The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

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


Welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as Editor.  Before I set out my plans for the future of the Journal, I would first like to thank Martin for his efforts and the quality of the BB’s that he produced - and hope that I can continue his high standards.

Firstly, I plan to make the BB a Quarterly Journal with a seasonal issue.  This will both ensure a regularity of publication and allow me to take advantage of school holidays to produce them.

Secondly, I plan (as far as possible) to shift the emphasis of the content towards a focus on exploration - and especially exploration under Mendip.  The strength of the club lies in exploration - digging, diving, surveying etc and its journal should reflect these preoccupations.

Finally, each issue will not only summarise the main events of the preceding season but also have a clear theme on a single cave or area of the Hill.  It is thus with complete bias and not one jot of apology that this issue has an Eastwater slant.  This is in order to record events, speculate on areas for further progress and most importantly to stimulate interest in exploration - the whole point of the BEC!

NB        The summer issue will be going to press in June - articles are needed now, especially on Swildon's, Cuthbert's, or the Charterhouse area.


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

The Morton's dig (see Phil Rowsell's article) is predictably beneath several metres of water - however, there does not seem to have been any great infilling of the shaft and tidying up should prevent a repetition of the mid 1990s disaster.  The stream has been noted to have changed direction through the boulders (the right hand dam is only taking water in flood, this usually takes most of the water).  The cause seems to be the movement of a boulder at the base of the entrance. It has rolled out from the right hand wall exposing a loose slope of gravel.  The offending rock now lies in the middle of the first short crawl.  The reason? Someone seems to have removed the prop that was holding this rock in place.  Stealing props from the entrance of Eastwater frankly beggars belief - is this the action of a new extreme sports club or simply that of a git?

Halloween Rift.

Renewed interest in this site has been scuppered by the Wookey Management who currently are refusing access.   On the few trips that were possible it was found that the entrance crawls to the extensive bedding at the base of the rift had been backfilled.  The clearing of these alerted the owners who have denied any further work on the grounds of liability (interesting to note that crawling around with a few skips is deemed more dangerous than diving to Wookey 25!)

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

See Tony's article for recent news.

Rhino Rift.

Trips over the Christmas break saw some progress along the terminal crawl at the base of the scaffolded shaft through the boulders.  Digging was slowed by the tendency of the crawl to fill with water - the first trips down Rhino by wetsuit clad diggers seems on the cards this spring.

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

Work continues in the dig near Sump Two.

Swildon's Hole.

Greg Brock and Mike Alderton have been looking at the possible leads at the end of the cave and contribute this report of a trip in early February:

"A thoroughly remote trip to Sump 12 in Swildon's to re-climb Victoria Aven and get into Desolation Row.  Both divers in zero visibility made it safely to sump 12, where upon the easy rift climb to the ledge was ascended.  MA after failing to kill GB with boulders (not without trying) placed a bolt and entered the extremely tight tube leading to Desolation Row.  MA was unable to belay or unattach himself from the rope so GB proceeded to climb up the rope securely anchored to MA who was not going to easily be pulled out of the constricted tube.  Slow progress was made up the committing tube before we both decided to head for home and do some research as to where the tube was leading.  An uneventful return was made; fortunately meeting a group of WCC members who helped carry gear out for us - Cheers Lads".


Life, the Universe and Eastwater Cavern.

By Phil Rowsell (alias Madphil)

My fascination with Eastwater Cavern can be attributed (or blamed dependant on who you are!) to Tony Jarratt (J-Rat).  After the break through at Stock's House Shaft, I was looking for a new project to keep myself occupied over the summer.  Tony introduced to me to Adrian Hole (now my digging partner in crime) who was also intending to spend the summer digging.  Adrian had originally intended to push a few leads in Swildon's but with its closure due to foot and mouth, this was obviously a non starter.  Eastwater Cavern was the next option, Morton's Pot and the illusive connection to Lambeth Walk.

Morton's Pot/A Drian Hole Dig

I had been down Eastwater many a time before, but never down to Morton's Pot.  I always remember the first trip.  I learnt on the way down that Adrian had been one of the digging team that had pushed Morton's Pot 5 years ago.  They had found another vertical pitch below Morton's Pot named A Drain Hole (an obvious name connection).  They had dug down to a depth of approx. 5m before weather closed the dig for the winter. Disaster took place when the surface stream bed was cleared by the farmer and over a short period of time, the diggers watched the dig filling back up with silt to the top of the pitch. Man, it must have been a demoralising sight.  Since then no one had been back to dig.

We spent most of the time clearing the silt traps in the top of the 380ft Way and dumping the spoil in the rift before finally heading down to look at the dig.  The trip down was a bit tight and narrow but not too bad. The dig site itself was now filled up to a small chamber above the pitch, so we had no idea where A Drain Hole was.  It looked easy digging, mainly sand, but I just kept thinking about the problem of getting rid of the spoil.  Hauling it back to the Lower Traverse was going to be a real ball ache.  A couple of seilbahns had been put in place to assist hauling, but these were in pieces.  Everything would have to be replaced and a few modifications may improve things.  Being an engineer, this was right up my street.  The dig was a good challenge, I was sold.

Over the next week or so, equipment was salvaged and the seilbahns reinstalled.  Several modifications were also made to reduce the number of people required to move spoil.  It was highly unlikely that we would ever have the luxury of 10-15 people to haul bags that the previous attempt had had.  The mere mention of helping to dig Morton's Pot, often led to a rapid exodus from the Hunters, leaving you sat in playing Billy no-mates! Progress was also made at the dig site, the chamber was excavated and the bagged up spoil used to line the bedding plane heading up to the base of Morton's.  This would hopefully help future bag hauling up to Morton's Pot. On our 6th trip down, we finally discovered the ladder bolt over the top of A Drain Hole, a great boost as at least we knew where we were and had to go, down!

Despite lining the bedding plane, hauling sacks up the bottom of Morton's Pot still proved difficult. A 3rd seilbahn was installed down the bedding plane which sorted the problem.  The base of Morton's Pot rapidly filled up with sacks and our supply of empty sacks was exhausted again.  We had no option now but to transport the sacks out and empty them in the Lower Traverse. I guess we had to check out the hauling system sometime.

The lack of volunteers meant we had to do the hauling in stages.  The most awkward stage was to move sacks from the base of Morton's Pot to the bottom of the 380ft Way.  Fortunately we developed a method to do this with only 3 people.  From here, Adrian and I could move the sacks up the 380ft Way and dump them in the Traverse on our own.  A slow process but we had no other option if we were to keep the dig going. The first batch we emptied (50-60 sacks) we found we had a high mortality rate as almost two thirds of the sacks were badly holed.  Examination of the hauling system revealed the 380ft way seilbahn to be the culprit. The system was modified to a skip slung between two pulleys.  This was a great improvement, reducing the effort required to haul as well as dramatically improving bag life.

