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

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

SWEAT SHIRTS:  The second order has at long last arrived and those who ordered should receive them shortly.  There are a few spares and anyone wishing to obtain one should contact John Dukes.

Cave surveys:  Graham Wilton-Jones holds the club stock and anyone should contact for details of the latest stock.  Remember that they are considerably cheaper than those available from commercial sources.

Reports have been coming in of a new chamber discovered in Goatchurch.  Apparently it is off the tight upper passage at the end of the Drainpipe.  About 100ft. of passage is reported.  The diggers are unknown.

Browne's Folly Mine and Swan Mine:  Arrangements for CSCC control of access is nearing completion - details will be published as soon as available.  In the meantime telephone Sir Charles Hobhouse for permission to descend.

Guy de Block, of Belgium collects insignias from caving associations, grottoes, national meetings and congresses and his collection, started in 1950, will be on display at the 8th International Speleo. Congress, Kentucky in 1980.  Anyone having anything of this nature that they do not want should send it to him at Rootstraat 54, B 1981 Vossen, Belgium.  He is not interested in commercial material.

The Odd Note

Deepest Cave in the world: Gouffre Jean Bernard at 1402m

BCRA Winter meeting is at Crickhowell - subject 'Cave Diving'

Bruce Bedford is hoping to organise a charter flight to the USA for the 8th International Congress (July 19th - 24th 198.)  Anyone interested should contact Bruce.

British Caver has published and article 'Hints for Caving in Austria'.  The content was approved by the AGM of the Federation of Austrian Cavers on 26th October 1979.  The copy of the BC may be found in the club library.  (British Cave No 78, p23)

Derbyshire Sump Index, 3rd Edition is now available from Oliver Lloyd.  Price 50p.

A new mining book: Metal Mines of North Wales by J.C. Williams - picture book with 80 photos. Published by Charter Publications, April 1980.  Price £2.75.

A new booklet from Mike Boon.  The Great San Agustin Rescue.  The booklet records Mike's involvement on the February 1980 rescue when a polish caver broke his back some 2,000ft below the surface.  Price £1.50 + 25p postage from Tony Oldham.

A new cave at Batts Combe Quarry – Whopper Cave.  The cave, in the upper level of the quarry, 23ft wide at the entrance drops 60ft down a shaft into a massive chamber up to 30ft wide and 100ft long and roof up to 85ft high.  The survey figures give the cave as having a length of 390ft and 100ft deep.  The cave has now been blocked.

Maesbury Swallet – Alan Thomas’s old dig of 10 years ago has been turned into a 450ft long cave by the Cerberus S.S.  Apparently not very inspiring stuff and is halfway between Lionel’s Hole and Windsor Hill Swallet.


 

Hon. Secretary's Report 1980

The year started rather apprehensively following decisions taken at the AGM regarding the substantial increase in the annual subscriptions and the 'project' to improve Belfry Facilities. Despite the increase our membership stands at 180.  Our losses over the last year would therefore appear to be minimal.  This has enabled the club finances to recoup heavy expenditure on a tight budget of the previous two years.  Now we have put ourselves into a position where we can project into the future and carry out urgently needed work together with restocking our caving equipment such as ropes and ladders.

The day to day running of the club has kept the committee busy for much of the year, but in some areas we have little to actually show for it.  Much of the work fall on the same few individuals.  Perhaps in future more members would volunteer to help with the various jobs and so spread the load and enable work to be completed much earlier.

As of to date (1st August 1980) the committee has met on 12 occasions include a special meeting to discuss the proposed Belfry improvements.  To date the attendance of individual committee members is as follows:-

Tim Largo

Nigel Taylor

Martin Grass

John Dukes

Graham Wilton-Jones

Sue Tucker

Garth Dell

Dave Irwin

Stuart Lindsay

12

12

12

11

11

10

10

8

7

This year Garth and Dave have decided to stand down.  I feel sure everyone will wish to think them for the service they give to the club whether it be on or off the committee.

This leaves us with two holes to fill in the committee as BB Editor and Hut Warden.  In particular it may prove difficult to find another Editor. Already you will have heard about a slight change in the BB format whereby we now produce a quarterly BB and in between a newsletter type publication only covering basic club information.  This was brought about by the increasing workload on the Editor and the lack of material.  Although the club has fiercely objected to reducing the frequency of the BB it may well be time to reconsider.  When the cost of production is considered as a percentage of income it looks as though the club is a Publication Club instead of a Caving Club.

The Secretarial paperwork has maintained a steady flow from answering enquire to the usual rounds of CSCC meetings.  Many may scoff at such regional councils, but I consider that it is necessary for us to be represented wherever caving maybe threatened by whatever influences. Otherwise you may come up to the Belfry and find one day that you cannot enjoy the club's activities in the manner to which you are accustomed.

Close liaison has been established with the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation who has recently taken a lease on the Mineries.  As far as I can see the club benefit from the Trust's activities who intend to maintain the Mineries much as we have always known them.

