By Tim Large

New members:

948       Axel Knutson Jnr., 21 Milford St., Southville, Bristol

Address changes

933       Di Beeching, 15 Waterloo Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset.
Bob White, Cedar Hall, Henley Lane, Wookey,'Nr. Wells, Somerset.


At the recent annual, meeting improvements to the indemnity chit and permit system was agreed.  To overcome the constantly increasing files containing the application forms a revised form will be produced which incorporates the permit as well as a tear off slip.  In the case of temporary permits one of these will be completed at each application.  For club members the complete form will be completed once every 5 years.  In this way the files can be greatly reduced. From the issuing point of view we can be sure: that an application (indemnity? - Ed) has been signed. Whereas before we have often taken a persons word for it.


The UBSS have now informed us that the new bolting arrangements are complete.  They write, “We have now re-bolted the Ladder Dig with two new bolts with removable hangers.  The lowest of these is about two metres above floor level an the next is a reasonable distance up and to the left.  From the second the series of existing three eyebolts and chain can be reached.”

"The bolts are TROLL punch-bolts.  Take with you two hangers having 3/8"holes and an open ended spanner.” Eventually the club will provide these for members use.  More details when they are available.


Following the concern shown over the new tackle arrangements some modifications to the system have now been made.  The box in the Belfry which holds the tackle store key has had its lock changed.  In the past, the lock was the same as the Belfry door and so the Belfry key would fit this lock.  Now this has been changed and a security lock fitted.  The key for this is available to members on personal application to the committee.  It is intended particularly for those caving mid-week as the key can be obtained from any committee member at the weekends.  I would stress that by mid-week etc., it means on a regular basis. The number of keys being issued will be kept as small as possible, so if you are a once in a blue moon mid-week caver, it is doubtful that you will get a key.  Also if there are two or three members who normally cave together, then only one key will be issued under the names of the three, so that anyone of them could use it.  The cost of the key will be the cost of having a key cut.  Currently it is £1.00


An illustrated talk by Jack Culvert entitled….


The talk will last about an hour and a half, so there will be plenty of time for the pub.  Jack says that he has about 300 slides.  This should be a good evening.  REMEMBER 7.00pm at the BELFRY, 7th APRIL.

Cuthbert's Insurance

Some concern has been expressed by leaders and members regarding this topic.  The Committee have enforced the recommendation made by the 1976 AGM but when the matter was discussed again at the March Committee Meeting some points were raised which should be seriously considered.

  1. The Cuthbert's leader's are, now insured, but what about the ordinary member?  The 1976 AGM also recommended that they, too, should obtain suitable insurance cover (third party, at least) but no pressure has been placed them (you, the reader!) to do so.  The whole question of this insurance was sparked off by the Lamb Leer incident.  Although not tested in court, the parties were sufficiently worried to settle the matter, with a substantial payment; and this was an ordinary caving trip.

    Having gone to all this trouble in respect of Cuthbert's, it could be disastrous if a claim were made against a member on an ordinary caving trip, and that person was not insured.  Are we absolutely sure that in those circumstances there could be no claim against the club?  (NO. - Ed)
  2. The main reason for not including the person - person liability in the club insurance was the question of cost.  At present we pay about 60p a member, as opposed to about £4 if it were included.  At the present subscription rates this would mean if we went for the ‘gilt-edged’ policy, similar to what we had prior to 1976, the subscription rate would have to be increased to about £8.50 allowing for the necessary proportion for life members.  In this day and age is that too much to pay by comparison with other activities?  Another question for you.  Isn't one of the reasons for joining a club to obtain the benefit of access, information, equipment AND insurance?
  3. When Cuthbert's leaders take a tourist trip requested by the Caving Secretary what happens if one of the members of that party does something that injures the leader?  Should the club ensure that party members are suitably insured?

    It appears that the matter is very far from being clear and a meeting has been arranged primarily with the Cuthbert’s Leaders and the Club Committee on Sunday 20th May 1979 at 2.30pm in the Hunters.  All members interested are asked to attend.  This, meeting, obviously is only a fact finding gathering and though the Committee can take a certain course of action within Club policy it cannot take any major policy change without first going to the Club by an EGM or wait until the AGM.

(Ed. I must point out that though Tim’s the Club Secretary, this column does not represent the official view of the Club Committee and are Tim's own reports and thoughts on any Club matter).


Meeting Of The Cuthbert's Leaders And The Club Committee

To discuss the matter of insurance for Cuthbert leaders…………….

SUNDAY MAY 20th AT THE HUNTERS AT 2.30pm.  Any member, leader or not, is welcome to attend.

Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

I would like to draw to the attention of readers of the B. B. to a joint project by the Council of Southern Caving Clubs and Wells Museum.

It has long been thought by several people on Mendip that a permanent collection of caving equipment etc., relating to this area, should be gathered before they become dispersed and lost.

We are therefore planning two phases:

1)                    A large exhibition in the Museum Lecture room for about a month, opening for Easter this year.  This will include donations and short term loans of equipment.

2)                    A permanent display at the exhibition of those items donated on long term loan.

Would any readers who can assist, either with exhibits or information please contact Chris Bradshaw at Wells 74382 (evenings) or Mr. Cooke at Wells Museum during opening times.

Yours sincerely,
Chris. Bradshaw. Feb. 1979


Belfry Jobs

As everyone will know only too well, there is always work needing to be done at the Belfry and for those with a few minutes to spare, Mr. ‘N’ has produced the following list.  If every member gave up an hour of his time the task could be finished by the A.G.M.

