The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor

Editorial

Not much from me this time as this is a real rush job to get it out before the AGM.  This issue has been cobbled together in great haste so please excuse any typographical errors or spelling mistakes.

One thing I'd like to mention is that Martin Grass will be standing down as Club Secretary this year and I'm sure you'd all join me in offering a vote of thanks to him for all the hard work he has put in over the years...... Thanks Martin.

There is no odds & sods page this time and 'Spike' is on holiday in Barbados so nothing from him either. (I can hear sighs of relief from here).

The first part of this issue is the reports from officers, but there’s some caving stuff after to make up for it!

Ta Ta for now

Jingles.


 

Hon. Sec.'s Report 1994.

M. Grass.

As I explained last year in my report, 1994 would be the last year I would remain as secretary as I believe 5 years in one position to be enough.  I recently worked out that in 22 years in the B.E.C., I had spent 11 years serving on the committee so I believe it is time for a rest.  1994 has been a very quiet year from the club's point of view - nothing controversial has happened and everyone has been doing lots of caving.  The hut is doing O.K. but I believe it is in need of some major renovation and I think that next year's committee should look at some form of fund raising to cover the cost of these repairs.

This year we did return half the amount pledged for the St Cuthbert's Report and sales still trickle in but I believe it could be many years before the rest is saved.

I wish my successor all success and look forward to serving on the committee again in a few years time.

Report of BEC Membership Secretary 1993/1994.

At 31st August 1994 the Club had 132 fully paid up members, of which there were 14 joint members i.e. 28 persons, and 104 single members.

58 members took advantage of paying the discounted rate of £20 prior to the January deadline. Virtually all the joint couples paid within that period in addition.

There have only been 13 new members welcomed to the club this year and one of those, having failed to pay any subscription, has been removed from the register.

We are 2 members short of membership number 1200.

The new membership applications are certainly on a par with previous years, and though giving no reason for complacency, I believe there is no need for undue concern.  Several long standing members in the 10 - 15 year membership bracket have decided to let their Club subscriptions lapse in the last year.  I have spoken to all of these persons and it is generally due to their individual domestic circumstances, such as unemployment, other club affiliations, or general loss of interest, that has placed them in this situation.  Certain individual members were permitted to make their payments on an instalment basis to enable them to maintain their membership.

Total subscription income totalled £2150.00.

I have explored the question of direct debit or standing order payments and these are not financially viable to operate due to banking practices.

I have attempted to reintroduce the issue of receipts and membership cards to all paid up members. However some persons may not necessarily have found theirs loosely included with their BB’s, should any member like a replacement copy please contact me accordingly.

I proposed last year at the AGM that the large life membership section of the BEC - which totals 42 persons -would be contacted regarding their willingness to now consider resuming some sort of contribution to Club funds.  The AGM supported this motion, but I have not written to the individuals, preferring a selective 'one to one' conversation with as many of these members as possible, and I hope to be able to advise the AGM of an outcome or general consensus.

I do not intend to run as membership secretary next year, unless the AGM instructs me, as I have an interest in another post on the committee, if elected.

May I give a general thanks to all those members who paid promptly.

'Mr. N'
Nigel Taylor.


 

Hut Warden's Report.

There has been an increase in hut bookings this year and takings have increased considerably. There has been lots of fun at the Belfry, mainly member’s nights (e.g. The Belfry Olympics) & lots of barrels.

A displayed debt list has made it easier for members to keep track of what they owe.  NOTE., it would be appreciated if debtors could all pay up by the A.G.M. so the incoming Hut Warden has a clean slate to start with.

Unfortunately due to expedition commitments I am not standing for Hut Warden but I am prepared to stand for something less committing.

Estelle Sandford.

BEC Caving Secretary’s report 1993/4.

St Cuthbert's

In April we had a Cuthbert's leader's meeting which was very well attended by BEC and guest leaders. At present we have 45 leaders & I think this is probably enough as most of these are active.  The main concern of the meeting was the state of the cave.  During the next three months there will be a major clean up operation.  Washing buckets and brushes should be in the cave along with tape for formations.  A list will be put up on the Belfry notice board of the leaders and sites to be cleaned. There is also now a guest leader’s log book by the outside porch.  The next leaders meeting will be in April or May next year.

Thanks to all the leaders who have taken trips in the past year, those who haven't - I'll be contacting you shortly with a list of 'duties'.  Don't forget to sell the reports, your cave key will give you access to some in the box in the main hallway at the Belfry.

Cave Bookings Etc ...

We are still members of CNCC so if anyone wants Yorkshire caves booked, or anything else, please let me know ASAP.

As from next February I shall be arranging some away weekend trips, starting with a Derbyshire weekend, details will be put in the BB.

As usual members have been all over the place ... France, Austria, Philippines, Scotland etc.

Members are as ever active digging .. Hillgrove Swallet, Eastwater Cavern, Wigmore will be looked at again by Trebor & co, and work on the entrance of Sand Pit continues.


 

I.D.M.F.

There have been no applications so far this year, see the treasurer’s report for the balance.  The rules will be published in the BB following the AGM.

Jeff Price

1994 Tackle Master's Report.

This has been a relatively average year for tackle, nothing has been 'scrapped' ladder wise and two more new ladders have churned out of the factory.  We hope to make use of the rope testing rig which is now complete!! Anyone wishing to test their own rope supplies can do so at pre arranged dates.  The cost is 50p per rope for members, all monies going to the tackle fund.

I would like to thank the majority of responsible people who book the tackle in and out and I would also ask the irresponsible few to inform me where the f*** 12 ladders, 6 spreaders and 2 tackle bags are!!!

The lads and I who run the ladder factory can see no point in making ladders if they just disappear without trace!!  I personally would not like to return to the bad old days when there was just a few poor quality and questionable strength ladders in stock.

I have, however, enjoyed this year's work and hope to carry on.

Mike Wilson.

Tackle Inventory.

Total previous ladders     19

Total scrapped               Nil

New Manufactured         2

Total for 1995                 21

N.B. 9 ladders counted in stock.

12 ladders not accounted for!

Stock Ropes ... 2 x 75’   DYN

                        1 x 120’ DYN

                        2 x 26m DYN

Assorted stock .... 12 Spreaders, 11 Tethers

N.B. 6 Spreaders counted - 6 Missing!!

Exploration Store Stock.

Stock ladders    2 x 25'   New

Stock ropes

1 x18m Static

1 x20m Static

1 x36m Static

1 x67m Static

1 x35m Static

1 x54m Static

1 x40m Static

N.B. 1 x 250m coil scrapped on Austrian Expedition.

6 Tackle bags   5 Rope Protectors.

Mike Wilson.


 

B.B. Editor's Report.

Well quite what I'm supposed to report on here I am not sure of!  I can tell you that I have produced six B.B.s in the last year and that I would have liked to produce more but was unable to due to lack of a computer for three months and the fact that I was busy with work.

When I started, last October, I had precious few articles in hand.  This situation changed dramatically during the course of the year and my thanks go to all those of you who put pen to paper.

I have a stock of articles in hand at present for the next couple of issues but as always more are welcomed.