This year having put the club back in a strong financial position I hope we can go forward and complete the various projects and so improve our facilities which will also encourage our caving activities.  Not that these have been inactive by any means this year.  Many digs have been undertaken, besides the usual tourist trips. A group have again visited the club’s discoveries in Austria hoping to find caverns measureless.  All in all a very successful year with better things to come in the future.


 

BB Editor’s Report 1980

The past year has been a mixed one for the BB.  Up to April material came at a reasonable rate but after that it dried up completely – no one had anything to write; consequently a run of bi-monthly BB's. This was in no way due to lack of effort on the part of your Editor who constantly badgered members and non-members to put pen to paper but no material appeared even though several members including committee members promised to supply articles.  It is not the first time during its long run that the BB has been short of material or has been issued in a bi-monthly form but on many occasions the Editor has padded the publication to get out a monthly issue. This caused the Belfryites to moan and finally rightly or wrongly, to spark off action at the 1977 AGM.  I for one had no intention of writing material for the BB just to fill up a few pages - even if I had the time, which I did not. The AGM has regularly demanded a monthly BB - even last year the subject was raised again and the members kept up their requirement.  Members may easily pass resolutions at the AGM but it's simply no good raising the voting hand and doing nothing about it during the rest of the year.  Neither I believe, is it any good proposing a bi-monthly BB as there will be occasions when the Editor has too much material (this does happen from time to time) and would require a monthly issue to use it all up in a reasonable time.

Because of the erratic nature of receipt of material for publication I proposed the creation of the Belfry Journal (see June/July BB) though there have been critics of this. This I expected.  I strongly urge the meeting to accept in principle the Belfry Journal and a freer rule regarding the issuing interval of the BB to members only.

Whether the Belfry Journal will be issued in September as planned is at the moment unknown but material has been promised and I'll make every effort to get this trial issue produced.

As many of you will know I've always been a strong believer in short terms in any particular office as a certain amount of boredom and lack of ideas is bound to creep into one's thinking and so I've tendered my resignation as BB Editor and as a Committee Member.  I've spent the last three years as BB Editor, and three enjoyable years they have been in addition to the many posts I have held for the club since first being elected to the committee in 1964.

Finally, I would like to thank all members who have contributed to the BB over the last year and particularly to Fiona for typing many of the stencils without whose help the BB’s would have been much later than they were.  I would also like to wish my successor well whoever he or she may be, good luck in the job.

Dave Irwin


 

Hut Engineer’s Report

All too quickly another club year has shot by and I find that at the time of writing this report that we are only eight weeks away from the dinner.

Though on the face of it, it appears that little has been done on the site, a large amount of routine maintenance has been carried out on the hut and site.  Exterior painting, construction of a new fire door for the men’s bunkroom, erection of a stone stile on our boundary fence, cutting of grass and repair of fencing, tarmacing of the track from road to cattle grid. Those and many other little niggling time consuming jobs have been effectively carried out in the main by the usual Belfry regulars, of special assistance have been Tim Large & Fiona, Dany Bradshaw, John Dukes, Garth Dell and others who I hope will excuse me in not recording names.  I feel that greater support by some members of the committee would be welcome though I realise some people have enough other work to keep them busy or find themselves otherwise occupied at weekends when on Mendip.

The main talking point is probably the proposed Belfry Improvements Scheme, as most members probably realise a Planning Meeting was held on the 18th at the Belfry where some detailed and not so detailed plans were presented.  The outcome of this meeting was primarily to approach an architect to visit the Belfry and comment on the feasibility of the plans.

During the week of the 16th June Tim Large and myself were staying on a working holiday at the Belfry and meetings were held with John Gwyther – a local architect, the result of which brought to light serious problems regarding the strength of the Belfry roof and the discovery of the fact that none of the internal walls were load bearing.  It was decided by us that we contact the local government building inspector and a site inspection is due shortly, at which we hope the full facts will become known and possibly I can inform the club of the findings at the AGM in October.

On the fuel and heating side - I believe I have restored our plentiful supply of wood by arrangement with the amenable forester Mr Liddell.  No moves have been made therefore with regards to the feasibility of a wood burning stove as any such system would have to be reviewed with an eye to any future development on the Belfry or site.  In May I organised a wood hauling weekend and we have adequate fuel supplies for the forthcoming winter.

A large amount of external work has still to be carried out, i.e. construction of a new gas storage bunker and re-siting the carbide store, more ridge roof tiles have to be re-cemented and many more minor jobs are envisaged.

I am standing again for re-election to the committee and hope again to be elected Hut Engineer as we have a bright future ahead of us for the hut and perhaps consistency in the committee next year would also imply consistent decisions in all matters.

I have found no problems in committee attendance this year, and hope that change in my job role which I am expecting to undergo will not give rise to any problems in the forthcoming year – though once again I stand with this in mind.

