The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


First apologies to all anoraks who noticed the error in the last BB, which was wrongly numbered.  It should read as follows: June 2000 Vol.51 No 2. Number 507.   My mistake entirely.  A prize will be winging it's way to the eagle eyed member who spotted this terrible gaffe!.  Please alter your copy accordingly.

Other editorial gibberish is that your Editor might see you a little more often on a Wednesday evening at the "Hunters" from now on. I found out what was causing the problem .....

Do keep the articles coming please.  A quick look in the club hut log is enough to convince me that BEC members actually do go caving - despite rumours from other tea drinking clubs and so on.  These short notes can easily be…….nuff said, it's your magazine!!  Also, pictures and articles are BEST sent to me on disc or e-mail, pictures as jpeg files and articles as Microsoft word for windows format.  I can deal with Corel, but files written in notepad (er Pete Rose please note and thanks for the last one) take a lot of editing.  In fact, I have rejected one or two recent articles due to their being excellent but computer written paper copies that I haven't the patience or time to copy out again!!  Send me the bl***dy disc!!  Short articles accompanied by a photograph and totalling LESS than a page are quite acceptable if you have no access to a computer (thank you Roger Haskett). Please keep them coming.

Last copy date for articles and pictures for the December issue is 15th of that month.  Electronic preferred!- Ed


E-mails and other Snippets

Priddy Mineries Reserve

Richard Witcombe and Tony Jarratt have recently been appointed as joint managers of this Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve.  They will be looking for volunteers in the summer months for various projects such as repairing the Minery Pool dam, weed clearing from Waldegrave Pool, etc. These will be excellent public relations opportunities that need your support.  The fact that Stocks House Shaft Upstream Level may soon pop out in the Reserve had absolutely nothing to do with their appointment!

Sad news is the reported death of one of the cavers known to anyone who visited the Philippines as a caver.  The report I received is short and to the point.

Hey Mike,

I would just like to inform you that Erwin "Ugadz" Ginson of the Philippines died from neck injury while rafting.


"Its either you live with it or you can eat your heart out"

This E-mail came to me from Dave Irwin.  It refers to Simpson's Pot, Kingsdale

Hi guys, please spread this around to anyone who might need to know the place is a bit scary right now, and is an accident waiting to trap the unwary or inexperienced or unlucky.  If anyone can put up notes in club huts, web-sites etc, please do.  If some wally goes getting clumsy in there, it'll take a long time to dig them out!

The area below the Great Aven in Simpsons Pot, Kingsdale is dangerously unstable.

A number of large boulders and a quantity of mud has fallen from beneath the huge jammed boulder which forms the 'floor' which you land on descending the Great Aven pitch, threatening to block the way down into KMC.  One very large boulder (-3 cu M ) is perched just above the squeeze down at the base of Simpsons/Swinsto final pitches and seems likely to be knocked further by any more falls, effectively cutting off this way on.  Philosophers crawl may remain open, but if the huge boulder comes down this will also likely be blocked.  Looking up, it is difficult to work out what is holding the rest up, and further collapse seems likely.  For the time being it seems sensible to avoid descending the Great Aven, and potential through trippers should be aware that Simpsons/Swinsto through trips may well be impossible, and should bear this in mind if contemplating one way trips. I've sent this to Descent, but that's not out for a bit, so we printed some notices at Bernies and put them at the entrances and on the gate and in Bernies and Inglesport.  Difficult to know what to do, apart from a very big bomb to sort things out one way or another.  Any Ideas?

It's the BPC Presidents meet this weekend (in Kingsdale) so a couple of us might go have a look see, if anyone wants to join in, get in touch.  Dave.

Also from Dave Irwin, a short note about the library.  He writes; Several missing copies of B.S.A. Speleo Abstracts have been replaced by Jim Smart - very many thanks.

Dave has donated a photocopy of "Cave Illustrations before 1900" by Trevor Shaw - an essential reference work for antique cave print collectors.

Hidden Earth conference September 15-17th John Williams and Joel Corrigan will be giving a lecture on their exploits in the Dachstein.  This will be on Sat 16th in the evening


"Sago" and "Tich"

By Jan Setterington

As reported in the last BB, Sago Rice died recently and I also have news of the death of Tich Setterington.  This obituary is for both of these two "giants" of The BEC.

I'm going to live forever ... you will remember my name!

Words from the song that are a fitting description of both Sago Rice and Tich Setterington who both died earlier this year.  They were both "giants" of the B.E.C. and just as well known and well loved in many areas where their numerous interests lay - they will both be long remembered and stories will long be told of their many exploits, achievements and disasters!  Each one of us will have our own particular memories - let us share them.

Tich was the archetypal "laid back Englishman".  Never rushed or harried, he always gave the impression of calm serenity (although paddling like Hell under the water - like the proverbial duck) happy in any situation or climate, conversing ably with the natives in their own language- often in accents and dialects they couldn’t make head or tail of - but getting his point across anyway: as happy and at home in Spain, Africa, Russia or Germany as he was in England.  Some people might say he was happier in Spain, especially when he had a seat in the shade for the corrida: how excited he was the first time he saw Manuel Benitez - El Cordobes - in the early sixties. Tich recognised that this man would change the face of Bull- fighting and re-instate it as an art form that matched a newly emerging modem Spain.  Whether or not you approve of the corrida, Tich was an aficionado - he understood bulls, recognised the bravery and artistry of bull and man, and followed the careers of matadors, picadors, banderilleros and bull breeders through Spanish publications, building an extensive library on the subject.

Although he took to driving late in life and never understood the workings of the internal combustion engine, Tich was an accomplished navigator of elderly motor cars. With his friend Alan Hancock he regularly took part in the London to Brighton Veteran Run and travelled to rallies around Europe in Alan’s 1901 Rolls Royce.  Tich once assured me that Alan had allowed him to drive his old Elmore (an electric car of great age) because he naturally abused gear boxes and could "bang the thing into drive".  I can testify to this inability to come to terms with a manual box when "sitting in the hot seat" while he was learning to drive .... Maybe it was better that he always settled for an automatic ...

Tich was a microscope man - working for Beck and then for Zeiss - if you wanted to wind him up you whispered "Hilgar and Watts" and he exploded: it worked every time to any child's delight!

Tich was a bachelor and "uncle" to many adoring children, especially Julian and Nessy "Sett".  He treated them as little adults and never doubted their intelligence or appreciation of any given situation.  This respect was returned and uncle Tich was more popular than Father Christmas in many households!  Because of his rare blood grouping, the antibodies it produced and the fact that he was a blue baby, Tich had a link to thousands of children around Britain, he saved their lives by manufacturing life saving plasma in his blood system - hence his frequent visits to be wired up at the blood donor centre.

Spending most of his working life in London and living for many years in a flat overlooking the "Poly" ground, Tich was first and foremost a Rugby player - playing way beyond the time most blokes hang up their boots.  When he finally retired from the game he took up golf and spent many happy days trying out various courses around the country then sampling the local food and beer!

Tich came home to Somerset a few years ago and had latterly been working on his family history from a flat situated very conveniently, just behind the Somerset County Cricket ground in Taunton. Whether caving, playing rugby or squash or golf, navigating those old cars or managing the "pits" for his friend Alan during a brief motor racing career (a pit manager - he didn't know what a spanner was for!) Tich was always a sportsman and as age and general wear and tear took its toll he became an informed supporter.  It was but a short stroll to a seat in the stands to watch his team take on the country and the world!  And that, I suppose, is the abiding memory that I will carry of Tich - a man strolling through life, happy and secure in his station, without prejudice and offering friendship to all he met.

Sago exhibited many of Tich's traits, especially in his ability to accept all men on their own terms. He appreciated the other fellow's point of view whilst maintaining his own, but his opinions could be swayed if a logical enough argument was produced.  Sago's Mendip activities, caving, climbing and motor cycling exploits are well known, often embellished a little by the man himself!

But how many people on the "Hill" know of his extensive knowledge of geology and the respect accorded him by university staff in Bristol and Aberdeen. His geological education started late in life with a University of Bristol extra - mural class and progressed through "O" levels to University Certificate standard.  He could have taken his degree, but said he was not dedicated enough to keep up the work - then set out to make some quite exceptional geological slides and concentrate on sedimentary rocks and was never happier than splashing about in contemporary water courses pointing out newly forming structures replicating those lower down the sequence.

Sago travelled extensively in Britain, Ireland, Europe and the USA in pursuit of his geological hobby, and the high point of these exploits must have been his visit to the Grand Canyon.  He took a very bumpy flight through the Canyon and produced some brilliant photographs.

Photography was one of Sago's many interests and for a number of years he and Graham Robinson belonged to various societies and could be seen lurking around Bristol, waiting for the perfect shot.  Some of the best pictures that he took were of English churches and cathedrals giving life to his love of architecture and history. A trip to a castle or other old building with "Uncle" Sago was a lesson in history and he enthused many youngsters (and oldsters) with his graphic stories of long ago battles and intrigues.  He had the knack of making history come alive, although he was always a little bit biased towards the English! Historical discourse with Sago was always a pleasure - especially when one was arguing against him from a socialist stance!!

Ancient man and archaeology figured highly amongst Sago's interests and for a number of years he was involved with Peter Reynolds on the Butser Experiment in Sussex.  Latterly he had been working on pollen samples from the site.  He shared an interest in ancient astronomy with "Sett" and Aubrey Burle and he was enthusiastic about and confident in ancient man’s ability to erect accurate observatories and "calculators". I remember how thrilled he was when Sett took him to see the Menec stone rows in Brittany - their exact purpose provided many hours of, eventually, fruitless speculation!

For an essentially outdoor man - caving, climbing, motorcycling, the T.A. (following a period in the Army) and geology - Sago had three other passions - music, books and art. I remember accompanying him around galleries in Paris and his delight in the brilliant colours of the Impressionists and of his visible pleasure when holding a rare book - his own library was extensive and included many treasured volumes - especial favourites were a limited edition of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom and The Washing of the Spears, Donald Morris's story of the rise and fall of the Zulu nation.  Sago's taste in music was catholic, Bruckner to Brubeck and all stations in between!! There is a story, true, not apocryphal, that many years ago a young man walked into the Hunters and said "I've just heard the best record ever made".  Another young man replied " Summit Ridge Drive on one side and Special Delivery Stomp on the other".  Sago said "How did you know that"?  Sett replied" You stated a fact"!  It has to be said that Sett was the mathematician and statistician and Sago was the romantic, but that was how a lifelong friendship began - a friendship that led, ultimately, to Sett selling Sago his old Matchless. Years after the accident that cost Sago a leg and the demise of the Matchbox, he was in a pub in Cornwall talking to some modern bikers about the machines he had owned and, pointing out his missing limb explained to reason - the bikers nodded in sympathy - not for the loss of the leg but for the wrecking of a beautiful vehicle, an attitude Sago understood.  He never dwelt on his disability but faced each day as a challenge - many are the slightly timorous geology students who, faced with a steep climb down a cliff path would much rather have stayed put at the top but were forced to descend in the wake of a trail blazing Sago who sat down, pushed off and slid down to the beach below.

