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

Club and Caving News

I have received a letter from Jack Lambert reading as
follows:

Mummy (Fi) and Ivan Sandford are getting married on Saturday
24th March in a private family ceremony, but everybody is invited to join us in
the backroom of the Hunter’s from 7.30 pm onwards to help us celebrate!

Signed Ivan, Fi and Jack

This week saw a general re-think for active people who cave,
climb or mountain walk in the countryside. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease has led to measures restricting
access to many areas.  The NCA sent the
following message:

Deep
Cave,
Deep
Cave,

Deep
Cave

The following information was recently received from UAYCEF
member Daniel Filippovsky of

Kiev,
Ukraine
:

Now …
Voroniya
Cave (Arabika, Abhazia,
West
Caucasus
) – is the deepest cave in the World!!!!!!!!

Denis Provalov came up to the surface from camp -1200m on 6
January 2001 to tell the world of the news:

The Expedition of Ukarinian Speleological Association
(leader – Kasian) achieved a new world record depth of 1680 meters in

Voronia
Cave
!!!!!  There is one more pit (approximately 50
meters) and work is ongoing.

The Expedition members were as follows:

Yuri Kasian (Poltava) Nikolay Solovey (Kiev) Julia
Timoshevskaya (Poltava) Oleg Klimchouk (Kiev) Denis Provalov (Moscow)
Konstantin Moohin (Moscow) Sergei Zoobkov (Kiev) Vitaly Galas (Vzhgorod)
Anatoly Poviakalo (Poltava) Dmitry Sklyarenko (Moskow) llya Zharkov (Sverdlovsk
– Pensilvania)

Address Change

A late message from James Smart with a member address change
re: Ron Wycoll

Hi Mr Editor the above named asks me to tell you his new
address is: EXMOUTH, 
Devon

 

A big thank you once again to all contributors.  I struggle less each time!  Please keep the articles coming in and keep
sending them by email if you can.  Ed.

 

FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE – UPDATE

The situation has deteriorated rapidly during the past few
days with twelve cases now confirmed in various parts of the country.  In view of this very grave situation,
everyone is requested to immediately stop all caving and associated activities
until the crisis is over.  Indeed all
unnecessary visits to the countryside should be avoided.  Many clubs have closed their headquarters to
visitors and have cancelled bookings.

Graham Price
Conservation Officer
National Caving Association
http://www.nca.org.uk  

Your committee has decided that the Belfry will be closed in
line with this advice.


BRISTOL
EXPLORATION CLUB

2001 Foot & Mouth Disease and BEC Policy to comply with
prevention.

For your information, ALL VISITS TO THE BELFRY ARE TO BE
CANCELLED. St. CUTHBERT’S SWALLET ACCESS IS CLOSED.  THE MINNERY FOOTPATH AND BEC/INVERESK LEASED
LAND IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE BY ORDER OF THE B.E.C COMMITTEE,

We regret taking these measures, but hope that you will all
agree that in order to be both seen to act responsibly, and to show support and
solidarity to local farmers upon whom we all rely on their goodwill for cave
access – and, also to other caving clubs who are also taking similar action, we
have closed the BELFRY and site as detailed above.

The Belfry Drive/Car park will be physically closed on
Monday 5th March to ensure that no one visits the site until further
notice.  The Committee have agreed to
liase on a regular basis to review this action. No further BEC Committee meetings will be held at the Belfry until
further notice.  It was also agreed that
the point of contact for any queries should be through the Hon. Secretary –
Nigel Taylor on either 01934 xxxxxx or 07860-xxxxxx.

You are strongly requested to comply with this action, and
should be aware that the local Authority has indicated that breaches of
Footpath Closure orders will result in legal action with £5,000 fines mentioned
as penalties.

Please be patient during this troubled time,

Kind regards to all, Nigel Taylor
Hon. Secretary. 
On Behalf of the BEC Committee Saturday 3rd. March 2001

Stock’s House Shaft View during the week of 9th March.
“so near and yet so far …. ” See main article on page 20


 


Cheddar
Cave
Club find Skeleton

A group of cavers from

Cheddar
Cave

club have recently unearthed the skeleton of an ancient race of Mankind,
thought to be extinct.  The skeleton,
that of a male, with a severe leg injury and a small brain has mystified
archaeologists.

Local expert Chris Binding is reported to have been amazed
as to how the severely crippled man could have got to the site at the top of
the Gorge, above Goff’s Cave. Chris said, the finding of this fossil, along
with many other artefacts dating from the culture associated with Homo
touristensis, is strong evidence that this type of human roamed the gorge
centuries ago.

The skeleton was found alongside a number of contemporary
cultural artefacts.  One of these, an old
crisp packet yielded enough material for carbon dating, showing the skull and
the site to be 3500 years old making this one of the oldest Homo touristensis
finds in
Europe.

Local trader, Huge Cornfield said “This amazing find
lends strong support to the idea of a chair lift to the top of the Gorge.  If we can re – introduce this sub species of
humans to the area above Goffs caves, they will create their own ecological
habitat, thus saving millions of pounds in conversation measures.”

The find is sure to fuel the controversy as to how long ago
it was that people first came to Cheddar as tourists.

 

Reservoir Hole Meet

by Kangy King

If you travel in the Orkneys you can visit marvellous
prehistoric chambers constructed by man; some say over a long period of
time.  The sides are tidily made of
stones neatly fitted together, the roofs are corbelled and finished with great
slabs.

Why, you might ask, go to Orkney when with little effort you
can visit Reservoir Hole in the Cheddar Gorge? This had been entered in 1951 by

Wessex
party and in 1965 Willy
Stanton created more cave with chemical persuasion and devoted many hours
underground extending it.

I was there because Rich Long was kind to me and lent me a rollerblade elbow pad for my bursitis
and when my old NiFe cells went dim, a smart modern cigarette packet sized
lighting set.  The Irwin and Jarratt
Guide gives their usual precise factual account of this cave with a little star
indicating restricted access.  Martin
Grass was the answer to that.  We met him
by the reservoir.

We started promisingly enough with Martin leading us on up
the muddy bank above the reservoir. ‘Ah, sorry, we need to go back.’  ‘Ah, sorry, we seem to be too high.’  ‘Ah, sorry, I’m sure it was here last time
but they’ve cut the trees down.’  ‘Ah
sorry – Oh here it is!’  Low on the
ground, out of sight behind a rib of rock, was a tiny crevice.  It was blocked with a star shaped plate gate
and was secured by the usual gritty lock which was difficult of access.  Martin applied the magic penetrating oil
spray and we were in.

It was a head down job through the spiders until the tunnel
steepened past the horseshoe bat dangling from the ceiling.  The passage became steeper and seemed totally
man made with neatly stacked deads. Martin said that Willy Stanton had spent years digging this out.  Original passage was not obvious but the climb
down, through stones lining a spiralling shaft stabilised by stemples and
perhaps concrete, was cave like and interesting.  The passage we were following entered a much
bigger rift at right angles which must have been an exciting find for the
digging man.  Following this through
small chambers linked by tunnels through infill, led to a ‘final’ enlargement
in the rift.  With so many alternatives
it was not obvious that the way on was through a small dug passage at the
lowest point.

The extent of this speleological masterpiece began to dawn
upon us.  What a hero!  Willy Stanton had dug this cave for
years.  He must have lived in it.

When we finished going down – we started going up.  Neat walls of stones lined the way.  Steps had been constructed up the steep bits
and were contained between these walls. It was hard to see where the small
spoil was hidden.  Everything was so
neat.  It reminded me of the tidiness of
a show cave. And more.  I began to have
the feeling that I had been here before. Orkney I thought.  There is an amazing new find about 10 miles
south of Kirwall in the Orkneys.  A
farmer had broken into a most unusual underground prehistoric man-made
chamber.  From the entry point at the top
of a mound he had entered into a substantial stone staircase spiralling
down.  After two turns of descent, it
stopped on a flat stone slab.  That was
it.  A monumental staircase in stone.

Willy Stanton’s steps continued up through the magnificent
rift feature of the cave.  It had that
big cave feeling.  Higher still I thought
I saw steps cut into solid rock. Perfectly possible if you are removing rock split along the bedding
plane but amazing to see in an open passage where rock need not have been
removed.  Everything had been done to
facilitate the safe passage of the cave visitor.  Rope handrails eased our way. Neatly arranged
tapes mounted on little cement pyramids protected vulnerable formations.  On each side imposing vertical slabs formed
the rift.  There was perhaps evidence of
silken sides on one of the walls and in the same area there was damage caused
by boulders dropping out of the stunningly high roof and impacting with
glancing blows on the walls below.