  1. Septic Tank: - land drains to be laid out on top of stones and these in turn to be covered with a plastic sheet or poly bags.  The whole lot to be covered by earth.  Topsoil to be made and graded.
  2. Tackle Store: -

a)       Old Stone Belfry - rear wall to be made up to roof and sealed up.

b)       New steel frame/mesh door to be made up and fitted inside main entrance door.

c)       Store to be cleared and re-fitted.

  1. Men’s Bunkroom Fire Door: - To be repaired, sealed and new panic bar fitted.
  2. Night storage heaters in men’s bunkroom to be repaired and brought into use.
  3. Upper tier of Alpine Bunk to be repaired.
  4. Shelving to be fitted in Library – liaise with ‘Wig’
  5. Potholes in car park to be filled with rubble and re-graded.
  6. Formica strip or other suitable covering to be fitted to front of sink units.
  7. Stone wall around heart to be repaired.
  8. Door to men’s bunkroom to be fitted with door closing spring.
  9. Sound proofing to be fitted to interior wall of men’s bunkroom and main room.
  10. Shower and toilet area (including changing room).  Area to be improved as per Committee decisions (see Hut Engineer)
  11. Proper allocation and identification of lockers and cabinet in main room of Belfry.
  12. Carbide store – job complete.
  13. General tidying up of site.
  14. Manufacture of an A-Z wall cabinet to place members BB’s for collection.

The Odd Note

CG is still in the throes of house building are managing to get some work carried out in the oxbows in August hole.  Apparently the perched sump is now a ‘suspended duck’ giving free access to the far ends.

Willie Stanton is at long last revising the Swildon’s survey – probably due to Milch’s continual prodding!

            Refuelled after the Christmas ‘blow-out’ Graham Wilton-Jones and Tony Jarrett set off to tackle the longest cave system in Europe.        

Day 3 – Hölloch
Day 4 – Eiger, North Face.

An account by Graham Wilton-Jones

It’s J-Rat’s fault. He asked if I would go to the Hölloch. Then Milch explained that it was a Shepton trip and everything was arranged.  As it was only two Shepton members were going (Rich Kemplerer and the Block of Wood).  Additionally there were two Wessex (Pete M and Alison H) one Westminster (Jim Watson) two Liverpool University (Nigel Anderton and Max McDuff) and three Grampian (Ivan Young, Pete Dowswell and Dave Warren).  I went along to represent the BEC and prove that we get everywhere, while J-Rat represented and all of the other clubs you can think of!

Fore a mere £280 a minibus was hired and a multitude of forms and certificates filled in or collected to please the EEC bureaucracy.  On Boxing Day, Block and I drove the bus on a circular tour of southern Britain, from Winchester via Mendip and Aylesbury, to catch the Ramsgate-Calais hovercraft early on December 27th.  We even had a tachograph to play with, its little lights and dials telling us that if we’d been driving too long or too fast and us supposedly telling it where we were driving, eating, working or sleeping. Occasionally we were confused by this wonderful invention, or we confused it – if you were a tachometer what would you do with both drivers asleep and the wagon doing 110kph down a frog auto route?  We eventually arrived outside the Hölloch-grotte Gasthous in the small hours of the 28th.  The house being shut for the night, we slept in the van, in the snow, under piles of logs, in the wood shed, on the van roof, on the Gasthaus steps.  Around 5am (they haven’t heard of the British ‘lie-in’ in Switzerland) and the landlady discovered Block on the steps and gradually the rest of us stirred and crept into the comfort of the guest house and the mattresses on the floor that had been prepared for us.

The Hölloch is situated at the head of the Muotatal valley, near Schweitz (Schwyz) which is 27 miles south of Zurich. Its single entrance (the little hole 30 feet above is supposed to be walled up) leads to over 135km of galleries, making this the third longest known cave in the world.  It was the longest until Flint Ridge and Mammoth were connected, and now Optimachenka looks like taking this title.  (Sorry – Peschtschers Optimistitscheskaja!)  The Hölloch also has a very respectable depth/height making it one of the world’s deepest caves as well.  In spring, summer and autumn, when snow in the shafts above is melting, most of the cave is inaccessible for the first kilometre as the entrance passage drops down to the bottom of a deep phreatic loop; this sumps in the thaw or in wet weather.  At times water even comes flooding out of the entrance, nearly 100m above the winter water level.  In winter time the greatest danger is to become trapped between the aforementioned phreatic U-tube and a second one ten minutes further into the cave.

We were aroused for continental breakfast at 9am and then began the hassle to actually go down the cave. It seems the same as elsewhere in Europe – you arrange everything in minutest detail, preparing for every contingency and when you arrive ‘ees not posseeble’ (the weather too bad, the guide in drunk, they’ve heard of your club, no way can you go down.  And what a string of excuses we had this time: too many people in the cave already (35, though the NSS Euro-region Grotto newsletter, suggests that 300 to 400 cavers at one weekend in the cave is not unusual) bivouacs 1 and 2 full up; bivouac 3 no longer in existence (true) and a dangerous site anyway; the great deity, Prof. Bogli in residence at Bivouac 1 and not wanting to be disturbed (why not, we wonder?); the weather warming up and set for a thaw.  Finally we persuaded the landlady, Frau Suter, who controls the access to the cave, to let us go in as far as the Wasserdom and then return, which we did.

From the Gasthaus a walk over, the river and then on a path criss-crossing a small ravine and zigzagging up its sides takes you to the cave in a few minutes.  The gated entrance is at the head of the ravine.  The first kilometre of the system was once equipped as a show-cave and much of the roof is marred by the decaying remains of cable insulators.  In places the floor is of level concrete and there are many concrete steps on the main route and around some of the oxbows.  Rusting and rotten steel cum wooden steps, with the odd wire handline, lead eventually down to the Sandhalde and the bottom of the first phreatic loop. Up to this point much of the beauty of the cave, apart from some excellent potholes, has been obscured by the show cave fitments.  There are no formations worth speaking of anyway and it is not surprising that the show cave venture failed.

