The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

EDITOR: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. ~ells, Somerset. Tele :Priddy 369

LATE NEWS from Lionel's Hole

The new extension is now well over 700ft. long (some say nearly 1,000ft!).  Several new routes have been found within the extension. The 2nd Duck (Bird Bath) has been bypassed by a large high level rift - certainly the continuation of the Traverse in the 'old' cave.  A large, steeply ascending high level canyon has been followed to a point very near to the Surface (roots and live moths are to be found there).  A small upstream sump dried out in the summer and was passed via a boulder chamber giving access to the Labyrinth in 'old' Lionel's. Another high level connection above the Traverse seems imminent, possibly giving a dry way into the Extension.  The possibility of extensive upstream passages is now being considered.

Andy Sparrow


by Tim Large

New members:

941 John Sampson, 8 Hill Crest, Knowle, Bristol BS4 2UN

Changes of address:

Ross White, 9 Ellery Close, Lymington, Hants.
Jane Kirby, Basement Flat, 8 Dorchester Terrace, Clifton, Bristol
Bob Cork, 25 The Mead, Stoke St. Michael, Somerset.
Dave Hatherley, 6 Withiel Drive, Cannington, Bridgwater, Som.

BOOTS: There ore still some pairs of caving boots in stock - price £8.75.  These have commando soles and exterior steel toecaps.  Sizes left are 7, 8, 9 and one pair of 5's.

BELFRY: Some more work as been done on maintaining the Belfry. Whilst on holiday, Ross White and Jerry Crick have sanded and painted the windows and front door, amongst other jobs.

MEMBERSHIP of the club now stands at 200 - much the same as last year at this time.  Membership has hovered around this number for some years now - perhaps we have reached the optimum number?

MORE LATE NEW: We would like to offer our sympathies to Len Dawes who recently lost his son in a climbing accident in the Cuillins.  ‘Wig’



This month we have recorded in the column caving news from all parts of the world including a list of the longest and deepest to the downright macabre.

Berger driven in third place in world depth stakes

                                                                                                Depth in metres

1. Gouffre de Pierre St. Martin (France-Spain)

2. Reseau Jean-Bernard ( France)

3. Gouffre Berger ( France)

4. Reseau des jAiguilles ( France)

5. Ganna Ciaga ( Spain) ,

6. Lamprechtsofen ( Austria)

7. Kievskaya ( USSR)

8. Sima G.E.S.M. ( Spain)

9. Grotta di Monta Cucco (Italy)

10. Abisso Michele ( Italy)











United States hangs on to five of the world's first ten longest

1. Flint Mammoth Cave System ( USA)

307,000 metres long

2. Holloch ( Switzerland)

129,525 metres long

3. Optimisticeskaje ( USSR)

110,840 metres long

4. Ozernaja ( USSR)

102,840 metres long

5. Jewel Cave ( USA.)

96,6000 metres long

 6. Sistema Ojo Guarena ( Spain)

60,000 metres long

7. Organ Cave ( USA)

51,500 metres long

8. Wind Cave ( USA)

49,150 metres long

9. Cumberland Caverns ( USA)

43,768 metres long

10. Eisrieenwelt ( Austria)

42,000 metres long

New Books on the Caving Market - reviews will be found in British Caver No.70 in the Club Library at the Belfry.

Discovery of Luray Caverns, Virginia by Russell H. Gurnee.  104pp, illus.    £3.50

Chelsea Spel. Soc. Records Vol. 8.  Caves and Tunnels in SE England. 44p          £1.00

Speleology - The Study of Caves by Moore & Nicholas Sullivan, 150pp, illus           £5.00

Majorca by Hoftman, 160pp,maps and photos, pub. David & Charles.         £4.95

Caves of Hong Kong by Lo Ding. 75pp, 95 b&w plates, 12 maps. Text in Chinese. Pub. by Nam Zum Publishing Co. Hong Kong, 1973                                                                    £2.00

Cataleg Espeleologic de Catalunya, Vol.1, 166pp, plates, maps, surveys    £7.10

Dans Les Abimes de le Terre, by Michel Siffre, 300pp; illus.                                  £8.00

Caves of the Crimea by V.N. Dublyanski, pub. by Tavriya, 1977, 125pp       £4.00

Hydrologic Problems in Karst Regions ed. by Dilamarter & Csallany, 481pp plans, figs, maps etc. pub. 1977                                                                                                                        £10.00

Hohlenfuhrer Schwabische Alb by Binder, 200pp, 30plans, maps, pub.1977            £6.00

News in brief:


Pete lord and American cavers have connected two caves to form a 16km system in the Cuetzalan area.  What about some details for the BB, Pete?


French cavers have explored and surveyed La Grotte de Djebel Serdj which is said to be the most beautiful cave in that country.  It contains chambers up to 1,000ft long.

Rock & Fountain - South Wales

Fourth Boulder Choke pushed by digging near its base and over a mile of large passage found.  End of cave is Fifth Boulder Choke near Daren Cilau

Caving Oratorio - further details

It was recently reported that a Swiss composer, Klaus Cornell had written a work entitled "Oratorio Spelaeologico", sub-titled "Bericht von den Beatushhohlen" (Impressions of the Beatushohlen) in 1972 following a visit to the show cave.  The work is in five movements. 

