The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not
necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in
general

Editorial

First apologies to all anoraks who noticed the error in the
last BB, which was wrongly numbered.  It
should read as follows: June 2000 Vol.51 No 2. Number 507.   My mistake
entirely.  A prize will be winging it’s way
to the eagle eyed member who spotted this terrible gaffe!.  Please alter your copy accordingly.

Other editorial gibberish is that your Editor might see you
a little more often on a Wednesday evening at the “Hunters” from now
on. I found out what was causing the problem …..

Do keep the articles coming please.  A quick look in the club hut log is enough to
convince me that BEC members actually do go caving – despite rumours from other
tea drinking clubs and so on.  These
short notes can easily be…….nuff said, it’s your magazine!!  Also, pictures and articles are BEST sent to
me on disc or e-mail, pictures as jpeg files and articles as Microsoft word for
windows format.  I can deal with Corel,
but files written in notepad (er Pete Rose please note and thanks for the last
one) take a lot of editing.  In fact, I
have rejected one or two recent articles due to their being excellent but
computer written paper copies that I haven’t the patience or time to copy out
again!!  Send me the bl***dy disc!!  Short articles accompanied by a photograph
and totalling LESS than a page are quite acceptable if you have no access to a
computer (thank you Roger Haskett). Please keep them coming.

Last copy date for articles and pictures for the December
issue is 15th of that month.  Electronic
preferred!- Ed

 

E-mails and other Snippets

Priddy Mineries Reserve

Richard Witcombe and Tony Jarratt have recently been
appointed as joint managers of this Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve.  They will be looking for volunteers in the
summer months for various projects such as repairing the Minery Pool dam, weed
clearing from Waldegrave Pool, etc. These will be excellent public relations opportunities that need your
support.  The fact that Stocks House
Shaft Upstream Level may soon pop out in the Reserve had absolutely nothing to
do with their appointment!

Sad news is the reported death of one of the cavers known to
anyone who visited the

Philippines

as a caver.  The report I received is
short and to the point.

Hey Mike,

I would just like to inform you
that Erwin “Ugadz” Ginson of the

Philippines
died from neck injury
while rafting.

Glenn

“Its either you live with it
or you can eat your heart out”

This E-mail came to me from Dave Irwin.  It refers to Simpson’s Pot, Kingsdale

Hi guys, please spread this
around to anyone who might need to know the place is a bit scary right now, and
is an accident waiting to trap the unwary or inexperienced or unlucky.  If anyone can put up notes in club huts, web-sites
etc, please do.  If some wally goes
getting clumsy in there, it’ll take a long time to dig them out!

The area below the Great Aven in
Simpsons Pot, Kingsdale is dangerously unstable.

A number of large boulders and a
quantity of mud has fallen from beneath the huge jammed boulder which forms the
‘floor’ which you land on descending the Great Aven pitch, threatening to block
the way down into KMC.  One very large
boulder (-3 cu M ) is perched just above the squeeze down at the base of
Simpsons/Swinsto final pitches and seems likely to be knocked further by any
more falls, effectively cutting off this way on.  Philosophers crawl may remain open, but if
the huge boulder comes down this will also likely be blocked.  Looking up, it is difficult to work out what
is holding the rest up, and further collapse seems likely.  For the time being it seems sensible to avoid
descending the Great Aven, and potential through trippers should be aware that
Simpsons/Swinsto through trips may well be impossible, and should bear this in
mind if contemplating one way trips. I’ve sent this to Descent, but that’s not out for a bit, so we printed
some notices at Bernies and put them at the entrances and on the gate and in
Bernies and Inglesport.  Difficult to
know what to do, apart from a very big bomb to sort things out one way or
another.  Any Ideas?

It’s the BPC Presidents meet this
weekend (in Kingsdale) so a couple of us might go have a look see, if anyone
wants to join in, get in touch.  Dave.

Also from Dave Irwin, a short note about the library.  He writes; Several missing copies of B.S.A.
Speleo Abstracts have been replaced by Jim Smart – very many thanks.

Dave has donated a photocopy of “Cave Illustrations
before 1900” by Trevor Shaw – an essential reference work for antique cave
print collectors.

Hidden Earth conference September 15-17th John Williams and
Joel Corrigan will be giving a lecture on their exploits in the Dachstein.  This will be on Sat 16th in the evening

 

“Sago” and “Tich”

By Jan Setterington

As reported in the last BB, Sago Rice died recently and I
also have news of the death of Tich Setterington.  This obituary is for both of these two
“giants” of The BEC.

I’m going to live forever … you will remember my name!
Fame!

Words from the song that are a fitting description of both
Sago Rice and Tich Setterington who both died earlier this year.  They were both “giants” of the
B.E.C. and just as well known and well loved in many areas where their numerous
interests lay – they will both be long remembered and stories will long be told
of their many exploits, achievements and disasters!  Each one of us will have our own particular
memories – let us share them.

Tich was the archetypal “laid back
Englishman”.  Never rushed or harried,
he always gave the impression of calm serenity (although paddling like Hell
under the water – like the proverbial duck) happy in any situation or climate,
conversing ably with the natives in their own language- often in accents and
dialects they couldn’t make head or tail of – but getting his point across
anyway: as happy and at home in Spain, Africa, Russia or Germany as he was in
England.  Some people might say he was
happier in

Spain
,
especially when he had a seat in the shade for the corrida: how excited he was
the first time he saw Manuel Benitez – El
Cordobes
– in the early sixties. Tich recognised that this man would change the face of Bull- fighting
and re-instate it as an art form that matched a newly emerging modem

Spain
.  Whether or not you approve of the corrida, Tich was an aficionado – he
understood bulls, recognised the bravery and artistry of bull and man, and
followed the careers of matadors,
picadors, banderilleros
and bull breeders through Spanish publications,
building an extensive library on the subject.

Although he took to driving late in life and never
understood the workings of the internal combustion engine, Tich was an
accomplished navigator of elderly motor cars. With his friend Alan Hancock he regularly took part in the
London to Brighton Veteran Run and travelled to rallies
around
Europe in Alan’s 1901 Rolls Royce.  Tich once assured me that Alan had allowed
him to drive his old Elmore (an electric car of great age) because he naturally
abused gear boxes and could “bang the thing into drive”.  I can testify to this inability to come to
terms with a manual box when “sitting in the hot seat” while he was
learning to drive …. Maybe it was better that he always settled for an
automatic …

Tich was a microscope man – working for Beck and then for
Zeiss – if you wanted to wind him up you whispered “Hilgar and
Watts” and he exploded: it worked every time to any
child’s delight!

Tich was a bachelor and “uncle” to many adoring
children, especially Julian and Nessy “Sett”.  He treated them as little adults and never
doubted their intelligence or appreciation of any given situation.  This respect was returned and uncle Tich was
more popular than Father Christmas in many households!  Because of his rare blood grouping, the
antibodies it produced and the fact that he was a blue baby, Tich had a link to
thousands of children around

Britain
,
he saved their lives by manufacturing life saving plasma in his blood system –
hence his frequent visits to be wired up at the blood donor centre.

Spending most of his working life in
London
and living for many years in a flat overlooking the “Poly” ground,
Tich was first and foremost a
Rugby player –
playing way beyond the time most blokes hang up their boots.  When he finally retired from the game he took
up golf and spent many happy days trying out various courses around the country
then sampling the local food and beer!

Tich came home to Somerset a few years ago and had latterly
been working on his family history from a flat situated very conveniently, just
behind the Somerset County Cricket ground in

Taunton
. Whether caving, playing rugby or squash or golf, navigating those old
cars or managing the “pits” for his friend Alan during a brief motor
racing career (a pit manager – he didn’t know what a spanner was for!) Tich was
always a sportsman and as age and general wear and tear took its toll he became
an informed supporter.  It was but a
short stroll to a seat in the stands to watch his team take on the country and
the world!  And that, I suppose, is the
abiding memory that I will carry of Tich – a man strolling through life, happy
and secure in his station, without prejudice and offering friendship to all he
met.

Sago exhibited many of Tich’s traits, especially in his
ability to accept all men on their own terms. He appreciated the other fellow’s point of view whilst maintaining his
own, but his opinions could be swayed if a logical enough argument was
produced.  Sago’s Mendip activities,
caving, climbing and motor cycling exploits are well known, often embellished a
little by the man himself!

But how many people on the “Hill” know of his
extensive knowledge of geology and the respect accorded him by university staff
in
Bristol and

Aberdeen
. His geological education started late in life with a

University of
Bristol

extra – mural class and progressed through “O” levels to University
Certificate standard.  He could have
taken his degree, but said he was not dedicated enough to keep up the work –
then set out to make some quite exceptional geological slides and concentrate
on sedimentary rocks and was never happier than splashing about in contemporary
water courses pointing out newly forming structures replicating those lower
down the sequence.

Sago travelled extensively in
Britain,
Ireland, Europe and the
USA in pursuit of his geological hobby, and the
high point of these exploits must have been his visit to
the
Grand Canyon.  He took a very bumpy flight through the
Canyon and produced some brilliant photographs.

Photography was one of Sago’s many interests and for a
number of years he and Graham Robinson belonged to various societies and could
be seen lurking around

Bristol
,
waiting for the perfect shot.  Some of
the best pictures that he took were of English churches and cathedrals giving
life to his love of architecture and history. A trip to a castle or other old building with “Uncle” Sago was
a lesson in history and he enthused many youngsters (and oldsters) with his
graphic stories of long ago battles and intrigues.  He had the knack of making history come
alive, although he was always a little bit biased towards the English!
Historical discourse with Sago was always a pleasure – especially when one was
arguing against him from a socialist stance!!

Ancient man and archaeology figured highly amongst Sago’s
interests and for a number of years he was involved with Peter Reynolds on the
Butser Experiment in

Sussex
.  Latterly he had been working on pollen
samples from the site.  He shared an
interest in ancient astronomy with “Sett” and Aubrey Burle and he was
enthusiastic about and confident in ancient man’s ability to erect accurate
observatories and “calculators”. I remember how thrilled he was when Sett took him to see the Menec stone
rows in

Brittany

– their exact purpose provided many hours of, eventually, fruitless
speculation!

For an essentially outdoor man – caving, climbing,
motorcycling, the T.A. (following a period in the Army) and geology – Sago had
three other passions – music, books and art. I remember accompanying him around galleries in Paris and his delight in
the brilliant colours of the Impressionists and of his visible pleasure when
holding a rare book – his own library was extensive and included many treasured
volumes – especial favourites were a limited edition of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven
Pillars of Wisdom and The Washing of the Spears, Donald Morris’s story of the
rise and fall of the Zulu nation.  Sago’s
taste in music was catholic, Bruckner to Brubeck and all stations in between!!
There is a story, true, not apocryphal, that many years ago a young man walked
into the Hunters and said “I’ve just heard the best record ever
made”.  Another young man replied


Summit Ridge Drive

on one side and Special Delivery Stomp on the other”.  Sago said “How did you know
that”?  Sett replied” You stated
a fact”!  It has to be said that
Sett was the mathematician and statistician and Sago was the romantic, but that
was how a lifelong friendship began – a friendship that led, ultimately, to
Sett selling Sago his old Matchless. Years after the accident that cost Sago a leg and the demise of the
Matchbox, he was in a pub in Cornwall talking to some modern bikers about the
machines he had owned and, pointing out his missing limb explained to reason –
the bikers nodded in sympathy – not for the loss of the leg but for the
wrecking of a beautiful vehicle, an attitude Sago understood.  He never dwelt on his disability but faced
each day as a challenge – many are the slightly timorous geology students who,
faced with a steep climb down a cliff path would much rather have stayed put at
the top but were forced to descend in the wake of a trail blazing Sago who sat
down, pushed off and slid down to the beach below.