Many of the upward flowing phreatic slopes, like the Sandhalde (Sand Slope) are littered with debris, particularly gravel and pebbles.  On the other hand most of the downward flowing slopes are broken only by large scallops and sometimes single vadose runnels, very useful for climbing up. The passages in the next section are frequently wide, arch bedding planes as the loops zigzag within their narrow band of limestone.  Names like Zimmermanns Angst (Dread) and Bose Wand (Evil Wall) with its 114 rung steel fixed ladder, reflect the danger of delaying in this flood pone section.

Several ups and down and another fixed ladder later we reached the next danger point – the bottom of the second phreatic loop – at the Keller (Cellar).  Like most of the region of this cave it was nearly dry.  Climbing the Alligatorenschlucht we found the Aquarium dry, a healthy indicator.  Entering the Seengang (Lakes Passage) we at last began to climb away from the entrance passage.  A small steam chattered form the two lakes, Langensee ( Long Lake) and Drahtsee ( Wire Lake) and also from a cleft in the wall, dispelling all my preconceived ideas that the Hölloch is either flooded or totally inactive. Drahtsee had no wire but a ladder was perched horizontally across it, although it was possible to traverse round the water.  The passage continued steeply upward following a bedding plane and joint forming a typical diamond shaped cross section.  Still the passage remained a fairly homely size – no squeezes or constrictions, but no huge passage either.  Even when we entered the Riesen Saal (Giants Hall) there was no impression of hugeness, just a wide elliptical passage with ceiling at ceiling height type.  We met a large party of Swiss cavers (or were they skiers?) and one Australian who had come to ski in Switzerland, on the non-existent snow.  There is little doubt that, apart from the length, the cave could be graded VDC.  The Aussie spoke of a squeeze – we think he did not take off his pack.  Finally we arrived at Wasserdom, a high chamber where the water cascades out of the roof, forms a gravely pool on the floor and disappears down a low cleft.

The Hölloch is formed, basically, in the lowest of three bands of tilted limestone, each band being interspersed with impervious layers of rock.  At a very few points an independent vadose system within the middle limestone band has broken through into the lower phreatic system.  Here at Wasserdom is one of these points.  The top layer of limestone is the surface lapiaz, in which there are many shafts, including one which could provide access to the middle layer vadose system via a wet, loose boulder choke.

From the Wasserdom we slithered and slipped our way back to the entrance.  The cave is noted for its slippery smooth rock – Hölloch is alleged not to mean Hell Hole as some suppose but Slippery Hole.  Four and a half hours after entering the cave we were changing in the warmth and comfort of the Gasthaus.  Not many caving huts can boast a bar and restaurant among their facilities. Wiener schnitzel and beer to round off the day became a catching habit.

The following day it still did not look as if we were going to manage a long trip and bivouac in the cave. The weather being reasonable, a small group of us set out to scale the cliffs behind the Gasthaus, while the remainder went down to the sumps of the resurgence series, accessible from just inside the entrance to the Hölloch.  First of all, by mistake, they travelled round into the next valley to the narrow slot of a resurgence which has no accessible passages.  We ran into bother too.  The cliff, about 1,000m high, proved to be covered in nasty slippery grass, loose boulders and rotting tree stumps, and we only made it about halfway up. Besides, there was no beer at the top.

Day three found us all in the Hölloch again.  This time route finding was no problem and we were 2km into the system in about one third of the time.  There was now more water in the cave – a stream flowed into the now full Aquarium and the reason for the ladder over the Drahtsee was abundantly clear.  Just short of the Wasserdom we turned into the Domgang.  This passage is more the size one would expect of a cave such as this.  Domgang can be compared with Aggy Daren Cilau for size (the 1,000ft crawl? Ed.).  At Glitzertor (Glittering Gate) were the passage is coated with Aggy like encrustations of selinite, four Swiss were in bivouac, undertaking the exploration of a new access point into the upper series.  One of them showed us the route, via Hexenkessel (Witch’s Cauldron) and Regenhalle (Rain Hall) to the Himmelgang (Heaven’s Way) where we lifelined Alison up an awkward little climb beside an exposed shaft – Todesschlund (Death Hole). The Himmelgang was of normal size, three metres high and wide.  In a smaller passage, just off one corner, we found the Ruebli (Carrot) one of the Hölloch’s few formations, a 30-40cm long translucent orange stal.  Just around the corner of this beautiful, if lonely stal, was a pile of festering filth – carbide, poly sacks, tin cans, old batteries, etc.  There was a similar dump in the Riesen Saal.  So many of the continentals do not seem to care about their caves in this respect. In search of the Galerie des 1001 Nuits we became confused in a maze of, believe it or not, crawls, so we headed out. We had promised Frau Suter that we would be no more than six hours, and so we were.

Day four – New Year’s Eve – was warm and blue.  Though the dreaded Fohn was not blowing from the south, a high pressure pocket had developed just over the Muotatal and this was holding off the European snows, so they told us.  Several of us decided on a tourist visit to the Eiger while Jim and the Grampian hard men prepared to wade through the lakes and bivouac in the cave regardless. In the Hölloch the waters flowed even more strongly and the happy campers were repulsed.  Other bivouacees were seen making rapid exit from the cave, many having made extra long detours to avoid the flood waters that were now creating sumps in various sections of the cave.  Meanwhile, at the Eiger, three of us managed to reach the Nordwand station, braving blizzards and spindrift to do so.  Others walked to various heights on the approach walk to the face according to their whims.  Using low, devious cunning I avoided much of the blizzard by walking through the railway tunnels but none of the drivers would offer me a lift.  J-Rat, using even lower cunning, kipped in the van all day!