Nigel Taylor

Hut Warden's Report

As some members may recall the 1979 AGM directed that the Belfry should be self-sufficient financially to help acquire monies for the Building Fund.  The means of accomplishing this objective were left in the hands of the 1979/80 Committee.  It was resolved by the Committee to increase the "Hut Fees" and "Camping Fees" by an average of about 52%, i.e. 60% for members and 44% for non-members.  Since the 19th October 1979 this increase has realised the sum of about £482.80, to be made available for the Building Fund.

The Hut Warden also received various donations including the proceeds from numerous raffles totalling about £200.00 for the Building Fund.

During the past year the Belfry has paid its own way with regard to gas, fuel for the fire and maintenance of the Belfry, including the improved Belfry track.

Attendances at the Belfry have been satisfactory (in my opinion) with a total of 2,379 bed nights. If this trend is maintained I think it probable that we will have a "Belfry to be proud of" by our Golden Jubilee in 1985.

Finally I would like to thank various members of the Committee for their very able assistance to me in the past year.

Garth T Dell

*****************************************

Annual General Meeting - Saturday October 4th, at the Belfry, 10.30am .

ANNUAL DINNER - OCTOBER. 4th 1980 at the Caveman Restaurant, 7.30 for 8pm.   TICKETS FROM SUE TUCKER at £5 each, cash with order please.


 

Cooper's Hole ( Cheddar Gorge)

from an article by FIONA LEWIS

Cooper's Hole is the great recess on the right hand side of the Gorge about 200 yards above Gough's Show Cave.  Often is asked about Cooper's Hole its connection with Cheddar Hole, the cave or place of which Henry of Huntingdon wrote in 'Historia Anglorum' (1125-1130) when he described it as the third of the four wonders of England Huntingdon wrote: -

'Cheddar Hole, where is a cavity under the earth, which, though many have often entered and there traversed great spaces of land, and rivers, they could never yet come to the end'

Later John Hooker 1568 also wrote of Cheddar Hole in Holinshed's 'Description of Britaine' Chapter 24 'Marvels of England'.  He said: -

'Carcer Aeoli (Cheddar Hole), where into many men have entered and walked verrie farre.  Howbeit as the passage is large and nothing noisome, so divers that have ventured to go into the same could never yet find the end of that waie, neither see anie other thing than pretie riverets and streams which they often crossed as they went from place to place'.

'This Cheddar Hole or Cheddar Rocks is in Summersetshire and thence the said waters run till they meet with the second Axe that riseth in Owkie Hole'.

Other major openings now hidden by flood debris and road making may well have been accessible at that time.  We do know that flood water did run down the Gorge and into Cooper's Hole, from thence it was free to escape to the lower levels.  It does seem strange that such writers as Henry of Huntingdon and John Hooker should write about Cheddar Hole and not Cheddar Gorge.  Is it possible that the Gorge at that time was roofed over; this would then explain the 'pretie riverets and streams' which don't give the impression of being the great subterranean river which has defied all attempts of revelation.  It must be considered the awe and fear with which caves were regarded such caves as Gough's, Cox's or any other cave known today could well have been described as 'Large and nothing noisome' by those whom 'entered and there traversed great spaces of land and rivers' though 'they never could yet arrive at any end'. Taking these factors into consideration it must be assumed that either Cooper's Hole had a vast extensive entrance with only small streams or that the search for Cheddar Hole should be directed else where.

H.E. Balch in 'Mendip - Cheddar - its Gorge and Caves, suggests that Cooper's Hole in view of its size and position should be looked upon as the most likely approach to the hidden subterranean river of Cheddar.  When in 1931/2, R.F. Parry conducted an archaeological dig for the Marquis of Bath it was discovered that the floor contained much flood borne material, the removal of which would leave an imposing arch with dimensions at least 20' high by 30' long.  Excavations revealed that when lead was being mined at Charterhouse upon Mendip, and open heath smelting in operation, occasionally heavy floods would sweep down the Gorge, bringing slime, sand and charcoal in quantity from these works. This debris flooded into Cooper's Hole which at that time was thought to be an open and steeply descending cavity which reached the underground river.  When the accumulating debris had blocked the way on, the debris increased until the great archway was filled, always though it must be noted that the stratification of clay and charcoal indicates the bedding to be dipping inwards. Victor Painter a guide for many years at Gough's Cave told Balch that during the early 1920's before the road was tarred at times of heavy rainfall white limestone dust would be picked up by the running flood water and washed into Cooper's Hole, later reappearing at the resurgence near to Gough's Show Cave.

Parry's excavations showed that approximately 1'5" of recent debris layover the floor beneath which was a layer of 3'10" of yellow stratified clay containing Charcoal. Below this again was a layer of unstratified scree with a bluish matrix, this is thought to represent the long period when there was continual rock falls in the Gorge, scattered within this layer was remains of early Iron Age pottery and bones.  A layer of 5' 6" homogeneous reddish clay containing no animal or human bones or any signs of mans workman-ship lay beneath.  No rock floor has ever been reached and it is thought that beneath this last layer must lie somewhere bones of mammals from the Pleistocene Period of some 40,000 years ago, like those previously discovered in other pares of the Gorge.

