The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Ted Humphreys
 


Cover Pictures: Hopefully there will be six colour photos on
the cover, depending on what the printers can do.  Two are of White Pit by Prew (one showing Mr.
Edward Masters, the friendly landowner, admiring the pretties) and four of the
Grass/Jarratt Cuban expedition.  For the
location of the Cuban shots see J’Rat’s article!

1992 – 1993 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            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor

 

Editorial

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!  This will probably be my last BB as I intend
to tender my resignation at the January committee meeting (I need the time and
my computer for other things).  My
probable successor will be Rob Harper, who has a better printer anyway.  Please give him all support!  I would like to thank all those who have
supported me and/or the BB over the years.

Please send more articles; I’ve had no major ones since the
end of September.  Lots of promises but
no deliveries!  If I hadn’t managed to
hold back a few, this BB would have been very thin for a Christmas one.  They should be sent to me for time being
(I’ll forward them).

Correspondence

14:11:1992

Dear Ted,

I see that after J’Rat’s item in B.B.464 you have asked for
the final results of the two digs mentioned. Unfortunately, there was no result at Cross Swallet.  We were no luckier than any of the other
attempts, both before and after our work there.

The “Smugglers’ Hole” story is in some ways
similar, but in this case the failure was due to a combination of blue sea and
hot sun being more attractive than very sticky yellow clay infilling!

“Smugglers’ Hole” is situated in the side of a
vertical cliff at Northcott Mouth, which is about a mile north of Bude.  It was first brought to my notice, when I was
very young, by my Grandfather, who when he was a boy, together with a friend,
decided to explore it.  Complete with
candles they “went in a very long way” and then there was “a
roaring noise” – They concluded that “it was the Devil” and got
out as fast as they could.

The hole is probably a test hole for minerals, although no
record exists of it as such.  One story
is that it runs under the hill to a farmhouse in an adjacent valley.  In the cellar of this house is supposed to be
a bricked-up doorway, but I have not been able to verify this.

Along the cliff from the Hole there is a landslip called
“Earthquake” and in the vicinity coins have been picked up and other
odds and ends, pointing towards some sort of Monastic building.  Another story links the hole with this
building.

The entrance, in a fault line, is about 8′ high by 3′ wide
and there used to be the remains of steps – now gone leading up to it.  Inside, after a few feet, it enlarges.  In the right-hand back corner and now filled
with shingle is a well that in my Grandfather’s day was filled with fresh water.  Part way along the left-hand wall is a
dog-leg which leads to the choke which is still in the fault line.  This is composed of very sticky yellow clay
that has apparently been washed down the fault and despite working on it for
several years, albeit sporadically, the attractions of sun and sea, mentioned
earlier, beat us!  It is still there if
anyone is interested.

The various trips were noted for several things.  Jim Weeks overturning his M.G. Magnette on a
bend catching glow-worms to spell out B.E.C. at a camp-site – and the club
winning First Prize in Bude Carnival for a decorated trailer.  The £5.00 prize was a welcome addition to the
Club funds.

There is a survey of “Smugglers’ Hole” by Don
Coase in one of the early B.B.’s.

Hope these jottings will be of interest and I would be glad
to help in any way if perhaps they kindle enough interest to have another go at
it.

All the best,

Harry (Stanbury)

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

(Ed’s Note: The final two letters
concern the cartoon in the September BB. I shall make no comment but that none of the captions received (about 10
of them) were printable!  They will,
however, be passed on to REG.)

23:9:1992

Dear Ted,

I have just received the September B.B.  I find the caption competition sickening and
strange.  I see no humour in the recent
unsolved murder it is obviously based on.

I rather hope that response to this competition will be
slight or non-existent. In any case please do not send me the Christmas B.B. if
it continues with this bullshit.

Dave Yeandle.

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

2:10:1992

Dear Ted,

I am grateful to be given the right to reply.

It is of course the job of any ‘real’ artist to comment on
current situations and events, and if these comments provoke a response then
one can claim a certain amount of success.

It is possible that a work of art may provoke hilarity on
one side and outrage on the other and if I have achieved that then I am in good
company.  Did not Rowlinson, Cruickshank,
Spy and more recently Giles and Gerald Scarf provoke similar responses?

It might be suggested that my drawing – if in ‘bad taste’
takes the B.E.C. at its word, certain member’s reactions to it could also be
‘to excess’, in fact it is and likewise described as it must be obvious that
any ‘cartoon’, drawing or other work of art may be seen in various ways.  My work was not intended merely to provide a
cheap joke, although even the world’s worst tragedies can have a humorous side
– this is perhaps one way humans deal with difficult situations.

The drawing should encompass all aspects of reaction and it
was based on snippets of conversation overheard at various times lately.

If I have caused any member ‘distress’ with my drawing, this
was not my intention and I hope this will be accepted.

I am sure no B.E.C. member would suggest captions of racist
nature which would, of course, be unacceptable and for one would object to them
being printed.

Lastly my 1993 Cartoon Calendar is available.  Anyone wishing to purchase a copy can see 14
more drawings – I would welcome comments – this time perhaps – face to face.

REG.

(Ed’s Note: REG’s letter was not specifically aimed at Dave.
 He had not seen Dave’s letter when he
wrote his!)

 

Caving News.

Swildon’s Hole.

There is now a bypass to the six foot drop near the entrance
(that should please Alan Thomas). Looking towards the entrance from below, it is on the right and passes
below the large boulder, where gravel has been washed away, emerging not far
from the start of the Zig-Zags.  Another
gradual change occurring near the entrance is the increasing amount of water
entering the Dry Ways. There is now a stream flowing from the Long Dry Way,
below the Old Grotto and on to the Water Chamber. I wonder if the Wet Way will
eventually become an oxbow.

Access.

There still seems to be some confusion here.  The current rules are as follows:-

The fee is 50p each, payable either in the box near the back
door of the farm or at Homefield Cottage (the new cottage across the road from
Solomon Combe).

Vehicles should be parked, carefully, near the barn.  Parking and changing on the top green is NOT
allowed.  The top green is not a car park
and the locals object to it being used as such. Also, the farmer suspects that some people have been parking there and
then sneaking into the cave without paying. The farm is all private land and there is no right of way without the
consent of the farmer, and that means paying your 50p.

Cavers should always change in the barn.  Do not offend the locals by changing on the
green.  They might be on their way to
church on a Sunday morning and certainly don’t want to see a rowdy rabble
stripping off in public!  The barn, as
you should know, has a new floor, new stairs and lighting, electricity being
provided by the farmer.  Remember to
switch off the lights if you are last out!

I was asked to publish the current rules by Prew and I agree
that it is important.  On a busy Saturday
or Sunday there can be a hundred or more people visiting the cave.  If unrestricted access is to be maintained.
cavers (and others!) must obey the rules, keep a low profile and not antagonise
either the farmer or the locals.

Wigmore Swallet. Contributed by Trebor.

On 27th November ’92, Ross White and Trebor McDonald carried
diving gear into Wigmore to supplement a tank Ross had taken in a week before,
with the aim of diving the downstream part of the main stream.  This follows on from Dany Bradshaw’s passing
of the downstream Sump 1 last year.  The
entrance stream was in full flow after heavy rain over the previous week or so
and a sizeable stream was running down the entire length of the cave, joining
an impressive flow in the “main drain”.  A large bank of foam was stuck to the
upstream end of downstream Sump 1.  Foam
and other flood evidence was noted some 1.5 – 2m up the walls beyond Sump 1.

