The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover: The Treasurer, Blitz, sketched by REG.


1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor



What I want to talk about this time is car thefts.  There have been an awful lot of them recently - several BEC members have been 'done'. At the Belfry there is a notice pinned up from the local police listing various car numbers you should beware of. These are so called 'community cars', that is, cars which have been stolen and hidden and are then used by the thieves or their associates for ram-raids or breaking into caver's cars or for perpetrating other crimes.  These people do not waste any time, it's a case of smashing the car windows and making off with whatever they can grab.  Malcolm Davis was very upset when he came out of Tyning's Barrows and found his windows smashed and some clothes missing in spite of the fact that he had left his boot unlocked!

I suspect most of the perpetrators come from Weston or Bristol although there may be some local, copycats.  The only defence there is, is to either have someone stay in the car (which could be dangerous!) or to be chauffeured to the cave site and picked up again at a pre-arranged time.  Thefts most commonly occur in the Charterhouse area and Burrington Combe although at least one has happened in Pelting Drove.

Club Business

The AGM and club dinner will, as usual, be on the first Saturday in October.  The venue for the dinner is changed this year.  Details will be forthcoming shortly from Mr. N who is producing a short news sheet.

There will be an election for the committee again this year.  Nominations should be sent to the secretary as soon as possible, please (I shall not be standing).

One of the three club survey kits has gone missing.  If anyone knows where it is please could you try to get it returned!

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club Held at the Belfry on October 3rd, 1992

The meeting was convened by the Secretary, Martin Grass, there being a quorum at 1035.


Martin Grass, Chris Batstone, Nigel Taylor, Glenys Grass, Bob Cork, Mr Wilson (Senior), Hilary Wilson, Mr Wilson (Junior), Kev Gurner, Chris Smart, Richard Payne, Babs Williams, Jeff Price, Richard Blake, Trevor Hughes, Dave Aubrey, Terry Earley, Dave Turner, John Watson, Nick Gymer, S J McManus, Andy Middleton, Tim Large, Ian Caldwell, Rob Harper, Chris Harvey, Colin Dooley, Barrie Wilton, Dave Yeandle, Phil Romford, Dudley Herbert, Alan Turner, Dickfred, Brian Prewer, Robin Grey, David Ball, Sarah Macdonald, Henry Bennett, Pete Hellier, Dave Glover, Greg Villis, Graham Johnson, Clive Betts, Alan Downton, Ian Gregory, Ted Humphreys, Jeremy Henley and Les Williams.

Non Members:

Kirsten Turner, Florica Cowie.


Dany Bradshaw, Lavina Watson, Jim Smart, Dany Bradshaw, J'Rat, LiI Romford, Ruth Baxter, Loopy, Angela Garwood, Nick Cornwall-Smith and Andy Sanders.


Bob Cork was elected Chairman.


Hilary Wilson.    Pro. Nigel Taylor.           Sec. Blitz.

Babs Williams. Pro. Mac.                      Sec. Blitz.

Brian Prewer.     Pro. Nigel Taylor.           Sec. Batstone

Members Resolutions:


Minutes of the 1991 AGM:

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the 1991 AGM minutes by the meeting.

Proposed: Mr Nigel. Seconded: Phil Romford. Carried with two abstentions.

Matters arising from the minutes:

  1. Long Term Plan: Tim asked for the Long Term Plan the Committee was instructed to produce.  Various discussions ensued.  The Committee reported that a meeting was held although the minutes had not been published in the BB.  Tim asked that the minutes with current updates be published.

For 26, Against 0, Abstentions 2

  1. Rob Harper asked for the Tackle Warden to publish a list of current tackle available.  Sec. Blitz.

For 28, Against 0, Abstentions 2

  1. Phil Romford asked how the discount on early payment of subs had worked.  John Watson replied "Quite well."
  2. BCRA Insurance:  The NCA had looked into this and the Treasurer reported that the new BCRA scheme was an improvement.  We will stick with this for the immediate future.
  3. Phil Romford asked if regular checks were made at the Belfry to see who was staying.  Martin Grass replied that this was on an informal basis but seemed to be working.

Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Phil Romford asked about the vandalism mentioned in the report. Martin replied that this appeared to have stopped.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Greg Villis
Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Trevor said he could obtain epoxy resin for the stal repairs.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Hut Warden's Report:

Given verbally to the meeting.  (To be published in the BB).  Mac suggested that the Hut Warden's job is a thankless one.  A vote of thanks was then proposed by Nigel Taylor, seconded by Blitz.

For 35, Against 2, Abstentions 1

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mike Wilson. Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Hut Engineer's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Nigel said he wished to thank all the members who worked on the hut on the working weekends. Martin Grass asked when the new showers would be installed.  Nigel said that he had left this to next years Hut Engineer.  Nigel asked that a book be kept in the Library by the Hut Engineer detailing work carried out and locations of any pipe work/wiring run. Tim asked whether the Central Heating would actually heat the hut or be used as background heating.  It was reported that the latter will be the case.

A vote of thanks was then proposed by Blitz, seconded by Robin Grey. For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

A vote of thanks to Pat Cronin was then proposed by Dick Fred and seconded by Blitz.  Carried unam.

It was suggested that the Secretary write to Pat expressing the BEC's thanks.  For acceptance of the report by the meeting

Proposed: Mac. Seconded: Slug

For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Membership Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB. Colin Dooley asked if we had looked at Direct Debit arrangements. Jeremy Henley explained that this was very expensive.  John Watson said more people had played early this year probably as a result of the discount system but several people also chose to pay at the very last minute.  Dave Turner said we must get people to realise what they get out of the club and that we should have a regular BB full of member’s articles.  Much discussion followed regarding how to get early payment of subs!

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large.
Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report:

Previously published in the BB. Rob Harper asked how much use the club SRT rope gets.  Mike replied "Very little."  Rob Harper proposed that the fixed tackle be removed from St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.  Trevor seconded the proposal.

For 5, Against 32, Abstentions 5.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Phil Romford. Seconded: Richard Blake
Carried with two abstentions.

BB Editor's Report:

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Henry. Seconded: Robin Grey.
Carried with three abstentions.

A vote of thanks was then proposed by Phil and Romford seconded by Dick Fred.

Carried with one abstention.

Hon Treasurer's Report:

Handed out at the meeting. Mac suggested that we look at the possibility of coin meters for electricity.  Much discussion then followed.  Mac then proposed, seconded by Rob Harper that non strategic electricity be put on a coin meter.  For 7. Against 31, Abstentions 8.

Tim Large proposed that the Committee review hut fees for mid week use and look at the possibility of differential rates. For 39, Against 1, Abstentions 3.

Les Williams asked that we look at energy efficient/saving appliances when are due for replacement.

Tim asked as to our BMC membership.  The Treasurer undertook to rejoin.  Jeremy Henley proposed that anyone using the BMC facilities during the next year inform the Treasurer so that we can decide whether or not our continuing membership is justified.  This was seconded by Rob Harper and carried. For 26, Against 9, Abstentions 8.

Mac asked the Treasurer if subs or hut fees should be increased.  Blitz said that hut fees were raised last year for guests but not for members.  Martin Grass said that we should look at putting subs up annually so as to avoid large jumps every couple of years.

Dave Turner proposed £22 subs, seconded Mike Wilson.

For 34, Against 8, Abstentions 2.

Discussion then followed regarding the early payment discount scheme.  Nigel said that he would prefer a late payment surcharge rather than the early payment discount scheme.  It was then suggested by Mike Wilson, seconded by Trevor that we have a base rate discount of £18.  An amendment was proposed by Tim Large, seconded by Jeremy Henley that the base rate discount be £20.

For the amendment 31, Against 14, Abstentions 2.

For the original proposal 31, Against 6, Abstentions 2.

Trevor asked that it be minuted that a 25% subs increase is not normal.

The Treasurer proposed that the non discounted subscription be £24.  This was seconded by Jeremy Henley.  An amendment of the non-discounted subscription at £25 was proposed by Dave Turner and seconded by Dick Fred.

For the amendment 14, Against 24, Abstentions 7

For the original proposal 38, Against 2, Abstentions 1

Rob Harper proposed that the Treasurer comes to the AGM next year prepared to state how much the subs should be raised.  He or she will need to look at future income and expenditure and make an educated guess.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Phil Romford. Seconded: Les Williams.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Auditor's Report:

The Auditor stated that the Treasurers accounts were a true representation of the finances of the club. Barry also said the club must look at raising the money to meet the St Cuthbert’s pledges.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large. Seconded: Mac.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Graham Johnson thanked the IDMF for the money given to the Philippines expedition this year.

