(For latest leaders list see page 5)

I do not intend to make a habit of writing Editorials in the B.B. as it can easily become a platform for one member’s viewpoint.  The B.B. exists mainly as a mouthpiece for members and the 'Letters Column' should provide a forum for argument and discussion.

However, a problem is rearing its head and the Committee is likely to find not any disagreement within its ranks but a serious administrative headache.  It all concerns the requirement that Cuthbert's Leaders should be covered by a Third Party Liability Insurance.

To go back into history. In 1975/1976 the Insurance Companies revised the level premiums for all caving clubs insured through STEWART- Wrightson in Bristol. The CSCC negotiated and steered the discussions from a single option to a series of policies with the cheapest at about 35p per head up to £4.00 per head.  Up to that time we had been fully covered not only for club activities and land owner indemnity but also for member to member and member to guest Third Party Liability cover the options offered to the clubs were arranged so that clubs could select the insurance cover best suited to their needs and their pockets.  The new insurance rates proposed by the companies were for all members and they flatly refused my suggestion to allow clubs to break their membership down into two categories; active and inactive members, so that two scales of subscription could be introduced according to the insurance rate.  The companies replied that any cover that we accepted had to be all or nothing there could be no division of membership.

After a long discussion at the 1976 AGM the Club decided that they would accept the 44p offer which covered club activities as a body through the Trustees and landowner indemnity. This meant that NO MEMBER had any 3rd Party cover whatsoever from the club insurance and the meeting strongly recommended that if all active members had make their own arrangements to get their own insurance cover and that Cuthbert’s Leaders, who were the most vulnerable for any potential claim, did have the necessary 3rd party cover (£250,000).

On, or about the February 1977 committee meeting decided that all Cuthbert's Leaders should have an insurance cover though neither the Caving See and the Hon Sec. of the time made little effort to enact the committee decision.  The 1977 leaders meeting requested that this decision be looked at again by the committee to see whether the need was a real one and in early 1978 the matter was again discussed by the committee who could see no way within the constitution of subsidising each BEC leader.  Even if they could the insurance premium would amount to over £100 each year at current rates (about £7 each).  Several leaders were able to get cover through their domestic household policies for their caving activities - not cover specifically for Cuthbert's).  Further as the policy would cover each leader for his caving activity in general (not solely for Cuthbert's - in fact no insurance company would issue a policy for Cuthbert’s only except in the situation of paying an enormous premium) it was felt by some members if the committee that it was unfair that members of the club should be subsidising a few members for their overall caving activity.

The Committee, though split, passed a resolution raising the tackle fee from 5p to 25p (20p of the total would be considered a travel expense to be divided amongst all leaders at the end of each year).  So the situation stands.  Late in 1978 Martin Grass, the Caving Sec., was instructed by the Committee to write to all leaders BEC and guests, stating that from 1st January a new key would be fitted to Cuthbert's and only those leaders with the necessary insurance cover would be given a new key.  As far as I am aware only about 6 leaders of the 20 odd BEC leaders have the necessary cover and not one guest has come forward with their cover notes.  With only about 6 leaders for cave access for visitors is going to be severely restricted and the likelihood of external political pressure on the club via organisations such as the CSCC is great indeed. WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?  The matter is urgent and it is unlikely that the Committee will be in one mind in coming to a decision.  Please let Tim Large, Martin Grass or myself have your WRITTEN THOUGHTS so that the committee can discuss the matter in March and if necessary call a general meeting.



National Caving Association

NCA's Legal and Insurance Committee have issued the following comments on the Occupier's Liability Act (1957).  It should be pointed out that these notes are intended for guidance only and do not represent an authoritative statement of the legal position. Whilst they have been prepared in good faith, no liability can be accepted for their contents.

Comment from the Legal and Insurance Committee, No.1 May 1978


This Act has been around since 1957 so it is not a new development. The only change over the years has been that court cases have considerably extended a landowner's duty to care for people who are on his land.  But, basically the effect of this act is as follows:-

1.                  A landowner has a duty of care to people who are on his land (with or without his permission). So, if someone is injured as a result of a failure by the landowner to observe this duty of care then the injured party would be able to successfully claim damages from the landowner.