Ross, assisted by Trebor, easily passed Sump 1 and inserted
himself into Sump 2 carrying an old SRT bag full of line.  This turned out to be a better method of
lining than using a bulky line reel. Dany’s line reel is still at the end of Sump 1 and may come in handy
later – there are bound to be more bloody sumps!  Sump 2 was about 8m long at about 1.5m
depth.  This emerged into a 20m length of
passage about 1.5m wide containing water and two air-bells, a little like the
air-bells between sumps 2 and 3 in Swildons, only much smaller.  Sump 3 soon followed.  This was some 10m long at 2m depth breaking
out into larger passage similar to that part of the main drain before Sump
1.  After about 25m, a 2m high cascade
was descended to Sump 4, some 10m long and 2m deep.  The line was at its limit at this point but
the diver was able to poke his head out of the water to see a narrow rift about
body width boring off, just off the vertical, certainly caveable but not with
twin kit.  De-kitting in this restricted
area will be a little tedious.  An
uneventful return taking 15 mins ensued.

The next trip will involve surveying the sumps and intervening
passage, estimated at about 100m long, and pushing on along the rift beyond
Sump 4.  Line tying will also be improved
as at present they are only belayed to rather dubious pendants and nodules.  Sumps 2, 3 and 4 are all quite
straightforward and, although not tight, are a little “adjacent,”
necessitating a wriggle around pendants and nodules, similar to some of the
Swildon sumps.  Due to the nature of the
sumps, two 28 cu. ft. tanks are a bit of an overkill and not really needed,
particularly in view of the carry into the cave.  On the next trip the divers will wear one 28
cu. ft. to breathe off and a small 14 cu. ft. tank as a bailout.  This smaller gear will also ease de-kitting
beyond Sump 4.  The 14 cu. ft. tank will
also be more carryable through the terminal rift to take a peek at the
inevitable sump beyond.

The cave now has 4 downstream and 3 upstream sumps.  Keith Savory is still beavering away at the
rather unlikely upstream Sump 3.  The
downstream passage is not getting any bigger, in fact rather smaller, but the
rock does seem to be changing to shale or perhaps even limestone so it may go
big beyond the terminal rift – “Please God”.  Too many more sumps and the logistics will
start to get silly.

Latest: On Saturday 12th December, Trebor and Ross dived
again.  Downstream Sumps 5 and 6 were
passed.  Trevor tells me that the passage
trends eastwards (the wrong way!) and is heading towards large voids detected
in a seismic survey done for the farmer many years ago when he was trying to
decide on the best site to build a barn.

Shute Shelve Cavern.    Contributed by Peter Glanville.

Alan Gray of ACG very kindly took Angie and myself into this
new Axbridge find entered after only a few hours digging on Shute Shelve Hill.  The entrance is gated and lies in one of the
many depressions on the hill side, relics of old ochre mining activities.

Access to the cave will only be in the summer months owing
to the fact that the site is a bat roost. How they got in before the cave was opened is a bit of a mystery!  A short crawl just inside the entrance enters
the first chamber.  A solutional dome
about 6 metres high it possesses quite an attractive stal flow on one wall. The
pleasantly sculpted walls are studded with botryoidal stal and it resembles
some Devon caves.  A corkscrew squeeze
through boulders in one corner (the second breakthrough point) leads into a
wide steeply descending bedding descending over a sandy boulder strewn floor to
an inviting arch (this bit looks like parts of Wookey 20) and a steep loose
climb into the final chamber or mega-passage about 30 or so metres long 10
metres wide and 7 metres high.  This
leads straight into a promising choke which at the time of writing (July ’92)
was being dug.

The whole cave seems to be an old phreatic conduit and
descends inexorably down dip.  Its
current depth is something like 60 metres. The trip is short but interesting and the cave promises to tell us a lot
more about the ancient drainage of this side of Mendip.

Rushy Ground.

Fresh from his 150ft discovery here Tuska Morrison is
digging the adjacent swallet and hopes are high for an imminent
breakthrough.  He thinks these sinks are
feeders to the Wigmore system.

Attborough (Red Quar) Swallet.

Cotham Caving Group diggers have at last broken into open
passage in this cave, some 50 feet of pretty but loose high level chambers
having been explored so far.  Previously
dug by MNRC, WCC, SVCC etc. this is one of the main feeders for the Upper River
Yeo streamway in Wigmore Swallet.

Welsh’s Green Swallet.

About 200 more feet were discovered here earlier in the
autumn containing some Selenite ‘Daggers’. The survey has now been completed and should be available in the New
Year.  Rumour has it that the slope of
the streamway is less than that of the surface above suggesting that cave gets
closer to the surface the further it goes unless some big pitches lie ahead.

White Pit.  Contributed by Andy Sparrow.

White Pit is the very large depression visible from the
Wookey Hole road just outside Priddy. The feature is so obvious that no serious caver could pass by without a
wistful thought of what might lie below. The position over the probable Swildon’s to Wookey streamway has encouraged
speculation that the site could provide a backdoor into that elusive
system.  Now, after perhaps 100 years of
speculation, White Pit has begun to reveal its secrets.

Dave Morrison (Tuska) negotiated digging access and during
last autumn, Hymac technology was applied. The machine gouged out a 30 foot hole and released a powerful cold
draught.  There was no obvious entrance
so, shortly afterwards a second excavation was made adjacent to the first.  Still no open passage appeared, but a choked
rift was visible where digging could continue using traditional methods. Using
the Sludge Pit pipes the shaft was lined, and the depression refilled.

Despite the obvious potential of the site it was initially
difficult to recruit a digging team. During the winter of 91/92 Chris Castle, Terry Jessen, Robin Brown, Tom
Chapman and myself cleared a choked rift below the piped shaft to a depth of 10
feet.  In the spring of 92 Phil Romford
and Tim Large joined the team and applied their considerable engineering skills.  The fixed ladder was installed, the unstable
dig lined with concrete, and a new tripod and hauling system installed.

Progress improved thanks to these developments and at about
15 feet below the pipes the first significant cavity, a crouching size chamber,
was squeezed into.  The initial boulder
choked shaft now reached a solid floor and a bedding plane began to reveal
itself.  The regular diggers were now
joined by Tony Jarratt. Trevor Hughes, Brian Murlis, Chris Tozer,
Estelle Sandford, Pete Hellier and Robin Gray.  The dig had now become the main focus for BEC
activity and could not long sustain such an onslaught!

A minor breakthrough took Tony Jarratt into a small chamber
with a choked pot in the floor.  The
First Pot.  The draught whistled up and the
way on was down.  On Wednesday 4th
November during a solo digging session Tony dug into open passage.  Further work that evening saw Tim Large
crawling into a low decorated chamber dominated by a huge talus cone running in
from the depression above.  A way on was
visible between delicate formations; Estelle, Andy (Eyebrow) Sanders, Rich
Blake and Vince Simmonds (both on their first, and extremely well timed, visit
to the cave) began digging a route to avoid these while two other leads at the
breakthrough point were examined.  The
most promising of these led down a rubbly slope into a small phreatic cavity;
later to be known as The Second Pot.

Excited shouts from the diggers brought everyone back to the
chamber.  Vince had pushed down through a
squeeze and had emerged into a second chamber. Estelle was given the new lead. The chamber was about 30 feet long and well decorated with delicate pure
white formations.  The way on was a
phreatic arch to the left.  We followed
Estelle through.

On a personal note – I have a vivid mental picture of
Estelle crawling forward beneath a cluster of long straws, her light revealing
a magnificent array of white formations along the left wall.  As she progressed the passage was silhouetted,
highlighting a beautifully sculpted and scalloped phreatic arch up to 20 feet
across.  After 60 feet the roof shelved
down to the bouldery floor and the breakthrough was at an end.  Everyone was buzzing with excitement.  The groans and exclamations of delight from
the leading explorer resulted in the formations being quickly named Estelle’s
Orgasm.  The extension was named Talus 4
(that night’s Star Trek had featured Talus 4; the forbidden planet).  This area of the cave is now commonly
referred to as ‘The Pretties’.

