The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

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

Welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as Editor.  Before I set out my plans for the future of
the Journal, I would first like to thank Martin for his efforts and the quality
of the BB’s that he produced – and hope that I can continue his high standards.

Firstly, I plan to make the BB a Quarterly Journal with a
seasonal issue.  This will both ensure a
regularity of publication and allow me to take advantage of school holidays to
produce them.

Secondly, I plan (as far as possible) to shift the emphasis
of the content towards a focus on exploration – and especially exploration
under Mendip.  The strength of the club
lies in exploration – digging, diving, surveying etc and its journal should
reflect these preoccupations.

Finally, each issue will not only summarise the main events
of the preceding season but also have a clear theme on a single cave or area of
the Hill.  It is thus with complete bias
and not one jot of apology that this issue has an Eastwater slant.  This is in order to record events, speculate
on areas for further progress and most importantly to stimulate interest in
exploration – the whole point of the BEC!

NB        The summer issue will be going to press
in June – articles are needed now, especially on Swildon’s, Cuthbert’s, or the
Charterhouse area.

 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

The Morton’s dig (see Phil Rowsell’s article) is predictably
beneath several metres of water – however, there does not seem to have been any
great infilling of the shaft and tidying up should prevent a repetition of the
mid 1990s disaster.  The stream has been
noted to have changed direction through the boulders (the right hand dam is
only taking water in flood, this usually takes most of the water).  The cause seems to be the movement of a
boulder at the base of the entrance. It has rolled out from the right hand wall
exposing a loose slope of gravel.  The
offending rock now lies in the middle of the first short crawl.  The reason? Someone seems to have removed the prop that was holding this rock in
place.  Stealing props from the entrance
of Eastwater frankly beggars belief – is this the action of a new extreme
sports club or simply that of a git?

Halloween Rift.

Renewed interest in this site has been scuppered by the
Wookey Management who currently are refusing access.   On the few trips that were possible it was
found that the entrance crawls to the extensive bedding at the base of the rift
had been backfilled.  The clearing of
these alerted the owners who have denied any further work on the grounds of
liability (interesting to note that crawling around with a few skips is deemed
more dangerous than diving to Wookey 25!)

Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink.

See Tony’s article for recent news.

Rhino Rift.

Trips over the Christmas break saw some progress along the
terminal crawl at the base of the scaffolded shaft through the boulders.  Digging was slowed by the tendency of the
crawl to fill with water – the first trips down Rhino by wetsuit clad diggers
seems on the cards this spring.

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.

Work continues in the dig near Sump Two.

Swildon’s Hole.

Greg Brock and Mike Alderton have been looking at the
possible leads at the end of the cave and contribute this report of a trip in
early February:

“A thoroughly remote trip to Sump 12 in Swildon’s to
re-climb Victoria Aven and get into Desolation Row.  Both divers in zero visibility made it safely
to sump 12, where upon the easy rift climb to the ledge was ascended.  MA after failing to kill GB with boulders
(not without trying) placed a bolt and entered the extremely tight tube leading
to Desolation Row.  MA was unable to belay
or unattach himself from the rope so GB proceeded to climb up the rope securely
anchored to MA who was not going to easily be pulled out of the constricted
tube.  Slow progress was made up the
committing tube before we both decided to head for home and do some research as
to where the tube was leading.  An
uneventful return was made; fortunately meeting a group of WCC members who
helped carry gear out for us – Cheers Lads”.

 

Life, the Universe and Eastwater Cavern.

By Phil Rowsell (alias
Madphil)

My fascination with Eastwater Cavern can be attributed (or
blamed dependant on who you are!) to Tony Jarratt (J-Rat).  After the break through at Stock’s House
Shaft, I was looking for a new project to keep myself occupied over the
summer.  Tony introduced to me to Adrian
Hole (now my digging partner in crime) who was also intending to spend the
summer digging. 

Adrian
had originally intended to push a few
leads in Swildon’s but with its closure due to foot and mouth, this was
obviously a non starter.  Eastwater
Cavern was the next option, Morton’s Pot and the illusive connection to Lambeth
Walk.

Morton’s Pot/A Drian Hole Dig

I had been down Eastwater many a time before, but never down
to Morton’s Pot.  I always remember the
first trip.  I learnt on the way down
that

Adrian
had
been one of the digging team that had pushed Morton’s Pot 5 years ago.  They had found another vertical pitch below
Morton’s Pot named A Drain Hole (an obvious name connection).  They had dug down to a depth of approx. 5m
before weather closed the dig for the winter. Disaster took place when the surface stream bed was cleared by the
farmer and over a short period of time, the diggers watched the dig filling
back up with silt to the top of the pitch. Man, it must have been a demoralising sight.  Since then no one had been back to dig.

We spent most of the time clearing the silt traps in the top
of the 380ft Way and dumping the spoil in the rift before finally heading down
to look at the dig.  The trip down was a
bit tight and narrow but not too bad. The dig site itself was now filled up to a small chamber above the
pitch, so we had no idea where A Drain Hole was.  It looked easy digging, mainly sand, but I
just kept thinking about the problem of getting rid of the spoil.  Hauling it back to the Lower Traverse was
going to be a real ball ache.  A couple
of seilbahns had been put in place to assist hauling, but these were in
pieces.  Everything would have to be
replaced and a few modifications may improve things.  Being an engineer, this was right up my
street.  The dig was a good challenge, I
was sold.

Over the next week or so, equipment was salvaged and the
seilbahns reinstalled.  Several
modifications were also made to reduce the number of people required to move
spoil.  It was highly unlikely that we
would ever have the luxury of 10-15 people to haul bags that the previous
attempt had had.  The mere mention of
helping to dig Morton’s Pot, often led to a rapid exodus from the Hunters,
leaving you sat in playing Billy no-mates! Progress was also made at the dig site, the chamber was excavated and
the bagged up spoil used to line the bedding plane heading up to the base of
Morton’s.  This would hopefully help
future bag hauling up to Morton’s Pot. On our 6th trip down, we finally discovered the ladder bolt over the top
of A Drain Hole, a great boost as at least we knew where we were and had to go,
down!

Despite lining the bedding plane, hauling sacks up the
bottom of Morton’s Pot still proved difficult. A 3rd seilbahn was installed down the bedding plane which sorted the
problem.  The base of Morton’s Pot rapidly
filled up with sacks and our supply of empty sacks was exhausted again.  We had no option now but to transport the
sacks out and empty them in the Lower Traverse. I guess we had to check out the hauling system sometime.

The lack of volunteers meant we had to do the hauling in
stages.  The most awkward stage was to
move sacks from the base of Morton’s Pot to the bottom of the 380ft Way.  Fortunately we developed a method to do this
with only 3 people.  From here, Adrian
and I could move the sacks up the 380ft Way and dump them in the Traverse on
our own.  A slow process but we had no
other option if we were to keep the dig going. The first batch we emptied (50-60 sacks) we found we had a high
mortality rate as almost two thirds of the sacks were badly holed.  Examination of the hauling system revealed
the 380ft way seilbahn to be the culprit. The system was modified to a skip slung between two pulleys.  This was a great improvement, reducing the
effort required to haul as well as dramatically improving bag life.

The dig and hauling continued on its slow painful progress,
generally one digging trip to four or five hauling trips.  Occasionally the hauling would get a boost
with the addition of press ganged volunteers. Our highlight came one Wednesday evening when we managed to hijack the
Wednesday night digging team and had a total of 6 people (the most we ever had)
hauling bags.  The complete system got a
good test, moving bags from the base of Morton’s Pot up to the top of the 380ft
Way.  Some 60 sacks were moved in the
space of 2 hours.  Great to see, the bags
flying out of the place!  Unfortunately
this only happened once, but it proved the system.  It also showed us that this would be possible
to do with only 4 people but at a reduced rate. If only we could have found a couple more regular volunteers.  Frustration or what?