A proposal was then made by Mac that the BEC do not transfer any money to the IDMF this year. Seconded: Nigel Taylor.

Votes for the proposal Carried with 3 against and 3 abstentions.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac. Seconded: Mike Wilson.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Librarian's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  The Secretary read out a letter from the Librarian saying that he is happy to continue. Martin Riddle has loaned the club a word processor.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Carried unam.


The tellers reported that 81 members had voted as follows:

Martin Grass              69
Nigel Taylor                68
Chris Smart                64
Ted Humphreys          63
Mike Wi1son              61
Jeff Price                    59
Tim Large                   48
Chris Harvey               43
Graham Johnson         42
Ian Caldwell                32
Angela Garwood         31
Trevor Hughes             29
Richard Blake             16
Jim Smart                  14

1991-92 Committee:










Hon Treasurer

Caving Secretary

Tackle Master


For Mr Wilson 34

For Tim Large 4

Hut Warden


For Zot 25

For Tim Large 10

Martin Grass

Chris Smart

Jeff Price

Mr Wilson

Tim Large



Chris Harvey

Tim Large

Les Williams


Rob Harper


Rob Harper



Mr Nigel

Mr Wilson

Jeremy Henley

Nigel Taylor

Alan Downton

Nigel Taylor





Robin Gray

Rob Harper raised a point of order on the Chairman's comment that we put History behind us.  He said it was always behind us.

Hut Engineer


For Tim Large 36

For Mr Nigel 2

BB Editor


Tim Large

Mr Nigel



Ted Humphreys

Nigel Taylor

Dick Fred




Alan Turner


Mike Wilson

Chris Smart



Les Williams

Kevin Gurner

Nigel Taylor said that he could not do the job very well if elected but would do his best.

For Ted Humphreys 33
For Mr Nigel 5

Possible commercial interests/conflicts of interest were then asked to be revealed.  Chris Smart declared that he was the Treasurer of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.  Mac said that he objected to this.

Membership Secretary


For John 24

For Mr Nigel 12

Joh Watson

Nigel Taylor

Tim Large


Jeremey Henley

Jeff Price

Non Committee Posts:




For Trebor 37

For Jim Smart 4

Barrie Wilton


Jim Smart


Rob Harper


Jeremey Henley



Members Resolutions:

1. County Membership.  Nigel Taylor proposed, seconded by Mike Wilson that this AGM forms "a Country Membership or Retirement Membership, that would have to be applied for by bone-fide members who would assure us that they would who longer cave."

Much discussion followed. Brian Prewer, as an OAP said that he would be offended to be offered a lower sub or special status.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 3. Against 24. Abstentions 10

Nigel undertook to publish in the next BB a note regarding this Country Membership/Retirement Membership.

Any Other Business:

St Cuthbert’s Report.

The Treasurer drew the meetings attention to his report.  The Secretary said the Report was available in most caving shops and that copies are available at the Belfry for leaders to sell to tourist parties. Nigel Taylor said that he will organize a box at the Belfry to be locked with the Cuthbert’s lock so that all leaders can get access to copies.  Colin Dooley reiterated that when we sell all the reports we will make a very respectable profit but that we need to push the sales.  Robin Grey suggested that we sell to caving clubs at one third discount. Rob Harper said that it was a dead duck from the outset and that we should get out and cut our losses now. Colin Dooley asked how many people were going down Cuthbert’s each week.  Phil Romford proposed that he look at setting up a deal with Cordee to sell the Cuthbert’s Report.  Accepted with one against.  Phil also offered his services to sell the Cuthbert’s Report.  Accepted unam.  Nigel Taylor will liaise with Joan Bennett to explain that Phil will help her as Sales Officer.

Martin Grass said why not pay back some of the pledges now and send out a letter requesting an extension to the loan.  Chris Smart said that he would request his money back on time.  He explained his action saying that he thought it a very poor show that 22 people were being asked to carry the 200 strong membership of the club.  The AGM noted last year’s resolution that the money needs to be repaid at, or before the 1993 AGM.  Les Williams proposed that the Belfry be used as security for a bank loan if necessary so that the pledges can be repaid on time.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
For 28, Against 13, Abstentions 1.

Phil asked the incoming Committee to consider calling an EGM if finances looked bad.


It was agreed to burn the voting papers.

Vote of Thanks:

A vote of thanks to Nigel Taylor for organizing the AGM food and Dinner was proposed by Alan Turner and seconded by Rob Harper.  Carried unam.

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 15.50.



Dear Ed,

I have been a member of the BEC, off and on, for the last 25 years and have always found a great deal of pleasure in caving and socialising within the club.  I returned to the club in earnest a couple of years ago and have since become a 'Cuthbert's Leader'; the cave has always meant something special to me.  Needless to say I spend a considerable time down St. Cuthbert's Swallet, digging (my dig is near Plantation Junction), exploring and leading tourist trips. Obviously I still visit other Mendip caves and so think that, with about three trips a week, I can still consider myself fairly active!

The above leads me to my next comment which is that I am really "pissed off" with Bob Cross. Bob and myself go back many years and hopefully will for many more.  As members are aware (BB 467) Bob fired a salvo, with some venom, at the running of the Belfry which was suitably replied to in the same BB.

However the crux of my moan to you Bob, is: -  Is the Belfry to be used by active cavers and non active members of the club with still a genuine interest or by people such as yourself who, in recent times, have done nothing except criticise either the Belfry or the members.

This came to a head for me last Saturday (12th June '93).  I, with other members of the club plus a guest, had an excellent trip down Cuthbert's.  Unfortunately, as we were coming out, the guest became very tired so I returned to the Belfry to collect the various bits of tackle required.  When I walked into the Belfry I met Bob, no one else was present. Bob and I had a conversation about the whereabouts of Zot and generally passed the time of day.  I then collected all my tackle from the tackle store and the changing room and was about to leave when Bob became very aggressive, shouting "Look at the mess you've left" and as I was going out of the Belfry door  "What about turning the fucking lights off", I thought, ignore it, bearing in mind I was thinking more of extricating a tired caver from Cuthbert's. Afterwards, however, I thought those brief comments were, to say the least, upsetting!

I feel sorry for the need to write this letter but I believe and always will that the BEC is a caving club. If any members do not agree with this basic philosophy and do not wish the noise or mess associated with an active caving club but wish instead to have a quiet time (unless there is a "free barrel" about) they should, perhaps, spend their nights at an alternative hostelry.  I believe the New Inn can be very quiet and clean.  I think the Wessex would, nowadays, be too noisy for them!

Oh, by the way, if Bob ever wishes to visit Cuthbert’s again I would be more than pleased to take him.

Many thanks for publishing,

Dudley Herbert.


China 93

How it actually came about I don’t know as I had never really considered going to China before and there I found myself planning a trip.  Actually, I originally chose China because I heard it was a fairly safe place to travel on your own.  As I started to research locations, I realised that this could easily be transformed into a caving trip as all the areas I wanted to visit were the limestone regions of China.  Being an avid caver this appeared an opportunity too good to miss, so holiday plans were brushed aside and a caving trip with the odd city excursion was planned instead.

The first problem that I had to overcome was that I couldn’t cave on my own, so who could I persuade to come caving in China with me?  After asking around at college and gaining several replies of “I’d love to but….”  I changed tack and asked around the Hunters instead.  This proved more profitable and by Christmas I had tentative plans to meet Nick Hawkes in China.  The only problem being that he lives in Australia and I live in England.  However, corresponding with his father, Chris, arrangements weren’t too bad to organise.

Caving partner found, flight booked, travellers cheques arranged, I set off for the wilds of China via Hong Kong. As all cheap flights go, I travelled the direct route of Bahrain-Bangkok-Hong Kong.  This wasn’t too bad and the landing at Hong Kong airport was an experience I will never forget. Have you ever been in a plane that flies between skyscrapers and banks right down the middle of a street?  I hadn’t and it proved quite entertaining.


Hong Kong itself was quite a wondrous place, but not exactly relaxing. However, it was a good place to meet up with my caving partner Nick.  Upon his arrival we sorted out visas and planned our route into China.  The cheapest option was to take the train to Wu Lu the border town between Hong Kong and China, and walk through customs.  This only takes a mere two hours with numerous queues and forms to fill in, but not as bad as we had heard it could be!