The dig and hauling continued on its slow painful progress, generally one digging trip to four or five hauling trips.  Occasionally the hauling would get a boost with the addition of press ganged volunteers. Our highlight came one Wednesday evening when we managed to hijack the Wednesday night digging team and had a total of 6 people (the most we ever had) hauling bags.  The complete system got a good test, moving bags from the base of Morton's Pot up to the top of the 380ft Way.  Some 60 sacks were moved in the space of 2 hours.  Great to see, the bags flying out of the place!  Unfortunately this only happened once, but it proved the system.  It also showed us that this would be possible to do with only 4 people but at a reduced rate. If only we could have found a couple more regular volunteers.  Frustration or what?


Ivan Sandford hauling in the 380 Foot Way - during the last Morton's campaign in the mid 1990s

Each time we moved bags from Morton's Pot and emptied sacks, it gave us the chance to dig again. Initial progress was slow, due to the awkwardness of digging at the top of A Drain Hole.  Once sufficient room to kneel up was made we took off and rapid progress was made.  Each dig session was measured by the number of rungs we had exposed, generally 2-3 rungs a session.  At rung 12 we found the old platform with a number of tools, among them Tony's prize miner's pick.  At rung 14.5 (4m from the ladder bolt) we dug into water which was a big surprise as the weather had been dry for the past few weeks.  As digging continued, it was evident that the water was draining back from the undisturbed fill on the sides. It was as if we had hit some kind of water level.  To make matters worse, it was now early September and time for the schools to go back. I now lost my digging partner who had to return to teaching kids once again.

Obsessed, digging continued solitary.  Thankfully Trevor Hughes came up with a massive supply of new sacks which helped delay the necessity to haul and empty until I could press gang anybody into helping. The conditions at the dig site didn't improve and I continued with the dig partially in water until nearly waist deep where it became impracticable.  Nightmare, needed a solution.  The idea of taking some drums down to bail the water into seemed feasible but they wouldn't fit through the rift at the bottom of the 380ft Way.  I eventually hit on the idea of walling off half the dig site with sacks, and bailing the water into survival bags, creating a sort of dam.  I could then dig the exposed half down a metre or so, dump the water, rebuild the dam on the other side and dig the other half.  With the total dig area only about 0.7 x2.5 m wide, it was pretty cramped work.  The system worked pretty well, and I even had the dig totally dry at times but it proved a very labour intensive and time consuming method.  I was still digging though.  To create more digging/damming room, I dug back into the rift toward Morton's Pot, forward progress being barred by a large rib of rock.  I was surprised to see the well developed rift continue rather than pinch down as expected.  With more room, I continued digging on down and eventually hit hard and "original" fill.  We had finally passed the previous effort.

The solving of the water problem had in itself created another, getting rid of sacks out of A Drain Hole.  It was impossible to do it on my own.  I installed a 2nd platform on which to stack bags, and this also served as a staging post to lift the sacks up to the first platform.  By triple or quadruple handling the bags I could get both platforms full of bags.

This was stacking room for about 50 sacks, but it still didn't get them out of the pitch. Occasionally I would manage to persuade someone to help me haul bags out of A Drain Hole into the little chamber and allow me to keep digging.  Progress was really slow as much of the time was spent man handling bags around and moving the dam etc, but digging continued.  The dig got down to a depth of 6m (from the bolt).

There was good encouragement at the dig face too in the fact that a rib of rock that was blocking forward progress (as opposed to down) was moving back to the right resulting in the rift opening to full size below it (Figure I - Section along AB).  With luck if forward progress was made, a drain point for the pot might be intercepted.

Disaster however stuck on the 3rd October when heavy rain resulted in the dig being flooded to a depth of 2m (4m from the bolt).  There was no way of damming this amount of water!  I guess I had been digging on borrowed time for some time as the weather had been remarkably dry for September.  Nightmare, my number was finally up and I had no option but to clear and put it to bed for the winter.  I monitored the dig for several trips keeping myself occupied surveying and tidying up. The water fluctuated in depth; after very heavy rain it would be flooded up to the bolt and in drier times it would have drained back down to 4m from the bolt.  It never however drained past the 4m mark.  This was also the water level initial intercept when digging down in dry conditions.  Figure 1 shows the survey of the dig site.

Dig Observations

The drain off point of the pot seems to be at the 4m mark, below which it is terminally choked. This level also corresponds to the base of a small calcite curtain that has flowed onto the top of the rock rib (see Figure 1).  This may have protected the fill below it, preventing compaction and hence the believed drain path.  The base of this curtain was poked with a bar to approx. 1.5m, and loose fill found, but rapid draining was not achieved.  With the pitch now being clear of fill to well past this point, it will be interesting to see whether this will clear itself over the winter.

The rate at which the pot drained also posed an odd question.  In high flow, the drain rate observed would not be sufficient to remove all the water, but there was little evidence of water backing up further than the little chamber (foam on roof).  This mystery is believed to have been solved when on one monitoring trip, a plastic digging sack was found to have been washed to some depth into a small (3") worm hole near the bolt.  This hole was originally believed to be an inlet as it headed upwards toward the Upper Traverse.  It appears that in high water, the pot backs up until water 'U' tubes up this worm hole to flow off to an unknown point.  This may be of great significance as it provides a possible place where water from the bottom of A Drain Hole may be pumped away.  This has not been investigated.

In Figure 1, the Section along AB shows that approximately 4m below the bolt, the rift opens out in a forward direction but forward progress is barred by a rib of rock sandwiched in between the rift.  As previously mentioned on top of the rib is a small calcite curtain, under which the pot is believed to drain.  Consideration was given to removing this rock rib, but the dig flooded before this was undertaken.  If removed, it may provide access to an open drain point.  It is also possible that the removal of this rock may prove unnecessary as at the 6m point, this rib of rock had cut back to the right face opening to a full size rift once again.  This will only be determined in dry weather when digging is resumed.

When digging back towards Morton's Pot to enlarge the dig site, it was a great surprise to find that the rift continued to be well developed rather than pinch down.  Only a metre or so was dug in this direction and probably connects to a small pot which was dug and subsequently back filled in the little chamber.  It does however have some interest to the Soho Dig (explained later in the article) the potential continuation of the wide rift development is of great significance.

A computer model of Eastwater Cavern

Conflicting rumours were abound in the Hunters as to where the "Morton's Pot" dig would eventually break through.  Some said Snotrom Aven, others Lambeth Walk where bang wire and pieces of digging sacks had been found, allegedly washed in from Morton's Pot.  After all the pain hauling those sacks out, would I be mad if we just broke in to Snotrom Aven!?  The only way to really tell and explore the possibilities was to generate a computer model of Eastwater Cavern.  This would enable easy viewing and more importantly, to be able to rotate the views around and obtain a good understanding of the relational orientation of the various passages.

