A story more than yarns or lore, of what I found in Swildons Four,
A place quote, about which Alfie wrote, a Speleode that
Instead, to you, the truth I’ll tell, of how I found a living Hell,
Deep down under Priddy Green, the most awesome sight that I have seen,
For in the year of Ninety One, the streamway, somehow, ceased to run.
The water, pumped away elsewhere, left our streamway dry and bare,
And Weegees wearing bright tracksuits and trainers more than welly boots,
Goatchurch and Sidcot both did shun, and headed off for Swildons One.
And so, above the Twenty Foot, were millions who had lost their route,
Who, armed with less than a parbuckle, had formed a giant people ruckle,
Though, if you got below the Twenty, you found the occasional cognoscente.
The braver ones, or those half pissed, knew that if they did persist,
With survey in their mind engrained, would find a Paradise Regained,
And on and on through more and more they’d come at last to Swildons Four.
Throughout the summer I tried in vain to reach this long and lost domain,
But, beaten back by stagnant stench, and a place called Wigmore that did wrench

Me downwards, just for Vindication, and away from all this degradation,
I uttered oaths and noisy chunters, and spent the summer at the Hunters.
But then one day the water came and Swildons almost looked the same.
The Weegees ran off by the score and I headed down to Swildons Four.
Through Blue Pencil, down the chain. There I was in Four again!
With water flowing in some measure, the trip began to be a pleasure!
Down the stream I gave a shout “This is what it’s all about!
Those Weegees just don’t give a shit. Make way for cavers!  This is it!
There’s no need here for consternation. It’s cavers only!  Conservation!
The streamways still got all its glory. No bloody Weegees!  No
furore!”
But then I got down to the sump. “My God!” I said “Who’s had a dump?”
For, hanging round was an aroma that nearly put me in a coma,
The place was full of noxious gases, the sort that only comes from asses.
“It’s from the farm.  I know the
vapour.  Hang on.  Do cows use toilet paper?”
The mystery and the gas grew thicker. “That methane’s got a hint of Liquor!”
“I think it’s Butcombe, maybe Farmers. God, someone’s dropped some bloody Brahmas!”
I shone my light around, looked up Cowsh. “There’s someone up there, at the crouch!”
And then I knew that smell was Bass, when purified through someone’s ass.
For, staring up from Swildons Halls, I recognised a pair of balls,
Seen at many a hut and dinner, but never quite declared a winner.
And now, my entry in the log, “I’ve found the sump of Butchers bog!”

 

Alfie’s Christmas Crossword

 

CLUES

ACROSS

7.         This pub is older than it sounds (3, 3, 3)
8.         Might you get stoned if you
drink from this? (5)
10.        Part of energetic limbering up
(5)
11.        A wee start for a Mendip cave
(9)
13.        Bled cream? No! Progressed over
boulders (9)
14.        Quite opposed to strike action
geologically (3)
17.        Burrington had one.  Wells had two.  A cave survey has many ( 7 )
18.        The ‘streaky bacon’ curtain in
Rod’s Pot has been this (7)
20.        These caves are found under
glaciers (3)
21.        Where one might find club
members (4,5)
24.        Club members once met here in

Bristol
each Thursday but
were never on it! (3, 6)
25.        Mendip gorge (5)
27         The rev. Toplady asserted that
a rock in Burrington Combe had been this for him (5)
28.        Let E.C. vote for an old
British motorbike (9)

DOWN

1.         Rock found in Devenish ale? (5)
2.         Lion ate me – erratically
perhaps? (9)
3.         Boring device (3)
4.         Goatchurch is. Cuthberts
isn’t.  Dug neat is somehow (7)
5.         Do Australian caves have warts
instead of this stalactite formation? (5)
6.         A caver might depend on – or
from – these (9)
9.         Essential part of an active
cave system (9)
12.        Huge broom deployed for a lake
on Mendip (9)
15.        High ground on Mendip
apparently used for animals? (5, 4)
16.        Sam bleeds if the letters are
this another way (9)
19.        Excavation will perhaps do this
to a cave (7)
22.        A this half should not be
confused with a swallow! (5)
23.        Another Mendip hill close to 15
down (5)
26.        High ground in Shepton Mallet or

Glastonbury
(3)

 

The B.E.C. Go Mad in Lundy

by Rachel Gregory

Well that’s certainly how it appeared to me when we (Dany,
Mac, Quackers, Martin, Bassett, Rich West, Wormhole, Geoff Crossley and Bob
(Rachel) set off for a five day trip to the peaceful
island
of
Lundy in the
Bristol
Channel
.  The peace wasn’t
to last long!

After a few hair raising moments as we sped out of Priddy on
two wheels, inflatable in tow, we headed off for

Barnstable
. Upon arrival at the ferry dock we had a mere two punctures and a
deflated boat, what a great start which set the scene for the rest of the
trip.  Next problem, how do you persuade
a rather miserable boat crew to load the inflatable onto the ferry?  It would appear that communication between
the ferry company and the Landmark Trust who run Lundy is minimal, or in fact
non-existent as no message was relayed but they begrudgingly agreed to take the
boat and we were off.

Next stop Lundy and the problem of getting 8 sets of diving
gear and an inflatable off the ferry. This was solved by the still miserable boat crew lowering our dinghy
into the water with Mac and Dany aboard as the rest lowered the gear down in
between the large swell which was happening. This provided us all with great amusement as one of the passengers was
left in mid-air as the swell took the shuttle boat away, but they eventually
landed safely.

The landing bay at Lundy is the beach and the only way up to
the top of the island was on foot. Naturally by the time we had all reached the top the first stop was the
shop which just happened to have the pub inside it.  Being the B.E.C. I should not have been
surprised that tent erecting was put aside so that the drinking could begin!  This was the start of our downfall and the
pub was going to serve as the focal point of our trip.

So, settled into Lundy at last, the holiday really began to
happen.  The diving started off with a
shore dive which resulted in nearly everyone finding out that they needed loads
more weight, and a fight for the remaining weights.  Next was the launching of the inflatable …
well the term inflatable may not be that correct as it did appear to
continually need pumping up.  By the time
you got 3 divers and a driver in the boat it would race along at a stunning 5
miles an hour if we were lucky, thus dives became limited to sites within a 2
mile radius of the landing bay.  On one
day as the aptly named “ZIMMER RAIDER” left,
Concord
flew over on its way to

New York
.  After 2 dives covering a total of 4 miles
Concord was seen coming back from New York, this was the point at which we
realised the boat was incredibly slow.

THE HIGHLIGHTS / MEMORIES OF THE DIVING

Can Quackers really swim against a 5 knot tidal race?  No! The solution was only to dive on that wreck during slack water.  When 3 divers and a driver are in the Zimmer
Raider it looked as though 4 people were sitting on top of the water as no boat
was in sight.

Only one sighting of a seal was actually made underwater
although numerous attempts were made to swim with the cheeky seal who would
come close to the shore long enough for everyone to put their kit on and get in
the water whereupon it would duly swim off, only reappearing when all had
returned to dry land.

The wrecks were apparently only twisted bits of old metal
according to one person.

The visibility was so good on one day that none of the 3
divers could find one another, contact was only made when eventually all 3
surfaced at the same time asking where all the others were.  Good teamwork!

Other activities involved a quick walk round Lundy.  This proved to be slightly larger and took a
bit longer than we had all thought but still worth doing.

The climbing also proved exciting as Quackers down climbed
the bottom pitch of the Devil’s Slide which we were then going to climb up with
ropes!  This seemed silly to me and
Bassett so we let Geoff climb down to belay Quackers which was silly as well as
he put no runners so had he fallen no one would have been able to stop him.  The climb was impressive though and well
worth doing.  It was truly the classic
climb of the island.

The only other entertainment on Lundy was the pub.  This provided us with meals and numerous
pints of the local brew “Puffin Piss” and “Old Light”.  This was also where the majority of our money
was spent especially in the provision of “Bankers” for when the pub
closed.  Getting drunk every night seemed
to be a necessary part of the trip as were the half hourly trips to the
toilets, battling through the swarms of Daddy Longlegs which appeared to be in
epidemic proportions on the island.  So,
what exactly happened in the pub when the B.E.C. got drunk?

First it seemed that the other people in the pub needed
entertaining so jokes were told to set everyone off laughing including Dany,
whereupon tapes were requested of the noise being made and the whole pub was
watching the antics being displayed. Next job was to clear the pub, easy, just sing a few caving songs and
everyone vanished.  The placing of the
stickers then occurred being placed everywhere via the use of the human pyramid
or the Dany special scaling the window, I don’t think the pub will ever be the
same again.

Finally came the time for us to leave, and not too soon for
the people of Lundy who all said goodbye with big grins all over their
faces.  The reloading of the ferry
involved us finding that the Lundy warden actually came from Wells (It’s a
small world).  Back on the ferry we
sailed off with a sticker firmly in place on the Puffin on the ferry’s funnel,
everyone with fingers crossed that the ferry was actually going to go to where
we left the cars (there seemed to be no guarantee as to which port the ferry
returns to so the crew actually take their mini car with them so they can get
back).  Luckily we returned to the cars
and the quick drive was made back to Mendip and in time for the Hunter’s, a
great end to the holiday.

 

Wigmore Swallet

(Notes on the survey and some thoughts on further work)

by Trevor Hughes

INTRODUCTION

Digging at Wigmore has been a long, hard slog, thousands of
man hours have been spent breaking rocks and hauling spoil.  The Bosch drill has come of age and the
digging team are now quite skilled in shothole placement.  A superb draught throughout the duration of
the dig held out great promise.  Once the
dig had well and truly ‘gone’ it was time to clear away skips, sacks and
shovels and dust off the compass, ‘clino’ and Fibron tape.

THE SURVEY

The field data for the survey was collected on four separate
trips, June – Sept ’91, keeping pace with the rapid progress of discovery and
exploration. A calibrated Sunto compass and clinometer and 30m. Fibron tape
were used to collect data to BCRA grade 5d. Leapfrog compass readings were taken in the

Marl
section of the cave in case of any
ore-body induced magnetic deviation but highly consistent readings and the
confined nature of the dug passages meant that forward bearings only became the
norm, a system I maintained throughout the larger conglomerate passages.

The 1991 survey was commenced on 5th June at the entry point
of Christmas Crawl into Santa’s Grotto, following hot on the heels of the
initial breakthrough on 3rd June.  A seven
hour marathon session by Pete McNab (Snab), Chris Castle and the author
surveyed to the deepest point available the temporarily blocked Hernia Pot and
the large high level chamber discovered that day and named Drake’s Hall in
honour of Bob Drake (W.C.C.), a keen digger, whose tragic death had occurred
twelve months previously.  A provisional
plot was available on 10th June having coupled the new work to Dave Irwin’s
survey of April 1978 (see BB N° 371 p.15/16) having metricised the earlier
drawing (plotted originally at 1:120 horizontally and 1:75 vertically).