 

Ivan Sandford hauling in the

380 Foot Way
– during the last Morton’s
campaign in the mid 1990s

Each time we moved bags from Morton’s Pot and emptied sacks,
it gave us the chance to dig again. Initial progress was slow, due to the awkwardness of digging at the top
of A Drain Hole.  Once sufficient room to
kneel up was made we took off and rapid progress was made.  Each dig session was measured by the number
of rungs we had exposed, generally 2-3 rungs a session.  At rung 12 we found the old platform with a
number of tools, among them Tony’s prize miner’s pick.  At rung 14.5 (4m from the ladder bolt) we dug
into water which was a big surprise as the weather had been dry for the past
few weeks.  As digging continued, it was
evident that the water was draining back from the undisturbed fill on the
sides. It was as if we had hit some kind of water level.  To make matters worse, it was now early
September and time for the schools to go back. I now lost my digging partner who had to return to teaching kids once
again.

Obsessed, digging continued solitary.  Thankfully Trevor Hughes came up with a
massive supply of new sacks which helped delay the necessity to haul and empty
until I could press gang anybody into helping. The conditions at the dig site didn’t improve and I continued with the
dig partially in water until nearly waist deep where it became impracticable.  Nightmare, needed a solution.  The idea of taking some drums down to bail
the water into seemed feasible but they wouldn’t fit through the rift at the
bottom of the 380ft Way.  I eventually
hit on the idea of walling off half the dig site with sacks, and bailing the
water into survival bags, creating a sort of dam.  I could then dig the exposed half down a
metre or so, dump the water, rebuild the dam on the other side and dig the
other half.  With the total dig area only
about 0.7 x2.5 m wide, it was pretty cramped work.  The system worked pretty well, and I even had
the dig totally dry at times but it proved a very labour intensive and time
consuming method.  I was still digging
though.  To create more digging/damming
room, I dug back into the rift toward Morton’s Pot, forward progress being
barred by a large rib of rock.  I was
surprised to see the well developed rift continue rather than pinch down as
expected.  With more room, I continued
digging on down and eventually hit hard and “original” fill.  We had finally passed the previous effort.

The solving of the water problem had in itself created
another, getting rid of sacks out of A Drain Hole.  It was impossible to do it on my own.  I installed a 2nd platform on which to stack
bags, and this also served as a staging post to lift the sacks up to the first
platform.  By triple or quadruple
handling the bags I could get both platforms full of bags.



This was stacking room for about 50 sacks, but it still
didn’t get them out of the pitch. Occasionally I would manage to persuade someone to help me haul bags out
of A Drain Hole into the little chamber and allow me to keep digging.  Progress was really slow as much of the time
was spent man handling bags around and moving the dam etc, but digging
continued.  The dig got down to a depth
of 6m (from the bolt).

There was good encouragement at the dig face too in the fact
that a rib of rock that was blocking forward progress (as opposed to down) was
moving back to the right resulting in the rift opening to full size below it
(Figure I – Section along AB).  With luck
if forward progress was made, a drain point for the pot might be intercepted.

Disaster however stuck on the 3rd October when heavy rain
resulted in the dig being flooded to a depth of 2m (4m from the bolt).  There was no way of damming this amount of
water!  I guess I had been digging on
borrowed time for some time as the weather had been remarkably dry for
September.  Nightmare, my number was
finally up and I had no option but to clear and put it to bed for the winter.  I monitored the dig for several trips keeping
myself occupied surveying and tidying up. The water fluctuated in depth; after very heavy rain it would be flooded
up to the bolt and in drier times it would have drained back down to 4m from
the bolt.  It never however drained past
the 4m mark.  This was also the water
level initial intercept when digging down in dry conditions.  Figure 1 shows the survey of the dig site.

Dig Observations

The drain off point of the pot seems to be at the 4m mark,
below which it is terminally choked. This level also corresponds to the base of a small calcite curtain that
has flowed onto the top of the rock rib (see Figure 1).  This may have protected the fill below it,
preventing compaction and hence the believed drain path.  The base of this curtain was poked with a bar
to approx. 1.5m, and loose fill found, but rapid draining was not
achieved.  With the pitch now being clear
of fill to well past this point, it will be interesting to see whether this
will clear itself over the winter.

The rate at which the pot drained also posed an odd
question.  In high flow, the drain rate
observed would not be sufficient to remove all the water, but there was little
evidence of water backing up further than the little chamber (foam on roof).  This mystery is believed to have been solved
when on one monitoring trip, a plastic digging sack was found to have been
washed to some depth into a small (3″) worm hole near the bolt.  This hole was originally believed to be an
inlet as it headed upwards toward the Upper Traverse.  It appears that in high water, the pot backs
up until water ‘U’ tubes up this worm hole to flow off to an unknown
point.  This may be of great significance
as it provides a possible place where water from the bottom of A Drain Hole may
be pumped away.  This has not been
investigated.

In Figure 1, the Section along AB shows that approximately
4m below the bolt, the rift opens out in a forward direction but forward
progress is barred by a rib of rock sandwiched in between the rift.  As previously mentioned on top of the rib is
a small calcite curtain, under which the pot is believed to drain.  Consideration was given to removing this rock
rib, but the dig flooded before this was undertaken.  If removed, it may provide access to an open
drain point.  It is also possible that
the removal of this rock may prove unnecessary as at the 6m point, this rib of
rock had cut back to the right face opening to a full size rift once
again.  This will only be determined in
dry weather when digging is resumed.

When digging back towards Morton’s Pot to enlarge the dig
site, it was a great surprise to find that the rift continued to be well
developed rather than pinch down.  Only a
metre or so was dug in this direction and probably connects to a small pot
which was dug and subsequently back filled in the little chamber.  It does however have some interest to the
Soho Dig (explained later in the article) the potential continuation of the
wide rift development is of great significance.

A computer model of Eastwater Cavern

Conflicting rumours were abound in the Hunters as to where
the “Morton’s Pot” dig would eventually break through.  Some said Snotrom Aven, others Lambeth Walk
where bang wire and pieces of digging sacks had been found, allegedly washed in
from Morton’s Pot.  After all the pain
hauling those sacks out, would I be mad if we just broke in to Snotrom
Aven!?  The only way to really tell and
explore the possibilities was to generate a computer model of Eastwater Cavern.  This would enable easy viewing and more
importantly, to be able to rotate the views around and obtain a good
understanding of the relational orientation of the various passages.

The only survey commercially available was that done in the
1950’s by Warburton & Surrall.  The
survey was known to be of high accuracy, but it had some problems that could
affect the tying in of subsequent surveys; the entrance to the cave was now in
a different place and Dolphin Pot has also partially collapsed. 





The major problem however was that none of the West End
Series was on it.  This had been partly
surveyed and drawn up in the late 1980’s but the data never published.  I felt sorry for the boys in the Hunters
again, as if I wasn’t badgering people for digging sacks it was survey
data!!  I have to thank Trevor Hughes particularly,
Tav and Tony, who supplied me with data.

Converting the Warburton survey back to readings to enter
into the computer package, was painstakingly slow, involving much
computation.  This process had also to be
conducted on the Southbank as the only data available for this was a map
produced by the Moodys in a WWC log book, and Morton’s Pot data produced in a
BB article (Vol 48 No 6).  Thankfully
most of the other data supplied still had the original or transposed survey
readings.  As the accuracy of Morton’s
Pot was fairly critical, it was resurveyed from surface, both the new data and
that lifted from the map were in fairly close agreement.  Figure 2 shows a plan and Figure 3 shows an
elevation through the complete Eastwater system.

The plots show that there are some discrepancies in the
data, particularly in the
West End data.  Where surveys overlap, or two data sets are
available the discrepancies seen are not huge +/- 5 metres.  The
West End
series, however is an open loop system and thus with no closure it is difficult
to assess true positional errors at the lower reaches of the cave.  Furthermore, the Southbank map is believed to
be only Grade 2. Despite these inaccuracies, it does give an idea of relative
positions to a reasonable degree.  The
system begs however, to be accurately re-surveyed.