Eventually the rift ended as the floor steepened into a wall
and a ladder invited us to climb to a higher level.  A fixed rope eased the considerable
exposure.  The party assembled on a
balcony and climbed around the back to find a wide path.  We walked back towards the rift which, even
though we had climbed high into it, still soared above us.  Wider at the top, the black walls of the rift
plunged for a couple of hundred feet into the gloom below.  We savoured the extensive view in silence
then turned back to examine the path more closely.  It had been built up out of excavated
material.  The disturbing thought was
that this implied hard work; the need to shift many tons rock from one place to
another.  Many of us might regard this as
the unattractive face of exploration. Here however, it became an aesthetic way and created a naturalistic
feature; an interesting part of the scenery.

An anthropologist would also have recognised the site as
showing signs of lengthy human habitation. Water management was the main preoccupation with various gauge tubing,
cans, tanks and cement channels guiding water to its appointed quarter.  A small rock basin, with a curious sediment
and a thin polythene tube supplying water from a higher reservoir, was
identified as a cement mixer.  A rusty
spade stood patiently by.

At the end of Reservoir Hole only a muddy pit remained.

Or is it the end? Perhaps Willy Stanton is planning more banging digging, stacking?  When are you coming back to finish this

Very
Good
Cave
, Willy Stanton
(hero)

Meet participants; Martin Grass, Rich Long, Stuart Sale,
James Weir, Zot, Kangy,

Kangy 28th November
2000

 

Travels in

America

Part III

By Rich Long

I’d been in a

New
Mexico
a few weeks by now and was getting to know
various people and how things worked. Firstly, we may have bit of a moan about getting a key for a cave or
having to arrange a leader, but to get a permit in the States you have to have
a degree to be able to fill out all the paperwork.  Even then you may only get in to clean a bit
of stal. with a toothbrush for four hours. Fortunately for me, not being blessed with either good looks or
intelligence, God has made me rather lucky, as Mr. Wilson will bear out by my
getting into Glover Chamber in Gaping Gill, purely by accident.

Well, as my luck would have it Stan Allison of Carlsbad
Cavern and Lehuguilla got me fixed up on a dig in Big Man Hole, along with my
new pals Aaron and Gus, both extremely bad influences on a poor Englishman, I’m
glad to say.

We arrived up at the meeting place in the Guadalupe’s at
about 9.30.  Already there was lots of
activity with about 15 people strolling around on this already very hot
morning.

Jim Goodbar with whom we had already caved greeted us.  Jim was the co-ordinator of today’s dig.  In typical cowboy politeness he took us
around the group, introducing us to people I had seen on the Discovery Channel
and read about in books.  Firstly there
was Dr. Mike Queen, he was the guy who helped Ronal Kerbo fix up the parachute
line and kiddy’s helium filled balloons to snag stalagmites in the Big Room in
Carlsbad and then ropewalk up into the Spirit World, some 230′ up.  Now anyone who goes up that height on an
unknown rigging point deserves a pat on the back and an appointment with a
psychiatrist as soon as possible.  Next
guy was Dave Belski, as we approached he was talking to a group of people and
his wife, “Get off this Goddamned mountain woman and take that goddamned
dog with you!”  I don’t think Dave
and Germaine Greer would have got on too well.

So, introductions over we trekked to the cave mouth, it is
very similar to the entrance to Lechuguilla, a small slot on the anti-cline of
the mountain.  It is situated not to far
from
Lech‘s entrance.  While in Jim’s office he had shown me a
Geophysics report and illustration of the cave system.  Where we were to dig today there was about
30′ between us and a 300-metre void.  The
trouble was the geo. plan shows the voids but it can’t show you relative
depths, so this huge area could have been on the same level or as easily 300’
down.  Still we just wanted in and the
excitement was growing.

Dave Belski rigged while we made friends throughout the
group and while we were waiting to rappel in, Mike Queen invited us on another
trip later in the week.

Well, it was Gus’s turn to go in, the abseil was about 80′
through the slot, when you went in you were actually right in the middle of the
roof of a big egg shaped chamber about 60mtrs by 35mtrs.

In the midst of these top-notch cavers you didn’t want to
appear twerps, unfortunately Gus and I both failed.  Gus was on a borrowed rack instead of his
usual figure of eight and miscalculating took out a bar instead of adding one,
so while we watched from the top he began a very swift rappel and to compensate
he whipped his rope down and behind him, i.e. Fig. of 8 style.  As you can imagine this didn’t help and he
proceeded to descend at about a hundred miles an hour, yelping like a ten year
old girl, whilst contracting a severe case of abseiler’s hand.  He corrected about 10 feet off the ground to
much applause and cowboy hollering of “Rock and Roll!”

Unfortunately as some of you are well aware, any cave with a
nice straight down abseil is not only frequented by cavers but by non abseiling
animals and this one was no exception.

Big Man Hole had porcupine, rabbits, calves, etc., the
latest acquisition was a ring tailed cat and a big one as it had tended to puff
up a bit while it had been lying there, waiting for Gus to abseil right into
it.  Whew, did that cat stink!

It was now my turn and I wasn’t going to make a fool of
myself, famous last words.  Rigged on
with my cows tails, then check my trusty Fig of 8, no problem, Jim was the last
in behind me, “See you in there Jim.” Down I go. About 2 feet, then nothing, jump up and down on the rope,
nothing.  Check I’m not hooked up, no,
clear, just dangling with Jim watching and chuckling.

“I should unhook your long cows tail Rich.” Smiled
Jim, helpfully. “Christ!!!”

O.K. down I went red faced and

England
totally embarrassed.

We soon split into two teams, one filling a previous shaft
and one digging towards the void.  I knew
which one I wanted and scuttled off with my new friend Dave Belski.  The rule was you did 15 minutes and no more,
digger goes to the end of the line and wait to dig again.

I was third in line, the first guy did his dig, second,
after about 10 minutes, hit through and there was the most enormous blast of
air.  It kicked up dust out of that hole
like it was the Intercity 125 blasting through.

Now it was my turn, I never really knew what Gold Fever must
have been like until that minute.  I
dropped into that small shaft and I went at it like a man possessed.  Dust, rock, wind blasting, I had only been
this excited on the outside of a cave before!

All to soon 15 minutes raced by.

“O.K. Rich, times up!” Dave called.  I chose to pretend I didn’t hear him and
continued frantically as I could now get my hand and most of my forearm into a
cubby hole I had made.

“Rich come out!” called Dave.

“Carry on Richie boy!” I thought, this is it.

“Goddamned Limey B*****d!  Come out, NOW!  Or you won’t go in again!” Dave
bellowed.

Common sense prevailed!

We dug all day and the wind continued to howl, sometimes
sucking and then blowing.  We made about
four feet and we were getting to the point of whole arms being thrust up the
tunnel and being able to move them and loose rocks around, it was definitely
going.

We all got out around 6.00pm.  Said our good-byes and went home, Jim told me
that even if we had broken through we wouldn’t have been allowed in.  Apparently NASA has first shout, as they
believe there could be organisms, fossilized or otherwise that may be similar
to life on Mars or Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

Ah well, it had been a good day.

I guess that will do for now, time for my medication!  Oh, Nurse!

 

Danger Brock’s May Fall At Anytime!!

Greg Brock & Mike
Alderton

I will start by apologising for the disjointed nature of
this report, as we are writing this after a Friday night at the Hunters.

Our Christmas time adventure started on the 22nd of
December, when I arrived in Essex to meet a disorganised and hungover Greg,
slowly getting ready for a couple of weeks of camping and walking in
Scotland.  After a hearty meal, we packed
up the car and headed north through the night.

The drive went very
quickly for me as I spent most of it hungover in the passenger seat while Mike
drove most of the way to

Scotland
.  Arriving early on the Saturday morning we
pitched the tent just outside Glencoe after travelling through the night from
Essex.  We pitched
our tent by the side of the road and had a well-deserved sleep before
travelling the rest of the distance to

Fort
William

the next day.

The Saturday was spent wandering around

Fort
William
,
spending too much money and finding out information about routes and weather,
and then setting up camp in the woods. We got up early the next morning, and after packing our rucksacs, we
were on the tourist path up
Ben Nevis before
sunrise.  All was going well and soon we
were up at the CIC hut at the foot of the crags on the rear of the mountain.