2.                  It is difficult to say with certainty what docs constitute a failure of a duty of care since this is something the court would decide based on the doctrine of ‘reasonableness’ and also considering all of the facts of the case.  So, it is not possible to give a yes/no answer as to whether a certain set of circumstances would give rise to legal liability.  What follows is an interpretation of the view a court might take.

3.                  A landowner with a cave on his land is unlikely to be legally liable following an accident to a caver underground.  This is because a court would probably accept the view the caver went underground knowing that it was a hazardous undertaking and there would be nothing the landowner could do to make the cave safer because the caver by going underground had agreed to descend the cave as he found it (hazards and all).

4.                  Alternatively, if a landowner diverted a stream down a cave after one had descended with the landowner’s knowledge and an accident occurred as a result, then the landowner would probably be liable.  It is suspected that in those circumstances he might be criminally liable as well.

5.                  In cases where an organisation agrees to administer access to a cave for the landowner, then if the access agreement requires the organisation to keep the cave locked, failure to do this could render the organisation liable as well.

6.                  This could happen if the cave entrance was left unlocked by someone (a non-caver) fell down, was injured, sued the landowner and was awarded damages.  The landowner could then sue the organisation in charge of access for negligence in allowing the entrance to be left open.  The organisation would have to show in defence that it had taken all reasonable steps to show that the cave remained locked. If it were able to do this then it might escape liability which would leave the landowner footing the bill for damages.

7.                  It is because of this possibility that most landowners when granting access to a cave to an organisation usually try to protect themselves by the following:-

a.                  including a clause in the access agreement that requires the organisation to indemnify the landowner in the event of someone successfully claiming damages against the landowner.

b.                  requiring the organisation to take out an insurance policy which would enable the organisation to pay the landowner in the event of this happening.

c.                  require the organisation to ensure that all cavers descending the cave have signed an indemnity chit which, prior to the Unfair Contracts Terms Act, would probably have prevented cavers form successfully suing the landowner.

Unfair Contract Terms Act.

The effect of this is to render indemnity chits in effect is preventing a person suing for damages for personal injury or death.  It does not make them illegal; it just makes them a waste of time, since they have no legal effect.  Now, this is not the disaster it might at first sight seem to be.  Indemnity chits are only effective in preventing someone who has signed one from suing.  In the case of an access agreement the only people who would sign an indemnity chit would be cavers.  These are the people who would have the most difficulty in successfully suing a landowner for damages following an accident in a cave (see 3 above).  It is highly unlikely that non-cavers would sign an indemnity chit before falling down a cave!  So, since the people who are most likely to be able to sue a landowner are highly unlikely to have signed indemnity chits, the fact is that indemnity chits are now ineffective hardly alters the landowner’s liability or risk of being sued.  So, the net effect of the Unfair Contract Terms Act might be to cause the disappearance of indemnity chits.


Fixed Aids In Caves

Ed. note:           the following section is of particular interest to members of the club and I hope that the Club Officers concerned read this and take the necessary action….

Fixed aids in caves divide into two types - those maintained by someone and those which are not maintained.

Fixed aids maintained by someone.  If someone takes it upon himself to maintain fixed aids in a cave then if a person was injured as a result of a failure of a fixed aid then the person who maintained them could successfully be sued for negligence.  An example of this would be where a club has installed several fixed ladders, leads trips down the cave and carries out repair work on those ladders. If one of the ladders failed and someone was injured then the club might well be liable for damages (assuming of course that the injured party sued).  It is obviously difficult to state whether a fixed aid is maintained or not and this is something which, in the event of a legal action, would be one of the major issues for a court to decide.  But, in the present legal climate, if there was fixed steel ladder which had failed, then it would be difficult for whoever had installed it or had been the last person to paint it to escape legal liability of sued.

Fixed aids not maintained by anyone.  Examples of these are the rawlbolts at the head of pitches.  The point here is that it is up to the caver to decide whether to use the aid or not.  For example, a caver at the head of a pitch has the choice of using a bolt or putting a tether round a rock flake.  It is up to him to decide which is the safer.  With the bolt there is a risk of it coming out.  With the flake it might break or the tether might slip off.  The person who has to make the decision as to which one he is going to use is the caver on the spot and he can hardly sue anyone if he makes the wrong decision.