Points of Interest from the Survey

In Figure 3, the cross section, it can be seen that the
majority of the cave is made up of a number of washed out bedding planes that
are generally interconnected by rifts and vertical pitches.  The bedding plane has an approximate dip of
32 deg and strike of 168 deg.  This seems
to be true of the
West End series including
Southbank and Lambeth Walk.  What is not
apparent and was highlighted by T. Hughes’s work, was that most of the big
pitches (Primrose, Cenotaph and Gladman’s) in the cave line upon an approximate
bearing of 243 degrees, possibly indicating a joint or fault plane.  What is of great interest is that A Drain Hole
also falls on this line, possibly indicating the presence of another large
pitch. In addition, it can be seen that the position of A Drain Hole is not in
the vicinity of Snotrom Aven, and it is not thought that this will form a
connection as has been previously suggested.

The Southbank data wasn’t added until A Drain Hole was
flooded. Its significance to A Drain Hole is apparent as shown by the
conjecture lines on both the plan and cross section.  The data seems to indicate a straight line
connection between
Soho and Lambeth Walk, i.e.
both seem to be on the bedding plane. This also passes directly beneath A Drain Hole.  This is very interesting as it may well
support the theory that the bang wire and sacks found at Lambeth Walk may have
indeed washed in from the Morton’s Pot dig area.  Furthermore, if a vertical pitch is dropped
from the bolt in A Drain Hole down to the assumed Soho Lambeth Walk bedding
plane (a vertical distance of 35m) the base of the pitch is 83m from Lambeth
Walk, but more significantly only 45m from the Ifold’s tunnel in
Soho.  This
definitely warranted investigation.

The
Soho Dig

Fuelled with what the computer model was indicating I was
keen to have a look around in the
Soho
area.   The chance came on a trip to rig
the ladder pitches in the
West End with Andy
Heath.  We were in no rush so I said I
would like to spend a bit of time looking around Soho, to see if I could find
any possible lead at the base of
Soho shown by
the survey.  The original survey notes of
Soho showed that two passages had been looked
at but choked or were too tight.

There was a stream running out of the Ifold’s tunnel heading
down the bedding plane, so I decided to try and follow that, the thought being
it could possibly be part of the Lambeth Walk stream.  It was quite open to start with but gradually
got tighter, having to kick boulders out of the way.  I was pretty sure with the distance I had
gone, I was past previous attempts.  I
could hear the stream gurgling over what sounded like a small waterfall.  Driven by this and the dream of finding the
connection to the base of A Drain Hole and more hopefully Lambeth Walk, I
pushed on past a very tight ‘S’ bend squeeze, to finally sit up in a tiny rift
chamber, somewhat relieved!  The chamber
was shoulder width and approximately 2m long. An abrupt corner at the end of the chamber prevented further progress,
but the passage opened up into a well developed 5m plus high rift, which
continued along on approximately the same bearing.  It had a good stream running in the base, but
looked fairly narrow in places.  A few
bangs and we should be able to get a better look and pass the corner.  Well promising and what the survey was
indicating.  Thankfully the squeeze
turned out to be easier on the way out. I was buzzing!!  I think I floated
down to Blackwall Tunnel and back!!

Five further trips to drill and widen the passage were
accomplished.  My various companions had
varying degrees of success negotiating the squeeze.  After the first bang, blown from Ifold’s,
J-Rat and myself were surprised to be chased out of Ifold’s by the bang
fumes!!  Big draught, very
encouraging.  The bang widened the
chamber, but still did not gain access to the comer.  It did however give a much better view of the
rift.  The rift seemed to be narrow for
2m, before opening out to body sized passage. Encouraged, the passage was measured and found to be some 16m from the
Ifold’s tunnel, only 29m from the projected base of A Drain Hole.  The 2nd bang was blown from the
Strand so that we could wait about for a bit and then see
the results.  This time no quick
extraction took place and I sat with J-Rat for over an hour in the
Strand before the fumes finally cleared enough to go and
have a look.  The bang had done a great
job.  It had widened the passage right
down to the comer and given enough room to potentially squeeze through the
narrow part of the rift hopefully into the body sized rift.  The bang debris was quickly cleared, and I
made an attempt.  Man was this
tight!!  No go.  More kicking debris out of the floor and on
the second attempt I eased through and stood up in rift passage.



The author returning through the second of the squeezes



The way ahead in the Soho Dig.

Jubilation, but it was only short lived.  The rift continued on for as far as the eye
could see, but after approximately 2m closed down to 20cm wide and looked like
it was a fairly constant width.  It also
didn’t look as though there were any high level routes either, but difficult to
tell with the place still shrouded in fumes. We headed on out.  I was bitterly
disappointed that I didn’t get to solve the riddle of Morton’s Pot, JRat was
jubilant that he was going to get a pint after all and that he probably
wouldn’t have to go down to that desperate place again!!  His classic quote was “you have to kiss
a lot of toads to find a princess”!

The rift still looked well encouraging; well developed, at
least 5m high heading off into the distance and survey wise tying in with that
above Jepson’s Dig and heading straight for Morton’s/A Drain Hole.  Not willing to admit defeat, I headed down
another time to survey the dig properly and have a proper look around,
hopefully able to see a bit more being clear of bang fumes!  Andy Heath again came to the call for help
and another trip down to
Soho.  Thankfully he made it through the squeeze
into Thank-god Chamber.  I pushed on
through the 2nd squeeze, but found it really awkward this time.  At one point I thought I wasn’t going to make
it through!  I eventually stood up in the
rift with a clear view.

No doubt about it narrowing down to about 20cm for the
majority of its height.  There was
however encouragement at stream level. Further down (3-4m) it looked like it opened out to passable passage,
but the immediate section looked very tight. I had a go at squeezing along the floor, but this was well out of my and
most people’s league!  No chance of
digging out the floor as it was solid rock! Bummer.  It would need a number of
bangs to pass this section to hopefully get to wider passage.  Where I could stand up the rift continued on
up as a body sized rift, so I chimneyed up to 4m, but found I couldn’t pass an
awkward narrow part.  The rift did seem
to continue on up at this width, and this needs to be checked again to make sure
a high level by-pass is not missed.  The
view from this height also confirmed that the passage did seem to open out at
stream level further along, but it would need some widening to get to this
point.  Resigned, we surveyed back out.  Figure 4 shows a survey of the Soho Dig:



Dig Observations

In Figure 5 – a survey plan of the
Soho
area, it can be seen that the found passage (rift) lies almost directly beneath
the rift connecting the 380ft Way to Morton’s Pot.  This rift was originally a deep narrow
development but was back filled by previous digs.  It is suggested that this is the same rift
development as the Soho Rift found. Further support is taken from A Drain Hole which is again a rift
development that also follows the same trend line as the 380ft Way – Morton’s
Pot rift, the
Soho rift and a conjectured
connection to Lambeth Walk.  This could
possibly indicate the possibility of a fault plane or a joint which has been
eroded to the rifts presently seen.  The
Lambeth Walk connection is pure speculation, but it seems to fit the evidence
well and is supported by the digging debris which is found there.  Much less speculative is the probability that
the Soho Rift will connect with the base of A Drain Hole, the rift following
the same trend and only being 27m away. In the near future, it is hoped that some form of water tracing will be
undertaken to determine this, or whether this water appears at Lolly Pot as has
been previously suggested.



The
Soho rift is accessed
by two fairly awkward squeezes the 2nd being particularly tight, yielding a 2m
section of body size passage, before narrowing to 20cm preventing further
progress.  It does seem that the rift
does open out at stream level after 4-5m. To access this however, selective widening will be required, involving a
number of trips (and drop hammer techniques rather than bang).  It may also be necessary to widen the
squeezes, particularly the 2nd to allow “normal sized” cavers (fat
bastards!) access.

Unfortunately with my departure to

Tasmania
to cave for 6 months, it is
unlikely that this will be pushed until next summer.

Thanks

First and foremost, I have to thank J-Rat for his support
and advice, the supplying of articles, surveying data, digging bags and
equipment etc.  In addition, the trips to
A Drain Hole to help pull out bags and lately, the trips to widen the Soho
Dig.  Much appreciated.

A big thanks to my digging partner Adrian Hole, again for
his support, time and ideas, both with A Drain Hole and the Soho Dig, and
lately for his help in writing this article. A big thanks also goes to Andy Heath for his help digging and sack
hauling in Morton’s and his help with the Soho Dig.