After walking across a very smelly river (the border) we arrived in Shenzhen where we received our first big culture shock, everything was written in Chinese.  I know this might not surprise some of you, and we had expected it, but it suddenly made us realise that travelling or just doing anything could pose a major problem as neither of us spoke a single word of Chinese! After this initial “What have we done?" we wandered around and stumbled across the bus station where we were grabbed and placed on a bus that we were told was going to Ghangzhou (Canton) the capital of the province where further transport could be found.  Unfortunately the bus wasn’t going there and we had to continually change bus to reach our destination.

Eventually we were dumped on a busy road and told “ Canton”.  This wasn’t very helpful but we found the railway station and got our bearings. Next stop was the ferry dock and an attempt to buy tickets to Wuzhou.  Trying to read a ferry timetable is another entertaining experience, especially when one word looks exactly like another in Chinese.  Alas we had missed the last ferry and instead had to buy a ticket for the following day.

The ferry trip had two large bunk rooms with a 6m by 2m space each, that was your seat and bed for the 20 hour journey.  At least it allowed us an opportunity to see the Chinese way of life and practice a few phrases on the locals with the use of a phrase book that I had remembered to bring!!  Sleeping was only possible because I was already tired, and it meant I slept through the onslaught of cockroaches who were the local residents on the ferry.

The Chinese way of life on the river was interesting and very busy.  We passed many barges transporting goods around the Pearl River Delta and several small fishing boats (or rafts) with the owner using lines to catch the fish.  All of these rafts had their own resident cormorant which sat on the edge of the raft waiting for fish to appear.  Apparently a cormorant can match three capable fishermen.


After docking in Wuzhou we departed with the masses and were pointed in the direction of the bus station. Here we discovered that we had missed the morning bus so instead bought a ticket for the night bus going to Yangshou. With a day to waste we went on a tour of the town.  The first stop was the animal market, where almost any animal could be bought to eat. We were offered turtles, snake, cats, porcupines, monkeys as well as many other unusual and weird animals. This gave us a good insight into the Chinese life and some of the cultural differences with which we would have to become accustomed.  However, we declined any offers of tasting these exotic delights.

The local cuisine took some getting used to.  At first the overall smell of the food was enough to make anyone lose their appetite, but eventually you become accustomed to it.  The food proved most edible.  We ordered by pointing at what we wanted and then crossing our fingers and hoping it would be alright.  In all, the Chinese cuisine was excellent even if at times you weren’t sure what you were eating (there was strong possibility of dog on the menu).

The bus journey to Yangshou took about 3 hours but at least travelling at night meant that it was fairly cool.  It would have been unbearable in the day time.  The monsoon season made the weather incredibly hot and humid with the odd thunderstorm thrown in for good measure.  This made achieving anything an extra effort in the extreme heat.

Having arrived at night we saw little of the area except eerie views of tower karsts silhouetted against the night sky.  This meant that in the morning the view was quite spectacular.  Everywhere we looked, we saw tower karst rising out of the flat land and the village of Yangzhou was tucked into the base of three limestone outcrops.  The Lijiang River was also an amazing site.  As you travelled upstream on a boat the karst became more and more spectacular.  The river life incorporated wallowing water buffalo, children playing, people fishing on rafts and numerous tourist boats all intermingled as rice was grown in the surrounding fields.

Once settled we went in search of caves.  Armed with our China 85 guide and a couple of bicycles we rode off in the direction of the cave known as LOTEN.  The book showed a massive entrance which should have been easy to see from a long way off, but after cycling across numerous paddy fields we still could not  find it.  To clarify that we were in the correct area we decided to ask a local. Naturally speaking little Chinese we asked, “DONG” (cave) and pointed a direction, whereupon the farmer would say, “DONG”, nod his head and point the way we were going.  Reassured we continued and found a gated entrance to a small cave, not exactly the massive entrance we were expecting.  So we continued to look for LOTEN,  After asking more locals we realised that the information they were giving us was useless as whichever way we pointed they would say, “DONG”, not exactly helpful for finding a specific cave.  Eventually, numerous paddy fields later and about 20km of cycling we saw the entrance to LOTEN across the valley, but by this time we had to turn round and start the 20km cycle home.

Transport proved to be our major constraint.  I suppose it was inevitable that there would be no public transport direct to the cave entrances, hence, we had to rely on bicycles and were limited to the distance we could travel.  To solve this problem we headed off to Guilin, which proved to be a fairly run of the mill city where you had to continually watch that you were not being conned.  Here we went to visit two show caves; Ludi Yan ( Reed Flute Cave) and Qi Xing Yan ( Seven Star Cave).  Both of the caves were badly lit by multi- coloured fluorescent lights which flashed on and off, not exactly natural lighting effects!  We also had to pay a foreign tourist price for entry to the cave which was 5 times what the local people had to pay.  The caves themselves were fairly large with lots of formations and well worth a visit although the hazards of tourists distracted from our enjoyment.

Whilst visiting these caves we stumbled across another cave entrance so went in for a look much to the bemusement of the locals.  The cave wasn’t very 1ong and we soon arrived at the sump pool to find a great many bats and to my horror ... spiders!  On sight of these I exited the cave very quickly without looking back, much to Nick’s amusement.

After Guilin we had the pleasure of an 18 hour train journey sitting on the floor before reaching Guiyang where the International Caving Conference was being held. However, we arrived too late and the people had (10 of them) gone caving to Anshun.  We decided this was a good idea and got on a bus going to Anshun ourselves.

Anshun proved to be a delightful place to visit, off the well beaten tourist route so it was much less affected by tourism.  In the five days that we were there we saw no other western tourists much to our relief. The town itself is a fair size and is the original home of the Batik factory and many items were available for sale. We found several interesting eating places on the streets and had a marvellous meal with beer for 35p each. In all, Anshun proved an ideal location for cavers. The transport was good as there were many local Chinese buses visiting the tourist caves in the area which were in close proximity to the caves that we were intending to visit.

The first problem we encountered was that once on a bus how could you tell where it was going?  On two occasions we had got on a bus intending to go to one place and arrived somewhere completely different.  This proved to be a lucky mistake as it introduced us to areas that, we didn’t know existed which were well worth a visit. We visited the Huangguoshu Waterfall (the largest in Asia at 68m high and 84m wide) which was very impressive especially as it was the wet season, and Star falls, a beautiful and quite tiring walk by the river in out of caves and over Waterfalls.  Then we went in search of some caves.  The first one we visited was Longgong Cave (Dragon's Palace).  This was one of the major scenic spots in the province and consisted of magnificent karst river caves and waterfalls.  The tourist trip takes you through the cave by boat and brightly coloured lights marked the way.  The cave system is 15km in length, but as it appeared to be a swim the whole way, we took the boat instead.  At the upstream entrance it was, possible to pass through the scenic cave of Hxue Dong and up a huge cascade to the end of the tourist trail.

At this point we wandered off up the hill despite much protesting noises of a local trader, but we pointed ignorantly to our cameras as we were only going to take a photograph. Walking quickly away we found the path and wandered through corn fields and banana trees to reach several huge cave entrances.  The roar of the water could be heard so we knew we were in the right place.  The most impressive entrance led to a sump pool with fast flowing water so we took the dry entrance into Yemma Dong.  On arrival here I had to become accustomed to the thousands of bats which were redsiding in the cave.  Having never caved outside of the UK before this was quite an experience.

Yemma Dong itself consists of high level walking and scrambling passages with a very active and roaring streamway in its lower levels.  We knew that it was possible to do a short 1km through trip in the cave so we set off keeping as far away from the river as we could.  We scrambled over boulders and up ancient gour formations and located the exit.   Having found this we made our way to the river clambering over the debris.  It was quite an impressive sight as the power of the water coming from a blue sump pool was, incredible and it had splendid gour slopes coming down to it.  The stench of the bats meant that a brief look was plenty and we headed off out of the cave.

The following day was to be our last in Anshun and we had planned to visit the lesser know tourist caves (well it wasn’t in China's Lonely Planet Guide) Zhijin Dong.  The only way to get there was to travel by bus for three hours through extensive karst scenery and  hundreds of massive cave entrances:.  Throughout the journey we were both itching to get out of the bus in order to investigate some of these giant holes, but unfortunately it was impossible to leave the bus.  The journey was, however, most enjoyable and did give us another insight into Chinese life.

Zhijin cave itself was said to be one of the biggest and most peculiarly shaped caves discovered in China at present.  It extends for about 10 km, the broadest part being 173m reaching a height of 150m. The tourist trip took 2 hours and involved walking up and down hundreds of steps carved into the calcite formations.  It made a nice change to have the cave illuminated by white, not the not the normal fluorescent lights.  The cave was massive, comprising a phreatic shaped passage which had only a few side tributaries leading from it.  The formations were also good in the cave.  There were huge columns, massive stal. and even some helictites.  In fact the cave is said to have over 40 types of karst precipitation forms.  The trip around Zhijin cave was well worth the visit and the area itself holds great potential for further cave exploration in the future.