We consulted the guide
book for the last time before heading up towards Tower Gully.  After crossing all the boulders and rocks at
the bottom we were soon on snow and ice where we were able to try out our
crampons for the first time.  Slow
progress was made up the gully as we were carrying quite a lot of stuff and our
feet were hurting from new fully stiffened mountaineering boots.  After a while Mike, who was leading at the
time, stopped at a conveniently placed boulder.

I was just stopping for a quick drink from my frozen water
flask while Greg climbed up to join me. I turned to speak to him, when instantly he disappeared from sight.  ‘Flip!’ I thought as I watched him vanish
from view over drop-offs and round comers, ‘he’s dead and I’m stuck half way up
a mountain, this is not good.’  I rapidly
learnt to down climb, desperately trying not to go the same way as Greg.

As soon as I felt my
feet slip away and I started sliding I did an ice axe break which as soon as I
hit the ice the axe was ripped out of my hands and down I went in my
uncontrolled descent.  People keep asking
me what was going through my mind but everything went so quickly that the only
thing I can remember is landing in boulders at the bottom realising I wasn’t
dead.  Then doing the automatic check of
seeing if I had broken any bones.

Thank God for mobile phones eh?  Greg managed to phone me on my descent to say
he was still alive which was quite relieving, so I carefully continued down and
soon was helping Greg back round the mountain to the CIC hut where we were
kindly allowed in to enjoy warmth and a cup of tea.

We struggled back to the
car and finally ended up at

Fort
William
Youth Hostel,
where we stayed for the night.  The
following day we decided mountaineering was no longer the way forward as I
couldn’t walk so we headed down to
Yorkshire
for some caving and for New Year.  The first
couple of days I spent mincing around the RRCPC hut while mike went caving but
after couple of days of recovery I headed down Meregill and the following day
down Dihedral.

We had some superb trips in Yorkshire, and plenty of
hard-core bar room mountaineering all the way to new years day, where a heroic
Greg drove back to
Essex with me suffering
(not very) silently in the passenger seat mincing.

The caving in
Yorkshire was good and New Year was quite memorable (Or
not as the case may be).  After our mountaineering
epic, we are going to do something safe now like cave diving.

 

 

Western Australia Spelio Group Conservation Appeal 2000.

This article has been published in Descent, but I felt that
many people do not buy Descent on a regular basis and would therefore miss this
serious conservation issue.  I would like
to add that this is not the only issue in

Western Australia
at this moment in
time.  There is also a development
company in the north

Perth

area that is digging up caves to build a new housing estate.  Sadly, the WASG can only afford to
concentrate on the larger and more serious issue in the
Cape
range, as the costs are crippling. PLEASE READ ON.  I have recently been in contact with the WASG
who have informed me that they have a serious conservation problem in

Western Australia
.  The club is relatively small, but has to
police (if that is the right word) a huge area from Margaret River in the south
western comer of Western Australia up through to Perth where there are caves in
the Yanchep National Park, then on up to Exmouth and the Cape Range.  Also, beyond into the

North West
Territories
!  This is an almost impossible task with the
financial resources they have, so they do the best they can, relying on the
park Wardens, local people, and conservationists to help them.

At this moment in time, a Mining Corporation LEARMONT
LIMESTONE is applying for licences to mine 82 sq. KM of the

Cape
Range
.  This will devastate the karst area around
Exmouth and the
Cape! There are 600 known
caves in this region with another 50 approx being found annually.  (I quote from the official report THE CAPE
RANGE KARST IS A VISUALLY STUNNING LANDFORM THAT WOULD BE PERMANENTLY SCARRED
BY THE PLACEMENT OF A MINE ON THE PROPOSED MINING LEASE. KARST LANDFORMS ARE
RELATIVELY RARE IN

AUSTRALIA

OCCUPYING ONLY ABOUT 3% OF THE TOTAL LAND MASS).  There is also a report on the impact to the
flora and fauna in the region and underground.

WASG and other organisations are trying to oppose the lease
using Court Action; “the hearing opened on the 3rd August 2000” but
this will be crippling financially to the club and others involved.

The Lawyers are advising a softly, softly approach to the
problem and WASG do not want this to become a blazing issue until the sensible
method has been tried.  At the moment an
alternative site for mining has been proposed by the conservationists.  However, the caving club and all the groups
are desperate for financial help and I appeal to all the clubs in

Great Britain

to make some kind of contribution, however small, every little helps!

At the moment the information I have is that cheques should
be made out to CAVCARE which is the WA cave conservation fund set up for this
purpose . You can send the cheques to my home address and I will forward them on
to CAVCARE or they can go direct to WA at CAVCARE 27 BECKENHAM ST, BECKENHAM
WESTERN

AUSTRALIA
.

My address is Keynsham,

Somerset
. Email mwi1co@[removed].

Please help fellow Conservationists in their struggle to
keep the

Cape
Range
flora and fauna, caves, and
landscape intact!  Mike Wilson.

To illustrate this appeal, Mr. Wilson has sent me an article
written some while ago which describes some of the delights of caving in this
threatened area- Ed  (see next section)

 

Caving Down Under

by Wendy Short

Taking a deep breath, I crouched in silence.  My powerful light beam cut a white arc across
the cave ceiling dripping with pure crystalline soda straws.  The air had a different smell underground
here than the caves on the top side of the world.  I was totally fixated as the four of us
paused to admire the beauty of

Jewel
Cave
and set up camera
equipment for a photo.  I smiled to
myself, feeling lucky and blessed to participate in this experience.  I was caving with the Western Australia Speleological
Group (WASG) President, Jay Anderson, her husband Ross Anderson, and a
gentleman from the

UK
,
Mike Wilson (BEC).  Only four trips a
year are allowed in these caves in the

Margaret
River

area of Western Australia (WA), no more than four people per trip.  Many local cavers from the

Perth
area had not ever visited these
caves.  Since I was a
“foreigner”, I felt lucky and privileged indeed.

When I was planning my trip to

Australia
, I wanted to see what the
caves were like Down Under, the differences and similarities, as compared to
American caves.  I looked through the NSS
members manual and found one person listed in the area I would be visiting,
Rauleigh Webb.  After emailing my
interest to him, he forwarded my letter to members of the caving group.  It wasn’t long before I heard back from
several members offering their assistance and support, Fran Head and Ian
Colette being my initial contacts.  Fran
was very helpful and accommodating in making arrangements and was willing to
lend me all her gear.  That was very
necessary since I did not have room to pack my own gear, and was only bringing
my boots!

I was under the impression that

Australia
was a karst-poor
continent.  But after spending two months
traveling most of the country, I found caves and karst features almost
everywhere I went.  The Southwestern
comer of WA is well known for some of it’s beautiful show caves, Jewel Cave,
the largest show cave in WA, being one of them.

After kitting up in the parking lot of
Jewel
Cave in the early morning, we were
ready to embark on our 4 hour trip into the “wild” section of

Jewel
Cave
.  The rocks in this area are some of the oldest
in the world.  At one time the cave was
exposed sand dunes, worn away by wind and erosion.  Falling in behind the tour group, we walked
through a heavy well-constructed vapour lock door.  The door was impressive, protecting the cave
air and environment, or so I thought. Then I smelled the heavy perfume on the visitor in front of me.

As we came upon the first chamber we saw pair of pure white
calcite straws of extraordinary length, one of which is the largest straw found
in any show cave in the world at 5.5 meters in length.  It has grown 3.5 cm since the cave opened,
Boxing Day 1959.  For the majority of
tourists, the most memorable section is the jewel cask cavern.  The size of a small room, the walls and
ceiling are profusely decorated with intertwining stalactites, straws and
helictites.  It’s so intricate and
extensive that it is hard to find the tiniest space not covered.  The jewel casket is a sparkling cluster of
cave crystals.

We followed the tour for a bit, then nicked off (headed off)
down a crawlway away from the artificial lights.  The wild section of the cave is called the
Flat Reef Extension.  Each room was full
of soda straws, cave coral and helictites of varying length and
thickness’.  I was just awed by the
beauty, which rivals any cave in
North America
I had seen.  The cave was well mapped,
and we followed a well-marked path of reflective arrows.  We were now on a private tour.  I felt Mike and I were being tested a bit as
well; our skills, techniques and conservation attitudes.  Down Under is one place where you must
“cave softly”.