A thanks also to Ben Barnett who has spent many hours
pulling sacks through the rift at Jepson’s Dig, despite the rift being too
narrow for him to get down to the dig site; Bob Smith who has also done several
trips pulling bags out of Morton’s Pot, almost the only times he had been
underground this year; and Trevor Hughes for the supply of invaluable survey
data, and a massive supply of digging sacks.

Finally, a thank you to all the people who came down to help
dig or pull bags at both sites.  I hope
to see you there again next summer!!

References

Jarratt A.R. “History of Morton’s Pot Dig” ,Belfry
Bulletin Vol 48 No 6.



 

Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink – The Latest News.

By Tony Jarratt

“Even a large flow, several million gallons per day, easily
traverses passages impenetrable to man”
Willie Stanton, “Digging for

Mendip
Caves
.
”

Since the initial digging report in BB 511 work has
continued here at a steady pace – a total of 70 banging trips being recorded to
date.  The steeply dipping natural rift
which takes the flood stream was joined after some 40ft (12m) from the base of
the entrance shaft by a very low bedding plane passage at ceiling height on the
western side.  Being more open than the
rift this was followed by blasting out the floor to “Ben and Bev
sized” dimensions for a distance of c.15ft (5m).  It has an attractively eroded ceiling with
many tiny straws and curtains – most of which are proving to be surprisingly
impervious to blast damage.  It is some
5ft (1.5m) wide and continues on into the distance with many more small but
attractive formations visible ahead. Some fine fossils can be seen in the
pleasantly water worn floor of “Pub Crawl”, particularly at the first
RH bend.

On the 15th of November Mad Phil surveyed the cave to a
length of 59ft (l8m) and a depth of 29ft. (8.9m). This has since been increased
to c.95ft (29m) length and c,39ft (l2m) depth. The current end is approximately 30ft (9m) south of the car park/field
wall.

A minor breakthrough occurred on the 16th January when a 3ft
(lm) deep rift in the floor of the bedding plane was forced down into some 7ft
(2.1 m) of relatively open lower bedding plane passage with narrow open rifts
below – one of which sucked in Adrian’s lump hammer from a distance of 15ft
away (sorry mate). (Ed. I was wondering where it was).  This passage has brought us back onto the
line of Pub Crawl and if necessary the intervening rock could be blasted away
to ease skip dragging.  Visitors should
be warned that in the event of a rapid flash flood this lower bedding plane
would not be a nice place to be – as was found out during a clearing trip on
the 23rd January.  The bench between the
shove ha’penny board and the fireplace being a far better alternative
(depending on the time of day of course).

Work continues at this extremely promising site where a
c.10ft deep rift in the floor is being enlarged to gain access to the

Master
Cave

below.  In very cold surface conditions
plumes of mist can be seen rising from the entrance shaft and the strong, and
occasionally intermittent draught, has given rise to the theory that this is caused
by the guides at Wookey Hole opening and closing the show cave door!

Spoil hauling in the entrance shaft has been made much
easier thanks to the donation of a magnificent lightweight tripod by Paul
Brock.  A variety of both mains and
battery drills have been used underground and our favourite so far is the
110v.  Makita, unknowingly loaned by a
discharged seaman’s employers.  The cost
so far of drill hire and explosives is about 490 pounds – just over 5 pound a
foot.  This figure will obviously reduce
drastically when the extensive system below is entered!

In advance of the future exploration party we have sent
ahead a bit of Frank Jones to do the first through trip (and he thought his
caving days were over!).

Footnote:

Jacquie Dors was delighted to report the comment of an
elderly lady customer speaking to her husband in the car park – “Yer, I
just seen someone climb out of the barbecue!”

More Diggers and Helpers

Phil Massey, Jake Johnson, Ben Wills, Fergus Taylor, Ray
Deasy, Rich and James Witcombe, Phil Collett (SMCC), Ivan Hollis (SMCC), Stuart
Sale, Malcolm Davies, Mike Willett, Andy Heath (CSS), Pete Hellier, Ian
Matthews, Guy Munnings, Ben Holden, Roy Wyncoll, Mark “Shaggy”Howden,
Helen Hunt, John Walsh, Rich Blake, Jake Baynes, Davey Lennard, Barry Hulatt,
Bill Chadwick (Bracknell & District C.C.), and Frank Jones (part of,
deceased).

 

Pumacocha 2001

Edited By Rob Harper,
BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS

The Team



Back row: Les, Nick,
Mark, Ian, Matt and Rob.  Front row:
Juan.

Introduction

In June 200 I six cavers from
Britain,
Canada and
Peru undertook a short reconnaissance expedition
to the Yauyos District of southern

Peru
where there is a large area of
karst with numerous cave entrances.

As far as could be ascertained by a review of the available
references none of this area had been examined in detail.  Both the geology and topography suggested
that there was considerable potential for both deep and long cave development.

The primary target of this expedition was the large open
shaft taking the waters flowing out of
Lake
Pumacocha which had originally been
noted by Les Oldham a British geologist and caver living and working in

Peru
.  Subsequently Nick Hawkes had descended the
first part of the entrance shaft and discovered that the cave continued beyond
the daylight zone.

After a few initial promoting sessions by Nick amongst
cavers in his home region (the Mendip Hills in the
UK)
news of an exciting new caving prospect deep in

Peru
slowly became public knowledge
among the local caving community.  In
early 200 I Rob Harper took the bait and contacted Nick with a view to a
reconnaissance trip. After emailing around their acquaintances an experienced
technical caving team was put together.

Personnel

Name

Nationality

Domicile

Club

Rob Harper

British


UK

B.E.C.

Mark Hassell

Australian


Canada

None

Nick Hawkes

British


Peru

B.E.C.

Ian McKenzie

Canadian


Canada

A.S.S.

Matt Tuck

British/Canadian


Canada

B.E.C.

Juan Castro

Peruvian


Peru

None

(Les Oldham

British


Peru

None)

Note 1   A.S.S. =

Alberta
Speleological Society

Note 2   Due to personal circumstances Les was unable
to take a part in the active exploration of the cave.

Location and Topography

Satellite photograph indicating the cave location.



Geology/Geography

The cave is located within the 100,000 scale Yauyos map
sheet number 25-L which was mapped in 1996 by the Instituto Geologico Minero y
Metalurgico (INGEMMET).  The entire
mapsheet covers a half degree quadrangle which equates to just over 3000km2.  Several areas within the mapsheet including
the area directly over the Pumacocha cave have been mapped in detail by Les
Oldham while exploring for base and precious metals.  During the course of his mapping Les first
recognised the potential for major cave development in this area.

Geological controls are the primary elements which dictate a
cave’s location and form.  Caves form in
limestone, and the best caves are developed in massive limestone with little or
no interbedded silts, shales or other non-carbonate dominated lithological
horizons.  Within the country of

Peru
the best
limestone for cave development is the Upper Cretaceous Formation known as the
Jumasha Limestone.

The Jumasha limestones are dominantly a massive thickly
bedded sequence of dolomites and limestones. Within the Yauyos mapsheet
approximately 700km2 of Jumasha limestones outcrop, making the area highly
attractive for speleological exploration and karstic studies. In the region of
study this lithological unit has been estimated at approximately 400m thickness
(Megard et al., 1996).  Directly
overlying the Jumasha.  Formation is
another limestone unit known as the Celendin Formation which was also deposited
in the Upper Cretaceous and has also been estimated as having a thickness of
400m.  The Celendin Limestones are not as
favourable for cave development due to common interbedded layers of gypsum,
red-brown shales and some sandstones. Nevertheless caves can and do occur in this formation.  Below the Jumasha limetones lie two further
Cretaceous limestone bearing formations, namely the Pariatambo and Chulec
formations which together form an estimated 330m of potential cave bearing
stratigraphy.  Jurassic age limestones
also occur to the northeast of the principal area of study yet still within the
Yauyos mapsheet.  These are the Lower
Jurassic Condorsinga unit of approximately 1000m thickness and the middle
Jurassic Chaucha Formation of an estimated 300m thickness.  In total therefore the region has over 2400m
of limestone stratigraphy which has subsequently been thrusted and folded
during a sequence of orogenic events. The deformation is likely to be closely associated to a period of
intrusive activity during the Paleogene and Neogene epochs, which has left the
limestones commonly tightly folded, and in many areas standing near
vertical.  During this period of
deformation it is likely that many of the predominantly limestone hosted
mineral deposits for which this area is famous for were formed.  The principal mineral deposits of the region
all have strong magmatic associations suggesting direct association with the
Cenozoic intrusive activity.