Finally we visited the city of Kunming in the south west of China and the famous stone forest.  Kunmimg was like any other cities, full of money changers, bicycles for rent and tourist temples.  However, it is the only place in China where you can get cheese because the Chinese do not eat dairy products, but in Yunnan province they do produce goat’s cheese as a delicacy. The Bamboo Temple was the most impressive temple that we visited that day, despite the fact it had no connection with bamboo whatsoever!  It had a display of hundreds of clay sculptured Buddhas surfing a great wave on various animals.

The stone forest was an amazing display of karst scenery.  Huge blocks of limestone all in different shapes rising from the ground, but it has suffered from being a major tourist attraction.  We made the effort to leave the main forest area and walk into the more distant stone forest.  This allowed more interesting exploration away from the thousands of tourists who arrive in bus loads every day.  There was also an amazing thunderstorm that lit up the entire area spectacularly. Edible specialities included the steamed Yunnan duck, cooked in a clay oven over a bed of pine needles.  It was a bit bony, but for £1 for an entire duck we were not complaining.


This ended our tour of China.  We flew back to Canton ( a choice between 3 hours in a plane or 3 days on the train) and left on the ferry via Macao for some rest and relaxation, eventually arriving in Hing Kong to await the flight home.

In summary, China was a wonderful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The main problem with travelling in the country is that doing absolutely anything is an effort, even buying a drink.  However, the people more than compensate for this as they are all very friendly.  As for the scenery and the caves, China will be difficult to beat, especially from a cavers viewpoint.  Karts is everywhere in the southern areas and is well worth a visit.

I would like to thank Mike Palmer and Sett for their support in providing a donation towards my expenses from the Ian Dear Memorial Trust.  I hope that this article will inspire other BEC members to go travelling and caving in China.  If anyone would like any more information please feel free to contact me at the BEC.

Rachel (Bob) Gregory


Caving in Aruba

During a recent business trip to the Caribbean I spent a few days in Aruba and managed to visit three of the major caves and get some diving in as well.

Aruba is the second largest of the three ABC islands.  (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) in the Netherlands Antilles, just off the northern coast of Venezuela.  All the caves are in low lying limestone close to the sea.


Huliba Cave: This is also known as the tunnel of Love and is a 200 metre through trip.  Lads at the entrance hire out helmets and lamps but do not give guided tours as the cave has no other lighting.  The cave is a series of medium sized chambers with a steep boulder slope out of the lower entrance which is surrounded by large cactus plants.

Guadirikiri Cave: This is an incredibly hot and humid cave being only a few metres below the hot desert above.  A series of chambers with two daylight shafts and lots of bats.

Fontein Cave: The cave has some old Arawak Indian drawings at the entrance and one had a gate to protect them.  The cave is different to the other two as it has lots of old stal. columns in the entrance chambers.  These lead to a low wide crawl between stal. columns to a final chamber where I saw lots of bats and a white hermit crab.  An interesting cave but like the others tiring, because of the heat.


Antillia - A German freighter.  This wreck off of the North West end of Aruba is not only the largest wreck in the Netherlands Antilles but in all of the Caribbean.  It was a U-boat supply ship.  When the Netherlands entered the war the Dutch seized the ship.  However before they could board the ship the Captain blew it up.  The officers were sent to the prison on Curacao for the duration of the war.  At the end of the war, using their savings sent from Germany, they bought the prison and turned it into a hotel and became millionaires!

The wreck is in good condition and the main deck and some holds can be entered.  There are loads of fish and some big Groupers.  The top mast is just out if the water and the bottom is at about 17 metres.

Martin Grass


GPS + Surveying in the future


GPS or Global Positioning Systems use a hand held receiver to talk to an interlocking network of 24 dedicated satellites.  By a lot of magic and by computing time delays to and from four satellites the receiver's position, in latitude, longitude and height on earth can be calculated.  The military have been using GPS for many years now and will admit to achieving positional accuracies in the order of about a metre.  Their satellite signals are however specially scrambled and the best that the public can have access to is about three metres.  In recent years these have become in frequent use with the sailing fraternity.  Their use there for position fixing is obvious but they are very expensive.

The receivers work in the GHz frequency range so will be of no use underground and until a few days ago I was not sure that anyone has seriously considered their caving use for accurately position fixing entrances.  (I may be very wrong on this as I have a nagging memory of recent use on an expedition that says Irian Jaya? China? Russia?)  This would be of particular use in areas lacking adequate map cover.  I was therefore very interested to read on the Cavers Computer Internet Forum that GPS had been successfully used in November 1992 in the Colorado Bend State Park (CBSP) research project.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is buying GPS equipment for one of their survey teams and Bob Burnett of TPWD, who is a long-time caver, was invited to attend a GPS seminar.  While there, A&M told him they would be willing to loan the equipment for research purposes.  Apparently the equipment is so automated that, without any need to understand how the equipment works, you can learn to use it in about ten minutes.  In one weekend coordinates were obtained for 27 cave entrances.  The electronics company, A&M, is working on new algorithms to enable the data to be corrected to within an absolute position of one foot.  Even more mind boggling is the fact that there are designs in the works that will increase this accuracy to within one centimetre or even less.

As it is possible to buy USGS digitised topographical maps on computer disc these maps can be transferred to a computer-aided design system and GPS cave locations and underground cave survey data can also be plotted on the map with a very high degree of accuracy.  This will then save hours of photocopier reduction by trial and error and evenings of retracing.

It was with this in mind that I was interested to read on the Internet Forum that a company in the States called Damark is listing the Sony Pyxis for US$599.99.  This is a handheld GPS unit that runs on AA batteries. Unfortunately accuracy is traded off against price and is only 30 meters although the unit can store 100 entrance stations.

A UK company, Trimble, market a GPS called Flightnav at £550.  This apparently has extra functions to do with flight navigation, but is cheaper then the basic model.

But before you ask ....... No, we can not afford one:


Forget your notepad and pencil because….

Automatic Cave Surveying is Here!

Another little gem from the Internet Cavers Forum concerns a "Laser Rangefinder"  This would appear to be the cavers long dreamed of complete digital cave survey instrument.  The device is a laser rangefinder which can measure distances up to 2500 feet or 750 metres (some passage length!).  It doesn't even need a special reflector but works using rocks, poles or trees as targets.  At the maximum distance it has an accuracy of plus or minus 15 inches or about 0.4 metres. Unfortunately the accuracy at shorter distances wasn't given.

The digital bearing display reads between 0 degrees and 359.9 degrees with an accuracy of plus or minus 0.5 degrees and the vertical range is also given.  It can be connected to a computer to download the data.  It runs from a 4 hour battery pack.

Sounds too good to be true? Well hang on to your note pads and pencils for a few more cave surveys as it costs US$8300!  The alternative, if you're still looking for something to do with the small change, is either a digital clinometer at only US$99.95 or a digital geological compass for US$2290.

But to repeat myself – No, we can’t afford one!

And to the future.... Will we see a motorised self levelling and self recording instrument that will rotate through 360 degrees creating a detailed slice survey of the cave.  We would still have to move the instrument through the cave station by station but at the end of the trip instantly download the data in a computer and use this to produce a near perfect 3D model of the cave.

This would then put us into the realms of Virtual Reality Caving: Just think about it.  All the pleasure with none of the pain, none of the wet, none of the mud or none of the cold with a simulated walk and crawl through the cave.  It would never catch on would it?  Will it be possible to buy Virtual Reality Survey discs from Bat Products.  Will Wigmore become a best seller?  Will the novices still be knackered on the twenty? Will I still get lost in Cuthbert’s?


The Waist of Thyme - White Pit

Since the breakthroughs at the bottom of the 1st Pot on 4th and 30th November last year no further digging had been carried out in the low, wet and muddy crawl leading on down-dip below the entrance shaft and some 10ft before the top of the 1st Pot.  During January and February this year the writer concentrated on building a cement and stone wall in the cave to hold back talus slope below the entrance pitch.  Once this job was completed the way on was clear to restart the dig in the hope that it would either connect with the top of Prophesy Pot or possibly go over it altogether on its way to the Swildon's/Wookey missing link!  Evidence of major development here was indicated by the phreatic roof tube going straight into a mud wall at the end of the dig. The way on appeared to be in a low tube to the right heading back towards 1st Pot.