The only survey commercially available was that done in the 1950's by Warburton & Surrall.  The survey was known to be of high accuracy, but it had some problems that could affect the tying in of subsequent surveys; the entrance to the cave was now in a different place and Dolphin Pot has also partially collapsed. 

The major problem however was that none of the West End Series was on it.  This had been partly surveyed and drawn up in the late 1980's but the data never published.  I felt sorry for the boys in the Hunters again, as if I wasn't badgering people for digging sacks it was survey data!!  I have to thank Trevor Hughes particularly, Tav and Tony, who supplied me with data.

Converting the Warburton survey back to readings to enter into the computer package, was painstakingly slow, involving much computation.  This process had also to be conducted on the Southbank as the only data available for this was a map produced by the Moodys in a WWC log book, and Morton's Pot data produced in a BB article (Vol 48 No 6).  Thankfully most of the other data supplied still had the original or transposed survey readings.  As the accuracy of Morton's Pot was fairly critical, it was resurveyed from surface, both the new data and that lifted from the map were in fairly close agreement.  Figure 2 shows a plan and Figure 3 shows an elevation through the complete Eastwater system.

The plots show that there are some discrepancies in the data, particularly in the West End data.  Where surveys overlap, or two data sets are available the discrepancies seen are not huge +/- 5 metres.  The West End series, however is an open loop system and thus with no closure it is difficult to assess true positional errors at the lower reaches of the cave.  Furthermore, the Southbank map is believed to be only Grade 2. Despite these inaccuracies, it does give an idea of relative positions to a reasonable degree.  The system begs however, to be accurately re-surveyed.

Points of Interest from the Survey

In Figure 3, the cross section, it can be seen that the majority of the cave is made up of a number of washed out bedding planes that are generally interconnected by rifts and vertical pitches.  The bedding plane has an approximate dip of 32 deg and strike of 168 deg.  This seems to be true of the West End series including Southbank and Lambeth Walk.  What is not apparent and was highlighted by T. Hughes's work, was that most of the big pitches (Primrose, Cenotaph and Gladman's) in the cave line upon an approximate bearing of 243 degrees, possibly indicating a joint or fault plane.  What is of great interest is that A Drain Hole also falls on this line, possibly indicating the presence of another large pitch. In addition, it can be seen that the position of A Drain Hole is not in the vicinity of Snotrom Aven, and it is not thought that this will form a connection as has been previously suggested.

The Southbank data wasn't added until A Drain Hole was flooded. Its significance to A Drain Hole is apparent as shown by the conjecture lines on both the plan and cross section.  The data seems to indicate a straight line connection between Soho and Lambeth Walk, i.e. both seem to be on the bedding plane. This also passes directly beneath A Drain Hole.  This is very interesting as it may well support the theory that the bang wire and sacks found at Lambeth Walk may have indeed washed in from the Morton's Pot dig area.  Furthermore, if a vertical pitch is dropped from the bolt in A Drain Hole down to the assumed Soho Lambeth Walk bedding plane (a vertical distance of 35m) the base of the pitch is 83m from Lambeth Walk, but more significantly only 45m from the Ifold's tunnel in Soho.  This definitely warranted investigation.

The Soho Dig

Fuelled with what the computer model was indicating I was keen to have a look around in the Soho area.   The chance came on a trip to rig the ladder pitches in the West End with Andy Heath.  We were in no rush so I said I would like to spend a bit of time looking around Soho, to see if I could find any possible lead at the base of Soho shown by the survey.  The original survey notes of Soho showed that two passages had been looked at but choked or were too tight.

There was a stream running out of the Ifold's tunnel heading down the bedding plane, so I decided to try and follow that, the thought being it could possibly be part of the Lambeth Walk stream.  It was quite open to start with but gradually got tighter, having to kick boulders out of the way.  I was pretty sure with the distance I had gone, I was past previous attempts.  I could hear the stream gurgling over what sounded like a small waterfall.  Driven by this and the dream of finding the connection to the base of A Drain Hole and more hopefully Lambeth Walk, I pushed on past a very tight 'S' bend squeeze, to finally sit up in a tiny rift chamber, somewhat relieved!  The chamber was shoulder width and approximately 2m long. An abrupt corner at the end of the chamber prevented further progress, but the passage opened up into a well developed 5m plus high rift, which continued along on approximately the same bearing.  It had a good stream running in the base, but looked fairly narrow in places.  A few bangs and we should be able to get a better look and pass the corner.  Well promising and what the survey was indicating.  Thankfully the squeeze turned out to be easier on the way out. I was buzzing!!  I think I floated down to Blackwall Tunnel and back!!

Five further trips to drill and widen the passage were accomplished.  My various companions had varying degrees of success negotiating the squeeze.  After the first bang, blown from Ifold's, J-Rat and myself were surprised to be chased out of Ifold's by the bang fumes!!  Big draught, very encouraging.  The bang widened the chamber, but still did not gain access to the comer.  It did however give a much better view of the rift.  The rift seemed to be narrow for 2m, before opening out to body sized passage. Encouraged, the passage was measured and found to be some 16m from the Ifold's tunnel, only 29m from the projected base of A Drain Hole.  The 2nd bang was blown from the Strand so that we could wait about for a bit and then see the results.  This time no quick extraction took place and I sat with J-Rat for over an hour in the Strand before the fumes finally cleared enough to go and have a look.  The bang had done a great job.  It had widened the passage right down to the comer and given enough room to potentially squeeze through the narrow part of the rift hopefully into the body sized rift.  The bang debris was quickly cleared, and I made an attempt.  Man was this tight!!  No go.  More kicking debris out of the floor and on the second attempt I eased through and stood up in rift passage.

The author returning through the second of the squeezes

The way ahead in the Soho Dig.

Jubilation, but it was only short lived.  The rift continued on for as far as the eye could see, but after approximately 2m closed down to 20cm wide and looked like it was a fairly constant width.  It also didn't look as though there were any high level routes either, but difficult to tell with the place still shrouded in fumes. We headed on out.  I was bitterly disappointed that I didn't get to solve the riddle of Morton's Pot, JRat was jubilant that he was going to get a pint after all and that he probably wouldn't have to go down to that desperate place again!!  His classic quote was "you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a princess"!