I would also like to thank certain individuals without whom I would not have been able to do what I have. Tony Jarratt has been invaluable in the distribution of the B.B. as many local members will know as they usually receive their copies in the Hunter's Lodge, thus saving the club quite a bit in postage.  For services rendered on his computer I want to say thanks to Dick-Fred, indeed he was responsible for typing a large portion of the last issue.  Finally to Elaine Stellyes, for lending me a computer to play with, though I'll probably spend more time playing 'Elite' than typing up the B.B.!!!

I have had a mixed bag of feedback from the membership over the year as to my 'style' of editing ranging from enthusiastic approval to downright rudeness.  There is one thing I have learnt above all else and that is that you cannot please all the people all of the time.  There have been times when I have felt that whatever I did it would not be right but there have also been times when I have felt quite satisfied. All in all have enjoyed the editorship very much and would be quite willing to continue next year if it is the wish of the membership.

Jingles

Hut Engineers Report

The year started with many good intentions but unfortunately not as much has been achieved as expected.

The Belfry is now 25 years old and repairs and maintenance will be an increasing feature.  Several jobs are becoming progressively more urgent or desirable.  The usual small group of members have given of their time both generally and at the working weekend held in May.  The site is subjected to a lot of heavy use and abuse.  In order to keep it in good repair and maintain it in a desirable condition it needs a greater input from the membership.  This will help spread the workload and cover all the tasks that need doing.

The work done this year includes:

1.                  l. New time clock and heating element fitted to the hot water tank.

2.                  Repairs to the shower coin boxes.

3.                  Purchase of a new shower (still to be installed).

4.                  Repairs to toilet cistern.

5.                  On going repairs to the floor and wall tiling in the changing room.

6.                  Installing a rack in the drying room.

7.                  Repairs to the fire door in the main room.

8.                  Painting of the main room ceiling.

9.                  Wall washing in the main room.

10.              Installing passive ray switches to the outside lights.

11.              Cleaning of the drains and gutters.

12.              Emptying of the septic tank.

13.              Rubbish removal from the Belfry site.

14.              Grass cutting and general site maintenance.

15.              Cleaning of the main room/kitchen during the working weekend.

However there is still plenty of work outstanding.  A list of these has been displayed in the Belfry for several months which asks for volunteers to take on a task.  To date there has been little response.

I hope that members at the AGM can promote a positive way forward to ensure that our hut is kept in good repair.

Lastly I wish the new hut engineer every success.

Tim Large
September 1994.


 

Librarian's Report

After taking the Librarian's post at last year's AGM as no one else seemed keen to do the job I started with a fit of enthusiasm which although has slowed down has not diminished. The BEC library contains a very important collection of books and club journals dating back to before the war and, although is partly duplicated by the collections in other club libraries, it has a number of unique items. Importantly it has - or should have - a complete collection of all the publications (and caving logs) produced by the BEC.

My predecessor had recently produced a list of the books in the library and I felt that the most pressing task was to collate and bind all the exchange material and whilst doing so to produce a catalogue of all the journals.  After a year I am about 20% of the way through this task!  I am giving everything a unique "BEC reference number" so as to avoid re-cataloguing misplaced items; also this will help when checking the library contents in the future.  Disturbingly I have found that a number of recent exchange journals are not to be found having either not been received or taken from the library without being booked out.  I am making a list of these missing items and will publish this in the BB.  I intend to obtain duplicate copies if the missing items are not forthcoming.

As hinted to above I was very surprised to find that the club does not have a "reference set" of all its publications, or if it does, it is scattered throughout the library.  I feel strongly that the history of the club is extremely important and without a complete set of BB’s etc. our records are woefully incomplete.  During the year I have been given bound sets of many of the early BB’s which I will be placing in the library and intend to use one or more of the locked cupboards to hold a complete set of all BEC publications.

Attached to this report is a list of all items added to the library in the last year.

Dave Turner 14th September 1994.

BEC Library Additions 1993-4

Books and Guides

Avon & Cheddar (Climbers Club Guide) 1993

The Caves of the Little Neath Valley Oldham 1993

Caves of the Mellte Valley Ockenden 1991

The Concise Caves of North Wales Oldham 1991

Irian Jaya 1992

Speleo Nederland 1992

Mendip Underground Irwin & Jarratt 1993

Speleo Philippines 1992

Spelologie aux Philippines Deharveng 1980

Clubs publications etc.

Axbridge Caving Group Newsletter Su.l94

Bradford Pothole Club Bulletin Vol. 6 No.9 (Au. /93)

BEC Belfry Bulletin Nos. 470-474 (12/93-8/94)

BCRA Cave Science Vol. 20 Nos. 2, 3 (11-12/93)

BCRA Cave and Karst Science Vol. 21 No.1 (8/94)

BCRA Caves & Caving Nos. 61-64 (Au.l93-Su.l94)

The British Caver No.116 (Sp.l94)

Cave Diving Group Newsletter Nos. 109-112 (10/93-7/94)

Cerberus Speleological Society Journal Vol. 22 Nos. 1-5 (11/93-7/94)

Devon Speleological Society Journal Nos. 149,150 (1/94-4/94)

Die Hohle Vol 44 Nos. 3, 4 (1993)

Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin (3rd series) Vol. 2 No.5; Vol. 3 No.1 (10/93­3/94)

Hades Caving Club Magazine No. 33 (6/93)

Mendip Caving Group News Nos. 230-236 (9/93-3/94)

MNRC Newsletter Nos. 42-44 (10/93-4/94)

National Caving Association SpeleoScene Nos 10-12 (11/93-8/94)

National Caving Association Constitution and 1994 AGM minutes (1994)

Plymouth Caving Group Newsletter & Journal Nos. 119-121 (Wi./93-6/94)

Red Rose Cave & Pothole Club Newsletter Vol. 30 Nos. 2, 3; Vol. 31 No.1 (? /93­5/94)

Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Vol. 9 No.5 (Au.l93)

Societe Suisse de Speleologie Stalactite Vol. 43 No.1 (1993)

South Wales Caving Club Newsletter Vol. 43 No.1 (1993)

Speleo Nederland Pierk Vol. 9 Nos. 1,3 (4-7/94)

UBSS Newsletter Vol. 9 No.3 (11/93)

UBSS Proceedings Vol.19 No.3 (1993)

Wessex Cave Club Journal Vol. 22 Nos. 239-242 (9/93-8/94)

The West Virginia Caver Vol. 11 Nos. 5, 6; Vol. 12 Nos. 1-4 (10/93-8/94)

Westminster Speleological Group Bulletin Vol. 9 No.7 (4/94)

Westminster Speleological Group Newssheet Nos. 1-7 (5/93-6/94)


 

Assynt The Big One.

When you start a snowball rolling down a hill you can never predict what will happen - will it gather momentum and size, sweeping all before or will it crumble ignominiously after a few yards?  Five years ago Brian Johnson, Tony Jarratt and myself started such a snowball rolling. The momentum is picking up with the years and 1994 was vintage.  I knew things had really taken off after people started talking of taking a fortnight over the trip.  Trapped by the contours of my on call rota our little group suffered from the usual weather problems - never have I been so reluctant to leave Sutherland.  On with the story ...