Sago had many friends all round the world – it didn’t matter
where he went there was always someone who would pop up and say “Hallo
Sago, Fancy seeing you here!” he was gregarious, good natured and
generous.  A friend.  My favourite memory of Sago is sitting on a
rock on a beach on the

Dingle
Peninsula
surrounded by
extra – mural students happily identifying the rock samples they brought to
him.  He was a natural teacher and took
time to explain always appreciating that students needed to learn at their own
pace.

Tich and Sago.  Two
friends with many friends and beliefs in common.  Neither was a Christian and neither believed
in an existence on another plane after death. This formed the basis for philosophical discussion between us – I am a
Catholic and believe that there is a life after death and that our thought process
goes on (possibly this is why the Universe is expanding).  Two friends who died within a couple of weeks
of each other.  Both strolled through
life, confident and accepting.  How
fitting then that Sago should be the first to take the next step – he will have
been waiting and when Tich arrived he would say, quite naturally, “Hello
Sago, fancy seeing you here.”

Jan – Wiveliscombe

 

Do all Cavers Have Beards?

asks Adrian Thomas
(first published in Cavers Digest)

Here in

Ireland

we have a relatively small caving population and cavers from across the country
come together from time to time to practice rescue techniques.  Not so long ago a small group gathered at the
appointed place and time on a dull wet day with mist blowing across the bleak
karst landscape that is known as the Burren. We headed into a small shake hole in the forest and as we dropped the 3m
(10ft) into a small canyon carrying a stream one diligent lad counted us in –
EIGHT cavers.  After a few hours of
wrestling with simulated injuries and manipulating stretchers round tight comers
and through flat out crawls in the water, we emerged into a slightly brighter
dull day.  The same diligent lad counted
us out and got NINE !!  After a few
moments he exclaimed that we appeared to have gained a caver but very quickly
went on to identify which one!  His task
was made easier by the fact that the caver who had arrived late and found his
own way into the cave was clean-shaven. In fact eight bearded cavers had gone into the cave and the late comer
was the only one without a beard.  I wonder
if anyone has ever done any serious research on beards in caving.  Quite a lot of (male) Irish cavers are either
bearded or were at one time.  But the
question arises – is it a fashion – are cavers copying one another?  To some extent this might be an attempt to be
“macho imago” and maybe many cavers are actually insecure wimps who
just want to look tough??  I have had a
beard since I was a student (almost 30 years ago) and although I have always
loved caves, I only started caving properly about 10 years ago.  Is the fact that I always had a beard
significant?  Maybe I was always a caver
and just didn’t realise it??  I know that
I would have great difficulty parting with it even though my wife would love to
see it go.  It can’t be that I’m lazy
although the thought of shaving every day does frighten me.  Perhaps I need psychiatric help?  I’d be most interested to hear what other
cavers, and particularly the ladies, think on this subject and whether any of
them have ever wished they could grow a beard so that they’d be proper cavers
like the rest of us bearded ones?  If
this is an inappropriate subject for the cavers page then I apologise.  I have been reading the digest for many years
and don’t recall this fascinating and deeply personal subject being dealt
with.  It would help my research
enormously if those males submitting to this digest would not alone indicate
where they are from but also their bearded status – maybe just for the next few
months?? (eg Bearded, non- bearded, was-bearded).  Females could be excused this ritual at their
discretion?  Rude and insulting replies
can be directed to me at adrian.thomas@[removed]
Interesting replies to the Cavers Digest!

Adrian
(
Ireland,
Europe,
bearded )

 

 

“How Not to Go Caving in
Northern Spain

by Pete Rose

“Donde es les
Cuevas?” (to the tune of ‘West of

Santander
,
down ole Picos way’) a famous cowboy song.

Sue, my wife, had always wanted to go to northern
Spain and had convinced me that 24 hours on the
Plymouth

Santander

ferry was good for my health.  Our sons,
Martin and James wanted a free holiday after finishing Uni, and having a
negative bank balance, I was forced therefore to embark with only a copy of
“The Caves of France and Northern Spain” by Sieveking, and
“Beneath the Mountains” by Rose (no relative) and Gregson, plus
several torches.  This was too much of a
contrast to result in any success in finding suitable Fairy cave type
situations …. as it turned out.  The
ferry contained various members of a biker group from the North strolling
around, flexing tattoos etc.  I had been
listening in on one conversation that started with how they were motoring down
to southern
Spain and one
had got lost on the way somewhere near
Accrington!  (IMPORTANT FERRY TIP.  Do not have a cabin with a low number, like
200 to 300.  These are way down below the
car decks and this only results in one contemplating the escape route all
night.. .. If something catches fire etc.) We met some friends in

Santander
,
and decided to camp near them for the first week and then go to our farm
cottage in the mountains for the 2nd week. We duly drove off to Llanes on the coast west of

Santander
and set up in a luxury campsite
next to some New Zealanders on a world tour (lonely types).  Martin and James had two tents and one set of
pegs, so one tent secure or two tents half-done?  I had read the exploits of Oxford Uni. down
the Sistema del Xitu by now and thought it highly unlikely I was capable of
this sort of stuff with torches and a Petzl headpiece so we offed to Ribadesella,
west of Llanes, to see some cave paintings in the Tito Bustillo cave early one
morning, but not early enough!  Our
friends had missed the cave last year as there was a queue and a quota on
numbers (don’t breathe over cave paintings or they disappear or get fungal
growths or something) this year there was a 100yd queue at 9.30am.  The 250 per day had gone, and I guess
everyone buys tickets for groups etc. The Dave Irwin “get us a postcard” factor clicked in but no
cards, no nothing.  Eventually found a
few at 50 pesetas each in the town and drove off into the mountains nearby
looking for caves.  The signpost said
Cuevas, 5km … so we followed it. A large overhang swallowed the car, 100ft
high.  A drive in cave!  The road disappeared into 250 metres of high
stream passage.  We stopped and climbed
up a steep rock slope to look at huge stal, we scrambled around gour pools next
to the car!  This was a well-known route
for tourists and various Spanish cars came in and tooted.  We drove out into the next valley and the
village called Cuevas.  A days caving eh
lads!  Next day we started out even
earlier allowing for the quota factor, and together with the Jonathan Woods
family drove to Cangas and the Cueva del Buxu (pg. 224 in the book, Northern
Spain etc).  The road from Llanes meets
the Arenas de Cabrales to Cangas road and a few km before the town of

Cangas
, turns right into
the hills.  We zoomed up the hill for
miles until it petered out and zoomed down again until someone spotted the word
Buxu on a small sign in a small hamlet. We walked up the track for a km passing a Spaniard on the way down.  It was midday by now and this was the guide
going for lunch.  This was a maximum 30
per day quota, and his maximum was up! We saw the entrance however, a steel door in a bluff, and retired to a
restaurant.  I found a few postcards of

Altamira
Cave
in Cangas, but nothing else.  This town has a nice Roman bridge.  The road to Covadonga nearby was the route to
the top of the Picos and the Xitu etc but. .. the wine/beer had got to us.  We drove off to Arenas de Cabrales and passed
a Sherborne school bus and on to Panes, where we turned south along the Rio
Deva towards Potes.  We got to our
converted farmhouse/barn complex beyond Potes at a place called Lerones along
an unmade road.  Anyone know any caves
around here?  Next day we foolishly
followed another sign that said cueva nearby. It was a village, not a cave.  So,
we did our up the cable car bit at Fuente De, to the west of Potes, followed by
our friends and the New Zealanders (lonely types) this cable car goes straight
up a cliff for 800 metres to 1800 metres. Very Impressive!  Any caves up
here?  We walked down again carrying
rucksacks full of water to drink, in a clockwise direction to Espinama in 3
hours and contemplated caves again.  Our
lift back to the cars at Fuente had missed us by minutes so we hid in a bar
again.  The Cares gorge walk was next day
and is really spectacular!  Three hours
along a track carved out of the gorge, with a canal next to you carrying water
for a hydroelectric scheme.  From Puente
Poncebos (near Arenas de Cabrales) to Cain and 3 hours back again.  The track rises 250 metres at first and then
meanders along the wall of the gorge to emerge at the

village of
Cain
.  Along the way one can see resurgences below
and above.  Halfway along, the Culiembro
is the resurgence for the Xitu, and here was a cave above the resurgence if we
could find it.  We lunched at Cain and on
the way back (there’s even a bar halfway along the gorge) we climbed up to look
for the cave.  The map showed a stream –
the Culiembro, surely a cave up there! We didn’t try hard as we were late for the return drive. (Determination
and drive at a low level).  We watched a
spectacular rockfall across the gorge along with hundreds of other tourists and
it was 3 hours back from Cain to the car and to Sue (who had looked dehydrated
and had returned back earlier).  We waved
to the Sherborne school bus again.  Still
no caving!  Later in the week we tried
again … off to la Hermida, a village in the gorge between Potes and
Panes.  A bar owner in la Hermida tried
to be helpful and explain about the Cueva de Cuenda?  We set forth again looking for a track across
the river and up the hill near Rumenes. Jamie led the way until the path petered out and acquired various ticks.
Anyone know this cave?  It wasn’t where
we were!  Next day the final effort was
to be the Cueva del Indal showcave.  This
was in the book.  On the coast at
Pimiango, 4km from Unquera, 24 km from Llanes. We set off down the road from Potes to the coast, and Unquera is where
the road joins the coast road to Santander (there is another show cave at El
Mazo, 2km from Panes, called Cueva de la Loja, and we drove slowly through El
Mazo, on route for Unquera and the Pindal without seeing any signs).  We had set off late – a mistake let’s face
it!  The Spanish are up and at ’em early,
and in the restaurants for lunch.  The
cave is on the cliffs overlooking the
Bay of Biscay,
in a narrow valley.  Several bars are
located here.  The entrance sign
mentioned its quota of 20 or 30 as usual – no postcards, no nothing!  No pretty cave paintings again.  We gave up and retired to a local beach.  That was it really … and we drove slowly
through El Mazo on the way back looking for ‘la loja’ but I had the leaflet
which stated ‘cupo maximo diario de 30 personas’, so I wasn’t hopeful at
all!  We did the beaches after that,
plenty of sea caves of course!  We
returned on a Thursday/Friday via

Santander

and the new Hypercor supermarket.  This
is near the ferry port and had 2 caving books. I bought both, ‘los colores de la oscuriadad’ by Ortega is superb, and
was 5500 pesetas.  It has descriptions
and magic photies – all too late, of course, but I can sit in my armchair and
translate the Spanish slowly – ‘the colours of obscurity’? It’s all perfectly
clear.  (The bikers were on the ferry on
the way back, don’t get lost looking for
Accrington
lads!)  It was a holiday and we didn’t
waste the batteries.

