The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset Telephone: Wells (0149) 72126

Editor: G. Wilton-Jones

Bassett’s Notes

COUNTY CLARE, EIRE, EASTER 1983.  This very successful meet is only just over.  Many members forsook South Wales to visit the land of Guinness at £l.00 per pint and petrol at £2.79 a gallon.  Even the falling Pund failed to cut the cost much, but a good time was had by all in spite of the cost.  Some stayed at Peg McCarthy's cottage (first used as a cavers' cottage back in 1962 when a mixed party of B.E.C., Wessex and Shepton stayed there) some went for the better endowed quarters at Kilshanny, and yet others braved the rain, hail, wind and snow (yes, SNOW) and camped by Doolin Strand. We were all received by the O'Connors as old friends.

Many pints were consumed (though Colin Dooley failed to beat his 1971 record of 24 pints in one day and 163 pints in a. week) and, believe it or riot, a great deal of caving was done.

Pete Glanvill & Co. discovered a rather fine extension to the little visited 'Cave of the Wild Horses' (no doubt an article will be forthcoming).  While Pollnagollum - Poulelva and St. Catherines - Fisherstreet saw the usual vast numbers of cavers.  Wormhole got lost again - but then so did most other people at one time or another.  Bolt discovered the joys of a peat fire, and Hannah the dog had the time of her life, plus a few of Mrs. McCarthy's chickens.

Gussie O'Connor has told everyone that there a big reunion next Easter - 72 hours of Guinness and plenty of floor space in the intervals – should there be any.

SIDCOT SWALLET. Andy Sparrow and his men are digging at the bottom of the cave, and have excavated into a phreatic tunnel.  Progress is slow but steady.  In usual sparrow-style, Andy says he won't write anything until there is more to write about (by which time it will not be news say I.)   Perhaps I can get someone to extract his notes from the Club log.


 

The Bec Get Everywhere - Mexico '82 Expedition

Now it can be told - where the Wart money went and why you all got conned into buying expensive car stickers, but first our thanks must go those who did contribute to the trip and our commiserations to those who didn't (the ancient Maya curse we discovered should strike you as these lines are read!).

For those not in the picture the Expedition consisted of cavers from essentially the Leeds/Bradford, Manchester/Stockport and Mendip areas plus a few odds and sods from foreign parts and Syd Perou's film crew of seven.  This made about thirty in all though with members arriving and leaving at different times this was fairly flexible.  The BEC contingent was made up of Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Tony Jarratt, several hundred "Bertie" stickers and the Belfry Battle Flag.

The organisation of the trip had taken some two years with a large amount of fund raising, obtaining sponsorship from firms and writing for permission to work in our chosen area. The bulk of our caving and camping equipment was dispatched by sea in September of 1982.  The freight shipping firm of Schenkers did this (and much more) for us gratis.  Without their extremely generous aid and assistance it is doubtful if the Expedition would have succeeded.

Our chosen caving area was centred on the town of San Cristobal de las Casas in the forested highlands of Chiapas-Mexico's southern border state with Guatemala.  This is an area of hundreds of square miles of limestones and volcanic rocks reaching about 10,000 feet altitude and, in the San Cristobal area, giving a depth potential of some 5,000 feet.  This heavily forested area had been  previously looked at by only a handful of cavers - mainly American and Anglo - Canadian teams, though a couple of expeditions by Italians and Belgians had also taken place.   A half down large and generally very wet systems had been surveyed and the local show cave, Grutas de San Cristobal, was known to be over two miles long and with open passages leading on. Three of our original group had visited the area in 1981 on a reconnaissance trip and had been very impressed.

The main body of the team left England at the end of November planning to meet up with several lads who had left a couple of weeks earlier to bring down two vehicles from California.

A series of teething troubles occurred almost immediately starting with our discovery on arrival at Mexico City airport that one of the Mexican internal airlines had gone on strike (just like home).  The other airlines were unable to land at Tuxtla in Chaipas due to low cloud and British Airways had lost six of our personals rucksacks - not to appear until over three weeks later!  After a narrowly avoided international incident or two at the airport, two vehicles were hired and we set off on the 800 mile drive south. One of these left the airport late at night and after a FIVE hour drive through a surprisingly well populated Mexico its occupants were somewhat dismayed to arrive back at the airport! With a population of 14 million - most of whom seem to be trainee stock car racers - Mexico City is sporting to say the least.