Sago had many friends all round the world - it didn't matter where he went there was always someone who would pop up and say "Hallo Sago, Fancy seeing you here!" he was gregarious, good natured and generous.  A friend.  My favourite memory of Sago is sitting on a rock on a beach on the Dingle Peninsula surrounded by extra - mural students happily identifying the rock samples they brought to him.  He was a natural teacher and took time to explain always appreciating that students needed to learn at their own pace.

Tich and Sago.  Two friends with many friends and beliefs in common.  Neither was a Christian and neither believed in an existence on another plane after death. This formed the basis for philosophical discussion between us - I am a Catholic and believe that there is a life after death and that our thought process goes on (possibly this is why the Universe is expanding).  Two friends who died within a couple of weeks of each other.  Both strolled through life, confident and accepting.  How fitting then that Sago should be the first to take the next step - he will have been waiting and when Tich arrived he would say, quite naturally, "Hello Sago, fancy seeing you here."

Jan - Wiveliscombe


Do all Cavers Have Beards?

asks Adrian Thomas
(first published in Cavers Digest)

Here in Ireland we have a relatively small caving population and cavers from across the country come together from time to time to practice rescue techniques.  Not so long ago a small group gathered at the appointed place and time on a dull wet day with mist blowing across the bleak karst landscape that is known as the Burren. We headed into a small shake hole in the forest and as we dropped the 3m (10ft) into a small canyon carrying a stream one diligent lad counted us in - EIGHT cavers.  After a few hours of wrestling with simulated injuries and manipulating stretchers round tight comers and through flat out crawls in the water, we emerged into a slightly brighter dull day.  The same diligent lad counted us out and got NINE !!  After a few moments he exclaimed that we appeared to have gained a caver but very quickly went on to identify which one!  His task was made easier by the fact that the caver who had arrived late and found his own way into the cave was clean-shaven. In fact eight bearded cavers had gone into the cave and the late comer was the only one without a beard.  I wonder if anyone has ever done any serious research on beards in caving.  Quite a lot of (male) Irish cavers are either bearded or were at one time.  But the question arises - is it a fashion - are cavers copying one another?  To some extent this might be an attempt to be "macho imago" and maybe many cavers are actually insecure wimps who just want to look tough??  I have had a beard since I was a student (almost 30 years ago) and although I have always loved caves, I only started caving properly about 10 years ago.  Is the fact that I always had a beard significant?  Maybe I was always a caver and just didn't realise it??  I know that I would have great difficulty parting with it even though my wife would love to see it go.  It can't be that I'm lazy although the thought of shaving every day does frighten me.  Perhaps I need psychiatric help?  I'd be most interested to hear what other cavers, and particularly the ladies, think on this subject and whether any of them have ever wished they could grow a beard so that they'd be proper cavers like the rest of us bearded ones?  If this is an inappropriate subject for the cavers page then I apologise.  I have been reading the digest for many years and don't recall this fascinating and deeply personal subject being dealt with.  It would help my research enormously if those males submitting to this digest would not alone indicate where they are from but also their bearded status - maybe just for the next few months?? (eg Bearded, non- bearded, was-bearded).  Females could be excused this ritual at their discretion?  Rude and insulting replies can be directed to me at adrian.thomas@[removed] Interesting replies to the Cavers Digest!

Adrian ( Ireland, Europe, bearded )



"How Not to Go Caving in Northern Spain"

by Pete Rose

"Donde es les Cuevas?" (to the tune of 'West of Santander, down ole Picos way') a famous cowboy song.

Sue, my wife, had always wanted to go to northern Spain and had convinced me that 24 hours on the Plymouth - Santander ferry was good for my health.  Our sons, Martin and James wanted a free holiday after finishing Uni, and having a negative bank balance, I was forced therefore to embark with only a copy of "The Caves of France and Northern Spain" by Sieveking, and "Beneath the Mountains" by Rose (no relative) and Gregson, plus several torches.  This was too much of a contrast to result in any success in finding suitable Fairy cave type situations .... as it turned out.  The ferry contained various members of a biker group from the North strolling around, flexing tattoos etc.  I had been listening in on one conversation that started with how they were motoring down to southern Spain and one had got lost on the way somewhere near Accrington!  (IMPORTANT FERRY TIP.  Do not have a cabin with a low number, like 200 to 300.  These are way down below the car decks and this only results in one contemplating the escape route all night.. .. If something catches fire etc.) We met some friends in Santander, and decided to camp near them for the first week and then go to our farm cottage in the mountains for the 2nd week. We duly drove off to Llanes on the coast west of Santander and set up in a luxury campsite next to some New Zealanders on a world tour (lonely types).  Martin and James had two tents and one set of pegs, so one tent secure or two tents half-done?  I had read the exploits of Oxford Uni. down the Sistema del Xitu by now and thought it highly unlikely I was capable of this sort of stuff with torches and a Petzl headpiece so we offed to Ribadesella, west of Llanes, to see some cave paintings in the Tito Bustillo cave early one morning, but not early enough!  Our friends had missed the cave last year as there was a queue and a quota on numbers (don't breathe over cave paintings or they disappear or get fungal growths or something) this year there was a 100yd queue at 9.30am.  The 250 per day had gone, and I guess everyone buys tickets for groups etc. The Dave Irwin "get us a postcard" factor clicked in but no cards, no nothing.  Eventually found a few at 50 pesetas each in the town and drove off into the mountains nearby looking for caves.  The signpost said Cuevas, 5km ... so we followed it. A large overhang swallowed the car, 100ft high.  A drive in cave!  The road disappeared into 250 metres of high stream passage.  We stopped and climbed up a steep rock slope to look at huge stal, we scrambled around gour pools next to the car!  This was a well-known route for tourists and various Spanish cars came in and tooted.  We drove out into the next valley and the village called Cuevas.  A days caving eh lads!  Next day we started out even earlier allowing for the quota factor, and together with the Jonathan Woods family drove to Cangas and the Cueva del Buxu (pg. 224 in the book, Northern Spain etc).  The road from Llanes meets the Arenas de Cabrales to Cangas road and a few km before the town of Cangas, turns right into the hills.  We zoomed up the hill for miles until it petered out and zoomed down again until someone spotted the word Buxu on a small sign in a small hamlet. We walked up the track for a km passing a Spaniard on the way down.  It was midday by now and this was the guide going for lunch.  This was a maximum 30 per day quota, and his maximum was up! We saw the entrance however, a steel door in a bluff, and retired to a restaurant.  I found a few postcards of Altamira Cave in Cangas, but nothing else.  This town has a nice Roman bridge.  The road to Covadonga nearby was the route to the top of the Picos and the Xitu etc but. .. the wine/beer had got to us.  We drove off to Arenas de Cabrales and passed a Sherborne school bus and on to Panes, where we turned south along the Rio Deva towards Potes.  We got to our converted farmhouse/barn complex beyond Potes at a place called Lerones along an unmade road.  Anyone know any caves around here?  Next day we foolishly followed another sign that said cueva nearby. It was a village, not a cave.  So, we did our up the cable car bit at Fuente De, to the west of Potes, followed by our friends and the New Zealanders (lonely types) this cable car goes straight up a cliff for 800 metres to 1800 metres. Very Impressive!  Any caves up here?  We walked down again carrying rucksacks full of water to drink, in a clockwise direction to Espinama in 3 hours and contemplated caves again.  Our lift back to the cars at Fuente had missed us by minutes so we hid in a bar again.  The Cares gorge walk was next day and is really spectacular!  Three hours along a track carved out of the gorge, with a canal next to you carrying water for a hydroelectric scheme.  From Puente Poncebos (near Arenas de Cabrales) to Cain and 3 hours back again.  The track rises 250 metres at first and then meanders along the wall of the gorge to emerge at the village of Cain.  Along the way one can see resurgences below and above.  Halfway along, the Culiembro is the resurgence for the Xitu, and here was a cave above the resurgence if we could find it.  We lunched at Cain and on the way back (there's even a bar halfway along the gorge) we climbed up to look for the cave.  The map showed a stream - the Culiembro, surely a cave up there! We didn't try hard as we were late for the return drive. (Determination and drive at a low level).  We watched a spectacular rockfall across the gorge along with hundreds of other tourists and it was 3 hours back from Cain to the car and to Sue (who had looked dehydrated and had returned back earlier).  We waved to the Sherborne school bus again.  Still no caving!  Later in the week we tried again ... off to la Hermida, a village in the gorge between Potes and Panes.  A bar owner in la Hermida tried to be helpful and explain about the Cueva de Cuenda?  We set forth again looking for a track across the river and up the hill near Rumenes. Jamie led the way until the path petered out and acquired various ticks. Anyone know this cave?  It wasn't where we were!  Next day the final effort was to be the Cueva del Indal showcave.  This was in the book.  On the coast at Pimiango, 4km from Unquera, 24 km from Llanes. We set off down the road from Potes to the coast, and Unquera is where the road joins the coast road to Santander (there is another show cave at El Mazo, 2km from Panes, called Cueva de la Loja, and we drove slowly through El Mazo, on route for Unquera and the Pindal without seeing any signs).  We had set off late - a mistake let's face it!  The Spanish are up and at 'em early, and in the restaurants for lunch.  The cave is on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Biscay, in a narrow valley.  Several bars are located here.  The entrance sign mentioned its quota of 20 or 30 as usual - no postcards, no nothing!  No pretty cave paintings again.  We gave up and retired to a local beach.  That was it really ... and we drove slowly through El Mazo on the way back looking for 'la loja' but I had the leaflet which stated 'cupo maximo diario de 30 personas', so I wasn't hopeful at all!  We did the beaches after that, plenty of sea caves of course!  We returned on a Thursday/Friday via Santander and the new Hypercor supermarket.  This is near the ferry port and had 2 caving books. I bought both, 'los colores de la oscuriadad' by Ortega is superb, and was 5500 pesetas.  It has descriptions and magic photies - all too late, of course, but I can sit in my armchair and translate the Spanish slowly - 'the colours of obscurity'? It's all perfectly clear.  (The bikers were on the ferry on the way back, don't get lost looking for Accrington lads!)  It was a holiday and we didn't waste the batteries.