Cheers, Pete Rose

 

Nostalgic Wanderings

by Roger Haskett


Doolin,
Ireland
circa 1967.

This was my first ever trip to

Ireland
.  Accompanied by Alan Butcher, Bob Craig, Pete
Bowler and Dave (The Piggy Wig) Irwin. We flew Aer Lingus from
Bristol to

Cork
.  We knew we were on the right plane because
when they took the boarding ladder away, the plane fell over!  One of the (clever buggers) had hired us a
tiny Vauxhall Viva to take five hairy cavers from

Cork
to Lisdoonvarna.  We made it with no tread on the back tyres,
and no dirt or dust on the fronts, they never touched the ground!

We stayed at McCarthey’s Cottage, which in itself wasn’t too
bad in those days.  However we did have
some problems with an old Toppy who lived up the road.  He broke into the place and stole lots of
bits and pieces, including The Wig’s camera. This is probably why there is not a lot of photo evidence of the
trip.  Of course, we only discovered this
after we had returned from O’Connor’s Bar, say at around 12.30 am.  Pissed as puddings, but nary a daunt, we
collected our few remaining lights and, intrepidly, set off across the Clints
in hot pursuit.  After falling down a few
times, and expending lots of bad language, we eventually sobered up enough to
go home.  I might add that we did not
find any of the gear, although the Cops did recover some of the stuff at a
later stage – knackered of course!

Apparently the old man that did the job was an anti –
British and used to write allover the road, “Go home Black and Tans”,
but as we didn’t mind drinking the stout without the brown ale, we stayed!

We did actually do some caving whilst we were there.  Sort of in between the drinking, fishing and
fishing and drinking.  We did Catherines,
Doolin,
Coolagh
River,
Catherines Two and one of the finest trips I have been on,

Aille
River
Cave
.  I can only remember swimming the canals, but
it sticks out in my mind as a really memorable jaunt.  Last but not least, there is always the story
of one member of the party, who spent an evening trying to shove sharpened
sticks up a certain crustacean’s private orifice, after one of the fishermen
had told us that it would stop the meat from going mushy when it was boiled!

Feanor Strand


Left: Doolin
circa 1967
Right: The author showering outside
the pub in

 

65 Years Of Cave Diving At Wookey Hole And Graham Balcombe’s Wake

By Tony Jarratt

The evening of Friday 14th July saw some seventy people
gathered in the 3rd Chamber of Wookey for the unveiling of a brass plaque
mounted on a limestone plinth to commemorate the first dive here on 14th July
1935 by hard-hat divers Graham Balcombe and Penelope “Mossy” Powell.  It was also an opportunity for some of
Graham’s ashes to be spread on the sump pool of the 9th Chamber – the rest
going to Swildon’s and Keld Head.

The event started with a champagne and canapes reception in
the 3rd Chamber with a steady trickle of vintage and modern cave divers and
others appearing throughout the evening. Characters included Ann – Graham’s fiancé, the BEC’s own Sybil and John
– the son of Gordon Ingram-Marriot (one of only two divers who have drowned
here in the last 65 years).

Peter Hayling, one of the Cave’s directors, then gave a
short introductory speech followed by a longer historical account given by Jim
Hanwell – much appreciated by those present. The plaque was then unveiled by long retired cave diver Sett.  Everyone then got stuck into the beer, wine
and buffet while members of the Historical Diving Society re-enacted Balcombe’s
dive by sending a brass helmeted, bottom walking diver through to the 4th
Chamber (and back!).  He was fed air from
a heavy hand pump similar to that used on the original dive when Balcombe made
BBC broadcasting history (and instant removal from the airwaves) by shouting
back to base “Pump you bastards, pump!”  This re-enactment was very atmospheric,
especially with the surpisingly clear water conditions.

Many of the assembled went on to the Hunters to continue the
evening in traditional style and a well attended wake was held there, in the
back room, on the Saturday night complete with a last minute singsong.  A dedicated few finished the night off at the
Belfry – some to drown their sorrows after losing the annual cricket match to
the

Wessex
!

Many thanks to the management of Wookey Hole Caves, the Cave
Diving Group (Somerset Section) and the Historical Diving Society for their
hard work.

See also “Jade
Green Water”, Descent 155, Aug/Sept 2000, p35

Attendees at the
PlaQue Unveiling! Ceremony –

Wookev
Hole
Cave

Ann Turner, Terry Dickenson & Maureen, Sybil
Bowden-Lyle, John Ingram-Marriot, Tony Setterington, Dany Bradshaw, Angus
Innes, Dave Irwin, Peter Stewart, Clive Westlake, Tony Jarratt, Jim Hanwell,
Clive Gardner, John & Audrey Buxton, Rich West, Chris Howes, Judith
Calford, Clive Stell, Jonathon Roberts, Fish & Liz Jeanmaire, Dave &
Rich Warman, James Cobbett, Tim Chapman, Tom Chapman, Malc Foyle, Mike Thomas,
Nick Mitchell, Roger Haskett, Willy Stanton, Mike McDonald, Keith Savory, Carol
Tapley, Bob Cork, John Williams, Kev Jones, Sean Parker, Pete Mullholland, Ben
Holden,
Pete Bolt & family,
Martin & Sue Bishop, Chris Batstone, Nigel & Viv Taylor, Amanda
Edgemont, Margaret Chapman, Mike Merrit, Roz Lunn and others – (Graham’s
family, friends, cavers and cave divers). Peter & Cheryl Wingett, Adrian Barak, John Smillie – (Historical
Diving Society).  Peter Hayling, Barney
& Mrs. Butter (

Wookey
Hole
Caves

directors) and the guides and staff.

Scanned article from the Wells Journal of 20th July 2000,
page12.

The article and picture have suffered as a result of
scanning a photocopy of the original! Ed

Plaque unveiled paying tribute to cave dive pioneers



 

Dreadful ditties

by REG



Where is this beautiful cave scene, photographed by Robin
Gray?

In Cuthbert’s Chas had quite
enough
At the rift he’d run out of puff
But the reason was clear
He’d drunk too much beer
And stuffed up his snitch box with snuff!

Caving is not for the masses
And there’s often a shortage of lassies
The reason is clear
They drink gallons of beer
Which results in some horrible gases

In past days cave painters were found
In secret grots far underground
For paint they used mud
Saliva and blood
Small wonder their work is ever found!-Ed

There once was a caver called Dave
Who went to the pub on his bike
And on the way home
He damaged his knee
When he missed the right hander in Priddy!

A poetical painter called Gonzo
Did pictures of the Matienzo
His pictures were fine
And they sold every time
But his poetry just didn’t quite sound right.

 

Travels in

America

Part 2

by Rich Long

Well, as you may remember, I was in New Mexico, with new
chums who were going to deliver me into the Guadalupe Mountains, for camping,
hiking and contemplation, brought on by not having loads of money to stay in
large hotel complexes, not that there were any about.

My friends were true outdoor types, not content to pay the
extortionate $5 to park at Sitting Bull Falls, we exited the three 4×4’s we
were distributed in and seven adults, three children one pit bull terrier and
all our caving gear piled into Gus’s pick-up. If ever a bunch looked like a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and
the Manson family, it was us, hungover and still covered with yesterdays cave
dust and bar-b-que grease.  Caring
parents were seen to clutch their small children to their bosoms when we rolled
into the car park.  However, the car park
attendant never turned a hair, he was about 5′ 2″, around 65, clothed in
jeans, a brown windcheater, zipped to the neck, mirror sunglasses and wispy
grey hair sticking out from an old faded baseball cap.

“Five bucks for parking friend.” he said to Gus.

“Good Morning, Sir,” said Gus, the politest man
I’ve ever met “I have a yearly pre-paid sticker to the Falls.”  Pointing at the front windscreen of the
truck, cracked all the way across, which seems to be an obligatory feature in
this part of

America
.

“God-damn it, you durned city slickers, ooh,

O.K.
Park

up.”  He did seem somewhat peeved
for a second or two, but soon cheered up when Gus asked Warren, which was the
gentleman’s name, if he would keep an eye on the truck as all my worldly
possessions was in it. “No problem, I’ve got a .357 Magnum in the truck,
if anyone tries anything … why I’ll give them so much grief.” said

Warren
.  We thanked him and walked off to see the
falls and splendid they were.

Time raced by and it was time to bid my chums farewell and I
hiked off into the sunset carrying my pack up the cliff path past some
excellent climbing spots.  I walked
towards the Last Chance Trailhead until it was getting dark and found a very
pleasant bit of flat land close to the river, set camp and listened to the
canyon start to wake up in the coming dusk.

There were still a few bats about, some as big as Jack
Russells, so, I kept my hat on, I didn’t want any of them getting tangled up in
my luscious, flowing locks.  It was awe
inspiring laying out on the rock looking at the night sky, it was still warm in
the early evening and you could still taste the warm trail dust and then catch
the sweet scent of the trees overhanging the gently flowing river.  Every now and then as the earth cooled I could
see the breeze coming up the canyon ruffling the tops of the trees and moving
on, just like a huge invisible hand stroking through the leaves.

Jeeesus Christ, I’ve got to stop drinking so much, I’m
turning into Ernest Hemingway.  Still,
perhaps I’m not drinking enough!

Well, for the next several days I hiked, trying to do all
the trails into the mountains, picking up on the old sites of interest, going
to all the viewpoints I could make within a days travel.  It was excellent, unfortunately, as I was
drinking river water cleaned by chemicals, not the most pleasant.  Then, one day I didn’t drink enough and as
you know dehydration, doesn’t do you a lot of good, especially as you are about
50 miles from the nearest known habitation. So, I decided to hike back down to

Sitting
Bull
Falls
, where I knew there
was water at the picnic site.  Head
aching, I reached the top of the cliff walk above the falls and looked
down.  I knew it had been the last
weekend of the season when I had been dropped off, so I didn’t expect to see
anyone.  Rightly so, no one there,
except, in the distance I could see a white pick-up truck, with a guy leaning
on the back of it, it had to be old

Warren
!

I reached the tap after the climb down, had a tentative few
sips and filled up my five gallon container, then, walked over to say Hi to

Warren
.

Warren was dressed the same as the day I’d left the falls
several days before, elbows resting on the back of the truck he watched me
approach.  “Hi,

Warren
, how are you today?”  “Fine and yourself?” he
replied.  “Pretty good, thanks.  I filled up with water if that’s O.K.?  Not too many people around now the seasons
over, I guess.” I said.

“No, that’s just how I like it!” he said, he
seemed to be sweating a little “It allows me to do my own thing.  In fact, I’ll show you!” then he stood
back from the truck and pulled down the zip on his beat up old windcheater and
there, stood in a car park in New Mexico, 50 miles from town, I see my first
transvestite!  Well, that’s what the big
boys told me they were called.  He’s
wearing a red Basque with black lace trimming. He leans towards me and glances round furtively and says, “I’ve got
black lace panties on too!”  It
would have been pretty damned attractive on a woman, but with half a dozen
grizzled old hairs poking out from his skinny little chest, somehow it didn’t
do a thing for me!