The next session on 28th July by Steve Redwood, Mark Simms
(S.M.C.C.) and the author surveyed the narrow rifts and inlets below Hernia
Pot.  The deepest point available was the
bottom of the cross-joint pot, so far only descended by J’Rat, at -73.2m.  The survey stopped at the tight U-tube, now
christened Butch’s Arse in recognition of the names verbal gaff in the Hunter’s
one night about the likelihood of Wigmore ever ‘going’ as a dig.

The time consuming rift-widening beyond Butch’s Arse
continued until mid-August when the two superb pitches and streamway were
discovered.  The survey of this section
as far as the first upstream sump was carried out by the author, Tony Jarratt,
Rich Blake and Max Midken on 9th Sept. The stream section was a delight to survey, 8-10m. survey legs being the
norm, the passage width averaging 2m. and 1.5m. high in the silt floored
phreatic tube of the Upper Yeo.

Work commitments prevented me from joining the fourth trip
but the field work was ably completed by the boys from the black stuff, Vince
Simmonds, Graham Johnson and Rich Blake on 15th Sept., when the upstream sumps
I and II and the final streamway section to upstream sump III was surveyed.  The two short sumps presented little problem
if the air space survey stations were carefully positioned.

The
Upper Yeo streamway is
bounded upstream and downstream by sumps which will require some concerted
effort to pass due to the atrocious visibility. Dany Bradshaw has penetrated the downstream sump for 35m. at approx. 3m.
depth (but see the survey for the latest. Dany passed the sump to a short length of passage with a dry inlet on
his very next dive – Ed) and Keith Savory has achieved 6m. of upstream progress
at 4m. depth.  The zero vis’ conditions
of these sumps means that producing an accurate survey through them will be
somewhat difficult.  Radio location is
the obvious answer here: a fix at each end of the sump, established on the
surface will enable co-ordinate differences to be plotted onto the master
survey, coupled with a measured sump length to minimize error.

The master survey has been drawn up at 1:200 well filling
the AO sheet.  The plan fits well but the
projected elevation of the streamway runs off the sheet and will be drawn
displaced on the finished article.

FACTS, FIGURATION and FANTASY

Wigmore Swallet has a passage length of 474m. so far
surveyed if the terminal sumps are included, of this 402m. has been entered for
the first time in 1991.  The deepest
point of the cave, 93.5m. below the entrance shaft cap, is the bottom of the
3m. deep downstream sump pool.  The drop
in water level between upstream sump III and the downstream sump is only 1.25m.
suggesting that in winter flow conditions a considerable proportion of the
Upper Yeo may sump. The hydraulic gradient of this section is 1.09% compared with the 2.06%
mean gradient of Tor Hole to Wigmore and 1.6% Wigmore to Cheddar Risings (These
figures assume straight line flow and are indicative only).

The inlet downstream of upstream sump III is speculated to
be seepage water from the slurry tank adjacent to the large cowshed but this
cannot be confirmed, it does however smell somewhat foul.  The source(s) of the main streamway need to
be located by hydrographic tracing, possible sites being Red Quar Swallet, the
adjacent His Lordship’s Hole both taking water in mid-Sept. and, of course, Tor
Hole.

There are other large depressions to the north of Stock Hill
which should be investigated.  A large
depression to the south of Red Quar Swallet is dry in summer but may repay
digging especially if “Tuska Tactics” are used to expose the
underlying rock strata.

In the space of nine short months Wigmore has been
transformed from a squalid dig into a big league cave a demanding trip with
plenty to offer tight rifts and squeezes, superb airy pitches and climbs,
spacious chambers, a large streamway and open ends.  By my reckoning Wigmore is Mendips 13th
deepest cave although this figure could be eclipsed when the Twin Titties
Swallet survey appears.

With so much depth potential remaining (the downstream sump
surface is 171.4m. A.O.D.) Wigmore could soon be in the top ten.  If a connection to Gough’s could be made a
system with 265m. vertical range would result.

Perhaps its time to get the shovels out again?

 

 

Sanitaria According To Valuable Standards

Chris Castle

While in Bat Products reading caving. magazines without
buying them, some members may have noticed a heap of leaflets promoting a
campsite for cavers in

Slovenija,
Yugoslavia
.  A glance inside one gave the information that
the place possesses “Sanitaria according to valuable standards”.  Well, that certainly beat the Belfry, so when
Andy Sparrow approached me to join him on a brief visit (he didn’t want any
damned amateurs with him) I decided it was worthy of further investigation.

We flew out on 4th May from Heathrow to
Ljubljana,
rather unfortunately landing 2 hours late at

Pula
due to the vagaries of the airline,
JAT.  I’d never heard of
Pula,
but later found it was in the south, a long way from

Ljubljana
. After some arguing we got places on a coach, but because we weren’t on a
packaged tour we didn’t fit into the scheme of things and they didn’t really
want us.  However, after a four hour
journey across what was doubtless magnificent countryside, but a bit difficult
to appreciate in the middle of the night, we were kicked out at Ljubljana
Railway Station at 3am.

Carrying our rucksacks and international cavers’ recognition
symbols (tackle bags) we walked forlornly along the wet pavement to be suddenly
greeted by a bearded character wearing a fibre-pile jacket who, although not
holding a pot of Butcombe, was obviously a caver.  In fact he was Franc Facija, the owner of the
campsite.  JAT had, against all
expectations, contacted him.  We piled
our kit and ourselves into Franc’s Yugo and drove south along the motorway we’d
just driven north on, to Speleo-Camping, Laze.

Laze village is composed of surprisingly large houses, one
shop and one pub.  Franc told us that the
pub had been closed by the health authorities because of sanitaria according to
invaluable standards, a great blow; but he had a good stock of beer at the
camp, which cheered us up.  All we could
see of the campsite was a wet field and a wooden hut, which turned out to be a
superbly-built chalet intended for use as a kitchen and common-room.  Franc lit the wood burning stove and we dried
out and chatted till 5am, when we climbed up to the loft to sleep.  This had a trapdoor which I closed, only to
find it had no handle on the inside, and we were trapped.  Although a bit past caring I managed to lever
it up with Andy’s underpants and we spent our first night in Slovenija.

The next morning I got up at about 9am. to find what we had
come so far to see – Sanitaria according to valuable standards.  This was not a squatter, thank goodness, but
a first-class, western-style bog with – Oh joy! soft bog paper!  The block also had a working shower
definitely better than the Belfry.

After a good dump I returned to the chalet to find we had a
visitor Dr. France Sustersic.  I don’t
know if the BB can reproduce the accents on his name, but I’ve never known
anyone with so many.  (Ed’s note –
Unfortunately I’ve only got the IBM international character set which does not
include the Slav languages. you’ll just have to imagine a tiny V above all the
S’s and C’s in the surname!  The best I
can do is;- ŠUŠTERŠIČ)  He is a lecturer
in geology at

Ljubljana
University
, an authority
on Classical Karst and an ardent Slovenian nationalist.  In between ranting about Serbs he gave us
much useful information.

Later on we went for a walk with Franc to view the flooded
PLANINSKO POLJE.  There had been much
un-seasonal rain, which was a bit of a sod. We were surprised by the apparent affluence of the village.  The houses were enormous; many were in the
process of being built and few seemed to be finished.  The construction process consisted of
erecting a concrete framework, putting on a roof, building the walls very badly
with large bricks, then finally rendering the whole lot to hide everything.  Franc told us that everyone builds their own
houses, with major work being done by a co-operative effort.

The state prohibits selling the houses at a fair market
price, so they cannot be regarded as an investment.  What was a far more interesting piece of
information was that house-builders frequently find a cave when digging the
foundations, but these are never followed up.

Andy insisted on going caving, so off we went into the
forest to look for caves.  We actually
visited eleven caves so I won’t describe them all, although all are worth
doing.  I’ll just pick out the
highlights.  Dr. Sustersic, or Franz as
he asked us to call him, had waymarked a trail through the forest, passing
several caves.  It was just as well, the
land is so heavily forested that many caves are extremely difficult to
find.  The landscape is described in Jim
Eyre’s “The Cave Explorers”, but I still found the extremely dense
forestation a surprise.  It is all
managed, which encourages a wealth of wild flowers; the trees are mostly broad-leaved,
there are outcrops of cretacious limestone and dolines of all shapes and sizes
everywhere.  The forest is a very
pleasant place.

Our first cave was STOTA JAMA, a small and easy choked at
the end with massive calcite deposits, quite typical of this area.  There was some vandalised stal and a saucepan
in a muddy abandoned dig, which made me feel quite at home.  Next, we walked on to VRANJA JAMA, a site
made famous in scientific circles by the studies of early geomorphologists.  It has a big entrance 20 metres high at the
bottom of a massive doline, and is usually a through trip, but we couldn’t do
this as it was flooded.  Vranja is part
of the best system in the area, NAJDENA JAMA, but not yet joined to it.

On May 6th Franz drove us to the other side of Planinsko
Polje to visit PLANINSKA JAMA, the resurgence for Postojno.  The river, the UNICA, was in flood making an
enormous and spectacular resurgence, better even than Goughs.  The huge cave passage was once a show cave,
but with Postonjo down the road it is now abandoned.  A nice pathway led to a gate with a notice
saying “Danger. Keep Out”, in Slovenian, but Andy and I couldn’t read
it so we climbed over the gate.  Franz
could read it, but he would obviously be at home in Fairy Quarry.  The path continued over bridges and through
artificial tunnels built by the Italian POWs to a confluence.  The left-hand branch leads, we were told, to
a huge rising where the water flows both to the left and right – thought to be
the only known cave in the world where this happens.  The path followed the right-hand branch until
it ended where a wooden section had collapsed. Although further progress would be possible with difficulty, a fall with
the water at that level may have been fatal. Near this point the path followed a dry oxbow by-passing a short sump into
which a girl had been sucked in and drowned a few week’s previously.

After caving on May 7th we visited Franz Sustersic for a
chat.  He has produced a catalogue of
caves in

Slovenia
,
which now exceed 6000.  There are only a
few hundred active caves there so there must be a lot more to find; in fact,
from his studies Franz knows there are. He gave Andy a copy of his catalogue on a disc, so the information will
be available to British cavers.  He then
took us into the forest in his car to show us the entrance to NAJDENA JAMA,
difficult to find and with a very small entrance.  It was discovered by Franz and he is very
proud of it.

We intended to go down the next day and were instructed to
bring out the spare base to his carbide generator which he’d left – he couldn’t
bring it out himself as his next trip would be his 150th into the cave and the
occasion of a grand subterranean piss-up!

Next day we walked to the cave and a free-climb and 20m
pitch led to a big passage with two ways on. We looked at both ways, but regrettably couldn’t go far because of the
flooding.  The cave was rather marred
because of carbide dumps, graffiti and mud sculptures.  One was a superbly-crafted pornographic model
which admittedly caused us great amusement. Down another passage we saw a huge stalactite which must approach the
one in Pol-an-Ionian for size, and looked at one of Franz’s digs, which only
J-Rat would enjoy.