On 10th February work recommenced here and on the second visit, with Chris Castle and Andy Dennis, a breakthrough was made directly ahead into some 10ft of mud and rock floored crawl with a clean washed phreatic ceiling and a slight draught.

Trev Hughes, Rich Blake, Vince Simmonds, Ivan Sandford, Estelle Sandford, Brian Murlis and Chris Tozer assisted over the course of the next four trips and a vast amount of rocks, boulders and clay was excavated and hauled to the surface.  The dig was now some 25ft long, including a small chamber with a decorated 15ft long inlet.  A way on could be seen continuing down-dip but blasting was necessary to gain access.

Four trips later, with the help of Brian Hansford and a passing car thief, we were ready for the next breakthrough.  On 21st February a large calcite boulder was blasted and Vince squeezed through into a 10ft diameter phreatic chamber with a spectacular display of white and yellow flowstone, straws and stalactites adorning the far wall equal to anything in Talus IV, the "upper series" of the cave.

To avoid despoiling the chamber work now started on trenching out all of the dig and excavating a choked bedding plane to one side.  Several hundred skip loads of spoil were sent on their way to daylight and the passage became some 3ft square and heading steadily down-dip with windows on the right hand side into the grotto.  At a point some 50ft in we decided to dig both to the left, across the debris filled bedding plane and to the right towards and under the end of the grotto. An open and draughting hole was found partly blocked by boulders of limestone and solid calcite.

A couple of sessions here revealed a dodgy looking hole through a partly calcited boulder choke directly below the flowstone cascade above.  Tim Large squeezed through into a solid and roomy section of passage with a view into more cave beyond.  This was entered after another half hours work and followed down-dip in a 6ft high, clean washed and scalloped bore tube for some 60ft.  Halfway along a 12ft pot dropped into a 15ft long pool and at the end a mud choke blocked the way on.  The total extension was some 100ft.

The pool has since been checked with diving gear by Vince but there was no outlet.  Trev Hughes created an outlet by digging UP into it from the rift leading to Prophesy Pot in the lower series!  He picked a day when the pool was 5ft deep and after poking a crowbar into the roof of the rift he got the lot on his head!  Trev was damp but his enthusiasm wasn't and he was delighted to have proved his survey correct.

Meanwhile, above, the continuation of the phreatic tube was dug through sticky clay and sand.  The passage cleared was some 2ft diameter with a couple of small holes on the right hand side giving a view into a clean washed but very small parallel bedding passage.

On 8th April, Andy Dennis, Andy Legg and Alex Gee opened up a small airspace some 20ft into the dig, but despite being able to see into a small decorated "chamber" they ran out of time and it was up to the writer and Andy Legg to push this dig on the following day.  An hour or so of awkward digging revealed the underside of a flowstone floor which was broken up to allow access into a 4ft diameter chamber with some 10ft of phreatic rift passage heading up-dip.  This choked and the way on was a tiny airspace in the down-dip direction.

Work has stopped here temporarily until Trevor opens up the pitch between the lower and upper passages. Spoil can then be dumped down into the loose ruckle below Masters' Hall and we can press on into the system which undoubtedly exists beyond the Waist of Thyme.  Trevor's pitch will also provide an easy way to the bottom of the cave.

The rest of the digging team were Andy Sparrow, Pete Hellie, Andy Sanders, Martin Ellis, Alison?, Matt Tuck, John Riley, Alison and Grant from Oz, Greg Villers and mates, "Trailer", Estelle's brother and Phil Romford.  The passage was named from the initial response of those who thought the dig would not go.

Tony Jarratt  May 1993


St Cuthbert’s Plantation Dig

Just to let members know I'm still having a go at this site.  As a lot realise the dig is in large phreatic tubing which unfortunately after removing lots of spoil is now in a somewhat nasty pool.  However, after a little persuasion, this has dropped in level a bit.  It's very tight but I can hear a small stream on the other side of a stal barrier.  I don't think we're looking at anything major but if anyone wants to have a look or help (I go down on Wednesday nights) please give me a call.

Dudley Herbert

Elphin Epics

This year's gathering of the clans of Mendip (and Devon) was surprisingly sober mainly because we couldn't get off the hills in time for a decent drink. Snatched pints of 80/- preceded late meals.  However this lapse in conspicuous alcohol consumption was of course due to our discovery of new cave which is what it is all about.  The divers thought they were going to score heavily but failed to deliver the goods although had a good time and some exciting moments in the process. The diggers muddy plodding really paid off.  Though although they had their moments, inquire of Tony Boycott whether you can borrow his compass and clino - from the far side of a crowded Hunter's.

Richard Blake (Gobshite), Malcolm Stewart and myself arrived on Mayday but the others having arrived a day earlier were already hard at it caving digging and GSG hut building.  The following day the diggers headed towards Lower Traligill and two divers headed towards Ardmair Bay and the lobsters seen the previous evening by Pete Dowswell.  A long surface swim across the bay got us to a cliff face in 6 metres of water but no lobsters.  Peter Glanvill decided to go deeper and introduce Malcolm to our new staple diet - the scallop.  After a 30 second identification session we started filling the bag.  The fin back was cold!

Meanwhile back at Lower Traligill Pete Mulholland (Speleochef) was trying to gain his laying spurs in Lower Traligill Cave.  With lowering water levels and reasonable visibility he spent 25 minutes sorting out a new line in this seemingly awkward sump which has repelled Pete Dowswells repeated attempts to pass it since he got through briefly in 1988.  After this lengthy spell communing with the trout all seemed clear for the big push that afternoon and having warmed up from our sea dive Malcolm and I made our grovelly way into the cave late the same day. Pete dived first again advising us to wait ten minutes before following.  After a suitable pause I followed a beautifully and tightly laid line down to a junction and off horizontally upstream.  Suddenly the vis. dropped and I found the line slackly looping all over a variably wide bedding which surfaced at last in a tiny oozy air bell!

Peter was still fully kitted much to my surprise but it turned out he had such an epic with the line that he had only just arrived.  We looked around - didn't take long - and found we were in an air bell with a low tube exit emitting the roar of a stream.  A de-kit proved it impassable.  We then sat shivered and waited for Malcolm.  After 30 minutes of developing hypothermia we left having had to belay the line to a rather dubious boulder.  Back at base we discovered our belay prevented Malcom for getting through! A retreat and regroup was called for and the air bell was dubbed Scotch Mist Airbell mainly because we had expected to surface in somewhat larger passage.  Over a pint of 80/- Pete Dowswell's reputation as an accurate recorder of information was severely abused!  We then returned to the hut and a fine meal of scallops.

Meanwhile the diggers were hard at it between the rising and Lower Traligill digging out an insignificant hole named Disappointment Cave had been known for years to issue tantalising sounds of running water.   The Mendip nostalgics were happy ‘Death by Chocolate' was tight sh*tty and dire but it was a goer!  Julian Walford meanwhile was inspecting Uamb Ard (the sink 900 feet above the Fuaram rising) and hoped to persuade some idiots to pump the sump or worse.

After the usual trip to Lochinver by the route – airfill, listen to Jim Crooks yarning, stock up with pies from the delicatessen - Malcolm Pete and Pete went to dive in a small rocky cove at one end of Clashnessie Bay. They spent 40 minutes being whirled around kelp fronds the size of small palm trees.  Peter Glanvill went verdant with envy when he discovered that Pete Mulholland had photographed a creature that sounds like a Belfry game (the lumpsucker).  This is a very 'kit friendly' site in that one can walk out of the cove over the road and dive immediately into a fresh water lock for instant rinsing.  The loch life was non existent - acid rain?

Gluttons for punishment, we returned to the hut, picked up bottles (and kit except for the more sensible Glanvill) and walked up to the Claonite shakehole.  We then walked over to Anus where Pete Glanvill wanted to take piccies.  This photo session was a dreary flop (as were all subterraneous photo shoots this year) so we soon left for the Inch and more 80/-. The diggers were full of it Death by Chocolate had gone to 100 metres of roaring streamway with up and down stream sumps.  They were now haying a go at Tree Hole.  Unfortunately for the divers Death by Chocolate could only be negotiated by flat chested dwarves (and certain Belfryites).

The dry weather continued and after the Lochinver run, a small team of diggers and divers went and did a very dry Claonite.  This was the day sump 6 was going to go - or so we thought.  Goon had been in on Mayday and with Mike O'Driscoll a wandering Oz cave diver providing support had carried a gigantic line reel in and dumped it by a son of slot in the roof.  We all had forgotten the dreadful carry between sumps 3 and 6.  This took an hour with 6 bottles and kit before Pete could be pushed into an almost static sump 6.