Over the next week or so a small extension was made through
a low sandy crawl at the furthest point. But after only 15 feet more digging was required and activity focused on
the Second Pot which seemed to take most of the draught.  The floor was lowered over several sessions
until a low choked bedding was revealed. On Monday 30th November a constriction was passed into a short section
of open passage to a semi-choked continuation. Another two hours of work here took Tony Jarratt around an awkward bend
to the head of a 20 foot pot.

A dubious digging rope was belayed to an even more dubious
crowbar wedged over the pitch and the party; Tony, Trevor Hughes, Rich Blake
and myself descended.  It was a
beautifully proportioned pot draped with coffee-coloured flowstone (this, and the
Whisky laced coffee recently consumed from Tony’s flask, inspired the name
Coffee Pot).  There was tremendous
anticipation now that the cave had begun a vertical descent and a real
expectation of further pitches to come. A second free-climbable descent of about 15 feet took us into a large
rift with a boulder choked floor.  A
scramble up a slope to the right took us up into the lofty Master’s Hall (named
after the friendly farmer and landowner) but the prophesised pitch did not
await us.

The next day Tony, Chris Castle and myself returned.  An obvious rift was climbed above the final
boulder choke into a short passage emerging into an impressive open pitch.  A bouldery floor was visible about 50 feet
below and prospects seemed brilliant – Prophesy Pot had been found.

Next evening a pushing team converged on the cave laden with
SRT rigs, bolting kit and nearly enough rope to descend to the hypothesised
streamway 400 feet below!  Naturally such
preparations were the kiss of death for Prophesy Pot which descended 50 feet to
a boulder floor with no obvious way on. A nest of cave pearls at the bottom offered at least some
compensation.  Brian Murlis did a fine
climb over the pitch to discover Brian’s Attic but that way was choked after 30
feet.

That then, is the current situation at White Pit.  Is Prophesy Pot the way on?  Probably, but then where is the draught?  Where does Talus 4 go – Sand Pit?  Where does it come from – is it’s western
continuation to be found through the talus cone, or in the roof of Master’s
Hall?  The only thing we can be
reasonably sure of is that these are early days at White Pit.

Access.

For details of the current access arrangement contact
members of the digging team.  It has been
proposed to gate off The Pretties and impose a strict leadership system for
that area, while allowing less restrictive access to the main cave where most
future work will probably be concentrated.

 

Lechuguilla, New Mexico.

I mentioned in BB No. 463 that several BEC members were visiting
this cave in May ’92.  Not one of them
has written to me about it (though I have recently heard from Gonzo that the
report is now complete and will be available in the new year) so I’m reprinting
the following article which appeared in the U.S. ‘NSS News, June 1992’
magazine.  I haven’t asked their
permission, but I’m sure they won’t mind as I’ve given the correct attribution.

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

International Team Makes Exploratory Dive in Lechuguilla

An international team made up of British, United States, and
Canadian cavers made an exploratory dive in one of Lechuguilla Cave’s deep
lakes during an expedition in May. Leading the expedition were Peter Bolt of the United Kingdom and John
Schweyen of Glen Rock, New Jersey.

Plans called for the group to dive in the Lake of the White
Roses at the deepest point in Lechuguilla Cave, both to determine if passable
cave openings continue underwater and to collect water samples before any
activity and at various depths for scientific analysis.

A total of 27 people in separate teams participated in the
expedition, including 15 from the United Kingdom, eight from the U.S., and four
from Canada. Park cave specialists accompanied the expedition.

Other deep lakes in Lechuguilla Cave which may contain
explorable water-filled passages are Lake Castrovalva and Stud Lake.

Superintendent Elms stated that the leaders and team members
of the expedition are experienced and well-known cave divers and that emphasis
will be placed on carrying out the expedition safely, as well as in a manner
that will assure protection of the cave resources.

Lechuguilla Cave, located near the northern boundary of
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is the nation’s deepest cave, formerly at 1565
feet, and has been mapped to a length of approximately 60 miles.

From Louise Hose’s Trip Report of May 15 via CaveNet,
“the furthest extent of the dive was just over 99ft below MNBX24.  This dive clearly removes doubt about the
claim that Lechuguilla is the deepest explored cave in the United States.  It will probably still fall a little short of
500 m depth …. ” Bolt ” … called the dive because of a jammed
dive reel.” Bolt’s exploration was of great depth, “some horizontal
passage, two air-filled domes, and a subaqueous chamber.”

Caver concerns about the dive included possible
contamination of a significant data base, potential damage to the cave, safety
and difficulty arguments.  Louise, in
summary, felt “completely satisfied that the ‘cost/benefit’ was acceptable
… there was no more damage done to the cave than caused by other camps.  The effects on the data base are really
unknown but I am inclined to believe that they were minimal.  The concerns about difficulty and safety
proved baseless … I am impressed by the team members, their efforts, and the
Park Service handling of the project.” She congratulated “the British team for their success at establishing
a new depth record for the United States and doing so with panache.”

 

Cuban Collector’ Items

This years Grass/Jarratt “rest & recce.”
holiday was to the tourist resort of Varadero on the north coast of Cuba.  The town lies on the Hicacos Peninsula – an
18.6km long by 700m wide strip of low lying limestone and sand.  It boasts one of the world’s finest beaches
and facilities for tourists are excellent.

The Matanzas region. in which Varadero is situated, is
famous for its many cave systems, particularly that of the Cuevas de Bellamar.

Cuban speleology has been thriving for well over forty years
and there are some six thousand cavers on the island which is about the same
size as England.  The Sociedad
Espeleologica de Cuba is divided into regional sections and it is interesting
to note that each section is provided with a new motorbike and sidecar by the
government.  This may have something to
do with the fact that Fidel Castro himself is a member!

Few visits have been made here by western Europeans – the
exception being the recent series of trips by the Westminster Speleological
Society.  They have concentrated on the
Pinar del Rio area in the western highlands of the country.

This being a holiday trip, we had nothing planned or
organized but had a contact in Havana Roberto Gutierres Domech – whom I had met
at a B.C.R.A. conference a couple of years ago. Following a phone call to Roberto and a visit with his mate Franco we
obtained the (wrong) phone number of Ercilio Vento Canosa – head of the
Matanzas group.

During a week of abortive phone calls to Ercilio we managed
to visit several local caves mentioned in the “Guide to Varadero” by
Antonio Nunez Jimenez.  Senor Jimenez is
the Casteret of Cuba and has written numerous books and articles on the
country’s caves over the past forty years. Every cave visited was in some aspect a “collector’s item!”

La Gruta

This 20m long phreatic tunnel is situated in Varadero’s
central park.  It is probably a fragment
of a once larger system and is only a few metres above sea level.  There is no potential for extension but many
happy hours could be spent here as it operates as an underground bar!  The Moquitos rum, lime juice, bitters, mint
and soda water are particularly fine.  To
cap it all, the cave is situated beneath the “Belfry” (La Campana)
restaurant.

Cueva de Cepero or
Cueva de Saturno

See separate article. (While Jane dived I stepped in piles of Cuban crap!)