Many tales could be told of the adventures of our two car loads in the next day or so but to save space a mere pint in the Hunter's will ensure that those interested get the full story.  Our arrival at San Cristobal revealed more stragglers lurking in a local bar.  Two Yanks, a Dutchman, a Kiwi and a couple of émigré English cavers had gathered together and taken over a local cheap hotel.  This was necessary as our camping gear was still in the hands of the Mexican customs and would be there for at least another week! We joined them and settled into an acclimatisation programme of drinking, eating and sight-seeing in the town - an incredibly colourful spot and the market place for several local Indian tribes.  It is possible to buy practically anything here (including Armadillo handbags) and much of our British purchased food, clothes and essentials could have been obtained much cheaper locally.  One of the team compared the town with Katmandu for its colourful local folk costumes and general atmosphere - and the inevitable American tourists.

Eventually our gear arrived and camp was established just outside the town in a field full of delightful hairy caterpillars.  They were our first encounter with Mexico's exciting fauna.  The charming little furry bastards gave a nasty acid burn when touched and were fond of down sleeping bags!  At last we could go caving.  This second nasty shock was accepted as inevitable and so off we trooped into the nearby show cave to get some idea of what we were in for.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Essentially a mile and half of huge dry passage and fantastically decorated chambers with a temperature of 20 C. (68 F.) made up for all those Eastwater trips last year.   We soon ditched our furry suits and nylon overalls and took to shirts and shorts for most trips here.  During the next two months many visits to this system were undertaken but only one minor extension was made despite a lot of searching in side passages and in the roof.  The big problem here was that the un-surveyed mile long extension to the cave lay beyond a long static sump that was only passable in drought.  Local weather conditions had changed somewhat since the recent eruption of the El Chicon volcano only thirty miles and the sump obstinately refused to drain.  Our lack of diving gear first made itself painfully obvious in this cave. 

Several of the team turned their attentions to the hills and plateau above the town - between the show cave and its presumed resurgence some 10 miles away and about 5,000 feet lower. About fifty caves and shafts were descended up to depths of 300 feet but rewarded us with nothing but a tarantula called Stanley and a story for John "Lugger" Thorpe to tell in the Craven Heifer.  While checking out a rock-shelter he came face to face with a mountain lion which luckily decided that Lugger would be a particularly small and unpleasant mouthful and ambled on.

Some of the others were not quite so fortunate.  A large cave had been found some miles away in the territory of a local Maya Indian tribe. Permission had been asked of the nearest local who had no objections.  It seems that the rest of the tribe did have and on their second visit the lads were taken prisoner by over fifty Indians armed with machetes and sticks and told that "two lives"and a heavy fine were required. Our brown trousered colleagues rapidly turned out their pockets and were only slightly relieved to realise that "two lives" was bad English for “two hostages".  After a long one-sided argument they were released and, like Lugger, escaped without being eaten.

With little materialising in our chosen area a breakaway team decided to follow up some rumours heard from a Mexican oil rig boss and did some prospecting in the Las Margaritas area some 70 miles south east and closer to the Guatemalan border.  This area was much lower than San Cristobal and gave no hope of a world depth record but had potential for long and interesting systems.

Many superb caves were explored over some four weeks of visits – almost all of these being shown to us by a young Mexican fanner - Oscar Jimenez.  Though not a caver Oscar invariably knew which holes were open, blocked, large or small and accompanied us underground on several surveying trips. With his permanent grin and one word of English -"sweat" - he was a great asset and was paid by us the going rate for a day's work (about 70p and as many fags as he could smoke).  On our first visit he even insisted that ten of us sleep in his house.  This was a wooden building about the same size as the East Somerset hut and also the home of a large turkey which Ian "Watto" Watsom unknowingly used as a pillow.  The local village dogs soon began to appreciate our presence.  Never before had they been stroked or given saucepans full of cremated curried rice.  Equally delighted were several small boys who became plastered in "Bertie" stickers and learnt several useful English phrases.  In return we got invited to the village New Year's piss up and discovered the art of distilling instant brain damage.  After a few glasses of "Traco" their arms curled up and became useless as total body failure set in.  Thank God they wouldn't serve us with it in the bar.