Now, being brought up in Farrington Gurney, you don’t get a
lot of cross dressers and if you did they’d damn well keep quiet about it.  We did get one guy transported to

Australia
years
ago for doing something to a sheep, but, I think he married it later and it was
all sorted out amicably.

I honestly can’t remember what I said but I think it was
something feeble like ” .. As long as it doesn’t do anyone any harm
etc.”

I quickly took my leave and headed back up the cliff trail,
thanking God that I didn’t tell him where I was camping.  I looked back from the trail head and far
below he was still leaning on the truck, windcheater now zipped up.  I hurried on thinking about the film Pulp
Fiction, before I left for America my youngest son would think it highly
amusing to play the CD featuring the track “Bring on the Gimp”, the
part where Marcellus Wallis has very unpleasant things done to his bottom
area!  I in turn started to think about
Deliverance another film about the great outdoors and equally unpleasant
things.  Reaching my camp at a canter,
not an easy feat with five gallons of water strapped to your back, I settled
down for the night with my brand new Spider co knife attached to my wrist, cuts
a tin in half, no problem!  Just what I
need tonight!  Still, I can handle

Warren
, but what if he
has pals, Oh dear!!!

The night passes, no visits from anyone except the usual
snuffly animals, which I only assume wasn’t Warren, swift hysterical kicks to
the side of the tent and a lot of screaming soon got rid of them, so everything
was fine, as soon as I had stopped crying.

I kept on with my hiking, one day seeing a mountain lion
from close quarters and I wouldn’t have seen that if it hadn’t made so much
noise running away, it had obviously heard that us BEC members get
everywhere!!  No bears though, shame!

Time came for me to leave and I had to go back to the falls
where Gus had arranged to pick me up. No

Warren

though.

When I told Gus he thought it was hilarious and quickly
stated that it had been the first time he had ever met the man!!

We stopped to look at Apache petroglyphys on the way back to
town and eventually ended up in Lucy’s Mexican restaurant.  Gus suggested the platter, which was a bit of
everything and we would have medium strength, well, we downed a couple of
Mexican beers with slices of lime stuffed down the neck of the bottle, pretty
nice, and proceeded to tuck into the meal. After a few mouthfuls, my nose started to run and I casually wiped it
with my serviette, ever the gentleman. Now my head started to sweat, profusely, I now wished I hadn’t wiped my
nose, sweat and mucus across the top of my shaved swede, not a pretty sight in
a restaurant.  More beer!  It turned into a vicious circle, fortunately
by now I had plucked up courage to actually look up and Gus was suffering the
same fate as me, sweating and nose running. My, what a pleasant sight for the rest of the clientele, fortunately the
more beer consumed the less we worried. Still come the end of the meal, we didn’t dare move for at least half an
hour.  A couple of days later I met one
of the greatest guys.  I was doing my
washing on a Sunday morning, the nearest thing I get to organised religion,
when I got a phone call from Michelle, “Would you like to come
climbing?”  Now, let me see, doing
the washing or going climbing?

Hmmmmmm!!!! Tough decision! I’m ready!!!!

Curtis picks me up and once again we head off up into the
High Guadalupes where we meet a gentleman called Danny Moore, he lives in an
Apache Hogan, all on his own.  His Hogan
is filled with chess and climbing books, there are skis hanging on the wall,
bows and arrows, one bow he has made himself, a black powder musket, “The
same kind we chased you British out with!” he said.  “Well, we didn’t want it any
way!”  I lied.

“O.K. lets go!  I
got some great bouldering I want you to try!”

Danny said “Who’s coming in my truck?” in the
absolute silence and the rest of the group drawing pictures in the dirt with
their toes, I in my absolute naivety volunteered.  Danny all this time was walking around in
bare feet, mainly because he only had one pair of boots and they were being
fixed.

“Only need one pair Bub!” he assured me.

Well, we set off and it soon became apparent why I was the
only passenger in Danny’s truck, whereupon normal people approach a rock step
of approximately 18″ on a dirt road, they slow down, fix 4 wheel drive and
crawl up over it, Danny floors the pedal and we gun it as fast as the truck
will allow.  My head hit the cab like a
scud missile, fortunately it didn’t explode, but I got a hell of a bruise.  So I learned swiftly and jammed myself in and
held on!  My pals were easily amused at the
lump already growing on the side of my head, fortunately it didn’t spoil my
good looks, as it kind of balanced up the lump I already had on the other side
of my head, you know, the one where I had the steel plate put in.  Ahhhh, the memories, I knew I shouldn’t have
camped at Rorke’s Drift.  Mr Haskett did
warn me!!

Oh yes, the story.  We
climbed and sadly I climbed like a caver and ended up with bleeding knees, they
were really good about it and only ridiculed me greatly!

Well after I’d lost about three pints of blood we settled
down and watched the sun go down from

Ridge
Road
, Curtis broke out cold beers and believe it
or not the coyotes started to howl.  Wow,
this was everything I had dreamed of.

This was magnificent, me, I’m easily pleased, give me beer,
good company, a beautiful sunset and a pack of coyotes and that was heaven!  Look, I know we are cavers and this should be
about caving, but, next time I’ll tell you about Big Manhole and the hundred
mile an hour descent!!

Rich Long

 

Glanvill’s Photos

Two pictures from the camera of Peter Glanvill of a lighter
humour.



 

Song: The Young Mendip Caver

Tune: German Musicianeer
Author: P. MacNab
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 32 No 2 February 1978

Well I’ll sing you the song of a
young Mendip caver
And of the adventures that overfell ‘ e.
Though he’d led a good life, he was hardly a raver
Until he went caving with a girl called Betsy.

Chorus:
Sing fal da ra lal de ra lal de la laddy
All kinds of holes this young caver’d been through
But the ones he preferred, they were both wet and hairy
And his favourite trip was to do Swildon’s Two.

Now these two went down Swildon’s, the boy and young Betsy
The bike of the Belfry, invariably free.
They slipped on their wet suits and went down together
There was no-one else with ‘ em, there was just he and she.

Now he’d charged his nife cell and she took her stinky
As down to the dark this young couple did go.
He thought he was hard and she thought he was kinky
And they both hoped the other one wouldn’t be slow.

When the Forty was passed he led over the Twenty
Down to the streamway past ruckle and squeeze
But he found the sump wider than he had expected
And very soon after he was down on his knees.

Then it’s “Oh!” she did cry, “Well me lamp it has failed me.

Have you got a pricker to bring back the flame?”
So he pulled out his wire and tackled her stinky
And very soon after, ’twas working again.

But this trip down below, it got wetter and wetter
And time after time she cried “Do it again!”
Till he’d tried every way and he could do no better
And then she did say “Try the first way again.”

Now when they came out, they were both tired and weary
And the charge in his cell, well it almost was through.
And there’s only the moral to tell of my story
Wet stinky’s need pricking down in Swildon’s Two

 

Minutes of the 1999 B.E.C Annual General Meeting.  Saturday 2nd.October.

The meeting was started almost on time, at 10.40 am, by the
Hon. Secretary (Nigel Taylor).  He
advised the AGM that insufficient persons had responded to the Request for
nominations for the 1999/2000 Committee, and therefore 8 of the outgoing
Committee are automatically re-nominated. However he had received three late nominations in the last 48 hours
(Mike & Hilary Wilson – seen by the Committee as prospective replacement
Treasurers, and Rich Long – interested in the Post of Caving Secretary).  He explained that now presented twelve
candidates for election.  He asked the
AGM to consider having all twelve candidates. Vince Simmonds (VS) Spoke in support of this idea, and it was accepted
‘On the nod’ by all present.

The Hon. Secretary noting that 35 members were present,
called for nominations for a Chairman, Martin Grass was the only nominee, and
was dually accepted.  P:Mike Wilson (MS)
s:Roger Haskett (RR).

Angie Dooley (AD) then successfully proposed and Brenda
Wilton (BrW) Seconded that ” .. .it should be a ‘Smoke Free’ AGM”
Voting: 14 For, 8 Against, 8 Abst

The Secretary had received apologies from: Rob & Helan
Harper, apologies were given from the floor for: Fiona Lewis, Ivan Sandford,
John Buxton, Kevin Gurner, Dave Glover, Bob Cork, John Freeman and Jeremy
Henley.

The following members signed the BEC AGM Attendance Sheet:
Colin Dooley, Angie Dooley, Brenda Wilton, Barrie Wilton, Nick Gymer, Dany
Bradshaw, Trevor Hughes, Emma Porter, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Jim Smart,
Graham Johnston, Mike Willett, Greg Brock, Mike Alderton, Stuart Sale, Brian
Prewer, Bob Smith, Toby Limmer, Martin Selfe, Helan Skelton, Dave Ball, Ruth
Baxter, Roger Haskett, Chis Smart, Ron Wyncoll, Nigel Taylor, Vince Simmonds,
Roz Bateman,
Estelle Sandford, Chas
Wethered, Martin Grass, Rich Long, Roger Stenner, Dave Turner.

Item 4, Minutes of
the 1998 AGM
:- The Secretary pointed out that these had been printed in the
BB just after the AGM .. these were P:BrW, Seconded Trevor Hughes(TH), Carried
nem.con.

Item 5,Matters
arising from the Minutes:-
There being no matters arising, these were
P:Mike Wilson (MW) & S: Ron Wyncoll (RW) and carried unan.

Item 6 Hon
Secretary’s Report
:- Nigel Taylor had published this in the B.B.  There was surprisingly no debate upon this,
and the report was carried nem.con. with one abstention, P: Graham Johnston @
‘Jake’ (GJ) S: Angie Dooley (AD).

Item 7, Hon
Treasurer’s Report
: Chris Smart (CS) apologised for his missed attendances
and asked the meeting to accept that there was a valid reason for this.  He then told the meeting that he had won an
80% rates rebate, and were not due any Inland Revenue taxation.  He added his concerns as to the High cost of
the BB.  TH queried if we received any
monies back from the BB, the Treasurer said no. NT pointed out that the recently renegotiated St. Cuthbert’s lease may
have some extra legal cost implications but he awaited invoicing from the Club
Solicitors.  However he was pleased to
inform the meeting that he had negotiated with the Landowner, Messrs; Inveresk
Group not to pay their costs, a generous consideration by them.

Item 7 Continued:
Stu Sale (SS) Asked why the phone was on Business rate, but our rates were
Domestic.  Both CS & NT
explained.  TH asked about Heating Oil,
NT advised that there had been no purchases and he monitored this.  The treasurer thanked Roz Bateman for her
fundraising and membership money collecting. P:
Estelle Sandford (ES) S:TH
All in Favour, 2 Abstn.

Item 8, Hon. Auditors
Report
: Barry Wilton then discussed this with the meeting.  Voting then was P: RH, & S:Brian Prewer
(BEP): Unan, 3 Abst.

Item 9, Caving
Secretary’s Report:
No Report given or attendance.

Item 10,Membership
Secretary’s Report
: This was then read to the floor by Roz Bateman.  She advised that there were 170 Members in
total, 132 Paid-up members, 38.  Life She
spoke on the availability and usefulness of Membership Cards and the Members
Handbook.  She particularly thanked
younger members for their suggestions. P: AD, S: Martin Torbett (MS) Carried
Unam.