The rift still looked well encouraging; well developed, at least 5m high heading off into the distance and survey wise tying in with that above Jepson's Dig and heading straight for Morton's/A Drain Hole.  Not willing to admit defeat, I headed down another time to survey the dig properly and have a proper look around, hopefully able to see a bit more being clear of bang fumes!  Andy Heath again came to the call for help and another trip down to Soho.  Thankfully he made it through the squeeze into Thank-god Chamber.  I pushed on through the 2nd squeeze, but found it really awkward this time.  At one point I thought I wasn't going to make it through!  I eventually stood up in the rift with a clear view.

No doubt about it narrowing down to about 20cm for the majority of its height.  There was however encouragement at stream level. Further down (3-4m) it looked like it opened out to passable passage, but the immediate section looked very tight. I had a go at squeezing along the floor, but this was well out of my and most people's league!  No chance of digging out the floor as it was solid rock! Bummer.  It would need a number of bangs to pass this section to hopefully get to wider passage.  Where I could stand up the rift continued on up as a body sized rift, so I chimneyed up to 4m, but found I couldn't pass an awkward narrow part.  The rift did seem to continue on up at this width, and this needs to be checked again to make sure a high level by-pass is not missed.  The view from this height also confirmed that the passage did seem to open out at stream level further along, but it would need some widening to get to this point.  Resigned, we surveyed back out.  Figure 4 shows a survey of the Soho Dig:

Dig Observations

In Figure 5 - a survey plan of the Soho area, it can be seen that the found passage (rift) lies almost directly beneath the rift connecting the 380ft Way to Morton's Pot.  This rift was originally a deep narrow development but was back filled by previous digs.  It is suggested that this is the same rift development as the Soho Rift found. Further support is taken from A Drain Hole which is again a rift development that also follows the same trend line as the 380ft Way - Morton's Pot rift, the Soho rift and a conjectured connection to Lambeth Walk.  This could possibly indicate the possibility of a fault plane or a joint which has been eroded to the rifts presently seen.  The Lambeth Walk connection is pure speculation, but it seems to fit the evidence well and is supported by the digging debris which is found there.  Much less speculative is the probability that the Soho Rift will connect with the base of A Drain Hole, the rift following the same trend and only being 27m away. In the near future, it is hoped that some form of water tracing will be undertaken to determine this, or whether this water appears at Lolly Pot as has been previously suggested.

The Soho rift is accessed by two fairly awkward squeezes the 2nd being particularly tight, yielding a 2m section of body size passage, before narrowing to 20cm preventing further progress.  It does seem that the rift does open out at stream level after 4-5m. To access this however, selective widening will be required, involving a number of trips (and drop hammer techniques rather than bang).  It may also be necessary to widen the squeezes, particularly the 2nd to allow "normal sized" cavers (fat bastards!) access.

Unfortunately with my departure to Tasmania to cave for 6 months, it is unlikely that this will be pushed until next summer.


First and foremost, I have to thank J-Rat for his support and advice, the supplying of articles, surveying data, digging bags and equipment etc.  In addition, the trips to A Drain Hole to help pull out bags and lately, the trips to widen the Soho Dig.  Much appreciated.

A big thanks to my digging partner Adrian Hole, again for his support, time and ideas, both with A Drain Hole and the Soho Dig, and lately for his help in writing this article. A big thanks also goes to Andy Heath for his help digging and sack hauling in Morton's and his help with the Soho Dig.

A thanks also to Ben Barnett who has spent many hours pulling sacks through the rift at Jepson's Dig, despite the rift being too narrow for him to get down to the dig site; Bob Smith who has also done several trips pulling bags out of Morton's Pot, almost the only times he had been underground this year; and Trevor Hughes for the supply of invaluable survey data, and a massive supply of digging sacks.

Finally, a thank you to all the people who came down to help dig or pull bags at both sites.  I hope to see you there again next summer!!


Jarratt A.R. "History of Morton's Pot Dig" ,Belfry Bulletin Vol 48 No 6.


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - The Latest News.

By Tony Jarratt

"Even a large flow, several million gallons per day, easily traverses passages impenetrable to man" - Willie Stanton, "Digging for Mendip Caves.”

Since the initial digging report in BB 511 work has continued here at a steady pace - a total of 70 banging trips being recorded to date.  The steeply dipping natural rift which takes the flood stream was joined after some 40ft (12m) from the base of the entrance shaft by a very low bedding plane passage at ceiling height on the western side.  Being more open than the rift this was followed by blasting out the floor to "Ben and Bev sized" dimensions for a distance of c.15ft (5m).  It has an attractively eroded ceiling with many tiny straws and curtains - most of which are proving to be surprisingly impervious to blast damage.  It is some 5ft (1.5m) wide and continues on into the distance with many more small but attractive formations visible ahead. Some fine fossils can be seen in the pleasantly water worn floor of "Pub Crawl", particularly at the first RH bend.

On the 15th of November Mad Phil surveyed the cave to a length of 59ft (l8m) and a depth of 29ft. (8.9m). This has since been increased to c.95ft (29m) length and c,39ft (l2m) depth. The current end is approximately 30ft (9m) south of the car park/field wall.

A minor breakthrough occurred on the 16th January when a 3ft (lm) deep rift in the floor of the bedding plane was forced down into some 7ft (2.1 m) of relatively open lower bedding plane passage with narrow open rifts below - one of which sucked in Adrian's lump hammer from a distance of 15ft away (sorry mate). (Ed. I was wondering where it was).  This passage has brought us back onto the line of Pub Crawl and if necessary the intervening rock could be blasted away to ease skip dragging.  Visitors should be warned that in the event of a rapid flash flood this lower bedding plane would not be a nice place to be - as was found out during a clearing trip on the 23rd January.  The bench between the shove ha'penny board and the fireplace being a far better alternative (depending on the time of day of course).

Work continues at this extremely promising site where a c.10ft deep rift in the floor is being enlarged to gain access to the Master Cave below.  In very cold surface conditions plumes of mist can be seen rising from the entrance shaft and the strong, and occasionally intermittent draught, has given rise to the theory that this is caused by the guides at Wookey Hole opening and closing the show cave door!

Spoil hauling in the entrance shaft has been made much easier thanks to the donation of a magnificent lightweight tripod by Paul Brock.  A variety of both mains and battery drills have been used underground and our favourite so far is the 110v.  Makita, unknowingly loaned by a discharged seaman's employers.  The cost so far of drill hire and explosives is about 490 pounds - just over 5 pound a foot.  This figure will obviously reduce drastically when the extensive system below is entered!

In advance of the future exploration party we have sent ahead a bit of Frank Jones to do the first through trip (and he thought his caving days were over!).


Jacquie Dors was delighted to report the comment of an elderly lady customer speaking to her husband in the car park - "Yer, I just seen someone climb out of the barbecue!”