Jewel
Cave
is about 700 meters
in length, with many beautiful large rooms. Every section was decorated except one crawl at the terminal end.  There was one place that had Tasmanian tiger
bones covered in calcite, 25,000 years old. We spent the morning in Jewel, which is an easy, manageable, mostly
walking cave.  Still, we got winded at
times due to the high carbon dioxide levels we all felt.

The next cave we visited was Moondyne, located in the same
park as Jewel.  We just happened to time
the end of our lunch with the beginning of a wild cave tour, and my hosts
convinced the guide to let us tag along. Moondyne is only about 300 meters
long, basically just two large rooms. The main feature is walls and walls of stunning white cave coral.  I was not real impressed with the “wild
cave” tour and glad we were not asked to pay for it.  It was just too easy.  Walking and constant stopping as the guide
explained and showed points of interest proved somewhat anti-climatic.  The two hour trip could have been done in a
leisurely 45 minutes.

We had time to explore another short cave, and met up with
others from the caving group, including Fran Head and Ian Colette.  The cave was located a short walk through the
bush.  About 10 of us entered Deepdyne
through a broken entrance gate.  This
used to be a tourist cave in the 1920’s my hosts thought.  I wasn’t too impressed now; the entire cave
was only about 150 meters long and 20 meters high.  The formations were very old, dried and dead
looking.  I could see in its prime it
must have been stunning, as it had the same formations as the other caves I had
just been in, with the addition of huge old rimstone dams.  It was apparent that the water levels in this
entire area have been dropping.  I asked
around …. does anyone know why?  Not
really, only a stray theory or guess, none of which bode well for the future of
these caves.

By the time we left this third cave it was getting late, a
swim in the Indian Ocean was in order at
Hamlin
Bay before heading back to camp in the

Leeuwin
National Park
.  WASG had a nice base camp and
“hut”, a semi-permanent set up there that slept several dozen people,
and the campsite was quiet in a remote section of the bush.  Mike and I were on a very natural high and
still in awe of what we had experienced, with promises of the best cave saved
for the following day.  There was great
camaraderie and kidding around the campfire that night.  It was similar to cavers getting together in

America
after a
long day of caving, except some of the Aussie jokes went over my head.

The next morning Jay, Ross, Mike and I got an early start and
headed back to the park where

Jewel
Cave
is.  We were going to

Easter
Cave
;
highly restricted, vastly beautiful, and quite long and challenging.  After kitting up in the parking lot, we all
headed off in different directions in the bush looking for the entrance. Jay
and Ross had not been there in years and the path was no longer
discernable.  I carried the belay
rope.  The forest was thick with
peppermint and eucalyptus trees.  We
searched and searched.  Regrouped, spread
out, and looked some more.  It was
getting later and hotter.  I was getting
really thirsty but I wanted to save my water for the long trip in the
cave.  We were looking for a small
depression in the ground.  Suddenly I saw
a small rock in front of me, then a doline. I almost stumbled into the pit it came up so unexpectedly.  “I found it!” I yelled out.  I was glad to feel useful and like I
contributed something.

There was no entrance gate at Easter, the entrance being a
10 meter drop through a hole in the ceiling of the cave.  A cable ladder and belay were rigged and we
each descended one by one.  I climbed
down carefully, not having been on a cable ladder in over ten years.  Rappelling sure seems easier. 

Easter
Cave
is about 18
kilometres long.  My hosts had no map
….. something political.  Only a
handful of people had been here.  We
started on our six hour journey that covered about 3 kilometres of the
cave.  We stuck tightly to the track,
which was marked with reflective tape, very visible and easy to follow and stay
on the designated path.  The cave looked
virgin to me it was so pristine.  The
lack of permits given to visit this cave really showed.  We slowly travelled through room after room
of highly decorated passage.  This cave
was more dynamic than the others I had seen. Some of the floor was damp and had calcite rafts still growing.  I was just in awe that so much could be so
decorated.  The cave had a variety of
crawls, squeezes, and walking passage. It was very dry.  Still, the
formations were alive and stunning, catching our light beams wherever we shined
them.

Our destination was a formation called “The
Question”, which Ross wanted to photograph.  I relaxed and listened to the echoing drip
drip drip of a live formation as the shot was set up.  The trip out did not seem to take as long as
going in as we did not stop for pictures on the way out.  Still, because you have to be so careful not
to touch anything, it was pretty slow going. I did not mind, it gave me time to memorize all the beautiful things I
was seeing.  And I believe that my
presence left no impact on the cave that day.

I would like to thank Jay and Ross Anderson, and the WASG
for making it possible for me to experience some of the finest caves in

Western Australia
.

Mike Wilson

 

I Don’t Want To Push It – It Might Go!
The exploration of C33

By Mike Alderton

I had just returned from a three day trip in G5 and settling
down with a few beers started looking forward to a couple of days of rest and
recovery – but Joel C and Tim F had other ideas.  Waiting until I was well lubricated with wine
and beers they proceeded to tell tales of a promising cave left at the head of
a 15m pitch, bound to drop into Hirlatz and only ¼ of an hours walk from the
Wiesberghaus!  This is how their log book
write up actually went. …

Anyway I had been convinced it was going to break through
and persuaded Tim L and Peter Hubner to join me on this exploration.

Armed with survey kit, rigging gear, SRT kit and Sam of
discarded climbing rope we reached the present survey limit.  Peter was not impressed by the tortuous
passage we had now entered and headed back to the surface just before Buffalo
Breech.

From this point the passage started to get quite committing,
with desperately tight squeezes, sharp corners and no possibility of tuning
around for about an hour – a real delight for us Mendip cavers.

We reached the pitch found by Joel and Tim and I soon
descended it, dropping into a steeply sloping chamber in beautiful white
limestone with fluted cascades in the floor – Awesome, virgin passage to
explore!

Within no time, Tim was down the pitch and off we headed
along a typical Dachstein meander, but easy going and peppered with easily
climbable cascades.  We threw ourselves
along the passage, barely able to take it all in, until instead of breaking out
over an unfathomable pitch the cave deteriorated to more desperately tight
twisting passage.  With our hearts
rapidly sinking we followed this for a while until leaving the remainder of the
climbing rope we headed back out.  Our progress
was speeded up after noting the clean washed nature of the floor, wall and roof
– this place must flood like a beast when it rains …

The return was uneventful, cold and slow, but when we had
passed Buffalo Breech, smiles returned to our faces – we were finally going to
escape from this incredible cave. Climbing up the 40′ pitch, through the entrance meanders, up the
entrance climb and we were out, heading back to the Weisberghaus where our
companions were waiting with a crate of Zipfers.

After a few of these, Tim wrote in the logbook …

The Hirlatz survey shows that C33 has all chances of
dropping straight into the master system, so for next years expedition we are
looking for young, flexible, skinny young cavers with a limitless supply of oversuits.  Are you interested?

 



 

Dachstein – Austria 2000 (The Overall Picture)

By Greg Brock

“I Cave Mostly in

Somerset

you know “
Tangent

Our Austrian expedition started the week before in
Yorkshire where myself, Mike Alderton and John ‘Tangent’
Williams arrived at this small wooden hut in Braida Garth, the NCC Hut.  It was here we was going to meet Snablet for
the first time and sort out last minute arrangements for

Austria
.  In the morning, after the usual large
quantity of alcohol the night before we headed into Ingleton where we met
Snablet in a cafe.  We also bought extra
expedition kit from Bernies.

The following week passed quite quickly and before I knew it
I was meeting up with Snablet, Annette and Pete Whitaker (WRCPC) at

Munich
airport.  The travelling to Halstat was amazingly
simple but this was helped by the fact Annette could speak German.  Once at Halstat we met up with the others who
had driven out and prepared ourselves for the 3 hour walk up to the
Wiesberghaus.

“G5 – It’s a classic!…………A real fu**ing
classic!………….
Not sure if I like it though………..”
Rich Hudson

G5 – Einsturner Hahle (Ice Gymnast Hole) was my first
Austrian cave.  The rock was extremely
sharp, hard on gear and as the name suggests very cold.  This was to be the place of three weeks worth
of continuous pushing & exploration. The first couple of trips were quite easy going but soon turned into 24
hour trips, and when the camp was set up they turned into 3 day trips.  It soon got to the stage where rest days were
needed between trips.  On one particular
rest day it was decided to do a Dachstein pub crawl, but this turned out to be
a bit more adventurous than planned and was summed up by Tangent once back at
the Wiesberghaus…….