Item 11, Hut Wardens
Report:
The Hut Warden (Vince Simmonds – VS) then gave a verbal report to
the meeting based on his joint six month tenure of the post. P:Dave Ball (DB),
S:Helen Skelton (HS), Carried Unan.

Item 12, Hut
Engineers Report
.  No report and No
appearance.

Ron Wyncoll asked that the movers of the Fire Extinguishers
replace them from where he had positioned them ASAP!  (
Battery
charger relocation!).

Item 13, Tackle
Masters Report
: Mike Willett (MWt) gave a verbal report to the
meeting.  He thanked Jake (GJ) for his
assistance this year.  Jim Smart (JS) Asked
why there was no ‘Booking out’ Book maintained, MWt said that it was a new
system.  RW stated that he thought the
system had improved.  The report was
voted: P:MT, S: SS. and carried Unan.

Item 14, B.B Editors
Report
:
Estelle Sandford gave a
verbal report to the meeting.  BEP
Proposed Estelle a vote of thanks for the excellent Club Journal, P:bep S:CS
carried Unan.  The report was then taken:
P:Toby Limmer (TL) , S:VS. Voting: Unan.

Item 15, Librarians
Report:
  No Report or appearance.

Item 16, Ian Dear
Memorial Fund Report
:  No Report or
appearance.

NT asked the AGM if it was happy with the levels of
payments.  BEP suggested that the
Committee liaise with Mike Palmer and Tony Setterington (With the Caving Sec,
these are the three man IDMF Committee). VS suggested that many new and younger members were joining the club,
and they should be encouraged to claim whatever they can.

Item 17, Election of
Officers 1999/2000
: The Floor accepted the following: Roz Bateman, Chris
Smart, Vince Simmonds, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Rich Long, Martin Torbett,
Toby Limmer, Mike Willet, Bob Smith, Nigel Taylor.

Item 17, Election of
Officers Continued
: As is customary, this was done from the floor of the
meeting, and Nigel Taylor again declared a possible ‘conflict of interests’ to
the meeting prior to any vote; He reminded them that his explosives business
was working in Limestone areas, he was aware that it could be a conflict of
interest.  The AGM declared this
laudable, and agreed that they did not see it as a conflict of interest.  He further advised that he would shortly be
working away in the
Falklands and should miss
both the November and December meetings, again the AGM accepted this.

Voting for the posts
then followed
:

Hon. Secretary:
Nigel Taylor.P: CD, S: Dany Bradshaw (DB) Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Hon. Treasurer: Chris Smart.P:RH,
S:RW , Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Caving Secretary: Rich Long P:MW, S:
NT, Carried Unan.
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman.
P:CS, S:MW Carried Unan.
Hut Warden: Vince Simmonds,
P:N/K,S:GC, Carried Unan.
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer P:NT, S:
GC, Carried Unan
Tacklemaster: Mike Willet, P: VS,
S:ES, Carried Unan.
B.B Editor: Martin Torbett, P:ES, S:
Bob Smith(BS).

Non -Committee Posts
Confirmed:

Hon.Auditor:
Barrie

Wilton
.
was also reaffirmed as Auditor, P:NT, S: RH, nem.con
Librarian (Not filled, Committee to
oversee until volunteer came forward).
Hut Bookings Officer: Fiona Lambert.

BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock

A Vote of Thanks was proposed by CS FOR Dave Irwin for his
Unofficial Librarian role over the last twelve months, this was seconded by
BEP, Carried Unan.

The Hon. Secretary then excused himself from minute taking
in order to prepare the AGM lunch, and Chris Smart stepped into the minute
takers position:

Item 18, Members
Resolutions
: Much discussion re removing the whole of Section ‘D’ from
Paragraph Section 5. The floor debated whether some jobs were ‘… more
important than others?…’ TH felt that ‘We need one person accountable…such as
Secretary or Treasurer…’  After lengthy
discussion, the proposal was P:CD, and S: GJ, voting 4 For, 24 Against, 1
Abstn, this failed.

A further proposal to delete the single sentence from the
Constitution: “Change of Office….General Meeting” From 5D, Was P:
Roger Stenner(RS) S:ES, Voted 28 For, 1 Against, 1 Abstn.  This is therefore a Constitutional
Amendment to be raised at the next AGM on the 7th October 2000
.

Chris Smart (Member 915) Proposed, and Nigel Taylor (Member
772) Placed a Members Resolution forward as follows:  (See also 1998 AGM Minutes Item 21)

“That the Constitution be amended as follows: Section
3a) Classification of Membership to include an additional group ‘G – Temporary
Members’.  This group to have membership
limited to a maximum of one period in 15 days in anyone calendar year, and to
have no voting rights whatsoever and to pay normal guest Hut rates.  The Temporary Member to pay a fee to cover
this expense.” Both CS and NT outlined their concern and reasons for this
proposal (Effectively to cover an Insurance position when prospective members
cave with Members -NT).  The Proposal was
put to the AGM and Carried Unan. This is also a Constitutional Amendment and
must be raised at the 1999 AGM

The meeting then adjourned for Refreshments for half an
hour, and on resumption 31 members were present:

Item 19, Details
regarding the Annual Dinner
, the AGM was told that all tickets had been
sold.

Item 20, Any Other
Business
:

TH proposed A £1 increase in Club Subscriptions as a guard
against inflation supported by NT, 12 For, 19 Against 3 Abstn.  Motion Failed.

TH then expressed his worries about the Cost of building an
Extension.  NT presented the meeting with
the Approved Plans, reminding TH that this had been discussed and approved at
the last two AGM’s, and further that a full costing would be undertaken before
any main part of the Construction started (This does not include minor ground
preparation! footings work).  DB was
asked to comment by NT on the MRO Position respective the Old Stone Belfry
Lease, and other club’s attitudes.

TH was concerned about the ‘Public Perception that the BEC
was having a new extension built at the cost of the MRO – NT (Himself an MRO
Warden) was outraged at this “ill informed and perverse
attitude”  He added that the BEC at
cost only to itself had welcomed the MRO in the Old Stone Belfry for more years
than most could remember, and had never charged the MRO a penny for rates,
rent, electricity or anything else in that time. Now MRO had a requirement to
as it were ‘Take over the whole of the Old Stone Belfry’ and therefore the BEC
would lose its only Tackle Store and Workshop space, then The BEC would build
its own extension at its own cost. However, in return for an all encompassing 21 Year Lease on the Old
Stone Belfry it was only fair that MRO, and indirectly now, other Mendip Clubs
should pay towards that MRO lease. Further this fee, which had yet to be agreed, was to the BEC as Lease
dues.  What the BEC chose to do with
those funds was at the BEC’s own discretion.

RH suggested that the BEC thought about obtaining lottery
funding for a new extension.  BEP, Dave
Turner (DT), TH, AD, also expressed similar views on the subject.  NT commented that he would explore the
situation and report to the AGM.

CS Thanked Ron Wyncoll yet again for his ‘at cost’ Servicing
of the BEC Fire Control systems.

NT asked the AGM to confirm the proper appointment of Martin
Grass (Committee appointed Acting Trustee). As one of the Four Club Trustees, this was seconded by Chris Smart and
carried unanimously.

Nigel Taylor as Hon. Secretary, announced the details and
date of the 2000 AGM, as 10.30 am, Saturday 7th. October 1998 at the
Belfry.  Martin Grass as Chairman then
declared the AGM closed at 2.00 pm.

Minutes recorded by Nigel Taylor and Chris Smart, and later
typed:

Nigel Taylor, Hon. Secretary, Sunday 3rd. September 1999.

 

Tackle Masters Report

2″” October 1999 AGM

Hello all and welcome another AGM.  First of all I would like to start this brief
report with a big thank you to Graham Johnson (‘Jake’) for all of his hard work
in the tackle store; Repairing damaged tackle, and making more replacement
ladder for the surplus store.  The new
system for obtaining tackle, set up by the previous tackle master Richard
Blake, bas been successful, as no ladders seem to be disappearing.  In the main tackle store (the old MRO carbide
store) which all BEC members have full access to there is: –

  • 2
    ten meter ladders.
  • 1
    five metre ladder.
  • 2
    spreaders.
  • 2
    wire belays.
  • 2
    Lifeline.
  • 1
    tackle bag.

 

 

 

 

The St. Cuthbert’s ladder, which is tagged, is also still
kept here and must only be used in St. Cuthbert’s.

In the surplus store we have: –

  • 12
    ladders, between 5 and 10 metres in length.
  • 7
    spreaders.
  • 11
    belays of various lengths.
  • 4
    life lines.

 

 

 

Jake is also in the process of making three ten-metre
ladders, which are almost finished and will be added to this surplus store.

For people with digging propjets, there are also various
lengths of digging rope which may prove useful, if so, then any committee
member on site with the key will gladly let you have access to the digging rope
basket.  Failing that, contact the Tackle
Master and arrange access.

This is the current status of the tackle store at the time
of this AGM.

See you at the pub!

Mike Willett

 

Report Of The Hon. Secretary 1998/9

Those of you who were interested enough in your club to
attend last year’s AGM, will no doubt recall that I stated my intention to
stand aside this year should any member want to take on the role of Hon. Secretary.  This was not because I was fed-up with a post
that I actually enjoy, but rather as an expression of my concern for the best
interests of the Club as a whole, and to enable the BEC to have a fresh face
for the new Millennium should it so wish.

Unfortunately, we could not even raise any interest in
getting nominations for the Committee this year.  On the evening of ‘close for nominations’
there remained two vacant positions, the seven existing committee members being
automatically re-nominated as is the custom of the BEC.

Estelle Sandford
encouraged Toby Limmer to stand in the Hunters that night, and Martin Torbett’s
nomination arrived in the post the next day.

Thus miraculously, we had a Nine person committee with no
requirement for an election to be held. However, and this is a point that I will already have addressed the 1999
AGM upon – I have in the last week been advised of three persons who are
prepared to stand.  These are Rich Long,
and Michael and Hilary Wilson.

Now if you consider that on most Committee meetings this
year, we only had three or if lucky four elected committee members attend, much
business was transacted on behalf of the many, by the few!  This caused great difficulty in actually
effecting the efficient running of the club, and also ensuring that any
decisions taken were democratic.

I suggest that if we now have more than the statutory Nine
candidates prepared – albeit at a late stage – the AGM might care to adopt them
all, in order to ensure that if last years disgraceful situation reoccurs then
at least the club should not suffer the indignity of such committee support.

Last year’s AGM directed that committee members attendances
should be recorded and passed to the club’s AGM, these appear as an addendum to
this report.  I make no further comment
upon them, except to point out that members are volunteers, and they are
entitled to their private lives and associated commitments, some of which
unfortunately may not have been apparent to them when they stood for election
last year.

Rebecca Campbell unexpectedly had to resign her Hut Warden’s
post in mid turn due to a relocation in

Scotland
, and I believe that the
BEC owes a great big “Vote of Thanks” to Fiona Lewis, who stepped
into the role of Hut Bookings Officer both efficiently and without portfolio!