1st: A passage in the mountain

2nd: The origin of the cave

3rd: A group of people viewing the cave

4th: The story of Beatus

5th: The exit.

The work is scored for two soloists; narrator, five instrumentalists, choir of 100 voices and Chamber Orchestra plus tape recordings inside and outside of the cave. The text was written by Kurt Weibel. A recording has been obtained of the work via the usual Mendip Grapevine network and is available, in Switzerland, on the Jecklin label - the record number is Jecklin 148 and costs 26 Swiss Francs (about £9.00).  For anyone interested in obtaining this recording, which incidentally is very good and well balanced and the surfaces are extremely quite, should write to Jecklin, Pianohaus + Disco-Centre, 8024 Zurich 1, Switzerland.  I'm not sure that the music will ever reach the Top Ten!  Incidentally, the record sleeve photograph is upside down!

Cuckoo Cleeves

Bob Dyke has recently retired and the farm been taken over by Mr. Masters of Easton.  The new owner is concerned at the damage done to gates and the stone walls by cavers en-route to the cave.  The CSCC Hon. Sec. Fred Davies has seen Mr. Masters and explained the situation to him. Whereupon Mr. Masters gave Fred the wherefore all and so two new styles have been cemented into position which now allows direct access to the entrance.  If cavers fail to use the stiles and continue to climb over walls and gates the cave will be permanently closed.  The cave is to be gated and, keys will be held locally at various club huts. It is to be hoped that BEC members will comply with the fanner's simple wishes and make it their business to inform any visitors at the Belfry.

Wales and the Marches

Ogof-y-Ci and Ogof Rd Sych are on the Cwm Glais Nature Reserve and due to the change of ownership access is as follows:

  1. Take the road from Cefn Coed, past Veynor Quarries, and turn left onto the Llwyn Clisanws farm road.
  2. Follow the road for about a mile to old farm buildings and park on waste ground on the right.
  3. Go over the gate and follow the field boundary to the reserve.
  4. When in the reserve, follow the stream bed to the caves, keeping off the vegetation wherever possible.  A path may be staked out in the near future.  Dan-yr-Ogof.  A party recently left the river entrance gate off in the path of a tourist party.  The management weren’t pleased.  Ensure that you are in the cave before 10.00am.  Old Hen Mine (R. Forest of Dean) a large boulder is on the move in Balcony Passage - take care.  Castlemartin Caves.  M.O. Defence has imposed restrictions to all parts of the range as there is a danger from military activities.

Eire: A new map of the Burren, Co. Clare has been published by the Irish Tourist Board.  Scale 1.8 inches to the mile.  Combined with Tratman's map in ‘Caves of Clare’ is said to be very useful.  Price unknown.

BEC was there before you! In the recent issue of Wessex Journal (173) Phil Hendy writes (in the WCC Caving Log) of a descent down! ‘Rabbit mine’ situated near the large collapse above GB.  The mine was descended soon after the July flood in 1968 by ‘Wig’ and Mike York (of WCC!) and the BB records details of this first descent - by cavers that is.

You never know what you’ll find next!

Two teenagers divers went to one of the many sinks interconnecting the underground route of the route of the Aucille River near Perry, Florida in the US of A searching for artefacts and Pleistocene remains.  Their searches revealed some remains that they hadn’t bargained for…three cement weighted corpses!  One of the bodies was examined and was found to have a 38-caliber pistol wound in the back of the head.  Police agents said that the slayings looked like mob-style murders.  This snippet of news was published in Underwater Speleology, February 1978.


Cambridge University Versus The Totes Gebirge

by our man on the spot Nick Thorne

This is the third episode in a potentially Coronation Street like saga.  In 1978 CUCC, tired of the Pyrenees, took Austria by storm for their summer expedition. Episode Two occurred last year and readers may remember the report I did for the B.B.  To recap, about a dozen of us spent between two and three weeks at at Alt Ausse, a small village about 80km east of Salzburg.  Most of our time was spent prospecting on the nearby Loser Plateau.  Loser is an extensive plain undulating between 1600 and 1700m above sea level.  The almost virgin lapiaz of the plateau is reached bye steeply ascending toll road from Alt Aussee and a brisk hour or so walk from the top.  Last year we found several promising caves:

97 Schneewindschacht - too tight at minus 265m.
82 - Brauninghohle - sumped (perched) at minus 220m.
106 - Eislufthohle - 150m deep and unfinished.
Plus various other 100m pots.

The greatest incentive to return in 1978 was the unfinished state of Eislufthohle.  Although not our deepest find in 1977, the shafts in Eislufthohle were of such a size and the draught in the cave so strong, that we felt that the pot ought to yield a few more secrets yet, there being 750m of depth potential still left.  And with this in mind, we found ourselves back on Loser in July/August of this year.

The expedition members fell into three categories

a)                    'Team Eislufthohle' - 5 strong team of SRT merchants, including Yours Truly.

b)                    'Team Ladders' - 3 man, 1 woman team spending their first year in Austria.

c)                    'Team Geriatric' - 4 cavers plus 'hangers-on'.  More interested in canoeing and haute cuisine, bless 'em; but as events showed, they can still deliver the goods when, needed.  Team Ladders, and later aided at depth by Team Geriatric, did a very creditable job of 107 - Gemsehohle - essentially a large draughting rift, choking at about minus 280m.