“Now I need a rest day to recover from my rest day. ” Tangent

Eventually last years limit of exploration (explanation) was
reached and new cave was starting to be explored, albeit very slowly.  The rift was getting harder to traverse along
and in places traverse lines were rigged because of the walls being covered in
a horrendously slimy mud.  After pushing
trips being hindered by bad weather the higher level fossil stuff was decided
to be our only hope of finding a significant amount of passage.

“Only One Can Hold Me – You’re our only hope.” Rob
Garrett

In the remaining week before de-rigging, “only one can
hold me” and another passage by High Flyers were looked at but neither
were fully pushed.  “Only one can
hold me” was seen to continue but realistically who wants to go back and
push it?

“Is there a carnival like atmosphere on the glacier” Tangent

Apart from G5 which was where the majority of the
expedition’s resources and efforts were focused there were other sites to push
and other things to do.  The glacier,
surrounding cliffs and the other mountain huts provided things to do on rest
days from G5.  Some excellent climbing
was had not only up by the glacier but also on bolted routes by the
Wiesberghaus.  When resources like food
and gas ran low there was always the reluctant option of walking back down to
Halstat and collecting provisions.



Greg and Mike on the glacier – picture Greg Brock

After this years’ exploits in

Austria
I think G5 has been
concluded but there is lots more to push and lots more places to prospect both
on top of the mountain and down in the valley near Hirlatz (The main master
system).  Lets look forward to next
year!!!!



Moving gear through G5



Tim Lamberton in “insane worms” – Greg Brock

 

Two Combes Walk

O.S. EXPLORER 4 MENDIP HILLS WEST (ORANGE SERIES)

by Vince Simmonds

Start from West Harptree village and follow Ridge Lane,
found next to the village stores, uphill and just beyond the last house take a
footpath on the right (west) waymarked for the ‘Limestone Link’.  Head west across fields to Cowleaze Lane,
which can be rather over grown, take care at the end of the lane where you will
meet the road that goes up Harptree Hill. Go up the hill for a short distance and another path is met on the right
proceed west towards Compton Martin. From the fields good views can be seen of both

Chew
Valley

and Blagdon lakes.  The path soon drops
into

Highfield Lane

and you turn to head uphill for about 250 metres to reach a path on the right
leading through a field gate.  Through
this gate and then drop down hill to some cottages following the lane down
(north) for a short distance before taking a path to your left which after
crossing a couple of fields takes you to the bottom of Compton Martin combe.

On passing the cottages almost immediately on the left is
the path leading up to Compton Martin
Ochre Mine NGR ST55/5419
.  5670 which
if you have picked up the key from the Belfry and brought with you a helmet,
lamp and some caving grots is well worth the visit.  Even if you don’t feel the desire to venture
underground there are some interesting surface features and relics of a bygone
age to keep you amused for a while.  Take
care on the slope if it’s wet it can be extremely slippery.

For a full
description and survey of the mine refer to Mendip Underground, D.J. Irwin
& A.R. Jarratt.

Follow the path up through the combe past the disused
quarries, the combe has some interesting karst features but they are rather
small.  In the spring it can be an
amazingly green place.  At the top of the
combe the path leads along the drive of Whitegate Lodge to reach another
lane.  Turning left (south east) here
takes you to a crossroads, go straight over into

Western Lane
, all along the ridge
excellent views of

Chew
Valley
and surrounding
hills are seen.  Follow

Western Lane
for 1½
km down to the bottom of a steep descent from here is a choice depending on the
time of year.  If its late spring turn
right (south-west) up Garrow Bottom after about 500m you will be rewarded with
the most fantastic display of bluebells. From

Western Lane

turning left (north east) follow the path across a field into Harptree combe
where you have the company of a small stream all the way to the bottom.  About halfway down you come across some small
mines which are worth a little poke around.

For a full
description and survey of these mines refer to Belfry Bulletin March 2000 Vol.
51 No.1 “An excursion to Harptree combe and mines” by Vince Simmonds.

You may also wish to have a good look around

Richmont
Castle
which is also found here.  A Norman lord known as Azelin was the
possible builder of the castle sometime post-1066 he died 1120 leaving the
manor of Harptree to his son John, the manor then became known as Harptree.  After John’s death the manor then passed on
to his son William de Harptree.  The
political situation around this time was very unsettled and after the death of
Henry I the throne was left to Matilda, who was also known as Maud.  The throne was contested by her cousin
Stephen with the backing of some of the more powerful lords while William de
Harptree and others in the West of England formed an alliance supporting
Matilda and they garrisoned

Richmont
Castle
in 1138.  Stephen laid siege to
Bristol
and then in 1139 led an army to Harptree and took possession of

Richmont
Castle
.

The castle stayed in the hands of the de Harptree family,
but around the time of Henry III, Sir Robert de Harptree assumed his mothers
name of Gournay. Sometime between the 12 and 15 century the two Harptrees split
the Gournay family took control of West Harptree while the
Newtons
took
East Harptree.

By 1540

Richmont
Castle
was a ruin and
it’s stone had gone to several possible local sites, Eastwood Manor being just
one of them.

There was also the belief that the castle walls covered
valuable mineral deposits, it was around this time that a strong brass industry
flourished in

Bristol
.  Several pits in the castle site may be the
result of some later working of the area.

The presence of shot-holes in some of the mines would
suggest working of a later date possibly late 1600’s or the 1700’s.  An interesting fact is that in 1728 Sir John
Newton, who owned the biggest part of East Harptree, also owned several coal
mines in Kingswood (
Bristol) where the coal was
used to supply his brass smelting works at Warmley (

Bristol
).

When reaching the bottom of the combe turn right (west) to
cross the stream and stile and crossing fields will lead back to

Ridge Lane
and
West Harptree.

Allow 3 hours for the walk more if you plan to explore the
mines and the castle.

Acknowledgements:

East Harptree: Times
Remembered Times Forgotten, Jon Budd.

Worle, Woodspring and Wallop: The Calamine Connection, Nick
Corcos;

Somerset

Archaeology and Natural History, 1988 pp 193-208.

 

Stock’s House Shaft – Towards the Hundredth Ton.

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BB’s nos. 502, 504-509.

BB 508 article – correction: The drawings of the bronze
bearing liner and “timewaster” were not, as stated, reproduced at the
correct scale but had been reduced in size by the printers.  The length of the latter is 154mm, width of
blade is 60mm.  The bearing is 60mm x 39mm
x 27mm.

For a couple of weeks in November only Alex visited the
Upstream Level on one occasion, ‘flu, work and idleness having wreaked havoc on
the rest of the team.  On the 3rd of
December the deep rake near the tumulus c.110m north of the Shaft was
investigated for possible dig sites in the hope of by-passing the flooded terminal
choke.  The floor of the rake is composed
of loose boulders but major excavations would be necessary to open up any
underground workings.

Back at the Shaft work continued on clearing the Upstream
Level and the bag pile in the Rat Trap and Greg’s Level.  51 loads were winched out on the 8th.  The Treasury of Aeops stream diversion was
still working well – to the extent that Five BuddIes Sink was found to be
almost sumped just before the initial choke breakthrough point.  With this Autumn being the wettest on record
this was hardly surprising but at least the stream in the Shaft, though sumping
up the terminal choke, was not backing up to any degree.  This bodes well for open passage beyond.

On December 11th a visit to Pipe Aven revealed another roof
fall which had again luckily occurred during our absence.  The large spur of rock supposedly held in
place by the long Acro-prop had come down, prop and all.  Just beyond it the hanging death once
supported by Old Men’s deads had also come down and the Level was again
partially blocked.  This was actually
very good news as these Damoclean “Henries” had been a continual
source of worry to diggers passing warily beneath them.  The enormous boulders hanging in the now
spacious void above will also undoubtedly come down in the near future and
should hopefully wedge across above the Level to provide a relatively stable
ceiling.

A map of all known cave and mine passages along the road
between the Hunters and the Miners was given to the civil engineers putting in
roadside trenches for fibre optic communications cables.  They were very grateful as no-one had
informed them of possible dangers and one of their planned sites for an
underground junction box was exactly on the site of an “old trial
shaft” – now lost and not marked on recent O.S. maps!  (Incidentally this road is referred to in
Gough’s Mines of Mendip as

Harptree
Way
).