He emerged a few minutes later to announce that a) goon specialised in Schwarzenegger sized line reels and b) the hole Goon thought we could pass was an eye level underwater squeeze through a letter box.  With the deathless line "You have a go" he handed me Malcolm's reel and off I went.  I decided to look at the bedding I had followed last year which happened to contain the old washed in line.  This was a mistake: after squeezing up an ascending ever tightening underwater crawl with lowering visibility I chickened out and had to reverse out onto a slackly belayed main line which wrapped itself around my bottles.  I emerged cheesed off and chastened.

Apart from the diving sump 6 fiasco the photography did not go too well either and culminated in my doing wiring changes with Swiss army knife to get some kind of working flashgun. Meanwhile Malcom had very sensibly gone off exploring and found more than either Pete or I had done.  The trouble was we did not know which bits were new or where they were in relation to any other known bits.  This area is down for an above water blitz with digging tools next time.

A look at the watch then confirmed the inescapable truth -: the sherpas would have left the cave. The carry out was as vile as we expected and then there was the carry out from the near side of Sump 3.  An hour's struggle saw 3 divers 6 bottles and kit back at the entrance.  Then it was roaming in the gloaming with a bottle by your side as we trudged down the hill at 10 30 pm.  We just made it to the Allt for closing time.

The next day dawned sunny with wisps of vapour slowly rising from the hilltops.  A migration to the hills took place.  Pete and Gobshite walked to the Coluinn waterfall and others footled off somewhere else.  Malcolm and I did CuI Mhor.  After an hour we were down to T shins in the blazing sun.  Wraiths of orographic cloud drifted across the summit ridge as we rambled to the end and a glorious view across to Stac Pollaidh and Suilven.  We munched apple cake the silence only broken by the distant call of a cuckoo and the unrelenting buzz of a chainsaw half a mile below on the shores of a loch.

At the third summit we lay down and drowsed in the afternoon heat among the tufts of dwarf spruce. Sheer heaven and nobody else in sight except a lone and eccentric walker making his own route up the hill.  A leisurely stroll down the hill and we were back at base.  Time for phase 2 of the day - hut building.  The new GSG hut is now liveable although the shower and bunk block needs completing.  We spent a happy hour or so painting on fire retardant paint while waiting for Pete Dowswell to come out and dive.  We picked the site on the Drumbeg road where the salmon cages had been moved.  This site, apart from the carry down the bank, is splendid at high water.  You can swim straight off the rocks without struggling with seaweed.  We surface finned along the shore for a while before finally submerging and landing almost immediately on a dogfish.  I was able to introduce Malcolm to the brilliantly coloured feather stars which abound here while we grabbed as many scallops as we could spot.  Meanwhile Pete who in true Grampian style was diving with no ablj or contents gauge on his bottle had managed to lay his hands on more scallops and an edible crab.

A good meal was had by several of us that evening.

The next day was a Traligill day (we had to try and erase the memory of that Claonite trip).  Pete Mulholland decided to attack down stream Lower Traligill while Malcolm wanted to dig at Waterfall rising and dive Main Rising.  Waterfall proved to be discouraging in that the silt excavated last year had mostly washed in again so the site needs a concentrated burst of effort for real results. We then walked up to main rising in which Malcolm had dived solo into new cave about 3 years earlier.  The crawl, fully kitted, up the bedding to the sump is low snagging and unpleasant.  The line was tied on and Malcolm squeezed into the low sloping gravel floored bedding which is the start of the sump.  Several 'bloops' later he emerged to say it was tighter than he remembered and would I like to try.  More underwater moling by myself and my legs and lower half were through.  Taking the reel I slid into a decidedly murky sump. After scrupulously belaying the line to a large cobble to enable me to renegotiate the squeeze I set off upstream. After I had collided with a soft murk producing mud bank I lost all enthusiasm for the sump and just as things started to improve my undone belt dumped my battery onto the sandy bottom.  Dumping the reel and clutching everything else I torpedoed back to base emerging sans battery and nearly minus a bottle.  The crawl to get to the sump had clearly been mischievously undoing belts on the way.

Time for retreat and regroup.  With a battery and line reel in the sump.  I had to go back.  More apple cake and a canter to keep warm were called for so we went off to see how the others were getting on.  Tav who we met at Lower Traligill solved the mystery of the gloomy vis - the diggers had been surveying Disappointment, that is, until the compass and clino threw themselves into the streamway when Tav was looking the other way.  That was the end of the Grade V survey.  J Rat was stufffing Pete Mulholland into lower Traligill as we turned round and headed back for Main Rising.

Slightly warmer and with a full bladder to empty at the appropriate moment I headed back to the sump.  A short dive got the battery back and then it was action stations.  The now pleasantly clear sump now fulfilled Malcolm's earlier description of being a descent to a roomy ascending tunnel and a minute after picking up the reel I was breaking through the turbulent surface of the streamway. A quick de-kit and off the to boulders which were the previous limit.  After crawling round these I could stand up: unfortunately in a boulder chamber where suspended death abounded.  Ducking out of the other side I followed the passage for a short distance to the inevitable next sump.

Feeling well pleased now I made an uneventful journey out.  I could tell Malcolm was keen to get his own back on the sump which he did the next day by passing it, transporting all his kit to the far end and diving the next sump for 15 metres.  Hopefully this will link with that in downstream Disappointment Cave with the prospect of a further dive linking that to Tree Hole creating a sort of Traligill Traverse.  The final dive exchange will be a thin man job though so be warned.

What of everybody else? Well Jake and Estelle had found a new dig up valley and Tony Boycott and Julian Walford were busy either finishing off Uamh Ard or starting the new dig at Damoclean dig which lies between Anus Cave and Claonite and which Tony describes as looking like an Eastwater entrance.  More drinking in the Inch followed by what I think was a musical evening when Nike Williams 'Mr. Gadget' linked his CD player to 2 FX5's and gave us doses of the Battlefield Band.  It was about this stage in the week when with declining food stores we would give Speloechef the chance to range free over everybody's food boxes and cook some indescribable gastronomic delights.  Pete is booked for next year!

The next day saw Pete Mulholland doing some complicated things with manifolds and bottles to avoid going to Lochinver for air.  The diggers departed for Damoclean Dig - I think some went to look at Smoo and after a scenic wander around Lochinver Harbour the Traligill diving team assembled at Glenbain cottage.  The two Petes went off to Lower Traligillieaving Malcolm to Main Rising.

Due to some major damming and excavating by Pete the day before the water level in Lower Traligill had dropped.  Pete pushed me into the sump first.  I felt happier carrying a 50 which proved to be major overkill.  In crystal clear water the first part of the sump with Pete's beautifully laid 1in was a doddle.  Beyond here it was clear what needed to be done.  The main route is on the right of sump going in and the line could be pulled down and 'hand railed' under chert ledges on the floor.  At Scotch Mist a new line was belayed to Pete Dowswells old one and shortly after I emerged into a vast thrust plane passage sloping upwards at 30 degrees into the darkness.  The stream thundered along the base of the rift.  Pete soon arrived but found his lights rapidly failing so after running the belayed line to a high level we rapidly explored beyond the Dowswell limit and decided to call the whole section we had entered 'For Pete's Sake' to record the fact that it had taken 4 years to get in here and that so far only people named Pete had been there.  Ascending the bedding for 20 metres or so led to a cobbled crawl.  At the far end the passage became a slight descending trench.  To the left at the top of the thrust plane were some low bedding plane grottoes filled with straw pillars and helictites.  The descending trench dwindled to a squeeze along the plane.  I left at this point and found Pete in the dark. When we had both got to the far side of the sump I discovered his only light had virtually packed up in the sump. Now we know why cave divers have supposedly redundant systems!

We had one more day to go. The return to Claonite was postponed for a final exploratory push on Lower Traligill especially as Mike O'Driscoll, a likely looking thin man had appeared.  While Pete Mulholland headed for Lochinver, Malcolm, Mike and Pete G. headed up towards the Bone Caves for the bottles dumped from our Claonite epic earlier in the week. Bottles retrieved we headed for Traligill.  The white horse no longer galloped up to meet us cavers were no yielding touch for food as he had learnt over the last week.  The familiar shuffle into Lower Traligill, following the red paint flakes from Pete's bottles led us back to the sump. Soon I was back doing some trout worrying and retrieving Peter Dowswells original diving line plus belaying our two new lines together.  After a long wait Mike appeared shivering violently - thin Oz cave divers get cold easily in Scottish sumps- and we set off to explore the unknown.  Mike soon passed the previous limit but the new bit -'for the love of Mike' got too tight after twenty metres or so.  As Mike had vanished from sight on the other side of an impassable squeeze with no helmet and only one light I was glad to see him return.  He had reached a point where the bedding width had diminished to something no wider than my dive torch.