Back to the caves. This beautifully forested locality contained several fragments of an ancient drainage system.  All were large, fairly extensive and packed with superb but generally dead formations.  Broken Indian pottery was found in all of these and it would seem that they were once used as water collecting sites, though they are now very dry.  Vampire bats and hand-sized spiders inhabited these caves and a large wooden cross in a particularly eerie and not easily accessible chamber added to the spice of exploration.

Two completely unvisited swallet caves were pushed here and both were very spectacular.  The wetter of the two was extremely sporting and the other was notable for its steep water sculpted ramp passages and sticky white mud. Despite their initial promise both sumped after a few hundred feet and the huge resurgence 15 miles away was also a disappointment.  An entrance over 100ft wide and 60 ft high dropped instantly to a static sump.  The large river emerging from boulders a hundred yards below this cave must flow through a major system but again diving gear or a bit more luck with the sinks would be needed t o gain access.

Other large caves in the area were surveyed and a couple not visited due problems with permission to work in the area which caused us to reluctantly leave here.

A brief trip to the La Trinitaria area, a couple of hours drive from Las Margaritas provided us with one of the smallest but most novel caves visited.  A thirty foot pitch dropped into a 200 foot long low chamber the floor of which was strewn with over a hundred human skulls and many limb bones. A lack of smaller bones and the presence of many heaps of ashes indicated that before interment these bodies had been cremated.  Little could be found at the time to enlighten us as to the age and archaeological importance of these remains but a piece of skull was retrieved for Carbon 14 analysis.  Many photographs were taken of this strange and rather unnerving underground cemetery - including the inevitable "Alas poor Yorick" snaps!

While exploration in these areas continued to give us fairly moderately sized but worthwhile rewards another team had commenced work in the San Lucas/El Zapotal area at the foot of the massif below San Cristobal.  Resurgences were believed to drain the high plateau and several fine caves were discovered and explored.

The enormous entrance chamber of Borohuiz (Cave of the Jaguar) proved to be a religious site for the area's Indian population and had its own semi-pagan legend.  Anyone entering the right hand passage below the vast entrance would "speak with God".  Those daring to explore the dark left hand passage were therefore going to "speak with the Devil" and he who was rash enough to stand in the beam of sunlight boring into the entrance chamber would undoubtedly be struck down for his effrontery.  We laughed at this as well but anyone who has read the papers recently may have noticed the occasional item concerning Syd Perou and several other members laid up in a Mexican hospital with severe histoplasmosis!!

The cause of this dreaded disease lay, we suspect, in a different, nearby cave which contained vast heaps of dusty guano deposited by its resident vampire bat population. Giving the affected caver a really horrible dose of fever, dehydration, nausea, difficulty in breathing and general debility this occasionally fatal illness is a high risk possibility in caves of the tropical one.

(Doctor's note:  The organism causing the disease is a kind of fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, which causes its symptoms after inhalation of its spores from infected guano.  Normally the illness presents as a form of chest infection but in a considerable percentage of individuals there may be no symptoms in the affected person.   The only way to diagnose exposure and infection then is to perform a simple skin test.)

Being under the protection of the Bat God the BEC contingent had been kept from visiting this cave and survived to carry on with the exploration of a neighbouring system  and the major find of the Expedition - Veshtucoc".

Following some heroic free-diving by Dave "Grotty" Gill a mega stream passage had been found with a couple of vast chambers comparable to those in the large French systems.  A series of visits had led to the exploration of a mile of passage, including a second free-diveable sump and terminating in a third, deep looking pool.  Our only diving equipment being one mask this was taken down and attached to Bob Cork who, after a very committing free dive of about 15 feet emerged to discover a major extension.  Further trips here gained almost another mile and a half of really impressive cave.  A section of inclined and heavily water sculpted stream passage over a thousand feet long was the highlight.  Time being short this system was surveyed and left with eleven possible ways on. Should those left ill in Mexico recover enough to continue exploration here it is almost certain that major extensions will be found.

Other caves visited included "El Chorricadero" - arguably the world's most sporting through trip.  This high and narrow river cave bores down through a mountain for a mile and a half and to a depth of 1400 feet.  Requiring only a hundred foot rope for half a dozen pitches the majority of the system is traversed right in the river.  Progress is generally made by leaping up to 15 feet into deep flooded potholes and by swimming along canals where a lifejacket is almost a necessity (at least for the non-swimmer).  Just to cap it all on emerging from the resurgence the knackered caver is greeted by a flock of optimistic vultures.