That afternoon Franc drove us to SKOCJANSKE JAME Showcave,
not far from

Trieste
.  The tour did not start auspiciously the guide
dressed in jeans led us down a rough track to a building that looked like a
bunker, then along a grotty, spider-infested adit to the first part of the cave
a fossil section called the Silent Cave. Things improved rapidly, with formations of increasing splendour
culminating in vast, complicated stalagmites over 20m high.  This led to the

River
Cave
,
a vast canyon which must have been over 100m high, spanned by a spectacular
bridge just asking to be jumped off.  We
left that for another day, but my professional interest was excited by the
halogen lights – installing and servicing them must be fun as they would only
be accessible by rope.  We followed the
river noting the traverse wires put up many years ago leading to the many holes
in the walls.  The river resurged in a
great doline, then disappeared again to resurge near Tieste 40 km away.  We left the doline by means of a funicular
railway.

The following day, May 9th, we visited the Postojna Showcave
a much more professionally slick operation, but not as spectacular as
Skocjanske Jame.  The train ride is fun,
though.

We spent the afternoon on a maniacal walk through the forest
with Franz Sustersic, who wanted to show us some sites and explain the
geology.  I’m sure it was most interesting,
but his talk was delivered at high speed in sometimes idiosyncratic English
while on the gallop.  “Here is fine
doline”, he would say charging down, “Hey how many Serbs needed to
change a lightbulb?”  Then up he
would go, finding a fossil on the way to show us when we gaspingly caught him
up.  He introduced the interesting
concept of Holiday Digging.  There are
many excellent draughting holes which have never been looked at because of the
shortage of Slovenian Cavers.  He’s keen
to lead visiting cavers to likely sites and let them get on with it.  With luck some may go after a few hours
digging, but of course others may take over fourteen years.

The morning of our last caving day, Friday 10th, was spent
in a cave just outside the village called MACKOVICA, a bit of a shithole
becoming much like Swildons Upper Series to pursue to the end.  Exit was made amusing by the route through a
boulder ruckle hiding itself for a while.

The afternoon was quite different, when Franc took us to
KRIZNA JAMA.  Access is only permitted to
this well-known river cave with a guide, and we picked up ALOJZ TROMA on the
way.  He was doubtful whether we would
get far in the wet conditions, so we had a good look round the dry passages
near the entrance which contain many bones of cave bears, they were excavated
in the 19th Century, but many remain, sticking out of the sediments.  At the River Alojz, hummed and haared for a
while at the water level, then decided to cross the first lake at least.  We all piled into an inflatable dinghy and
paddled a short way to solid ground. From here we had to transfer to two smaller boats, and after a brief
reconnaissance through a low section Alojz decided to go for it.

He is used to non-cavers and was a bit cautious, but some of
our BEC spirit must have rubbed off on him. As it was there were no great difficulties – in fact, I suspect things
were made easier by being able to paddle over shallow sections where you
normally have a porterage.  I had the
dubious pleasure of sharing a boat and the paddling with Andy, which meant we
spun around for a while and nearly tipped over, but eventually we were able to
maintain a straight line, the usefulness of which was rendered null and void by
the fact that the cave didn’t.  However,
progress was easy and the novel way of caving was great fun.  Large stalagmites grow out of the water, as
the river has built natural calcite dams and raised its own level.  We went as far as a confluence and landing
place called KALVARIJA (
Calvary) with many
fine stalagmites, before returning.  The
boat trip can go much further, but a whole day is needed.  Although physically easy Krizna Jama was the
highlight of the holiday.

Next day Franc drove us to Lubjlana airport, and apart from
being stung 250 dinar airport tax which was unexpected and cleaned us out of
cash, the journey home was mercifully uneventful.

Andy and I were able to carry enough caving kit within our
20 kg baggage allowance.  The hardwear
was in our, or at least, my, hand luggage which got Heathrow security a little
excited.  Laze was very peaceful –
perhaps too peaceful for the BEC, but the locals hoped that the pub will
re-open this summer.  The campsite is
excellent, the sanitaria unforgettable though more bogs and showers were to be
installed.

Franc is an excellent bloke, a caver and drinker of beer.

He was planning to convert the lower story of his huge house
into bunkrooms which would be quite an improvement.  Of course, all these plans are now buggered
up, temporarily we hope.

If anyone wants to visit this excellent caving area, tough
shit, you can’t at the moment. When the civil unrest is over it will again be a
destination for a first-class caving holiday, and Andy and I have plenty of
information we can pass on.

 

St Cuthbert’s Swallet

  • this
    84 page report is now available
  • comprehensive
    guide to all aspects of the cave
  • over
    40 diagrams including plans, elevations, sections and maps.
  • PLUS
    A1 separate sheets of the cave plan and elevations
  • over
    50 photographs depicting all important aspects of the cave
  • anyone
    with an interest of the Mendip caves cannot afford to be without this
    publication
  • PRICE
    : TEN pounds (non-members) post free
  • SPECIAL
    PRICE for BEC members – EIGHT pounds post free

 

 

 

 

 

Available from Joan Bennett, Draycott,

Somerset
.

 

Letter

Westbury
Park

Bristol

Dear Ted,

How does one become a member of the BEC nowadays?   There seems to have been a subtle shift in
procedure.

When I joined, you had to hang out with members until the
day arrived when an application form was thrust into your hands and a couple of
established old lags proposed and seconded you. By that time you had usually been around so long that you were vaguely
remembered by a committee member or two from a furniture-smashing session at
the Belfry.  Ratification of the
application appears to have been a mere formality.  Those who didn’t make the grade never even
got to see an application form, and, in committee, the endorsements of the
proposer and seconder appears to have sufficed. Of course there was the occasional rejection (I was one).

Times have changed. Last year I attended a committee meeting and was appalled at what I
witnessed. The applicants had to sit through what to them must have seemed
interminable waffle before; at last, the matter of membership applications was
reached on the agenda.  Along with the
application form (duly signed by the proposer and seconder) the applicants had
to present their case to the committee before leaving the room while the
application was considered.

Over the years the number of applicants I have nominated can
be counted on the fingers of one hand.  I
don’t have nearly enough digits to record those whom I have advised to
“wait until they’ve been around a bit longer.”  I am not aware that this advice ever caused
any ill-feeling.

But times change.  I
have just received a lot of grief from a committee member who instructed me to
countersign a membership application for a bloke in the changing room.  I am not sure which of the five strangers was
the applicant.  I refused and a lot of
embarrassment was created all round as the same committee member informed the
five that I’d always been a miserable bastard. The negative feelings continued in the Hunters all night.

I am sure that I am not the only member who takes care in
who he nominates for membership of the BEC. If our signatures are to be a mere formality then this must be openly
understood.  It would probably be better
however to advise potential members to apply directly to the committee with
their subscription and by-pass the involvement of the regular members
altogether.  Nowadays new members never
become Belfry-ites, we rarely see them, so who cares?

Meanwhile I shall continue to exercise my own discretion on
who I will nominate but, to avoid any future embarrassment.  I will happily second any applicant proposed
by a committee member in return for the traditional pint.

Sincerely,

Jim Smart.

 

Re-Structuring Of The Governing Body For British Caving

The work. of a national body, not I hasten to add a national
caving club, has six primary topics to which it must address itself:

  • Access
    & Conservation
  • Equipment
  • Training
  • Legal
    and Insurance
  • Communication
    with cavers
  • Communication
    with Government and other outside organisations

 

 

 

 

The current structure of the National Caving Association
(NCA) covers these subjects in depth except that of insurance which is
currently handled by BCRA; NCA does though scrutinise the BCRA insurance
policy.  Ask a thousand people how the
Governing Body for caving should be organised will present one with a thousand
answers – so, fair enough

Bryan

has his view – though it’s largely in the politician’s language rhetoric.  I personally prefer to call a spade – a
spade, and not cloud the issue with irrelevant details e.g. library and glossy
magazines.

I was most certainly not thinking solely of the Mendip
‘parish’ when considering clubs – ask CPC, BPC, Chelsea SS, WSG, SWCC and many
other clubs whether they feel they have little importance in today’s caving
world.  Clubs would certainly have
something to say about the inferred ‘waning’ influence.


Bryan

didn’t say why he supported nor justified why individual members should vote
for the executive; avoidance of the central issue is a sign of a lack of
conviction.  Further, he tacitly agreed
that the structure/framework of the national association is not a point of
disagreement confirming the central point of debate which lies solely with the
voting procedure at the Annual Meeting. As a famous American president said (amended slightly) “Read my
words,

Bryan
“.

  • An
    individual voting structure, whether it be clubs or individual members, or
    a combination of both, voting at the annual meeting of a national body
    will REMOVE the dreaded VETO.  I
    fully endorse this viewpoint and my paper stated that clearly, though in a
    less direct way than

    Bryan
    would have liked.
  • The
    executive must be able to act as a responsible body without reference to
    constituent affiliated bodies in the first instance unless it requires
    specific/specialised advice.  The
    Regional Councils must retain their autonomy on local issues and be
    represented on the national executive.

Why clubs should form the basic framework for the national
body:

  • Collectively
    they (clubs) form a stable framework: they have been on the caving scene
    for a long time and know and understand regional problems – a pretty big
    must for the basis of a national body.
  • Club
    members contribute greatly to caving as a whole.
  • Club
    members are responsible for most cave exploration.
  • Clubs
    (sometimes in conjunction with Regional Bodies) maintain cave entrances
    and negotiate access arrangements with local landowners.  The major exception is CNCC which was
    formed solely to negotiate collectively with the Dales landowners in the
    mid-l960s.
  • Clubs
    monitor caves and prevent the excesses of the commercial organisations

Why voting by individual members is not the best system:

  • The
    average active life of a caver is about 2-3 years and therefore does not
    create stability
  • New
    cavers coming onto the ‘scene’ means that re-education is a constant
    problem e.g. conservation rules etc.
  • Non-club
    cavers offer little now – what is the likelihood of these individuals
    changing in the future; the possibility that they MIGHT offer something to
    caving is a pretty big risk considering that they have no proven track
    record.
  • If
    individual members require contact communication from the national body
    then there is no reason why they can’t join as ASSOCIATE MEMBERS.
  • Short
    life cavers can easily be exploited by the excesses of commercialism which
    has little regard for the overall limited resources.


Bryan

conveniently left out details of how the new organisation would become viable
if the NCA were to change it’s constitution overnight.  You can drag a horse to water but. .. !  A phased period of transition is the only
pragmatic solution.  Perhaps associate
members can be gained from subscribers to ‘SpeleoScene’

The BCRA (a constituent member of NCA) structure cannot be
left out of the discussion as they are a nationally organised group involving
both club and individual members; each having one vote.  How the affairs of this organisation is
effected is its members problem and not part of this discussion.  But – because it has a voting and annual
meeting structure exactly the same as that proposed by some for the national
body then its operation can be fairly compared. To use the figure often quoted that there are 12,000 cavers in the
country then BCRA’s 1100 membership is hardly representative of the whole.  Neither are the 150 or so member clubs,
though this is proportionally better, hardly representative of cavers.

What guarantee is there should the individual member voting
membership of the national body be accepted that it would be any more
representative of cavers?  I think none.