Peter Mulholland and his girlfriend Myrna arrived a day earlier while Malcolm Stewart, myself and Trevor Knief in one car John Kidd and Pete Rose in another and John Buxton in yet another arrived on Saturday 23rd May ( St George's day for those north of the border).  We found the new (Grampian) hut in a state of semi civilisation and proceeded to turn it into a slum with bodies all over the living area on any soft surface they could find.  After a brief foray to the Allt bar where we drank them out of Bellhaven and scared the landlord off we bedded down for the night.

We were woken with morning tea from John Buxton (henceforth JSB - this was written all over his kit in white paint!)  All caving expedition should have a JSB ­cheerful reliable and great at providing tea at those chilly post-dive moments.  At a pinch he'll sherpa your kit up and downhill, pose for photos without complaining and even pump your dive bottles.  In fact to pump bottles required the combined efforts of the two Johns and a certain amount of tinkering with electrical before JSB's compressor worked without throwing the trip switches.  The three cave divers Mulholland, Stewart and Glanvill decided to warm up with a trip to sump 4 in ANUS cave.

A slow start but help from JSB got us to the entrance in the early afternoon.  The stream was thundering over the fall in the Cave of the Innocent Boy and pouring down the pit.  JSB settled to a long and patient wait.  Did I write warm up???  Hah!! Try diving in melt water when the last time your head submerged with a D/V in your mouth was in the Red Sea.  Tail end charlie with vis like cock-a-Ieekie soup and anaesthetized feet I blundered thru' the sump.  Progress thru' the crumbling fossil passages to sump 4 was swift and Mulholland thrust himself into sump 4.

Meanwhile Peter G looked up Moonmilk Aven, an inlet above the sump which turned out to be blind with the stream issuing from a tiny slit.  Malcolm then found Upholes Passage which is an unlikely hole in the roof a few yards back from Moonmilk Aven on the same side of the passage halfway up a mud slope.  He declined to follow Pete on the grounds that he was wearing his dive mask and couldn't see or breathe properly.  Upholes consisted of a short climb up into a couple of solutional domes which emerged in a steeply sloping and extremely crumbly chamber.  The crumble had a 1.5 metre trench running down it liberally decorated with the weird mud whisker formations unique to ANUSC and a shade of smoky grey.  A delicate scramble up the rubble face at the end of the trench ended on a ledge from which a bold step out over the ascent took me to a short ascent ending in a hole seemingly punched through the flat bedding roof.  More loose boulders lay strewn around me when I gingerly popped up into the bedding.  A low solutional tunnel in grey limestone meandered into the distance and I began thrutching along it until after a low wriggle I faced a squeeze.  My lamp flickered marginally and I suddenly felt very lonely up a climb beyond one of the longest sumps in Scotland.  Despite the fact that open passage and a possible sump 4 bypass loomed I backed out and returned to the others.

We spent the next half hour persuading my flash to function and after this another 25 minutes actually taking photos before meandering out.  All Pete's worst fears about the traverse were confirmed when a large flake on the floor fell on his foot on the way out.  The return through the sump was better with the current going with us and much to our surprise JSB was awaiting our return.  He even carried some of my kit down the hill.  Meanwhile team B i.e. the rest of the party went and did Quinag in the wind.

After a Mulholland gourmet meal we descended on the Allt and instructed the landlord's son (acting as temporary licensee) on what drinking up time etc. meant for us anyway!

The next day dawned bright, sunny and breezy.  We were all off to Achiltibuie to allow Pete Mulholland to get his revenge on YAD (Pete Rose) by taking him diving!!  A great spectator sport if you weren't actually diving yourself.  Myrna and John Kidd, the non divers, collected firewood while we slowly kitted up by Badentart pier.  JSB had actually dived here before using oxygen re-breathers and assured us of clear vis and vast numbers of scallops.  There might have been in the 1950's but there aren't many now - judging from Malcolm and my self’s experience they have largely metamorphosed into welly boots. After a 30 minute swim over sand occupied by the usual burrowing creatures we emerged frozen to collide with Rose slowly wittering his way down the pier's steps.  He survived the dive!!

The party split up with the arrangement that we would all meet at Kylesku later for a dive.  A leisurely drive along the coast road to Lochinver was followed by a session at Jimmy Crooks' to get air (he was spring cleaning, which seemed to mean that he threw everything into his shed before he threw it out) a wander around the fish warehouse to examine the denizens of the deep, shopping at the delicatessen and chandlers before another amble, in fact more of a brisk march, out to see the Old Man of Stoer, a spiky and prominent sea stack draped surprisingly, despite its seeming inaccessibility, with climbing tapes.

The long winding coast road got us to Kylesku just before high water slack, the perfect time to dive this particular site.  It was a still sunny evening and the limpid water lay still as the proverbial mill pond against the old ferry slip.  Tony Boycott suddenly appeared as we were contemplating the tranquil scene.  He and J-Rat had just arrived.  A quick change into damp kit was followed by a gentle slither into the embracing arms of Loch Cairnbawn by the indefatigable duo Glanvill and Stewart (the others hid in the pub).  I had plans to find the wall I had briefly visited a few years ago so set off straight for the bottom and veered seaward across the coarse sand.  This was dotted with clay pigeons and at least one car wreck.  Eventually a sloping wall at -20m was encountered.  We were gobsmacked when we rounded a corner at -30m to see it go vertical and plunge into the depths.  In the light of my torch we could see every inch covered in marine organisms - urchins, starfish, sea­squirts and feather stars.  Walls in the Red Sea aren't as colourful as this! At one point Malcolm received an unpleasant surprise when a long armed squat lobster I had caught earlier escaped from my goody bag.  A pink blur shot at his chest in a fashion reminiscent of the egg rupture scene in Alien - "Underwater no-one can hear you laugh!"  Eventually the cold sucked enough heat from our bodies to force our return.  A superb dive!

After a fast change and a quick pint we headed back to Elphin where the mornings scallops were prepared and eaten without ceremony.  Then it was down to the Allt (or was it the Inch?).

Day three dawned dull and drizzly.  I did not fancy diving but did have plans to take photos in the Traligill Valley.  Pete M. persuaded Malcolm to dive in the waterslide sump while stalwart JSB offered to sherpa.  J-Rat persuaded Tony Boycott that there was nothing quite so nice in this world as digging in upstream Tree Hole.  Eventually we all arrived at Glenbain cottage and reluctantly got into our damp kit. The Rose team went for a drizzly fester while the diving team trudged up to the waterslide.  Water levels seemed high and we progressed gingerly but once out of the stream progress was swift.  Pete refrained from throwing kit down the passage this time.  Down at the sump Pete G took photos while kitting up went like clockwork.  The sump, last dived by Brian Johnson and myself 3 years ago had ended in an area of slabby breakdown which I thought might have needed a lump hammer to pass. Pete vanished into the sump to emerge triumphant 10 minutes later.  He had passed the narrow section with ease and the way on was open.  Malcolm submerged to reappear several times with bits of line left from the previous foray into the sump (when the line had been lost).  He laid line in crystal clear water and roomy passage for about 26m before returning. The site was a goer.  We left the cave in high spirits and taking advantage of the prevailing good mood, I lured JSB up to the rest of 'Knockers' with the promise of apple cake.  A very fruitful photo session followed free from the whingeing models I normally seem to acquire!!