Cheers, Pete Rose


Nostalgic Wanderings

by Roger Haskett

Doolin, Ireland circa 1967.

This was my first ever trip to Ireland.  Accompanied by Alan Butcher, Bob Craig, Pete Bowler and Dave (The Piggy Wig) Irwin. We flew Aer Lingus from Bristol to Cork.  We knew we were on the right plane because when they took the boarding ladder away, the plane fell over!  One of the (clever buggers) had hired us a tiny Vauxhall Viva to take five hairy cavers from Cork to Lisdoonvarna.  We made it with no tread on the back tyres, and no dirt or dust on the fronts, they never touched the ground!

We stayed at McCarthey's Cottage, which in itself wasn't too bad in those days.  However we did have some problems with an old Toppy who lived up the road.  He broke into the place and stole lots of bits and pieces, including The Wig's camera. This is probably why there is not a lot of photo evidence of the trip.  Of course, we only discovered this after we had returned from O'Connor's Bar, say at around 12.30 am.  Pissed as puddings, but nary a daunt, we collected our few remaining lights and, intrepidly, set off across the Clints in hot pursuit.  After falling down a few times, and expending lots of bad language, we eventually sobered up enough to go home.  I might add that we did not find any of the gear, although the Cops did recover some of the stuff at a later stage - knackered of course!

Apparently the old man that did the job was an anti - British and used to write allover the road, "Go home Black and Tans", but as we didn't mind drinking the stout without the brown ale, we stayed!

We did actually do some caving whilst we were there.  Sort of in between the drinking, fishing and fishing and drinking.  We did Catherines, Doolin, Coolagh River, Catherines Two and one of the finest trips I have been on, Aille River Cave.  I can only remember swimming the canals, but it sticks out in my mind as a really memorable jaunt.  Last but not least, there is always the story of one member of the party, who spent an evening trying to shove sharpened sticks up a certain crustacean's private orifice, after one of the fishermen had told us that it would stop the meat from going mushy when it was boiled!

Feanor Strand

Left: Doolin circa 1967
Right: The author showering outside the pub in


65 Years Of Cave Diving At Wookey Hole And Graham Balcombe's Wake

By Tony Jarratt

The evening of Friday 14th July saw some seventy people gathered in the 3rd Chamber of Wookey for the unveiling of a brass plaque mounted on a limestone plinth to commemorate the first dive here on 14th July 1935 by hard-hat divers Graham Balcombe and Penelope "Mossy" Powell.  It was also an opportunity for some of Graham's ashes to be spread on the sump pool of the 9th Chamber - the rest going to Swildon's and Keld Head.

The event started with a champagne and canapes reception in the 3rd Chamber with a steady trickle of vintage and modern cave divers and others appearing throughout the evening. Characters included Ann - Graham's fiancé, the BEC's own Sybil and John - the son of Gordon Ingram-Marriot (one of only two divers who have drowned here in the last 65 years).

Peter Hayling, one of the Cave's directors, then gave a short introductory speech followed by a longer historical account given by Jim Hanwell - much appreciated by those present. The plaque was then unveiled by long retired cave diver Sett.  Everyone then got stuck into the beer, wine and buffet while members of the Historical Diving Society re-enacted Balcombe's dive by sending a brass helmeted, bottom walking diver through to the 4th Chamber (and back!).  He was fed air from a heavy hand pump similar to that used on the original dive when Balcombe made BBC broadcasting history (and instant removal from the airwaves) by shouting back to base "Pump you bastards, pump!"  This re-enactment was very atmospheric, especially with the surpisingly clear water conditions.

Many of the assembled went on to the Hunters to continue the evening in traditional style and a well attended wake was held there, in the back room, on the Saturday night complete with a last minute singsong.  A dedicated few finished the night off at the Belfry - some to drown their sorrows after losing the annual cricket match to the Wessex!

Many thanks to the management of Wookey Hole Caves, the Cave Diving Group (Somerset Section) and the Historical Diving Society for their hard work.

See also "Jade Green Water", Descent 155, Aug/Sept 2000, p35

Attendees at the PlaQue Unveiling! Ceremony - Wookev Hole Cave

Ann Turner, Terry Dickenson & Maureen, Sybil Bowden-Lyle, John Ingram-Marriot, Tony Setterington, Dany Bradshaw, Angus Innes, Dave Irwin, Peter Stewart, Clive Westlake, Tony Jarratt, Jim Hanwell, Clive Gardner, John & Audrey Buxton, Rich West, Chris Howes, Judith Calford, Clive Stell, Jonathon Roberts, Fish & Liz Jeanmaire, Dave & Rich Warman, James Cobbett, Tim Chapman, Tom Chapman, Malc Foyle, Mike Thomas, Nick Mitchell, Roger Haskett, Willy Stanton, Mike McDonald, Keith Savory, Carol Tapley, Bob Cork, John Williams, Kev Jones, Sean Parker, Pete Mullholland, Ben Holden, Pete Bolt & family, Martin & Sue Bishop, Chris Batstone, Nigel & Viv Taylor, Amanda Edgemont, Margaret Chapman, Mike Merrit, Roz Lunn and others - (Graham's family, friends, cavers and cave divers). Peter & Cheryl Wingett, Adrian Barak, John Smillie - (Historical Diving Society).  Peter Hayling, Barney & Mrs. Butter ( Wookey Hole Caves directors) and the guides and staff.

Scanned article from the Wells Journal of 20th July 2000, page12.

The article and picture have suffered as a result of scanning a photocopy of the original! Ed

Plaque unveiled paying tribute to cave dive pioneers


Dreadful ditties

by REG

Where is this beautiful cave scene, photographed by Robin Gray?

In Cuthbert's Chas had quite enough
At the rift he'd run out of puff
But the reason was clear
He'd drunk too much beer
And stuffed up his snitch box with snuff!

Caving is not for the masses
And there's often a shortage of lassies
The reason is clear
They drink gallons of beer
Which results in some horrible gases

In past days cave painters were found
In secret grots far underground
For paint they used mud
Saliva and blood
Small wonder their work is ever found!-Ed

There once was a caver called Dave
Who went to the pub on his bike
And on the way home
He damaged his knee
When he missed the right hander in Priddy!

A poetical painter called Gonzo
Did pictures of the Matienzo
His pictures were fine
And they sold every time
But his poetry just didn't quite sound right.


Travels in America Part 2

by Rich Long

Well, as you may remember, I was in New Mexico, with new chums who were going to deliver me into the Guadalupe Mountains, for camping, hiking and contemplation, brought on by not having loads of money to stay in large hotel complexes, not that there were any about.

My friends were true outdoor types, not content to pay the extortionate $5 to park at Sitting Bull Falls, we exited the three 4x4's we were distributed in and seven adults, three children one pit bull terrier and all our caving gear piled into Gus's pick-up. If ever a bunch looked like a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Manson family, it was us, hungover and still covered with yesterdays cave dust and bar-b-que grease.  Caring parents were seen to clutch their small children to their bosoms when we rolled into the car park.  However, the car park attendant never turned a hair, he was about 5' 2", around 65, clothed in jeans, a brown windcheater, zipped to the neck, mirror sunglasses and wispy grey hair sticking out from an old faded baseball cap.

"Five bucks for parking friend." he said to Gus.

"Good Morning, Sir," said Gus, the politest man I've ever met "I have a yearly pre-paid sticker to the Falls."  Pointing at the front windscreen of the truck, cracked all the way across, which seems to be an obligatory feature in this part of America.

"God-damn it, you durned city slickers, ooh, O.K. Park up."  He did seem somewhat peeved for a second or two, but soon cheered up when Gus asked Warren, which was the gentleman's name, if he would keep an eye on the truck as all my worldly possessions was in it. "No problem, I've got a .357 Magnum in the truck, if anyone tries anything ... why I'll give them so much grief." said Warren.  We thanked him and walked off to see the falls and splendid they were.

Time raced by and it was time to bid my chums farewell and I hiked off into the sunset carrying my pack up the cliff path past some excellent climbing spots.  I walked towards the Last Chance Trailhead until it was getting dark and found a very pleasant bit of flat land close to the river, set camp and listened to the canyon start to wake up in the coming dusk.

There were still a few bats about, some as big as Jack Russells, so, I kept my hat on, I didn't want any of them getting tangled up in my luscious, flowing locks.  It was awe inspiring laying out on the rock looking at the night sky, it was still warm in the early evening and you could still taste the warm trail dust and then catch the sweet scent of the trees overhanging the gently flowing river.  Every now and then as the earth cooled I could see the breeze coming up the canyon ruffling the tops of the trees and moving on, just like a huge invisible hand stroking through the leaves.

Jeeesus Christ, I've got to stop drinking so much, I'm turning into Ernest Hemingway.  Still, perhaps I'm not drinking enough!

Well, for the next several days I hiked, trying to do all the trails into the mountains, picking up on the old sites of interest, going to all the viewpoints I could make within a days travel.  It was excellent, unfortunately, as I was drinking river water cleaned by chemicals, not the most pleasant.  Then, one day I didn't drink enough and as you know dehydration, doesn't do you a lot of good, especially as you are about 50 miles from the nearest known habitation. So, I decided to hike back down to Sitting Bull Falls, where I knew there was water at the picnic site.  Head aching, I reached the top of the cliff walk above the falls and looked down.  I knew it had been the last weekend of the season when I had been dropped off, so I didn't expect to see anyone.  Rightly so, no one there, except, in the distance I could see a white pick-up truck, with a guy leaning on the back of it, it had to be old Warren!

I reached the tap after the climb down, had a tentative few sips and filled up my five gallon container, then, walked over to say Hi to Warren.

Warren was dressed the same as the day I'd left the falls several days before, elbows resting on the back of the truck he watched me approach.  "Hi, Warren, how are you today?"  "Fine and yourself?" he replied.  "Pretty good, thanks.  I filled up with water if that's O.K.?  Not too many people around now the seasons over, I guess." I said.

"No, that's just how I like it!" he said, he seemed to be sweating a little "It allows me to do my own thing.  In fact, I'll show you!" then he stood back from the truck and pulled down the zip on his beat up old windcheater and there, stood in a car park in New Mexico, 50 miles from town, I see my first transvestite!  Well, that's what the big boys told me they were called.  He's wearing a red Basque with black lace trimming. He leans towards me and glances round furtively and says, "I've got black lace panties on too!"  It would have been pretty damned attractive on a woman, but with half a dozen grizzled old hairs poking out from his skinny little chest, somehow it didn't do a thing for me!