Another point I wish to make is one of funding. 

Bryan

has not mentioned it but it is one of the other reasons for wanting to see
changes within the NCA structure.  The
NCA as it exists at the moment is severely limited on the activities it can
embark upon.  Due to the way it was
originally structured it is limited in funds. The administrative funds it previously received from Sports Council has
been removed and today it has to submit four year plans for its main
activities.  The money from the Sports
Council is currently frozen due to Government cut-backs and so inflation will
take its toll.  Thus, should it find
itself in a position to support an unforeseen activity, it will not have the
funds to support it.  This is a worry and
the idea of having individual members (persons or clubs or a combination of
both) would overcome this problem by enabling the subscriptions to be pitched
to cover such contingencies.

In brief.  Clubs form
the basic framework of British caving and should be encouraged to continue this
good work. That the club be reflected within the national organisation will
ensure that a small group of politically motivated cavers cannot possibly usurp
their powers through ignorance as happened only 10 years ago within national
organisations.

Dave Irwin

Postscript:

Cavers, understandably, are not interested in politics until
things go wrong – remember the SSSI problem and the closure of the Priddy
caves.  When cavers are confronted by
arguments on the structure of the national body they are expected to make
decisions based upon the information supplied by their representatives. As a
result of their lack of interest in caving politics they are vulnerable and can
be manipulated by selective use of ‘facts’. A fine example is to be found in both articles by Bryan Ellis and Andy
Sparrow (see last BB).  Both Bryan and
Andy stated ‘facts’ that were half-truths – a typical politicians ploy.  To Andy – there are lies, damned lies, and
statistics – be careful how YOU use ‘facts’. What I stated in my paper was the truth with regard to caver training.  The question in the NCA Questionnaire on
practical training asked amongst other questions:

What services should be provided, and by whom?

9.1 Training (advice): National 49%; Regional 32%;
Specialist 30%; Club 50%; others 6%.

9.2 Training (practical): National 24%; Regional 29%;
Specialist 30%; Club 70%; others 6%.

I think that my statement was clear, truthful and
unambiguous.  The vast majority of cavers
DO want practical training kept within the club.  In the case of Training advice the emphasis
was for both National and Club.  I do
not, and have never said, that cavers cannot have choice.  If they wish to attend a commercial training
session then so be it – it’s their money. Commercialism in caving must stand on its own two feet.  If cavers do not wish to receive their
services then they flounder.  I rest my
case.

 

Digging in the Clydach Gorge

by Mark Lumley

Over the past 18 months, a considerable amount of work has
been put into Clydach pushing minor sites in the northern bank of the Clydach
Gorge in the section from the big layby down to the path opposite Ogof Clogwyn.

The first site was at stream level, 20 metres upstream from
a small resur­gence known as Tucks Rift (21160 12411).  10 metres of easy progress was made by the
author, Trevor Pritchard, Steve Tomalin, Karen Lumley and several members of
UC4 (Cardiff University).  The fill was
easy to clear but had been passed before by the entire population of Brynmawr
i.e. Sewage interspersed with the occasional condom (in fact Trevor swears to
this day that he is related to the contents of one particularly fine knotted,
ribbed specimen!)

The name Tradesmens’
Entrance
was deemed appropriate and the diggers await the installation of a
shower at Whitewalls enthusiastically! The end of the passage is choked to the roof with a sandy fill but
progress could be possible along the draughting right hand branch of a cross
rift.

In November 1990 our attention turned to a surface collapse
10 metres closer to Tucks Rift.  Progress
was initially slow until the combined brawn of UC4 & the Rock Steady Crew
moved a number of unfeasibly large boulders from the entrance using numerous
pulleys, levers, cocktails & a selection of short­lived car jacks.

A tight strongly draughting rift was revealed, spurring the
diggers on to more ingenious methods of rock removal, inviting the name Scorched Earth Rift (sorry
Saddam!)  This was a particularly squalid
winter dig thanks to an unavoidable heavy drip along its’ entire length.

The sound of running water could be heard ahead.  This was reached after 10 metres.  Unfortunately it turned out to be no more
than an enlarged section of the same rift (5m long 5m high 1.5m wide) with a
small stream cascading into a pool which was subsequently dived by Malcolm
(“is that your idea of a joke, Gonzo?”) Stewart.

There was no way on and we believe that the stream feeds the
Tucks Rift resurgence.  The rift above
the pool could possibly be pushed by an anorexic whippet that eats limestone
& craps bang!


Overhang
Cave

(21244 12431) was next on our list.  25
metres upstream from Waterfall Cave Resurgence at about the same level, a small
stream issues from a tight, draughting phreatic tube beneath a large
overhang.  The site is summed up in ‘A
Cavers View of the

Clydach
River
‘ with the phrase
“the site has some potential”.

The site was prepared & dug by the author with
occasional help from Trevor Pritchard, Karen Lumley, Angela Garwood, Peter Bolt
& Tony Boycott.

A breakthrough was eventually achieved on 28th Sept.  After a tortuous 39 metres a roomier section
was reached, similar to the end of Scorched Earth with the way on visible along
a tight rift in a rotten shale band. However, with the strong, ever present
draught this site will be dug until it goes again.

Possibilities in this section of the gorge are
intriguing.  A ‘dry’ back door into the
cave systems that resurge at Fynnon Gisfaen perhaps?  Also, it’s worth noting that this is the
logical area for the further sites in Daren, such as Downdweeb and Spaderunner
to re-emerge, although, my limited geological knowledge of this part of the
mountain suggests that to do so they will have to step up a level.

If there is no such connection then we are left with the
enticing prospect of Daren’s westernmost fossil passages passing right underneath
the Cydach Gorge, leaving the Rock Steady Crew with mixed feelings at the
thought of even more arduous sherpa trips, longer camps and party venues to tax
the enthusiasm of the keenest gatecrashers.


 


Jamaica

– “Cool Runnings”

(or in the local patois, “mellow”)

THE LITTLE BAMBOO RECCE EXPEDITION No 2 –

JAMAICA
’91

(The above title is plagiarised, with amendments, from a
write-up by Trebor and Stumpy in BB452 page 7 – J’Rat)

This years recce expedition to Bob Marley land was sponsored
by Jane Jarratt who kindly allowed the writer (J’Rat) to accompany her on her
free holiday for two, won in a draw at Lil and Glenys’s “Rumpy Pumpy
House” New Physique, Midsomer Norton (ADVERT!).  Also on the trip were Martin and Glenys
Grass, taking a holiday at the same hotel, belonging to Martin’s holiday
consortium (Cries of FIX, FIX).

Due to various factors, i.e. lack of transport, time, decent
maps, lots of booze and food etc., little caving was achieved but herewith a
few notes on sites visited, for the benefit of the Jamaican file kept in the
library.  Further information can be
gained from “Jamaica Underground” by A.Fincham.  A copy is in the

Wessex
library and a part photocopy
in the Belfry library.


Roaring
River
Cave
   Petersfield, Westmorland.

This is a show cave with recent improvements (concrete
steps, walkways and electric lighting).

Arriving at the village we were accosted by a young Jamaican
motorcyclist who ditched his girlfriend and escorted us to the cave where his
mate, Steve, offered his services as a guide. The entrance area was milling-about with would-be guides, “Security
Guards” and small boys.  We donned
our Zoom lamps and followed Steve and his girlfriend Eunice through an old
phreatic network covered in soot from the burning torches of earlier
tourists.  The cave consists of a couple
of large chambers with connections to a low streamway.  One of these led to a large sump pool which
has supposedly been dived out to the surface. A “skylight” aven is passed beneath and the main route ends in
a stalagmite choke with tree roots in the roof. A large pile of old bottles was evidence of earlier lighting methods –
Molotov cocktail torches!

Throughout the cave there were plenty of bats (Rat-bats in
the local lingo) and cave crickets.  The
walls were well endowed with graffiti dating back to the 1800’s.  Off the beaten track a nice phreatic tube led
eventually to a low crawl which Steve, Martin and I pushed for a few
yards.  Some attractive crystals were
noted here.  In general rather a poor
show cave but enlivened by the sudden appearance of a gentleman known as the
“Dragon Man” who proceeded to fill his mouth with either rum or
paraffin and lighting it to illuminate the cave with a great puff of red flame!  This would go down well in Gough’s.  He then rolled a burning brand across his
teeth and posed for photos before bragging about the West Indian cricket
team.  It cost a fortune in tips to get
rid of him.

Another short cave near the entrance led to a downstream
sump pool.  Upstream was low but could be
possible.  This cave probably connects
with the tourist section.  Just above the
cave a large stream rises from a blue hole and a couple of hundred yards walk
through the village led to a second blue hole with a strong resurgence above it
(see Pat and Trebor’s article) .

Our second caving trip was to the Ginger Hill area, St.
Elizabeth.  The drive across from Negril
took ages but was mostly through spectacular cone karst with presumably lots of
cave potential.  On arrival it took about
an hour of questioning locals to locate Me
No Sen Cave
– also known as River or Water Sink.  A local lad, Tony, guided us to the cave and
was joined by his mates Wayne and Maxwell. The cave was located close to the Montego Bay to

Kingston
railway line along which young
Maxwell propelled himself on a home made, two wheeled skateboard.  Three quarters of a mile down the track from
Ginger Hill towards the next

village of
Ipswich
we scrambled
down the SW bank to reach the large sink entrance.  The last scramble down rotting bamboo poles
proved too much for Martin’s “bedroom – slippers” and he slid
gracefully on his arse into the stream. The barefooted locals fared much better.

The tunnel-like entrance passage was followed for 300′ to
where the usual sump had dried up to reveal a choked sink full of rotting
bamboo.  A passage to the right was
entered by climbing warily over a huge heap of rotting, stinking bamboo poles
to reach a couple of filthy, muddy crawls. The slit and 20′ pot leading to the main cave was not found.  It was decided to look for another cave.

Seemenomore
was reached by continuing along the railway, through a tunnel to a point where
a steep path to the NE dropped down 200′ to an area of large sinkholes.  Wayne and Tony hacked a way through the dense
bush using the “fist and bread knife” technique and led us to a 30′
deep shakehole which we descended with the aid of a rope.  A large entrance below led straight to a deep
and muddy sump pool with no other way on. We were told that it had been visited by “50 American cave
divers” in 1980.  It is not
specifically mentioned in Jamaica Underground but “Seemenomore” is
listed as an alternative name for Me So Sen Cave.

After a desperate struggle back up the path we continued
down the track for another 1½ miles, admiring the tropical forest covered hills
of the Cockpit Country surrounding us, to a second railway tunnel.  Halfway through a cave entrance was noted in
the NE wall.  This is not mentioned in
J.U. but will be referred to as

Duanwarie
Tunnel
Cave
. This was
later explored for 100′ or so to a stal choke. It contained helictites, crystallized stal. and parasite-infested Rat
Bats.

Just round the corner the commercial Ipswich Cave (Duanwarie Cave No.1. in J.U.) was found to be
locked and inaccessible, it being Sunday. The nearby Duanwarie Cave No.
2
could not be found.  “It
slipped me, Man” shouted a disgruntled Rastafarian voice as Tony hacked
through the undergrowth with his trusty breadknife.