Topographical map of the cave and immediate area.

Geology at Pumacocha.

The Pumacocha cave system lies between two active mining
camps.  To the south is the San Valentin
polymetallic mine and to the north lies the larger mineral district of
Yauricocha known for its rich copper bearing limestone and shale hosted
deposits.

The cave is located within the Jumasha Limestones adjacent
to the contact with a large Miocene granodiorite intrusive.  The entrance to the cave is formed very close
to the contact between the granodiorite and the limestones.  The presence of considerable cherty horizons
which were located underground suggest that the mapped cave to date lies close
to the lower contact with the underlying Lower Cretaceous Pariatambo Formation.

All limestones where the cave sinks are vertically bedded
and this clearly explains the extreme vertical nature of the cave development.



The valley wall above the cave entrance showing the
vertical bedding.

Geomorphological Controls.

Previous speleological expeditions to the
Andes
have commented on the lack of deep and well developed caves and have attributed
this in part to an effect of the excessive altitude (Imperial College,
1975).  The argument proposed is that
rainwater falling at such altitudes is less acidic since less CO2 has been
absorbed during the descent.  As to
whether this argument is valid or not is not here disputed, indeed the presence
of acidic waters is clearly a pre-requisite for large scale cave
development.  It is of particular
significance that at the Pumacocha system all water draining into the cave,
which drains a catchment area of approximately 30km2 is also draining over the
granodiorite intrusive which in turn is rich in small sulphide veinlets and
disseminations.  Oxidised sulphides are
an excellent source of acidic fluids and would therefore enhance considerably
any cave development in this area.

Cave Exploration and Cave Description

On arrival in the area we examined the main sink and
adjacent entrances which appeared to be part of a single cave complex.  In the absence of a local name, we designated
the system as Sima Pumacocha, (SP), and the active entrance as SPI.  Two other dry entrances were noted in the
small gorge downstream of the main river sink (SP2 and SP3).  Later yet another small entrance was found
between SPI and SP2 which was then called SP1.5.

Due to the large volume of water flowing into SP I as well
as a large quantity of dumped explosives in the main entrance it was decided to
start by exploring SP2 and SP3.

Diagramatic section from Pumacocha to the presumed
resurgence at

Alis
Springs





A view of the river – looking toward the entrance.



NB: All left/right descriptions below are “true”,
i.e. from the point of view of someone facing downstream.

 

Sima Pumacocha 1

Location: –
E424208 N8630500 – local datum PSAD1956.

The first pitch was descended to a ledge at about -15m but
not pursued further for the reasons outlined above.



Mark ascends the first pitch of SP1.  Note the rolls of explosives on the ledge!

Sima Pumacocha 1.5

Two small passages leading left from the entrance chamber in
SP2 were followed to a stage where a connection could be confirmed with an
entrance in a small depression about four metres from the entrance of SP2.

Sima Pumacocha 2

Location:-E424208
N8630500 -local datum PSAD1956

A strongly draughting entrance about 30m down valley from
SPI in the left wall of a small gorge.

First a steeply descending rift passage led after 11 m to an
8m pitch (40m rope to natural belay at entrance) to the floor of a
chamber.  From here two side passages on
the left were pushed back to the surface at SP 1.5.  However the main way forward was a rift
passage with two short (c3m) free climbs to the head of a 31 m pitch (40m rope,
natural belay to boulder, deviation, 2 spits, 1 deflection and 1 natural thread
belay).  This pitch ended at a large
ledge/small chamber where a large aven could be seen entering on the far side
at about five metres height that was not investigated.

From the floor of the ledge/chamber the next pitch
(“Ammonite Shaft” 113m, 1 natural belay, 1 natural rebelay, 6 spits,
2 deviations) dropped down a large (c 20m x8m) rift to land on another ledge,
“Blitzkrieg Bridge”, so called because of the periodic rain of small
stones from above.

To the left at the base of “Ammonite Shaft” a
short horizontal rift passage at “Blitzkrieg Bridge” was followed for
c 50-60m to an, as yet, undescended pot which will probably just come into the
roof of “Huanca Gorge” – see below.



Ian assess the draught while Rob kits up at the entrance
of SP2

The next pitch (“Cages on Highway Nine”) was a
free hanging 20m (2 spits) pitch immediately to the right of the landing point
at the bottom of” Ammonite Shaft”. This pitch ended at the head of a very large (c 10 x 15m) passage
(“The Huanca Gorge”) which descended steeply via a series of ramps
and short drops passing an intriguing cruciform calcite decoration en route to
a boulder blockage after c75m.  A short
section of crawling and a two metre handline pitch was followed to regain the
main passage now smaller in dimension (c 3x3m) still sloping at the same
average angle which steepened to become a broken 40m pitch to a very high
narrow (c 1m) vertical rift with a small inlet stream.  Downstream was blocked by a boulder fall
after a few metres but a 2m climb gained a more spacious higher level. Then a
short steeply descending passage (handline) led to a ledge about six to seven
metres above a large active streamway (“The Shining Path” – c 4m x
15m) which is almost certainly the water sinking at SP 1.

On the left hand side immediately below the boulder ruckle
was a window into a parallel stream passage sloping down to the head of a
pitch.  This was not descended but from
the noise almost certainly links back above the Shining Path streamway.

From the ledge above the streamway a short abseil (3m from
natural belay) allowed access to a sloping ledge on the left of the passage
about 3m above the river.  Upstream the
water came down a pitch of unknown height and flowed off down a series of steep
cascades.  The ledge was traversed to
gain a short high-level oxbow on the left. Approximately ten metres of passage with two short,(c2m) free-climbable
drops led to a small resurgence and pool followed immediately by a 25m wet
pitch (2 spits, 2 rebelays) where several small streams entered and at the foot
of the pitch the main streamway was regained at a large pool.



Rob surveying with Matt just above the
“X-Files” ledge

At the far side of the pool a steep and powerful cascade of
about eight metres ended at a large pitch of unknown depth.  This cascade was avoided by a sloping abseil
on the left side to a large ledge (“The X-files Ledge”) but the force
of water precluded further progress at this level without a significant amount
of upward artificial climbing.  However
it was found to be possible to cross the cascade at the lip of the pitch and
from this point a three to four metre free-climb of the right wall gained good
natural belays.  Abseiling from these
belays to further natural belays it was found to be possible to descend the
pitch avoiding the water.  A spit was
placed; the pitch was descended for 30-40m to the end of the rope.

At this point the caver was once again coming under the main
water flow. This and the fact that there was no floor in sight for at least
another 15-20m prompted the decision to return rather than tie on the separate
short length of rope in the tackle sack.



Sima Pumacocha 3

Location:-E4241
07 N8630438 -local datum PSAD 1956

Following the gorge downstream from SP2 across a large
depression allows access to a small vadose trench ending in a large (c 20x5m,
open rift aligned in a North/South direction with a noticeable outward
draught.  From the lip of this rift a
daylight pitch (c 120m) ends in a large (c 20 x 50m) chamber floored with
boulders through which the draught rises.



SIMA PUMACOCHA 3 (Grade 1 Survey)



Survey Notes

1.                  For the Grade 4 sections of the survey all
measurements were taken using either a 30 or 25m fibron tape read to the
nearest centimetre, a Suunto Compass and a Suunto clinometer, both read to
approximately half a degree.  The
resulting data was recorded immediately.

2.                  For the Grade 2 sections of the survey distances
were estimated from rope lengths and angles assumed because of the vertical
nature of the passage.  This data was
recorded immediately after exiting the cave.