In a similar vein, both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith were
co-opted onto the committee and have been stalwart in their roles as joint
“Hut Wardens”.

I have this year finally renegotiated the completion of a
new Ten Year lease upon St. Cuthbert’s Swallet with Inveresk.

Martin Grass was offered and accepted the vacant position of
a Trustee of the BEC, and I trust this AGM will endorse this action.

Clive Stell and Alan Butcher (SMCC and Ex-BEC) should also
receive the AGM’s thanks for their efforts in preparing architectural drawings
and obtaining planning permission for the proposed extension to the Belfry (New
Tackle Store, to replace the Old Stone Belfry being possibly taken over under
an MRO/BEC lease still under negotiation.)

Please, please remember it is your Club try to do your bit however small that may be,
to ensure that the BEC goes from strength to strength in the 2000’s !!!!!!!

Nigel Taylor Member
772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club,
1998/9 Saturday 2nd. October 1999.

 

Stock’s House Shaft – Summer Madness

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BB’s nos. 502, 504-507.

“Day after day
the hole grew deeper – which is the right direction for holes”
The Goon Show (The Evils of Bushey Spon) 1958

The last trip of the Spring (by official Hunters Fireplace
Time) was made on 31 st May when 104 bags came out on the hydraulic winch.  Some fun was had in the concrete entrance
pipes when an errant boulder which had forsaken its bag threatened to return to
the bottom and had to be recaptured.

The Summer season began, literally with a bang, next day
when the collapse at the end of the Upstream Level was attacked.  The debris was cleared by the writer and
Jonathan Davies (ex Camborne School of Mines c.c.) on the 4th June.  Ahead seemed to be a major choke with the
stream issuing at high level through huge boulders.  It was decided to leave this to settle but on
reversing out a huge slab of apparently solid rock ceiling dropped without
warning onto the writer’s head and upper back – with a stupefyingly crushing
weight.  Luckily Jonathan was immediately
behind and was able to dig away floor gravel with the long crowbar.  This took several minutes, during which time
the stream backed up over the writer’s nose and mouth giving him more concern
as to being drowned before getting slowly squashed!  In shouting, or rather gurgling, panicky
instructions back to Jon he drank a fair amount of Mineries water – not his
preferred beverage.  Being wedged in a
tiny space under one side of the slowly descending boulder the pain from his
wedged
Oldham cell was adding to the misery
but just before the pressure and water became overpowering Jon shifted enough
gravel to allow him to desperately thrutch backwards to safety and a much
needed fag.  This was a closer call than
the “Rat Trap Incident” and the writer is exceedingly grateful for
Jonathan’s clear-headed action – apparently this is a regular occurrence in
C.S.M.C.C. digs!  In this instance there
had been no time for an M.R.O. callout. It cannot be stressed too much how unstable the local dolomitic
conglomerate can become once the supporting debris or stempling is removed and
that it comes down noiselessly with no prior warning.  Thin beds of lubricative clay do not help matters.

Work was now concentrated on clearing the Shaft area and the
Downstream Level and on 7th June 75 loads were winched out.

The 11th was devoted to photography and Pete Glanvill took
record shots of all the workings, including the dropped roof slab in the
Upstream Level.  A faulty flashgun ruined
some of these.  Some tidying up was done
underground on the following day and on the 14th eleven diggers, including four

Wessex

visitors, moved a vast amount of spoil along the Downstream Level and back to
the Shaft.

The next few trips were dedicated to deepening the floor
between the sumped end and the Rat Trap so as to gain maximum reservoir
capacity for the forthcoming “big push”.

98 more loads came out on the 19th June when the team was
honoured by the presence of it’s most vintage member, Sett – smartly attired
following a lunchtime gathering of lots more Vintage Belfryites at the
Hunters.  More bags would have been
removed but for yet another unfortunate accident which stopped play and
resulted in the writer (who else?) being carted off to Wells Cottage Hospital,
by Tangent, to get five stitches in his eyebrow.  The wound was caused by the snapping of a
cord loop attached to a Clog jammer used to clamp full bags to the hauling
rope.  Due to greed and over enthusiasm
each Clog bore two bags – giving a maximum winch load of fourteen!  One pair had jammed in the entrance pipe and
were being cleared when the cord broke, the Clog shot upwards into the writer’s
head and the bags returned to join Vince at the bottom – along with a liberal
quantity of blood.  Another lesson had
been painfully learnt and future loads were reduced by half.

Over the next two days another 72 loads came out and then a
week was spent in further deepening of the Downstream Level floor and removing
the main dam.  A rock floor was
eventually reached with an apparent, possibly natural, stream gully on the NW
side.  A strong Sunday team on 2nd July
winched out 135 loads with a further 42 coming out next day – a breakage of the
winch starting cord suspending operations. The Wednesday Nighters were thus forced below to move another vast
amount of bags back to the Shaft.

The winch was repaired on the 6th July by Trev and the
writer and used to remove 105 more loads from the Shaft.  A local walker, Les Watts and his wife kindly
delivered several plastic containers to the site for modification to digging
skips.  Over the next few days further
clearing took place until, from the Rat Trap to beyond Heinous Hall more solid
rock floor was revealed.  Lots of old
timbers were found in this area including one with a finger-sized drill hole in
one end – presumably to take a wooden pin. Wednesday 12th saw another 100 loads out and the completion of the Loop
Level “through trip” by Tangent. The next day, while on another clearing trip, the writer used a long
crowbar to easily dislodge the 3ft long by 2ft square roof slab which hung over
the Shaft loading area like a Sword of Damocles.  This was banged, together with a large rock
buried in the floor on the 17th.  With a
small stream still flowing work at the end was temporarily abandoned and a
project of clearing the Downstream Level, to the rock floor, from the Rat Trap
back to the Shaft was initiated.

124 more bags came out on the 19th July when passing
North Wales caver John Robinson was collared to drive the
winch.  Further clearing operations took
place over the next few days with the rock floor being exposed almost all of
the way back to the Shaft and on Monday 24th July another 104 loads reached the
surface.  Two days later 117 more came
out and lots of full bags were moved along the Level.

Whilst clearing the Shaft bottom on 27th July a wooden plank
floor was revealed and this was further exposed over the next four days.  Where it abutted into the Downstream Level
two hand made red bricks (8 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ x 3314″) were found
edging the planking. 64 loads reached the surface on solo digging trips over
the next three days and the UBSS hand winch was dismantled and taken to the
Belfry for storage.

August began with 109 bags out in the first two days and the
disinterment by Trev of the handpump – buried in silt near the end.  After the removal of a small stone this was
put back into action and, with the new Heinous Hall dam in place, the residual
pool was pumped back and a few bags filled. All was now ready for a concerted attack on the terminal blockage.

Further clearing of the Shaft bottom on the 3rd August led
to the finding of a 6 3/8″ (162mm) long section of clay pipe stem above a
distinct bed of blue/green clay in the undercut north comer.  This clay was later used to puddle the
leaking Heinous Hall dam.  The hydraulic
winch was removed to the Belfry and padlocked as Jake J. had spotted
“Three scum bags in a pick-up truck” taking an interest in it.  This reminded us of the imminence of Priddy
Fair and the resultant spate of petty thefts.

A surprisingly large team, including new boys Gary Seaman,
Chris Connors and ex-MNRC member Ray Deasy (now resident in

Australia
), turned out on Sunday
6th and dragged all the bags stored downstream back to the Shaft.  Further clearing of the plank floor here was
later done by Alex and the writer – three hands being better than one!  Two visiting, hungover Grampian men (Fraser
Simpson and Graham Marshall) helped out the following morning when the dam was
plugged and several bags filled at the end. It was certainly novel to hear the lilt of Fife accents in subterrenean

Somerset
!  The dam was found to work perfectly and water
ponds up all the way back to the Shaft.

A three man team removed 105 loads on Wednesday 9th August
and during the following week water was pumped back several times to enable a
considerable amount of silt to be bagged up at the current end.  This was stacked in the level to displace
water when the dam was broken.  Further
clearing of the Shaft bottom took place and another pipe stem 4 1/2″
(109mm) long was found.  Greg’s Level was
also dug to give more reservoir capacity. 117 bags were hauled out on the 15th.

The next day work started in earnest on clearing the last of
the in-washed winter silt behind the terminal choke.  The capacity of the reservoir gave over two
hours of digging time and good progress was made in atrociously slimy
conditions by Gwilym and Neil.  Plans
were laid to hire a submersible pump to make life easier but a very favourable
deal from Brown’s Tool Hire enabled the writer to purchase a new one along with
an extra 50m of cable.  This was put to
good use on the 20th August when a B.E.C./Crewe C.P.C. team eventually pumped
the end of the level “dry” after a few teething problems.  About twenty bags were filled and stacked and
last year’s terminus was within sight.

The same team continued on the 21st and after winching out
149 loads repeated the pumping exercise. Another twenty or so bags were filled before a stray boot unfortunately
knocked the bung off the dam outlet resulting in a rapid evacuation to the
Hunters’!  Operational hiccups with the
winch and pump caused some delays but were eventually (hopefully) sorted out.

A solo Shaft clearing trip by Alex next day revealed several
more bricks laid alongside the floor timber and apparently acting as a barrier
to deflect the stream from the planking. Better even than this was his unearthing of a broken iron shovel blade
wedged vertically behind a boulder.  It
had probably been used to prise out the rock but had been snapped off in the
attempt and left in situ. It was hammered out from a single sheet of iron and
may have been a long handled, Cornish-style, tailings shovel – used to clear
sediment from the wooden floor (picture next page).

On 23rd August a strong team avoided the fleshpots of Priddy
Fair, pumped out the Downstream Level and filled about fifty bags with
chocolate mousse-like slurry until the collapse reached last year was again
within their grasp.  A distinct draught
encouraged the diggers.  Four days later
the operation was repeated and a fair amount of rock was removed from the
choke, as was a short length of very sturdy wooden stemple put in by the Old
Men as a roof support.  There are at
least two more of these beams in place which will be replaced with scaffold
shoring if necessary.  It is planned to
clear out the whole working face to standing height to allow us to dig in
comfort and safety.  Much of this was accomplished
on the 30th when much more rock was removed from the choke – which appears to
be at the base of a shaft, natural rift or roof fall, time will tell –
following the hauling of another 106 bags to surface the previous day.  These pumping extravaganzas have cost several
hundred pounds so far – any donations to the “Digging Fund” would be
gratefully received!

Work has also continued in emptying the Upstream Level of
infill, around ten feet having been done so far. A plan of the Shaft bottom and
updated survey of the workings will hopefully appear in the next BB.

Additions to the Digging Team

Jonathan Davies (ex C.S.M.C.C.), Tony Littler (M.N.RC.),
Nick “Mushroom” Powell (M.N.RC.), Matt Cook (Cheddar Cliff Rescue
Team), Kate Lawrence (Somerset Wildlife Trust), Dr. Peter Glanvill, Sean
Briscombe, Neil Wooldridge (W.C.C.), Simon Richardson (W.C.C.), Emma Heron
(W.C.C.), Kathy Glenton (W.C.C.), Tony “Sett” Setterington, Ray
Martin (S.M.C.C.), Crispin Lloyd (So’ton U.C.C.), Helen Hunt, John Robinson
(Grosvenor C.C.), Neil Usher, Ray Deasy (ex-M.N.RC.), Gary Seaman (Cheddar
C.C.), Chris Connors, Fraser Simpson (Grampian S.G.), Graham Marshall (G.S.G.),
Richard Wright, Chris Binding (Cheddar C.C.), Glynn Rowland (C.C.C.), Alan
Allsop (Crewe C.P.C.), Kate Hughes.