We had now had enough so we trudged back up the line with Maxwell
scooting along the track.  After a wash
in the stream and a chew on a lump of sugar cane we handsomely tipped the lads
and gave them a lift to a presumably alcoholic funeral, before heading back to
Negril via an atrocious “road”.

A great day out with some colourful characters.  Anyone visiting the Jamaican karst is advised
to take plenty of tips, information and endless patience as communication can
be a trifle frustrating.  It’s a great
place though.

(The following, although a chronological continuation of the
above is written by Martin Grass – Ed).

After Tony had left I moved up to the
North
Coast of the Island staying at

Runaway
Bay
. Once I had convinced my boss’s son Chris Cavanagh to join me we explored
THATCHFIELD
CAVE
and
OLD
THATCHFIELD
CAVE, situated about 40 minutes drive
from

Runaway
Bay
, inland.  Thatchfield cave is easily found after a 10
minute walk though thick jungle.  A low
entrance and crawl followed by a 4 metre climb led to a massive passage full of
large stal and hundreds of bats.  After
about 200 metres, daylight is seen from a large shaft 30 metres deep by 30
metres across, the top hanging with large old stal and jungle vines.  The cave from here continues steep and large,
levelling out after about 100 metres. Eventually a low crawl is encountered before more large passage is
gained, finally ending in a 50 metre shaft. The cave is very well decorated throughout with all types of stal. It is
also home to thousands of bats so the floor is a few feet deep in guano!  This in turn is home to cave crickets and one
(it was all we saw), rat.

Thatchfield Old cave is next to its larger and longer cousin
and is very similar in size but ends in a boulder chamber full of columns up to
5 metres high.  The entrance to this cave
is home to a large colony of very noisy swifts. We also found a rope useful for a short pitch just inside the entrance
to this cave.  Both caves make an
excellent days caving and having made enquiries of the locals it appears our
visit was the first for about 12 years. Certainly neither cave showed any sign of previous visits although both
are listed in Jamaica Underground (1977). Total passage in both systems is 4600 feet.

A few days later Glen and I visited this limestone area
again looking for Dunns Hole (a deep pothole) and to get a feel for any
potential the area may have.  It is
certainly worth any expedition spending some time in this area as I am sure
there is still lots to find.


 


Cuba

By Martin Grass

On a couple of recent working trips I managed to visit two
caves, one a show cave and one a dive. Both are situated in an area of

Cuba
about 90 miles East of
Havana.  This area has a lot of low lying
Karst with many caves and a lot of diving potential.

A vast amount of

Cuba
is limestone but most
exploration has been centred on the far west of the island around Pirar Del
Rio.  This is where the cone karst can be
found, big river caves and deep potholes. (The Westminster S.G. have had an expedition here for the last three
years).  The rest of

Cuba
, however,
has a lot of high limestone mountains much of it waiting to be explored.  The first one I visited was

BELMAR
CAVE

the only show cave in the VARADERO area. The entrance is a shaft with a spiral staircase taking you down into a
large boulder strewn chamber, from here a series of large well decorated
chambers lead off culminating in a good but basic light show in the final chamber.  The whole trip is about 45 minutes.

On my second visit to the island I visited the following
flooded cave, it is not tidal.

CEPERO
CAVE,

VARADERO,
CUBA
.

Divers – Martin Grass and Danny (a Cuban).

A large entrance slope and chamber in daylight, full of old
dry stal and swifts, leads down to a large green pool.  Three routes lead off underwater in crystal
clear visibility and have been well lined by the Cubans.  Two branches are about 30 metres long each
through small chambers with good formations. The main route is about 80 metres long into a large chamber with
excellent underwater columns and straws. Looked at various side passages and alcoves off this main route but
could not find the way on.  Water in the
cave is brackish and warm enough to only need a wet suit vest.

Total dive time 35 minutes. Maximum depth 18 metres.

NOTE. There are lots of “open” “blue
holes” like this in Varadero and an expedition would certainly prove
worthwhile.  I am currently working
regularly in

Cuba

and anyone interested in a trip should let me know.


Ireland
.
Easter  1992

by Martin Grass

For the second year running Blitz, Mac and myself will be
returning to

County Fermaragh,
Northern Ireland

for about 10 days over Easter.  If anyone
is interested in joining us please let one of us know.  We have an excellent cheap cottage booked
right in the heart of the caving region and about a mile from the border with
Eire.  (The pub we
use is in the South).  The limestone area
is one of the least visited in the
U.K.
and probably
Europe, so the potential for new
cave is enormous.

There are plenty of sumps for diving and no one has really started
digging seriously (we were told by locals, that if a dig did not go in a
morning they left it!).  The known caves
are a mixture of big river caves and deep pots and some high level dry stuff
with stal so it’s a real mix.  See you
there and bring a battery drill. (see Mac deep pots details).

 

Vimy Ridge, Grange Tunnel (A

Show
Cave
With A Difference)

by  ‘Slug’ (Ian Gregory)

It must be somewhat unusual to feature a report on a show
cave in the B.B. especially as this is not a true cave, but a network of man
made tunnels. I thought, however, that it may be of general interest,
particularly to those who study the development and history of mining.  So, here goes.

During a recent holiday in northern

France
it was decided to take a
tour around the First World War memorial to the Canadian forces at Vimy
Ridge.  The scene of the first major
victory by the young Canadian Army, in early 1917.

Situated at the top of HILL 145 is the monument bearing the
names of 11,285 Canadians who went missing during the battle.  Surrounding it are the remnants of the
battlefield, still cratered from the massive artillery barrage at the prelude
to the attack.  The craters also lend a
real threat to the KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs which are backed up by “DANGER
UNDETONATED EXPLOSIVES”  (Two days
prior to our visit a local Frenchman had found two live shells).

However, of more interest to myself was the extensive system
of tunnels dug by both sides during the war, and by others in more distant
times.

If you take the D51 road from Vimy to Givenchy-en-Gohelle,
as the road climbs up through Givenchy you will pass a concrete bunker, this
was the entrance to the German tunnels which are now sadly blocked and flooded
(maybe the CDG could help).  The largest
chamber in the network was the Vimy Cavern, mined not by the Germans during
W.W.I, but by successive people from the middle ages onwards.  At first by flint miners and chalk burners
and then by the Huguenots, who used the passages as an escape and place of
sanctuary from religious persecution. They were also used for defensive purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries
but were either collapsed or booby-trapped by the Germans in W.W.II to prevent
their usage by the Maquis.

The history of the allied network is equally interesting: –

In October 1916 the Royal Engineers commenced the
construction of tunnels big enough to house large concentrations of troops
beneath the allied held slopes of the ridge. The work was completed by Australian and Canadian soldiers in mid
1917.  The allied network amounted to
more than TWENTY TWO MILES of subways, on four distinct levels (for which the
Germans bought the Digging Barrel that year).

The upper level is approximately 20 to 30 feet below the
surface, level two is at 75 feet down and levels three and four are at various
depths below this.  On the lowest level
ran a narrow gauge railway used to bring up ammunition and supplies from the
store rooms to the upper tunnels, and then by hand to the trenches, by way of
joint ventilation/supply shafts. Incidentally the Germans on their own side of the lines were just as
busy.

On the upper levels twelve infantry subways were constructed
each of an average length of over ½ mile though some were over a mile.  During the months of October 1916 to March
1917 over six miles of passages were dug 6’6″ high and 3′ wide, lit
throughout by electricity supplied by the Royal Australian Engineers.  Inside this maze were built Assembly
Chambers, Headquarter dressing stations and First Aid Posts, Accommodation for
troops, Ammo Stores, Signals offices and much more.  Water was laid on as was a telephone network.

Because of the size of the network and the amount of people
in it a one way system operated (Perhaps this wouldn’t go amiss in Swildon’s
Hole!) and it could take a runner up to two hours to get through.  Going was best described as heavy as the
original floor was of Duckboards which, when they sank into the mud, had new
Duckboards laid on top of them.

Of all the tunnels dug over the centuries only a tiny part,
Grange Tunnel, is now accessible.  The
entrance to this is situated just down from the memorial and is administered by
the Canadian government, as the ground in which they are dug was ceded to

Canada

in perpetuity by the French in the 1920’s.

The tour guides are mostly Canadian students and are quite
well informed about the history of the area, and the tunnels themselves.  Our guide even apologised to us that it was
dripping wet at the time because it takes three days to rain below surface
after it has done so above ground.

Grange Tunnel is entered on the upper level 33 feet down and
is 800 yards long; it has many minor offshoots and 3 exit points to the front
line trenches.  Grange Tunnel runs on the
first two levels and in those you can see all the features previously mentioned
plus a large calibre shell, which penetrated 30 feet through the so-called bomb
proof roof but failed to explode (It has since been disarmed).  Some improvements have been made like
electric lights, reinforced concrete pit props to replace the wooden ones (long
since rotted away) and a concrete floor.

Grange Tunnel is open to the public during the “Tourist
Season”, entry is free of charge as is parking.  The Vimy Memorial Canadien is well signposted
and easy to find but do not drive off the roads and never walk where you are
told not to, as you may come home in bits! (20-30 French and Belgians are killed each year by old ordnance going
off).

More information can be obtained by writing to:-

Pat Geisler
Public Affairs,
Canada,



284 Wellington Street
,
Ottowa,
Ontario
,
Canada
K1A OP4

FOOT NOTE

On the way back from Vimy Ridge we stopped to look at Lochnager
Crater, caused when the British, having tunnelled below the German lines, on
the 1st July 1916, detonated over 60,000 lbs. of gun cotton.  That’s a lot of BANG, more than J’Rat has
used on Bowery Corner, or is it?!

 

Wot No Cookers

Anon

“Wot no cookers!” they all cried,
as search in vain no-one had spied
a means of heating up their food,
sophisticated, basic or crude.
As one lit up a primus stove,
another to the chip shop drove.
The tired ones plumped for bread and cheese,
eighteen for the Hunters Faggots and Peas.

So when they all had had their fill,
In the pub they met to drink Oakhill,
Bass, Butcombe, Badger and discuss
the problem that was stated thus:­
how thirty cavers could cook breakfast
Who’d be the first and who the last.
Forty eggs scrambled, pots of tea,
fried bacon, mushrooms, toast, coffee.

Not daunted by the task in hand
they drank (and drank) and made a plan,
the problem they would have to beat,
in order everyone could eat.
All this because their time was short,
and they were the brave and daring sort,
visiting Mendips with just one plan,
to find caves measureless to man!

This needed much more thought that night,
so a barrel was purchased – Butcombe Allbright.
To drink at the Belfry, and work on
a satisfactory action plan.
Eventually it was seen
at 3 ‘O’clock, by all the team,
Breakfast would start at 4 ‘O’clock,
on primus stove, cooked in the wok.

Come 9 ‘O’clock those who had had nought
would simply have to go without,
and those who wanted lunch that day
would need to start without delay.
At six, the caving done, they’d hurry,
to shower and change and make a curry,
and aim to finish well by eight
to get to the Hunters and not be late.