So, to sum it up: if someone looks after a fixed aid or alternatively the aid is the only way the caver can traverse the next bit of passage so he has to use it, then there is a possibility that if a caver is injured he might be able to successfully sue the person who, either maintains the aid or who installed it.  But, if no one maintains the aid and there is a choice of whether to use the aid or not, then it is unlikely that a caver would be able to sue anyone for damages following injuries resulting from the use of the fixed aid.

Current Cuthbert’s Leaders List

compiled by Martin Grass,

(Ed. note:  Since writing the editorial, Martin Grass has produced the latest list of current leaders.  Though the situation is not as bad as the Editorial suggests the subject still need airing.  Some leaders who have insurance cover have stated that they will only be taking their private parties down the cave – so please let’s have your comments as soon as possible and fully air the problem.  ‘Wig.’)

The Saint Cuthbert’s lock was changed at the beginning of January and we now have 14 leaders who have produced their insurance policies and have been issued with new keys.  The list of current leaders is as follows: -

Colin Clarke

Colin Dooley

Martin Grass

Ken Gregory (Cerberus C.C.)

Dave Irwin

Mick Jordan (S.M.C.C.)

Oliver Lloyd

Andy MacGregor

Tony Meadon

Gay Mayrick (S.M.C.C.)

Brian Prewer

Graham Price (Cerberus C.C.)

Nigel Taylor

Dave Turner



Dachstein 1978

Notes on the surveys/caves discovered and or surveyed by Graham Wilton-Jones

On our first full day on the plateau, Hermann, Ross and I headed out to the west of the camp towards the steep cliffs that form the northern face of the Niederer Ochsen Kogel. After a fine night (I'd slept under the stars) the day was clear and hot, so we took little notice of Hermann when he told us not to wear shorts because we were to walk through woods. The 'woods' actually comprised of patches of rather low, flattish bushes of pine (Pinus Montana) cunningly designed to rip legs to pieces. As we climbed the steep lapiaz, following no particular course, Hermann found our first 'site', C1, and labelled it so using a can of fluorescent orange spray paint.  Being some distance from the campsite, we thought, it was not until four days later that we looked at it more thoroughly.  The wide open entrance, overhanging on three sides, had a large pillar of snow and a snow cum gravel slope at one end, while the base was of snow, sloping down to a depth of 9m.  With a couple of holes at the edge of the snow, one leading down a further 6m. J-Rat momentarily interrupted our explorations by hurling himself, along with several large blocks of snow, upside down from the top of the snow pillar into the middle of us, using the cornice descending technique.

Continuing day 1 we moved up to the screes below the Ochsen Kogel cliffs, at the entrance to the corrie Schladmingerloch, where chamois played on the patches of more or less permanent snow at the top of the screes.  Hermann had a list of some holes already known in the area and he wished to find No.7.  At the base of a small cliff I found C2, a short, mud floored tube, rather low and blocked with mud after about 12m.  Hermann found a similar wide, low passage nearby, at the base of another cliff.  It led to a pitch, at the head of which a cairn had been built.  Originally he 'mistook it for No.7 but afterwards labelled it C3.  Five days later the pitch was descended and found to be 33m to a boulder blocked floor.

Hermann began looking for another on his list – No.8 - in the Schladmingerloch, but only found a couple of entrances into narrow canyon passage, later to be designated C30.  In the well worn fault lines below the screes of Niederer Grunberg we heard a stream gurgling away in the inaccessible rift, an unusual sound for this almost bare limestone and presumably the result of snow melt.  Above here, while trying to get a closer look at a crimson winged bird that flitted like a butterfly among the boulders and scree, and up the cliff face, I came upon a narrow, slightly draughting rift at the very base of the Grunberg cliff. This was to be C19, undoubtedly our best find, and almost the furthest away from the campsite.  Meanwhile Ross and Hermann had been finding interesting holes plugged with snow away from the bottom of the screes.