Fringe activities kept us amused when not caving though only a relatively small amount of boozing took place (honest).  Vicente Kramsky, pioneer local caver and professional photographer, gave us much assistance and a superb slide show.  Tourist attractions and shopping trips were enjoyed by all and a trickle of Mexican and foreign visitors added to the cosmopolitan flavour of the camp site. Much more could be written on the trip and everyone has their own favourite tales but no doubt these will be retold in the pub until you are all bored to tears.  An expedition report with surveys, photos etc. is planned and Syd Perou's film of the trip should be on Channel 4 by October.

As a conclusion I must say that everyone who went would return to Mexico.  Once there it is cheap to live and there's enough cave to be found to last for years. In my opinion the '82 Expedition was a great success and has paved the way for future British teams.  Don’t leave it all for the Yanks - start saving now!

Tony Jarratt  March 1983


 

Up The Wadi

This story begins 12 years ago two weeks after Wookey 22 was discovered.  If you look through the CDG N/L’s for this time you will find that John Parker, Tim Reynolds, and Bryan Woodward explored an Eastwater type ascending rift passage for 200 feet before getting fed up – not that the passage closed down or became too tight.  However, inexplicably, the passage was never re-examined and the rest of the work in 22 was dedicated to finding the way on underwater.  This was eventually achieved after another five years of effort.

When I started diving in Wookey I started to look through old CDC N/L/s and found the reference to this passage.  On my first trip to 22 I failed to spot it, and on subsequent trips I was usually on the way through to 24.  Even a photographic trip to 22 in October last year failed to turn up anything except a minor grotty loop passage.  However on a trip to 24 in December to retrieve gear from the push in 25, I happened to have a few minutes to spare whilst passing through.  I decided to take a look at water level at the far end of the 22 sump pool where this passage was reported to exist.  To my delight there was a passage hidden from casual gaze and from anybody looking across the 22 rift by a rock flake extending to only a few feet from the water.

I wrote to Trevor Hughes in January suggesting we dived to 22 and had a look at the passage. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it and I had to put off the trip.  In the meantime he and Rob Harper, the original acrobatic cave-diving team, were busy on a bolt climb up an aven in 22.  They had high hopes of linking it to Halloween Rift (see last N/L) but on a trip in late January found it closed down.  Feeling a little disappointed they decided to take a look at the 'passage’ on the way out.

The approach is entertaining because the rift slopes at thirty degrees and is covered by contoured mud which looks like rock.  Apart from the pseudo rock there are also some mud stals. which Trev found out about when he tried to pull himself out of the water on one.  After getting out of the sump pool our gallant explorers then scrambled up the slope for a hundred feet or so whilst carefully avoiding the loose boulders liberally scattered about the place.  At the top of the slope they entered an eighteen inch wide strike passage leading off in a northerly direction.  The roof of the passage was limestone and the floor dolomitic conglomerate.  It was muddy and awkward but not difficult sand after a hundred feet of progress they found a diver's knife.  The original explorer' footprints stopped soon after with the strike passage stretching away into the darkness.  However clever Trevor spotted a hole at the top of the passage at this point and disappeared up it like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe probably showering loose pebbles on Rob as he did so.  A short squeeze at the top led to a spot where Trev could stop and admire the view - the view being the limestone roof rearing vertically and butted against the horizontally bedded conglomerate.  Beyond this unconformity a low crawl in the conglomerate led off.  This was dubbed Cam Valley Crawl in deference to Trevor’s Morris Dancing interests.  C.V.C. winds for 100 feet through several low sections and muddy pools before ending abruptly in a cross rift.  The daring duo descended the rift - something of a wetsuit snagger - to reach another flat out crawl about 10 feet long.  This opened into a larger rift which dropped away into the darkness. A fairly easy free climb led to a two foot ledge scattered with more loose boulders which required some gardening before climbing could be continued.  Below the explorers a large passage could be seen and this was quickly reached by an exposed straddle and traverse along to an easy climb down a mud bank.  Rob did it without a light and only discovered the exposure on the way back! A quick examination of the passage at the bottom of the climb (about 60 feet vertically below CVC) and it was realised that CVC had linked 22 to the far end of 23.  Needless there was much jubilation.  In case you are wondering where the strike passage went it closed down after about 100 feet in stal. obstructions.  However its position suggest it may repay more attention.