As for Team Eislufthohle, then I think our fortunes could best be described as mixed.  A slow rig in down last year's cave was due to the presence of a greater amount of snow and ice.  In the end, despite enormous ice boulders falling.  Plugged Shaft was rigged with a 300 foot length of rope with 5 belays and 1 rope protector.  This affords, some idea of the technical difficulties of rigging this large, spiralling broken, shafts.  In defence of SRT on a pitch like this one I most point out that we had comparable difficulties rigging and de-rigging the thing last year on ladders, and once rigged for ropes, then routine ascents and descents are not especially slow.

From the chamber at the bottom, round a corner, leads to Saved Shaft.  This 13m shaft defeated the ropes men and ladders ruled.  At the bottom is Boulder Chamber (no cave is a cave without one, you know!)  A crawl through boulders and a traverse over the first pitch of the Keg Series (no draught) leads to a free climb and & 30m pitch, split by a large ledge.  From the bottom a narrowish rift leads to a chamber with a heavy drip.  This was as far as we got last year and we called the chamber The Tap Room (What makes you think we drink beer?)

So off we were again at last, pioneering new ground.  The slow progress made during the rig is so far, and the prospect of a deep cave, now prompted an interesting change in policy - overnight trips.  The lapiaz on the plateau is impossible to negotiate after night fall, and so allowing for a margin of error, it seemed logical to walk to the cave in late afternoon, cave overnight and after 2 minimum trips of 10 hours, emerge into the morning light.  Good idea, we thought.

Indeed, the first overnight trip did pay dividends.  I had the privilege (or misfortune) to be half of this two man effort.  We timed things a little too close for comfort on the walk in.  We had to virtually run to the cave in failing light and found the entrance about ten minutes before darkness trapped us on the plateau.

Once underground things seemed pretty much the norm.  We soon reached the Tap Room.  We descended a rope assisted climb that had been rigged previously and followed an obvious traverse line to a small chamber, the water having sunk into the floor at the bottom of the climb.  The chamber had a nice big boulder poised in the roof and a large enticing slot in the floor.  A 10m pitch was rigged off a couple of bolts down to a micro-ledge where the rift narrowed. A bolt rebelay was placed and a fine, ever enlarging, 35m pitch was descended to a large ledge and a stream, inlet.  With the shaft being the 'best pitch 'O the pot' so far, spirits were high and we started putting in a couple more bolts.  These held a traverse line that protected a bold step over to a ledge on the opposite wall, and also the rope for the          next pitch.  This was 8m to a pool in a dribbly, dribbly streamway.

The stream trundled on down a trench in the floor and we traversed along again in a high rift about three or four feet wide.  We soon reached a fine rocking boulder perched squarely on the traverse ledges. We quickly realised that we were to break into something big.  A bend and upwards above a massive boulder jam was an immense blackness, impenetrable to a good NiFe beam.  Ahead and downwards lay a second impenetrable blackness.  We placed another couple of bolts.  This took some time as the bolter had to be life lined and rock anchor teeth kept breaking off, and anchors kept getting stuck, and…

Our sleepy beer starved brains were in need of a wake-up.  And how!  The next pitch turned out to be a magnificent 60m job.  Remember Juniper Gulf? - forget it!  This fine free hang down a sculptured corner of a much larger shaft was truly staggering.  It landed on a boulder ledge about 4m from the shaft floor.  We abseiled past this to reach the floor proper.

Downwards, the stream that had slithered down one wall of the shaft sank into a too low passage. Upwards led to a balcony, giving a fine view of the 'Hall of the Greene King'.  This is circular in plan and approximately 20m in diameter.  The height must be in the order of 100m.  At this impressive spot, having run out of rope, having made the deepest Cambridge find to date, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, we turned back.

As we did do, we noted that the water level had risen and the big pitch landing was now being liberally showered.  This and certain difficulties for your humble, narrator when the rope got pulled up on the big pitch and lowered back down through the boulder ledge, meant a thorough soaking.  Without wetsuits, things were now getting chilly and prussiking was the only way to keep warm. This was only hampered by the fact that every time you stopped for a rest you fell asleep!  We eventually surfaced after a twelve hour trip only to dine on plastic ham and biscuits in the pouring rain.  We then left the plateau.  It has been a long time since I'd left a cave feeling this cold and tired.

But the trip was a success. In one trip we added 120m of depth and despite the fact that it took a couple of days to recover, overnight trips seemed a good idea still.  The next day saw two more of ‘Team Ropes’ going underground.  They descended the 6m balcony pitch to the floor of the hall of the Green King.  Next came a very large passage with some proportionally huge hanging death, and this they followed to a short pitch.  This was descended 5m and several inlets and side passages noted.  The way on seemed less than obvious, but when the draught was detected (despite the large cross section of the passage) the way lay on down to a pitch of 25m.  All the next part of the cave seemed very old and contained a lot of dry powdery mud. Lack of tackle, time, energy etc., did not permit a descent of this pitch and so the intrepid heroes returned.

A couple of night later I was back on the scene again, this time as part of a three man team.  We descended the 25m pitch which went round the corner and had to be rebelayed twice.  It landed in a passage carrying a small stream, probably the same one that sank earlier.  From here, the stream passed into a very narrow vadose canyon and we traversed out. The passage, although very tight at stream level was three or more feet wide at traverse level.  The total passage height was beyond my NiFe beam. The streamway was a classic meandering vadose type, typical of many a Yorkshire pot.