Now, being brought up in Farrington Gurney, you don't get a lot of cross dressers and if you did they'd damn well keep quiet about it.  We did get one guy transported to Australia years ago for doing something to a sheep, but, I think he married it later and it was all sorted out amicably.

I honestly can't remember what I said but I think it was something feeble like " .. As long as it doesn't do anyone any harm etc."

I quickly took my leave and headed back up the cliff trail, thanking God that I didn't tell him where I was camping.  I looked back from the trail head and far below he was still leaning on the truck, windcheater now zipped up.  I hurried on thinking about the film Pulp Fiction, before I left for America my youngest son would think it highly amusing to play the CD featuring the track "Bring on the Gimp", the part where Marcellus Wallis has very unpleasant things done to his bottom area!  I in turn started to think about Deliverance another film about the great outdoors and equally unpleasant things.  Reaching my camp at a canter, not an easy feat with five gallons of water strapped to your back, I settled down for the night with my brand new Spider co knife attached to my wrist, cuts a tin in half, no problem!  Just what I need tonight!  Still, I can handle Warren, but what if he has pals, Oh dear!!!

The night passes, no visits from anyone except the usual snuffly animals, which I only assume wasn't Warren, swift hysterical kicks to the side of the tent and a lot of screaming soon got rid of them, so everything was fine, as soon as I had stopped crying.

I kept on with my hiking, one day seeing a mountain lion from close quarters and I wouldn't have seen that if it hadn't made so much noise running away, it had obviously heard that us BEC members get everywhere!!  No bears though, shame!

Time came for me to leave and I had to go back to the falls where Gus had arranged to pick me up. No Warren though.

When I told Gus he thought it was hilarious and quickly stated that it had been the first time he had ever met the man!!

We stopped to look at Apache petroglyphys on the way back to town and eventually ended up in Lucy's Mexican restaurant.  Gus suggested the platter, which was a bit of everything and we would have medium strength, well, we downed a couple of Mexican beers with slices of lime stuffed down the neck of the bottle, pretty nice, and proceeded to tuck into the meal. After a few mouthfuls, my nose started to run and I casually wiped it with my serviette, ever the gentleman. Now my head started to sweat, profusely, I now wished I hadn't wiped my nose, sweat and mucus across the top of my shaved swede, not a pretty sight in a restaurant.  More beer!  It turned into a vicious circle, fortunately by now I had plucked up courage to actually look up and Gus was suffering the same fate as me, sweating and nose running. My, what a pleasant sight for the rest of the clientele, fortunately the more beer consumed the less we worried. Still come the end of the meal, we didn't dare move for at least half an hour.  A couple of days later I met one of the greatest guys.  I was doing my washing on a Sunday morning, the nearest thing I get to organised religion, when I got a phone call from Michelle, "Would you like to come climbing?"  Now, let me see, doing the washing or going climbing?

Hmmmmmm!!!! Tough decision! I'm ready!!!!

Curtis picks me up and once again we head off up into the High Guadalupes where we meet a gentleman called Danny Moore, he lives in an Apache Hogan, all on his own.  His Hogan is filled with chess and climbing books, there are skis hanging on the wall, bows and arrows, one bow he has made himself, a black powder musket, "The same kind we chased you British out with!" he said.  "Well, we didn't want it any way!"  I lied.

"O.K. lets go!  I got some great bouldering I want you to try!"

Danny said "Who's coming in my truck?" in the absolute silence and the rest of the group drawing pictures in the dirt with their toes, I in my absolute naivety volunteered.  Danny all this time was walking around in bare feet, mainly because he only had one pair of boots and they were being fixed.

"Only need one pair Bub!" he assured me.

Well, we set off and it soon became apparent why I was the only passenger in Danny's truck, whereupon normal people approach a rock step of approximately 18" on a dirt road, they slow down, fix 4 wheel drive and crawl up over it, Danny floors the pedal and we gun it as fast as the truck will allow.  My head hit the cab like a scud missile, fortunately it didn't explode, but I got a hell of a bruise.  So I learned swiftly and jammed myself in and held on!  My pals were easily amused at the lump already growing on the side of my head, fortunately it didn't spoil my good looks, as it kind of balanced up the lump I already had on the other side of my head, you know, the one where I had the steel plate put in.  Ahhhh, the memories, I knew I shouldn't have camped at Rorke's Drift.  Mr Haskett did warn me!!

Oh yes, the story.  We climbed and sadly I climbed like a caver and ended up with bleeding knees, they were really good about it and only ridiculed me greatly!

Well after I'd lost about three pints of blood we settled down and watched the sun go down from Ridge Road, Curtis broke out cold beers and believe it or not the coyotes started to howl.  Wow, this was everything I had dreamed of.

This was magnificent, me, I'm easily pleased, give me beer, good company, a beautiful sunset and a pack of coyotes and that was heaven!  Look, I know we are cavers and this should be about caving, but, next time I'll tell you about Big Manhole and the hundred mile an hour descent!!

Rich Long


Glanvill’s Photos

Two pictures from the camera of Peter Glanvill of a lighter humour.


Song: The Young Mendip Caver

Tune: German Musicianeer
Author: P. MacNab
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 32 No 2 February 1978

Well I'll sing you the song of a young Mendip caver
And of the adventures that overfell ' e.
Though he'd led a good life, he was hardly a raver
Until he went caving with a girl called Betsy.

Sing fal da ra lal de ra lal de la laddy
All kinds of holes this young caver'd been through
But the ones he preferred, they were both wet and hairy
And his favourite trip was to do Swildon's Two.

Now these two went down Swildon's, the boy and young Betsy
The bike of the Belfry, invariably free.
They slipped on their wet suits and went down together
There was no-one else with ' em, there was just he and she.

Now he'd charged his nife cell and she took her stinky
As down to the dark this young couple did go.
He thought he was hard and she thought he was kinky
And they both hoped the other one wouldn't be slow.

When the Forty was passed he led over the Twenty
Down to the streamway past ruckle and squeeze
But he found the sump wider than he had expected
And very soon after he was down on his knees.

Then it's "Oh!" she did cry, "Well me lamp it has failed me.
Have you got a pricker to bring back the flame?"
So he pulled out his wire and tackled her stinky
And very soon after, 'twas working again.

But this trip down below, it got wetter and wetter
And time after time she cried "Do it again!"
Till he'd tried every way and he could do no better
And then she did say "Try the first way again."

Now when they came out, they were both tired and weary
And the charge in his cell, well it almost was through.
And there's only the moral to tell of my story
Wet stinky's need pricking down in Swildon's Two


Minutes of the 1999 B.E.C Annual General Meeting.  Saturday 2nd.October.

The meeting was started almost on time, at 10.40 am, by the Hon. Secretary (Nigel Taylor).  He advised the AGM that insufficient persons had responded to the Request for nominations for the 1999/2000 Committee, and therefore 8 of the outgoing Committee are automatically re-nominated. However he had received three late nominations in the last 48 hours (Mike & Hilary Wilson - seen by the Committee as prospective replacement Treasurers, and Rich Long - interested in the Post of Caving Secretary).  He explained that now presented twelve candidates for election.  He asked the AGM to consider having all twelve candidates. Vince Simmonds (VS) Spoke in support of this idea, and it was accepted 'On the nod' by all present.

The Hon. Secretary noting that 35 members were present, called for nominations for a Chairman, Martin Grass was the only nominee, and was dually accepted.  P:Mike Wilson (MS) s:Roger Haskett (RR).

Angie Dooley (AD) then successfully proposed and Brenda Wilton (BrW) Seconded that " .. .it should be a 'Smoke Free' AGM" Voting: 14 For, 8 Against, 8 Abst

The Secretary had received apologies from: Rob & Helan Harper, apologies were given from the floor for: Fiona Lewis, Ivan Sandford, John Buxton, Kevin Gurner, Dave Glover, Bob Cork, John Freeman and Jeremy Henley.

The following members signed the BEC AGM Attendance Sheet: Colin Dooley, Angie Dooley, Brenda Wilton, Barrie Wilton, Nick Gymer, Dany Bradshaw, Trevor Hughes, Emma Porter, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Jim Smart, Graham Johnston, Mike Willett, Greg Brock, Mike Alderton, Stuart Sale, Brian Prewer, Bob Smith, Toby Limmer, Martin Selfe, Helan Skelton, Dave Ball, Ruth Baxter, Roger Haskett, Chis Smart, Ron Wyncoll, Nigel Taylor, Vince Simmonds, Roz Bateman, Estelle Sandford, Chas Wethered, Martin Grass, Rich Long, Roger Stenner, Dave Turner.

Item 4, Minutes of the 1998 AGM:- The Secretary pointed out that these had been printed in the BB just after the AGM .. these were P:BrW, Seconded Trevor Hughes(TH), Carried nem.con.

Item 5,Matters arising from the Minutes:- There being no matters arising, these were P:Mike Wilson (MW) & S: Ron Wyncoll (RW) and carried unan.

Item 6 Hon Secretary's Report:- Nigel Taylor had published this in the B.B.  There was surprisingly no debate upon this, and the report was carried nem.con. with one abstention, P: Graham Johnston @ 'Jake' (GJ) S: Angie Dooley (AD).

Item 7, Hon Treasurer’s Report: Chris Smart (CS) apologised for his missed attendances and asked the meeting to accept that there was a valid reason for this.  He then told the meeting that he had won an 80% rates rebate, and were not due any Inland Revenue taxation.  He added his concerns as to the High cost of the BB.  TH queried if we received any monies back from the BB, the Treasurer said no. NT pointed out that the recently renegotiated St. Cuthbert’s lease may have some extra legal cost implications but he awaited invoicing from the Club Solicitors.  However he was pleased to inform the meeting that he had negotiated with the Landowner, Messrs; Inveresk Group not to pay their costs, a generous consideration by them.

Item 7 Continued: Stu Sale (SS) Asked why the phone was on Business rate, but our rates were Domestic.  Both CS & NT explained.  TH asked about Heating Oil, NT advised that there had been no purchases and he monitored this.  The treasurer thanked Roz Bateman for her fundraising and membership money collecting. P: Estelle Sandford (ES) S:TH All in Favour, 2 Abstn.

Item 8, Hon. Auditors Report: Barry Wilton then discussed this with the meeting.  Voting then was P: RH, & S:Brian Prewer (BEP): Unan, 3 Abst.

Item 9, Caving Secretary's Report: No Report given or attendance.

Item 10,Membership Secretary's Report: This was then read to the floor by Roz Bateman.  She advised that there were 170 Members in total, 132 Paid-up members, 38.  Life She spoke on the availability and usefulness of Membership Cards and the Members Handbook.  She particularly thanked younger members for their suggestions. P: AD, S: Martin Torbett (MS) Carried Unam.