Meanwhile the two Tonys had been busy excavating tree hole upstream and had completely exhausted themselves spoil hauling.  The dig looked promising but high water conditions threatened to cause difficulties.

The weather conditions continued to deteriorate as the afternoon slid into evening.  However Malcolm and I had a date with the Kylesku wall and left the warmth of the hut armed with JSB, a dive computer and the plan that we would do a bounce dive to -40m.  I had agonizingly dragged on my soggy suit in the hut but Malcolm retreated to the salubrious surroundings of the Kylesku public conveniences when we got there.  The water seemed marginally warmer in relation to the surface temperature. Plunging swiftly down the shingle slope I drifted to an abrupt halt after turning to see Malcolm waggling his hands and pointing at his ear.  The stick ear caused us to stay at -20m while we cruised along a wall which seemed to go on forever.  The creeping cold eventually dragged us back to the surface too quickly at one stage in the ascent according to JSB's dive computer.  After a chilly strip in the gents eased by cups from JSB's kettle we made our way 50 yards to the pub for the final 1m decompression.

The following day dawned sunny.  After a trip to Lochinver I dropped Malcolm off for a solo walk up Canisp before meeting Pete John and JSB for a photographic trip in ANUS cave.  Trevor had disappeared up the Traligill valley armed with optimism and a crowbar to examine a possible dig on the hillside. Pete and Myrna decided to visit Smoo and Loch Eriboll.

On the walk up the valley JSB's boot began to disintegrate - a new use for snoopy loops was found - sole retainers!  A pleasant tour of ANUS with giant flashbulbs was had by all and we departed the cave to find a fine rain cum drizzle was falling.  Taking advantage of JSB's kind offer to carry my kit down the hill I went off on a tour of the ANUS and Claonite sinks.  Having overshot the ANUS sink by half a mile I marched across quartzite slabs in the general direction of the Claonite feeder loch having failed to realise that the sinks are downstream of the loch.  Much bog hopping later I arrived at the silent black pool in the peat which absorbs the Claonite stream.  Some depressions beyond it contained some interesting holes and passing the rumbling but collapsed entrance of Heidbanger, I noticed another collapse which looked promising.  It was then downhill all the way to the car.  Back at the hut all had returned including a footsore Malcolm who had walked back from Canisp having failed to be recognised by Pete and Myrna as they passed him on the road.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and the prospect of re-diving the waterslide sump began to look brighter.  A small party marched up to the waterslide entrance, took photos and deposited bottles. We then walked up to Uamh Cailliche Peirag (or something like that) an old resurgence cave for the water from Cui! Dubh.  A picturesque rock arch led to a short bit of cave and a chamber in which shafts of sunlight illuminated a small stream.  At present there is no way on.  Above the cave is a featureless peat covered plateau dominated by the grey snow covered peak of Conival. Pete M., myself, JSB and Malcolm then headed for Kylesku for a dive at low water slack. I had decided to launch my inflatable that day after the dive but things went from bad to worse during the preparations.  I went flying on the pale green low friction seaweed growing on the lower slip.  A bloody ripped hand did not improve my mood.  The vis was dingy during our photo session and by the time the boat was launched the tide was running.  The engine started, stopped, stalled and spluttered. A brief run upstream left us frantically paddling back to the slip where the boat was beached.  A 1500 mile round trip for 5 minutes in the water!  Such is boating.

J-Rat and Tony Boycott returned from their day's exploits in a very satisfied/satiated state having relocated the cave of the Deep Depression in the Traligill basin and then managed to get back into the streamway, a short but extremely energetic trip.  The quote of the day from J-Rat when we enquired about diving the sump was "I'm not a diver, I'm a drunk!"

Trevor Kneif won the trip's walking award by doing the 15 mile trek over Suilven to Lochinver.

Scottish weather did its usual dirty trick of deteriorating overnight.  A dive in the waterslide would be impossible.  We contemplated the grey drizzly landscape and thought festering thoughts.  Malcolm and myself decided on a dive safari in the north.  This is a grand name for a damp drive in search of sunshine.  Most of the others did the same.

After some cock-a-leekie and sandwiches at Riconnich we dug out the map and dive guide and headed for Kinlochbervie.  Road improvements are going on in a major way around here.  We headed for Oldmanshore glancing at a couple of sites from Ridley's book on the way.  The first two involved steep walks down fields to the water's edge and we passed on those in view of the prevailing weather conditions.  At Oldmanshore we went for a stroll across the wide white sandy beach collecting two fish boxes and an old net.  Finally we drove onto Chaligaig pier.  A deserted stone jetty swung out into a small bay with several offshore rocks over which a heavy swell pounded.  It was low tide and a pulpy soup of kelp stems washed around the end of the pier.  The dive guide's quote was "superb dive".

We kitted in a grey drizzle and trooped down the jetty.  The next 40 minutes consisted of a swim over whitish grey sand interspersed with kelp 'islands'.  Definitely no pinnacle caves or arches as the guide had promised.  After 30 minutes of boredom and two ascents to correct navigational errors the cold got to us and we crawled out.  "I've had better" I remarked as we stumbled up the jetty.  "I've had a lot better" Malcolm muttered.  A chilly change saw us back in the car and on the long drive back to Elphin. That evening the hut building team of the G.S.G arrived and were treated to a long overdue slide show of the caves. Various of the team decamped to the old hut, space being at a premium and we eventually settled for the night.

The next day dawned dull and uninspiring.  I had decided to acquire some scallops as a peace offering for Angie so headed off to the salmon farm on the Drumbeg road with Pete M. Trevor and Myrna.  It was high water giving easy entry but finding decent sized scallops was hard.  After 35 hypothermic minutes, I surfaced with a few scrawny side plate sized specimens and some marine creatures for the aquarium.  (These were later converted to bouillabaisse on the M6).  Trevor and co went off up into the hills while I went back and helped push wheelbarrows at the hut which was a veritable hive of activity. The weather was quietly getting on with improving, the day ending in a golden sunset boding well for the following day's cave diving.  Nick 'Gadget' Williams gave us all some light relief by annihilating a boulder with SLB although having Goon around with a 15lb sledgehammer seemed just as effective.

In the evening most of us decamped to the old hut where Pete M. cooked a meal by the light of his headset (not with his headset) and we drained the rest of the available alcohol before staggering into the darkness and down to the Inch for a game of pool - or was that the previous night?

The big one?  Oh, that happened after we left!  Ask Pete Mulholland.

Peter Glanvill May 1994.


 

New Discoveries in Cnoc Nan Uamh

Or What Happened When Pete and Malcolm Went Home!

On a typical showery April morning Peter Mulholland and Malcolm Stewart assisted by Peter Glanvill and super porter John Buxton headed up the valley from Glenbain cottage to Cnoc Nan Uamh.  In fairly high water conditions the four descended the ramp whilst Peter Rose snapped photos and bid us a final farewell.  We hate it when he does that!