After a rather committing free climb (at least at this sort of depth!) the traverse continued. Generally all the traversing was done on good, if not very continuous ledges.  After what seemed like several hundred feet we clambered over a big jammed boulder chaos and on to the head of another pitch.  A rope was belayed to a bolt and a chock-stone and a descent was made down 12m of muddy slope.  Up until now things had been just comfortably muddy with a mainly dry, powdery variety. This pitch however, later named ‘The Fiesta Run’, was a very glutinous affair.  This fact was later thought to be associated with a shaft noted entering the roof at this point.  The traverse ledges beyond seemed to clear a little.  We reached more chock-stones with a further pitch beyond.  Stones dropped directly below fell for about fifty feet.  Those that were lobbed outwards a little fell a great deal further.  We were running out of steam here and decided to turn back. To be honest, we were a little disappointed the horizontality Eisluftohle was adopting.  We had envisaged pitch followed immediately by pitch, followed by pitch, going down very deep and all very easy!  Instead, we had a steeply sloping streamway occasionally punctuated by short pitches.  Tackle carrying on the traverses would not be easy and the streamway could go on for miles. However, our depth we estimated, conservatively, at 350m.  Well satisfied with this we left the cave after another twelve hour trip.

With just over a week of the expedition left a couple more pushing trips could be had and even greater depth attained.  Just then however disaster struck.  We were driving down the toll road after the above described trip when one of the disadvantages of overnight trips was hammered home rather brutally.  With the front passenger asleep and me in the back still wide awake the driver decided to nod off at the wheel.  To his credit he could have chosen a section of road adjacent to a drop of several hundred feet, but instead settled for one of a mere thirty.  Without the slightest hint of last minute braking or swerving, we missed a telegraph pole and a tree by inches, went through a fence cum crash barrier and launched ourselves over the near vertical drop.  The next few seconds consisted of one of life’s great eternal moments. With broken glass flying and twisted, blood bespattered, metal all about, the car seemed to roll over and over before finally coming to rest, wheels down, in a river at the bottom of the drop.  The driver suffered cuts to face and hands, slight concussion and a fractured sternum. The front seat passenger suffered a bad gash in the head and was suspected of having a lightly fractured neck. The car was a write-off and your seemly invincible narrator, I'm almost ashamed to say it, had not a scratch (well, only one small one!)

You'll be pleased to know that both the injured people, after spending a week in hospital, and with one getting flown home, both made full recoveries.

Whilst being fortunate inasmuch as three of has had been spared the greater karts area in the sky, we (that is Team Eislufthohle) were now a little short of manpower.  Over the next week we realised de-rigging with so few people as were left could prove awkward.  We even started fondling insurance policies, wondering whether we could avoid de-rigging altogether!  We abandoned the grade 4 survey that had been started, half finished! Photographic trips were scrapped left, right and centre and now having given up overnight trips, one alpine start allowed the bottom couple of pitches to be de-rigged.  And then just what we didn’t need, the weather closed in.  With low cloud and rain, we couldn’t even see the plateau for several agonising days, let alone navigate across it.  We were forced to kick our heels at the camp site in Alt Ausee until, two days before departure, back came the sunshine. With a magnificent effort form Team Geriatric, bless ‘em again, and in the company of your long suffering narrator, the rest of the cave was cleared.  Phew!

And so back to good old British beer.  The return journey was noted only for a delightfully comfortable night spent on a bench in a lay-by of a German autobahn; also for being waved through Belgium customs by the cleaning lady!   As for Eislufthohle, then I think, judging by the large passage size at the bottom, and the drop test's performed there, not to mention the draught (or The War!) then to squeeze 400m out of the place would be a mere formality. Beyond that, who knows?  The local expert, Karl Gaisberger, to whom many thanks, inspected the mud on our gear from the Fiesta Run area and confirmed that is was quite old stuff, totally unlike that deposited a sump backing up. Therefore with a sump not being, imminent and with the passage seeming to enlarge all the time, Eislufthohle, already one of Loser’s most significant caves, should become one of Austria’s deepest.  It has to be said however, that the cave is no longer the easy series of shafts it was.  It is now quite a serious, undertaking.  Consequently for Cambridge to return there, despite the keenness of some of us, would be pointless unless we could put up a good crack team, numbering at least ten.  Don’t miss next year’s exciting episode; same time, same channel!

Many thanks to the Ian Dear Memorial Fund, without whose financial backing, I may have missed the magnificent abseil; into the Hall of the Greene King an experience to make life really worth living…..at least until the drive back!



Pate Hole

by Dave Metcalfe

Just to the south of the village of Great Asby, near Appleby in Westmorland, lie three caves; Pate Hole, West Pate Hole and Lower Pete Hole.  From the fork of the narrow lane heading south from the village to three farms a pleasant stroll down through a small field, which is in fact an ancient dry valley, leads to the bed of Asby Beck which meanders between small cliffs past the entrance of Pate and West Pate Holes.  The stream, except in flood, is barely a trickle sinking in shingle downstream of Pate Hole Mouth, to reappear in no larger quantity in the village.  Following the dry stream bed downstream it becomes apparent that the stream, sometime in the past, must have been of a considerable size.