3.                  The raw data was processed on a laptop computer
within 24 hours using “COMP ASS” software to produce a centre-line
and a computer generated passage outline. This was then imported into CorelDraw and the final survey drawn.

4.                  GPS readings were taken with a handheld Garmin
12 GPS receiver using local datum PSAD 1956. Unfortunately neither the exact
time of the readings or the degree of confidence were recorded.

Equipment

The vertical and steep sections of the cave were traversed
using SRT (Single Rope Techniques) and “Alpine Style” rigging
(rebelays as needed to avoid rope/rock contact) was used as far as
possible.  The principal rope used was a
9mm static rope from Sterling Ropes. Initially this was a comfortable rope to
use for both abseil and ascent.  However
despite careful rigging the abrasion resistance of this rope was not good.  There were problems with slipping of the
sheath over the core that might have been avoided by washing the rope before
use.  Also after only a short period of
use flattened sections of rope were discovered. Although these sections were
probably as strong as the more conventional rounded rope they caused a marked
change in the friction characteristics for descenders (both racks and Petzl
Stops) and gave rise to some worrying moments.

Wherever possible natural features or rock climbing
protection devices – such as nuts and “friends” – were used as
belays.  When this was not possible
either pitons or self-drilling 13mm rock anchors (Petzl) were inserted using a
hand held driver.  The members of the
team provided their own personal equipment for rope work.  Everyone used a “Frog” system.

Travel and Accommodation

All team members assembled in

Lima
and then travelled to the area of the
cave by road.  Accommodation was
generously provided free of charge at an “executive workman’s” hut
belonging to the Llapay hydroelectric station, kindly provided by SIMMSA,
approximately 15km from the cave.  This
was at an altitude of only about 3000m as distinct from the altitude of the
cave entrance, (c 4400m), which greatly facilitated altitude
acclimatization.  The excellent free
food, clean beds, warm showers, daily room cleaning and access to electrical
power were also much appreciated.  By
common consensus this was the most comfortable expedition in which any of the
team members had participated.

Medical Report

All members of the expedition suffered to a greater or
lesser extent from mild Acute Mountain Sickness caused by low oxygen levels due
to the high altitude of the cave entrance. Fortunately the clinical signs were restricted to breathlessness and
feelings of faintness on exertion, nausea and headaches.  Those suffering from headaches were easily
able to control them with simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin
and ibuprofen) and within four to five days everyone had acclimatized
well.  This was helped greatly by being
able to sleep at a much lower altitude. Oxygen and appropriate medications for treating the more serious forms of
AMS (pulmonary and cerebral oedema) were included in the medical kit but were
not required.

Because of the increased water loss through panting
particular care was taken to avoid dehydration including the establishment of
depots of water and electrolyte solutions within the cave. Apart from the above
and a slightly infected small wound on a digit, which responded rapidly to
topical medication, there were no medical problems

References

(a) Geological References

Megard, F., Caldas, 1., Paredes,
J.& De La Cruz, N., 1996, Geologia de Los Cuadrangulos de Tarma, La Oroya y
Yauyos. INGEMMET, Bo1etin 69,

Lima,
Peru
.

(b) Speleological References

No direct references to cave
exploration at or near Pumacocha could be found.  Below is a list of general caving references
relating to

Peru
.

Bowser, R.J. et aI., 1973,
“Imperial College Expedition to the Karst of Peru.” Cave Science:
Journal of British Speleological Association. No.52.

Di Mauricio, T., 1979,
“Pedizione Peleo-Alpinistica in

Peru
” Speleologia 2, 28-29

Gilbert, A., 1989, Le Karst de
Cochapata irma Grande. Spelunca  36
pll-17.

Hartmann, H. “Eine Hohle in
der Kultstatte Kenko bei
Cuzco (

Peru


Imperial
College
,
1984. “Imperial College Expedition report”

Maire, R., 1986 Une classique de
la cordillere des
Andes: La Sima de Milpo
(-402m), Perou

Spelunca 5 (23) 28-31

Martinez,
A. Romero, D., Romero, M., et C.Ribera, 1983, “EI carst
del
nord
del

peru
expedicions HIRCA-76 I
MILLPU-77″ Speleon, 26-27, p147-180.


Martinez
, D., 1977, “Expedition
Speleologique “cordillera Peruvienne” Rapport de expedicion”

Bibliotheque de la F.F.S.14p.

Masriera, A., 1973, “Nota
sobre la Expedicion Espeleologica esanola alas regiones karsticas
del

Peru

Espe1eo1e.G 18 979-981.

Morales Amao (Cesar), 1970,
“Primera expedicion cientifica de espeleologia. Caverna de
Huagapo(Tarma)” Revista Peruana Andina Glacio1ogia, Lima V.8 p173.

Orville, M. 1977,
“Recherches Speleologiques au Perou”

Spelunca 3, p98-102.

Ribera,C. & Belles X.,
“Perou” Dept Bio1ogia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona.

Romero, D., 1979,
“MILLPU”. Espe1eo1eg, 28, 539-541.

Rossell, G., 1965,
“Cavernas, Grutas y cuevas
del
Peru

Lima
,
54pp.

Sammartino, Y., 1982, “Perou
82 – Expedition en Foret Amazonienne D ‘Altitude” Club Bagno1ais d’investigations
souterraines.

Sammartino, Y., 1984 “Perou
82” Spe1unca 14.

Sammartino, Y., 1987,
“Expeditions au Perou 1802-1986” Fed Fr Spe1eoi.

Sammartino, Y., Staccio1i, G.,
& K1ien, J.D., 1981, “Perou 79, expedition du groupe Speleo Bagnols
Marcoule.” Bagno1s/Ceze -Rapport d’expedition,183p.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1973,
“Aportacion al conocimiento geoespeleologico de algunas regiones karsticas
del

Peru
.” Pe1eon, 20, p167-224.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1983,
“Cuevas Exoticas”
Ediciones Grijelbo,
S.A.

Barcelona
.
pp 47-96.

Wilson,
J.M. et aI., 1982, ”

Peru

82, Southampton University Exploration Society Peru Expedition”


Southampton
University
.

1987, “Perou”. Spelunca
28, 10-11.

Unknown 1977, “Espeleologia
a HIRCA -76” Muntanya 86, (690) p339-347.

Acknowledgements

The team would like to express their thanks for the
hospitality shown towards them by the people of Laraos, the workers and
management of the San Valentin Mine and above all the extreme generosity of the
mine and hyro-electric station owner, Don Jesus Arias, who most generously
provided both food and secure lodging for us during our stay.  In addition we wish to thank Jenny the cook
and all the security personnel at the hydro-electric station for making our
stay so enjoyable.

Our thanks must also go to Sterling Ropes for providing a
generous discount on five hundred metres of rope.

Conclusion

The speleological potential of this area is immense – as
shown by the results of just one small reconnaissance expedition.  At -430m Sima Pumacocha is the deepest
limestone cave and the second deepest natural underground cavity yet explored
in
South America and, so far, has shown no
sign of ending.  The presumed resurgence
is approximately 16km distant from the entrance and almost 1000m lower in altitude
thus there is great potential for a very extensive cave system.  There is also the exciting possibility that
some of the shafts noted by expedition members near the Yauricocha mine may be
higher entrances to Sima Pumacocha.  If a
connection exists then Sima Pumacocha could be one of the deepest known caves
in the world.

A full colour version of this expedition report is
available.  Contact Rob for details.

 

John Stafford’s Memoirs.

By Chris Castle

The March ’97 batch of new guides at Cheddar included one
whom we thought to be the famous actor Patrick Stewart, fallen onto bad
times.  This was not the case; it was in
fact John Stafford.  He had moved down
from Northants, having previously lived in many parts of the
British
Isles
, and had taken a job at the Caves for a quiet life until he
retired.  He had to put up with cries of
“Make it so” and “Belay that order, Mr. Worf’-indeed, he joined
in with the fun and told visitors that he used to be a Starship captain.  Fortunately we have since become bored with
the joke.

He enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join a trip
around the

Adventure Caving Route

in Gough’s Cave, and because there were three Johns he told us to call him
Staff as that was what everyone, including his wife Anita, always called
him.  I soon found out that he had been a
keen caver in his youth, had been a member of the BEC, and had taken part in
many of the early explorations of St. Cuthbert’s.  “Are you the Stafford of Stafford’s
Boulder Problem?” I asked, and of course, he was.

Staff started helping out with the abseiling, but his
activity duties increased after I had a slight climbing mishap in July ’98 and
put myself out of action for a few months with various broken legs and
things.  Staff continues to do this work
at Cheddar.

His caving enthusiasm re-kindled, he has been on many Mendip
caving trips with me, including many sherparing trips to Lloyd Hall for the
CDG, and joined NHASA (Junior Section). In October of this year he visited Cuthbert’s II for the first time,
accompanied by myself and Rich Long, and I afterwards asked him if he would
write up his Memoirs of his early teenage years exploring the cave.  This he agreed to do, provided I typed them
up for him, which I have done with, I must say, great labour as I am a lousy
typist.  However, I was helped by the
fact that Staff, being of the older generation, can spell and string coherent
sentences together.

A few explanations may be helpful.

Knobbly Dog” – a hand climbing aid,
consisting of a single length of ladder wire with short lengths of aluminium
tubing swaged every 0.3 metres or so. One survives near the end of Cerberus Rift in St. Cuthbert’s.

Pemmican – “A North American Indian
preparation of lean flesh-meat, dried, pounded, and mixed with fat and other
ingredients.” (Chambers Dictionary).

The Shunt – a constriction in the old
Cuthbert’s entrance (abandoned in 1964).

Staffs Memoirs

The earliest trips in Cuthbert’s could probably be best
recounted by Chris Falshaw as my first visit did not occur until the “long
trip” of the 20th/21st March 1954.

This party was particularly honoured by the presence of Bob
Bagshawe Secretary and Treasurer of the BEC. Requests for vast expenditure on tackle for exploration of this new
system had caused Bob some concern – he had to see if there really was a big
cave so close to the Belfry.

The trip was absolutely amazing.  A fair amount of water was pounding through
the cave, no fixed tackle, only rather primitive wire and wood ladders and
heavy lifelines.  The main streamway from
Pulpit Pitch was the normal route at that time which meant you were pretty wet
throughout the trip.  Four hours was
about normal to reach the Dining Room and each “outing” was about the
same length so we had hot food and drink at about four-hourly intervals.

We newcomers – Bagshaw, Knibbs and myself – were conducted
to the marvels of the Gours and on to the Sump. In many places throughout the
trip one or other of the party would have a quick look into holes / passages
not yet explored.  The main exploration
involved the continuation of Cerberus Series into Mud Ball Chamber and the
discovery of the

Lake
Chamber
.

It so happened that the Lake was at a level where parts of the
ceiling touched the water and gave an impression that the
Lake
might continue further than we could see. This, as you know, has proved to be a false hope.

Coase confidently stated that a vertical passage from above
the Rat Run would lead to a particular hole in Everest Passage so he was told
to get up there and prove it, which he did. I think Bennett went next, then it was my turn.  The others had gone up using a handy hold
half way up.  That hold, and the rest of
the boulder attached, came away in my hand. I was not far enough up the tube to push it to the top and it was too
big to drop past me.  Instead of
descending, getting rid of it, and starting again I was stupid enough to try
pushing it up as far as I could, letting go and trying to wriggle up an inch or
two before it landed on my head and then repeating the operation.  Again and again and again.  In true BEC fashion no-one helped at all,
just rolled on their bellies laughing their socks off.  All except Bagshaw who had dozed off in the
Dining Room while all this was going on, as far as I can recall.

Someone put that boulder carefully aside and, for at least a
year, I had to check whichever load I was handed to carry out of the cave to
make sure that it did not contain that bloody boulder.  Those good friends of mine did their best to
trick me into carrying it out so they could present it to me at a Club
dinner.  The phrase “boulder
problem” they thought was most apt as I was then, or became soon after,
the Club Climbing Secretary.

On this, my first, trip I probably also saw a sight that
became synonymous with Cuthbert’s trips. Norman Petty wore a stout all wool fireman’s jacket under his
boilersuit.  Whenever we were waiting at
the top or bottom of ladders

Norman

would undo his overalls, produce a damp rag from his tunic pocket and carefully
polish the uniform buttons whilst singing quietly to himself about Pretty
Little Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.

More trips followed; many were concerned with more detailed
examination of passages and chambers only briefly looked at in the earliest
trips.  Not much remains in my memory of
the details apart from being sent up for a good look round what became known as
Pyrolusite Series.

On July 3rd with Waddon, Petty and Falshaw a real find was
made when we pushed a simple squeeze into Rabbit Warren Extension.  The going was easy and new routes were in
abundance.  Each of us must have had the
thrill on several occasions of being first into a new chamber or passage that
day.

Two sightings of Plantation Stream were found and possible
continuations of routes located.  One of
those was what I believe is now known as T-Junction Chamber.  A very short length of exit passage was partially
blocked with good stal.  The passage
appeared to continue beyond this stal but not with any certainty so we did not
touch.  Years later, following the
discovery of September Series, the explorers (King & Co?) pushed Cross
Legged Squeeze then were stopped by a stal formation.  As they could see a chamber beyond the stal
they broke through to where we had been in July 54.

Apart from the actual caving we were also working on a
scheme to rig fixed tackle so that more caving time could be devoted to
exploration.  Coase, Bennett and I all
worked at the Avonmouth Smelting Works. Don found that a load of steel ladders had been stripped out of the site
by a demolition contractor with a yard in Shirehampton.  Don, Roy and I then spent many lunch hours
dashing to the yard in Don’s car, unbolting ladders into moveable lengths, then
a hurried return to work.  By trial and
error with wooden mock-ups it was found that the maximum length of ladder we
could introduce into the cave was (I think) 5 l/2 feet.  On Thursday nights the ladders were sawn,
drilled and fish plates prepared in Clive Seward’s garage which was handy for
the Wagon and Horses, the Club Thursday night boozer, near St.Mary Redcliffe-
no longer in existence.  (The pub, not
the church).

The
Sandhurst club had been
asking to see our new discovery so they were invited to assist in the
installation of the fixed tackle.  This
must have been quite a trip.  I managed
to avoid it!  Get Kangy to tell you, it
was his first time in the cave (Feb.55). On this general topic, the Knobbly Dogs used at that time were far
better handline aids than the chains and ropes now in the cave.  You could grip the KDs much better despite
cold, wet hands.

The fixed tackle made a considerable difference to the time
and effort of getting in and out of the cave. Conditions had previously been so severe that Jack Waddon wrote to the
firm which had supplied pemmican to the ’53 Everest expedition, explaining our
problems and asking if we could purchase any old stock.  They kindly sent us the last two tins as a
gift.  The parcel arrived just as Jack
was leaving for Mendip so he brought them along and added them to a couple of
tins of bully beef in a Cuthbert’s surprise stew.  I am still grateful that I was not on that
trip as various people became ill on the way out and none was at work on the
Monday except for Jack whose cast iron stomach was unaffected.  Concerned about the state of his friends he
looked at the manufacturer’s notes enclosed with the letter.  It seemed that everyone had eaten at least a
twelve man-days ration in that single meal. The pemmican really was concentrated!

Our apres- caving meals took a turn for the better when the
owner of the Miners’ Arms (cafe, not pub) began offering cavers suppers, as
much as you could eat for 3/6d (17 1/2p) at any time of night or day by prior
arrangement.  The meal comprised of a
bowl of soup, meat and three veg followed by bread and marmalade till you gave
in.  He really did serve us at 3.30 am
when asked on more than one occasion.

A trip I recall from later that year was the start of a high
standard survey.  To begin with, all the
tackle had to go to the Duck. Coase, Petty, Collins and myself dealt with this
rather awkward job, passing numerous items from hand to hand whenever we could
not get along carrying the gear.  Alfie,
of course, started composing a song to go with the shouted checks on items
being passed along.  The chorus was
something like:

First tripod forward
Second tripod back
Third astro compass
UP Fourth man’s crack!