 

After R.F. Parry little work appears to have been carried out in Cooper's Hole until the summer of 1959 when the Mendip Caving Group sought and were granted permission to dig by Lord Bath.  Much of the work was carried out in the lower dig where the water sank, but this dig was abandoned in 1962 at a point approximately 5' above the level of Cheddar rising, due to continual flooding.  A chance arose with the removal of spoil and the building of the car park retaining wall to probe around in the left hand corner at a. point where there was an indication of a shelving roof at floor level.  A very fast breakthrough was made through a tight upward sloping squeeze with a rock roof and loose mud floor.  Once through a clean cut rift was encountered with a stairway cut into the stal floor, this was climbed in the hope it led to something big, but alas, it stopped at a narrow bedding plane which was choked.  Much work was carried out and a breakthrough made, the bedding plane came out over a 6' drop into a chamber which a cracked mud floor covered in claw marks, the walls were draped in soft red stal and a pile of bones lay in one corner.  These bones were later identified by Dr Tratman as those of Artic Fox and the claw marks indicated that the chamber was at one time open, the entrance probably being through the bedding plane.  On the 18th August 1962 Lord Bath and the press visited Cooper's Hole and were encouraged to pass through the bedding plane hence its name 'Thynne Squeeze'.

Work ceased after about 1965 and nothing further appears to have taken place until now.  Following the report of a bang let off in Gough's being heard by Thynne Squeeze an exploratory visit took place on the 4th April 1980 and a choked aven observed just before Thynne Squeeze.  A further exploratory visit on 10th May 1980 resulted in the aven first being climbed by Tim Large.  A small hole was encountered which when cleared of debris revealed a ledge some 20' above floor level.  Much digging then took place led by Chris Bradshaw, Tony Atkinson, Tim Large and Myself. A boulder constriction was then encountered which had to be blasted after which a quick prod with the crow bar and it would rain boulders for as long a 5-10 minutes at a time, which we had to fend of from the ledge.  This is still happening today and what used to be a gentle sloping climb up to Thynne Squeeze is now a scramble up about 50 tons of loose scree deposited from the raining aven which is now about 60' high and heading we hope both for the surface and back into the hill towards Gough's.  At this point in time we have decided to remove the scree slope before we become in danger of losing the entrance.  We have estimated that at our present rate of progress what took about 10 hours in total to fall will take about a year to clear, so any help would be very welcome.

Notes

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – the Arête Ladder is still out of the cave and a 25ft ladder together with a short belay to the rawlbolt is still required.

Dave Irwin is at the moment compiling a Catalogue of the postcards of the Mendip caves.  Anyone with any postcard, old or new, it doesn't matter, could they let him have a view of them so that they can be recorded. The whole manuscript is now approaching 120 page recording cards from all the show caves and also from other caves on Mendip including Cuthbert’s!

Allan Thomas adventure for his summer holiday was to cycle a round trip of 1000 miles up into northern Germany and according to all medical experts that he has talked to he has transferred all his arm muscles into his legs.  A good stabilising feature to the Belfry barrels no doubt with the new season soon to start!

A short, new cave discovered by quarrying was recently inspected by ‘Prew’ somewhere on Eastern Mendip.  The cave is now blocked.

Dates for your diaries:

NCA Meeting - October 12th - Derbyshire.

NCA Meeting - January 18th - Mendip

NCA AGM March 21st 1981 - Derbyshire.

For those teachers in the club interested in lecturing on caving at school may be interested to know that a number of film strips are available.  Full details are to be found in Caves and Caving No.8, May 1980 (BCRA Bulletin) and is in the club library.

Don't forget that a number of BEC Caving Reports are available at the Belfry if you want any see the Hut Warden or Graham Wilton Jones.


 

Dachstein Expedition, 1980,

Two previous expeditions to Austria have seen the discovery, exploration and. surveying of some sixty caves and potholes, the most significant sites being C19 - Maulwurfhohle, with a depth of over 200m, and C51 - Barengassewindschach whose exploration had been terminated at -132m.  Both of these shaft systems continued beyond the limit of exploration, and plans for this year were to work in C51, where it was presumed that the cave followed the line of the major fault Barengasse/Herrengasse, towards the main rising for the area, Waldbach Ursprung, 950m lower down and nearly 4 km to the north west.

With sponsorship from Batchelors Foods, in the form of a variety of dehydrated meals and soups particularly for underground use, and from Marlow Ropes, to the tune of several hundred metres of their very recently developed SRT rope, we set out for Austria in dribs and drabs around the middle of July.  Stu Lindsey and Trev Hughes were first to arrive, having carted out the majority of the food and equipment.   They made their way onto the plateau to be greeted by vast areas of newly fallen snow.  We had already been warned that snowfall was heavier than usual this year and was staying in the hollows much longer, making access to the caves difficult.  Trev and Stu were soon joined by Rob Harper, on the start of his tour of Europe, and he stayed for the whole of the expedition.