The Great Kettle, an almost perfectly cylindrical milled pothole in the streambed, is some eight feet deep and provides an amusing climb up its smooth sides.  Just downstream of this, above the left bunk, is Lower Pate Hole - a low, wide, abandoned bedding cave about eighty feet long.

Back upstream on the west bank, below Beck level, is West Pate Hole.  The cave is a low, muddy grovel and, mercifully, the entrance is blocked with boulders!  The main entrance to Pate Hole lies in the opposite bank.

Pate Hole in the main cave in the area and the entrance is obvious with its passage descending gently over scree involving a back breaking stoop until water is met where the way down continues over a series of fine gaur dams creating knee deep pools in places. The passage soon levels out into a larger canal passage running north/south.  A comfortable walk along the South Passage ends abruptly at a solid floored circular pool at a blank wall.  Up to the left is a muddy scramble up a cross rift to descend almost immediately to the deep sump pool.  Under normal conditions the crystal clear water laps gently over the lip of the pool and runs same 50 - 60 feet downstream to sink in four inches high bedding plane to the right.  This is the Main Stream Passage.  The water of the sump is so clear that details of underwater boulders and the submerged resurgence passage can be seen.

However, over the years, work in the sump has proved interesting.  On the original survey (1960) the sump was found to head horizontally upstream for about thirty feet to end suddenly at a deep flooded rift. Here the original divers, Phil Davies and Jack Whaddon, reported an airspace but B. Churcher, diving in 1975 - 1976, reported no such airspace and S. Pickersgill (1977) mentioned only small air pockets.  However, they all agreed there was a deep flooded shaft.  Churcher estimated it went some 120 feet but Pickersgill reached a boulder floored chamber at -75 feet and from there a wide, low elliptical passage, some 5 x 15 feet in cross section, continued uninterrupted.

On three dives during June 1977, Pickcrsgill laid 2 x 200ft lines in this lower passage and investigated eleven cross rifts mostly too tight to enter.  One of the cross rifts ascended for 30ft.  He reported that the passage continued horizontally at -75 feet and perfect visibility.  So where do we go from here?  The sump is still going – but where is its source?  The answer must lie in the vast limestone area of Great Asby Scar to the south-west with its magnificent limestone pavement and dry valleys - but there is a distinct luck of shake holes, sinks or shafts.  In times of flood, Pate Hole takes a large stream with which the bedding sink is unable to cope and eventually the whole cave fills with water and under extreme conditions it resurges through the main entrance.



Survey of Pate Hole by D. Wharburton, A.J. Surrall and J. Hanwell.

Journal of the Craven Pothole Club, Vol.5 No.5

C.D.G. Newsletters No.37 and 40

Northern Caves Vol.5




Preliminary report of Speleological Reconnaissance Expedition to the Dachstein, Austria

by Graham Wilton-Jones

The Dachstein massif is situated some 35 miles SE of Salzburg between the Tennengebirge and the Totes Gebirge.  It has previously been largely avoided for a number of reasons:

1)                  there are plenty of other more well known limestone areas

2)                  access with equipment is not straightforward

3)                  the local glacier has blocked many holes with moraine.

The glacier stretches from just below the Hoher Dachstein (3004m) down to the Ober Eissee (2100) a glacial lake in a huge, moraine filled depression.  The glacier is a complex of ice fields, all of poor quality, rapidly melting ice with few crevasses.  The melt waters sink at various points around the perimeter of the glacier directly into the moraine.  The underground drainage is complex, with conduits crossing each other, but basically there are three major risings:

1)                  Hinterer gesausse (1160m) 4½km WNW

2)                  Waldebach Ursprung (913m) 8km N

3)                  Kessel, Hallstatt (517m) 9km NNE

Midway between resurgences 2 and 3 is the Hirlatzhohle, some 9km of generally large passage with a lower series of intermittent, large sumps.  No other large caves are known in the vicinity.  In the winter-time, when everywhere is frozen, the Waldbach Ursprung can be entered for some distance to a more permanent sump.  The area we were to search lies between the glacier and the Waldbach resurgence, on the plateau, at a height of about 1800 to 2000m.

Ross White and Andy Sparrow decided to use their thumbs to travel across Europe; while Tony Jarrett, Stephen 'Throstle' Aldred, David Warren (Grampian) and Graham Wilton-Jones used the ever faithful VW and the Hovercraft.  The vagabonds have their own tale to tell, but we four arrived in Hallstatt after over 24 hours of almost continuous driving, with the beast rarely doing more than 50 mph with its badly loaded roof rack and 450kg of equipment and food.  There we met with Hermann Kirchmayer, head of the Austrian Cave Rescue Association.  He had originally invited us over there, being an old friend of the club.  Together we drove up the track to the lower station of the material seilbahn (cable hoist) which serves the Wiesberghaus, an Alpine hut belonging to the Friends of Nature, who are a big rambling club.  All our equipment went on this hoist and we were able to make our way up the mountain empty handed.

On the 26th of July, three of us walked over the area we were to prospect, while the others moved most of the remaining gear over to our camp site and set up camp.  The site was a large (150m x 50m) shallow depression filled with little hummocks of glacial debris and with a small 'dew-pond' to collect water from a marshy area near the centre.  We camped on the tops of the hummocks among the hundreds of bright, alpine flowers.  The pond water was used for washing and our drinking water was obtained from the hut, about five minutes away, where they collected rainwater from the roof.