The flow into the sump, it must be admitted, looked very intimidating.  Much time was spent finding a really secure first belay for the line so that if necessary the dive line could be used for the divers to haul themselves out of the water against the flow.

PM dived first coming back after just 3 feet - to make sure that he could!  Finding all to be satisfactory he swung back around into the sump.  Conditions were ideal with the high flow maintaining excellent visibility allowing PM to see that the passage was festooned with loops of Glanvill and Johnson's 1991 line (it was Brian's reel...PG).  PG had described a way on through slabs that needed modification with a lump hammer to make things safe.  PM warily observed the flow swinging up to the right of the passage and over a large boulder.  The line was secured and the diver reversed into the left hand side of the passage. Wishing to make sure of the way back he tied off his reel on weights and renegotiated the boulder constriction, this time keeping the line in his left hand and crabbing round the right hand side with brief pauses to rearrange hoses and bottles.  A much relieved diver raced back against the flow and with a big smile on his face shouted over the roar of the water to Malcolm that the way on was open and the boulder passed, neglecting to mention the old line swathing the sump.  Malcolm dived returning after a brief moment with fistfuls of line and a few clear but concise words for Pete.  Pushing off again he laid an additional 20m of line before tying off and cutting it.

During the next few days water levels rose higher, bottles were portered to the entrance by Pete, Pete and Malcolm but no dives were possible.  After PG and MS had departed south, PM persuaded Mike O'Driscoll to join him on the next dive in the now prevailing low water conditions. "All the bottles are up there and the sumps are wide open!"

Nick Williams portered some of Mike's kit to the entrance and all three were horrified to find a large group of RAF cavers complete with a diver flushed with success at his morning's discoveries, at the entrance to the cave.  It turned out to be a different sump into which 50m of line had been laid.  The GSG team then discovered that 2 bottles had absent bottle bands (they were in PG's car down in Somerset!) PM elected to dive using 2 50's thinking the boulder should be passable.  Mike was conned into portering for Pete in this underhand manner.  The boulder was passed without any hitches and the end of the line reached.  The reel was tied on and PM looked forward to a pleasant longish dive in the splendid clear sump.  After just 5m the diver noticed a) a too tight slot through which the water was flowing and b) a lot of air.  Unfortunately for Malcolm and fortunately for Pete the sump had been passed.  The next short section of passage was named after the hut's new 100 .... Straight Flush!  The passage ended in a new nice looking sump.  P.M. rough surveyed the dry passage, surveyed sump 1 out and with so much air in such a shallow sump was also able to remove all the old loose line pulling off the first belay in the process.  Bemused trout disappeared in a hail of rock debris when PM yanked on the old line bringing a chunk of roof down with the belay.

Celebrations were in order that night.  The next day Mike too had to depart leaving Pete to cajole Tony Boycott into making his first cave dive in 3 years.  Pete pushed Tony into the sump first to give the benefit of the best vis.  Tony joked "to make sure I can't back out!"

PM dived into 2, found an airbell after just 20m and ongoing passage after another 20m.  After the agreed 20mins, Tony followed finding an excited and jubilant Pete who had already seen about 200m of passage by this time but wanted some company before he looked any further.

The two found about 400m of passage ending in a sump and a superbly decorated high level phreatic bedding passage which was named "Northern Lights" being a rare and outstanding sight.  The two now very happy divers rough surveyed and headed out, PM surveying sump 2 on the way.

On their last visit the 2 divers elected to complete a grade 3 survey and photograph the Northern Lights. Having just completed the survey Pete noticed another possible way on downstream via a high level bypass that led on through a breakdown area to an impressive ramp down which the water thundered into a small frothing hole - Royal Flush Chamber.  The survey tape almost found the way on when the water snatched it.  A few metres above and to the side the white roaring streamway a bedding plane was pushed which must be the route the stream takes into lower Traligill in high water and must be only a few metres from Mike O'Driscoll's furthest point reached last year in that cave.

The two surveyed back and then began the slow process of delicately picking their way back through northern lights and photographing it.  Possible ways on were noted but not pushed to avoid damaging the forest of straw and stal formations.  The two exited after a memorable 8.5 hours.

It should be stated that if a connection with Lower Traligill is made then a through trip would be a bad thing.  There is no way diving kit could be moved through Northern Lights without causing massive damage.  Future dives should be made with a view to taping a minimal damage route through the pretties.  It may be possible during very low water conditions i.e. none on the ramp, to explore the hole through which water flows in Royal Flush.  If a connection is ever made in such conditions a kit exchange would be the way to avoid damage.

Peter Mulholland May 1994.


 

Austria – Dachstein ’94 G5 – Eisturnenhohle

Vince Simmonds, Rich Blake, Roz Bateman, Gary Jago

11.8.94

Snablet's already said he can't make it because of work commitments.  I'm getting stuff ready to load the van when Ivan turns up to say he isn't coming either, that leaves just 3 of us travelling to Austria to meet up with Rich who once again is spending summer working in the Weisberghaus (WBH).

12.8.94

Gary & myself left Wells at 4.15 am. arriving at Roz's by 4.30 am.  We then had to wake her up & were eventually on our way by 4.45 am. Drove to Harwich stopping en route for breakfast at a 'greasy spoon' at Little Dunmow, Essex.  The ferry was a half hour late leaving and I couldn't get any sleep.  There was quite a big swell which left Roz feeling a little queasy.  Once again we drove through the night encountering bad weather in the Frankfurt area.

13.8.94

No problems with the route & finally arrived in Halstatt at 8.30 am.  When we'd had a stroll lakeside taking coffee & pastries we phoned Rich at WBH.  He informed us the Seilbahn was ready and waiting so we got all the kit onto one load & began the rather warm walk up to WBH. Arrived at 2.30 pm to the usual hospitality ... Schnapps & Stiegl.  A good afternoon's & evening's session before I finally pegged out not having slept for 40 hours.

14.8.94

Extract from expedition log ... Gary ...

"Roz & I are alarmed.  Rich eats when he wants in the WBH, we cannot cook in the Glocken (fire risk etc.) & Vince isn't hungry - we think he has a stomach which can extract all the necessary nourishment from Stiegl & Schnapps."

Roz was a little the worse for wear after Schnapps Stiegl & Gluwein so her walk was a little unsteady as we carried kit over to G5.  We then had a walk over to G7 and up on to the ridge to view the valley beyond to see where G9 was situated.  Then back to WBH and the evenings festivities.

Extract from the expedition log. Gary ...

"The whole place is phenomenal.  This is Limestone City".

15.8.94

Had a late start over to G5 probably something to do with the amount of Schnapps Rich & myself consumed last night.

Rich & I started into the cave by 1.30 pm. & rigged up to the 50m pitch (ACTION REACTION). Roz & Gary started into the cave 1 hr later but caught us up at the 50m.

We then proceeded through such gems as "SWEATY BETTY" -"BUFFOONS R US" - "CHARLIE CAN'T SURF" -" DEVIL DON'T SCUBA DIVE".  Checking the ropes left in situ last year as we went.  Gary had a minor epic on a knot pass but Roz helped him to sort it out.