It seemed to me that the holes with initially horizontal sections and those with narrow entrances were those most likely to go.   Large open entrances were likely to be filled with glacial debris (if any had reached this far down the mountain) scree or snow.  However, this was not entirely proved to be the case.



During the return journey we did actually find No.7.  Arriving back at camp we found that the others had all been very busy collecting and sorting gear, and setting up camp.  Hermann left us, going via the bottom station of the Seilbahn and sending up the remainder of our equipment.  Altogether we had brought up 460kg, cost wise it was little over £4.50 each to use the cable-hoist.  I’m certain any sane person would think it reasonable to offer a fiver to someone else to carry 75 kg of gear 3km as the crow flies and up over 1000m.

Andy and Dave had been to the base of Niederer Ochsen Kogel and had found one or two holes, including an interesting sounding resurgence at the bottom of the cliff.  On the way back, in the corner of the camp meadow; Andy noticed cool air around an insignificant, peaky hollow.  Camp site organisation, stopped in favour of Mendip style digging.  Several boulders and copious quantities of moraine were removed to reveal a chamber, beyond which the rumbling spoke of a large shaft.  Belaying to a way marker pole, borrowed from a passing footpath the 20m shaft was descended and a second pitch found.

We removed the ladder and Throstle, with his bare hands, destroyed another large boulder from the entrance in preparation for the morrow.

The following morning, after a bit more gardening by the Haslingden Hammer, creating a veritable skiers trap, the second pitch was descended to a small, grovelly collapsed chambers at a depth of 42m.

It had already rained very early in the morning, and although the day was warm there were clouds and mist patches about.  After midday we had an inevitable mountain thunderstorm, lasting about an hour.  The rest of the day was spent prospecting to the north and south of the campsites.  Most of the exploration and the surveying of the sites found (C5 to 11) took place on the next day, in beautiful weather.  C5 is close to the top of Ochsenwieshohe, having a narrow entrance in the bottom a large depression.  Leaving Thros to sunbathe, J-Rat and I explored and surveyed.  The horizontal development ended at a gravel choke while the deepest point, on a boulder floor, became too narrow as it headed back under the entrance pitch.  On the surface once more, we slid down a nearby, rapidly melting snow patch to C60.  J-Rat and I dealt with this one too.  It is about 100m of basically horizontal, vadose passage with one or two short, climbable vertical sections.  The water flow shown on the survey is conjectured.  It possibly derives from the melting snow patch above.  Otherwise the system may well be related with C5. The water sinks in boulders close to the entrance.  When I found it, I had thought that C7 was promising, having a narrow entrance but immediately widening out.  Ross and Thros dropped it and found it to be only 13m deep with a floor of boulders.  C8, at the head of the valleys leading down to the camp, was filled with snow, but it was possible to climb down to at least 8m between the snow and rock.

Ross, Andy and Dave had looked to the south of the camp, so I spent the afternoon labelling and plumbing their finds.  C9 and C10 lie in the same fault.  C10, although not deep at 7m is a significant gash, being nearly 20m long and 3m wide. C11 is an enormous depression (though my survey notes do not tally with my memory there) and contains No.5 from Hermann's list.  The main depression is spear shaped and also contains an egg-shaped depression 20 x 30m and between 5 and 10m deep, and another small pot, 7.5m deep.

On July 30th came the threat of further thunderstorms.  A small amount of fell in the morning, but not enough to deter us after fortification with 'tee mit rum, tee mit citron and peach cake at the Wiesberghaus.  We dealt with C1 and the leaping J-Rat and then moved north west along the fault lines to a small hill overlooking the Wiesberghaus.  On its eastern slope we explored C12, with its two entrances leading down 17m to a black, peaty choke, and then the nearby C13, only 8m deep and tight.  We then split up and prospected further north: accompanied by rolling thunder and a few, weak spots of rain.  Just below the North West end of the hill I found C14, a slope leading in from the cliff edge to a pitch, similar to C3.  I then searched the cliffs and hollows to the North West but only found rifts of seemingly little significance and one short rock shelter. The area has suffered much block faulting, and perhaps the depressions here are caused by this.  Further over to the east Throstle had found some large holes, 5 to 7m deep but reckoned they were without much hope of extension.  The others searched along the valley between the hill and the Wiesberghaus and found the latter!