And in the Mendips that weekend,
like a beacon visible from each bend,
as cavers cooked breakfast through the night
the Belfry windows blazed with light.
When Sunday came and they went home,
all tired (but not hungry) was heard the moan;
“If they charge fees for a Belfry booking,
can’t the BEC buy rings for cooking?”

 

The Worm Turns.  Or An Old Member
Gets His Comeuppance.

In the
Dordogne August
1991.

by Phil Romford.

It was time to go on holiday yet again.  This time it was Tony and Jane Jarratt and
Phil and Lillian Romford.  The idea was
to have a holiday generally looking around the place, do some show caves and
for J’Rat and I to do some real caving. What happened was not actually planned for..

Well, we got to Le Bugue in the Dordogne at 0630 Saturday
morning after a long through the night drive, we all felt a bit ragged but had
time to kill before we could go to the house we were renting in Montferrand du
Perigord.  So breakfast was had in a
local hotel, then off down the road to our first show cave, Bara-Bahau.

Bara-Bahau was discovered in 1951 by Norbert Casteret and
was found to have some cave art in the form of engraved images of horse, bison,
deer, beer and human hand representations. The cave although short, is well worth a visit by those interested in
Magdelenian art.  Located on the western
end of Le Bugue, well sign posted.  Cost
22FF.  Duration around 35 minutes.  Tips taken. 

We emerged to what was now a very hot day, clear sky and the
temperature rising rapidly.  It was now
that I realized that I did not have my hat to protect my bald pate, ah well
thought I, I’ll get one some time. However, once we had done the shopping etc. then drove to Montferrand
and found the local bar, it was time to install ourselves in the house, sort
out gear and plot our movements.  Tone
and I most particularly intended to do the Grotte Pucelle near Gramat, ‘why not
Tuesday’ I said.  Sunday was spent just
festering around in the sun feeling tired after the night drive.  We just read, read and drank, read drank and
ate and drank!  A lot.

Monday we drove to Padirac which Lil and I had not seen,
while Tone and Jane went to Grotte de Presque. If you have not been into Padirac, do so, it is superb.  Cost 33FF. It was during this day that I started to feel lousy, feeling nauseous,
tired and seeking shade.  Jane, our
itinerant nurse diagnosed heat stroke. The drive back to base was a bastard, two hours of sticky heat while I
got worse and worse, then thankfully getting home to collapse in bed for 15
hours or so.

The Tuesday plan was now totally changed, I couldn’t go
caving, Tone couldn’t go by himself.  So
some time was spent in Les Eyzies buying all the caving books and visiting the
speleo museum . J’Rat left a nasty example of a descender with the museum, this
then gained us free entry!

By this time I had not been able to eat anything for two
whole days, the girls prepared barbecued trout for us all.  I was not appreciative.

Font-Anguilliere.

Wednesday I felt a little better so Tone and I decided to
visit Font-Anguilliere.  This cave is 2km
south east of Rouffignac de Sigoules, between Bergerac and Eymet.  (See location plan).  The entrance is in a low cliff next to and
slightly above the obvious resurgence and is about 2.5m wide and high, starting
off in dry passage one soon comes to the stream, which at the time was flowing
slowly.  However, most of the trip is
wettish with a lot of shallow wading through the interminable meanders.  The far end of the cave gradually reduces in
size to low crawls and muddy tubes, terminating in a choke.  The cave is basically one 3400 metre long
meander with only very small and insignificant inlets.  As we neared the end of the cave, the
twisting and turning was getting to me and making me feel sick, so I had to
slow down a lot so as to retain what little was in my stomach.  Once back to the entrance tube the bats were
very active, dozens of them, probably Horseshoes.  A good trip that took 3 hours.  Dry grots in summer weather, possibly a wet
suit in high water conditions.  No tackle
required, carbide lamps possibly best avoided because of the bat population.

Lascaux II.

Thursday we went to Montignac to visit Lascaux II and the
museum at Le Thot.  Lascaux II is a
reconstruction of sections of the cave proper, being detailed in structure to
within 5mm of the original and painted to accurately emulate the art.  It is extremely well and convincingly done,
albeit only depicting part of the cave. The museum at Le Thot shows how Lascaux II was constructed using models
to demonstrate techniques and video film to show the actual work done.  Since the chances of getting in to
Lascaux proper are dissappearingly small I would strongly
recommend visiting these sites.  Cost
????

Grotte Pucelle.

At last it was time for us to do the Grotte Pucelle.  I was still feeling fairly grim with the
after effects of the heat stroke. However, J’Rat and I packed our gear and went for it.  We took my ancient piece of 10.5mm Troll SRT
rope for cutting as we went, Tone’s length of 9mm rope and 2 ladders plus
various slings, belays, hangers and krabs. We also carried a full set of SRT gear each, plus grub, water and fags.

The entrance is huge, about 6 metres wide and 3.5 metres
high in the bottom of a large depression. The dry entrance series is followed for about 350 metres to where the
floor rises up to more or less block the way on.

Just before this a low arch is entered in the left hand
wall, after about 50 metres of various ducks and meanders one comes to the
streamway.  We saw it in fairly dry
condition with only a small amount of water flowing.  However, this was made up for by the profusion
of pools and lakes.

The first pitch is encountered about 300 metres down the
streamway.  A party of French were
rigging this with traverse lines to skirt the pool; we did it the wet way.  4 metres of rope is enough to tie into a
large natural belay at the top of the basin. A swim of 3-4 metres gets one to the second pitch.  Here 4 metres of rope on a natural belay, is
again sufficient to gain the ledge below. The third we rigged with 5 metres of rope and an 8 mm anchor, the fourth
pitch was roped with 6 metres of rope to a natural belay.  The fifth pitch we rigged with 5 metres of
rope, although this is only as hand line. The sixth pitch we rigged with 25′ of ladder and a 3 metre tether to a
natural belay.  The seventh and final
pitch we rigged with 30′ of ladder and tape slings to a natural belay.  Although 8mm bolts are in profusion on all
pitches, we saw no point in using them when perfectly good and strong natural
belays were in the right place.  In
between pitches there are a number of short drops into deep pools, it is useful
to leave a sling on some to assist getting back out.  From the last pitch the river continues on
down for a long distance to a large boulder breakdown just beyond which is the
sump pool, thus terminating the trip.

As I said just now, I was feeling rough before entering the
cave.  Now that it was time to about turn
and go out I was absolutely knackered, feeling well but having no
strength.  This showed up at every climb
up and pitch, J’Rat had to replace rope with ladder at all the rope pitches
just to help me, this was necessary even, at one 5′ climb up.  Really embarrassing for me.  As I said to Tone, normally it’s me helping
some other person out.  Shades of the PSM
trip, I now feel suitably humbled.

However, it was a cracking trip that is said to be the
Swildons’s of the
Dordogne.  It took us 6 hours, at least half an hour was
spent waiting for the French party.  Had
we not been held up and if I was performing properly, we could have done the
trip in say 4 1/2 hours.  We are unsure
of the length of the cave since we could not obtain a survey.  However, I would say that it is around 4.5 km
to the sump.  A highly recommended
trip.  See location plan.

Saturday was pack up and vacate the house day.  That done we set off on the trek back
home.  En Route we detoured to see the
Grottes de Villars near Brantome.  This
is an extremely well decorated cave with some simple cave art.  Worth seeing if in the area, duration of trip
45 mins, cost 22FF.

We then drove to Melle which is 25km S-E of

Niort
, to visit the
medieval silver mines.  An interesting
site, evidently totalling 20km of mined passage, the visit only takes in 350m
of it.  However, that short section is
representative of the whole mine.  The
guide shows how fire setting was used to break the rock.  The silver was found in association with

Galena
at just 3%
proportion.  The silver was used for
minting coinage, examples of which are on display in the museum.  An interesting mine with a museum which is
still being developed. Cost 20FF.

In conclusion it was an interesting holiday.  However, the heat and humidity was
overpowering, even for Jane the sun seeker. Next time will be spring or autumn.

 

The Bec Summer Holidays In The
Pyrenees.

Objectives:        Pierre
St. Martin from SC3 to EDF Tunnel.
                        Sistema Badalona (B15) in

Spain

                        To
do various canyons.

At last we are packed and ready to go.  Just two vehicles go from Mendip on 13th July
1991.  I took my 4 x 4 UMM (Yum Yum) that
magnificent orange machine that regularly rescues J’Rats Landrover (sorry
Tone!); with me were Graham Wilton-Jones (Basset), Carole White (Meg), Mike
McDonald (Trebor) and Ian Cooper (The Antipodean).

Dany Bradshaw took his infamous blue van; in it he took Bob
Cork, Andy Carruthers, Howard & Deb Limbert and Mick Numwick.  We were joined by Pete McNab (Snablet) who is
on his caving tour of
Europe, and Ian Caldwell
(Wormhole) and Nicola.

We arranged to meet at the Belfry where we load up and
depart from.  No sign of Dany’s van
yet.  We leave in the Yum Yum to arrive
in
Southampton at 1400 hrs, have tea and
crumpet, natter about life and await Dany et al.  The ferry was due to leave at 1600 hrs, still
no blue van at 1530 hrs!!  Then, lo and
behold there they are, the van was still in the garage being fixed at 1230.  However, all is OK and we board ship and set
sail into the eventual sunset.  Usual
boring sort of crossing but a cabaret was put on, the last act being a stand up
comic who rendered a few heart rending jokes. We land at 1200 hrs to get straight on the road and get on down to
PSM.  We pass the infamous blue van; Dany
had forgotten to adjust his headlights for driving on the left.  We reckoned by now that Dany had used up a
whole years worth of swear words.

13th July.  The
faithful Yum Yum gets us to PSM Bracas de Camping at around 1700 hrs.  No sign of the blue van yet.  Ah well, lets camp says us and get on up the
pub.  Near the top of the hill is the ski
station that is blessed with a bloody good bar/restaurant.  We settle in for a few beers and excellent
grub, quite cheap too.  Still no Dany,
hmm.

14th July. Very stormy during the night but our spirits are good.  No Dany yet. So we trundle off to Tardets for shopping and call in to see Ruben &
Martine Gomez (Gonads).  They offer
coffee and booze and give us the keys to the EDF Tunnel, nice to see them
again.

Everyone wants to see the Lepineux entrance so we take a
look and a few photo’s and remember Loubens. A poignant sort of spot, since we must all have read the account of his
death.  From here we walk up to Pic
D’Arlas from which most of the PSM catchment can be seen, staggering
stuff.  On the way up Meg declares that
she suffers from vertigo; merde, we thought!

Back to camp, still no blue van.  By now concern for their well being is coming
to mind.  Up to the ski station again for
beer and grub.  Wormhole and Nicola turn
up after their two week holiday on
Corsica.  Both were brown as berries, of Nicola Basset
is heard to say ‘disgusting, look at the state of that’, I made an aside to The
Antipodean, ‘Looks alright to me!’ he grins approval.  I phone home later to find out if any message
had got through, ‘no’ says Lillian, ’nuffin’. Nothing more could be achieved so off to pit with us – after wormholes
whiskey, Jamesons it was, it didn’t last too long.  Trebor went to bed while the rest of us got
steadily stewed, and then.