The kit eventually reached the Duck and the first leg of the
survey made back to the Gours.  We then
had to push on in order to get out by closing time.  All went well until we were up the Entrance
Rift and Petty, who was in front, decided to try a different way of getting
through the Shunt into the bottom of the Entrance Shaft.  For the benefit of those who never met him I
should mention that

Norman

was over 6 feet tall.  How he managed it
I do not know but he seemed to get himself doubled up the wrong way round and
was jammed in there for Gawd knows how long. When we eventually surfaced closing time was horribly close.  Without changing out of our filthy wet
overalls we put a cleanish sack on the driving seat of Don’s car and he drove
to the Hunters with the other three of us hanging onto the outside of the
car.  We passed money in and the
hilarious mob within passed mugs of beer out through the windows to us.

Mention of the Entrance Shaft reminds me that part of the
shoring was a large board stating that:

Climbing
is Dangerous
and is Prohibited
by order
G. Robinson Manager Gough’s Cave

As I am now employed by

Cheddar
Caves

I find this memory rather amusing.  I had
originally taken a sign from the other side of the road.  Older, more responsible, members told me to
take it back because it must be National Trust property.  This I did the following Saturday after
closing time and took the Gough’s Cave sign instead which was deemed to be
perfectly O.K.

Round about this time we started to break through the Bank
Grill in Gour Rift.  King and I were
there one day thumping away with hammer and chisel and were, we thought, about
to succeed.  Both of us were nearly out
of carbide but as there was a small stock in the Dining Chamber, went on
hammering away.  We eventually gave up
when our lights were seriously low and sped to the Dining Chamber to re-fill.
The whitewashed wall on which messages were left said that Don’s party were on
their way out and were very sorry but had used all the spare carbide
supply.  The other spare carbide supply
was in Pillar Chamber and it is probable that the time Kangy and I took to get
there has never been bettered.

On the following weekend Tony Dunn and I eventually opened
the Bank Grill and Tony went through. He came back to say that it did not
appear to be worth pursuing.  As far as I
know this is still true.

That autumn (55) was really the end of my “early”
Cuthbert’s.  I had failed my exams which
finished my deferment from National Service. In the November my call-up papers arrived, but I was not aware of
them.  I had crashed my motorbike the night
before and have no knowledge of the next four days.  It could have been worse but I was wearing an
ex- WD crash helmet purchased from Roy Bennett three hours previously.  After two more medicals the Army still wanted
me.  Due to argumentative skills learned
in the Hunters’ and the Belfry I persuaded the Army to leave things long enough
for me to have another go at the Great Traverse of the Black Cuillin of Skye in
May 56.  This I managed with John Attwood
and returned to find that the Glosters wanted me next Thursday.

Thank you for asking for the stories of caving with the
wonderful characters concerned.  I am
glad to say that last week I had my first visit to Cuthbert’s II – many thanks
to Chris Castle and Richard Long who acted as guides and minders.  In another few days I shall be at Alfie’s
Geriatric Dinner – 50 years after my first club dinner which I regret to say
was the

Wessex
.

 

Club News

Firstly, for those who have not already heard, I have some
sad news.  Frank Jones passed away at the
end of last year.  An obituary can be
found below.  I am sure that I am not alone
in saying that his seat by the fire in the Hunters’ seems strangely empty –
although Quackers is doing his best as a stand in for Frank.

Tony and others are soon due to return from their Meghalaya
Expedition and news of their exploration will be in the next issue of the BB.

Phil Rowsell has sent brief news of his six months digging
in
Tasmania – he has mentioned something about
a new shaft in a system on

Mt.
Anne
and the possibility
of a new Australian depth record. Somewhere in

Tasmania

there are some poor knackered cavers gazing at a calendar and thinking of the
rest that they will have when he returns to Mendip!

Work has begun at the Belfry on clearing the ground for the
new extension.  Contact the Hut Engineer
for details of future working weekends as this issue will be too late for the
early March one.

A new computer has been installed in the Library courtesy of
Becca Campbell and Bristol Waterworks.

Finally, although there has been a fair deal of trips by
club members in recent months the Logbook reveals only a fraction of this
activity.  There are two good reasons to
fill it in.  Firstly, it is an historical
record for the use of future cavers. Secondly, if it is not used more, the extracts from the Logbook section
of your BB is going to read like a personal log for the few that bother
regularly to write up trips.

 

VALE: Francis (Frank) John Jones.

1944-2001.

Frank joined the BEC in the early 1960s whilst he was living
at his parent’s home in

Clifton
.  At the time he was working as a
draughtsman.  He caved through the mid
1960s, frequently in St. Cuthbert’s (which seems to have been his favourite Mendip
cave system).  He then joined the
Merchant Navy – his departure from which launched the countless jokes about a
“discharged seaman”.  Moving to
Priddy at the end of the decade he remained in the village until his death from
a heart attack while at home in mid December 2001.



Frank near Quarry Corner in
St.
Cuthbert’s Swallet on the 5th of January 1964.

Photograph by Roger
Stenner.  Also present on the trip were:
Dave Irwin, Joyce Rowlands (now
Franklin),
Brenda Plummer (

Wilton
),
Joy Steadman, and Kevin Abbey.  Other
sites visited on this photographic trip included Mud Hall, Pillar,

Boulder
and Upper
Traverse Chambers.  For a more recent
(albeit posthumous) caving trip by Frank see Tony’s article on Hunter’s Lodge
Inn Sink.

His well attended funeral, with well over eighty mourners,
reflected his popularity and his ashes were scattered in a number of places
locally – indeed there are now plans afoot for a lasting memorial to one of
Mendip’s (and the BEC’s) true characters.

If you have more information or stories about Frank, and
particularly about his caving years, please send them to the Editor for
publication in the next issue.

 

Extracts From The Logbook.

14/11/01: Eastwater Cavern (
Soho Dig):
Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Went down to survey dig and check possible leads with no
bang fumes.  Andy made it into
‘”Thank God” Chamber, which was good. Squeezed through into rift and had good look around. Rift continues on,
generally pretty narrow (5 inches), but seems to be wider at bottom.  Narrow part for next 2-3 metres, needs to be
widened.  Tried to squeeze through, but
well tight!  Not the mega nightmare
previously thought, but definitely a project. Climbed up rift, but no way on. Surveyed our way out. Good trip. Not all is lost, but guess this will be next year’s/summer’s project!

17/11/01: Priddy Green SinkiSwildon’s: Mike Alderton, Rich Bayfield
(S.U.C.C.) and Chris (S.U.C.C.)

Priddy Green Sink through trip (not bad for Chris’s 5th
trip) had a look at possibilities for blasting drainage from Mud Sump from this
side, but nothing looks promising.  No
ladder on Twenty, despite hundreds of cars when we left, so set up hauling line
for Rich and Chris.

28/11/01: Welsh’s Green Swallet: Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Tourist trip to have a look at dig etc.  Not as muddy as expected.  Now off to “Tassy” (

Tasmania
) for six
months.  See you in June!

5/1/02: Rhino Rift: Ivan Sandford, Rob Harper, and Adrian Hole

Typically disorganised trip in – left keys in Land Rover,
rope too short etc.  Dug passage to Stal
to a workable size.  Cold, wet, squalid –
but made good progress until water became a problem.  Skip needed. Ivan of the opinion that no breakthrough imminent, but still a good site
– must go back with wetsuits.  Rob found
squeeze easy.  Ivan did not – mainly due
to having to have RH stand on his shoulders to get through.

12/1/02: G.B: Mike Wilson, Tom, and Ben

Steady trip to the Ladder Dig. Looked at the RH dig and took
some photos of same.  Out via standard
route.

Dollimore’s Series: good digging to get connection!  Headed south downstream to choke, where we
had a prod at a couple of likely spots before turning our attention to the
choke.  Climbed up and removed several
rocks before being halted by a precariously balanced slab (above head) and
several of its pals – will go back with another type of persuasion!  Onto Yellow Van Passage where the connecting
duck was more than that, but did find likely spot in the roof tube to wait for
fumes to clear.  Turned and made way
out.  Around nine hours.

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