Cuevas de Bellmar

This famous show cave was discovered in February 1861 by a
local quarryman, but was not explored until April of that year by Don Miguel
Santo Pargas, who then made the cave accessible to casual visitors.  Unfortunately this resulted in considerable
vandalism, particularly from a ship load of English sailors.  By the early 1900s the cave had become a
tourist attraction and better protected. It is still worth a visit and there are some impressive formations
though some of the fantastic displays of helectites are gone forever.  Our first visit was to the tourist section
and we were guided by Heriberto Iglesias, an enthusiastic but ill-equipped
local caver.  When he realised we were of
like mind he offered us a trip into the undeveloped sections on the following
day.  This offer was duly accepted and an
excellent trip was had through a couple of kilometres of badly damaged but still
spectacular phreatic tunnels and crawls at both ends of the tourist
section.  Caving gear for the occasion
consisted of shorts or Rohans and T-shirts though Heriberto was only wearing
swimming trunks and Cuban heel boots!  We
realised why when we had to follow him through a refreshing neck deep
duck!  We were quite impressed and when
he asked if his borrowed Petzl Zoom was waterproof we assured him that it would
be O.K. if dried in the sun.  Without
further ado he disappeared into a 10ft. long sump!!!  We were even more impressed – not even Chris
Castle takes the tourists through those bits. Martin and I then joined him via either the sump or a by-pass crawl and
alternated on the way back, the sump being shorter as I had drunk most of it.

Back out to surface after a great trip to quench our raging
thirsts in the adjacent Bar Estalactitas. Herbiberto is now the proud owner of the Zoom lamp so nothing can stop
him.

Cueva de Ambrosio

Situated about 2m above sea level on the Hicacos peninsula
and only a few kms from our hotel, this archaeological cave is renowned for its
Pre-Columbian Indian pictographs, two of which appeared on Cuban postage
stamps.  We were surprised to find the
entrance gate removed and open access. Despite this the fifty red and black geometric drawings are well preserved
and there is little modern graffiti. This situation may well change soon due to the ever increasing number of
hotels being built nearby.  One natural
access control is the large number of big bats inhabiting the cave and which
dive-bomb those visiting the darker passages, much of the system being
illuminated through natural skylights in the ceiling.  The underground scenery here is particularly
fine due to these “windows” and the profusion of roots and creepers
hanging in festoons from them.  Insect life
is also well established and mega cockroaches added to the “Temple of
Doom” atmosphere.  Several of the
pictographs have been added to by early Cuban setters and Negro slaves.

Some nearby rock shelters with pictographs and peculiar
eroded rock pillars were also examined.

Cueva de Pirata

An expensive but easy trip was undertaken here in the
company of two hundred others, a band, several singers and a bevy of semi-clad
Mulatto chorus girls!  This large, single
chambered cave hosts the local cabaret show and though not a patch on the
Tropicana in Havana it is well worth a visit. Not much in the way of calcite formations but the flesh ones were
impressive.  A good place for next year’s
B.E.C. dinner.

Cueva del Hombre
Muerto

Dead Man’s Cave is famous in the Varadero area due to the
finding of the miraculously preserved body of an Italian hermit some years
after his death in the cave.  After a
lengthy search we found it in the centre of a village on the outskirts of
town.  Much to the amusement of a horde
of locals we put on boots and prepared our lamps only to find the cave was not
long enough for three of us to enter at the same time!  Despite this it was another “collector’s
item”, being full of disused callipers complete with boots.  I can only suggest that the late hermit had a
very bad case of polio in all of his six legs

Cueva Champion

Situated on the west side of the road 1.3km from Bellamar
towards Matanzas, this system is supposedly very extensive, though we only
explored a few hundred metres due to lack of time and survey.  It was obviously mined for bat guano at one
time and was also the site of an abortive attempt to cultivate mushrooms, hence
the name.  A blasted cutting leads down
to the partly mined entrance where two sets of open steel gates allow easy
access.  Then follows a km or so of
massive phreatic bore tube with the floor extensively excavated to allow
vehicles to drive well into the cave. Despite the obvious human interference there are still many superb
formations in situ including some fine helectites.  Another novelty is found here – underground
steel “telegraph” poles.  A
large mined shaft in the ceiling may have been used for guano extraction and a
set of three wide boreholes entering the roof of a large chamber admit both light
and fresh air.  Beyond the roadway we
visited a series of well decorated chambers ending in low and wet crawls,
presumably the way on.

Back in the main passage several high level inlets were
entered, most being oxbows.  Few bats
were seen, probably due to the pervading smell of smoke caused by locals
lighting bonfires in the entrance – to cook the rotting dead horses which
litter this area?  A return to this
system with the relevant information would be well worthwhile.

Cueva Grande be
Santa Catalina

Eventually we tracked down Ercilio and a trip into this 8km
long system was arranged for the morning of our last day in Cuba.  Ercilio and his friend Juan were collected
from his house in Matanzas, which in itself was worth the visit being the
repository of assorted human skulls, pickled babies, the tiny skeleton of an
Arawak child that had died of syphilis and the full sized mummy of an early
Spanish woman settler hanging up in a cupboard. Medical and caving books plus club stickers filled up the rest of the
space.  It was obvious that we had
stumbled across the Oliver Lloyd of the Carribean!  Ercilio is, in fact, a forensic scientist and
had just finished a 24hr shift at the local hospital.  Like all the Cubans we met he was extremely
hospitable and was quite happy to spend a few hours underground without sleep
or breakfast.

The cave is situated in thick tropical forest some 8m above
sea level in the extensive limestone plain between Matanzas and Varadero and
would have been impossible to find without local guidance.  This is just as well as it is full of some of
the finest formations in Cuba.  The
system is made up of four blocks of passages and is presumably packed into a
small space, its 8km being made up of roomy interconnected chambers divided up
by vast masses of formations.  It is
justly renowned for its “mushroom” stalagmites formed underwater when
the climate was much wetter.  Cave pearls
up to the size of a golf ball and enormous helectites are also profuse.  The only problem with spending too much time
looking up at the pretties is that it is wiser to keep a wary eye on the walls
and floor where menacing looking pseudo-scorpions and tarantulas up to five
inches across are regularly seen but supposedly harmless.  Being an Arachnophobe I was not convinced but
after the twentieth tarantula I was considering taking one home for a pet.  Other insect life included cave crickets,
cockroaches, beetles and a type of hermit crab was also seen.   Ercilio kept trying to find us a snake in
the cave but was unsuccessful.  We didn’t
need his help as on the way back to the car Martin nearly stood on a four foot
plus, sunbathing Cuban Boa.

Apart from the animal life the cave has also been a refuge
for man over the years.  Arawak Indians
left pictographs throughout this complicated system and it is possible that
these correspond to the vandalistic painted arrows of the present day, namely –
route markings.  One area of the cave
hold the remains of the fireplaces of escaped negro slaves and in another
chamber the remains of a wall built from broken stal was evidence of
anti-revolutionaries who hid in the cave in the late 1960s.  Ercilio, a dedicated caver, did not let this
stop him in his explorations and used to carry a gun with him which he
apparently regularly used.

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

So ended our few days of novelty value caving.  We can recommend Cuba for its caves and
people but take your own food – rice and black beans get boring.  It is difficult for the locals to buy food,
booze, fuel or clothing, everything being rationed due to the problem with the
U.S.A.  Be prepared to give kit away and
barter for souvenirs.  I exchanged video
tapes and tins of Tulip ham for rare cave stamps wanted by Ray Mansfield.  Great holiday – thanks Martin.

Tony Jarratt.   August. 1992.

Refs:

  1. Cuba
    Contact ’88 Westminster Speleo Group Bull. 9(5) 1989
  2. Guide
    to Varadero Antonio Nunez Jimenez 1990
  3. “Descubrimientos
    de Nuevas Pictografias Realizidas en el Pais”, Revista de la Junta
    Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia, Havana 1961, Manuel Rivero de la
    Calle

 

Ode To A Digging Bag

Oh mighty woven digging bag
how will you hold that heap of clag,
as dragged to surface, way above
by filthy hand in sweaty glove.