The last day of July dawned clear and fine and the Austrian army came to visit in one of their helicopters. Maybe it was an exercise, maybe they were curious to discover what a British caver looked like, or maybe it was just a plot to scatter all our cooking utensils about the meadow with wind from the rotor blades. J-Rat’s beloved ally plate was last seen flying through the air and into a patch of rhubarb growing in a doline.


Escaping from the helicopters we made our way over to C14, which proved to be 40m deep in two pitches. The second pitch was an impressive rift which all but defied our attempts descent it.

The best bolting tool we had was broken on it, there were no natural belays except the large boulders at the head, half of which I had pushed to the bottom, and the piton eventually used broke off part of the wall, bent, and went in all of a centimetre.  I had the dubious pleasure of descending the rift without bouncing too much, only to find that the sole way on, in solid rock, was about 10cm wide.

While J-Rat, Ross, Andy and I had been involved at C14, Thros and Dave explored and surveyed C3. J-Rat then did a through trip of No.7 and extended the cave by pushing down a deep rift near one end for about 8m. Dave wondered over to the area I had looked at yesterday and found C15, about 20m of passage and a large, bouldery chamber.  Ross and I attempted to climb up the northern cliff of Niederer Ochsen Kogel, but I felt that a short climb near the top needed some kind of protection, though Ross would have happily continued.  We skirted around the edge of Schladmingerloch, with ravens and alpine choughs soaring and performing acrobats above, and chamois playing in the snow below.  Ross investigated where some water came through narrow cracks in the cliffs to form a small waterfall down to the scree edge.  Other accessible holes in the cliffs were merely rock¬ shelters.  Returning via C3, a route which was now becoming standard, Ross found a couple of deep rifts.  C16 was just around the corner form C3, while C17 was at the end of the C3 cliff face, immediately beneath part of a snowfield over which we had walked several times.  We let everyone know of its whereabouts as soon as possible - and moved the route over the snow field a little to one side, away from the pot.  Leaving the exploration of these two until the following day we headed for camp.  Close to the main footpath between the Wiesberghaus and the Simonyhutte J-Rat and Andy found a Yorkshire style entrance to a 9m deep climbable pot, later labelled C21.  This was typical as a day of wandering in the lapiaz ¬whenever we went to do something specific we came across other sites of interest, giving us all the more to do.

Tuesday, August 1st was fine again, but for reasons unknown we were late getting up the hill.  On the southern corner of Niederer Grunberg there was a large opening that intrigued us.  Without binoculars - it was a foolish decision of mine not to bring them - it was impossible to tell what it might be like because it was high up in the cliff and only visible from the southern side of Schladmingerloch.  A sloping grassy ledge seemed to lead across to it.  From C3 we watched Tony climb towards it but he ended up above it and unable to locate it. Had we been in touch with walkie talkies we could have directed him to it.  As it was he had some difficulties retreating and had to be talked down from below.  The cliffs are steep here and contain numerous holes.  Hopefully we can abseil down to some of then next year.

Tony and Andy traversed around the north and west of Schladmingerloch and found three more significant caves.  C23 was a small cave at the top of the scree, sloping down to a depth of 7m and absolutely coated with and blocked with moonmilk.  C24, at the top of a high slope of scree running down form a bay in the cliffs, had to wait exploration for a week, when I went there with spray paint and a ladder.  The pitch was 8m into a pool floored chamber with little other development.  When I searched the third one, C25, I failed to locate it.  According to Tony’s notes it is a snow slope cave with ice formations, 6m deep and blocked with a snow choke.  It is in a grassy area on the south side of the corrie below the base of the west cliff.

While they were doing their circuit of Schladmingerloch the other four of us descended and surveyed C16. It was a rift opened out in one of the faults.  Part way down the rift a traverse across from a wide ledge led through a narrow opening to further rift.  Being the only one with waterproofs I dealt with C17, since its roof of melting snow caused continuous rain down below.  The survey was somewhat awkward.  Not wanting a soaking wet survey book I left this at the top and took down the end of the tape.  After a short ladder descent, first to - 10m, then to 16m, shouting up instructions like ‘end of ladder’.