Currently attention is being directed towards finding a by-pass to the 23-24 sumps because, at present, although CVC bypasses 300 feet of sump it is a preferable alternative to carrying a bottle through to do the short 25-24 sumps.  Incidentally, if you are not a confident climber I recommend you carry a ladder through the sumps to tackle the final 25 foot climb down into Wookey 23.  A rescue from here would be interesting from many points of view!

The extension was almost completely surveyed by Peter Glanvill and Jim Durston in late February and a few photographs have been taken.  The discrepancies thrown up by the survey meant that 22 probably needs to be re-surveyed!

Tips for future dives in the area

There are still two questions to be answered about 22.  The first is “Where does the Axe enter?" and the second is "Does Edmunds' rift exist?".  As regards the Axe, as far as the boulder pile at the bottom of 22 a current is detectable especially in high water conditions.  This is puzzling because Parker is supposed to have ruled out the sump pool as blind.  However he did make a mistake over the other sump pool so perhaps there are ways on. This is suggested by Colin Edmunds find in the early seventies when he dived to the left of the boulder pile and reported emerging in a rift which was not 22.  Like the passage leading to CVC this was never mentioned again in the CDG literature.

If such a rift exists it might provide a route further along the unconformity and might even provide a clue to what happens to the Axe between 24 and 21.

PS

Why “Up the wadi"? Well, at the unconformity it has been suggested one is at the edge of a big fossil wadi (dry stream bed which was out through the limestone and later in filled by scree cemented into a conglomerate.  Geology lesson over.

Peter Glanvill

Donation                      Top Hut Fund from Brian Prewer   £10.00.

Quote Of The Issue

Brenda Wilton on awakening one morning in Ireland:-  "12 years wasted. I'm married to a pillock".


 

Letters To The Editor

Skipton,
Linton Falls,
N. Yorks.

Dear Ed.,

An insertion in the next B.B. would be appreciated, informing ANY B.E.C. members who are participating in the Yorkshire w/end on the 25.5.83, that we have arranged a party to coincide with this.  All are very welcome.  Please bring sleeping bags - beds are limited but floor space is not.  There is a field for camping, and a leaky caravan, (not to mention a large dog kennel!).  Some indication, from one of our contacts down your way, as to numbers, would help, as this will obviously affect the size of the barrel!!!

Thanks,

John and Sue Riley.

I presume John and Sue mean 21.5.83 - the Birks Fell & Roaring Hole w/end.

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

Dear Ed,

I enjoyed immensely the humorous recollections of an 'Incident at Lamb Leer' on page 4 of BB No 417. As I recall the incident is basically correct and I am very grateful to Martin for drawing my attention to the error.  At the time I was trying to do about six things at once to organise tackle at the head of the pitch.  So it just shows that however long you may have been using any item of equipment you can never relax your concentration.  What is it they say 'More haste less speed!; familiarity breeds contempt!’.  I am sure I will not be the only one in this situation and hope that this can act as a reminder to all members.

Happy Descending

Tom Big


 

The Boys Of The Hill

Sung to the tune of "Boys of Fairhill" (Irish Ballad)

Lads and lasses come with me
To the village of Priddy
In the heart of Mendips on top of the hill
Have a drink in the Hunters pub
There you'll meet the caving clubs
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill

Cavers come from miles around
On Saturday nights they'll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill
The Shepton brood, the RSC
The Wessex and the MCG
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill

Why not stop and have a jar
In that fine old flagstone bar
There's plenty of barrels of Roger's good ale
Why not try the Butcombe brew
That's the stuff for me end you
We'll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill

In the back room you will find
Music there of every kind
New songs and old songs that they sing there still
Some's all right and some are good
Some are downright rude and crude
Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill

Bodhrans rattle singers sing
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill
Simon's on the Melodion
Aren't we all say the Boys of the Hill
Tony Jarratt’s drunk again

Lads and lasses come with me
To the village of Priddy
In the heart of Mendips on top of the hill
Had a drink in the Hunters pub
There they met the caving clubs
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill


 

Cam Valley Passage

The finding of this particular piece of Wookey Hole's open air-filled passage was really the combination of a couple of factors:-

( a ) Pete Glanvill mentioning an old diving log to Trevor Hughes,

( b ) OCL mentioning the same to me.