Then came New Year’s Day proper.  Before too much alcohol had been consumed we decided to head for home the following, travelling via the odd show caves to make up for what we had missed in the Hölloch. We brought in battery and cassette player from the minibus and saw the New Year in to the wail of pipes. Actually we did this twice – once for New Year local time and an hour later for New Year White Man’s time. Frau Suter presented us each with a bottle of Neujahr wine, while J-rat shared round the whiskey and tried the Highland Fling.  Someone loaded the alcoholic, somnolent Rich with half full glasses and bottles, then disturbed his humour with a nudge, much to the delight of the landlord and the company.

The sore heads of New Year’s Day found it difficult to grasp that it was snowing hard and Dave was trying to drum up enthusiasm for a three day trip in the Hölloch.  However, eventually the Grampian contingent plus J-rat, Jim and I headed in towards bivouac 2 with packs and three days supplies. We began to realise that the Swiss spared no expense or energy in equipping the cave for the season’s explorations.  Just short of the Riesen Saal we took a short cut to reach the Styx and found a handline of best Bluewater.  Down a short muddy slope to the Styxsee and there was a fibreglass dory, which must have taken ages to man-handle there.  We pulled ourselves individually across the lake, waded round and through several muddy hollows and then began the long struggle up the Innominata. The series of several long handlines is virtually essential on these steep, mud covered phreatic tubes.  Two and a half hours from the entrance we arrived at bivouac 1, which we studied with awe.  We had to move on though, now through the wide, elliptical Titanengang, until this petered out close to the Seilgang (Ropeway).  Here the passage meets with one of the few faults encountered in the cave and drops down with unusual steepness via rope and fixed (by faith) ladder, to the second fibreglass dory, this on the Burkhaltersee. Soon after, at 6.30, after a 5¼ hour trip, we reached bivouac 2.  Just around the corner was 2a, and next to that the newly built extravagance of 2b.

On our first two visits to the Hölloch there had been a reasonable draught.  On this occasion there was a howling gale, making a noise like raging floodwaters at one constriction, and more powerful than anything I have seen emitting from the EDF Tunnel of the Pierre.  The bivouacs are in corners and hollows of the main passage and have been protected somewhat from the wind by the creation of large polythene sheet shelters.  The floor has been levelled using sand carried form other parts of the cave, and there are foam mattresses permanently in position in sleeping quarters.  Permanent water supply is laid on via polythene pipe form the upper reaches of the system.  Steel and wood tables, vinyl covered, are concreted into the floor with foam and steel covered seats.  Cutlery, stoves, pots and pans, racks, bowls, buckets etc., are all brand new - £100’s worth. We settled down to our dehydrated goo, mouth watering as we watched the Swiss residents consume salad, ravioli, spaghetti and so on.  After a cool (6°) game of cards we retired.

In the late morning, as we lazily breakfasted, the Liverpool contingent arrived.  They had come in and stayed at Bivi 1 overnight.  While they settled down to a second breakfast we moved off along the SAC gang.  The memory is of wide, elliptical passages and very little else.  There was a fair amount of breakdown as we reached Bivi 3, which seem to comprise a pile of slabs, a poly sank and a rusty tin can! Not even a level spot in sight! We were then very glad that Frau Suter had dissuaded us from staying there with the words ‘there is nothing there and it is too dangerous.’  Apparently it was erected one winter and there was no sign of it the next.  They tried once more but once again the summer flooding destroyed it, so they gave up.  As we descended through the dark brown, worm infested mud towards the lower sections of the cave once more, the carbides began to run low on water.  This is one of the hazards of the place, but we were lucky to find a pool at the Schuttdom.  Climbing the Faule Wand (Rotten Wall) by its equally rotten ladder and then an electron ladder we dropped down to the Dreiecksee ( Triangle Lake).  Two days earlier this had been sumped but now we were able to walk around one side with ease. On we tramped, along the scalloped rock or solid mud floor passage, where the general brown-ness effectively soaked up the glow of our mega-carbides.  At Minster wall a handline strung directly from an insecure and bendy piton did not inspire confidence.  The wall was free-climbable anyway.  Finally we arrived at the clear, pebble floored pool that is the SAC siphon. One does not dive through Hölloch sumps. Two hours of extra caving could have taken us to the other side but we decided to head back towards Bivi 2.

Just above the Schuttdom we left the SAC gang for a low tube where we actually had to drop down onto hands and knees.  This was to cut out a large loop of the SAC gang and big Jim really lapped it up, soon learning that Zwerhstollen had something to do with a dwarf.  A cold, clear pool, almost invisible, smooth, white rock, stretched right across the passage and some distance along it. Everyone now got wet feet and blamed me for leading them that way.  We climbed up through the mud banks of the Lehmtal (Clay Passage and back to the Doline in the SAC gang.  It was decided to try and return to the bivouac via the Lehmschollengang ( Clay Way) but, unlike other part of the cave, the pitches in this were not tackled. However the passage is adorned with fascinating forms, all man made, carved out of the fine clay deposits. Even A. Bogli has a sculpture there, above all the rest.  Naturally we left our own, in our own inimitable way.  Returning to Bivi 2 we met up with Block, Pete and Alison who had entered the cave that morning, when it was still snowing.