Read now.  I traversed across snow and boulders and climbed down to the bottom the pot, where the drip was less, and the way on was too narrow. Communication was difficult, and although the survey readings agree with what I shouted and what I heard replied, the survey does not look right.  The final climb down didn’t seem as steep as the survey shows.  Thros and I then briefly looked at C18.  Although it continues beyond the survey it is tight and awkward.  5m inside is a superb example of a Dachstein fossil - Megalodont (Kuhtrittmuschel) - 'Cow hoof print mussel', projecting from the wall. These are very numerous in this limestone, but are usually visible as planed off sections.

We moved up to the Grunberg cliff and the entrance passage of C19 was looked at -100 feet of heightening rift, still going gently downwards and draughting.  Andy was confident about its prospects.

Half way between Niederer Ochsen Kogel and the campsite Dave and I had found a deep, snow filled hollow in the morning.  By the evening some of the snow had melted and I was able to enter a short horizontal passage; but my light was at C19.  The site was designated C200.  Over a week late I had a brief chance to look at the place again, with a light.  The rift continues over the head of a short pitch that could require tackle because of the overhang.  Another one for 1979.

Every evening was spent in the Wiesberhaus.  There we made many friends of various nationalities, but especially Austrian and German.  Mendip style signing sounded rather rough compared with Austrian yodelling, though Thros excelled himself with a few northern folk songs.  At times the 'haus' family got out their own instruments, Fritz on the skiffle, Fitzi on guitar and Freddi on squeeze box.  Occasionally I managed a bit of diary writing, or persuaded one of the others to draw a quick survey, but highly close social atmosphere of an alpine hut is not conducive to such activities.

On the Wednesday after breakfast our German friends from Wessling, near Bonn, came over to say good-bye, and to invite us to drop in on them on our way home.  We showed them some of our caving gear - most was now scattered far and wide about the plateau - and trundled a few boulders down C4.  Then, all of a sudden, mist rolled in, obliterating the campsite in seconds and it began to rain slightly.  I decided to wander up to the Simonyhutte.  Reaching it in about 45mins, I continued on up to the snout of the glacier, where I was just above much of the mist.

Above the hut, beside route 601 to the ice-field, I came upon a large shaft partially blocked with snow.   Just below the ice tongue, in one of the rock hummocks above the snow, well to the left of the path, was another shaft.  In the rock hummock closest to the ice tongue was a 5m shaft down to water. In all probability these three sites will have no, potential as they will be blocked by moraine.  Like all North European glaciers, the Hallstatter Gletscher, is retreating rapidly and only recently must have covered the site that I found.  The sound of melt waters pouring off, through and under the glacier was impressive, filling the valley with noise.  This vast quantity of water immediately disappears into the terminal moraine, below which it must sink into, the limestone.

When I returned everyone was in the 'haus' with Helmut, who had come up for a couple of days.  After a quick meal and drink, Tony, Hoss and Thros went to the Jaghaus, in the Herrengasse, the deep valley to the north. We had already looked at some sites in this region when we went down to Hallstatt earlier, but a ladder was needed to look thoroughly at 1546/16.

The rest of us moved up to C19.  Most of the rest of our stay was devoted to this pot, but on our frequent journeys out there several other sites were found, and we managed to look at these during the de-tackling of C19.  Maulwurfhohle, as we later named it, begins as 50m of westwards heading rift, narrow and awkward, gradually deepening, and dropping into a big passage at a 25m pitch.

Dave went down first on ladder, and ran about letting his-mind be blown.  They don't make them like that in Scotland.  Climbing up a boulder pile from the bottom of Platzlschacht he reached the base of an aven whose top disappeared into the blackness, making it over 50m high. Downwards a traverse on ledges soon looked over another blackness, the 60m Dorisschacht.  We made our way out through the twisting Gargantuagang to tell the good news and to prepare more tackle.