Having cleared, cleaned, repaired and prepared the Glocken, our very own hut in the Dachstein, almost, they began the unenviable task of transporting gear through the snows into the valley of Barengasse.  The cave is situated high in the south-west cliff of Barengasse, and great snow banks lay plastered up the sides of the valley, one beside the cave leading right up to the top of the cliff.  Once a hand line had been rigged up to the entrance ledge the serious business that of rigging the cave began.  Trev soon found something for his specialist, destructive urges and he considerably enlarged the small hole leading into the top of Eel shaft.  The rope on Eel shaft was re-bolted in a couple of places to make it safe and it became the accepted policy to re-bolt wherever necessary and only to use rope protectors immediately underneath hangers.

The series of shafts at the end of Totpapageigang, now collectively known as the Marlow Staircase, needed extensive re-bolting - last year I had done the whole series on one bolt, not the safest of techniques.   Rob had quite a bit of trouble with Petzl bolts shattering on the second 18m pitch, Bolt Fracture Pitch Eventually he managed to put in a neat row of three bolts, all within a space of 20cm and all useless.  Well, everyone has to learn sometime.  Below this pitch the soup kitchen was set up in an alcove that forms part of the Snack Pots, and this became a welcome resting place for cold and weary underground travellers.  On from here, down a short pitch, Trev traversed out on exposed ledges above my final shaft (after Rob had helped on their way a few boulders that looked dangerous, as he said to find a dry hang down to last year's termination.

This year J-Rat had escaped to Lesotholand to avoid being zapped but he did kindly lend us his field telephones so someone else could receive the pleasure of Thor's ill humour. Once again an anonymous donor had supplied us with miles of telephone cable and this was carefully laid out between the Glocken and the cave for communication using the BEC field telephones. Further wire was laid in the cave and connected to J-Rat's 'phones at strategic points - one phone was even given its own bolt.  Unfortunately good underground communication was rarely established for long, as the wire was very vulnerable at some points, particularly around the head of Eel Shaft.

Soon the rest of us arrived; Chris (Herr Blitz) Smart, Graham Nye, Karen Jones, Brice Glockling, Gary Childs, Dave Murrell, Gary Cullen, Judy Jenkinson and me.  Having Herr Blitz with us meant thunder and lightning and, sure enough, he had arranged it for our first night on the plateau. High winds and snow followed and this continued during the next day.  Since Rob, Stu and Trev had done so much work in preparing for the assault on C51, we gave them a day’s grace in which to explore the next part of the system. Blitz and I went walking in the blizzards while our three intrepids began the exploration of the Vesta Run.

The 4m pitch I had looked down last year was, in fact, free-climbable and the passage from there continued as a high rift, negotiable mainly by traversing.  Progress was possible along the base of the rift, which carried a small stream, but it is very narrow there.  Near its end the Vesta Run enters a bedding area of breakdown and soon, 130m from its beginning, it opens out over Batchelorschacht, a 45m pitch.

Next day it was still snowing hard though it abated around midday, when Gary Childs, Graham and I went into C51 to bolt, rig and descend the new shaft.  During the afternoon the temperature rose and the snow began to thaw, making the cave wet and rather cold.  Gary and Graham descended the shaft and found only an extremely narrow continuation at the bottom - very disappointing and frustrating news.  When we were at the entrance, Trev phoned some good news - there: had been an unbelievably beautiful sunset, boding well for the morrow.

The colours in the sky were right - there was not a cloud in the morning.  Most of us went off walking, Chris, Stu and I to Schladmingerloch and Grunkogel in the blistering ultra-violet.  Nearly everywhere lay under vast, smooth, deep blankets of drifted snow.  Lines of ice draped the cliffs while the cliff tops were overhung with huge, ready-to-avalanche cornices.  Nearly all the sites discovered during the previous two years were buried, some under several metres of snow.  Cliffs, holes and narrow passageway through the lapiaz were all concealed unless some quirk of the wind had blown the drifts clear.  At one such clear area Stu managed to find C38, his deep, but unexplored find near the Titans.  Attempting a mega-trundle Stu managed to block this effectively so we need not bother with it for another year!  We watched chamois, enjoyed the magnificent views and got horribly sunburned.

Meanwhile the dedicated pair of Rob and Trev had gone back into Barengasse to check the base of Batchelorschacht.  Climbing up 6m they found the continuation of the cave, once again a traverse part way up a large rift.  The walls were covered with white, cotton wool-like tufa which fell off at the merest touch.  The name Erasmic Chasmic was coined.  The passage zig-zagged and two prominent inlets entered near the beginning.  After about 90m they reached the head of a pitch. Trev picked up the only available rock and carefully dropped it over the edge.