A satellite was spotted in the beautiful clear skys,
Wormhole says ‘Bright init’, yeah we say, then he says ‘I spose they must have
lights on em to be that bright’!  ‘Silly
bugger’ we say in unison.  Meg says lots
of daft things so I christen her Nutmeg. The Antipodean grins a lot, Basset rocks on his heels gyrating wildly,
then farts and swears a lot, quite out of characters for him!  As usual I was good.

15th July. Suddenly and rudely awoken by Dany!  In fact they got to PSM Monday morning after
fighting with an errant exhaust system and camped at Licq, the pillocks.  While we drove to Tardets they had seen us
and ranted and raved to no avail.  ‘We
see’d you lot in thik Yum Yum’ says Dany, ‘Well, we didn’t see or hear you lot, amazing really init’, ‘I spec’
says Dany.

So all our fears had vanished, road deaths and all, we were
much relieved.  Well, they were just off
to rig SC3 Belfry Entrance and get on with the trip.  Their party comprised; Dany, Howard &
Deb, Bob, Snablet, Carruthers and Mick. Dany left his van with us; they expected to be out around 1200 to 0200
the next morning.  In the meantime we did
a little 2.5 km canyon called D’Harzubia, plenty of little pots and a few of 10
metres or so.  The whole thing is done as
a pull through using the bolts and bits of tatty cord and webbing left by
others.  Some of it is dubious to say the
least.  At this time of the year things
are fairly dry which means that many static pools are left festering away
harbouring all sorts of nasties as well as the dreaded slime!  That’s what got me, that bloody slime; did
the classic banana skin slide, both feet in the air and land on my head, no
helmet of course!  A massive bang on unyielding
limestone gives me a mild concussion for the rest of the day.  I couldn’t understand why everyone was
laughing at my wonderful new knots, and novel methods of descending the ropes
after that bang on the head!!  Just as
well my skull is thick and that my brain is lodged elsewhere I suppose.

We decided that ditch crawling is none too pleasant, the
next canyon would be nice and wet.

However, we go to the ski station yet again to have the
ubiquitous Gratinee au Fromage and turkey or pork or whatever.  Very little beer this night though since we
are due to make our descent of PSM in the morning.  We thought it would please the others if we
drove Dany’s van to St. Engrace and take the Yum Yum up to the EDF Tunnel and
wait for them.  Trebor and I set off down
the hill at 2300 in a thick, thick fog driving at 6 mph!  Me still feeling groggy.  Parked the Yum Yum and wander up to the EDF
hut to meet Dany, Snablet and Mick who had only just come out.  They had taken 15 hours to rig and do the
cave, pretty good going; they said that the other four were about two hours
behind.  Dany et al walked down the hill
while Treebs and I dossed in the hut to await the others, they came out at
0130.  Bob and Carruthers were pretty
knackered, Bob muttered a few garbled words, Carruthers said even less.  So we drove them down that rough old track to
Dany’s van, they were grateful for the lift. Trebor and I wend our tired and weary way back to the camp much too late
and get a few hours sleep.

PART 2. The Pierre St. Martin Epic.

We all awake to another bright sunny new day with the
impending realization of what we had come to this amazing place for.  I was still feeling a bit groggy and very
unsociable, so I took breakfast in my own spot and dared anyone to invade it.  After an hour or so it was clear that we were
not ready for the early start hoped for; The Antipodean had no wet suit. The others had worn wet suits all the way through to the dry chambers
after the Tunel du Vent since, some swimming is necessary in Vasques and the
Tunel du Vent.  From there they changed
into dry grots, they suggested that we do the same.  So, Wormhole took The Antipodean down to Licq
where they borrowed Snablets wetsuit. Wetsuit?  More like a vague
assemblage of oddments of ancient neoprene and much glue.  However, it would do.

They got back to camp around 1330 hrs.  We gathered up our various packs which
contained food, carbide, SRT gear, inner tubes for floatation, a bicycle pump
for the tubes, first aid and dry clothing. One large tackle bag each.  The
six of us load the Yum Yum and drive up to the Lapiaz via the jeep track to
find the entrance.  Basset scuttles
around a lot making noises like a baby with a new rattle.  Remember of course that Basset was on the
1975 BEC team that found and explored SC3. He finds it, we are able to park the Yum Yum within 100 metres of
it.  It is now 1415 hrs with the sun just
past it’s zenith and bloody hot, we had to change into wetsuits, a painful
process in that heat!  At last at 1445
hrs the time had come to descend the first pitch, Basset was given the honour
of first in the queue, followed by Trebor, The Antipodean, Wormhole, Nutmeg then me last to ensure the ropes were
left OK.

Nutmeg generally buggered about taking off from daylight
onto that first rope, making various nervous rodent like noises.  Eons later I hear ‘rope free’ and am able to
launch myself into the hole. Fantastic!!!  So from here we
continue in much the same order descending pitch after pitch after pitch, a
great deal of waiting at each bolt change with dark murmurings from Wormhole
about what the f*** was going on.  Nutmeg
was not doing all that well at some bolt changes due to her unfamiliarity with
some techniques, such as mini Tyroleans and the exposure which I for one,
love.  And then!!!

Much loud remonstration form Nutmeg.  Wormhole yells Phil, come up front quick, a
bolt has popped while Meg was on it’.  Oh
shit, thought I.  However, Nutmeg was
safe and was landed back at the top of Belfry pitch.  I had a good look at what the problem was; it
was quite simple yet potentially nasty. The top of the pitch is in an exposed rift about 0.7m in width, the rope
was rigged as a ‘Y’ hang between the two walls using standard 8mm hangers.  However, one of the anchors was in fact 10mm,
the bolt could literally be pushed into the anchor!  How that was missed remains a mystery; anyway
the solution was simple.  I re-rigged the
‘Y’ hang on one wall using two 8mm anchors and set a deviation from the other
side to hang the rope dead smack in the middle of the rift, no problem.  From here I go in front to check things out
since Basset and Trebor had bombed on. Above Belfry pitch proper, the biggish one, is a ledge.  The rope from above had a knot in it about 3m
above the ledge, not a problem really, just a minor juggling act with jammers
and descender you may think.  Not so,
Nutmeg showed me how to do tricks like the monkeys in the zoo do, you know,
like when they show off their prowess at getting tangled in bits of string?  Evidently the knot was of dubious parentage,
at least according to Nutmeg.  By now it
was becoming clear to my poor numb brain that a problem was developing, so I
prusik up to her to see what the hell the mess was.  Couldn’t really do a lot except say get rid
of some of the junk and try again.  After
45 minutes or what seemed like a geological age, Nutmeg is freed from her
bondage.  Phew!

Belfry Pot is pretty good but Liberty Bell is the winner,
54m of sheer delight.  I could see Basset
and Treeb’s light gently glowing at the bottom, always an impressive
sight.  The take off is through a slot
and straight onto the big one, fantastic. Eventually we all assemble at the bottom having done all the SC3
descent; we took stock of our progress to discover that it had taken 5 cold
hours to descend that 1000 feet!  Not
good, not good at all.  Already our time
schedule was badly set back.  Dany was to
pick us up at around 0600 hours in the morning, we could still do if we tramped
on we said.  But, big but.

From the bottom of SC3 one enters the Bassaburuko series, which
is a maze of rifts, bedding planes with small streams.  This is obviously a very old part of the
system, the formations are all rotting and things are generally breaking down
and grotty looking.  Route finding is not
a great problem but the way on is tedious with a lot of crawling and grovelling
around while shoving your pack in front of you. I was quite surprised at this section, in that I was expecting us to get
straight into fairly large river passage. However, it is not too long, a few hundred metres of this leads one into
the river passage proper.  By now the
party has got fragmented with Basset, Trebor and the Antipodean romping off
leaving Wormhole and me cursing at Nutmeg’s pack that we were carrying for
her.  She was knackered already.  She said to me ‘I think I may have taken on
more than I bargained for’, I said  ‘But
surely you must have read up on the system before coming?’, ‘No’ she says.  I felt that I should point out that this is
still the seventh deepest cave in the world and a long one to boot, and this
sort of trip is not to be untaken lightly!!!

We took with us a set of survey sections and descriptions
that Howard and Deb had prepared, they were just the ticket, no route finding
problems were experienced, not even at ARSIP Hall which presents the most
crucial choice where one could get lost for hours.  By now we had gotten into the big and
beautiful river passage, very
Yorkshire like
in character.  This eventually leads into
the
Grand Canyon, absolutely superb stuff, big
wide river passage with lots of wading in water up to the waist.  Very impressive, it is worth the trip for
that alone.  From there we entered the
fossil high and dry Marmites with its superb pots, or Marmites.  Just like ‘Marmite’ jars.  Basset reckons that this is where Marmite got
its name from.  Mmm, I wonder?  Near the end of this section is a very nasty
looking rope traverse terminating in a nastier ladder with mouldy old rungs
falling off it, we hummed and hahhed a while, then I was just about to launch
into the thing when Wormhole declares that he has found a bypass.  He had. Amazingly, it appeared that no-one had used it before!  It did the job for us nice and safely.  After that there a one or two climbs to
negotiate one of which we lifelined.  By
now it was 0630 hrs the morning after we started, I felt deadly tired from no
sleep and muttered about lack of strength and will, so got pulled up the climb
by Trebor.  I can’t help being old can I!  One more nasty ladder at the Shunt and we pop
out into the river again upstream of Vasques.

Vasques is the first point at which one must swim, hence the
need for wet suits.  We spent an age
pumping up the three inner tubes, two of which we use to ferry the tackle bags,
the third is used by The Antipodean as buoyancy since he does not like deep
water.  Evidently he had a bad experience
in

Australia
;
he fell off a rope into a sump pool, sank like stone and had to bottom walk
out!  We had 100m of thin nylon cord to
pull the tubes back and forth.  It worked
but was deadly slow.  We found that the
water was indeed as cold as expected.

Next is the Tunel du Vent. That is a much longer swim, about 30m of devastatingly cold water.  Wormhole goes first towing his tackle bag, I
can’t be bothered to fart about with the tubes so follow suit, all very quick
for us.  The Antipodean’s turn is next,
he goes in with his inner tube but doesn’t appear at our end, funny.  We shout and yell but to no avail.  Evidently he had got half way and his carbide
goes out, not having his torch handy panic sets in.  In the meantime Basset et al thought he was
with us and pull the string in, thinking ‘Christ, this is tough to pull’, to
find Ian attached to it with no light! He did the same trick again just to entertain the troops, before finally
getting to Wormhole and I.  By now
Wormhole and I were desperately cold and miserable, so we found a dry bank out
of the howling gale – it sure lives up to it’s name – to change.  Fleece suits and thermals are just wonderful,
especially with a nice hot carbide gobbler inside.  The others get to us safely to change, we eat
lots to warm up and recharge our weary bodies and set off into the enormous dry
chambers.