While curses rend the airless cave
and knackered diggers scream and rave
you travel upwards, so sublime
exuding water, grit and slime.

In Wigmore, Bowery and Stock Hill
your poly skin has had its fill.
Now full of holes and brown with clay
– like Gobshite’s shreddies – “had their day”.

Great bag that’s done such honest toil
and broken backs with weight of spoil,
one question small before we sup,
“why the fuck does Trevor FILL YOU UP?”

J’Rat

 

A Cuban Dive or How To Get In C.T.S.

By Jane Jarrat

Regular readers of Tony’s holiday section of the BB will
know of my caving exploits over the years i.e. most of the tourist caves plus
entrance, car parks, near-by bars and beaches of many others.  So this holiday in Cuba was a refreshing
change as I went diving every morning, leaving him on the beach, promising as
soon as we get back, ‘we’ll do something’ (how often have I heard those
words!)  And it was not without a small
degree of smugness that I left him sitting on a boulder one day whilst I
undertook my first cave dive.

Cepero or Saturn’s Cave in Varadero is a large daylight
chamber, full of old stal. sloping down to a green pool.  Martin had dived it a couple of years before
and thought I would like to have a go. When we arrived, we discovered it was the local kids’ leisure centre as
about twenty of them were jumping off a huge stalagmite into the water and
generally enjoying themselves (many of them female, 14 years old, brown.
lithesome and clad in wet T-shirts – disgusting, I thought!)

We had borrowed kit from the hotel which also provided a
diving instructor/guide, Pepe.  He
insisted we go down with him separately as it was ‘very dangerous’ (a German
had drowned there a month before) and we were to follow him closely and do as
we were told.  (Martin was unusually
quiet during this lecture but the following day I found out that Pepe had got
the sack but nobody knew why!)

The dive was very good. There were three routes, two of about 30m leading to small chambers, the
third one being about 80m long ending in a large chamber containing underwater
columns and straws and about 20m deep.

I had expected to be scared – I mean, I’ve read Darkness
Beckons (well. sold it anyway) – but with warm water and crystal clear
visibility.  I honestly don’t see what
this cave diving fuss is all about. Wookey Hole can’t be that different!

So, if you read this, Rob, and need a bit of a hand, I’m
free for the Bahamas ……

Ref: Grass M. CDG Newsletter No
101. Page 33.

* Current Titles in Speleology –
Ed. Ray Mansfield Pub. B.C.R.A.

 

BU 56. 1991

by Rob Harper

By the summer of 1991 the Keith Sanderson Continental Caving
Circus which last graced the pages of the BB regarding the Sima GESM had become
a regular habit.  Caving trips to the
Dent de Crolles and the Badalona B15 to Bl exchange (plus a short canyoning
trip to Mallorca by the provisional KSCCC) had left all the regulars with an
urge to try something a bit bigger.

There was really only the one unanimous choice; Laminako
Ateak in the Spanish Pyrenees otherwise codenamed BU56.  In the world rankings at that stage it was
officially the fourth deepest.  However
to our way of thinking it was the world’s deepest real cave since it only had
the one entrance whereas all those above it had only got into top slots because
successively higher entrances had been found. To get to and from the sump 1325m below the entrance requires a round
caving trip of about 20 km with no easier alternative.

It is situated at an altitude of 1980m on the North edge of
the Sierra de Budogia near Isaba which is just over the border into Spain.  For those of you who know the area; if you go
over the col from Pierre St. Martin into Spain then the Sierra de B. is the
mountain range on the far side of the valley on your left as you descend to the
plain.

Just for a change we had no great difficulty in getting
participants – at first.  Everyone wanted
to come – including Bob (“Dalek”) Balek from the BPC.  As time went on only Keith, Mark Madden (C),
Dalek and I seemed to be constants in an ever-changing population.  However by the end of May we had assembled a
group consisting of the above plus Mike (“Slug”) Hale, Rhys Watkins
and Colin (“The Scrounge”) Jackson from the Bradford. John (“JJ”)
Bevan and Steve (“The Prat”) Gray from the NCC, Andy Tharratt from
ULSA, Barry Rhodes and Andy Hommeini from the Burnley, with Snablet to help
uphold the honour of the BEC.

As usual we all skived off and let Keith do the hard and
boring work of arranging permissions, telephoning the           Spanish, photocopying surveys etc.  In retaliation he bombarded us with the
equivalent of a small forestry plantation in paperwork which meant that by the
time we left we not only knew all about the cave and the surrounding area but
also a welter of detail right down to the nearest barman’s father’s hernia
operation.

Actually getting permission to do the cave is a real problem
since access is theoretically limited to ‘scientific’ trips only.  The first scam that was suggested was water
sampling.  That was dropped when we
worked out the weight of water that someone (there were never any names
mentioned but we always assumed it would be Dalek) would have to carry out of
the cave.  Then came the Radon scam.  It was absolutely perfect for our
purposes.  The detectors were tiny and weighed
next to nothing.  They had to be in the
cave for several months so that we need only take them down and retrieving them
would be someone else’s problem.  Would
they fall for it?  There were a few tense
weeks then we were officially granted permission for a Radon survey in the
cave.

Eleven twelfths of the party promptly forgot about the Radon
survey.  But the token grown-up that
always seems to emerge on these trips turned out to be Slug which may come as a
surprise to those who know him.  He took
it on himself to mother those little Radon detectors and make sure they did
whatever it was that they were supposed to do. They certainly did not bother any of the rest of us until several months
after the trip but more of that anon.

July came and with it the awful spectre of travelling on the
first ferry of the school holidays. Every bit as bad as we had feared; obnoxious kids disgorging from Volvos
and BMW’s crammed the amusement arcades and trampled over bivi-bagged cavers
trying to kip down on the lifeboat decks. A solid day of flogging down the French auto routes then the loom of the
Pyrenees, blue in the distance.  This was
if anything the worst phase.  You felt
that you had arrived but still had several hours of driving to get over onto
the Spanish side.  Weary and pissed-off
in a car, electric with the static compounded of marital strife and
navigational dissent, we blundered into Spain through an untenanted border post
and so to the campsite at Linza – only to find everyone we were expecting to
meet leaving.  Keith stopped for a swift
window-to-window inter-car chat then sped back to his apartment in France.  Mark Madden and Andy Tharratt were setting up
camp whilst Barry Rhodes and his girlfriend Sue had already sussed out Snablet
as a fellow Brit caver and were preparing to head for the bar.  What the Hell?  Let the car unpack itself.

Stunned more by the price than the alcohol content of the
beer we stumbled back to the car and into bivibags all the while vowing an
early start to avoid the heat of the day.

The next day’s early start turned out to be the universally
accepted standard statutory UK caver’s early start, i.e. about 11:00 am.  We drove two miles or so up a rough track to
a stylish mountain refuge just below the Col de Linza then with temperatures
soaring into the nineties we hefted ridiculously heavy packs and plodded upwards.  Overconfidence was nearly our downfall;
assuming that it would be easy to find the entrance everyone decided to take up
all their personal kit and one or two ropes, a tube of carbide, thirty hangers
etc., etc.  After five hours of flogging
into and out of small gullies the only sensible member of the party (Helen)
called a mutiny by sitting on a pile of rucksacks in the shade of the only
sizeable tree for miles and refusing to move until the cave was found.

Whereupon five other members of the party all said,
“You just wait here and I’ll go and look” and promptly disappeared in
five different directions which did of course mean that there were then six
lost units on the mountain instead of one (seven if you count the spectacularly
lost BPC party who had started out after us). For future reference take the path from the Refuge to the Col itself,
cross over and keep to the left hand paths until reaching the flat grassy
meadow (Hoya del Portillo) go straight across until you reach a battered metal
sign, continue over the next small ridge and turn immediately right up a very
steep gully.  Once through a narrow pass
this splits into two smaller gullies, keep to the left until a medium sized
tree is reached.  From here scramble up
to the skyline following a vague line of cairns and then go straight down the
steep gully on the other side to a tiny campsite on a ledge.  To get to the cave itself go to the top end
of the ledge for about 30m to an obvious bolted shaft with the legend “BU
56” spray painted above it.