Now all should be made slightly less murky.

Trevor Hughes (hereinafter known as Biffo since his Austrian nickname of Der Grosse Dumkof, whilst more apt is a bit clumsy) and I had been prospecting in the Wookey 22 and 24 for high level passages for some time.  On the 18th November 1982 we were forced to halt a 24 trip in 22 for various logistic reasons.  Having time, as well as mud, on our hands we had a look at all the side passages that we could find.  The upshot of this was a couple of hundred feet of oxbow passage that had been found by Pete Glanvill a couple of weeks before and a pair of large avens above the sump at the far end of 22 just disappearing up off into the gloom, one of which was issuing a healthy trickle of water.  Do not rearrange these words, having seen the surface I would not like to hear it misquoted as a trickle of healthy water.

Excitement ran high and plans were hastily laid for a return trip.  I cannot remember which caving book I cribbed that phrase from (a pint for the first correct identification – Ed).  Thus on the 28th we dove back.  Biffo had a bit of a problem on the way in but we managed about 15' of the climb before the imminent arrival of the flickering lights syndrome at the forced a retreat to the Hunters

Sunday 23rd January after an unforgivably late start we trekked in, (actually we dived in but the word dive and its permutations will get a bit overworked in this article if I'm not careful).  The first and easier of the two avens was climbed using 4 or 5 bolts plus some epic free climbing at the top by Biffo and found to close down at about 110' above water level.  Not, in fact, heading straight for Halloween Rift in easy walking, sandy-floored passage as had been hoped.

Having been disappointed by this climb ("Genghis' Revenge") we then looked at the next one ("The Mongol Hordes Information Office") and look was all we did.  It's the sort of climb that keeps you awake at night just thinking about it.

Dry mouthed and suitably chastened we pushed on back from this merciless environment.

To digress slightly, casting back over 10 years to 1971, John Parker, Tim Reynolds and Brian Woodward during their second trip to the newly discovered Wookey 22, climbed out of the Northerly end of the sump pool to enter what they described as an Eastwater type passage which they followed for about 100' before getting "fed up".  It was obviously of no significance as the main way on appeared to be the large static pool at the far end of the enormous phreatic main passage.  Subsequent events are now part of caving history and folklore, the repeated dives by Parker, Farr, Edmunds, Stevenson and others with Colin Edmunds eventually finding a small ascending tube from the bottom of the static pool but running out of line before he could break surface.  Finally in 1976 Geoff Yeadon and Oliver 'Bear' Statham carrying on from the end to surface in 23 whence three short sumps led to the magnificent Wookey 24.

This small 'Eastwater-type' passage had fascinated OCL for a number of years and he had mentioned it to me a few days before this dive.  Also, possibly a case of great minds etc but probably just coincidence, Pete Glanvill had mentioned it to Biffo in one of his many letters.

Back to the 23rd Jan.

Just before we set off for home Biffo suggested that we go and have a look for this passage.  I had spotted what appeared to be the entrance on the 28/11/82 trip.  Accordingly we swam to the end of the pool (why do they always seem colder when you're swimming than when you're diving?) and slipped and slithered our way up about 60' from the water to the start of a passage that did indeed strongly resemble the Traverse in Eastwater.  At first we took different levels but were both soon forced into the bottom.  The total length of this passage was about 300' and it got gradually tighter and tighter, until even the Moodies would have had to turn back.  By the time that I had been as far as I could go and started to put helmet and cell back on (in this passage it's difficult to keep body and cell together) B had long since disappeared up a tightsih, trenchish passage to the roof.  I could hear shouts, screams, bangs etc so I knew that everything was O.K.  Moments later, an excited Biffo invited me to accompany him to the further regions of this particular section of merciless environment.  I have had more gracious invitations, QUOTE:-" For f***’s Rob. Come and have a look at this f****r. It’s still f*****g going!!" Who could resist such a blandishment? Slugging up the passage to the roof I found a low phreatic tube, and no sign of my erstwhile companion.  He had disappeared again; calling me after him (I was really quite lucky, he called his cat after someone called Nellie!).  A short section of easy crawling led to a tight vertical squeeze over and through mud at the bottom of a 6' long section of rift, then more low phreatic passage to the head of a pitch.  This pitch was a tight vertical rift very similar to the Cuthbert’s' Entrance Rift but in very sharp conglomerate.  Then 12' of bedding plane, 15 to 18' of pitch down to a ledge from which the exciting gleam of water could be seen.  A hairy traverse and another 15' free climb took us down into the 23 streamway.  A quick look up and down and then out to find that the Hunters last orders had been missed. However we managed to arrange a 'carry-out' so it was not an entirely wasted day.