Roz & Gary started back to the surface while Rich & I went to locate the way on.  We soon found it & a 3m pitch was rigged a swing into a rift.  Another little gem of a passage later to be named "OI OI WOBBLY WOBBLY THRUTCH THRUTCH" led to another pitch of about 10m.  It was at this point that we decided to head on out.  Caught up with Roz & Gary & a steady trip back out.

I had a minor epic when, in a squeeze, my generator pipe pulled off & promptly burst into flames before Rich finally managed to extinguish it.  By the time we had changed & walked back to WBH it was 12.20am & everyone had gone to bed but had kindly left us 4 bottles of beer. Roz was complaining bitterly about being hungry so we found her some sardines & a tin of fruit salad from the stores & she seemed happier.

Went into the kitchen for some more beer and it was 5.00am before Rich & myself finally retired.

16.8.94

Somebody ran to the WBH with news of a heart attack victim somewhere near the Simonyhutte.  Rich & I went over to offer any assistance we could & we managed to beat the helicopter.  The said patient should not have been on the mountain - too fat & out of condition.  After advising the man to walk down to WBH he decided he would carry on up to the Simonyhutte.  We went back to WBH.  Next day the guy turned up at WBH and gave us 100Dm (40 quid!) which was promptly donated to our ever growing bar tab.

Extract from expedition log.  Gary ...

___ "God awful piss bollox Alpine weather!!".

All of a sudden the weather turned shit - just like last year.  Needed something constructive to do so went over to the climbing garden with Roz & Gary for some surveying practice.  After that we retired to WBH.

18.8.94

The weather's still crap so we all took a stroll over to Oberfeld to post some mail for Elfi - just an excuse to drink cheap beer in the military bar.  We then walked over to Gjaid Aim to drink more beer in the Schilcher Haus, a very slow stumble back to WBH.

Elfi was waiting at the door for us with the tragic news of Alan Box's death in Spain.  A phone call to J-Rat for confirmation and after that memory was lost.

19.8.94

Weather has not improved so went for a pleasant stroll to the top of Neiderer Ochsen - Kogel (2218m). Spotted an open entrance very close to the path, Rich isn't sure if it's been looked at.

As usual the rest of the afternoon & evening was spent imbibing in the amber nectar of life.

20.8.94

Rained a lot last night but it has improved this morning.  After a couple of beers caving has been binned.

Decided to have a look at a cave in the bottom of a cliff below Feuerkogel (Jageroart).  An interesting route through some Pinus Montana led to an impressive arched entrance.  Going up a steep muddy slope we arrived at a boulder choke where a couple of possible routes were noticed but lack of kit meant we couldn't get up to them.  We then completed an interesting circular route back to the WBH.

Extract from expedition log.  Gary ...

"As expedition boy, I (Gary Jago) must undertake to:

a)       fetch beer & return empty bottles whenever called upon to do so.

b)       accept the blame for anything.

c)       talk about utter bollox when pissed!

I must also learn the ancient martial art of drinking Stiegl.  Vince Simmonds and Blakey are well educated as to this way of life.  As the elder Vince must be my mentor as I tread the treacherous path of Stiegl & Schnapps hoping one day to assume the mantle of black belt Austrian alcohol drinker, a position of honour, respect and inability to stand up straight.  This is a mission of peril and great danger, of copious vomiting and severely blurred vision - but I must look to my destiny.  As Luke Skywalker learnt to be a Jedi and Grasshopper taught "thingummy-jig" to be a Kung Fu monk, I must learn the ways of Stiegl & Schnapps, guided faithfully by the true men who have followed this path before me."

"To see it all, in a drunken mist, a strangers hand, a Stiegls kiss".

21.8.94

Weather's good so by 10.00 am.  Roz Gary & myself were on our way to G5 arriving at 11.15 am & into the cave by midday.  Carried to the top of the pitch (3m) Rich & I had previously pushed, we then began to survey out.  Got to the rope with a knot pass where we were met by Rich.  He'd had a minor epic when his generator pipe split but luckily he'd picked up my knife on the surface and was able to make running repairs, all this at the top of the 50m pitch.

Roz & Gary continued the survey, Rich & myself pushed on.

Quickly arrived at the bottom of the 3m pitch, picked up the bags, struggled through "Wobbly" , rigged the 10m pitch seen previously, landed on a boulder and both fell over.  A traverse down & around a very interesting faulted rift led to a 20m pitch. Rich went on down only to find himself dangling upside down by a tackle bag when the ledge he was standing on decided to collapse.

From the bottom of the 20m the route split, we followed an upper canyon which quickly deteriorated into "All the nasty bits together" (Rich's quote).  Rich pushed along the bottom which sounded very interesting to say the least.  Rich managed to get himself stuck fast on the return but after a good deal of cursing he managed to extricate himself.  We then headed back to the 20 for a fag break before starting back out.  A battle ensued, another fag at the 50m before arriving back at the surface at 5.10am.  A welcome cup of soup - Rich had the sense to bring a flask with him - and a steady walk back to WBH ..... More Stiegl.

22.8.94

The day dawned with good intentions except it looked as if a storm was building. Knocks and bruises, aches and pains aside we eventually managed to talk ourselves out of caving. After several Stiegls the storm hit with a vengeance.  Drink more Stiegl.

23.8.94

Got up early although not as early as Rich who was already pacing the kitchen.  After several coffees Rich & I were on our way to G5 at 6.50 am.  Arrived at G5 at 7.40am.  8.30am into the cave.  Steady trip in until I tripped, went crashing into the wall and severely hurt my elbow. At the bottom of the 20m pitch "BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE" Rich noticed that his harness was three quarters worn through.  We then went back into the rift where Rich pushed some lower tubes reporting back that they would be suicide to follow - very flood prone.  We went back to the top of the rift and pushed on. I was limited by my elbow so Rich gallantly forged ahead.  The way on is through some desperately tight, technical squeezes leading down into more open passage and free climbable pitches before more squeezes and so on ... "ONLY FIT FOR GECKOES AND INSANE WORMS".

Returned to the 20m, emergency repairs to Rich's harness, a fag and then back out.  On arrival at the 50m I realised that my cows tails were half worn through (I'd already replaced my foot loops) so I was very relieved to be off at the top.  Back on the surface the sun was still shining so after changing and a weary stroll back to WBH where food & Stiegl was very welcome.

Roz & Gary probably had the best idea and went for a stroll up to Schoberl (2242m) in the sunshine.

24.8.94

Everyone got up at 5.30am for coffee etc.  Roz & Gary were to go into G5 for surveying and if they felt like it to start de-tackling.  The weather, however, had different ideas and it began to rain steadily, so caving was binned again.  Things were not looking good, Rich's knee is severely knackered, my elbow's giving me real jip, the cave is still rigged and we don't have enough people.  The only thing to do is to delay our return to the U.K. and pray for a couple of days of good weather.

Another storm is building ... we sought solace in the bar.

Extract from expedition log

Gary:    Cabbage makes you fart.

Roz:     What's the point in coming to Austria when the weather's so crap I can't go underground.