On the 3rd day we all headed out, enjoying a most exhilarating slide down the Innominata. Water levels were low everywhere. Two and three quarter hours later we blinked at the snow and the sunshine from among the long icicles of the entrance, after just over, 48 hours underground.  The next night we were struggling through the artic wastes of France with only dim memories of our rapid passage through the damp and draughty tubes of underground Switzerland.


Ed. note: For those wishing to see a survey of the Hölloch should refer to the W.S.G. Bulletin


8 Year Olds View of Caving

For a change from the regular Belfry Bulletin scribe here's a report of a caving trip by Stu Lindsey's eight year old lad David.

In December I went to the Belfry, and it was cold outside.  On Saturday dad took me caving down Swildons Hole.  We went over the top of Jacobs Ladder and comes out at the wet and the dry way.  After then it was a pretty part of the cave.  We came out at the wet way.

In the afternoon mum cooked the diner, and while my dad painted the doors.  I helped run around the table making Belfry Bulletins.  We went to the pub at night I slept in the car and drunk lemonade.  I slept in the little room.  In the afternoon John Dukes and Sue took me down Manor farm Swallet.  First we went down a 58ft ladder climb, and then some passages, and down a 20ft climb, and then we seed a curtain, and down another climb. I slipped so John lowered me down. Then through Albert’s eye, up through a passage to a beautiful bit.  Then we went up through a hole in the seeling into NHASA gallery.  It was hard climbing out.  I think my stay at the Belfry was mint, and I am going to come again.


That was Davis first visit to the Belfry and by the sound of it, it won’t be his last – perhaps Stu is thinking of making an advance application for Dave’s membership to the club.


New Year, Caving, The Dales

While other members of the BEC were spending their New Year Celebrations in Switzerland and the other Belfry regulars spending their time in the Hunters, Stu Lindsay was wallowing in the underground waters of the Easegill system…   

We, my wife Susan and I arrived at the Helwith Bridge Hotel 2 pints to closing time on Wednesday night. The drive up the M5/6 being a rather hectic though exhilarating experience in the adverse weather conditions. My battered 101 in its three and a half hour jaunt negotiated the perils of gale force winds, torrential rain and zero visibility when overtaking convoys of monstrous, mist spreading, juggernauts.

Thursday, the 28th, greeted us with howling winds, more rain, sheets of it pulsing the Ribble to a raging torrent of foaming, peat stained, water 5ft over its norm!  Yet 72 hours later this destructive force was relegated to a small, gentile stream, gurgling effortlessly amidst a million snow capped rocks…alas! to day was caving day, UGH, the prospects of attaining one or more of the goals in Easegill (together with Lancaster, Pippikin and Link Pot is reputed to be Britain's longest cave system) looked decidedly bleak. Indeed with water everywhere, a diversion via Ingleton due to a flooded road, made me wonder if we would even get there!

Setting off from Bull Pot Farm an hour later, twelve one time keen, eager souls were being slowly whittled away by the sudden drop in temperature.  The rain became noticeably heavier, driven relentlessly by the increasing wind, stinging……chilling…..BBBrrr.  It was crossing the top of the Fell that it really hit us with a vengeance, the open moor offering no respite from a million stings a minute, snowflakes, gentle snowflakes, frozen into needle sharp missiles, projected by force 9 winds, yes, these violent, poundings in my left ear were being caused by frozen snow…..Painfully, eyes squinting and teeth chattering we covered the final half mile to find the Beck a 2ft deep and 12ft wide torrent……yeh!

Entry into County Pot was swift, its warmth beckoning like a magnet to the shivering multitude waiting to descend.  Progress to Straw Chamber (does he mean Easter Grotto? Ed) was slow but sure, the novices doing quite well.  The water level in the Main Drain was quite high, although after visiting S.C. the level had receded about 3 inches.  Straw Chamber proved to be a large, mud/sand covered bouldery ‘passage’ with a bedding plane roof liberally covered with straws to 2ft in length, best viewed form the far end.  Small bedding plane grottos decorate the higher parts of the chamber sides, whilst behind the ‘view gallery’ a breakdown passage reveals numerous sections of false calcited floor (yes he does – Ed.).  A visit to trident Passage in full spate proved fun but the water was very cold. The oxbow passage yielding some superb formations, equal to some of the better known stals in the system.  The rest of the trip proved uneventful, although the water from Spout Hall outwards was conspicuous by its absence, the first pitch being almost dry.  The desperate weather conditions on the surface became increasingly more apparent as the ascent of the entrance shaft was made, now the moor, ice covered and darkness provided another hazard, ‘Peat Pits’ knee deep hiding in the dark, in the freezing wind, the cold………..hot stew………the pub…….warm fire…….a few pints. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz a day to remember.

SELL GILL - With the Bar Pot trip being cancelled due to weather problems, the 29th was taken up with a dinner time session and a walk to liven up the system for a renewed attack on the evening guzzling record.

So to the snow covered 30th, when four of our intrepid little band set off intent on doing Sell Gill. In normal friendly conditions one can imagine how pleasant the walk up from Holm Farm must be.  But on the day my fortune took me up to savour its delights; the snow had drifted, drifted and drifted….thus making the simple walk really hard graft.  Yet for the second time in two days I was caught with my wet suit exposed….the delights of being battered, frozen and fatigued crossing Casterton fell had taught me nothing!  A cagoule protects those parts other wets suits do not….YOH!  The perils of caving – the blizzard swept the fells in sub-zero, howling winds are manifold, so be prepared and do not underestimate the weather.