More mist came on the Thursday, almost immediately after Dave had left for C19, so the rest of us made our way to the Wiesberghaus instead, where Dave soon joined us.  It would be all too easy to become lost in the pathless lapiaz in the mist, and there’s no schnapps up there.  Later we decided to risk the journey up and the mist cleared by the time we reached C3.  Once at the bottom of C19's Platzlschacht, Tony, Dave and Ross ridged a 12m handline down a narrow, back and¬ foot, bouldery rift, the Stiegl. They bolted a ladder down the next 10m to the head of the following pitch.  Thus they had by-passed some of the big pitch found yesterday.  Tony and Ross descended the remainder of the big pitch (40m) using four rope protectors on the ledges, where it will probably have to be re-bolted next year.  At the bottom they found a series of parallel pitches, up to 50m deep.  Andy, Thros and I went into the system and did some surveying from Aufartz, the big aven, to Dorisschacht.

Back at the camp an enormous thunderstorm broke, but we still managed a Spag. Bol. mit wasser. The clear night turned to rain again by morning, but Hermann, in his own inimitable, Austrian way, splashed enthusiastically through the wet to persuade us back to C19.  Ross, Thros, Dave and Tony went up to descend one of the next pitches and continue exploration.  Andy and I went up later to survey the entrance passage, and then came out with some excess tackle.  It rained hard while we were down and drips began to appear from everywhere.  The others found it wet too.  They found that, below the 50m pitch the passage soon deteriorated into a tight, wet, 80-90m rift, the Schlangengang, reaching an estimated depth of -192m.

The weekend was spent climbing the Dachstein and washing and mending equipment, dubbing boots, drinking, eating, sunbathing and relaxing - what all good expeditions are about.

On Monday Ross and Andy took some of the gear (wet suits, crampons, ice-axes etc.) down to the lower Seilbahn station and visited the Bank in Hallstatt - they had been overspending at the Weisberghaus.  The rest of us went to C19, taking Freddi from the 'haus' to do his first ladder pitch. He was suitably impressed.  While Dave took him out, we descended and surveyed Dorisschacht.  Thros went into the rift containing the next three pitches, pulled up the rope from the big one, rigged a traverse line, and started putting in a bolt for another pitch. J-Rat and I followed a rift above and reached a chamber, through the wall of which I could hear Thros hammering. We dropped down a 10m ladder pitch to find we had spiralled back below Thros, about 12m down.  All three pitches joined at a chamber, beyond which a rift, Belfry Avenue, continued.  J-Rat followed this for about 80m gradually descending.  The floor dropped away, very narrow, about 25m, and a good draught went along the rift.  In several places there were bat droppings.  J-Rat's light went out and he got lost trying to return at the wrong level in the rift, but I found him after about an hour.  (Haven’t we heard this tale before?)  On the way out, at the head of the first pitch, I dropped my carbide light and J-Rat's ran out just as he reached me.  The others had made their exit.  The spare lights were at the bottom of the system.  We had sort ourselves out as we hung there - not a good state to be in.

Hermann came with us on Tuesday, more enthusiastic than ever, the rain being wetter than usual. It was so miserable we settled for breakfast in the Wiesberghaus.  J-Rat, Andy and Hermann went to C19 first, Hermann to take some photo's for the Austrian press.  He did not like the entrance passage one little bit and assured us that Austrian cavers would never have looked at it.  He went to the bottom of the first pitch, and Andy and Tony continued on down to explore Belfry Avenue.  They pushed it over 150m to find T.T.F.N. schacht, 10m deep below a 30m aven. Unfortunately no time was left this year to explore further.  They began to bring all the gear out of the cave to the entrance, checking various side passages on the way, especially those near many Meetings, the area off the bottom of Dorisschacht.

Ross, Dave and I went up to the cave a little later.  Dave and I removed some tackle and came out with Hermann.  Ross and I went into the Schladmingerloch, where it was snowing through the swirling mists.  We surveyed and labelled C23 and C24, but I could not find C25 despite a long search. Ross, meanwhile, had found some more sites.  C27 is a large, but rather shallow (4m) hole floored with large boulders.  C28 is near C30 and is a partially snow-filled rift leading to ice formations with no way on.  C29 was most interesting, being another snow-filled rift leading down to ice formations and an ice floor.  However, in this case a draught had kept a hole open through the ice.  Next day we put a hand line down the ice hole and climbed down an ice slope, smashing many icicles en-route, to the head of a 20m pitch between ice and the rock wall.   This will need looking at in 1979 using a ladder, provided that the ice hole is open still.