Additional Assistance

Wells Cottage Hospital staff, Jane Jarratt, Mr & Mrs Les
Watts, Ray Mansfield, David Gilson, Jane Allwood (Archaeology Officer, N.
Somerset Museum Service), Les Good (Curator, Medieval & Post Medieval
Archaeology, Bristol Museum), Adrian Sharman (Brown & Partners Ltd), Dave
Walker (Curator, Somerset Rural Life Museum), Heather Coleman (Clay Pipe
Research Society / Dawnmist Studio).

The Clay Pipes

Enquiries as to the age and origin of these have been made
to several museums and individuals and have elicited a good response –
unfortunately, so far, without any positive result. It is generally agreed that
both pipes date from the late 1700s – 1800.

Tony Jarratt
Priddy 1/9/00





The pipe found at the bottom of the dig – date circa 1790 –
photo P. Glanvill



Tony Jarratt examines the shot-hole – photo P. Glanvill

 

Scratchings from the Club diary

Compiled by Ed- any
mistakes in names etc, entirely mine!

6-7-00 Dan yr Ogof

Vince, Trebor, Rich Long, Sean Howe, James Weir.

Excellent trip to the Risings via Flabbergasm Oxbow,
Grand Canyon, Cloud Chamber.  The canal was a pleasant puddle.  Out via the Lower Stream, Bakerloo etc.  The Lakes were one lake and very damp and
deep; water had risen during the trip by approx 9 inches.  Great way to spend a wet Sunday morning in
West Wales.  Cheers
to our leader Trebor!  VS


11-7-00 Thrupe Lane

Swallet

John (Tangent) Williams, Paul Brock, Pete Hillier.

An SRT trip on Mendip! Planned in the Hunter’s, that actually happened!  We had an excellent time down this cave,
descending Slit Pot, Atlas Pot (from Marble Streamway to one side) and then
Slither Pot.  This was quite muddy, the
water obviously backing up a way during floods. Despite a roaring draught, none of us felt inclined to squeeze through a
wet slot into the streamway.  Back on the
ropes our exit went smoothly, Paul doing all the de-rigging, and my glasses
steaming up which caused me a few route finding problems.  Overall a great evening, a little hurried at the
end as we got out just before midnight! JW

15-7-00 Eastwater

Mike A and John W

Nice trip in Upper Series, climbing Rift Chambers and
looking for climb to Dark Cars … completed round trip, coming out for some
beer and cricket!!  MA .. Absolutely, the
way on to Dark Cars remains elusive, and rather dark as the Speleo Technics
lamp I’d borrowed was even worse than mine! (Sorry Bob) so as usual my trusty
LED lit the way.  A great trip  JW

15-7-00 Tynings Barrow Swallet

Vince and Roz

Steady trip downstream. Had a poke up into muddy passages above streamway and up Drunken Horse
Inlet did NOT go into Mountbatten Chamber. Air quality not 100%.  Pleasant
enough trip.

As for the annual cricket match the BEC gallantly managed to
lose again.  Too many potential players
decided to go caving only returning to drink beer!!!  VS

11-8-00 Swildons Hole

Rich Long, James Wear

Went to sump 1 as MRO (Bryan Prewer) asked us to change pull
through rope, it certainly needed it!! Replaced with nice black SAS rope, we used full camouflage face paint
while handling it and spoke in tough manly voices.  Swildons was dryish and formations below
Tratmans’ were drying out – the coffee coloured crystals were spectacular.  RL

28-8-00 Swildons Hole

John Williams ,Chris Holmes

A splash down the wet way, pausing along the way to admire
Barnes Loop.  A little persuasion!
description of sump 1 was all that was needed to encourage CH to try diving
through it. .. An excellent trip, complete with the usual light hassles  (Speleo – Technics related –
Princeton lee saved the day again!)   JW

 

Dachstein Caving Expedition 2000 Eistumen Hohle (G5)

– An interim report and
some ramblings from Tangent –
(photos by Joel Corrigan)

Over the first three weeks this August 17 cavers returned to
the wonderful wooden Weisberhaus (a bit like the Hunter’s except at
1883m).  The main objective of the trip
was to continue pushing G5 towards the Sudwestern Series of Hirlatzhohle, in
the hope of making a connection.  This
year pushing trip were going to be staged from an underground 4-person camp
located at -300m. With the comfort (?) of a cosy campsite to return to, it
seemed that the expedition was destined for success.

The Cast of Characters (in no particular order)

Pete ‘Snablet’ MacNab (the one responsible for this
gathering) Mike Alderton, Annette Brecher, Greg Brock, Joel Corrigan, Chris
Densham, Tim Francis, Rob Garrett, Rich Gerrish, Lev?, Pete Hall, Peter Hubner,
Rich Hudson, Tim Lamberton, Mike ‘Quackers’ Duck (as surface support ‘cos TSA
don’t make oversuits big enough anymore), Paul Windle, and John ‘Tangent’
Williams.

Acknowledgements

The expedition had received generous sponsorship and support
from numerous sources: –

A grant from the BCRA purchased
the underground camping equipment

Total Access supplied 1000m of
rope at very reasonable rates

Various members of the B.E.C.
were recipients of money from the Ian Deer Memorial Fund to help with transport
costs.

A big thank you to our host
Wolfgang & Alfi of the Weisbergahus for their kindness, hospitality, and
support.

Thank you to anyone else involved
in the preparation, planning or execution of this expedition..



Tangent at the entrance ofG5 (IC)

Deep, Dark, Dachstein ..

By John ‘Tangent’
Williams

Only for good reasons did the cavers travel along the roads
and invisible footpaths within the stonewalls of the cave.  The cavers were like moving shadows.  Exploring, bolting, rigging, and digging.  Scattered dots of yellow-orange light cast by
the caver’s carbide lamps were the only signal of their presence.  The occasional bolt and rope, the only sign
of their passing.  The caver’s lamps were
like small islands separated from one another by an enveloping sea of dark and
empty cave.  The caver’s lights were soon
swallowed by the blackness of their surroundings.  For them, what existed beyond the beam of
their lights could only be imagined. Here was the familiar darkness of a cave; but on an incomprehensible
scale.  After their passing, the cave
could then return to its original icy silence once more; as it had always been
in the time before men came to explore. Their activities were insignificant and soon vanished in the width of
the eternal night of that cave.

During the expedition we were able to study the Dachstein
from a distance, from up close, and -unique to cavers- from beneath.  Like the Poles and desert regions, the
underground environment is one of the few places on Earth where on first
acquaintance the landscape is truly desolate, barren, and seemingly devoid of
life.  A much closer look shows this
impression to be utterly wrong.  On the
surface the karst is swathed in forest, only the larch trees are barely 12
inches high, being forced to the ground variously by crushing snow pack or
fierce unrelenting winds, their growth stunted further by the aridity of the
karst during the short summer growing season. Hidden and small are the well camouflaged animals that occupy the
landscape, the occasional droppings or hoof prints just hinting at their
presence.

Everything on the mountain requires intense study if it is
to be understood at all.  This is very
true of the rock, especially if you’re trying to follow a new cave system
beneath the mountain.  The place both
above and below ground is one of extreme diversity and richness; it is also a
harsh and unforgiving place, which demands the utmost respect.  The landscape here has far more meaning than
that which can just be described through geology, geography and ecology.  Through our little explorations deep under
Dachstein, I have gained a better appreciation of this place and its
landscape.  Over the past years, through
our mapping of the caves, we have made our own invisible contribution to this
landscape, and in some small way maybe we have become a part of it also.

In the Dachstein Daze …

By John F. Williams

After hours of sleep deprivation, combined with a ceaseless
tide of Boris Yeltsin-like consumption, my mind was in a fog.  This was due to a night of righteous partying
that had been triggered by returning to the sanctuary of the wonderful wooden
Weisberghaus after a 3 day long pushing trip in G5.  Later on feeling wasted, distant voices
filtered through the fog.  They suggested
preparing to push other leads and of the impending demands of the de-rigging trips.  Our retreat from the cave was like the
Americans’ evacuation of
Saigon but without
the helicopters, and with even less glory!

Charlotte Bronte once wrote; “Life is so constructed
that the event does not, cannot, and will not match the expectation … ”
However I don’t think she ever had the opportunity to drop into the depths of
one of nature’s subterranean skyscrapers whilst in the grip of the attendant
intense gravitational forces!  On
occasions one’s expectations are entirely overwhelmed, such moments tend to hit
you when you’re unsuspecting, and thankfully, only very occasionally.  One such occasion happened to me whilst
leaving camp at the end of a pushing trip in G5.

Rich had gone on the ropes ahead leaving me to replenish the
water supplies at the camp and fettle my carbide lamp by which time he would be
finished ascending the big pitch out of the Hall of the Mountain Numpty.  There was just one slight problem; I couldn’t
locate the rope that would provide my passage up and out of the place!   A lot of aimless wandering around I sat down
on a large boulder in the centre of the chamber and thought about my
predicament some more.  Deciding to renew
the batteries in my spare torch I then methodically shone its bright beam
around the vast cavernous room until the slim silhouette of the rope appeared
at the top of a debris slope, hanging within metres of where I had searched
several times already.  Keeping its
location firmly transfixed in my vision, to the exclusion of everything else, I
moved speedily across to it and attached my jammers to the rope in readiness
for the climbing.  My mind is now on
autopilot.  My nerves are calmed by the
prospect of the repetitive routine of ascent. Especially after the uncertainty and isolation of the past half-hour,
whilst searching for the way out.

I slide my top jammer up as far as it will go.

Inhale.

Weight foot loop.

Pull with right arm.

Stand up …

OH …

… FUCK!

The words are instinctively ejected from my mouth.  They are nearly my last.

My surroundings accelerate past me.  The silence of the cave is shattered.  My cry is soon drowned out as tons of rocks
begin to fall, the chamber echoes with the sound of crashing, crushing
rocks.  My mind barely registered the
frenetic sequence of events that brought me back to my resting-place, looking
upward.  My immediate landscape appeared
to have taken on a radically new orientation, as if torn by some cataclysmic
tectonic force.

Ah … yes.

The Hall of the Mountain Numpty …

The Mendip Numpty …

My mind slowly registering my whereabouts, new thoughts
keeping time with the gentle bounce of the rope, hanging there just inches
above the ground.  From above Rich’s
voice boomed down.

‘Tangent are you
okay?’

‘I’m okay … I’m
safe!’

The veteran French speleologist Robert De Joly captured the
mood of the situation well when he wrote:

“Life is
decidedly precarious in these fateful depths.” De Joly (1975: 17)

I began the ascent once again, this time with a lot more
caution.  During the long climb, my mind
played and replayed the events that had just happened at the base of the pitch,
haunting my every motion upward.  It
would seem that just as I stood up in my foot loop to leave the deck, I lost my
footing on the slope and pendulumed across the slope only inches above the
ground, but completely at the mercy of gravity and inertia.  Above me, the sudden movement on the rope
must have dislodged tons of precariously poised rock from the chamber walls.  What was it Snablet had written about this
place last year?