The first section of the dry chambers via Salle

Navarre

to Lepineux is somewhat tortuous but well marked with reflective tabs.  Indeed these markers were to be seen
throughout the rest of the system.  By
now it was clear that Wormhole, Trebor and The Antipodean were straining at the
leash to really get on with it.  Basset
and I would also loved to have got on with it but Carole was now totally
buggered and going at a snails pace.  So
I said to Worm, Treb & Ant to get on with it and leave Basset and I to
escort Carole.  In any case it was a good
idea to get someone out as quickly as possible to inform Dany’s party that we
were OK.  So they were off the leash at
last.  Basset and I wistfully watched
them go.

Lepineux shaft can be vaguely seen coming into this great
chamber with its massive rubble cones and litter dating back to those heroic
days of Loubens et al.  A very
unattractive place for all that, we felt no desire to linger here, after all
time was pressing.  So it was now a
dreary plod up and down massive rubble heaps, the action being that Basset
rushes ahead route finding while I follow in fits and starts whilst helping
Carole along and carrying her pack a lot. The scene is set now for the rest of the trip, except that the action
gets slower and slower.  Merde, it was a
bore.  Every time I stopped to wait I
would lean back on my pack and instantly nod off, the lack of sleep was
telling.

We traverse Salles Casteret, Loubens, Metro and Queffelec,
all are truly immense at around 40m. width and up to around 50m. high, the
distance is about 1.5km. but when travelling the grand speed of 300m. per hour
it seems to go on for ever!!  Somewhere
in Loubens I think it was, we saw lights appear, three of them.  I wonder who that is I thought, it turned out
to be our three lads off the leash.  They
were sort of lost; they had followed the river all the way into La Verna to the
head of a waterfall and could see no way on. So they came back to find us for instructions, off they went again.  Queffelec terminates in a more or less blank
wall, very odd.  Basset climbs up to the
right while Carole and I wait to see if that is our route.  Basset disappears for a time then re­appears
around to the left.  He was most relieved
because the climb he did was totally committing.  In fact the correct route is a scramble up to
the left which leads to a 10m. ladder followed by a traverse down into Adelie
which leads to Chevalier, another tremendous chamber.  At the waiting stops now I lie back and gaze
at the sky, or what appears to be sky. It is a vast expanse of black starless sky with fluffy grey clouds
drifting.  Hallucinating?  Yes, I reckon so.  In fact the clouds were random areas of white
calcite and gypsum.

We have now reached the end of Chevalier, here the markers
get a bit thin on the ground.  Basset has
disappeared, I spend a while searching for the route, then ‘Ah, that’s it, I
remember it from last year’.  This is
where Worm, Treb & Ant had gone wrong, they followed the river and missed
the ledges on the right.  From here it is
only a short distance to La Verna and the EDF tunnel.  We lingered a short while to admire La Verna,
our carbide flames were lost in there. After 27 hours underground were emerge to brilliant sunlight.

Basset dashes off down the track followed by me but more
slowly since my feet and knees were ruined. For me wet socks inside wellies was not a good idea, I should have done
as on the club Berger trip.  That was to
wear wool socks and light weight walking boots. As for the knees, they are just old and knackered.  I then met Dany, Howard and Deb, it was great
to see them, they said to leave my pack etc. while they went on up to help
Carole, they carried my pack down for me later. Everyone is now at the vans at the bottom of the track.

Nicola supplies us hot beer, Howard supplies fags bless
him.  Bob Cork had gone up to SC3, found
my keys and drove the Yum Yum down to us, bless him too.

Well, was it all worth it? Yes of course it was in
retrospect.  However, there was a time in
the cave that I seriously thought to myself, this is it give up this bloody
caving lark, set fire to all the gear and take up tiddlywinks.

Tired as we were a PU was a necessity, so after a minor wash
and change we invade the ski station bar again. After a long wait we have a gigantic meal, lots of wine and even more
beer.  Replete, tired and pissed we crawl
into our pits for 10 hours kip.  The
following day, Friday, we fester around, wash our kit, go shopping in Tardets
and return the keys to Gonads and then go for our last meal at the ski station.

PART 3

BADALONA

Saturday 20th July. Wormhole and Nicola left early in
the morning to return to

England

having had a good time.  It was now time
for us to strike camp, load the Yum Yum and drive into
Spain and head for

Badalona
a day after Dany’s team.  We got away before mid day to drive over PSM
pass and down the Roncal valley, very much lovely limestone to be seen with
systems such as BU56 in it.  Once out of
the valley and on the plains the heat was excruciating.  The Yum Yum was unhappy with it, so I had to
remove the thermostat to keep the temperature down.  We eventually get to the town of

Ainsa
to meet the others
at the camp site.  A proper one this time
with a swimming pool, fabulous!

Sunday 21st July. Dany’s team had been out on the hill locating B15 entrance but had the
misfortune to bump into the park rangers. They insisted that the paperwork be fetched from the van for them to
peruse.  They declared it invalid! expect
Dany used up a lot more swear words.  The
upshot was that contacts had to be made with the appropriate people to try and
sort out the mess.  They waited up at the
bar for a phone call, eventually at about one in the morning they were told
that permission could not be granted. They made the decision to do the system anyway.  While all that was going on, we had a
pleasant day up around Revilla walking, photographing and generally enjoying
the scenery. 

Monday 22nd July. Dany’s team set off at 0600 hrs for
B15.  We had decided to do a canyon, this
time a good wet one.  We chose the
Contusa bottom section which debouches into the Yaga.  The Contusa section contains all the pitches,
descending about 300 metres in a horizontal distance of about 600 metres.  The last pitch of 30 metres is into a superb
amphitheatre with a pool at the bottom. Now in the Yaga it is a mixture of clambering over boulders, little traverses
and a great deal of swimming in the narrow gorge.  The longest swims are up say 100 metres, we
reckoned that the total amount of swimming was around 2.5 km!  Once out of the narrow gorge it is a longish
walk along the winding river valley to – THE BAR.  The total length is about 8km.  Very enjoyable wet suit trip and not having
to carry a great deal, just abseil gear, food and cameras.  Both Trebors and my knees in bad shape.

Tuesday 23rd July. At some unearthly hour Howard
wakes me to say they had done it and were safe, I was relieved.  Supplied with him roll up tobacco much to his
pleasure.  He then started telling us of
the horrendous ropes and anchors in B15, in fact they all told the same grim
tale of tatty knots, worn out sheaths, lumpy rope and loose bolt anchors.  They felt lucky to have survived intact.  That was the last part of the equation that
stopped our party doing the trip. Besides the ropes etc. we were concerned about pirating in case we were
caught, being

Spain

that could have had serious consequences.

It was now time to strike camp again and move off to
Gavarnie for a couple of days.  Once through the Bielsa tunnel Trebor takes
over driving and gets into tourist murdering mode.  The first instance was in a town with a
narrow high street with people milling around and traffic oncoming, he chose
run down the tourist rather bend a car, catching this bloke a mighty swipe with
a large and strong side mirror – he lived though.  The next one was up the hill toward
Gavarnie, a bunch of walkers three abreast.  Trebor decides he has right of way and just
drove at them at 30 mph. they try to disperse, he got one though!  Again with that mighty side mirror.  Did Trebor stop?  No carry on regardless, after all the lad was
still alive.

Wednesday 24th July. Trebor, Basset, the Antipodean
and Carole go up the hill to do

Casterets
Ice
Cave

while I fester around nursing a bad knee. They did it and were back at camp by evening.  See Trebors account.

So, that it folks, everything done that could be done and a
good time had by all.  Time now to plan
the return next year with a large BEC contingent, I hope.


 


Pierre
St.
Martin Summer 1992.

I have started the ball rolling for another caving holiday
in the
Pyrenees next year.  The objectives being to traverse the PSM
system again from SC3 to the EDF Tunnel, then to move on to Cavarnie to do a
number of ice caves including Casterets.

The likely dates will be the first two weeks of August so
that our school teacher members can participate.  I have already had positive response from
around 12 to 15 people, so provided I can obtain the permission the trip will
be on.

I am anticipating a fairly large group possibly including
families, hence we will probably camp at Licq where full facilities are
available.

Costs are as yet unknown however; insurance cost us £21.50
each this year from BCRA.  Evidently the
NCA now does a more comprehensive and cheaper insurance that I will look in
to.  The SC3 entrance requires 430 metres
of rope, it may be that the BEC will have a proportion of this that could be
used, failing that we must purchase at the best price.  Hangers and Maillons may be available from
personal equipment.  Carbide will be
purchased in bulk to obtain the best price. If sufficient cavers book I would say the total cost would be no more
than £50 per head.

If permission is granted I shall be asking for deposits to
be paid by all cavers.  This will be held
in a building society account gaining interest until purchases are made.  Any cash difference will be refunded or
collected at a later date.  Disposal of
group rope will be by consensus opinion.

For information on the system see Speleo Sportive 3. Pierre
St. Martin.  A translation is available
for those requiring it.

For any member who is rusty on SRT, practice sessions can be
laid on.  Otherwise the caving is
basically straightforward but very, very long. 12 to 14 hours is the
approximate through time for most people, so good caving fitness and stamina
are essential.

For further information and bookings contact:-

Phil Romford
Priddy
Wells

Somerset

Go for it!  It’s well
worth it

 

Tackle Master’s Report, October 1991.

The tackle has been in almost constant use indicating the
clubs very active year as usual.  As I
mentioned last year additional life-line rope and new tackle bags would be
purchased and these have been placed in the store.  The six ladders kept in reserve have been
reduced to two, the other four going into the store to maintain the usual ten
that we try to keep there.  However,
tackle is still being taken and not booked out by members.  The amount of tackle remaining in the store
at the end of the club year does not tally with all the tackle that was in the
store at the beginning of the year and any additional tackle put into the store
during that year!  Members please
remember to book out tackle and bring it back after the trip.

We have replaced all the SRT rope bags with the better two
strap design the original bags have gone into the store – only two remain!

The SRT rope has been used as usual only a few times
throughout the year.  The committee
sanctioned the use of the 100M bluewater SRT rope for use on the club trip to
the PSM to supplement the rope being purchased by the members who went.  I would like to see greater use of club rope
on exploratory caving expeditions as well as tourist trips abroad as this would
help those younger members who cannot afford the expense of rope purchase for a
single trip – food for thought.

The SRT rope is nearing the stage when it should be tested
and I would recommend that a drop test rig is constructed to test some samples
of cut off lengths of the rope we have. The rig could also be used to test ropes belonging to members and other
caver’s, a fee could be charged for the hire of the rig.

Finally, I have held the position of Tackle Master for some
years and I have decided that the time has come to let some one else have a go.
I will therefore, not be standing for the committee this year and would like to
thank all those members who have assisted in tackle making and the like which
has made my job easier. I would like to give particular thanks to Jake and
Richard Blake who have been making ladder over the last few months.

S.J. McManus. October
1991.

© 2024 Bristol Exploration Club Ltd

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