Eventually we reached the Pennine way track – so I was told as it lay under a couple of feet of snow. Huddled behind a wall enjoying a brief respite form the wintry ‘breeze’ the harsh realisation suddenly dawned, we were light on tackle.  One of us was guilty of forgetting a couple of ladders, so Neil R…peeled off his tackle and bolted off down the hill like a spring lamb, diving into large snowdrifts en-route, he soon disappeared from sight.  Progress to the hole was achieved regretfully demolishing a number of fine snow formations, the wind having moulded the drifts into arêtes and cornices.

Rigging the First Pitch proved to be very hazardous indeed, Alan T., at one time appeared to be standing on a snow bridge, it was in fact the ‘bar belay.’  The ladder rigging was completed as Neil came bounding over the rise with the missing ladders and a rosy glow to his cheeks!  In contrast, the lifelining job I had undertaken was becoming desperately uncomfortable, the cold wind blowing down the beck cutting into my neck like a razor sharp knife, the rigid, ice covered rope proving more and more difficult to manipulate – it stuck to everything including my gloves! Once inside the entrance, the warmth of the cave soon had us tackling the second and third pitches.  Pitch 2, an easy 12m, is mostly a gentle free hang, the first bit against a well broken wall, the third pitch follows straight away, the 14m broken by a steep cleft at the top while the remainder of the climb being a superb lightly fluted shaft.  The floor of the chambers below the pitches are of the cobbly type so beware when ascent/descents are being made!  Left, down cave, a roaring 23m waterfall is encountered; this enters the big shaft about half way down and marks the start of the main chamber.

Huge, mud choked blocks litter the floor of this 40 x 40 x 30m (est.) chamber.  The stream follows the left wall down into a walking side passage that gradually reduces in size to force the caver to a series of wet crawls under stalagmite bridges and ends at a sump – very promising – oh! for a Mendip dam and…. Not much exploration was carried in other parts of the cave due to obstinate failure of a Mendipian’s ‘magic eye’ when photographing the Main Chamber.  Nine times the slaves on two guns failed…oops.  So it came to pass, an hour later, poor Mike B. was chipped from his perch by the waterfall, and thawed out under a handy carbide.  A rapid exit of the cave was then accomplished, the undaunted photographer trying to salvage his pride and previous efforts, by snapping some candid action shots on the pitches.

At the First Pitch it was found that more snow had been blown in, the top half of the ladder was frozen into the ice around the top of the entrance making the last four or five feet extremely tricky.  The final climb up onto the dark, cold, snow swept moor, in the face of an icy wind, on an iced up electron ladder (sticky with a dry ice effect) was quite enthralling. To me both trips were great fun never having experienced such extreme conditions before.  The walk back was far from an anti-climax, the snow drifts now deeper and more spectacular in the mellow glow of our cap lamps acted as ramps to propel powder dry snow particles, at bullet speeds, into our cold stinging faces.  The final coup de goop was not the frolics of the ten foot drifts but the task of trying to pack ‘sticky’, stiff tackle into the car! Have you even seen the old comedy sketch trying to get rid of toffee paper?

Unfortunately the next few days were enforced non-caving day, the weather began to get bad, the wind was dropping and the snow storms becoming more intense, but shorter, interspersed with clear blue skies and sunshine.  Yes, the sun does shine on the dales (in 4 days throughout 1978 I saw sunshine about 5 times!)

After the New Year’s Eve festivities, black pudding and polony with your ale in the pub and savoury baked taties at the party afterwards it was with long faces, that a number of sleepiness bodies out into the crisp dawn air to start the flaming car! Thirty minutes of wasted sleep time was spent in trying to open the rear engine compartment of the offending VW. THE BATTERY is located UNDER THE BACK SEAT!!!  And so it was, we were all ready two hours later when it snowed, but this was soft snow, soft, white un-driven snow, fluttering ceaselessly and silently earthwards.  Some three inches fell in under an hour.  It was still falling when the convoy left the ‘Bridge’ after a record breaking clean and pack fiasco, destination Leeds.  And so, the last of my first (last?) visit was spent in the hospitable comfort of Mike Gisby’s residence.

That night we celebrated our close escape with a few pints of Darleys Ale at the ‘The Rook’, the YSS local boozer.  The snow had stopped, it was freezing and time was, we should be heading home……south, the centre of the universe.


St Cuthberts Trip

The following account of a wet trip into St. Cuthbert's only to find that the entrance rift was impassable is given by Martin Grass….          

At approximately 0200 hours on Saturday, Feb. 3rd, Jim Watson and I entered St. Cuthbert's for a night time trip, the weather was freezing and Mendip was blanketed in snow. Although the stream was cold it was not particularly high for winter conditions.  The party exited at about 0700 hours, just as the sun was rising.

At 1000 hours a walk to the entrance showed the water rising rapidly as the sun was quickly melting the snow and by 1200 hours the depression was completely flooded with a pool about 60 feet across in the bottom of it.  The dams were out and completely submerged.  I laddered the entrance rift and tried to descend but could get no more than three rungs down the ladder before I started swallowing large amounts of water as it was not only going down the rift but shooting horizontally across it.  Water was even entering at the base of the entrance pipe.  Graham put the dams in to see if the water would subside and although submerged, a considerable difference was made to the rift, in fact enough to get a party who were down if the need had arisen.  By 1700 hours the pond had disappeared and the swollen stream was following its normal course.  It was interesting to note that a visit to Swildons on the same day showed the water was only slightly higher than the normal winter level.