Gary:    Why Stiegl of course!!

Roz:     But just coz Rich & Vince can absorb energy from Stiegl.. .. I can't.

Gary:    Me neither, but I'm willing to learn! 

It's easier pushing down Stiegl’s than G5.

Shut up Gary!!

The day dawned bright and sunny at 5.10 pm.  12 hours after everyone had got up to go caving.

25.8.94

Happy birthday to me.

Spent most (all) of the day drinking.

Wolfgang, Elfi and Rich prepared an absolutely superb evening meal & then we carried on drinking .... Shit faced again!

Extract from expedition log Gary

Written diagonally across the page.

It’s down hill from now on,
So I’ll write on a slope.
Dancing at the disco pump up a loppop,
Wait a minute where's me jumper?
How thick can the varnish get?

The way things are I can almost smell the texture of the green canvas with the exquisite demure draperie.

Have a permanent smile, put a coat hanger in your mouth. 
Next year I'm bringing my diving gear.

It's pissing down.
It's my birthday and we might as well get well and truly ...

Let's get pissed again, like you were last summer,
Let's get pissed again, like you did last year,
Do you remember when, beer was slightly cheaper,
Yeah get pissed again, drinking time is here.

Gary Jago's song tribute to the birthday of Mr Vince Simmonds.

And a dilly - dilly strawberry oh!!

26.8.94

Cracked again.

More drinking.

Weather seems better but after yesterday's effort, not capable of caving.

27 & 28.8.94

6.30 am get up to go caving.

Looks like rain .. go back to bed. 

8.00am get up to go caving.

Starts to rain ... go back to bed.

Weather forecast and actual weather do not relate.

9.30 am get up, still raining.

Stay up & have breakfast.  Still raining.

1.0 pm. brighter but awaiting the forecast. 

2.0 Still haven't cracked & gone for the Stiegl.

Eventually & after much deliberation, mainly on my part, at 2.30 pm. we decided to go for it.

Rich is very pissed off because his knee is so bad he is unable to come with us.

Arrive at G5 about 4.00 pm. Roz, Gary & I into the cave by 4.45 pm. A steady trip in with a much increased volume of water, especially the 50m pitch ensuring a nice cold shower. I was getting cold, should have worn my thermals.

Surveyed from the top of the 3m pitch to the top of the 20m pitch.  It was then decided to begin the job of de-tackling.  Gary went down the 20m twice because the bags snagged & then I began the slow process of de-rigging and I was bloody freezing.

An Aside ...

On the way down Gary arrived at the bottom of one pitch, stepped aside to pull some rope through his rack, when a good sized rock decided to fall 30m and land where he had just been stood!  He didn't look too impressed when I arrived!

Caved throughout the night, de-tackling to the top of the 50m pitch.  I arrived at the entrance cursing because of complete light failure and during my darkness, jamming into the knot.  Roz was cursing her anti cave bag but the job was completed.  All on the surface by 4.00am.  Then after soup & sandwiches, began the trudge back to WBH taking 3 heavy bags of kit with us.  The weariness was somewhat compensated for by walking back in the most amazing sunrise.

Arrived at WBH at 6.25 am to meet Rich, who had been waiting since 3.30am to Stiegls & food, prompting the comment from other guests "They must be British!"  After that slumped into bed satisfied in the knowledge most of the cave had been de-rigged and all that's left to do is de-tackle the entrance series (not prone to weather conditions) and carry the rest of the kit back.

Extract from the expedition log

Roz: Carried out Ivan's home made white bag not designed for caving in Austria ­ was a complete bastard - on the side was written "handle with care" & "fragile" ­what a load of bollocks.

Vince said it was a nice bag - virgin etc ... - but he didn't take it for a trip in & out of the cave .... I did!!!

Gary: I like it because it's crunchy!
 Always get your feet metered!
 Drinking was binned in favour of caving today. 
 I got caught by the krabs in "Sweaty Betty". 
 Vince got cold.
 Roz was just stubborn.
 Got up at midday and had a very pleasant do - diddley day.

29.8.94

Weather's great - mist & drizzle, the intrepid trio go for it anyway.

Roz & Gary's mission was to de-tackle from the top of the 50m pitch out.  Mine was to see how much kit I could get into all the small gaps in my rucksack when packing 2 men's kit (Rich's & my own!).  When your rucksack is so heavy you can hardly pick it up add two caving helmets, loosely, to the top to assist in imbalance. Stumbled my way over to the top of the cliff and dumped my bag then returned to G5 to tidy up and await the arrival of Roz & Gary.  Very peaceful place when you are alone in the rain - perfect quiet.  When all were reunited on the surface, all the gear was packed and the slow, very slow slog back to WBH was started.  The damp grey weather was a godsend; the walk back would have been unbearable in the sunshine.

Duly arrived at the glocken and dumped our bags and went for several Stiegls.

Elfi prepared another glorious meal for us, chicken & veg soup, half chicken salad, Stiegl, Schnapps, Red wine etc ... fell asleep at the table .... YAWN!!

Extracts from the expedition log

Roz & Gary, (the de-rigging de-riggers of de-riggsville, United Kingdom of de-rigging) de-rigged G5 from the top of the 50m pitch in a de-rigging style with an overall de-rigging motif.

A major question ... if my rucksack and Vince's rucksack (I'm Gary) are both 75 litres - how come I look like a bloke with a rucksack and he looks like a rucksack with a bloke attached?

Oh Stiegl, Oh Stiegl my friend,
Oh Stiegl, Oh Stiegl you are our best friend,
Over boulders and bunder we blunder along,
Until Stiegl mountain we did run along,
Pushed new passage which Rich went pushing alone,
Surveyed to 20 and ten we are gone,
G5 is excellent and still going on,
Oh Stiegl, Oh Stiegl where did you come from,
A shame about the weather,
SALT GLASS, SALT GLASS, SALT GLASS,
To sit on a table would be pleasure indeed,
But give me a bloke who would swallow a boat,
And I'll show you a table with screws instead of nails,
And feet with copious quantities of deep shag pile carpet,
And that's no word of a lie.
Sirrah!

30.8.94

Finally all good things come to an end and this is our last day.  Spent the morning sorting all the kit out before it was time for lunch, chicken & veg soup, meats, cheese etc.

Then the very sad wrench of saying goodbye to Wolfgang, Elfi & Rich and the last Stiegl & Schnapps before the walk back to the valley.  As we were walking to the valley Rich was being whisked away to hospital by helicopter, to Bad Ischl to get his knee sorted.

Arrived at Halstatt to do some shopping in the Konsum for the WBH before going back to the Seilbahn to load the van including the 100kg of carbide Rich had ordered buried under all our wet caving gear - wise move.  On the road by 4.30 pm.

31.8.94

Again drove through the night, had a couple of breaks and arrived at the ferry port with plenty of time to spare.  Got the tickets sorted and boarded.  Quicker smoother crossing.  Slept a little, played cards.  A nervous time through customs before being on our way back to the Mendips by 6.30pm. Duly arrived after driving through bad conditions at 10.15pm.  Substitute Butcombe for Stiegl and carry on as normal.

The conclusion G5 -400m and still going.