Item 11, Hut Wardens Report: The Hut Warden (Vince Simmonds - VS) then gave a verbal report to the meeting based on his joint six month tenure of the post. P:Dave Ball (DB), S:Helen Skelton (HS), Carried Unan.

Item 12, Hut Engineers Report.  No report and No appearance.

Ron Wyncoll asked that the movers of the Fire Extinguishers replace them from where he had positioned them ASAP!  ( Battery charger relocation!).

Item 13, Tackle Masters Report: Mike Willett (MWt) gave a verbal report to the meeting.  He thanked Jake (GJ) for his assistance this year.  Jim Smart (JS) Asked why there was no 'Booking out' Book maintained, MWt said that it was a new system.  RW stated that he thought the system had improved.  The report was voted: P:MT, S: SS. and carried Unan.

Item 14, B.B Editors Report: Estelle Sandford gave a verbal report to the meeting.  BEP Proposed Estelle a vote of thanks for the excellent Club Journal, P:bep S:CS carried Unan.  The report was then taken: P:Toby Limmer (TL) , S:VS. Voting: Unan.

Item 15, Librarians Report:  No Report or appearance.

Item 16, Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:  No Report or appearance.

NT asked the AGM if it was happy with the levels of payments.  BEP suggested that the Committee liaise with Mike Palmer and Tony Setterington (With the Caving Sec, these are the three man IDMF Committee). VS suggested that many new and younger members were joining the club, and they should be encouraged to claim whatever they can.

Item 17, Election of Officers 1999/2000: The Floor accepted the following: Roz Bateman, Chris Smart, Vince Simmonds, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Rich Long, Martin Torbett, Toby Limmer, Mike Willet, Bob Smith, Nigel Taylor.

Item 17, Election of Officers Continued: As is customary, this was done from the floor of the meeting, and Nigel Taylor again declared a possible 'conflict of interests' to the meeting prior to any vote; He reminded them that his explosives business was working in Limestone areas, he was aware that it could be a conflict of interest.  The AGM declared this laudable, and agreed that they did not see it as a conflict of interest.  He further advised that he would shortly be working away in the Falklands and should miss both the November and December meetings, again the AGM accepted this.

Voting for the posts then followed:

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor.P: CD, S: Dany Bradshaw (DB) Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Hon. Treasurer: Chris Smart.P:RH, S:RW , Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Caving Secretary: Rich Long P:MW, S: NT, Carried Unan.
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman. P:CS, S:MW Carried Unan.
Hut Warden: Vince Simmonds, P:N/K,S:GC, Carried Unan.
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer P:NT, S: GC, Carried Unan
Tacklemaster: Mike Willet, P: VS, S:ES, Carried Unan.
B.B Editor: Martin Torbett, P:ES, S: Bob Smith(BS).

Non -Committee Posts Confirmed:

Hon.Auditor: Barrie Wilton. was also reaffirmed as Auditor, P:NT, S: RH, nem.con
Librarian (Not filled, Committee to oversee until volunteer came forward).
Hut Bookings Officer: Fiona Lambert.
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock

A Vote of Thanks was proposed by CS FOR Dave Irwin for his Unofficial Librarian role over the last twelve months, this was seconded by BEP, Carried Unan.

The Hon. Secretary then excused himself from minute taking in order to prepare the AGM lunch, and Chris Smart stepped into the minute takers position:

Item 18, Members Resolutions: Much discussion re removing the whole of Section 'D' from Paragraph Section 5. The floor debated whether some jobs were ‘... more important than others?...’ TH felt that ‘We need one person accountable…such as Secretary or Treasurer…’  After lengthy discussion, the proposal was P:CD, and S: GJ, voting 4 For, 24 Against, 1 Abstn, this failed.

A further proposal to delete the single sentence from the Constitution: "Change of Office….General Meeting" From 5D, Was P: Roger Stenner(RS) S:ES, Voted 28 For, 1 Against, 1 Abstn.  This is therefore a Constitutional Amendment to be raised at the next AGM on the 7th October 2000.

Chris Smart (Member 915) Proposed, and Nigel Taylor (Member 772) Placed a Members Resolution forward as follows:  (See also 1998 AGM Minutes Item 21)

"That the Constitution be amended as follows: Section 3a) Classification of Membership to include an additional group 'G - Temporary Members'.  This group to have membership limited to a maximum of one period in 15 days in anyone calendar year, and to have no voting rights whatsoever and to pay normal guest Hut rates.  The Temporary Member to pay a fee to cover this expense." Both CS and NT outlined their concern and reasons for this proposal (Effectively to cover an Insurance position when prospective members cave with Members -NT).  The Proposal was put to the AGM and Carried Unan. This is also a Constitutional Amendment and must be raised at the 1999 AGM

The meeting then adjourned for Refreshments for half an hour, and on resumption 31 members were present:

Item 19, Details regarding the Annual Dinner, the AGM was told that all tickets had been sold.

Item 20, Any Other Business:

TH proposed A £1 increase in Club Subscriptions as a guard against inflation supported by NT, 12 For, 19 Against 3 Abstn.  Motion Failed.

TH then expressed his worries about the Cost of building an Extension.  NT presented the meeting with the Approved Plans, reminding TH that this had been discussed and approved at the last two AGM's, and further that a full costing would be undertaken before any main part of the Construction started (This does not include minor ground preparation! footings work).  DB was asked to comment by NT on the MRO Position respective the Old Stone Belfry Lease, and other club's attitudes.

TH was concerned about the 'Public Perception that the BEC was having a new extension built at the cost of the MRO - NT (Himself an MRO Warden) was outraged at this "ill informed and perverse attitude"  He added that the BEC at cost only to itself had welcomed the MRO in the Old Stone Belfry for more years than most could remember, and had never charged the MRO a penny for rates, rent, electricity or anything else in that time. Now MRO had a requirement to as it were ‘Take over the whole of the Old Stone Belfry’ and therefore the BEC would lose its only Tackle Store and Workshop space, then The BEC would build its own extension at its own cost. However, in return for an all encompassing 21 Year Lease on the Old Stone Belfry it was only fair that MRO, and indirectly now, other Mendip Clubs should pay towards that MRO lease. Further this fee, which had yet to be agreed, was to the BEC as Lease dues.  What the BEC chose to do with those funds was at the BEC's own discretion.

RH suggested that the BEC thought about obtaining lottery funding for a new extension.  BEP, Dave Turner (DT), TH, AD, also expressed similar views on the subject.  NT commented that he would explore the situation and report to the AGM.

CS Thanked Ron Wyncoll yet again for his 'at cost' Servicing of the BEC Fire Control systems.

NT asked the AGM to confirm the proper appointment of Martin Grass (Committee appointed Acting Trustee). As one of the Four Club Trustees, this was seconded by Chris Smart and carried unanimously.

Nigel Taylor as Hon. Secretary, announced the details and date of the 2000 AGM, as 10.30 am, Saturday 7th. October 1998 at the Belfry.  Martin Grass as Chairman then declared the AGM closed at 2.00 pm.

Minutes recorded by Nigel Taylor and Chris Smart, and later typed:

Nigel Taylor, Hon. Secretary, Sunday 3rd. September 1999.


Tackle Masters Report

2"" October 1999 AGM

Hello all and welcome another AGM.  First of all I would like to start this brief report with a big thank you to Graham Johnson ('Jake') for all of his hard work in the tackle store; Repairing damaged tackle, and making more replacement ladder for the surplus store.  The new system for obtaining tackle, set up by the previous tackle master Richard Blake, bas been successful, as no ladders seem to be disappearing.  In the main tackle store (the old MRO carbide store) which all BEC members have full access to there is: -

  • 2 ten meter ladders.
  • 1 five metre ladder.
  • 2 spreaders.
  • 2 wire belays.
  • 2 Lifeline.
  • 1 tackle bag.





The St. Cuthbert’s ladder, which is tagged, is also still kept here and must only be used in St. Cuthbert’s.

In the surplus store we have: -

  • 12 ladders, between 5 and 10 metres in length.
  • 7 spreaders.
  • 11 belays of various lengths.
  • 4 life lines.




Jake is also in the process of making three ten-metre ladders, which are almost finished and will be added to this surplus store.

For people with digging propjets, there are also various lengths of digging rope which may prove useful, if so, then any committee member on site with the key will gladly let you have access to the digging rope basket.  Failing that, contact the Tackle Master and arrange access.

This is the current status of the tackle store at the time of this AGM.

See you at the pub!

Mike Willett


Report Of The Hon. Secretary 1998/9

Those of you who were interested enough in your club to attend last year's AGM, will no doubt recall that I stated my intention to stand aside this year should any member want to take on the role of Hon. Secretary.  This was not because I was fed-up with a post that I actually enjoy, but rather as an expression of my concern for the best interests of the Club as a whole, and to enable the BEC to have a fresh face for the new Millennium should it so wish.

Unfortunately, we could not even raise any interest in getting nominations for the Committee this year.  On the evening of 'close for nominations' there remained two vacant positions, the seven existing committee members being automatically re-nominated as is the custom of the BEC.

Estelle Sandford encouraged Toby Limmer to stand in the Hunters that night, and Martin Torbett's nomination arrived in the post the next day.

Thus miraculously, we had a Nine person committee with no requirement for an election to be held. However, and this is a point that I will already have addressed the 1999 AGM upon - I have in the last week been advised of three persons who are prepared to stand.  These are Rich Long, and Michael and Hilary Wilson.

Now if you consider that on most Committee meetings this year, we only had three or if lucky four elected committee members attend, much business was transacted on behalf of the many, by the few!  This caused great difficulty in actually effecting the efficient running of the club, and also ensuring that any decisions taken were democratic.

I suggest that if we now have more than the statutory Nine candidates prepared - albeit at a late stage - the AGM might care to adopt them all, in order to ensure that if last years disgraceful situation reoccurs then at least the club should not suffer the indignity of such committee support.

Last year's AGM directed that committee members attendances should be recorded and passed to the club's AGM, these appear as an addendum to this report.  I make no further comment upon them, except to point out that members are volunteers, and they are entitled to their private lives and associated commitments, some of which unfortunately may not have been apparent to them when they stood for election last year.

Rebecca Campbell unexpectedly had to resign her Hut Warden's post in mid turn due to a relocation in Scotland, and I believe that the BEC owes a great big "Vote of Thanks" to Fiona Lewis, who stepped into the role of Hut Bookings Officer both efficiently and without portfolio!

In a similar vein, both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith were co-opted onto the committee and have been stalwart in their roles as joint "Hut Wardens".