Editors note; This is the first time for several years that a report of the cave being in spate has been recorded.  The last I know was in January 1974.  The rift is passable by experienced cavers under these conditions.  Breathing is difficult but the entrance series to Mud Hall is worth seeing under these conditions.   The water entering at the foot of the entrance pipes sweeps across the passage from the pipe and forms about a 6"-8" deep stream along the entrance passage.  The top of the entrance rift is swilling in water and about 6 feet down from the top of the rift, a large jet of water streaks across the rift from a stal hole in the wall.   The waterfall in Arête is large by any standard and the Ledge Pitch stream sweeps across the rift hitting the far wall.  The Wire Rift steps are not visible as the water forms a white foaming streak down the passage, so loud that you can’t hear anything else.


Cavers Bookshelf No.1


Edited by Ivan Young

Published by Grampian Speleological Group.  Special Publication Number 1 (Oct.’78).  Price 50p + p&p from G.S.G., 8 Scone Gardens, Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ.  30pp. A5 saddle stitched.  Printed by off-set.  5 area maps and 9 surveys (un-graded).

Appin peninsular lies west of Glen Coe.  Many of the caves having been opened by the G.S.G. in the last couple of years – though they were not the first to explore in the area.  Though not many of the caves exceed 1,000ft they are said to be able even the most demanding caver some good sport.  This concise booklet gives a brief description of each cave together with surveys of the larger and more important systems.  Each cave is located by an eight figure grid reference and is graded numerically, similar to the northern cave guides.  One occasionally jolts at the use of Americanisms, for example Speleothems.

Apart from my old platform where the surveys are un-graded, though they look well drawn though a little cluttered making the detail difficult to read clearly, the main criticism must be at the size of type.  Six point is too small to read comfortably and would have appeared much better had the type been 8 point, this would not have increased the area of printed matter much and it could have been easily accommodated in the same number of pages. Still, one should not moan too much when the booklet only costs 50p.


Wigmore Swallet

recent digging and breakthroughs.

Again this month we have another episode in the fight to extend the latest B.E.C. discovery

by Tony Jarrett

Since the breakthrough of 28th December 1977 (B.B. No.359) most of the work at the site has been in the nature of solidly shoring the entrance shaft by means of stone and mortar walls, and of constructing a secure concrete capping for safety reasons (see Stu Lindsay’s article in B.B. No.368).  The wisdom of this move has been amply demonstrated by Lord Waldegrave’s delighted thanks to the team and his offer of any other digging sites on his estates.  Thus, as a public relations exercise this has been more successful than we had hoped and it is essential that all visits and further digs in this area are continued in the same tradition.  Incidentally, anyone wishing to visit Esker Hill and Buddles Wood mining areas should arrange permission first via the Estate Office at Chewton Mendip.  A refusal is now doubtful, allowing for the shooting season.

Once the engineering section had been completed their noble edifice it was suddenly and sadly realised that we may had to go back underground!  During the early part of the year various visits had been made to the end, including ‘Wig’, Graham W-J and Martin Grass's surveying trip and odd digging visits by Ross White, Claire Williams, Chris Batsone, Trev Hughes and others.  These investigations had shown that water sinking at the far end of the terminal chamber could be heard flowing under the boulder floor in the far left hand corner. Partial removal of these boulders had been attempted but it was suggested that any further work would require a good dollop of ‘Irish marzipan.’

On 14th October the writer went for a recce dig at this spot, accompanied by Chris Batstone, Chris Smart and John Turner.  A vast quantity of mud and rocks was removed leaving a low black hole with a view into open passage and a sofa sized rock precarious balanced above said hole.  A good draught could be felt (a peculiar thing about this dig is strangely that the normally ‘four letter word’ men, burst forth with amazingly long and intellectual words rarely heard before!

The following morning, accompanied by Alan Thomas, I went back to the offending boulder, which was duly demolished and an afternoon’s work by Simon ‘Woody’ Woodman.  Steve Plumley (the Apprentices) Chris Smart and myself enabled the debris cleared and a better look at the way on obtained. Unfortunately three more boulders just prevented access, though some ten feet of clean washed bedding could be seen.

On the 17th, the writer directed Wessex member, Rob Harper, from an Aggy trip and soon cleared more gravel from a bang arranged by Al Mills (also Wessex) during that morning.  We soon squeezed into the inviting hole to gain some 30ft of low, rock strewn bedding crawl, identical to Christmas crawl further back in the cave.  A collapsing roof bedding at the end prevented further progress and was a textbook illustration of passage formation by breakdown along small joints.  Some clearing of this new crawl was started to enable more ‘portly’ (i.e. blood fat) diggers to reach the working face.  The crawl was christened ‘Pinks and Posies’ as that was what the vocal duo were murdering at the time.

More clearing trips on 20th – 22nd drastically altered the height of the passage and amount of hairy roof and wall at the end.  Diggers and sledge haulers were Stu Lindsey, Chris B., Trev, Tim Large, Kevin, Lorraine and the writer.  Some eight feet of collapse were cleared and the low bedding plane continuing to draught strongly.

On the 28th November, Trev Hughes, ‘Tuska’ Morrison (WCC) Rich Maskell (hijacked matelot) and the writer cleared a further four feet of collapse to reveal an open section of tunnel. This was entered by the two B.E.C. men two days later after gardening the roof and walls.  The crawl here is low but wide and after some twelve feet is obstructed by a large slab.  Work continues-

WIGMORE - The formation of the cave.

The writer has a theory on the formation of this small but interesting cave which he would only be delighted to have further informed opinions on.

He suggests the initial development began with the local drainage following a weakness in the mineral vein down which the entrance shaft was excavated.  This relatively major joint continues below the vein to the head of Christmas Crawl, being intersected in hesitation Chamber by several cross rifts, forming minor inlets from further along the vein.