The 13th saw a three man team clearing all bags and rocks
from the Upstream Level and then leaving it severely alone as further extensive
roof falls in the Pipe Aven area appeared imminent.  113 loads came out on the 17th and many of
these were wheelbarrowed onto the Reserve where they were used the following
day to construct a temporary dam at the head of the flowing stream behind
Stock’s House.  It is hoped that this
will divert the water from the Upstream Level and into Five BuddIes Sink.  The remainder of the spoil was used to level
the ground between the Shaft and Forestry car park in order to make winch
access easier.  Another 124 loads came
out on the 20th making a total since the start of this dig on the 25th August
1998, of c.7,6S0.  At an average,
probably under-estimated weight of 251bs this works out at 78 tons brought to
surface so far!!!

The surface drainage trench into Five BuddIes Sink revealed
another interesting relic of the 19th century washing operations on the 22nd of
November when a rusty iron bolt was spotted in its floor.  A few minutes work with a spade showed it to
be just a tiny part of a section of cast pipe with a “flow diverter”,
broken but otherwise identical to one previously found in the wheel pit, rusted
solidly onto one end.  The total length
being 1.148m – see drawings appended.

The Christmas week saw very few diggers, lots of hangovers,
much clearing of the Loop Level, Treasury of Aeops and the deposited silt in
the start of the Upstream Level.  By the
end of the year another 105 loads had reached the now frozen and snow covered
surface.  At last the continuous rain
seemed to have stopped (or at least turned lumpy) and it was hoped that a good
freeze would dry up the inflowing streams. A note in The Pew (Priddy,

Easton

and Westbury parish magazine) states that the rainfall in Priddy during 2000
amounted to over 1270mm (50″).  The
standard average rainfall in the

Chew
Valley
being 1100mm
(43″).

On the last visit of 2000 a short length of rigid aluminium
ladder was erected in the Treasury in an attempt to avoid climbing over the
huge and unstable boulder partway along. Suddenly it proved to be very unstable as it slid towards the ladder
during tidying up operations.  The digger
was prepared for this and rapidly retreated to the Shaft to plan a future
banging project! In the meantime this level should not be entered.

New Year celebrations took their usual toll and it was not
until the 3rd of January that a return was made to bring out 101 bags of
spoil.  A return was also made to the
awful, depressing wet weather.  11 more
bags came out on the 8th when the Upstream Level collapse was utilised as the
base of a dam for future water retention. A 6″ plastic pipe was installed here on the 14th and the dam
further built up the following day. Another 85 loads emerged on the 17th when surface and underground water
levels were noted to have dropped considerably.

A banging trip on the morning of the 22nd of January
disintegrated two boulders in the U/Level collapse, two at the Shaft bottom and
obliterated the front of the huge “Henry” in the Treasury.  In the afternoon much of the resulting debris
was bagged up by Alex.  The rest was
cleared on the 24th when Trevor poked the looming remains of the
“Henry” with a long bar then left it to hopefully slump down to floor
level.  On this occasion the standing
water level in the Downstream Level was found to have dropped over a foot.

On the 28th another 71 bags came out and the winch was
removed to the Belfry.  All the rock
dumped at the roadside was transported to the Mineries dam for repair
work.  This continued on the following
day when Stock’s House Shaft was tidied up on the surface as the writer was off
to Meghalaya to find some REAL cave. During the next three weeks only Alex could be bothered to turn up on
six solo clearing trips in the Downstream Level.  The current foot and mouth scare has now
curtailed all work on the site for the foreseeable future.  Total amount of loads out to date is c.8023
about 82 tons!

Additions to the Digging Team

Clare Thomas (

Cardiff

Univ. C.C.), Ben Barnett. Bill Cooper.

 

The search for Pant – y – Crac or Fun adventures up the gorge

About 5 years ago, I decided to have a good look at the
plant life in Cheddar gorge that grew in all the places inaccessible to the
usual plant recorders.  My reason for
this was because of a faint grumbling in the air about tree cutting and rock
damage caused by tree roots penetrating rock and levering them off (onto the
heads of unsuspecting passers by).  Well,
I began at the top end of Cheddar Gorge by Black Rock Gate and gradually worked
my way down (and up) the gorge so to speak. At the time of my investigations, the flock of Soay sheep would retire
each night to a series of ledges on both sides of the upper gorge.  These ledges were protected from view by
dense tree growth.  As most if not all of
the caves or cave entrances in the Gorge had been used at some time by sheep,
goat or man, I felt it a necessary part of my investigations to check these out
at the same time.  It was whilst on one
of these forays that I came across a deep cleft in the rock face high up from
the road on the Showcaves side.  Many a
strange sight has greeted me on these excursions, sleepy sheep, bottles filled
with dead mice and piles of rubbish in most unlikely places.  This one, however, was one of the strangest
finds to date, for there wedged in the crevice was a collection of women’s
clothing.  Most of the items seemed to be
old, although one or two were obviously recent. My first reaction was to look around for the body or what was left of
it- remembering a similar “lost person” incident not that long ago
that was discovered by a club member …. Anyway, to my great relief, there was
no visible body and as I made my way across the narrow ridge of rock, a few
more items appeared, mainly of the ladies under dress type of garment.  Well, shortly after this I discovered a superb
specimen of a once magnificent male Soay sheep, complete with curved
horns.  This I eagerly dragged down to a
safe spot where I managed to cram the skull into my rock bag, and promptly
completely forgot about the earlier strange find.  The skull now graces my front room and has
been used on many a talk about the Gorge. Now, I am getting off the track a bit but, some 5 years or so later,
which takes us up to last December, I happened to be talking to a

Cheddar
Cave
club group about adventures in the
Gorge.  One of them asked, had I ever
found Pant -y -Crac?  At this, I became
interested and he told me of his own ventures and discovery some ten years ago.  We decided then, that we must both have
discovered the same crag, and decided that come the warmer weather, we would
both try to remember the location of the site. What follows is an account of the excursions into a part of the gorge
that offer a superb alternative trip through the area, yet one that has only
been done by very few people.  We started
our first trip in early January, working upslope from the bend below Bone Hole
(see map).  The scree slopes in this area
are loose, most of the tree stumps are dead and many of the small bluffs offer
excellent short climbs of a somewhat dubious nature.  Many of the buttresses that we passed across
from the top have flat tops where you can rig an abseil and get down fast.  Others are connected by deep loose and
dangerous bottomless hanging gullies, which a slip down would end in death- if
the occasional shrubs didn’t stop your progress!  It took an hour and a half to progress some
400 metres horizontal distance.

This was about 800 metres vertically, looping up and down,
often using a rope for support, often stopping on a ledge to look in and never
discovering our original site.  We
finally made the road by descending the scree slope to the left (uphill) of Sow
Hole.  Disappointed but exhilarated by
the dangers, we agreed to meet again later the following week, with an aim to
explore the upper section of the area.

Our second trip began from the path that rises from Black
Rock Gate to meet the top tourist route from the pinnacles.  As the path bears right near the top there is
a series of buttresses running to left and right of the path.  Our route was to the right, working along the
steep slope above the road.  There are
about twenty or so of these small climbable rock faces.  Many of them are deeply fissured, covered in
trees, moss and so on.  A few are bare
enough to boulder climb, but the rock is pretty loose in some sections, deeply
cracked by ice heave and plant erosion. This trip took us on a diagonal path down to the road in an area that we
both felt from our earlier memories was “about the right place.”  Nothing! We finished off by descending a 50-metre scree slope – using a rope to
add to the fun – down to the bend in the road opposite to and just below Bone
Hole.  By this time, doubt was creeping
in – although we were having a great time in the Gorge, discovering all sorts
of fun adventure routes for the fun adventure types – maybe the place had been
tidied up by the benevolent workers of Lord Bath’s Estate!  Undaunted, we returned to my house for tea,
cream, jam and scones (or is it scones?) and had another think.  We agreed to meet again the following
afternoon, and to fit the trip in with a check on the lid to Bone Hole which
was rumoured to have been “banged.



Below: – An old map of the area, showing our routes



Below: an unknown (to me) phreatic tube some 15 metres from
the top of the Gorge, left (facing downslope) of the Pinnacles.



Trip three picked up from where two finished, for we felt it
sensible to cover the ground thoroughly (looking for holes).  This was the trip above the buttresses that
run up from road level, rising some 30 metres as the road nears the final bend
before Reservoir hole.  The going here
was very tough – mainly vertical, and often crossing the previously mentioned
bottomless gullies.  My companion on this
trip (son Edward) was not quite as intrepid as he thought, and we covered the
ground slowly in some regions, using the (now essential) rope on some
sections.  Disappointed again, we
descended Shoot gully to the road.