I have this year finally renegotiated the completion of a new Ten Year lease upon St. Cuthbert’s Swallet with Inveresk.

Martin Grass was offered and accepted the vacant position of a Trustee of the BEC, and I trust this AGM will endorse this action.

Clive Stell and Alan Butcher (SMCC and Ex-BEC) should also receive the AGM's thanks for their efforts in preparing architectural drawings and obtaining planning permission for the proposed extension to the Belfry (New Tackle Store, to replace the Old Stone Belfry being possibly taken over under an MRO/BEC lease still under negotiation.)

Please, please remember it is your Club try to do your bit however small that may be, to ensure that the BEC goes from strength to strength in the 2000's !!!!!!!

Nigel Taylor Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club,
1998/9 Saturday 2nd. October 1999.


Stock's House Shaft - Summer Madness

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BB’s nos. 502, 504-507.

"Day after day the hole grew deeper - which is the right direction for holes"
The Goon Show (The Evils of Bushey Spon) 1958

The last trip of the Spring (by official Hunters Fireplace Time) was made on 31 st May when 104 bags came out on the hydraulic winch.  Some fun was had in the concrete entrance pipes when an errant boulder which had forsaken its bag threatened to return to the bottom and had to be recaptured.

The Summer season began, literally with a bang, next day when the collapse at the end of the Upstream Level was attacked.  The debris was cleared by the writer and Jonathan Davies (ex Camborne School of Mines c.c.) on the 4th June.  Ahead seemed to be a major choke with the stream issuing at high level through huge boulders.  It was decided to leave this to settle but on reversing out a huge slab of apparently solid rock ceiling dropped without warning onto the writer's head and upper back - with a stupefyingly crushing weight.  Luckily Jonathan was immediately behind and was able to dig away floor gravel with the long crowbar.  This took several minutes, during which time the stream backed up over the writer's nose and mouth giving him more concern as to being drowned before getting slowly squashed!  In shouting, or rather gurgling, panicky instructions back to Jon he drank a fair amount of Mineries water - not his preferred beverage.  Being wedged in a tiny space under one side of the slowly descending boulder the pain from his wedged Oldham cell was adding to the misery but just before the pressure and water became overpowering Jon shifted enough gravel to allow him to desperately thrutch backwards to safety and a much needed fag.  This was a closer call than the "Rat Trap Incident" and the writer is exceedingly grateful for Jonathan's clear-headed action - apparently this is a regular occurrence in C.S.M.C.C. digs!  In this instance there had been no time for an M.R.O. callout. It cannot be stressed too much how unstable the local dolomitic conglomerate can become once the supporting debris or stempling is removed and that it comes down noiselessly with no prior warning.  Thin beds of lubricative clay do not help matters.

Work was now concentrated on clearing the Shaft area and the Downstream Level and on 7th June 75 loads were winched out.

The 11th was devoted to photography and Pete Glanvill took record shots of all the workings, including the dropped roof slab in the Upstream Level.  A faulty flashgun ruined some of these.  Some tidying up was done underground on the following day and on the 14th eleven diggers, including four Wessex visitors, moved a vast amount of spoil along the Downstream Level and back to the Shaft.

The next few trips were dedicated to deepening the floor between the sumped end and the Rat Trap so as to gain maximum reservoir capacity for the forthcoming "big push".

98 more loads came out on the 19th June when the team was honoured by the presence of it's most vintage member, Sett - smartly attired following a lunchtime gathering of lots more Vintage Belfryites at the Hunters.  More bags would have been removed but for yet another unfortunate accident which stopped play and resulted in the writer (who else?) being carted off to Wells Cottage Hospital, by Tangent, to get five stitches in his eyebrow.  The wound was caused by the snapping of a cord loop attached to a Clog jammer used to clamp full bags to the hauling rope.  Due to greed and over enthusiasm each Clog bore two bags - giving a maximum winch load of fourteen!  One pair had jammed in the entrance pipe and were being cleared when the cord broke, the Clog shot upwards into the writer's head and the bags returned to join Vince at the bottom - along with a liberal quantity of blood.  Another lesson had been painfully learnt and future loads were reduced by half.

Over the next two days another 72 loads came out and then a week was spent in further deepening of the Downstream Level floor and removing the main dam.  A rock floor was eventually reached with an apparent, possibly natural, stream gully on the NW side.  A strong Sunday team on 2nd July winched out 135 loads with a further 42 coming out next day - a breakage of the winch starting cord suspending operations. The Wednesday Nighters were thus forced below to move another vast amount of bags back to the Shaft.

The winch was repaired on the 6th July by Trev and the writer and used to remove 105 more loads from the Shaft.  A local walker, Les Watts and his wife kindly delivered several plastic containers to the site for modification to digging skips.  Over the next few days further clearing took place until, from the Rat Trap to beyond Heinous Hall more solid rock floor was revealed.  Lots of old timbers were found in this area including one with a finger-sized drill hole in one end - presumably to take a wooden pin. Wednesday 12th saw another 100 loads out and the completion of the Loop Level "through trip" by Tangent. The next day, while on another clearing trip, the writer used a long crowbar to easily dislodge the 3ft long by 2ft square roof slab which hung over the Shaft loading area like a Sword of Damocles.  This was banged, together with a large rock buried in the floor on the 17th.  With a small stream still flowing work at the end was temporarily abandoned and a project of clearing the Downstream Level, to the rock floor, from the Rat Trap back to the Shaft was initiated.

124 more bags came out on the 19th July when passing North Wales caver John Robinson was collared to drive the winch.  Further clearing operations took place over the next few days with the rock floor being exposed almost all of the way back to the Shaft and on Monday 24th July another 104 loads reached the surface.  Two days later 117 more came out and lots of full bags were moved along the Level.

Whilst clearing the Shaft bottom on 27th July a wooden plank floor was revealed and this was further exposed over the next four days.  Where it abutted into the Downstream Level two hand made red bricks (8 1/4" x 2 1/2" x 3314") were found edging the planking. 64 loads reached the surface on solo digging trips over the next three days and the UBSS hand winch was dismantled and taken to the Belfry for storage.

August began with 109 bags out in the first two days and the disinterment by Trev of the handpump - buried in silt near the end.  After the removal of a small stone this was put back into action and, with the new Heinous Hall dam in place, the residual pool was pumped back and a few bags filled. All was now ready for a concerted attack on the terminal blockage.

Further clearing of the Shaft bottom on the 3rd August led to the finding of a 6 3/8" (162mm) long section of clay pipe stem above a distinct bed of blue/green clay in the undercut north comer.  This clay was later used to puddle the leaking Heinous Hall dam.  The hydraulic winch was removed to the Belfry and padlocked as Jake J. had spotted "Three scum bags in a pick-up truck" taking an interest in it.  This reminded us of the imminence of Priddy Fair and the resultant spate of petty thefts.

A surprisingly large team, including new boys Gary Seaman, Chris Connors and ex-MNRC member Ray Deasy (now resident in Australia), turned out on Sunday 6th and dragged all the bags stored downstream back to the Shaft.  Further clearing of the plank floor here was later done by Alex and the writer - three hands being better than one!  Two visiting, hungover Grampian men (Fraser Simpson and Graham Marshall) helped out the following morning when the dam was plugged and several bags filled at the end. It was certainly novel to hear the lilt of Fife accents in subterrenean Somerset!  The dam was found to work perfectly and water ponds up all the way back to the Shaft.

A three man team removed 105 loads on Wednesday 9th August and during the following week water was pumped back several times to enable a considerable amount of silt to be bagged up at the current end.  This was stacked in the level to displace water when the dam was broken.  Further clearing of the Shaft bottom took place and another pipe stem 4 1/2" (109mm) long was found.  Greg's Level was also dug to give more reservoir capacity. 117 bags were hauled out on the 15th.

The next day work started in earnest on clearing the last of the in-washed winter silt behind the terminal choke.  The capacity of the reservoir gave over two hours of digging time and good progress was made in atrociously slimy conditions by Gwilym and Neil.  Plans were laid to hire a submersible pump to make life easier but a very favourable deal from Brown's Tool Hire enabled the writer to purchase a new one along with an extra 50m of cable.  This was put to good use on the 20th August when a B.E.C./Crewe C.P.C. team eventually pumped the end of the level "dry" after a few teething problems.  About twenty bags were filled and stacked and last year's terminus was within sight.

The same team continued on the 21st and after winching out 149 loads repeated the pumping exercise. Another twenty or so bags were filled before a stray boot unfortunately knocked the bung off the dam outlet resulting in a rapid evacuation to the Hunters'!  Operational hiccups with the winch and pump caused some delays but were eventually (hopefully) sorted out.

A solo Shaft clearing trip by Alex next day revealed several more bricks laid alongside the floor timber and apparently acting as a barrier to deflect the stream from the planking. Better even than this was his unearthing of a broken iron shovel blade wedged vertically behind a boulder.  It had probably been used to prise out the rock but had been snapped off in the attempt and left in situ. It was hammered out from a single sheet of iron and may have been a long handled, Cornish-style, tailings shovel - used to clear sediment from the wooden floor (picture next page).

On 23rd August a strong team avoided the fleshpots of Priddy Fair, pumped out the Downstream Level and filled about fifty bags with chocolate mousse-like slurry until the collapse reached last year was again within their grasp.  A distinct draught encouraged the diggers.  Four days later the operation was repeated and a fair amount of rock was removed from the choke, as was a short length of very sturdy wooden stemple put in by the Old Men as a roof support.  There are at least two more of these beams in place which will be replaced with scaffold shoring if necessary.  It is planned to clear out the whole working face to standing height to allow us to dig in comfort and safety.  Much of this was accomplished on the 30th when much more rock was removed from the choke - which appears to be at the base of a shaft, natural rift or roof fall, time will tell - following the hauling of another 106 bags to surface the previous day.  These pumping extravaganzas have cost several hundred pounds so far - any donations to the "Digging Fund" would be gratefully received!

Work has also continued in emptying the Upstream Level of infill, around ten feet having been done so far. A plan of the Shaft bottom and updated survey of the workings will hopefully appear in the next BB.

Additions to the Digging Team

Jonathan Davies (ex C.S.M.C.C.), Tony Littler (M.N.RC.), Nick "Mushroom" Powell (M.N.RC.), Matt Cook (Cheddar Cliff Rescue Team), Kate Lawrence (Somerset Wildlife Trust), Dr. Peter Glanvill, Sean Briscombe, Neil Wooldridge (W.C.C.), Simon Richardson (W.C.C.), Emma Heron (W.C.C.), Kathy Glenton (W.C.C.), Tony "Sett" Setterington, Ray Martin (S.M.C.C.), Crispin Lloyd (So'ton U.C.C.), Helen Hunt, John Robinson (Grosvenor C.C.), Neil Usher, Ray Deasy (ex-M.N.RC.), Gary Seaman (Cheddar C.C.), Chris Connors, Fraser Simpson (Grampian S.G.), Graham Marshall (G.S.G.), Richard Wright, Chris Binding (Cheddar C.C.), Glynn Rowland (C.C.C.), Alan Allsop (Crewe C.P.C.), Kate Hughes.