Our prospecting area was mainly to the west and NW of the camp, although we did spend some time looking all around the site, even finding a Mendip style dig within 50m of the tents leading to a 40m deep pot.  Physically the western boundary of our area was the line of cliffs and screes forming the Niederer Ochenkogel, Hober Grunberg and Neiderer Grunberg, although we intend to thoroughly search the faces and tops next year.  Between the campsite and these cliffs, which rise to 2200m, is a region of strong NW-SE tectonic jointing which can be followed for about 10km and forms the cliffs themselves.  Even at this distance from the glacier (4km) there is still much moraine about and vegetation is plentiful, especially stunted, springy, bush-like pine-trees. There is no way through these but to walk over the tops.  The overall impression of the area is half vegetation and half rough, often steep lapiaz with screes and small snowfields.

The Austrians noted everything over 5m in depth or length and we therefore did the same.  In the total Dachstein plateau region, designated no.1543, they had found 58 significant sites.  These were mainly chance findings as no determined and systematic search had been made.  In our immediate area they knew of some half a dozen sites.  Many of their findings had only been noted, and not explored, let alone surveyed.  We concentrated on finding, exploring and surveying totally new sites although we did check out a couple of known caves.

In all, we found 35 significant sites.  On a rough analysis 10 sites were less than 10m in length or depth, 13 were between 10 and 20m, 8 were over 20m to 40m, 1 was 75m, 1 was 100m and our best find is over 500m long, more than 200m deep, and still going, both up and down.  One hole has yet to be entered and at least three still require further exploration.

The blockages at the bottom of the potholes did not fall into one or two major categories, and glacial moraine blockages did not play, a significant role; as might have been supposed. Perhaps more of the blockages were due to boulders than for any other reason; several shafts went down to snow plugs; others became too tight or had clay/mud or peat chokes.  Those blocked by boulders alone could well be easy digs, while the ones with snow plugs may have further, concealed passages enterable should the snow melt.  Indeed, at one point we had regularly crossed a snow field until one day this melted to reveal a 25m shaft right below our footprints!  In another place a snow plug in a 5m deep wide mouthed shaft melted sufficiently to gain access to a horizontal rift passage, as yet unexplored. In one ice cave, 40m deep and still going, a hole in the ice was only just large enough to get through and may well have been blocked entirely a week earlier.

We did take occasional days off from looking at holes, apart from the inevitable warm, sunny, I've had enough of caving, gear mending day, one day was spent in climbing the Dachstein and another on a 'tourist' trip to Hallstattand then up to the Dachstein show-caves - Rieseneishohle and Mammuthohle.  In all there were twelve caving/prospecting days.  The remaining days of the three weeks available were spent transporting equipment end travelling.

The trip up the Dachstein we understood to be a walk, which it was for the most part.  It begins as a well trodden path from the Wiesberghaus to the Simony Hutte, D climbers hut, followed by a walk over scree and moraine to the foot of the glacier.  Crampons were not necessary here though they were useful in patches.  Occasionally the snow: was thigh deep.  Finally, after 3½ hours of hard walking the near vertical began up the rock face to the peak.  There, used to be a ‘via ferrata’ (iron way) here, with big iron pegs and thick steel cables to aid the tourist up the otherwise exposed climb.  However, the winter snows had ripped out pegs and broken wires so that it was not often safe to use, though parts of I were very handy on some of the more difficult sections.  The peak was largely swathed in cloud while we stood on it, but naturally, this cleared as soon as we descended.

The descent of the glacier was fast - cagoules on and sit down and hope for no crevasses on the way!

The show caves above Obertraun were well worth the visit, particularly the Rieseneishohle, which I felt to be more spectacular than the much large Eisriesenwelt, which we visited on our way home.  This may have been due to the carefully placed electric lighting - though Eisriesenwelt depends on carbide (Turner of Hull, of course!) and magnesium ribbon. The show section of the Mammuthohle is basically a series of very large phreatic tunnels leading to one impressive, high rift.

We also had a look at a salt mine above Hallein, south of Salzburg.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is that we crossed the border into Germany and back again under the ground.

To return to the object of the expedition, we shall be returning next year, at about the same time (end July to the Middle of August) to complete exploration and surveys of the caves already found and to carry on prospecting higher up the cliffs and above the mountains of Ochsen Kogel and Grunberg and also further north towards the edge of the plateau.  Hopefully there will be more of us next year, because there is a LOT to be done.

Ed. note: Details of an earlier BEC visit to the Dachstein area will be found in B.B. No.214 December 1965.  Austria by D.J. Irwin and R.J Bennett


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Further Simple Thoughts?

By Dave Irwin

In the February 1977 B.B., I suggested that though the current stream in St. Cuthbert's 2 disappears into Sump 2, it previously flowed into Sump 1 and then rejoined the Gour-Lake Fault, ignoring the route along the 2 streamway which is I believe an oxbow, albeit, a long one!  I further suggested that the re-routing of this stream could have occurred during the great July 1968 Flood - that date makes one feel old, yes, it was ten years ago last July that it occurred!