More Diggers and Helpers

Phil Massey, Jake Johnson, Ben Wills, Fergus Taylor, Ray Deasy, Rich and James Witcombe, Phil Collett (SMCC), Ivan Hollis (SMCC), Stuart Sale, Malcolm Davies, Mike Willett, Andy Heath (CSS), Pete Hellier, Ian Matthews, Guy Munnings, Ben Holden, Roy Wyncoll, Mark "Shaggy"Howden, Helen Hunt, John Walsh, Rich Blake, Jake Baynes, Davey Lennard, Barry Hulatt, Bill Chadwick (Bracknell & District C.C.), and Frank Jones (part of, deceased).


Pumacocha 2001

Edited By Rob Harper, BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS

The Team

Back row: Les, Nick, Mark, Ian, Matt and Rob.  Front row: Juan.


In June 200 I six cavers from Britain, Canada and Peru undertook a short reconnaissance expedition to the Yauyos District of southern Peru where there is a large area of karst with numerous cave entrances.

As far as could be ascertained by a review of the available references none of this area had been examined in detail.  Both the geology and topography suggested that there was considerable potential for both deep and long cave development.

The primary target of this expedition was the large open shaft taking the waters flowing out of Lake Pumacocha which had originally been noted by Les Oldham a British geologist and caver living and working in Peru.  Subsequently Nick Hawkes had descended the first part of the entrance shaft and discovered that the cave continued beyond the daylight zone.

After a few initial promoting sessions by Nick amongst cavers in his home region (the Mendip Hills in the UK) news of an exciting new caving prospect deep in Peru slowly became public knowledge among the local caving community.  In early 200 I Rob Harper took the bait and contacted Nick with a view to a reconnaissance trip. After emailing around their acquaintances an experienced technical caving team was put together.






Rob Harper




Mark Hassell




Nick Hawkes




Ian McKenzie




Matt Tuck




Juan Castro




(Les Oldham




Note 1   A.S.S. = Alberta Speleological Society

Note 2   Due to personal circumstances Les was unable to take a part in the active exploration of the cave.

Location and Topography

Satellite photograph indicating the cave location.


The cave is located within the 100,000 scale Yauyos map sheet number 25-L which was mapped in 1996 by the Instituto Geologico Minero y Metalurgico (INGEMMET).  The entire mapsheet covers a half degree quadrangle which equates to just over 3000km2.  Several areas within the mapsheet including the area directly over the Pumacocha cave have been mapped in detail by Les Oldham while exploring for base and precious metals.  During the course of his mapping Les first recognised the potential for major cave development in this area.

Geological controls are the primary elements which dictate a cave's location and form.  Caves form in limestone, and the best caves are developed in massive limestone with little or no interbedded silts, shales or other non-carbonate dominated lithological horizons.  Within the country of Peru the best limestone for cave development is the Upper Cretaceous Formation known as the Jumasha Limestone.

The Jumasha limestones are dominantly a massive thickly bedded sequence of dolomites and limestones. Within the Yauyos mapsheet approximately 700km2 of Jumasha limestones outcrop, making the area highly attractive for speleological exploration and karstic studies. In the region of study this lithological unit has been estimated at approximately 400m thickness (Megard et al., 1996).  Directly overlying the Jumasha.  Formation is another limestone unit known as the Celendin Formation which was also deposited in the Upper Cretaceous and has also been estimated as having a thickness of 400m.  The Celendin Limestones are not as favourable for cave development due to common interbedded layers of gypsum, red-brown shales and some sandstones. Nevertheless caves can and do occur in this formation.  Below the Jumasha limetones lie two further Cretaceous limestone bearing formations, namely the Pariatambo and Chulec formations which together form an estimated 330m of potential cave bearing stratigraphy.  Jurassic age limestones also occur to the northeast of the principal area of study yet still within the Yauyos mapsheet.  These are the Lower Jurassic Condorsinga unit of approximately 1000m thickness and the middle Jurassic Chaucha Formation of an estimated 300m thickness.  In total therefore the region has over 2400m of limestone stratigraphy which has subsequently been thrusted and folded during a sequence of orogenic events. The deformation is likely to be closely associated to a period of intrusive activity during the Paleogene and Neogene epochs, which has left the limestones commonly tightly folded, and in many areas standing near vertical.  During this period of deformation it is likely that many of the predominantly limestone hosted mineral deposits for which this area is famous for were formed.  The principal mineral deposits of the region all have strong magmatic associations suggesting direct association with the Cenozoic intrusive activity.

Topographical map of the cave and immediate area.

Geology at Pumacocha.

The Pumacocha cave system lies between two active mining camps.  To the south is the San Valentin polymetallic mine and to the north lies the larger mineral district of Yauricocha known for its rich copper bearing limestone and shale hosted deposits.

The cave is located within the Jumasha Limestones adjacent to the contact with a large Miocene granodiorite intrusive.  The entrance to the cave is formed very close to the contact between the granodiorite and the limestones.  The presence of considerable cherty horizons which were located underground suggest that the mapped cave to date lies close to the lower contact with the underlying Lower Cretaceous Pariatambo Formation.

All limestones where the cave sinks are vertically bedded and this clearly explains the extreme vertical nature of the cave development.

The valley wall above the cave entrance showing the vertical bedding.

Geomorphological Controls.

Previous speleological expeditions to the Andes have commented on the lack of deep and well developed caves and have attributed this in part to an effect of the excessive altitude (Imperial College, 1975).  The argument proposed is that rainwater falling at such altitudes is less acidic since less CO2 has been absorbed during the descent.  As to whether this argument is valid or not is not here disputed, indeed the presence of acidic waters is clearly a pre-requisite for large scale cave development.  It is of particular significance that at the Pumacocha system all water draining into the cave, which drains a catchment area of approximately 30km2 is also draining over the granodiorite intrusive which in turn is rich in small sulphide veinlets and disseminations.  Oxidised sulphides are an excellent source of acidic fluids and would therefore enhance considerably any cave development in this area.

Cave Exploration and Cave Description

On arrival in the area we examined the main sink and adjacent entrances which appeared to be part of a single cave complex.  In the absence of a local name, we designated the system as Sima Pumacocha, (SP), and the active entrance as SPI.  Two other dry entrances were noted in the small gorge downstream of the main river sink (SP2 and SP3).  Later yet another small entrance was found between SPI and SP2 which was then called SP1.5.

Due to the large volume of water flowing into SP I as well as a large quantity of dumped explosives in the main entrance it was decided to start by exploring SP2 and SP3.

Diagramatic section from Pumacocha to the presumed resurgence at Alis Springs

A view of the river - looking toward the entrance.

NB: All left/right descriptions below are "true", i.e. from the point of view of someone facing downstream.