Additional Assistance

Wells Cottage Hospital staff, Jane Jarratt, Mr & Mrs Les Watts, Ray Mansfield, David Gilson, Jane Allwood (Archaeology Officer, N. Somerset Museum Service), Les Good (Curator, Medieval & Post Medieval Archaeology, Bristol Museum), Adrian Sharman (Brown & Partners Ltd), Dave Walker (Curator, Somerset Rural Life Museum), Heather Coleman (Clay Pipe Research Society / Dawnmist Studio).

The Clay Pipes

Enquiries as to the age and origin of these have been made to several museums and individuals and have elicited a good response - unfortunately, so far, without any positive result. It is generally agreed that both pipes date from the late 1700s - 1800.

Tony Jarratt
Priddy 1/9/00

The pipe found at the bottom of the dig – date circa 1790 – photo P. Glanvill

Tony Jarratt examines the shot-hole – photo P. Glanvill


Scratchings from the Club diary

Compiled by Ed- any mistakes in names etc, entirely mine!

6-7-00 Dan yr Ogof

Vince, Trebor, Rich Long, Sean Howe, James Weir.

Excellent trip to the Risings via Flabbergasm Oxbow, Grand Canyon, Cloud Chamber.  The canal was a pleasant puddle.  Out via the Lower Stream, Bakerloo etc.  The Lakes were one lake and very damp and deep; water had risen during the trip by approx 9 inches.  Great way to spend a wet Sunday morning in West Wales.  Cheers to our leader Trebor!  VS

11-7-00 Thrupe Lane Swallet

John (Tangent) Williams, Paul Brock, Pete Hillier.

An SRT trip on Mendip! Planned in the Hunter's, that actually happened!  We had an excellent time down this cave, descending Slit Pot, Atlas Pot (from Marble Streamway to one side) and then Slither Pot.  This was quite muddy, the water obviously backing up a way during floods. Despite a roaring draught, none of us felt inclined to squeeze through a wet slot into the streamway.  Back on the ropes our exit went smoothly, Paul doing all the de-rigging, and my glasses steaming up which caused me a few route finding problems.  Overall a great evening, a little hurried at the end as we got out just before midnight! JW

15-7-00 Eastwater

Mike A and John W

Nice trip in Upper Series, climbing Rift Chambers and looking for climb to Dark Cars ... completed round trip, coming out for some beer and cricket!!  MA .. Absolutely, the way on to Dark Cars remains elusive, and rather dark as the Speleo Technics lamp I'd borrowed was even worse than mine! (Sorry Bob) so as usual my trusty LED lit the way.  A great trip  JW

15-7-00 Tynings Barrow Swallet

Vince and Roz

Steady trip downstream. Had a poke up into muddy passages above streamway and up Drunken Horse Inlet did NOT go into Mountbatten Chamber. Air quality not 100%.  Pleasant enough trip.

As for the annual cricket match the BEC gallantly managed to lose again.  Too many potential players decided to go caving only returning to drink beer!!!  VS

11-8-00 Swildons Hole

Rich Long, James Wear

Went to sump 1 as MRO (Bryan Prewer) asked us to change pull through rope, it certainly needed it!! Replaced with nice black SAS rope, we used full camouflage face paint while handling it and spoke in tough manly voices.  Swildons was dryish and formations below Tratmans' were drying out - the coffee coloured crystals were spectacular.  RL

28-8-00 Swildons Hole

John Williams ,Chris Holmes

A splash down the wet way, pausing along the way to admire Barnes Loop.  A little persuasion! description of sump 1 was all that was needed to encourage CH to try diving through it. .. An excellent trip, complete with the usual light hassles  (Speleo - Technics related - Princeton lee saved the day again!)   JW


Dachstein Caving Expedition 2000 Eistumen Hohle (G5)

- An interim report and some ramblings from Tangent -
(photos by Joel Corrigan)

Over the first three weeks this August 17 cavers returned to the wonderful wooden Weisberhaus (a bit like the Hunter's except at 1883m).  The main objective of the trip was to continue pushing G5 towards the Sudwestern Series of Hirlatzhohle, in the hope of making a connection.  This year pushing trip were going to be staged from an underground 4-person camp located at -300m. With the comfort (?) of a cosy campsite to return to, it seemed that the expedition was destined for success.

The Cast of Characters (in no particular order)

Pete 'Snablet' MacNab (the one responsible for this gathering) Mike Alderton, Annette Brecher, Greg Brock, Joel Corrigan, Chris Densham, Tim Francis, Rob Garrett, Rich Gerrish, Lev?, Pete Hall, Peter Hubner, Rich Hudson, Tim Lamberton, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (as surface support 'cos TSA don't make oversuits big enough anymore), Paul Windle, and John 'Tangent' Williams.


The expedition had received generous sponsorship and support from numerous sources: -

A grant from the BCRA purchased the underground camping equipment

Total Access supplied 1000m of rope at very reasonable rates

Various members of the B.E.C. were recipients of money from the Ian Deer Memorial Fund to help with transport costs.

A big thank you to our host Wolfgang & Alfi of the Weisbergahus for their kindness, hospitality, and support.

Thank you to anyone else involved in the preparation, planning or execution of this expedition..

Tangent at the entrance ofG5 (IC)

Deep, Dark, Dachstein ..

By John 'Tangent' Williams

Only for good reasons did the cavers travel along the roads and invisible footpaths within the stonewalls of the cave.  The cavers were like moving shadows.  Exploring, bolting, rigging, and digging.  Scattered dots of yellow-orange light cast by the caver’s carbide lamps were the only signal of their presence.  The occasional bolt and rope, the only sign of their passing.  The caver’s lamps were like small islands separated from one another by an enveloping sea of dark and empty cave.  The caver’s lights were soon swallowed by the blackness of their surroundings.  For them, what existed beyond the beam of their lights could only be imagined. Here was the familiar darkness of a cave; but on an incomprehensible scale.  After their passing, the cave could then return to its original icy silence once more; as it had always been in the time before men came to explore. Their activities were insignificant and soon vanished in the width of the eternal night of that cave.

During the expedition we were able to study the Dachstein from a distance, from up close, and -unique to cavers- from beneath.  Like the Poles and desert regions, the underground environment is one of the few places on Earth where on first acquaintance the landscape is truly desolate, barren, and seemingly devoid of life.  A much closer look shows this impression to be utterly wrong.  On the surface the karst is swathed in forest, only the larch trees are barely 12 inches high, being forced to the ground variously by crushing snow pack or fierce unrelenting winds, their growth stunted further by the aridity of the karst during the short summer growing season. Hidden and small are the well camouflaged animals that occupy the landscape, the occasional droppings or hoof prints just hinting at their presence.

Everything on the mountain requires intense study if it is to be understood at all.  This is very true of the rock, especially if you're trying to follow a new cave system beneath the mountain.  The place both above and below ground is one of extreme diversity and richness; it is also a harsh and unforgiving place, which demands the utmost respect.  The landscape here has far more meaning than that which can just be described through geology, geography and ecology.  Through our little explorations deep under Dachstein, I have gained a better appreciation of this place and its landscape.  Over the past years, through our mapping of the caves, we have made our own invisible contribution to this landscape, and in some small way maybe we have become a part of it also.

In the Dachstein Daze ...

By John F. Williams

After hours of sleep deprivation, combined with a ceaseless tide of Boris Yeltsin-like consumption, my mind was in a fog.  This was due to a night of righteous partying that had been triggered by returning to the sanctuary of the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus after a 3 day long pushing trip in G5.  Later on feeling wasted, distant voices filtered through the fog.  They suggested preparing to push other leads and of the impending demands of the de-rigging trips.  Our retreat from the cave was like the Americans' evacuation of Saigon but without the helicopters, and with even less glory!

Charlotte Bronte once wrote; "Life is so constructed that the event does not, cannot, and will not match the expectation ... " However I don't think she ever had the opportunity to drop into the depths of one of nature's subterranean skyscrapers whilst in the grip of the attendant intense gravitational forces!  On occasions one's expectations are entirely overwhelmed, such moments tend to hit you when you're unsuspecting, and thankfully, only very occasionally.  One such occasion happened to me whilst leaving camp at the end of a pushing trip in G5.

Rich had gone on the ropes ahead leaving me to replenish the water supplies at the camp and fettle my carbide lamp by which time he would be finished ascending the big pitch out of the Hall of the Mountain Numpty.  There was just one slight problem; I couldn't locate the rope that would provide my passage up and out of the place!   A lot of aimless wandering around I sat down on a large boulder in the centre of the chamber and thought about my predicament some more.  Deciding to renew the batteries in my spare torch I then methodically shone its bright beam around the vast cavernous room until the slim silhouette of the rope appeared at the top of a debris slope, hanging within metres of where I had searched several times already.  Keeping its location firmly transfixed in my vision, to the exclusion of everything else, I moved speedily across to it and attached my jammers to the rope in readiness for the climbing.  My mind is now on autopilot.  My nerves are calmed by the prospect of the repetitive routine of ascent. Especially after the uncertainty and isolation of the past half-hour, whilst searching for the way out.

I slide my top jammer up as far as it will go.


Weight foot loop.

Pull with right arm.

Stand up ...

OH ...

... FUCK!

The words are instinctively ejected from my mouth.  They are nearly my last.

My surroundings accelerate past me.  The silence of the cave is shattered.  My cry is soon drowned out as tons of rocks begin to fall, the chamber echoes with the sound of crashing, crushing rocks.  My mind barely registered the frenetic sequence of events that brought me back to my resting-place, looking upward.  My immediate landscape appeared to have taken on a radically new orientation, as if torn by some cataclysmic tectonic force.

Ah ... yes.

The Hall of the Mountain Numpty ...

The Mendip Numpty ...

My mind slowly registering my whereabouts, new thoughts keeping time with the gentle bounce of the rope, hanging there just inches above the ground.  From above Rich's voice boomed down.

'Tangent are you okay?'

'I'm okay ... I'm safe!'