Freddi had showed us a hole which he understood to be Schmalzgrubenhohle, which is marked on the map, though this name has been given to No.7.  It had been descended by an Austrian caver, but was not marked and was not on Hermann's list.  After a 5m free-climbable pitch 30m of descending passage led to another pitch, which divided, leading down to depths of 35m and 38m.  Somewhere the draught has been lost.  Otherwise it is a promising pot.  We designated it C31, but the painted number washed off in the rain.

Even on the last trip down from C19, removing tackle, another hole was found.  Returning via a different route, along the cliffs above C3, I found a short pothole leading to an inclined, bouldery rift.  Ross named it Ost Wasser Hohle, and delighted in trundling high boulders down the rift to make his way on safe.  As might be expected he blocked the way on with an enormous block, but then decided he had lost the draught and the way had to be elsewhere.

Thus ended a very successful recon of the area.  This year we brought along much more rope than we actually required.  Next year we will probably need more, to use as surface fixed ropes to gain access easily to the top of Hoher Grunberg.  Wet suits were not necessary this year, but next year we have been offered a trip into the extensive Hirlatzhohle, just above Hallstatt.  There is a wet, lower section of lakes and streams in this cave.  We have also been offered a trip beyond the show cave section of the Mammuthohle.

The 1979 Dachstein Expedition will begin, hopefully, round about Friday, July 20th and last until mid-August.  We may have the use of a small hut beside the Wiesberghaus but this has yet to be settled. No doubt we shall again have our base camp in the Ochsenwies-Alm, though it may be necessary or desirable to have a small camp on the top of Grunberg.

If you have enthusiasm, can afford the time and save up the money ( Austria is a very expensive country) then let us know if you wish to join us next year.  Arrangements are underway now.

NOTE: On the survey plans  NM indicates magnetic north from hand held Silva

  N indicates estimated north.

Attempts to measure declination were not entirely satisfactory.  It is not given on the map.  Surveys were made using fibron tape and hand held Silva compass.







Dates For Your Diary

February 10th

Rift Pot, Yorks. Anyone interested should contact Dave Metcalfe in Blackpool.  Tele Blackpool 65985.

February 22nd to 25th

BEC to the LAKES.  Cottages available.  Apply to Mr Sanderson, Fir Garth, Chapel stile, Gt. Langdale, Cumbria.  £15 per cottage plus VAT and electricity.  5 persons per cottage for the four days.  Further information from Mike Palmer.  Tele: Wells 74693.  EVERYBODY WELCOME.

February 21st

Argyll Caverns.

February 28th

Paul Esser Memorial Lecture given by John Liddell entitled “British Wild Water Canoe Expeditions” at 8.15 pm in the Arthur Tyndall Memorial Theatre, Physics Department, Tyndall Ave., Bristol 8.  Admission free.

March 11th

Lancaster/Easegill.  Anyone interested should contact Dave Metcalfe.  Telephone: Blackpool 65985.

March 17/18th

Peak Cavern/Winnats Head Cave.  Staying at the Pegasus C.C. Hut.

Easter 1979

Yorkshire.  Staying at the Bradford Pothole Club Hut.

Dates for your diary cont…


17/18th, March

Peak Cavern/Winnats Head Cave, Staying at the Pegasus C.C.  hut.

Easter 1979

Yorkshire.  Staying at the Bradford Pothole Club hut.

21st Feb.

Aygill Caverns.

SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE OVERDUE………………………….Come on you lot and pay up!

Full members £2.00; Joint members £3.00 and Under 18's £1.50……………………. send your subs to

Sue Tucker, BEC Hon. Treasurer, 75 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

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.

Ed. apologies for the standard of the surveys – we are using a different type of stencil that appears to cut poorly using the stencil styilis.

Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Somerset Telephone: Priddy 369