Sima Pumacocha 1

Location: - E424208 N8630500 – local datum PSAD1956.

The first pitch was descended to a ledge at about -15m but not pursued further for the reasons outlined above.

Mark ascends the first pitch of SP1.  Note the rolls of explosives on the ledge!

Sima Pumacocha 1.5

Two small passages leading left from the entrance chamber in SP2 were followed to a stage where a connection could be confirmed with an entrance in a small depression about four metres from the entrance of SP2.

Sima Pumacocha 2

Location:-E424208 N8630500 -local datum PSAD1956

A strongly draughting entrance about 30m down valley from SPI in the left wall of a small gorge.

First a steeply descending rift passage led after 11 m to an 8m pitch (40m rope to natural belay at entrance) to the floor of a chamber.  From here two side passages on the left were pushed back to the surface at SP 1.5.  However the main way forward was a rift passage with two short (c3m) free climbs to the head of a 31 m pitch (40m rope, natural belay to boulder, deviation, 2 spits, 1 deflection and 1 natural thread belay).  This pitch ended at a large ledge/small chamber where a large aven could be seen entering on the far side at about five metres height that was not investigated.

From the floor of the ledge/chamber the next pitch ("Ammonite Shaft" 113m, 1 natural belay, 1 natural rebelay, 6 spits, 2 deviations) dropped down a large (c 20m x8m) rift to land on another ledge, "Blitzkrieg Bridge", so called because of the periodic rain of small stones from above.

To the left at the base of "Ammonite Shaft" a short horizontal rift passage at "Blitzkrieg Bridge" was followed for c 50-60m to an, as yet, undescended pot which will probably just come into the roof of "Huanca Gorge" - see below.

Ian assess the draught while Rob kits up at the entrance of SP2

The next pitch ("Cages on Highway Nine") was a free hanging 20m (2 spits) pitch immediately to the right of the landing point at the bottom of" Ammonite Shaft". This pitch ended at the head of a very large (c 10 x 15m) passage ("The Huanca Gorge") which descended steeply via a series of ramps and short drops passing an intriguing cruciform calcite decoration en route to a boulder blockage after c75m.  A short section of crawling and a two metre handline pitch was followed to regain the main passage now smaller in dimension (c 3x3m) still sloping at the same average angle which steepened to become a broken 40m pitch to a very high narrow (c 1m) vertical rift with a small inlet stream.  Downstream was blocked by a boulder fall after a few metres but a 2m climb gained a more spacious higher level. Then a short steeply descending passage (handline) led to a ledge about six to seven metres above a large active streamway ("The Shining Path" - c 4m x 15m) which is almost certainly the water sinking at SP 1.

On the left hand side immediately below the boulder ruckle was a window into a parallel stream passage sloping down to the head of a pitch.  This was not descended but from the noise almost certainly links back above the Shining Path streamway.

From the ledge above the streamway a short abseil (3m from natural belay) allowed access to a sloping ledge on the left of the passage about 3m above the river.  Upstream the water came down a pitch of unknown height and flowed off down a series of steep cascades.  The ledge was traversed to gain a short high-level oxbow on the left. Approximately ten metres of passage with two short,(c2m) free-climbable drops led to a small resurgence and pool followed immediately by a 25m wet pitch (2 spits, 2 rebelays) where several small streams entered and at the foot of the pitch the main streamway was regained at a large pool.

Rob surveying with Matt just above the "X-Files" ledge

At the far side of the pool a steep and powerful cascade of about eight metres ended at a large pitch of unknown depth.  This cascade was avoided by a sloping abseil on the left side to a large ledge ("The X-files Ledge") but the force of water precluded further progress at this level without a significant amount of upward artificial climbing.  However it was found to be possible to cross the cascade at the lip of the pitch and from this point a three to four metre free-climb of the right wall gained good natural belays.  Abseiling from these belays to further natural belays it was found to be possible to descend the pitch avoiding the water.  A spit was placed; the pitch was descended for 30-40m to the end of the rope.

At this point the caver was once again coming under the main water flow. This and the fact that there was no floor in sight for at least another 15-20m prompted the decision to return rather than tie on the separate short length of rope in the tackle sack.

Sima Pumacocha 3

Location:-E4241 07 N8630438 -local datum PSAD 1956

Following the gorge downstream from SP2 across a large depression allows access to a small vadose trench ending in a large (c 20x5m, open rift aligned in a North/South direction with a noticeable outward draught.  From the lip of this rift a daylight pitch (c 120m) ends in a large (c 20 x 50m) chamber floored with boulders through which the draught rises.

SIMA PUMACOCHA 3 (Grade 1 Survey)

Survey Notes

1.                  For the Grade 4 sections of the survey all measurements were taken using either a 30 or 25m fibron tape read to the nearest centimetre, a Suunto Compass and a Suunto clinometer, both read to approximately half a degree.  The resulting data was recorded immediately.

2.                  For the Grade 2 sections of the survey distances were estimated from rope lengths and angles assumed because of the vertical nature of the passage.  This data was recorded immediately after exiting the cave.

3.                  The raw data was processed on a laptop computer within 24 hours using "COMP ASS" software to produce a centre-line and a computer generated passage outline. This was then imported into CorelDraw and the final survey drawn.

4.                  GPS readings were taken with a handheld Garmin 12 GPS receiver using local datum PSAD 1956. Unfortunately neither the exact time of the readings or the degree of confidence were recorded.


The vertical and steep sections of the cave were traversed using SRT (Single Rope Techniques) and "Alpine Style" rigging (rebelays as needed to avoid rope/rock contact) was used as far as possible.  The principal rope used was a 9mm static rope from Sterling Ropes. Initially this was a comfortable rope to use for both abseil and ascent.  However despite careful rigging the abrasion resistance of this rope was not good.  There were problems with slipping of the sheath over the core that might have been avoided by washing the rope before use.  Also after only a short period of use flattened sections of rope were discovered. Although these sections were probably as strong as the more conventional rounded rope they caused a marked change in the friction characteristics for descenders (both racks and Petzl Stops) and gave rise to some worrying moments.

Wherever possible natural features or rock climbing protection devices - such as nuts and "friends" - were used as belays.  When this was not possible either pitons or self-drilling 13mm rock anchors (Petzl) were inserted using a hand held driver.  The members of the team provided their own personal equipment for rope work.  Everyone used a "Frog" system.

Travel and Accommodation

All team members assembled in Lima and then travelled to the area of the cave by road.  Accommodation was generously provided free of charge at an "executive workman's" hut belonging to the Llapay hydroelectric station, kindly provided by SIMMSA, approximately 15km from the cave.  This was at an altitude of only about 3000m as distinct from the altitude of the cave entrance, (c 4400m), which greatly facilitated altitude acclimatization.  The excellent free food, clean beds, warm showers, daily room cleaning and access to electrical power were also much appreciated.  By common consensus this was the most comfortable expedition in which any of the team members had participated.