"Crash! .... Bonk ..Bonk."

"We've got a pitch here, Rob.  It seems to be about 70 feet.  We'll have to go back and get some more rope."

Pause

"Booooom. "

"Bloody hell!"

Thus the major task for the next day was decided to transport a 200m length of rope to Barengasse and into the cave.  Bruce, Graham and the two Garys began with this irksome burden, and were later helped by Stu and Trev.  Somewhere deep down it was decided to cut the rope in two to make it more manageable, into lengths of 120m and 80m.  The longer one continued down the cave.  Chris and I began the survey using a Silva compass and fibron tape, the compass doubling as a clinometer.  The cave was shown to be heading directly along the fault, as I had suspected.  The following day was beautiful so Stu, Chris and I began a surface survey of Barengasse in order to draw the cave system related to surface features.  Little did we know….Trev and Rob went into the cave to push the bottom, but a rather large 'Enry at the head of the pitch delayed them.  They decided that it had to go, both to make the shaft safe and accessible.  However it would not budge despite Trevor's super-anthropoidal boulder destructive powers, and the pair returned, dispirited.  On Saturday Trev, Rob and Stu decided they deserved a day off. Gary Cullen, Bruce, Grabam and Karen went into C51 to take photos while Gary Childs, Chris and I did some more surface surveying of Barengasse and then went underground for a stint in the cold and wet.  Sunday saw Chris and I, assisted by Dave, who did not stop laughing, and abetted by Rob, who told jokes at the rate of five per survey station, completing the surface survey of Barengasse and smugly predicting under which doline the final shaft lay.  Chris decided to have a bit of a blitz at the end of it all and caught himself out in the ensuing rain.  Meanwhile, down in the hole, Trev, unperturbed by our throwing boulders down every clint in sight, rigged the end shaft and descended 45m to a sloping ledge and crossed onto a rock bridge 9m lower down.  From here stones, now in abundant supply, dropped free for a good five seconds, making the total depth so far -400m, even if only descended by rocks.

Rob went in the next day, put in a bolt by the rock bridge and descended the rope to the knot.  From that point, dangling in the void, using a nife cell with a 50m beam he was unable to make out the floor or the fourth wall of the shaft.  Otherwise the rope hung 2m from one wall and about 6m from the other two walls.  With water at about 0OC splashing all over him he was extremely cold - "nearest to death I've ever come," he later recounted.  Perhaps it was fortunate for him that the rope had been too short to roach the bottom. Chris and I had continued the survey along to Batchelorschacht.  In the Vesta Run we met a white faced Rob who said he did not want to speak about the pitch yet.  However, he had managed to take some bearings in Erasmic Chasmic.  These, together with the Vesta Run survey information, showed that the cave had left the fault at the bottom of the Marlow Staircase and had begun to trend down dip, to the south.  About half of Erasmic lies parallel to the fault and the final shaft, now named Ben Dors Schacht, appears to be a huge rift, also parallel with the Barengasse fault.

 

 

As the Horsham contingent and Trev were due to leave in a few days the de-rigging of C51 began immediately.  This took three trips into the cave, but was all completed fairly easily, except for the interruption of a little Schnaps, which put most people out of action for 24 hours. If rumours of what happened on the night of the Schnaps have leaked back to Mendip then believe me, they are all true (haven't I said that somewhere before?).

The main obstacle to exploration this year was the weather.  Unusually large amounts of snow followed by much sunshine, and the occasional storm, meant that even heavy drip in the cave was a force to be reckoned with. Further exploration, going beyond Ben Dors Schacht, may possible require dry conditions (cries of Nein, zwei, Dumbkopf!) such as obtain in the winter, when all precipitation is frozen.  Plans for a winter expedition are currently being considered.  The summer situation on the Dachstein plateau is presently worsening.  The glacier, unlike those in other parts of Europe, is advancing, and it may be that snow will tend to lie about until later into the summer in future years, meaning more melt water underground.

Explorations into Barengasse this year, though limited, can certainly be reckoned as successful with the passing of 1000 feet, the proof that the cave is at least 400 metres deep and the evidence that it is part of a big system hopefully destined to go yet deeper and much further.  The potential is over 900m.  It may be that one day it will be found to lead to the glacial melt water river, although the chances of negotiating a passage containing such a maelstrom of water as resurges at Waldbach Ursprung seem remote.

Other sites

While walking up the large scree slopes to the north of Taubon Kogel, a big entrance was noted at the top of the slope in the base of a high, sheer, westward facing cliff on the north face. However, it is a long slog to reach it and there are plenty of other unexplored, more accessible sites.

C38 is now blocked a couple of metres down and some kind of hauling arrangement will have to be made before it can be explored.  It is perhaps significant that the entrance was open, though a 3m snow bank towered above it.  There must be a reasonable outward draught.  Stu had already measured this shaft last year and found it to be at least 25m deep.