A change of plan was called for as we were getting nowhere
and it was looking like the wrong area was being searched.  Our next and most ambitious trip took us
right to the top of the Pinnacles, starting at road level at the bottom of
Shoot Gully.  This is the steep scramble
just beside the “Showcaves bus turning circle”.  For cavers, just below White Spot cave!  I won’t bore readers with details of the
climb up, suffice it to say, at the last section about 40 metres below the top,
a sheep path goes right and left from the gully.  Right facing (downslope in the gorge) the
path leads to a magnificent viewpoint but no caves and no way down or up except
on a very long rope!  Left along the
sheep path however, leads soon to the caves shown in the photos.  Doubtless, these have all been seen and
recorded before, but new to us, it was fascinating to find phreatic tubes at
such a high level in the Gorge.  It must
have been very wet once.  Some idea of
the age of the caves can also be gauged from their height.  Perhaps one or two might just lead down to
….. great site for a dig …. !  The
trip ended with a superb sunset as we came down – certainly for me a great buzz
coming off the hill at dusk – so no disappointments and we had discovered some
caves.

Looking back at our trips, we decided to leave things for a
while.  We were obviously trying too hard.  A bit of lateral thinking as to what we were
looking for and how it might have formed led us to think that Pant -y -Crac
might be quite easy to get to, but well hidden. Whoever had or had not been there before us probably wasn’t a caver,
although he might be a diver looking into tight places!

Anyway, rain for a week or so and then work, more work then
suddenly one Friday afternoon an excited phone message on the machine from
Chris.  “I’ve found it!  Details in the White Hart tonight, we visit
tomorrow”.

Saturday came, my hangover was cheered by the lack of rain,
and Chris called at 12.30 that day and up we went.  Our second trip along the path from Black
Rock Gate had passed very close to the spot that Chris now took me to.  We had dropped down too quickly, or started
too far to the right, however, suddenly there it was.  Chris had carefully marked his way back to
the path with small piles of stones and (with difficulty for there are many
stones in this area!)  I followed his
trail and there on the ground, a spotted mouldering half buried dress?  Further on and there it is at last, Pant -y
-Crac, complete with at least five bras, three sets of tights, another dress
and then as we slid down the slope after recording the crag, more dishevelled
remains.  It was difficult to know what
to think as I skidded down the scree slope to the road.  The remains certainly spanned a number of
years, five? ten? Had the den more than one visitor?  Was it where I had imagined?  Anyway, the outcome of the search was that we
had discovered some brilliant scrambles and hairy walks in the Gorge.  We had systematically familiarised ourselves
with a huge section of largely un-peopled terrain and into the bargain had a
bloody good time.  Anyone know of a
better way to have some fun!

Martin Torbett and Christopher Binding Photos by the
writers.  February 2001

Pant -y- Crac, Cheddar

 

 

Meghalava 2001 – Exploration in the Jaintia Hills and the Discovery of

India
‘s
3rd Longest Cave

by Tony Jarratt


PARTICIPANTS;
Austria; Peter Ludwig, Switzerland; Yvo Wiedmann, Germany; Christian Fischer,
Daniel Gebauer, Herbert and Christine Jantschke, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner,
Harald Kirsamer, En~land; Julie Hesketh, Tony Jarratt, Mark Brown, Simon
Brooks, Tom Chapman, Tony Boycott, Rob and Helen Harper, Stuart MacManus,
Scotland; Alan Jeffreys, Roger Galloway, Fiona Ware, Dan Harries, Fraser
Simpson, Wales; Rhys Williams, Paul Edmonds, Amanda Edgeworth, Meghalaya; Brian
Kharpran Daly, Lindsay Diengdoh, Gregory Diengdoh, Neil Sootinck, Betsy
Chhakchhuak, Allard Harris Diengdoh, Sanjay Choudhary, Tiewlin Kharsati, Sasha
Nongsiej, Vivien Warjri, Gerard Khonglah, Larsing Sukhlain, Shelley Diengdoh.

STAFF, GUIDES,
PARTYGOERS, ETC
; Myrkasim Swer, Asif Khan, Almas Laloo, Amzad Khan, Ngait
Bareh, Marlon Blien, Bung Diengdoh, Sunny Diengdoh, Bobby Moore Paswat, Dominic
Sawdong, James Fancon, Karlin Pyrngap, Nonkin Dkhar, Dilbhadur Subedi, Kunga
Darna, Churchill Sukhlain, Rud Sukhlain, Elias Bareh, Forestar Pajah, Pyntyngen
Bamon, Wesley Rupon, Holding Bamon, T. Mannar, Jonah Dichan, Pyubha Suja, Mulda
Rupon, Condrick Dkhar, Spindro Dkhar, Co!. Fairweather Mylliemngap, Maureen
Diengdoh and the Khasi Ladies, the Gentlemen of Shillong, the villagers of
Sutnga, Tong Seng, Shnongrim, Sakhain, Lakadong, etc. And last, but by no means
least, Ronie Mawlong.



This year’s expedition to Meghalaya, N.E. India was swelled
by the unexpected addition of Rob Harper’s

Assam
team – having decided to
abort their exploration in this state due to insurgency problems.  They concentrated on the Cherrapunjee area in
the Khasi Hills where about 5kms were explored. A separate article is being prepared by Rob.

The main team arrived in Shillong on the 2nd February and
split into two groups.  Simon led a
recce. party to Borsora in the Garo Hills where they were to survey some 6kms
of impressive caves and later join the rest of us at Sutnga in the Jaintia
Hills.

Here we had established ourselves at last year’s base – the
Inspection Bungalow about an hour’s bone jarring drive from the main caving
area on the Nongkhlieh Ridge.  On arrival
we found that the Meghalayan Adventurers had done a fine job of preparation in
making the place comfortable and secure with a huge meal bubbling away in the
outside, tented kitchen – courtesy of Master Chef Swer and his assistants.  To wash it down there was a seemingly
unlimited supply of bottled beer and rum. Its hell in the jungle ….

Daniel had failed to arrive which was very worrying as he
was known to have been prospecting in the
Gujarat
area at the time of the horrific earthquake. Thankfully he turned up unharmed. He was apparently sitting on the bog when the ‘quake struck and blamed
it all on the curry!  A few tremors were
felt in Sutnga during our stay, it being in the same ‘quake fault zone though
many hundreds of miles to the east.

On the 5th caving started in earnest with parties tidying up
leads in Krem Wah Ryngo and Krem Kermit.  I joined an optimistic group who were hoping
to resolve the access problem at Shnongrim village so that we could extend our
explorations into this area which the Jaintia Adventurers were trying to keep
for themselves – a misguided policy as they do little caving and no surveying
or recording of data.  After lots of tea,
biscuits, fags and betel nut with the headman and his cronies we had got
nowhere so, leaving Brian to continue the discussion the rest of us walked back
along the ridge recceing areas that we had permission for on the way.  This almost instantly paid off with the
discovery of two new caves – Krem Risang
(
Squirrel
Cave)
and Krem Shynrong Labbit (

Bat
Skull
Cave
) – both named by us
due to a lack of local names.  The first
consisted of an impressive 25m shaft leading to a couple of routes through
boulders into a scalloped streamway which soon ended on the brink of a 70m
pitch – Black Bat Pot.  Over the next
couple of weeks this cave was pushed, mainly by Mark, Yvo, Lindsay and Rhys, to
a total length of 4.5km of varied, sporting streamway.  There are still a few leads to survey.  The second began as an extensive and well
decorated, horizontal fossil system adjacent to the previously recorded Krem Labbit (Shnongrim).  A series of pitches in the floor were
descended to reach a huge bore passage carrying the main stream and with lots
of inlets, avens and side passages.  Most
of the team worked in this stunning cave at one time or another to eventually
bring its length up to 5.71km.  There are
still climbs to be looked at here and there is a chance of a link with Krem Labbit (where Thomas, Anja and
Harry persevered to establish a connection but didn’t quite make it).  The cave is notable for the large amount of
bat skulls, bones and ears (!) found on the floor.  It has a good sized blind fish population and
at least one resident toad and was the highlight of the expedition until a
small group of “old gits” went to look for a horizontal cave of their
own.

When leaving Krem Risang one day we were accosted by an old
chap, Churchill Sukhlain, who presented us with sweet potato and betel nut
before proceeding to show us the easy scramble down which avoided 20m of the
25m entrance pitch!  Roger was best
pleased as he could, in return, proffer one of his American fags with the
classic phrase “Care for a Winston, Churchill?”  He also took a team over the ridge to the
hidden Tong Seng village where they were shown a plethora of huge, undescended
pots and told of many more.  The locals
were very friendly and helpful and soon most of the expedition work was taking
place in this attractive area.