Medical Report

All members of the expedition suffered to a greater or lesser extent from mild Acute Mountain Sickness caused by low oxygen levels due to the high altitude of the cave entrance. Fortunately the clinical signs were restricted to breathlessness and feelings of faintness on exertion, nausea and headaches.  Those suffering from headaches were easily able to control them with simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin and ibuprofen) and within four to five days everyone had acclimatized well.  This was helped greatly by being able to sleep at a much lower altitude. Oxygen and appropriate medications for treating the more serious forms of AMS (pulmonary and cerebral oedema) were included in the medical kit but were not required.

Because of the increased water loss through panting particular care was taken to avoid dehydration including the establishment of depots of water and electrolyte solutions within the cave. Apart from the above and a slightly infected small wound on a digit, which responded rapidly to topical medication, there were no medical problems


(a) Geological References

Megard, F., Caldas, 1., Paredes, J.& De La Cruz, N., 1996, Geologia de Los Cuadrangulos de Tarma, La Oroya y Yauyos. INGEMMET, Bo1etin 69, Lima, Peru.

(b) Speleological References

No direct references to cave exploration at or near Pumacocha could be found.  Below is a list of general caving references relating to Peru.

Bowser, R.J. et aI., 1973, "Imperial College Expedition to the Karst of Peru." Cave Science: Journal of British Speleological Association. No.52.

Di Mauricio, T., 1979, "Pedizione Peleo-Alpinistica in Peru" Speleologia 2, 28-29

Gilbert, A., 1989, Le Karst de Cochapata irma Grande. Spelunca  36 pll-17.

Hartmann, H. "Eine Hohle in der Kultstatte Kenko bei Cuzco ( Peru

Imperial College, 1984. "Imperial College Expedition report"

Maire, R., 1986 Une classique de la cordillere des Andes: La Sima de Milpo (-402m), Perou

Spelunca 5 (23) 28-31

Martinez, A. Romero, D., Romero, M., et C.Ribera, 1983, "EI carst del nord del peru expedicions HIRCA-76 I MILLPU-77" Speleon, 26-27, p147-180.

Martinez, D., 1977, "Expedition Speleologique "cordillera Peruvienne" Rapport de expedicion"

Bibliotheque de la F.F.S.14p.

Masriera, A., 1973, "Nota sobre la Expedicion Espeleologica esanola alas regiones karsticas del Peru"

Espe1eo1e.G 18 979-981.

Morales Amao (Cesar), 1970, "Primera expedicion cientifica de espeleologia. Caverna de Huagapo(Tarma)" Revista Peruana Andina Glacio1ogia, Lima V.8 p173.

Orville, M. 1977, "Recherches Speleologiques au Perou"

Spelunca 3, p98-102.

Ribera,C. & Belles X., "Perou" Dept Bio1ogia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona.

Romero, D., 1979, "MILLPU". Espe1eo1eg, 28, 539-541.

Rossell, G., 1965, "Cavernas, Grutas y cuevas del Peru" Lima, 54pp.

Sammartino, Y., 1982, "Perou 82 - Expedition en Foret Amazonienne D 'Altitude" Club Bagno1ais d'investigations souterraines.

Sammartino, Y., 1984 "Perou 82" Spe1unca 14.

Sammartino, Y., 1987, "Expeditions au Perou 1802-1986" Fed Fr Spe1eoi.

Sammartino, Y., Staccio1i, G., & K1ien, J.D., 1981, "Perou 79, expedition du groupe Speleo Bagnols Marcoule." Bagno1s/Ceze -Rapport d'expedition,183p.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1973, "Aportacion al conocimiento geoespeleologico de algunas regiones karsticas del Peru." Pe1eon, 20, p167-224.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1983, "Cuevas Exoticas" Ediciones Grijelbo, S.A. Barcelona. pp 47-96.

Wilson, J.M. et aI., 1982, " Peru 82, Southampton University Exploration Society Peru Expedition"

Southampton University.

1987, "Perou". Spelunca 28, 10-11.

Unknown 1977, "Espeleologia a HIRCA -76" Muntanya 86, (690) p339-347.


The team would like to express their thanks for the hospitality shown towards them by the people of Laraos, the workers and management of the San Valentin Mine and above all the extreme generosity of the mine and hyro-electric station owner, Don Jesus Arias, who most generously provided both food and secure lodging for us during our stay.  In addition we wish to thank Jenny the cook and all the security personnel at the hydro-electric station for making our stay so enjoyable.

Our thanks must also go to Sterling Ropes for providing a generous discount on five hundred metres of rope.


The speleological potential of this area is immense - as shown by the results of just one small reconnaissance expedition.  At -430m Sima Pumacocha is the deepest limestone cave and the second deepest natural underground cavity yet explored in South America and, so far, has shown no sign of ending.  The presumed resurgence is approximately 16km distant from the entrance and almost 1000m lower in altitude thus there is great potential for a very extensive cave system.  There is also the exciting possibility that some of the shafts noted by expedition members near the Yauricocha mine may be higher entrances to Sima Pumacocha.  If a connection exists then Sima Pumacocha could be one of the deepest known caves in the world.

A full colour version of this expedition report is available.  Contact Rob for details.


John Stafford's Memoirs.

By Chris Castle

The March '97 batch of new guides at Cheddar included one whom we thought to be the famous actor Patrick Stewart, fallen onto bad times.  This was not the case; it was in fact John Stafford.  He had moved down from Northants, having previously lived in many parts of the British Isles, and had taken a job at the Caves for a quiet life until he retired.  He had to put up with cries of "Make it so" and "Belay that order, Mr. Worf'-indeed, he joined in with the fun and told visitors that he used to be a Starship captain.  Fortunately we have since become bored with the joke.

He enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join a trip around the Adventure Caving Route in Gough's Cave, and because there were three Johns he told us to call him Staff as that was what everyone, including his wife Anita, always called him.  I soon found out that he had been a keen caver in his youth, had been a member of the BEC, and had taken part in many of the early explorations of St. Cuthbert's.  "Are you the Stafford of Stafford's Boulder Problem?" I asked, and of course, he was.

Staff started helping out with the abseiling, but his activity duties increased after I had a slight climbing mishap in July '98 and put myself out of action for a few months with various broken legs and things.  Staff continues to do this work at Cheddar.