The veteran French speleologist Robert De Joly captured the mood of the situation well when he wrote:

"Life is decidedly precarious in these fateful depths." De Joly (1975: 17)

I began the ascent once again, this time with a lot more caution.  During the long climb, my mind played and replayed the events that had just happened at the base of the pitch, haunting my every motion upward.  It would seem that just as I stood up in my foot loop to leave the deck, I lost my footing on the slope and pendulumed across the slope only inches above the ground, but completely at the mercy of gravity and inertia.  Above me, the sudden movement on the rope must have dislodged tons of precariously poised rock from the chamber walls.  What was it Snablet had written about this place last year?

"It is at this point that the walls turn to sugar and the boulders are held up by plasticine."

I vividly recall a T.V. sized rock glancing off my shin as the tempest of falling rocks commenced. By good fortune the rope must have come taut at that moment and I pendulumed back out of the way just as the falling rocks were in full flood ... Phew.

Later on that day Rich and I eventually reached the surface.  By the time we emerged from the confines of the entrance the darkness had extended from the cave to regain a foothold over ground.  The sun having long since slipped silently away over the horizon.  It was also time for us to slip away in the direction of the Weisberghaus where our friends would surely be awaiting our return with bottles of beer at the ready ...

Pushing at the limits of explanation

You are 300m deep inside Eisturnen Hohle, a cave of severe character buried beneath the Dachstein mountains of Austria.  In front of you at the bottom of a slope of broken boulders is the camp.  Behind you lies the Hall of the Mountain Numpty, a massive black void that you have just abseiled through to arrive at camp. According to your companions, once you get through the passage called Only fit for insane worms and gecko's, you've done the hardest part and there's no good excuse to turn back from the trip - a rest at camp followed by pushing at the current limit of exploration awaits you. On the surface the mountain climate generates a seemingly endless torrent of thunderstorms.  The weather, your caving friends tell you has no impact on the lower portion of the cave, unlike nearer the surface where normally dry pitches can transform themselves into cold cataracts of wild water.  Some have been there; trapped at the base of pitches, pinned down until the flooding subsides, or else have fought for air and ascent against the floodwater.  Your confused:  It's cold and damp, and the view in every direction disappears into waves of blackness beyond the glow of your torch, but something inside you is relishing every moment, part you is actually enjoying it!

You soon begin to question your sense of time and space.  Rebelay's that appear close take half an hour of repetitive motion to reach. You quietly question your own significance in this underworld.  Why you choose to spend your entire summers' holiday away on a caving expedition. Just you and your deluded caving friends and the darkness.  The American climbing writer Michael Bianchi describes a similar situation:

"You mentally compare the void outside to the one inside"

Down in the Birth Canal you look ahead and realise that there is nothing to focus on anymore. Only blackness and varying shades of brown from the all-pervasive mud. In this place the rock recedes and is replaced by layer upon layer of thixotropic mud.  Pausing for a moment to recover from a particularly savage series of manoeuvres amongst the mud, you take a 'look' around.  Above you the rift twists and turns, mirroring that below, a signature to the waters power.  Ahead is more of the same, two sheer walls separated by a strip of black.  In cave exploration there is no horizon to strive for, only a icy draught to chase and sometimes water to follow.  Eventually you stop relying on your eyes, amongst the mud and darkness, other senses take priority.  What you feel: soft mud, sticky mud, dry mud, wet mud, and cold dictate your next move.  What you sense is a feeling of being at the edge of something far bigger than you are. This time you have pushed the 'current limit of exploration' a little further forward, but in doing so the 'limit of explanation' has been exceeded.

Extract from the log 9/8/00: Rich Hudson & Tangent go pushing G5.

"Our descent passed by fairly smoothly, until we reached the heinous Birth Canal.  I'd been labouring with the misapprehension that it was a long vaguely phreatic walking passage named in honour of the Vertical Guru's daughter (born in '99 on the day the passage was discovered).  It certainly is not.  The walls are coated in thick sticky mud, some parts are narrow, some high and exposed, all of it is desperately gruelling.  Some distance in, feeling decidedly unnerved and intimidated, I told Rich that maybe I should call it a day.  After a little discussion (and a song from Rich) we agreed to carry on a bit further.  Soon we were at a pitch head, and once more on rope, dropping down some 50m into a vast chamber.  At the base of the pitch a short drop was descended.  Rich went first followed by some scary flying rocks knocked by a careless Tangent stumbling around in the 'daylight' glow of his Princeton Tec L.E.D. lamp.  From the base of the pitch a steeply descending 1-2m wide rift, about 40ft high, carrying a small stream, led off into the unknown - or as Peter Hubner says' ... "To the final frontier ... "Unfortunately this was G5 not Hirlatz, so the 'final (fucking) frontier' was a gruesome collection of awkward birth canal esque rift, coated with a hefty dollop of mud. This mud was not your average friendly cave mud ... It was more like some slobbering Jabba the Hut manifestation, consisting of hideous plastic clay which could easily conceal or consume two cavers and all their gear without effort or trace.

The work of 'pushing' began.  Rich started rigging a high level traverse line.  His work was hampered by a very badly packed tackle bag, the aforementioned mud, and trying to stay in place perched amidst the mud.  (Did I mention the mud?).  After organising the gear between us the 'Traverse of a 1000 spits' was made and a short pitch (35') dropped.  Much, much, more of the same awaited.  The only redeeming features were some mini mud formations created by flakes of rock protecting their tops allowing the development of little cones beneath.  These were mostly squashed by Tangent whilst explaining how they'd formed to Rich. The return journey awaited.  The second time around the Birth Canal didn't seem so bad (I'd gone 'off route' on the way in by the ladder).  Back at camp we ate and then slept." J.W.

The following 'day' Chris Densham and Pete Whitaker continued pushing from where we had finished. Their logbook entry reads:

10th Aug-

"Set off for the bottom at 2.30pm.  With no great enthusiasm we pushed beyond Rich and Tangent's limit.  But first to put off the evil moment, Chris pendulumed across to a floor c.10m from the top of Total Access.  After 10m proved to be a blind alcove.  So we had to go to the bottom.  Foul walls of slime.  Pathetic immature streamway at the bottom of rift, slimy mud higher up.  Continued about 30-40m beyond Rich and Tangent's limit with a further couple of sections of traverse line.  Pete was most determined, and reported the streamway to cut its way down steeply and narrowly.  The traverse level also appeared to pinch out shortly after an area of collapse.  We decided the cave was concluded so derigged out .... " C.D.

The limit of exploration / explanation had been reached in G5, the depth being somewhere around the -600m mark.  The passage seemed poorly developed, and the mud severely hampered progress in an already desperate piece of cave.  Attention was now focused on pushing possible phreatic leads higher in the cave between -300 and - 400m.

Some ideas on the hydrology of G5 and its relationship to the Hirlatzhohle drainage system.

The Hirlatzhohle system has three distinct levels of phreas.  Each of these developed in conjunction with the prevailing hydrological and topographical conditions of each glacial / interglacial cycle.  For example during the earliest phase of cave development ('level 3') the altitude of which is between 1300-1500m in the east (rising to the west with the hydraulic gradient) the surrounding topography would have been quite different.

During each of the subsequent interglacial periods a new lower phreatic level evolved.  This was in response to changes in base level and hydraulic gradient as the land surface, cave passages, and hydrological regime were modified by the effects of glaciation and the associated climate change.

The relevance of these phreatic levels to G5 and its potential for connecting with the Hirlatz system, is that the altitude of the 'level 3' phreas in the west could be intercepted by the much younger G5 development anywhere below -300m.  For example the phreatic passage met at the head of 'Only One Can Hold Me'.  With this knowledge pushing various phreatic leads that appear in the cave became a priority. It also has the advantage of expanding the cave laterally as the G5 passages at present have occupied a very narrow vertical column within the rockmass by spiralling around on themselves.

On a final note Peter Hubner pointed out that if nothing else, establishing that the water in G5 is flowing away to the N.W. refines our understanding of where the watershed / catchment for Hirlatz lies.  It would seem that the present water in G5 drains to the hydrological connection that is known to exist between the Gosausee and Waldbach Ursprung. Following a flowpath beneath the Hosswand AIm area, where it could collect further water on its way to the resurgence (Waldbach) which is at an altitude of 910m and seems to be fairly young having only been established at the close of the last glacial maximum (c.15-20ka.).  During winter conditions the resurgence is dry and has been explored to a depth of -40m terminating in a low (O.5m high) bedding some 20m or so wide.  These observations lend support to the idea that the conduits behind the resurgence are young and poorly developed, which corresponds to the active passage encountered at the present limit of exploration in G5.

Levels of Phreatic development in Hirlatzhohle:

'Level 3': Highest, oldest, 1300-1500m altitude (in the E. rising in the W.)

'Level 2': Middle, main level, 1100-1300m (in the E. rising in the W.)

'Level 1': Lowest, modern level- completely flooded and still evolving (poorly developed) *

*The fact that in time of peak flow during times of thaw/flood, the water levels rise dramatically by at least 100-200m to completely fill the Western part of Hirlatz (level 2) suggesting that the modem phreas has a small storage capacity and is still immature.

Key to schematic diagram of the levels in the Hirlatzhohle:

•••        Large fossil passages with significant mud fill

////////    Large fossil passages which are still active (no mud fill)

_____   Large passages of probably younger origin

………. Passages with high gradients connecting different levels Mainly rift dominated.

John (Tangent) Williams

Pete Hall (Red Rose), Snablet (BEC), Quackers, Greg Brock (BEC) at the Weisberghaus ( photo JC)


65th Annual Dinner

The Market Place Hotel, Market Place, Wells.
Saturday, 7th October 2000, 7.30 for 8.00 pm.

I produce below a sample ticket with actual menu on the night, sent from Mr Nigel- Ed

To reply to this dinner offer, you must return the tear off form- this will give you a BB with half a page missing!




Breast of CHICKEN on a Cream of Mushroom Sauce  or  Braised Blade of BEEF In a Red wine & Shallot Sauce

Iced LEMON PARFAIT with Mulled Black Cherries  or   BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING


We are Limited to 100 Persons for Comfort, so PLEASE BOOK Straight away, First Come First successful!

Please enclose a stamped address envelope with your form as there will be no tickets on the night.  I want to enjoy my meal as well! (SORRY, NO Phone Bookings OR e-mails)   A Coach will leave the Hunters Lodge Inn at 7.15 pm PROMPT!!......Please book names only, with the Booking Form Below. please note:- Bookings CLOSE By Saturday 30th. SEPTEMBER

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

Sept 15-17                 Hidden Earth 2000, NCC Bristol

Oct 7                         AGM and annual dinner

Oct 20-22                   ISSA Workshop, North wales


January 1                   Columns Open Day OFD

12-14                         ISSA Workshop and AGM, Mendip