Since then the passage has-been surveyed and further trips have been made and more are planned in order to see whether it will be possible to get a dry connection to 24 all the way. Signs are promising.

Further plans include a really thorough search of the known airspaces particularly 12 and 13.  We both feel that in the headlong rush to dive the terminal sumps, much may have been missed en route.  Also there is the tantalising prospect of where, if anywhere does Halloween Rift enter the system, or to be more correct as H.R. is thought to be an old outflow, where does the system enter Halloween Rift. Several possibilities have been tried but the most promising ones so far are:-

(i)                  "The Mongol Hordes Information Office" - Gulp!!!

(ii)                An aven just upstream of the static sump connecting 22 to 23 (there's a contradiction in terms for you) which we climbed to a height of about 70 to 80'.  At this point a tight squeeze gives access to the bottom of a boulder pile which will almost certainly need an application of Nobels Amazing Rock Remover if further progress is to be made.

References:-

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No. 66 - Jan 1983

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No. 19 - 1971

CAVE DIVING GROUP Newsletter No. 39 - 1976

B. Woodward - Pers. - 1983

R. Palmer - Sunday 10 – 1982

Acknowledgements:-

1.         Cave Diving Group for permission to reprint.

2.         All those who have helped either directly or indirectly by loaning their kit i.e.,

Martin Bishop

Bob Cork

Quackers

3.         Wookey Hole Caves

4.         Chris Batstone for selfless heroism.  Despite never having been to Wookey 22, he stayed in the Hunters long after his-normal going home time on the night that we were late just in case we needed help.


 

Meets List, May To July

Date     Trip                               Details                                                             Contact

 

30.4.83             Devon                           Visits to all major caves plus some diving M. Grass

until                                                     

  2.5.83

  6.5.83             Friday Niters’                 Mystery Tour (by the sound of it)             B. Prewer

20.5.83             Swildons                       Black Hole Friday Niters’                                    B. Prewer

21.5.83             Birks Fell Cave              Yorkshire w/end, staying at                                 M. Grass

22.5.83             Roaring Hole                  Bradford P.C. Hut

28.5.83             Pant Mawr                     Camping at Crickhowell                          M. Grass

29.5.83             Otter Hole                     Camping at Crickhowell

30.5.83             Agen Allwedd

  3.6.83             North Hill                       Friday Niters’                                                     B. Prewer

17.6.83             Burrington                     (barbeque)                                                         B. Prewer

18.6.83             O.F.D.                          Top Ent. - Smiths Armoury, out I.                        G.Wilton-Jones

25.6.83             Gingling Hole                 Yorkshire w/end, staying at                                 M. Grass

26.6.83 Dry Gill Cave                 Bradford P.C. hut

  1.7.83             Longwood                      Friday Niters’                                                     B. Prewer

15.7.83             G.B.                             Friday Niters’                                                     B. Prewer

16.7.83             O.F.D.                          Top Entrance to I                                               M. Grass

30.7.83             South Wales                 Friday Niters’ B. Prewer

Saturday trip, limited numbers

Martin's number is still Luton 35145 at present, though he and Glen should be moving 'ere long, so look out for the new number.

Brian's number is Wells 73757.

My number is Wedmore 712284.

Don't forget, if you want a trip in a C.N.C.C. controlled cave, you should normally go through Martin

Leaders for D.Y.O., O.F.D.1, Reservoir, Charterhouse, Cuthbert’s, etc. are listed in the B.B. and can be contacted direct.