A party of incredibly knackered, dehydrated and salt
encrusted cavers staggered downhill to the refuge and beer, having collected
the BPC party en route.  It was not until
about the fourth one was sinking slowly in the throat that a micro-census
revealed that we were Maddenless. Fortunately for Dalek he appeared over the skyline just as the rest of
us were voting to send out a one-man search party.

We had a lazyish day next day and in the relative cool of
the evening Mark, Andy Tharratt, Barry Rhodes, Snablet, Helen and I walked up
and bivied by the entrance.  Keith had
already rigged the first three pitches so Mark, Andy and Barry set off early
next morning with the carefully coded tackle bags to rig on down with the
understanding that Snablet and I would leapfrog through and rig to the end of
the main vertical stuff.  Their
organisation was superb, up with the lark and off down the cave.  Helen, Snablet and I gave them about four
hours start and meanwhile busied ourselves collecting snow to melt for drinking
water.

After the agreed four hours and 6 brews had passed Snablet
and I kitted up and off down carrying our carefully coded bags.  The first three pitches are fairly easy
following almost straight on from each other although the second has a slightly
awkward narrow traverse at the top. These lead into the “Meandro N” about 60m of narrow awkward
passage complete with a squeeze, no problem to an anorexic stick insect like
Snablet but to a gentleman of the fuller figure it gave a few interesting
moments.  Halfway along, we passed the
other party on their way out. The pitches afterwards were not particularly
memorable and we soon reached the start of our rigging section and all went
smoothly at first.  Then on our second
pitch, a problem.  We had gone down 30m
or so to the ledge and shuffled across to the eyehole (Snablet sized
again!).  Snablet was through to the
bolts on the other side and demanded the tackle bag with the 50m rope.  Unfortunately, this bag only contained 4m of
rope which on a 50m pitch looked just about as stupid as we felt.

Out to a cold bivi and then off the top in foul weather next
morning.  Staggering through the mist and
driving rain we met a woman apparently dressed only in a cagoule and
boots.  However it later transpired that
Jane Clarke was also wearing shorts and a T-shirt.  She had come up from Barcelona also to help
uphold the BEC honour.

The BPC party were the next into the cave and they finished
rigging the parts that we were supposed to have done which brought them to the
start of the “Meandro Oprimido” and rigged to about halfway along this half
kilometre awkward rift.

By about 5 days into the trip the party had started to
polarise out into small caving groups and so it was no surprise that the Mark,
Andy and Barry were in next to continue rigging the “Meandro Oprimido”and carry
tackle in to dump at the bivi site in the “Sala Roncal” which is about 2km into
the cave and about -750m depth on the understanding that the BEC party were to
try and rig to the bottom from there.

The girls all pushed off to go walking in the Monte Perdido
area and Snablet and I walked up to the ledge to bivi and be ready for an
earlyish start next day.  Early morning
was glorious – breakfasting out on the sun drenched limestone watching the
choughs wheeling around in the valley below and, best of all, thick rain clouds
hanging over France.  Then these grey
faced old men who had been young men only the day before staggered in from the
cave after a gruelling sixteen hour trip. We could put it off no longer. After all the honour of the BEC was at stake.

Into wet-suits as we had been told that the cave was
extremely wet below the “Sala Roncal”. We slid off down thecave and as it is usual on these trips, only met up
again sporadically until the start of the “Meandro Oprimido”.  Although the published articles make much of
this we found it no great problem just a little tedious.  There is quite a lot of level changing in the
first half but after the pitches it tends to settle down to a sideways shuffle
at the lowest level then debouches into a ginormous rift chamber.  Here we met Colin and Andy Hommeini who had
just popped in for a short tourist trip.

From this rift the passage dropped steadily down a superb
river passage complete with small climbs and cascades and occasional oxbows to
a low sandy crawl where previous parties had cached some sleeping bags,
karrimats and an inflatable boat, Snablet was all self-contained but I stopped
to stuff a sleeping bag into my tackle sack. Coming out of the crawl was a shock to the system straight onto a
boulder pile over 80m in heigh, over the top (literally in our case since we
missed the well marked path) and on down to the flat area next to the very
small cascade where most parties bivouac. This was more akin to underground fell walking than caving.

Here we dumped our bivi gear.  Having seen how much tackle had been left in
the cave by previous parties Snablet and I decided to chance travelling light
with only two ropes in the expectation that most of the pitches and traverses
below the “Sala Roncal” would be rigged – fortunately we were right.  Even more fortunately the only rope we had to
cut up belonged to ULSA.

The next pitch was somewhat acrobatic and landed on a ledge
with the river thundering away 20m or so below. Setting off down one of the two in-situ ropes with the time honoured
shout of “Geronimo” I was somewhat chastened to discover that I was
on the wrong one – to wit the one that ended in a tattered frayed end about 10m
above the floor of the passage.  No
matter; back up the pitch and down the other – this also ended some
considerable distance off the floor.  In
order to save rope I got Snablet to hack off the rope I was not on, (“NO SNABLET THE RED ROPE!!!!”),
and slide it down to me.  A short
knot-tying and passing session and we were down in the main river.

From here the trip just got better and better.  Cascades, swims and small traverses led to an
old high level series with fantastic formations in huge passages.  From here down a slope of gour pools to a
couple of hundred metres of smallish passages leading to a duck and then back
to the river again by this time much bigger having gathered a few inlets.  As is common in continental caves there were
many high level traverses which were festooned with anything up to five
abandoned ropes, (in one instance there was unused rope just lying still coiled
on a ledge).  However we cheerfully
clipped into as many as possible since the bolts were to say the least
unreliable and up to 20m or so of free fall potential tends to sharpen the
self-preservation senses a tad.

Eventually the traverses ended and we were back at water
level for half a kilometre or so until we could hear the dull roaring of the
last two pitches ahead.  All the
descriptions had said that these were terrifying but could be bypassed by
someone climbing back over from the other side. However we found a rope hanging out of the roof.  I looked at Snablet and he looked at me.  Then working on the principle that if it
would hold me it would hold anyone I set off up and was relieved to find almost
the only really good rigging in the lower part of the cave as I hauled out over
the top.  From here it was just plodding
along large sandy floored passage and down mud slopes back to the river and the
sump.  BEC stickers were left.  Snablet’s hip-flask was drained and then the
long plod out to the bivi-site reached after almost 18 hours of non-stop
caving.

After a short brew we both crashed out for 12 hours to be
rudely awoken by Mark Madden and Andy Tharratt on their way to the bottom.  They stopped for tea and then pushed off
down.  Minutes later Snablet and I heard
the sound of someone coming back up the passage.  It had taken the knot I had tied in the ropes
below the “Sala Roncal” to remind Mark Madden that he had left his hand jammer
at the entrance.  Fortunately I always
carry a spare and I tried not to look too smug as I handed it over.  We did mean to get up then but one brew led
to another and it was eighteen hours after we had arrived back at the bivi
before we actually got going.  Then
twelve hours of steady caving to get out to a glorious hot Spanish afternoon
and an even more glorious cup of tea.

Of the thirteen cavers on the party eight managed to get to
the bottom of the cave.  We had used
almost no rope below the “Sala Roncal” so the last party out (the BPC + Steve
Gray) were able to de-tackle almost all the way to the entrance in one incredible
effort.