The article also suggested that when the streamway below Stalagmite Pitch to Sump 1 was free of an active stream due to the choking of the cave passages up-cave of the pitch, well beyond the Everest Passage junction with the Main Stream, that what streams that were flowing into the cave entered the Cerberus Series and the lower part of the Rocky Boulder Series below Rocky Boulder Chamber.  Apart from the Dining Room Dig there are several sites worth probing in the area.  The problem is simply to locate the breach joints along the Gour Lake Rift.  The most northerly point known on the fault line is Marble Pot, a minor shift in the infilling has revealed a dip orientated rift with a bedding plane leading off it to yet another, lower, rift located beneath the main shaft.  Whether there is a breach of the fault in this area remains to be seen when work in the area is complete.

Similarly, the eastern side of the cave appears to be fault controlled but a recent discussion with Derek Ford suggested that little evidence of the fault remains to be seen because of the enormous collapse in September Chamber.  However, the evidence displayed on the survey strongly suggests that the development is fault controlled particularly when one inspects the top of Whitsun Passage and its alignment with Plantation Junction to Gour Hall, Tin Mine and Continuation Chamber.  In the Sump 2 area, the rock on the right hand wall (west) is typical of the well known Black Rock Limestone, where as the left hand wall displays the typical light grey and coarse textured limestone found throughout the Cuthbert's system.  As this condition extends throughout Cuthbert’s 2 (over 900ft) then the fault is a major one and could extend on up through the cave through the sites mentioned above and on up past the September Series.  North of the cave, heading towards the Foresters Cottage there is a line of shallow depressions coinciding nicely with the north-south line of the eastern      boundary of the cave.

Coupling this information with the water tracing results makes arm-chair speculation an interesting exercise.

That the water entering Cuthbert's resurges at Wookey Hole has been known with certainty since the 1860 s when straw chippings were thrown into the stream during the Ennor - Hodgekinson dispute.  The time of the water flowing from Cuthbert's to Wookey is said to be about 24 hours. The first real attempt to trace the water was in 1967 when, during the Mendip Karst Hydrology study carried out by the Geography Department of Bristol University and the Bristol Waterworks, lycopodium spores were thrown into the streams of the Central Mendip caves.  The water conditions at the time were near flood levels and the time recorded for St. Cuthbert’s (the spores having been placed in the Plantation Stream) was 11 hours. But the problem was that the spores reached Wookey Hole by the time of the first official net inspection at +11 hours after the spores had been placed in the stream.  Under similar conditions the stream entering Swildons Hole took 25 hours and that going into Eastwater was 16 hours.  (Full details may be found in (1) a copy of which is in the Club library).   The times for the lycopodium spores to reach Wookey will vary according to the water levels flowing into the cave systems.  Under drought conditions the flow times could be as long as 100 hours or more; under the conditions of the 1968 flood the time would be considerably shorter than the official time of 11 hours.

Until a large number of checks have been made, no-one will have any idea of the variation of time the water takes to flow to Wookey Hole.  A more recent check in November 1976 under low conditions gave an inconclusive result in the sense that we do not know whether the quantities of dye was too small or whether the stream took over the recorded 70 hours of monitoring the water at the rising.  A further check was carried out early in 1978 when under spate conditions the recorded time was 10 hours, but again this result was not recorded against water flow. Although these results tell us that the flow rates vary, they are quite useless when relating them to specific conditions i.e. volume of water entering the Cuthbert's system.  Further the checks were not exactly the same as the dye was placed in the slower stream by the cave entrance.  However, the, recorded times do allow for a certain amount of speculation and I would be grateful for any comment or criticism of the argument that follows.

By making use of the information published by the Mendip Karts Police of the water flow times from St. Cuthbert's to Wookey Hole and the times of flow through the known cave system, it is possible to calculate the maximum length of the unknown streamway and hence the general direction of the passage carrying the stream.  I’m curious to know why this slant on the results have been ignored by the water experts.

As I have said the calculation given below is the maximum length of the streamway because one is considering a constant flow of water through the cave passage and the figure used here was obtained in the Cuthbert’s 2 streamway which has a stream bed gradient similar to the hydrological gradient of Cuthbert’s to Wookey Hole.  The gradient is approx. 3 degrees.  The stream flowing through Cuthbert’s 2 is flat for the greater part of its length and sufficiently far from the steep sections of the cave in the upper reaches, to have lost a greater part of its momentum having been ‘slowed up’ by the level sections of passage in the Main Stream and Gour rift.  If we consider that all the sumps en-route are small except for the great ponding at Wookey itself and that the water velocity in Cuthbert’s 2 is typical for the remainder of the unknown cave (the vertical range of the end of Cuthbert’s to Wookey resurgence is approx. 135ft over about 1 mile as the crow flies).   There is now reason to believe that the character of the floor gradient will change over this distance.  Short sumps will not impede the water flow to any great degree and anyway the mechanism under consideration assumes that any water flowing into the sump will displace a similar amount at the downstream end immediately (frictional drag being ignored as the use of the recorded flow times will include this factor).  The Sum is simple:

(Time from Cuth. entr. to resur.) - (time through Cuth.) - (time through Wookey) = (time thro unknown cave)

This result is the ‘worst possible’ case, i.e. the longest possible passage length because the recorded times include the time a molecule of water to pass through obstacles such as sumps and deep pools.  The present argument does not consider a molecule of water but an instantaneous displacement of water from a sump, therefore the water entering a sump will displace the water at the downstream end and so ‘pass’ through the sump more quickly than a molecule passing through it at the water velocity, assuming no slowing up of the stream.  Increased gradients will have but little effect of the total stream flow rate and so can be ignored.