Back at stream level we pushed upstream for about 30 metres and although the stream could be seen and heard pounding down the passage ahead there was no let up in the flat out crawling. At stream level the place is very claustrophobic and should only be attempted again in settled weather and low water conditions.  At present prospects look poor for further extensions and it may be better to concentrate on diving the downstream water slide sump, - armed with a lump hammer. It all seemed a poor reward for the man hours put into re-passing the sump which is however the best tourist dive in the valley found so far.

And that really is it. Lots of leads left to follow up and promising digs to continue.  A week is almost too short.  Maybe we will see you there next year.

Peter Glamill


Recent Discoveries At Uamha A' Bhrisdeadh-Duile And Tree Hole.

Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile was an 11m long, dry cave situated in a small cliff at the side of the generally dry Traligill River between the Rising and Tree Hole.  It was discovered in October 1975 by D. Storey and other members or Aberdeen University Potholing and Climbing Club who dug into a small chamber and impassable inclined bedding plane, with the sound of the underground River Traligill echoing temptingly somewhere ahead.  It may at one time have been a resurgence and probably still becomes active in flood conditions.  It was first visited by the writer in August 1978 and again in April 1991, having to be re-dug both times to gain access.  It was one of the projects for this year's invasion of Assynt by the Grampian Mendip Section (BEC, DSS. UBSS, etc.) to drill and blast along this bedding plane during the course of the week on the off chance of reaching the stream and filling in a bit more of the Traligill Basin System survey.

On May 1st Julian Walford, Tony Boycott and the writer fired the first charge of what seemed to be a hopeless task.  On clearing the debris the upward section of the passage was examined more closely than previously and it was thought to be worth an attempt at squeezing up.  Being the skinniest, the writer managed to get through the squeeze after 4m to reach a tighter, horizontal squeeze of 3m into a small chamber with a tiny inlet and pile of collapsed boulders above the impassable bedding plane below.

The following day Rich Blake and Robin Taviner also passed the squeezes but Tony B. failed at the first fence.  Pete Mulholland later got through the upward section but was defeated by the horizontal squeeze.  It was named 40" Squeeze that being the maximum chest size to get through.  Digging now commenced behind the boulder pile in a continuation of the bedding completely full of peaty mud with the colour and consistency (but luckily not the smell!) of baby shit as Tav assured us. After four hours of hard work we had gained 3m and had enough.  The sound of the stream increased as we progressed and we estimated that another half hours work would see us in.  Exhaustion, cold and cramp drove us to the Inch.

On May 3rd enthusiasm was low but three pints of Murphy's in Lochinver worked wonders and we were soon back at "Death by Chocolate" with a plastic skip. Exactly half an hour later Rich, digging upside-down in the rift and looking like the contents of King Kong's nappy, plopped through into open cave in an outburst of obscenities.  A bit more digging along the bedding was necessary before the three filthy but jubilant explorers clambered down to the open streamway below.  We had reached the underground Traligill River where it sumped after flowing along the bottom of a 10m high inclined thrust plane - the continuation of the entrance bedding.

Following a desperately needed wash we headed off upstream, generally having to squeeze through at mid level and after some 50m reached a decidedly dodgy boulder choke.  Halfway along the thrust plane the river had emerged from a sump pool but could be heard again beyond the choke.  At floor level a way through was noted and the writer gingerly crept through into a low crawl in the river for some 3m to a section of 2m high streamway ending in a duck and upstream sump after 10m.  The noisily cascading river and loose boulders rolling underfoot made this an impressive spot and certainly not the place to be in flood conditions.  Highly pleased with ourselves we squirmed back out through an avalanche of slimy mud and headed for Tree Hole to bang the end choke found in April 1991.

Water conditions being low we reached the end easily and whilst Rich went back for the bang (from an overlarge Tony Boycott!) the writer took a second look at the horrendous choke and spotted a possible way through between a couple of nasty looking "Henrys".  A very tight 0.5m squeeze led up into open, loose thrust plane typical of the rest of the cave.  Rich reappeared with the bang and also squeezed into the new stuff.  Comments to the effect that "the twat who said it needed banging wants his head read" were received icily by the writer who was the twat in question!  At Tav's suggestion the extension is now "Twat's Temple".  From the squeeze a descent over boulders led to a downstream sump pool, some 20m of streamway and a large mudbank-lined upstream sump.  A higher level oxbow passage was also explored.  Total length is about 35m.  The extension was not surveyed or visited again during the week but a foray was made to the 1991 extension where Rich hammered and chiselled his way upwards through the 2m waterfall to gain a view into 1.5m of impassably low streamway and an undiveable inlet sump.  His disappointment and fury was only equalled by the pain of the gash in his leg caused by a rock dropping on him not a unique experience for the dear lad!  It was noted on returning through the flat out squeeze in the stream that a considerable amount of water sank to one side possibly accounting for the waterfall which may not after all be a separate "main river".

On 6th May the three "thin men" returned to Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile with intentions of carrying out a grade 5 survey but on the fifth leg Tav earned the undying gratitude of Tony B. by dropping his Suunto compass and clino. into the sink below the choke.  This was an expensive error but the cause of the naming of this bit "The Compass Sucker"!  The tape measure survived so we were able to get a reasonably accurate length of 119m for the cave, 108m of which was new stuff.

These two extensions have filled in a lot of the gap in the lower part of the system.  Short dives should link Traliglll Rising through to Tree Hole.  With the diver's extensions to Lower Traligill Rising providing a way upstream the missing link in this part of the valley may be gained via Lower Traligill Flood Sink.  An accurate surface/underground survey of the valley is now needed, as are thin cave divers and dry, settled weather.

Tony Jarratt


Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile

Storey, D. (1976) G.S.G. Bull. 2nd Series 1 (4), p.15.

Lawson, T.J. (1988) Caves of Assynt. G.S.G. Occ. Pub. No. 6 p.31.

Tree Hole

Ford, T.D. (1959) C.R.G. Trans. 5(2) p.139.

Jeffreys, A.L. (1972) G.S.G. Bull 5(1) p.24.

Jarratt, T. (1991) G.S.G. Bull. 2(1) p.12



What grade of caver are you???

I thought it would be interesting to list what the various coloured bezels denote on an Oldham cap lamp.  These NCB codes are strictly adhered to, both above and below ground.

WHITE.  Trainee not allowed to go unsupervised underground.

YELLOW.  Completed training but not allowed within 20 metres of a working coal face.

RED.  Completed basic coal face training but has to work a period of time before he is considered finally coal face trained.

BLUE.  Craftsman, allowed anywhere.

GREEN.  Persons driving roadways but not allowed at a coal face

BLACK.   Allowed at coal face or driving roads.  Completed full coal face training and roadway training.

Martin Grass


Climbing For The Over Forties 

By Dave Yeandle

1971: A rainy day at Stannage.  I lead up the route with difficulty.  I get in four runners, I've no confidence in any of them.  Sixty foot up and almost there.  I lunge for the top hold, miss and fall off.  Three runners come out and I'm certain I'm going to hit the ground. To my immense relief and surprise the last runner holds and I find myself one foot off the ground being held by Mart who is shouting something about my total incompetence and why I shouldn't be allowed near a crag.  He lowers me to the ground.  I untie the bowline around my waist, and rant about how there is no way I'm going back for the one remaining runner.  At this point it falls out anyway and we both get enveloped in coils of rope.

This sort of thing has been happening a lot.  I decide on the spot to give up climbing.  And I do.

1992: Another rainy day at Stannage.  Steve and I have been invited by Rachael on a weekend of caving, climbing and partying to celebrate Sue's twenty first.  I have little intention of caving and no intention of climbing (after all I gave this up more than twenty years ago!)

I'm trying to think of something to do to get out of climbing.  A fell run maybe or perhaps a walk.  I look up at the crag and remember the last time I was here, so long ago. Perhaps it will be fun to just hang around and watch.

Sue leads up a V diff. Some way up she decides she doesn't like the look of it.  This seems pretty reasonable to me as by now it's raining heavily.  She reverses back to a ledge.  To the left I notice a chimney, I'm sure I can climb it easily. "Ahem Sue I wouldn't mind a go at that route to the left, can I tie on and lead on through?"  Sue says O.K.