Incidentally the Radon results came through many months
later showing abnormally high levels in the “Sala Roncal” area.  We are still waiting for Snablet to stop
glowing in the dark.

In summary; a brilliant trip in a wonderful area with great
companions.  If you get the chance to do
it don’t hesitate – go.

 

Caving On Bonaire

by Peter Glanville

Continuing the BEC’s search for new caving regions to
explore I organised the first speleological reconnaissance trip to Bonaire last
autumn.  Unknown to me, one island over
(Aruba) Martin Grass was doing the same which only leaves Curacao to be
examined.  I have to say that world
length and depth records are unlikely to be achieved in Bonaire and the river
caves aren’t very big either.

Bonaire lies 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast.  The car number plates leave one in no doubt
as to what the main attraction of the place is i.e. “The Diver’s
Paradise”.  But that is another
quite different story.  According to the
Underground Atlas there were no references to karst features on Bonaire but on
our arrival it was quickly clear that a large proportion of the island is
covered in high quality reef limestone lying on a base of volcanic rock.  The wave pounded east coast, exposed to the
constant trade winds, possesses lines of low cliffs studded with fossil coral
and eroded into a viciously sharp maze of limestone edges.

The map and guide books showed locations marked ‘grotto’,
Fontein and most excitingly Spelonk. Diving was the main objective however (and some medical education) so
cave hunting took place to and from dives or in the early morning.  The first caves we found were very shallow
but well visited.  They seemed to be on a
wave cut platform a long way from the sea and probably represent old sea
caves.  Certainly on the opposite side of
the island there was one massive arch set high up and back from the current
coast line.  The caves are of interest
mainly because they contain Arawak indian inscriptions which nobody seems to
have managed to decipher.

At Fontein water was flowing from somewhere to supply a
small experimental farm.  Half an hours
search in a sort of Lost World landscape inhabited by huge but only half seen
iguanas and massive spiny green melon cacti, got us to a series of old water
tanks fed by a small stream.  This
emerged from a steamy short and seemingly semi artificial cave.  The cave harboured a couple of bats and was
interesting for the massive pillars of calcited tree roots in the final chamber
10 metres from the entrance.

The limestone cliffs above Fontein are a climber’s paradise
and are probably totally virgin.  There
were a number of small phreatic cavities at their base filled with dry stal.

Our searches for Spelonk were unsuccessful.  There are few good roads on the island and
the tourist map was useless.  Our
appetite had been whetted by the guide book description of two caves one of
which was 300 feet long 66 feet wide and 13 feet high containing many stal
columns and many rock drawings.  A walk
in would seem to be the best way to find the caves but the terrain is very
rough on the feet.  Near Spelonk there
were solutional features in the limestone beds on the coast i.e. miniature
bedding collapses and caves.   There
should be some good blue holes here in a million years or so!

Bonaire is a small island (26 miles by 7 miles) and apart
from a rather incongruously sited oil processing station has little to support
its 11,000 strong population other than tourism and the salt pans in the
south.  The tourist accommodation is
expanding but the place does not exude the razzamatazz of some other Caribbean
islands.  A far sighted policy of making
the entire coastline to a depth of 200 feet into a national park has resulted
in virtually undamaged coral reefs, mostly only a short swim from the
beach.  A national park in the hilly
north of the island supports populations of iguanas and flamingos as well as
other bird species.

To get there one flies KLM from Heathrow via Amsterdam.  Some travel agents will book a package type
holiday there.  If you are into diving in
a big way I can recommend it.  If you do
go and you find Spelonk, let me know.

 

Ten Go Caving In Sutherland

by Peter Glanville

The story so far.  A
motley group of west country cavers have travelled north of the border in two
successive years in a desperate urge to find new caves, new worlds to conquer,
to boldly go …. Whoops!  Sorry about
that, we’ll start again.

Enough enthusiasts remained from the last two trips to mount
a third.  With Nick Williams and a
MOLEPHONE in our armoury there were high hopes of making progress in ANUS
cave.  Unfortunately the weather on this
occasion failed to come up to expectations. Water came from the sky at all speeds and in all forms.  Stream levels rose and remained high for
virtually the whole week which had, I suppose, the virtue of concentrating our
minds on a limited number of sites.

Day one dawned sunny. While some team members visited ANUS the divers headed for the salmon
farm in Loch Cairbawn after getting air from Jimmy Crooks at Lochinver. We
emerged from the depths with several small plaice, numerous long armed squat
lobsters and many scallops all destined for the pot.  By this time the weather had begun to
deteriorate and it was with reluctance that a small group of us started up the

ANUS valley carrying assorted bite of diving kit.

This proved to be the first of the daily treks up the
glen.  The varied weather conditions
helped to relieve the tedium as did the sight of large herds of deer down by
the stream bed.

Peter Mulholland proved he was a priceless addition to any
expedition by cooking a gourmet meal that evening using the morning’s catch
which had been prepared by Tony Boycott and Julian Walford who only just made
it back in time for the last few morsels.

The Allt bar found favour this year as the watering
hole.  As the Inchnadamph Hotel is up for
sale it will be interesting to see where cavers go in the future.

Day two began lousy and got worse.  We plodded our way up to ANUS cave in rain of
steadily increasing intensity wellies were the order of the day.  Getting changed was misery.  I changed in the cave entrance feet from the
raging torrent pouring down the normally dry stream bed.

The plan was for Pete and myself to dive through to ANUS2
with a MOLEPHONE, set it up at various locations and broadcast to the surface
in an attempt to radio locate the nearest point to ANUS 1 or the surface.

The dive was murky in a strong current and sump 2 was found
to be in existence.  However no real
problems were encountered and we soon had the aerial set up for the first
transmission.  Peter alternately bleeped
and broadcasted on a three way link with the surface and the digging team while
we munched Angie Glanvill’s famous apple cake. Hearing the weather report from the surface we felt incredibly snug in
our dry sandy niche.  After another
broadcast from Sotanito Chamber we moved to Sump 4 via the traverses we had
decided were the fastest route last year.

Evidence that dry exploration would yield dividends was
reinforced by our noticing a circular hole in the roof near Sump 4, clearly
leading to a higher level.  Water was
pouring out of the inlet by Sump 4. Weather conditions on the surface were still atrocious and we began to
feel really sorry for the soggy band trudging around the rain lashed hill side
waiting to hammer in wooden marker stakes.

We slowly made our way out taking photos.  On the far of the sump we found virtually
everybody apart from a few diehards had done a bunk.  We forgot about changing and squelched our
way back to the car.

Pete Mulholland decided the next day was the one to do a
surface survey of the ANUS valley in order that we could tie in the radio
location points.  Fun was had at the
waterfall when Pete detailed me to measure its height.  Lobbing the tape over the edge proved to be
tricky in the strong up glen wind.  We
achieved the task just before hypothermia set in and warmed up by taking
pictures in ANUS cave.  Tav appeared at a
late stage in the proceedings – he had been caught in a hailstorm of such
ferociousness that he had had to prostrate himself in the heather until it
passed.

The following day we returned yet again and, with the help
of Tony Boycott, transferred kit down to a shake hole at the fork between the
ANUS and Claonite valleys before taking pictures of the bone caves.  Pete and I, gluttons for punishment, then
went on a photo trip to Cnoc nam Uamh bumping into Trevor Knief, Pete Rose,
John Kidd and Ken Passant on one of the two caving trips they did.  Water levels were impressively high.

The next day after a trip to collect air and after waving
good bye to Pete,  John and Trevor
(defeated by the weather) we picked up Goon (Alan Jeffries) and headed for no,
YOU Guess!