A little to the west of the NW end of the Grosse Schmalzgrube doline is a much smaller, elongated doline, also aligned with the faults.  Towards the SE end of this, at the NE edge, is C65, a low bedding with a cool outward draught.  (This was found on a very hot day - the draught may be less noticeable in cooler conditions).

Some previously discovered sites needed relocating on the master map of the area.  C58 and C59 had been marked in Schladrningerloch instead of in Grosse Schmalzgrube, due to some shorthand confusion last year.  The error was found when the sites were rediscovered during a climbing/trundling session one evening.  Two other 'new' sites turned out to be caves discovered in 1979, and after some careful surface measurements C9, C10 and C11 were all relocated much closer to Ochsenwiesalm.  C9 caused much confusion as one entrance had become completely blocked while the two others had merged into one due to rock fall; furthermore it was much deeper than the previously estimated depth of 18m.  C10 was also deeper than originally calculated, being 12m at its deepest accessible point.

Several sites were noted during our frequent walks through Barengasse.  Those on the NE side, where there is not much promise as the dip is towards the valley, proved to be only rock shelters.  The SW edge of the valley is a cliff and the sites there will only be reached by climbing or abseiling.  However, these latter are marc likely to lead into something significant.

South of Wildkar Kogel and not far from the Simony Hutte seilbahn shed is C69.  A small entrance at the base of a low cliff leads to a boulder-floored chamber.  The cave is about 7m long, 4m wide at the most and rises at the back to about 4m high. West from here was C68, a shaft dropping to a snow pile and slope after 10m, followed by a further shaft which has not been explored.

200m ESE of the Wicsberghaus Chris found a small doline with a narrow rift winding across the bottom to disappear into a crevice with a chamber beyond.  After much work Stu enlarged the crevice.  The floor of the chamber was boulders poised above a pitch. The route down the pitch is presently rather narrow, and a large key boulder needs removing.  The site is designated C66.

Fredi, from the Wiesberghaus, showed us a site within 100m of the hut, high in the SW cliff of Berrengasse.  C67 is also a rift, almost filled with snow except at its western end.  At this point it is roofed over and is 2m wide, 4m high and 10m below the surface.  It quickly narrows, lowers and bends to the left, beyond which point it has not been pushed.


 

Manor Farm Dig

an article by John Watson

Manor Farm is still going strong after nine months of digging.   The way on is in a semi choked passage which emits a slight draught. Situated at the far end of the cave just before the climb up to the final aven, a choked pit was excavated to a depth of 12ft to breakthrough into a horizontal passage which, although open has been too small to omit anything of human proportions.  The initial digging team consisted of Ian (Wormhole) Caldwell, Trefor Roberts, Bob Cross, Bob Hill, Tim Large and L.S. of the Pegasus, who was persuaded on one of his less frequent visits to Mendip to miss the lunchtime session at the Hunters for a more worthwhile cause.

The passage although small is potentially of very acceptable proportions but a wormhole policy was adopted in the hope of a quick breakthrough. (NB. Ian Caldwell has been renamed Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because of the nature of the dig). Within a few weekends the first bend was reached, excitement grew as an enlargement could be seen and was entered the following weekend.  The passage was a disappointing 15' flat out crawl sloping down to a semi-choked hole. The dig now seemed very long term mainly because of the lack of room for dumping spoil and attention was reluctantly turned away from the terminal choke in order to enlarge the existing passage. With this done the choke was again attacked with renewed enthusiasm until the way on became barred by a calcite squeeze which thwarted all attempts at demolition by conventional methods. However by squeezing a head through a continuation could be seen with no end in sight, Dr Nobel’s Linctus would clearly be needed if any progress was to be made.  Here we turned to Tim Large for help and after an inspection he deemed it a worthwhile cause.  A midweek trip was made, the party consisting of Tim Large, Ian Caldwell, Trefor Roberts, Axel Knutson, Quackers and myself.  A careful descent was made Trefor continually cringing at the slightest bang of an ammo can.  Tim placed the explosives and the rest of us retired to a safe distance.  After a successful detonation a quick exit was made and at the request of the farmer the cave closed until the weekend.

The following Saturday the damage was inspected and after an hour’s digging the squeeze was demolished and the roof made safe by the application of the boot.  An upwards sloping squeeze led to 10' of passage to end in the inevitable choke, the way on being blocked by boulders, extraction of which would cause major problems.

Digging faded – but after a break of a few months a renewed attack has been made.  The choke has been removed and 10ft of semi choked passage can now be seen.  The initial passage has now been enlarged to allow room for digging spoil.  The total length of the extension is about 50ft+ thus every fact gained from here on is a foot towards the digging barrel.  We need all the help we can muster so if you've a spare few hours’s come along and help.

More Notices

Annual general meeting – the ballot forms for the new Committee election will have already been put into the post when this BB arrives through the letterbox.  Pleas make sure that your form is correctly filled in with your name and number.  Send them back to Tim Large as soon a possible at 53 Portway, Wells, Somerset.