On the 10th the 81m deep Krem Khlaw Lakhar (Lakhar Forest Cave) was bottomed by Tom, Mandy
and Fraser, the incredibly strongly draughting Hairdryer Hole looked at (and left for next year) and a 20m+ deep
pot, Krern Urn Thloo (1) also
visited by Goon, Brian, Daniel and myself.

Our superbly efficient guide, Pyntyngen, had indicated that
this was easily accessible but we found it to be an SRT job for which we were
not equipped that day, being in a decidedly horizontal frame of mind.  It was left for the younger
“tigers” and the old gits continued their walk through the forest for
a couple of hundred metres to be shown an Eastwater type entrance almost
totally choked with rotting bamboo.  This
was an obvious flood sink and was also known as Krern Urn Thloo (2) (Water Hole Cave).  A short climb down led to a reasonably well
decorated, spider infested series of chambers with a horrific looking vertical
boulder ruckle in the floor.  With a
chance of bagging 100m or so surveying commenced while the writer, being spare
man, attempted to find the way on.  At a
depth of c43m a solid walled phreatic passage was found which soon closed down
but was at least horizontal and safe. This was surveyed and feeling reasonably pleased with ourselves we
started out, pausing briefly to insert Allard, our token small boy, into a
grotty little dry sink in the floor. This soon opened up and we followed him through into slightly bigger
passage which now had to be mapped.  The
whole cave was hot and draught free and held little promise until I suddenly
found my feet in a metre of slowly flowing water with a howling draught
disappearing through a low duck on the left. Things were now looking up and we continued downstream in walking sized
wet, then dry phreatic galleries.  With
time running out we were about to stop surveying when Allard pointed out the
sound of falling water ahead.  On
rounding a comer from our already impressive passage we were stunned to walk
into a 6m diameter ”

Master
Cave
” bore tube
crossing from left to right with a healthy stream cascading into another large
passage straight ahead.  It was now very
obvious that the old gits had hit the jackpot and found a nice horizontal
system to fester in – by the end of the expedition totalling over 12.2kms with
scores of leads for next year.  By the
22nd it had overtaken Krern Shrieh,
found last year, as the third longest cave on the Indian Subcontinent.

The main upstream passage was later pushed for a couple of
kms to a high aven with a possible high level passage part way up and climbable
with aid.  Several kms of wet and dry
passages lead off from this, generally in a northerly direction and towards the
crest of the ridge, beyond which lies Krem
Shynrong Labbit, Krem Labbit
and Krem
Risang
.  Daniel informs me that the
limestone goes right through the ridge so there may be potential here for
connections and the longest cave in

India
.

Downstream was surveyed through lots of spectacular passage
(which I never got a chance to see) and a side entrance found by Goon and team
in a jungle filled doline.  They were
found by us sitting on an obscure path in the pitch black early evening,
completely lost.  We were on our way back
from Krem Ticha (Tea Cave) located
at the edge of the flood plain a long way below Tong Seng village and luckily
guided by the redoubtable Larsing – caver, guide, ladies’ man, Caroom champion,
etc.  The cave behind their lower
entrance was apparently of continental show cave grandeur and proportions and
ended in a boulder choke where they thought they had heard voices.  Our resurgence cave had started as a
magnificent tunnel but had deteriorated into flooded maze pas ages with boulder
chokes above.  If we had climbed up
instead of staying in horizontal mode we would probably have met them and
connected the two caves.  This was to
happen the following day.

Other caves later connected to the system via surface
potholes were Krern Urn Thloo (1) –
where Tom had halted his survey at a low, draughting duck unaware that one of
our stations was a mere 1.5m away on the other side, Krem Lyngkshaid, Krem Moolale and Krem Myrlait.  The latter
dropped some 50m straight into a small chamber previously reached by Tom and
Rhys by digging out a crawl from the main system.  They had only found this because of the
strong draught issuing from a tiny hole in the floor.  Once they had both squeezed into the chamber
they realised that they were not alone – a small but wide awake snake was
beginning to take an interest in them. Alas, that was the last interest it ever took as they could not afford
to let it get into the crawl behind them.

By now Pyntyngen and his fellow guides had established a
fine tradition of building a raging bamboo bonfire for our return from the
depths.  Not content with that, and with
an increasing amount of time on their hands, they also built bamboo clothes
drying racks, a rain shelter for our kitbags and on one memorable occasion a
complete shed with a banana leaf roof, indoor bonfire and signpost stating (in
Jaintia) “Krem Myrlait – very
deep cave”.  We repaid them with
fags, biscuits and beer.

The Krem Urn Thloo System was also remarkable for its
wildlife, much to the joy of our speleobiologists Dan, Fiona and
Christian.  Thousands of blind fish,
crayfish, shrimps and freshwater crabs live in the streamways and pools.  One large crab got its own back on Roger when
he foolishly picked it up.  If he hadn’t
been wearing thick gloves his tin whistle playing would have been severely
curtailed!

Dan also became a speleoarchaeologist when he surveyed up an
inlet deep in the system.  About 100m
before the foot of a 30m aven he came across masses of broken pottery water
vessels which he assumed had been swept in from the surface.  They have been left in Shillong for possible
dating but may only be 50 or so years old. Even so, their presence indicates a habitation site on the ridge above
which may be traceable.  There are many
other unclimbed avens in the system awaiting exploration next year, either from
below or by descending the virgin potholes from the surface.  At the bottom of one of these Dan also found
the grotesque skull of a Hanuman monkey – a baboon like creature, sacred to
Hindus and now absent from this area.

To sum it up – a superb system with a great variety of
passage, spectacular caving, lots more potential and bonfires at every
entrance!  We will return.

The other main triumph of this part of the expedition was
continued exploration in the equally spectacular Krem Iawe – situated in the next spur to the north east and
probably the lower section of a similarly sized system draining the Shnongrim
area.  Partly explored last year it
consists of a massive stream passage ending in a choke but with an amazing
labyrinth of canal passages rising gently to another section of now fossil bore
tube.  There are many fantastic formations
including foot high mud stalagmites and bright orange gours.  Its current length is over 1.7km with plenty
of leads.  The only problem is either
finding it or, conversely, finding one’s way back again over flat paddy fields
in the dark.  A GPS is a very useful item
in these circumstances but a Simon or Daniel are definitely not!

Other notable caves surveyed in the area were Krem Churchill – 302m, Krem Pakse -716m, Krem Ka Tham Thyrsin (

Crab
Claw
Cave
)
– 359m and Krem Labon – 687m.  Lots of other small caves and extensions of
old ones were found and any amount of unvisited sites recorded from many
informants from all of the villages visited – including Shnongrim where we were
eventually allowed to cave and were personally guided by the headman himself.  He was obviously unhappy when he couldn’t
find any open caves for us but a better look next year should reveal this area
to be equally productive.  One problem
this year was the great amount of time spent travelling to the caves and so
satellite camps near the entrances are planned for the future.  The very remote Lakadong area was visited and
has great potential with several deep pots. A small, new ill here will make life easier but the presence of illicit “shebeens”
may limit the amount of exploration done!

Other useful expedition work included photography (Yvo,
Simon and Fraser) video (Fraser and Paul) collecting cave legends (Brian,
Larsing and me) PR (everyone), international joke telling in an Austrian accent
by a one-eyed caver wearing edelweiss braces (Peter) and mooning unintentionally
for the camera (Herbert).  The
conservation minded Ronie thoughtfully collected over 500 beer bottle tops (!)
which we found very commendable – until we realised that the little sod got 1/2
a rupee each for them!

Great trip, caves, company, food, booze, Khasi Ladies,
guides, weather (until the last day) and, despite a few minor illnesses, I
believe that a good time was had by all. Yet again our thanks must go to the stalwarts of the Meghalayan
Adventurers and all the local people who helped us in so many ways.

Surveys and photographs will hopefully appear in a future
BB. A report covering the last few expeditions is intended to be produced this
year and Simon’s slides, together with Fraser’s videos will be shown at this
year’s BCRA Conference in Buxton.  We are
planning to provide the Meghalayans with a Sked rescue stretcher so a slide
show may be arranged on Mendip to help with funding. Any donations will be
gratefully received!

 

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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.