Goon proved to be action man, racing up the hill with the
heaviest bottle which made youngsters like Pete and I feel like wimps.  Mind you, with the holes in his wetsuit, he
had to move fast to keep warm.  The
transport of three sets of kit into Claonite is almost unheard of and proved,
in the high water conditions, to make the trip very slow.  Sump one bypass with an airspace of only
6″ added to the fun.  Goon kept up
the light relief by dropping a tank in Bottomless Pillar pool.  The cascades and waterslides were horrendous
death traps and we were glad to reach the tranquillity of the sump three pool .

All the kit worked at sump three apart from Goon’s valve
which delivered a 50/50 water/air mixture but got him through.  Beyond sump three is a high narrow cross rift
which soon turns into a low boulder grovel by the stream.  An inclined bedding plane, awkward with
diving kit, leads off above and parallel to the streamway which drops into sump
4.  A most unlikely hole in the roof opens
into the base of a loose looking boulder pile (Fawlty Towers) before a climb
down to the stream.  This flows down a
shallow ramp into the wide sump 5 pool. One tug on the diving line and it came out severed by floods.

We relined the sump using some sewing thread Pete had on a
line reel instead of proper diving line. The sump is shallow and easy and ends up in a little boulder ringed
pool.  A stepped ledge a few metres ahead
yields the promise of a bypass to the next sump.  Goon remained at Sump 5 preferring to
cultivate his hypothermia.  Pete and I
found 6 to be only a few yards from 5.  A
sort of cat’s cradle of blue polyprop hung above the sump pool with one end
leading in a positive way into the pool. An experimental tug suggested it was belayed “somewhere”.  Pete then decided he was not in a sump
pushing mood which left us with two large tanks at the sharp end. There was no
option but for yours truly to have a go. Kitting up with Pete’s kit proved to be awkward and I entered the low
bedding plane at the start of the sump in a less than positive state of mind
carrying sewing thread and line reel. The presence of a ‘snoopy loop’ on the floor of the sump seemed to
suggest someone had been through before. I followed the line into a wider section of passage which led to the
right and began to ascend.  By now,
though, my mask had begun to flood and all my kit was snagging.  I backed out, turned round and retreated,
defeated.  Getting out proved to be easy
and in a few minutes we were reunited with Goon.

The trip out proved no less eventful than the trip in with
Pete losing a bottle in Cavity Wall Passage. After 7 hours we eventually emerged in daylight.  Back at the hut all was hush – the family
section of the GSG, fresh from new hut construction, were quietly settled
reading when we burst through the door. The British Museum Reading Room atmosphere lasted for an hour before
there was a sudden and mass exodus to the pub.

The next morning dawned sunny and clear.  Pete, Ken and I departed for Lochinver for
some air and a dive.  The dive proved to
be successful as far as my ambition to photograph sea pens goes, but due to a
misunderstanding about compasses the two Petes spent the last of the dive
swimming about trying to find the shore!

After packing for the return south the next day we drove
round to Stac Pollaidh.  Ken went for a
stroll on the coast having been up with Pete Rose and co. a couple of days
earlier.  We got to the top in 45 minutes
then weaved and scrambled our way to the seaward summit ‘prow’.  In the golden light of mid evening the view
in all directions was magnificent, north across the blue reticulated pattern of
Lochans to the rearing bulk of Suilven and west to the Summer Isles.  To the east lay ranges of snow capped mountains
fringed by low banks of cloud.

We reluctantly returned to Ken and drove into Ullapool for a
late but excellent chilli bean casserole at the Ceilidh Place
(recommended).  By the time we got back
to the hut it was late.  Stepping outside
the hut for a quick pee, I noticed a cloud which came and went rather
fast,  the Northern Lights.  We spent a happy hour gazing at the natural
light show flickering over our heads until fatigue overcame us.

This was a week unlike the other two the group splintered into
several teams all doing their own thing. From an uninspiring beginning it ended
on a high note.  I know one thing – given
half a chance I’ll be back next year!

Sutherland Update. Goon returned to Sump 6 and got as far as being able to see down a wide
open 1.5 metre passage.  He also
discovered Sump 5 drains off to the right on the far side in dry
conditions.  He then pushed the obvious
bypass mentioned in my report and found a large chamber which returned through
boulders to the streamway and yet another sump. Meanwhile one of the digs near the waterfall above ANUS cave has gone
another 15 metres.  A dry link with
upstream ANUS seems imminent.

 

Club News.

Membership Changes.

We welcome three new members, who are :-

Estelle
Sandford
, Weston-super-Mare
Sean Morgan, Clevedon, Avon
Richard Anthony Lewis, Weston-super-Mare

There are also many address changes.  I have some and John (Watson) has some but
for one reason or another we have not got a complete up-to-date list at
present.  The complete list will appear
in the next BB.

Ian Dear Memorial
Fund
.    contributed by Sett.

The fund was formed when Ian bequeathed £300 to the club ‘to
assist junior members to travel on the continent’.  At that time the investment produced an
annual interest of £25 or so which would have been a major part of a return
fare to the Pyrenees.

Although the Club has since made a substantial contribution
to the fund, inflation, coupled with decreasing interest rates, has reduced the
real value to less than a tenth of that originally available.

At a time when whole world is becoming accessible to the
active caver or climber, this trend looks like it is going to continue.  We anticipate an interesting report from this
years beneficiary who was given a grant of £100 to go to a worldwide conference
in China.

I am asking for help from all Club members to increase the
amount in the Fund.  Contributions will
be welcomed, no matter how small: but more importantly we are appealing for
members to remember the IDMF in their wills. A 1% legacy won’t be missed by you or your beneficiaries.  We also ask those who have had support from
the Fund to donate their original grant, preferably with an allowance for
inflation.

Most of the current membership will not remember Ian, who
was active on Mendip before many of them were born.  He particularly enjoyed his annual holiday in
France and Spain, hence his bequest recognising the needs of future
travellers.  Please help to continue his
spirit of generosity.

 (Ed’s Note: I should
not really complain at this point but would like to point out that neither of
the two members who received grants in 1991/92 has yet written a word!)

Committee Meetings 1993.

The committee thought that members should be informed of the
time and dates of meetings so that they may attend if they so wish.  They are as follows;-

All meetings start at 20.00hrs prompt, and are held at the
Belfry.

Friday   1st January       1993
Friday   5th February      1993
Friday   5th March          1993
Friday   2nd April           1993
Friday   7th May            1993
Friday   4th June            1993
Friday   2nd July            1993
Friday   6h August         1993
Friday   3rd September   1993

Tackle Inventory.

Total ladders accounted for:        11
(assorted lengths)

Total Spreaders:                        7
(all good)       

Stock ropes in store:                  1
x 130ft (Dynamic)
                                                2 x 75ft (Dynamic)
                                                1 x 120ft (Dynamic)
                                                1 x 120ft (Static)

 

Stock ladders in exploration store:           2 (good)

Stock ropes in exploration store:             1 x 250m coil (St.)
                                                            2
x 26m (Dyn.)
                                                            1
x 18m (St.)
                                                            1
x 20m (St.)
                                                            1
x 36m (St.)
                                                            1
x 67m (St.)
                                                            1
x 35m (St.)
                                                            1 x 54m (St.)

Also:     6 Tackle Bags

5 Rope Protectors

1 Touralit Pump and Dies.

Assorted Touralits mostly Imperial.

Ladders under construction ; 3

Keys.

Keys to the Belfry (or any other BEC keys to which you may
be entitled) are available for a deposit of £4 from Nigel Taylor (Mr ‘N’)

A.G.M. 1992.

There was an election this year.  15 stood, 81 voted and those elected are
shown on page one.  I have not yet seen
the minutes so cannot quote the voting figures. These (and minutes) should appear in the next BB.

© 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.