 

Subscriptions and Membership

The following have NOT PAID their SUBSCRIPTIONS for 1982/3 if you see them then please give them a reminder!!

 959. Chris Bradshaw
  868. Dany Bradshaw
1004. Brendan Brew
1005. Jane Brew
  756. Tessie Burt
  956. Ian Caldwell
  862. Bob Cork
  890. Jerry Crick
  680. Bob Cross
  830. John Dukes
  937. Sue Dukes
  779. James Durston
  771. Pete Ekford
  997. Sandra Ekford
  769. Sue Tucker
  648. Dave Glover
1009. Robin Gray
1010, Sue Gray
1008. James Hamilton
  893. Dave Hatherley
  917. Robin Hervin
920. Nick Holstead
991. Julie Holstead
770. Chris Howell
969. Duncan Innes
930. Stuart Lindsay
980. Dr John Mathews
979. Richard Mathews
938. Kev O’Neil
964. Lawrie O'Neil
990. Jim Pogue
760. Jeni Sandercott
823. Andy Sparrow
772. Nigel Taylor
699. Buckett Tilbury
700. Ann Tilbury
678. Dave Turner
939. Woly Wilkinson
940. Val Wilkinson
916. Jane Wilson
1002. Alan Sutton

This list was correct at 20th March 1983 if you have paid please ignore this if not please send your subscription to:  Fi Lewis. 63 Portway. Wells, Somerset B85 2BQ.  £10 for Full Membership: £15 for Joint Membership.

New Members

We welcome the following new/re joining Members

 232. Dr Chris Falshaw, Fullwood, Sheffield.
1022. Kev Mackin, Yeovil.
  911. Jim Smart, Clifton, Bristol.
1023, Mathew Tuck, Coxley, Wells, Somerset.
1024. Miles Barrington, Cheddar, Somerset.

Address Changes

Brendan Brew, Hyde Park, Leeds
Keith Franklin, Redcliffe, Queensland 4020, Australia.
Re-joined Chris Falshaw, Fulwood, Shefield

For Sale

Badges Sweat Shirt Stickers

Enamel Pin Badges - Bertie with BEE across - £1.50 each.

BEC Get Everywhere Stickers – Sold in lots of 50 - £1 per lot.

We now have a new stock of Sweatshirts and T-Shirts.  The Sweatshirts are maroon with a yellow Bertie with BEC across in the area of the left nipple!! and the T-Shirts are white with the standard design as on previous sweatshirts in black.

Sizes: Medium, Large & X Large

Sweatshirts - £5.50

T-Shirts - £2.50

All these Sales are handled by Tim Large, Wells, Somerset

Stocks are available at the Belfry at Weekends.


 

N.C.A. Information Report 83/1

Andy Eavis

Grave Dangers of Rappel Racks

There is no doubt that the rappel rack is one of the best abseiling devices available to the modern caver.  Its principle advantage is on long drops over 75m where other devices require the caver to haul himself down.  Several recent accidents, including two British fatalities, point to potential dangers of this device.

Both fatal accidents appear to have been caused by the comparatively inexperienced users removing to many bars.  A minim of three bars is required to prevent the descent becoming a free fall.

There are several ways of minimising the dangers of misuse.  Racks must not be used underground or on very long pitches by the abseiler who has not extensively used this type of device before. Practice can be done on the surface using a short drop and a weighted rope to familiarise the caver with the descender;  changeovers, etc. can be completed and the variable friction properties of the rack mastered.  Shorter pitches underground, bolt changeovers etc. should be practised before longer drops are attempted.  Once the rack user is well experienced the potential dangers must still be remembered to prevent 'familiarity breeding contempt'.  Even very experienced cavers have threaded these devices the wrong way around or set off without securing the device to their harnesses

One possible solution to these problems is the modifications suggested by Keith Lewis in the November issue of ‘Caves &Caving'.  The second bar does not 'clip' onto the frame which should prevent cavers from inadvertently threading the rack back to front; the third bar has a grub screw through the end permanently holding it onto the frame to prevent its removal during a descent but still allowing the bar to move up and down.  The rack is a good abseiling device for large pitches. Practice, careful use and possibly the Lewis modifications should make its use as safe or safer than any other descending method.

Further reading: Available shortly, a more comprehensive article by Keith Lewis called 'A guide to the safe use of rack descenders'.