I tie a bowline around my waist and climb easily up to Sue.  I don't have much trouble getting up the chimney, after all it's a bit like caving and only some moderate anyway.  As I pull myself over the top I look down.  The view is marvellous: rock below my feet, the moorland below the crag giving way to lovely Dovedale, where the sun is trying to shine a bit.

I feel ridiculously pleased with myself, getting into it now I go looking for Ian so he can take me up something harder.  We do a v diff and getting really excited I decide to go for a severe.  No problem, some of the lads have rigged a top rope on a severe, Yeandle can have a go.  Most of the group have finished climbing now and have been watching each other attempt the top roped severe.  As I tie on with a bowline people try to get me to use a harness.  Not interested in such new fangled nonsense I refuse.  Steve says something about would Sir Edmund Hillary please hurry up and do the route so we can all get out of the rain?  So I start, determined to give my all.  The climb starts as a corner which I manage with a desperate sort of shuffle using as many points of contact as possible.  The next bit’s a hand traverse which I somehow manage with much flaying of legs and uncoordinated lurches.  Still I don't fall off.

It's really raining hard now so it's decided to go back to Sues' via The Foundry  What's the Foundry?  An indoor climbing centre.  Whatever next.

Having no real climbing gear I don't climb at the Foundry, only watch from the spectator area in the balcony, amazed by the whole thing.  Climbers swarming all over the walls, doing very hard looking things. They seem to have no fear of falling off, and do so frequently and I soon realise in total safety.  It occurs to me that I could train like this and get to be a better climber than I had ever imagined I could be.  I start to dream.

We all get drunk at Sue's and Steve and I decide to become a team.  I vow to give up all pleasures of the flesh and devote myself to leading extreme rock climbs.  Well yes, one can get carried away on occasions,  Still we do manage a few routes at Froggot, the next day.  We're pathetic though.

The Bristol Indoor Climbing Centre has just opened and I decide to join.  I quickly get over my prejudices against chalk, harnesses, sticky boots and things in general invented since 1972.  I start to use cool words like "FLASH" and "DYNO".  I offer accommodation to top visiting sports climbers from Sheffield when the British National Indoor Climbing Championships are held at St. Werbergs.  A really great group of guys and girls.  I'm rewarded by being allowed to escort the competitors to the toilet during the competition.  No really, somebody has to make sure they don't sneak off and watch other climbers on the route.  Inspired I enter a friendly competition at E1 level.  I don't even come last.

But am I getting any good? No not yet!  A day with Snablet.  A typical example of an early Yeandle lead.  Gronk a V.S on the Sea Walls.  Snablet has been borrowed from the Hunters.  The first two pitches pass with only moderate fear, as I manage a modicum of protection.  On the third pitch I wander off route onto a route called Terror Firma, which is, sadly, E4 and several grades above Yeandle on a good day.  I realise I'm off route when I'm twenty foot above Snablet who is belayed to a rusty peg and I've failed utterly to get in any protection. The rock is overhanging a bit and I haven't a single hold I like.  I realise I am unable to move up or down and that I'm getting weak.  Does my whole life flash through my mind at this moment of mortal danger?  No, but I feel a bit like Arthur Dent about to be thrown out of the Vogon Space Ship through no real fault of his own.  Also I'm sure Snablets' Mum is going to be really annoyed with me as he has not been long since his last hospitalisation brought on when Quiet John fell on him at Split Rock. I announce to Snablet that I'm falling off.  He's not impressed by this and suggests I consider another approach to my problem. I desperately look around for a gear placement and manage to get in a tiny No 2 R.P. before starting to slip. It holds and I manage to climb back down to Snablet with the rope in tension.

Back on route we make good progress, move flows through to move in an effortless progression and time, exposure and fear cease to be barriers!  We reach the hand traverse over the two hundred foot drop, I'm feeling unstoppable now; and then Snablet informs me that he won't put up with any more of this and refuses point blank to go across the hand traverse and wouldn't it be a good idea to leave the crag in one piece via the last pitch of Morpheus (a V Diff) and he isn't feeling very well and I'm a nutter anyway!

Steve is more understanding and we slowly tick off Severes, VS's and the occasional well chosen  Hard VS.  The big day arrives when we will attempt our first Extreme.  The Baldest at Portishead Quarry. El 5b, 90ft.  This is delicate balance climbing up twin blind cracks offering not much protection.  I don't take much gear, knowing I won't get much in.  I climb confidently to about thirty five foot, wasting time and energy putting in a runner I don't trust.  Never mind I can see what looks like a good placement a little bit higher.  As I move towards this it starts pissing down with rain!  Very quickly I have no friction; fortunately I'm in a position to traverse hastily right to an easier route.  After much gibbering I'm off the slab, and refusing to do any more climbing that day under any circumstances.  We now have an argument as Steve doesn't want to give in so easily. In the meantime the rain stops and a fresh wind dries the rock.  Plan B emerges!  Yeandle will go straight for the good placement at about forty foot to conserve energy.  After some consultation we have to admit that we will not be able to claim an on site flash for this climb as we now have prior knowledge of the route.  Could we claim a beta flash though or would we have to be content with a mere redpoint accent!  Such moral dilemmas!  In any case "the good placement" turns out to be crap and it's not until more than half way up the climb that a bombproof runner is placed.  Happy now that he won't hit the ground Yeandle stops complaining about Redwood "distracting" him and Redwood stops calling Yeandle a Poof.  The rest of the route goes easily.  Steve follows with no drama and all that's left for us to do is to sort out the gear and to accuse each other of stealing each others equipment.

To be continued.....


Caving Without A Roof

Babs Williams

Our holiday this year was in the Ordessa National Park, which is home to the highest limestone mountain in Europe.  Mount Perdido.  We stayed at a small, picturesque mountain village called Torla, only 4km from the mouth of the Ordessa Canyon.  We camped at a site on the river ArIa which had excellent facilities, a fantastic view of the mountains and (most importantly) a bar!

I had known for some time that the area boasted having some excellent canyons.  I have always wanted to try canyoning so we drove down to Ainsa (the nearest large town) to check it out.  Sure enough, a visit to the sports shop and the trip was arranged for the following Sunday at 10.00am.

The Ordessa equivalent of Andy Sparrow duly arrived at 11.00am.  (Bastard, could have had another hour in bed!) together with four Spanish lads, up for a day's canyoning.  We were kitted out with a wetsuit. Wetsocks, sit harness, a figure of eight and a rucksack, then it was off in his "Tin Box on Wheels" (not a Landrover) to a small and ancient alpine village called Buerba which was full of Norbert Casteret look-alikes.  We were instructed to wear just shorts and boots (I wore a swimsuit to show a little decorum unlike me I know!) and to carry the gear in the rucksacks. After an hour's gruelling walk in the noonday sun, we arrived at a small bridge.  Here Fernando, our guide, produced a bag of prunes and a bag of wine. Interesting fare I thought and then dreaded the consequences that this would have on Jeff's notorious bowels! We donned our kit, set off downstream and soon reached the pitch at the canyon mouth.  The walls of the canyon were only about eight feet apart and about eighty feet high, so it was very dark beyond and promisingly "cave-like".

Fernando had previously rigged the pitch with an 8mm bolt in which he used 10mm Cousin rope and on which we abseiled down 10m to a small ledge.  This was where the fun began, as for the first of many times, we launched ourselves off into the deep, green water.  Descending the canyon took two hours and involved sliding down white water chutes, a lot of swimming and 14 kamikase leaps into pools.  It was truly fab.  The water is crystal clear and refreshingly cool but not cold at all. The canyon varied from 4 - 30 feet across and much of the time was so dark that we might have been in the green canal in Dan-yr-Ogof!  When it widened sufficiently for sunlight to penetrate, it was covered with rich green vegetation and many beautiful alpine flowers of which "Ramondia" was one and is the name Fernando has given to his business.

Eventually the canyon widened into a small river and the trip, sadly, was over.  A killer walk followed.  Back up the mountain in that bloody heat, to Buerba and a delicious spread of bread, local sausage and plenty Vino Tinto (much to the amusement of the locals).

All in all it was an excellent day which I would thoroughly recommend.  The day was expensive, but without local knowledge and a good command of Spanish, I doubt that we would have found the canyon alone.

The rest of our holiday involved walking and climbing Pyrenean peaks, looking for caves using local maps (not very helpful) and pissing it up with Dutch people!  The scenery and waterfalls in this area are stunning.  This was our fourth trip to the Pyrenees and was certainly the best so far.

Holiday Bible: The Pyrenees-The Rough Guide

Paul Jenner & Christine Smith