A novice caver on the return trip form GB collapsed and died at the foot of the upper of the two climbs in Mud Passage recently.  He was from Bristol and suffered a heart attack; he was 33 years old.

Tratman Award. The Tratman Award is funded from the surplus which was left over after the 7th international Speleo Congress in 1977. The aim of the award is to encourage higher standards in the literature of British Speleology.  Any published material is eligible and will be judges by the Awards Committee of the Ghar Parau Foundation.  The subject material is of no importance and therefore very wide ranging.

Ghar Perau Foundation Awards.  The closing date for the 1981 award claims is 1st February 1981.  Details and application forms may be obtained from Dave Judson, Bethel Green, Calderbrook, Littleborough, Lancs., OL15 9ND.

Pant Mawr Pot - records this year show that the water during last winter rose up to 70ft above the normal sump level.


 

Vercours, South West France

by Graham Wilton-Jones and Chris Smart

After leaving the Dachstein Stu, Rob, Chris and Graham travelled via the spectacular limestone scenery of the Dolomites and Gran Paradiso to join the WCC in the Vercours.  Many thanks to all those who allowed us to horn in on their trips, their meals, their wine and their camp-site.

Our first trip was into the show cave of Choranche.  This is but a small piece of the extensive Coufin-Chevaline system, and is one of the most beautiful show caves we have visited.  Its chief feature is the entrance chamber, shaped like the inside of a huge flying saucer, with much of the floor occupied by a lake and the roof covered with thousands of densely packed, white straws, in places obscuring the roof.

In the evening we joined Pete and Alison, Chris Milne and Annie, and. Al Keen for a trip into the Bournillon.  Inside the enormous entrance, 100m high, which features in Waltham’s books, the way divides.  The main passage is straight ahead, traversing along screes and then across a small footbridge.  The upper passage is reached by climbing up the boulder slope inside the entrance arch to a smaller entrance beyond which darkness is finally gained. The bore passage gradually degenerates to a well marked route, reminiscent of Goatchurch, down through boulders into a wide bedding, with pools on the floor.  Straight forward into a narrow rift and then up led us into the huge, main passage.  First we went further into the cave as far as the lake/sump, which you could easily stumble into, the water is so clear and still.  Returning, the passage took us by great, black stals (the Black Village) over clean washed boulders, some bigger than trucks, and into a stal-ed area of pebbles and pools at the main entrance.  The cave takes water from some 30km away and must be an impressive resurgence in time of flood, particularly as large sections of the cave flood in less than five minutes.  Fortunately for us Herr Blitz did not put on his show until the night, when he succeeded in creating heavy rain and thunderstorms over most of Europe.

When things began to dry out the following day we all drove off into the woods to find the Scialet (pothole) de Malaterre.  The 50m daylight shaft has a bridge across the top for tourists to gawp and for cavers to throw dangerous boulders from or to use as a belay.  Five of us descended to the ledge, comparing Bluewater with the new Marlow SRT rope, and Graham went off to explore some side passages.  For some reason none of us would go down the next 50m from the ledge, and we satisfied ourselves with races back to the top.

On our final day we went into the Gournier, just around the cliff from Coufin-Chevaline and also overlooking the village of Choranche, where we were staying.  The cave begins as a 70m long lake.  Half way along this it is possible to climb out of the water and traverse along and upwards to the start of the upper passage.  A ladder was hung from here so that most of us could avoid the traverse.  All of us wore wet suits to swim across the lake except Blitz, who put his dry grots into a sealed poly-sack and braved the cold with little but a smile.

The Gournier is noted for its gours, and these begin straight away at the top of the ladder. The passage quickly enlarges into a square section tunnel, tens of metres high and wide.  In some places there are almost level sections with gours formed right across the width of the passage, while in other places there is extensive rock-fall, including some huge blocks.  It is easy to miss some of the large stalagmites, so vast is the passage and so often does the way thread low down among enormous boulders. Gradually the passage rises as it heads steadily into the massif, and at four points there is access to the lower, streamway passage.  We took the second access to this and made our way upstream.  After an initial low, sumpy looking area the stream comes down in a series of beautiful cascades in a high rift, averaging 2m wide with roof frequently out of sight.  In many places there are deep pools to be passed and the French have rigged numerous traverse lines of thick, galvanised wire above these.  Some distance up the stream a high waterfall is reached and the right hand wall is bedecked with traverse wires and ropes for a very exposed route to the top.  Not far beyond we came to a region of inlets and an enormous aven whose top could not even be guessed with two mega carbides on super-burn.  Apparently the inlets give access to passage at the top of aven and this continues on into the massif for the same distance again, via a number of sumps.  Clearly it is an exacting trip to the far reaches, and the porterage of diving and scaling equipment beyond where we had gone made the traverse lines essential. As mere tourists we were able to swim back through some of the pools as we pleased, and made fairly rapid progress back to the exit, the sunshine, the bar and the horse stew.