Reaching the softer marl (?) bed of the crawl, the drainage gradually eroded this material, following the dip of this bed.  Initially the passage was very low, though fairly wide in places.  Weakening of the roof caused collapse into the passage as is at present happening in places.

A junction of small oxbows and inlet in the Santa’s Grotto area created a much wider section, considerably enlarged by roof collapse to create a fairly roomy chamber.  The combined drainage leaving this area once again is concentrated in a single conduit and the collapse in Pinks and Posies may be due to a continuation of the entrance joint again reaching the crawl.

It is suggested that the cave will continue its gentle dip along the bedding being still a low passage until it meets the limestone junction and then…who knows?

WIGMORE – notes on the survey

by ‘Wig’

The survey was carried out on a single trip during April 19768 and the field notes gathered by Martin Grass, Dave Irwin and Graham Wilton-Jones using Suunto compass and clinometer and a 50ft fibron tape.  Both the clinometer and compass were calibrated to conform with the BCRA Grade 5 requirements.

Due to the constricted nature of the lower passage (Christmas Crawl) the bearings were always forward through leap-frogging was carried out from the top of the climbs to the entrance shaft.

The extension from the chamber (Santa’s Grotto) was surveyed by Tony Jarrett et al (Pinks and Posies) soon after it was opened up.  The original is drawn at 1/120 and prints will be available through the Mendip Survey Scheme.

Total length 237ft; depth 78ft; BCRA grade 5c-d


B.E.C. Caving Reports

some of the 21 issues that are in stock at the Belfry or at ‘Wig’s’ at Townsend Cottage..

Caving Reports have not appeared regularly since about 1972 although there has been plenty to publish - mainly parts of the Cuthbert's Report.  Though we had access to two printing machines people are not apparently prepared to prepare the plates or stencils for printing the mass of material in the stock pile.  The last part of the Cuthbert's Report to appear was the Rabbit Warren Extension (Part H) in 1972.  Parts on the stocks include Cerberus Series, Maypole Series September Series and the complicated Long Chamber Series.   The New and old Routes and Rocky Boulder series surveys are complete and await the hands of the printers.  This leaves the Main Chambers and the overall plan and elevations.  The plan is virtually complete - a copy can be seen at the Belfry and the elevation is currently undergoing its fifth redraw in an atternpt to produce a clear and uncluttered appearance.

The reports that are available-are:

Report No. 14

Balague 1970 by Roy Bennett.  This reports the club trip to a little known area in the Pyrenees together with surveys of the discoveries made.  One of the feats of this expedition was the descent of the Coume Ferrat - a 680ft deep shaft which had previously descended by the French using a winch.  The intrepid BEC group decided that they would go by ladder - just to chuck some water tracing material into the stream at the bottom.  However, that was the plan, the stuff didn't turn up so they went down because it was there.  Anyway down they went and found some new passage.  A good read.  11pp plus 4 pages of surveys Price 30p.

Report No.3A

The manufacture of Lightweight Caving Equipment by Bryan Ellis (1962). Though ladder manufacture has progressed to the use of epoxy resins and other forms of swaging or crimping the rungs to the wire the method employed in this booklet’s still the most popular form of ladder construction.  23pp illustrated.  Price 30p.

Report No. 15

Roman Mine by Jill Tuck.  This unique mine discovered by the Tucks in the mid-sixties is a superb example of a Roman excavated lead mine just north west of Newport in South Wales.  The report explains the areas where very gold miner’s remains were discovered.   Illustrated with many illustrations and photographs including that of the 6th century bone comb which is now at the Welsh National Museum at Cardiff. A must for those interested in the South Wales area or in mines generally.  Price 60p.  50pp plus photos and survey.

Report No. 13

Part F St. Cuthbert's description of Gour Hall area photos, survey
Part E similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren
Part H similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren Extension
Part A Discovery and Exploration currently under revision.

Report No. 17

Burrington Cave Atlas by Chris Howell, Dave Irwin and Doug Stuckey was one of our fastest selling publications (just under 500 in under one year!)  The Atlas has just been revised by ‘Wig’ and is only awaiting the survey of Lionel's Hole.  If all goes to plan (!) the revised edition should appear (A5 size) about June this year.

Report No. 16

Mendip's Vanishing Grottoes is a unique collection of photographs of the now destroyed Balch Cave in Fairy Cave quarry together with a collection of photographs of Shatter Cave.  3 COPIES LEFT.  £1 each


Dates for your diary:

March 11th: Lancaster/Easegill; April 29th: King Pot and May 5th: Disappointment Pot & Far Country.

These trips are being arranged by Dave Metcalfe and his Northern Speleos, who offer a cordial invitation to any BEC member who wants to join than to just turn up for times and further details phone Dave at Blackpool 65985.

March 10th: BCRA One day symposium on Limestones & Caves of South Wales.  Fee for day £1.00 includes morning coffee and afternoon tea.

March 17-18th: Peak Cavern and Wynnat's Head Cave. Staying at Pegasus Hut.

March 23 M.R.O. Annual General Meeting, 8pm at the Hunters.

Easter Weekend: Yorkshire - staying at the Bradford.  Details later.

NEW RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY SWISS CAVERS - cavers intending to visit Switzerland to carry out original exploration work should contact:

Societe Suisse de Speleologie,
Bernard Dudan, President Central, Les Chapons 2, CH-2022 Bevaix, Suisse.

For full details see Vol. 72 British Caver (Spring 1979) in Club Library.

Copy of 1978 Current Titles in Speleology now in Club Library.

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.

Next month in the B.B.

Horrington Hill Mine (Tim’s Retreat) and survey.  An important discovery of a 1829 Caving letter.