“It is at this point that the walls turn to sugar and
the boulders are held up by plasticine.”

I vividly recall a T.V. sized rock glancing off my shin as
the tempest of falling rocks commenced. By good fortune the rope must have come taut at that moment and I
pendulumed back out of the way just as the falling rocks were in full flood …
Phew.

Later on that day Rich and I eventually reached the
surface.  By the time we emerged from the
confines of the entrance the darkness had extended from the cave to regain a
foothold over ground.  The sun having
long since slipped silently away over the horizon.  It was also time for us to slip away in the
direction of the Weisberghaus where our friends would surely be awaiting our
return with bottles of beer at the ready …

Pushing at the limits of explanation

You are 300m deep inside Eisturnen Hohle, a cave of severe
character buried beneath the Dachstein mountains of

Austria
.  In front of you at the bottom of a slope of
broken boulders is the camp.  Behind you
lies the Hall of the Mountain Numpty, a massive black void that you have just
abseiled through to arrive at camp. According to your companions, once you get through the passage called
Only fit for insane worms and gecko’s, you’ve done the hardest part and there’s
no good excuse to turn back from the trip – a rest at camp followed by pushing
at the current limit of exploration awaits you. On the surface the mountain climate generates a seemingly endless torrent
of thunderstorms.  The weather, your
caving friends tell you has no impact on the lower portion of the cave, unlike
nearer the surface where normally dry pitches can transform themselves into
cold cataracts of wild water.  Some have
been there; trapped at the base of pitches, pinned down until the flooding
subsides, or else have fought for air and ascent against the floodwater.  Your confused:  It’s cold and damp, and the view in every
direction disappears into waves of blackness beyond the glow of your torch, but
something inside you is relishing every moment, part you is actually enjoying
it!

You soon begin to question your sense of time and
space.  Rebelay’s that appear close take
half an hour of repetitive motion to reach. You quietly question your own significance in this underworld.  Why you choose to spend your entire summers’
holiday away on a caving expedition. Just you and your deluded caving friends and the darkness.  The American climbing writer Michael Bianchi
describes a similar situation:

“You mentally
compare the void outside to the one inside”

Down in the Birth Canal you look ahead and realise that
there is nothing to focus on anymore. Only blackness and varying shades of brown from the all-pervasive mud.
In this place the rock recedes and is replaced by layer upon layer of
thixotropic mud.  Pausing for a moment to
recover from a particularly savage series of manoeuvres amongst the mud, you
take a ‘look’ around.  Above you the rift
twists and turns, mirroring that below, a signature to the waters power.  Ahead is more of the same, two sheer walls
separated by a strip of black.  In cave
exploration there is no horizon to strive for, only a icy draught to chase and
sometimes water to follow.  Eventually
you stop relying on your eyes, amongst the mud and darkness, other senses take
priority.  What you feel: soft mud,
sticky mud, dry mud, wet mud, and cold dictate your next move.  What you sense is a feeling of being at the
edge of something far bigger than you are. This time you have pushed the ‘current limit of exploration’ a little
further forward, but in doing so the ‘limit of explanation’ has been exceeded.

Extract from the log 9/8/00: Rich Hudson & Tangent go
pushing G5.

“Our descent
passed by fairly smoothly, until we reached the heinous Birth Canal.  I’d been labouring with the misapprehension
that it was a long vaguely phreatic walking passage named in honour of the
Vertical Guru’s daughter (born in ’99 on the day the passage was
discovered).  It certainly is not.  The walls are coated in thick sticky mud,
some parts are narrow, some high and exposed, all of it is desperately
gruelling.  Some distance in, feeling
decidedly unnerved and intimidated, I told Rich that maybe I should call it a
day.  After a little discussion (and a
song from Rich) we agreed to carry on a bit further.  Soon we were at a pitch head, and once more
on rope, dropping down some 50m into a vast chamber.  At the base of the pitch a short drop was
descended.  Rich went first followed by
some scary flying rocks knocked by a careless Tangent stumbling around in the
‘daylight’ glow of his
Princeton Tec L.E.D.
lamp.  From the base of the pitch a
steeply descending 1-2m wide rift, about 40ft high, carrying a small stream,
led off into the unknown – or as Peter Hubner says’ … “To the final
frontier … “Unfortunately this was G5 not Hirlatz, so the ‘final
(fucking) frontier’ was a gruesome collection of awkward birth canal esque
rift, coated with a hefty dollop of mud. This mud was not your average friendly cave mud … It was more like
some slobbering Jabba the Hut manifestation, consisting of hideous plastic clay
which could easily conceal or consume two cavers and all their gear without
effort or trace.

The work of ‘pushing’
began.  Rich started rigging a high level
traverse line.  His work was hampered by
a very badly packed tackle bag, the aforementioned mud, and trying to stay in
place perched amidst the mud.  (Did I
mention the mud?).  After organising the
gear between us the ‘Traverse of a 1000 spits’ was made and a short pitch (35′)
dropped.  Much, much, more of the same
awaited.  The only redeeming features
were some mini mud formations created by flakes of rock protecting their tops
allowing the development of little cones beneath.  These were mostly squashed by Tangent whilst
explaining how they’d formed to Rich. The return journey awaited.  The
second time around the Birth Canal didn’t seem so bad (I’d gone ‘off route’ on
the way in by the ladder).  Back at camp
we ate and then slept.” J.W.

The following ‘day’ Chris Densham and Pete Whitaker
continued pushing from where we had finished. Their logbook entry reads:

10th Aug-

“Set off for the
bottom at 2.30pm.  With no great
enthusiasm we pushed beyond Rich and Tangent’s limit.  But first to put off the evil moment, Chris
pendulumed across to a floor c.10m from the top of Total Access.  After 10m proved to be a blind alcove.  So we had to go to the bottom.  Foul walls of slime.  Pathetic immature streamway at the bottom of
rift, slimy mud higher up.  Continued
about 30-40m beyond Rich and Tangent’s limit with a further couple of sections
of traverse line.  Pete was most
determined, and reported the streamway to cut its way down steeply and
narrowly.  The traverse level also
appeared to pinch out shortly after an area of collapse.  We decided the cave was concluded so derigged
out …. ” C.D.

The limit of exploration / explanation had been reached in
G5, the depth being somewhere around the -600m mark.  The passage seemed poorly developed, and the
mud severely hampered progress in an already desperate piece of cave.  Attention was now focused on pushing possible
phreatic leads higher in the cave between -300 and – 400m.

Some ideas on the
hydrology of G5 and its relationship to the Hirlatzhohle drainage system.

The Hirlatzhohle system has three distinct levels of
phreas.  Each of these developed in
conjunction with the prevailing hydrological and topographical conditions of
each glacial / interglacial cycle.  For
example during the earliest phase of cave development (‘level 3’) the altitude
of which is between 1300-1500m in the east (rising to the west with the
hydraulic gradient) the surrounding topography would have been quite different.

During each of the subsequent interglacial periods a new
lower phreatic level evolved.  This was
in response to changes in base level and hydraulic gradient as the land
surface, cave passages, and hydrological regime were modified by the effects of
glaciation and the associated climate change.

The relevance of these phreatic levels to G5 and its
potential for connecting with the Hirlatz system, is that the altitude of the
‘level 3’ phreas in the west could be intercepted by the much younger G5
development anywhere below -300m.  For
example the phreatic passage met at the head of ‘Only One Can Hold Me’.  With this knowledge pushing various phreatic
leads that appear in the cave became a priority. It also has the advantage of
expanding the cave laterally as the G5 passages at present have occupied a very
narrow vertical column within the rockmass by spiralling around on themselves.

On a final note Peter Hubner pointed out that if nothing
else, establishing that the water in G5 is flowing away to the N.W. refines our
understanding of where the watershed / catchment for Hirlatz lies.  It would seem that the present water in G5
drains to the hydrological connection that is known to exist between the
Gosausee and Waldbach Ursprung. Following a flowpath beneath the Hosswand AIm area, where it could
collect further water on its way to the resurgence (Waldbach) which is at an
altitude of 910m and seems to be fairly young having only been established at
the close of the last glacial maximum (c.15-20ka.).  During winter conditions the resurgence is
dry and has been explored to a depth of -40m terminating in a low (O.5m high)
bedding some 20m or so wide.  These
observations lend support to the idea that the conduits behind the resurgence
are young and poorly developed, which corresponds to the active passage
encountered at the present limit of exploration in G5.

Levels of Phreatic development in Hirlatzhohle:

‘Level 3’: Highest, oldest, 1300-1500m altitude (in the E.
rising in the W.)

‘Level 2’: Middle, main level, 1100-1300m (in the E. rising
in the W.)

‘Level 1’: Lowest, modern level- completely flooded and still
evolving (poorly developed) *

*The fact that in time of peak flow during times of
thaw/flood, the water levels rise dramatically by at least 100-200m to
completely fill the Western part of Hirlatz (level 2) suggesting that the modem
phreas has a small storage capacity and is still immature.

Key to schematic diagram of the levels in the Hirlatzhohle:

42
•••        Large fossil passages with
significant mud fill

////////    Large
fossil passages which are still active (no mud fill)

_____   Large passages
of probably younger origin

………. Passages with high
gradients connecting different levels Mainly rift dominated.

John (Tangent) Williams



Pete Hall (Red Rose), Snablet (BEC), Quackers, Greg Brock
(BEC) at the Weisberghaus ( photo JC)



 

65th Annual Dinner

The Market Place
Hotel, Market Place, Wells.
Saturday, 7th October 2000, 7.30 for 8.00 pm.
£21

I produce below a sample ticket with actual menu on the
night, sent from Mr Nigel- Ed

To reply to this dinner offer, you must return the tear off
form- this will give you a BB with half a page missing!

Menu

DRINK ON ARRIVAL

MINESTRONE SOUP   o    CHICKEN LIVER PATE

Breast of CHICKEN on a Cream of Mushroom
Sauce  or  Braised Blade of BEEF In a Red wine &
Shallot Sauce

Iced LEMON PARFAIT with Mulled
Black Cherries  or   BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING

COFFEE & MINTS

We are Limited to 100 Persons for Comfort, so PLEASE BOOK
Straight away, First Come First successful!

Please enclose a stamped address envelope with your form as
there will be no tickets on the night.  I
want to enjoy my meal as well! (SORRY, NO Phone Bookings OR e-mails)   A Coach will leave the Hunters Lodge Inn at
7.15 pm PROMPT!!……Please book names only, with the Booking Form Below.
please note:- Bookings CLOSE By Saturday 30th. SEPTEMBER

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details
–  Contact

Sept 15-17                 Hidden
Earth 2000, NCC Bristol

Oct 7                         AGM
and annual dinner

Oct 20-22                   ISSA Workshop,
North wales

2001

January 1                   Columns
Open Day OFD

12-14                         ISSA
Workshop and AGM, Mendip

 

 

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