What information do we have?

1.                  Dave Drew told the author, some time ago, that the water flow time from Wookey 20 to the resurgence is about 1½ hours under high water conditions.

2.                  If 1 is correct, the flow rates from Wookey 25 to Wookey 20 will be similar as the length of the streamway is similar.

3.                  Flow time through Cuthbert’s under relatively high water conditions to sump 2 is about 1½ hours.

4.                  A recent check by Stanton gave a flow-through time of 10 hours using dye.  The lycopodium trace in 1967 officially recorded a time of 11 hours, again during high water conditions, but in this case, the spores had arrived at the resurgence catching nets before the first inspection at +11 hours.  Anyway, let’s take a mean time of 10½ hours.

Feeding these figures into the equation above we have:

10.5 - 3 hours (throu. W.H.) - 1½ hours (throu. S.C.) = 6.0 hours for the stream to travel through the unknown cave passage.  The water flow rate in the Cuthbert’s streamway averaged out at 19.6ft/minute, but for simplicity lets say 20ft/min.  Therefore the length of the unknown streamway is:

6.0 hours x 60 x 20 = 7, 200ft.

Inspecting the OS map ST. 54 (1:25,000) the distance from the known end of Cuthbert's to Wookey 25 is approximately 7,000ft.  If this is the case, it would appear that Cuthbert's unknown streamway has to be a straight line between the two end points, possibly following the fault line that controls Cuthbert's 2 streamway.  But what, of the southern over-thrust?  This has been suggested by Ford and others in the past that it is impenetrable consisting of impervious rocks.  As the faults predate the over-thrust there is no reason why the water could not penetrate, this barrier as a result of underground breakdown in the area.  Further geological map shows a sideways displacement of the adjacent rocks (the over-thrust being pushed upwards and sideways to the NNE) could explain why Wookey Hole resurgence lies in a steep sided ravine instead of a shallow river valley. In his thesis, Derek Ford assumed the over-thrust to be impermeable and that Cuthbert’s overflowed into the Wookey system (suggested to be a re-invaded Triassic system) by one of two routes - Ebbor Gorge or Rookham valleys.  Whilst it would seem certain that the water flowing from the Hillgrove area would run north of the Pen Hill Pericline and under the Rookharn volley there has always been doubt as to the route of the Cuthbert's stream except to say that the ‘Karst Police’ stated that they thought that the Swildons stream joined Cuthbert’s stream very close to the Wookey system.

It has been suggested by Stanton that the hose pipe theory is most likely solution for the rapid flow of the Cuthbert's stream.  This presupposes a small sectioned streamway between the cave and the resurgence filled with water under hydrostatic pressure.  The problem with this theory is a simple mechanical one simple of lack of hydrostatic head to cause the water to speed-up.  Speed-up it must if the assumption is that the stream flows under Rookhill giving a distance of over 3 miles (approx. 16,000ft) causing the water to more than double its speed!  Stanton has also backed this theory with his guess that the sumped passage beyond the known Wookey passage is three times that of the know cave.  This statement must raise the eyebrows a little. Assuming that the average size of the Wookey passage is 20ft in diameter (that's making it pretty big) and the passage length to Wookey 25 is about 3,500ft then the volume of the water filled passage equals something like 1.1 x 106 cu. ft.  If the storage is three times this value this will represent a flooded, or nearly so, passage of 10,500ft long by 20ft in diameter or as a chamber – well, that’s pretty big.

As a brief summary I can only conclude

a)                  the length of the unknown streamway is approx. and so must breach the over-thrust

b)                  that the conclusions of the 1967 water trace are in close alignment with my ‘armchair’ conclusions that the streamway between Cuthbert’s and Wookey is principally vadose with short sumps until very close to Wookey itself.

It cannot possibly be phreatic as the drag effect of water attempting to shear its way through the long sumps would reduce the water flow to a near static condition.


Notes On The Financial Statement

The Clubs Financial Statement of account for the year shows a deficit of £283-72, so I must point out that this is not quite as bad as it seems.

A purchase was made of £247-50 worth of caving boots and £121-00 worth of B.B. paper.  The boots are yet to be sold and the paper will keep the BB running for quite some time to come.

The Navy has a bill for £190-00 which is payable for the year covered by this statement.

So the year’s deficit of £283-72 would have shown a more realistic credit of some £274-00.

B. J. Wilton,
Hon. Treas.

Auditors statement:

I have examined the books of account of the club and agree that the statement shows a reasonable picture of the Club finances for the year.

Joan Bennett
Hon. Auditor

Financial Statement For The Year Ending 31st July 1978


















Water Rate












General expenses








Less cost



Car Badge Sales













Less cost







Buffet Collection




Deficit for the year

























Less contributions








Less fees



B.B. Expenditure




Spares & Carbide





Less sales







A.G.M. Refreshment:





Less contribution



Dinner Coach:





Less contribution



Public Liability Insurance




Battery Charger




Cave Lid




CSCC Subscription




BMC Subscription




CNCC Subscription








General accumulated account at 31-7-77



Interest from building society account






Less deficit for the year



General accumulated fund at 31-7-78



Ian Dear Memorial Fund at 31-7-78



Plus interest for the year 1977/78







Less grant




Totals as at 31-7-78




Lloyds Bank Ltd.




Cash in hand




Building Society account




Total club monies at 31-7-78