An Aside ...

On watching Roz prepare porridge, Wolfgang would shake his head & smile saying ... "This is only fit for pigs to eat!"

Vince Simmonds.


 

Morton's Pot Dig. Eastwater Cavern.

Work has restarted on this exceptionally promising dig, which is likely to provide a deep vertical route into Southbank, at the very bottom of the cave.  It is essential that we take full advantage of the current dry spell to both dig at the end and remove full spoil bags - of which there are scores lying in wait at the present time.  Anyone visiting the site is encouraged to haul as many full bags out as possible and dump them in the approach to the traverse.  At least three persons are needed.  There is usually a good team digging on Wednesday nights but the more the merrier.  Pick an evening or part of a weekend and organise your own team!  You may be lucky enough to break through - hopefully before the winter rains flood the dig again.

All empty bags and strops should be either taken back to the end or neatly stacked for the next team. If two people are digging at the end, beware of CO2 build up.  One digger should be prepared to get wet.

Below is a diagram of the current operations.

J-Rat.

 


 

Swildons Revisited

In common with many others I derive great pleasure from my trips into Swildons, and with each visit I always seem to find something new that I had not fully registered before.

With this in mind I feel that perhaps club members might wish to read of some earlier trips by keen explorers into Swildons, from 60 years ago.

My wife's father, E.J. Douglas, was an active caver in the 1930s, and a member of the Yorkshire based Cavern and Fell Club - who made their social base in the Hill Inn.  As Secretary of this club he retained copies of their annual records together with complimentary copies of the Mendip Exploration Society journals.  Following his death, these documents have now been passed on for safe keeping to my family.

By 1934 Swildons had been extended to what we now know as sump 2.  Indeed Savory mentions parties being led down to sump 1 in 1921, as well as detailing trips to the Hunter's Lodge for refreshments after these sessions.

60 years ago F.G. Balcombe was responsible for extending this area of the cave and submitted the following report to the Cavern & Fell Club of his adventures

Further Notes on Swildons Hole.

Somerset 1934           By F.G.Balcombe.

After the disappointment of the earlier attack with jumpers and gelignite, hope was never really given up. A sneaking idea that something could be done still lurked in our minds, eventually to form itself into a concrete idea.

There must be a way on big enough to crawl through - or almost 'must' - so if by any means we could crawl through it perhaps an obstruction would be found easier of removal than the barrier massif.  Hence, after toying a long time with the idea, the risks of diving seemed to grow less and less, until quite justifiable, and a Heath Robinson respiration outfit with 40 ft of garden hose was finally constructed and tested out in the domestic bath.  For the benefit of those who may consider rubber hose as a means of air supply for human consumption, it may well be mentioned that half an hour breathing through this foul smelling medium is enough to turn the strongest rather green.

The respirator itself was of very simple construction the seat tube of a ladies cycle forming the principal member.  This was cut down to suitable dimensions, 'Raspberry' valves fitted to either end, and the curved member hacked off to take the mouth tube.  Connection to the hosepipe, a face strap to hold the mouthpiece in situ, a nose clip, swim goggles, a head light and a rope round one ankle complete the equipment - save in one detail, just about as much 'guts' as one man can summon to his assistance.

The ghastly noises emanating from the devilish gear have to be heard down in the bowels of the earth, in misty dim lit surroundings, to be appreciated to the full extent.  But to the history of the job.  Three attempts were made to locate the exit and when found the respirator failed to respond at the depth necessary and it was impossible to pass through without inviting serious consequences.  An attempt was made by Jack Sheppard but alas the hose had been badly re-fixed and came adrift at the furthest point reached - about 20 ft under the rockshelf, it is to his exceptional underwater experience that I am not writing these notes to the 'In Memoriam' column.

Now two things had been learned from this escapade, first that the respirator must be pressure fed and second that waterproof clothing is needed as the low temperature of the water coupled with the blood circulation impaired by the inevitable nervous apprehension is more than the ordinary mortal can stand.

So with a record dash for the surface of the earth to try and restore our dangerously chilled bodies to normal warmth, the second phase in the attack closed.  But no.  There was an aftermath.  The excited tongues of visitor members wagged too rapidly and too loudly, the wily pressmen pricked up their ears and foul calumnies appeared in the Western press, over which we had better draw a veil.

Third phase opened assault and battery.  A charge of 10lb gelignite was laid against the roof of the newly opened arch and fired on time delay at 1.00 a.m.  A dull rumble as of distant thunder disturbed the thunder and the slumbering village shook and trembled.  A party went down the next day with ill concealed excitement to view the wreckage, but there was none, or only a flake looked a bit loose and the mud of a tidal wave was plainly evident.  Jack Sheppard, the most intrepid of the advance trio attacked with a crowbar and suddenly woof - splosh - the lights went out and time stood still - or nearly so - as something like the whole roof fell down before us almost scraping our knees and then drenching us with the splash.  A deathly silence followed – no one dared speak, until, the spell broken at last, we assured each other that we were untouched, and then lit up.  About 20 tons of rock had peeled off the roof and now lay half buried in the mud of the pool.  Thus was our objective brought a little nearer.

Another trip was arranged and loaded with 30lb of 'jelly' we wormed our way down to the pool and planted a shot in the mud at the far end in the hopes that it might dislodge the supposed obstruction.  Only a tidal wave resulted.  Another and larger shot was then fixed under the archway and shot off.  It was evident from previous experience that it was quite safe to stay below during the fireworks, and really, it seemed that more disturbance was caused at the surface than below.  We even managed to keep one of the many candles alight when the shot went off, though the air surged violently up and down the passage in which we were ensconced.  It appeared later that this shot went off during evensong in the village church above our heads.  Rumour hath it that the hassocks jumped six inches off the floor.  The congregation thought that perhaps the judgement day had indeed come and afterwards - according to our information - the vicar was heard to exceed his allotted vocabulary of "Dear me!" Tut - tut.

But we are straying. When the fumes had subsided a little, the damage was inspected.  The object of our attack was untouched - solid and immovable - but the adjacent rib of rock had shed an enormous pile of blocks and had utterly changed the configuration of the final chamber.

Alas doomed to this, another disappointment, we retreated once more to think it over.  The project was announced at the time as officially abandoned but "Hope will spring eternal" as the poets have said and we hope to have another look at it sometime later in the year.

Better that we leave it a while and let the spirit of peace settle once more on Mendip.  Let the press reports of earthquakes in the West be forgotten and let the inhabitants replace their broken crockery we venture forth again to the next attack.

"My former hopes are fled
My terror now begins,
I feel, alas, that I am dead
In trespasses and sins.

Ah! Whither shall I fly,
I hear the thunder roar
The Law proclaims destruction nigh,
And vengeance at the door.

I see, or think I see
A glimmer far away
I'll gaze upon it as I run
And watch the rising day.

(After Cowper).

Balcombe returned to Swildons in 1936 and I have details of this trip together with his 1935 Wookey Hole dives.  If any club member would wish to see these .... just ask!

John Freeman.

ref: Glimmering in the darkness. Balcombe.

Wells NHS Proceedings 1934 ( published 1935)