His caving enthusiasm re-kindled, he has been on many Mendip caving trips with me, including many sherparing trips to Lloyd Hall for the CDG, and joined NHASA (Junior Section). In October of this year he visited Cuthbert's II for the first time, accompanied by myself and Rich Long, and I afterwards asked him if he would write up his Memoirs of his early teenage years exploring the cave.  This he agreed to do, provided I typed them up for him, which I have done with, I must say, great labour as I am a lousy typist.  However, I was helped by the fact that Staff, being of the older generation, can spell and string coherent sentences together.

A few explanations may be helpful.

"Knobbly Dog" - a hand climbing aid, consisting of a single length of ladder wire with short lengths of aluminium tubing swaged every 0.3 metres or so. One survives near the end of Cerberus Rift in St. Cuthbert's.

Pemmican - "A North American Indian preparation of lean flesh-meat, dried, pounded, and mixed with fat and other ingredients." (Chambers Dictionary).

The Shunt - a constriction in the old Cuthbert's entrance (abandoned in 1964).

Staffs Memoirs

The earliest trips in Cuthbert's could probably be best recounted by Chris Falshaw as my first visit did not occur until the "long trip" of the 20th/21st March 1954.

This party was particularly honoured by the presence of Bob Bagshawe Secretary and Treasurer of the BEC. Requests for vast expenditure on tackle for exploration of this new system had caused Bob some concern - he had to see if there really was a big cave so close to the Belfry.

The trip was absolutely amazing.  A fair amount of water was pounding through the cave, no fixed tackle, only rather primitive wire and wood ladders and heavy lifelines.  The main streamway from Pulpit Pitch was the normal route at that time which meant you were pretty wet throughout the trip.  Four hours was about normal to reach the Dining Room and each "outing" was about the same length so we had hot food and drink at about four-hourly intervals.

We newcomers - Bagshaw, Knibbs and myself - were conducted to the marvels of the Gours and on to the Sump. In many places throughout the trip one or other of the party would have a quick look into holes / passages not yet explored.  The main exploration involved the continuation of Cerberus Series into Mud Ball Chamber and the discovery of the Lake Chamber.

It so happened that the Lake was at a level where parts of the ceiling touched the water and gave an impression that the Lake might continue further than we could see. This, as you know, has proved to be a false hope.

Coase confidently stated that a vertical passage from above the Rat Run would lead to a particular hole in Everest Passage so he was told to get up there and prove it, which he did. I think Bennett went next, then it was my turn.  The others had gone up using a handy hold half way up.  That hold, and the rest of the boulder attached, came away in my hand. I was not far enough up the tube to push it to the top and it was too big to drop past me.  Instead of descending, getting rid of it, and starting again I was stupid enough to try pushing it up as far as I could, letting go and trying to wriggle up an inch or two before it landed on my head and then repeating the operation.  Again and again and again.  In true BEC fashion no-one helped at all, just rolled on their bellies laughing their socks off.  All except Bagshaw who had dozed off in the Dining Room while all this was going on, as far as I can recall.

Someone put that boulder carefully aside and, for at least a year, I had to check whichever load I was handed to carry out of the cave to make sure that it did not contain that bloody boulder.  Those good friends of mine did their best to trick me into carrying it out so they could present it to me at a Club dinner.  The phrase "boulder problem" they thought was most apt as I was then, or became soon after, the Club Climbing Secretary.

On this, my first, trip I probably also saw a sight that became synonymous with Cuthbert's trips. Norman Petty wore a stout all wool fireman's jacket under his boilersuit.  Whenever we were waiting at the top or bottom of ladders Norman would undo his overalls, produce a damp rag from his tunic pocket and carefully polish the uniform buttons whilst singing quietly to himself about Pretty Little Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.

More trips followed; many were concerned with more detailed examination of passages and chambers only briefly looked at in the earliest trips.  Not much remains in my memory of the details apart from being sent up for a good look round what became known as Pyrolusite Series.

On July 3rd with Waddon, Petty and Falshaw a real find was made when we pushed a simple squeeze into Rabbit Warren Extension.  The going was easy and new routes were in abundance.  Each of us must have had the thrill on several occasions of being first into a new chamber or passage that day.

Two sightings of Plantation Stream were found and possible continuations of routes located.  One of those was what I believe is now known as T-Junction Chamber.  A very short length of exit passage was partially blocked with good stal.  The passage appeared to continue beyond this stal but not with any certainty so we did not touch.  Years later, following the discovery of September Series, the explorers (King & Co?) pushed Cross Legged Squeeze then were stopped by a stal formation.  As they could see a chamber beyond the stal they broke through to where we had been in July 54.

Apart from the actual caving we were also working on a scheme to rig fixed tackle so that more caving time could be devoted to exploration.  Coase, Bennett and I all worked at the Avonmouth Smelting Works. Don found that a load of steel ladders had been stripped out of the site by a demolition contractor with a yard in Shirehampton.  Don, Roy and I then spent many lunch hours dashing to the yard in Don's car, unbolting ladders into moveable lengths, then a hurried return to work.  By trial and error with wooden mock-ups it was found that the maximum length of ladder we could introduce into the cave was (I think) 5 l/2 feet.  On Thursday nights the ladders were sawn, drilled and fish plates prepared in Clive Seward's garage which was handy for the Wagon and Horses, the Club Thursday night boozer, near St.Mary Redcliffe- no longer in existence.  (The pub, not the church).

The Sandhurst club had been asking to see our new discovery so they were invited to assist in the installation of the fixed tackle.  This must have been quite a trip.  I managed to avoid it!  Get Kangy to tell you, it was his first time in the cave (Feb.55). On this general topic, the Knobbly Dogs used at that time were far better handline aids than the chains and ropes now in the cave.  You could grip the KDs much better despite cold, wet hands.

The fixed tackle made a considerable difference to the time and effort of getting in and out of the cave. Conditions had previously been so severe that Jack Waddon wrote to the firm which had supplied pemmican to the '53 Everest expedition, explaining our problems and asking if we could purchase any old stock.  They kindly sent us the last two tins as a gift.  The parcel arrived just as Jack was leaving for Mendip so he brought them along and added them to a couple of tins of bully beef in a Cuthbert's surprise stew.  I am still grateful that I was not on that trip as various people became ill on the way out and none was at work on the Monday except for Jack whose cast iron stomach was unaffected.  Concerned about the state of his friends he looked at the manufacturer's notes enclosed with the letter.  It seemed that everyone had eaten at least a twelve man-days ration in that single meal. The pemmican really was concentrated!

Our apres- caving meals took a turn for the better when the owner of the Miners' Arms (cafe, not pub) began offering cavers suppers, as much as you could eat for 3/6d (17 1/2p) at any time of night or day by prior arrangement.  The meal comprised of a bowl of soup, meat and three veg followed by bread and marmalade till you gave in.  He really did serve us at 3.30 am when asked on more than one occasion.

A trip I recall from later that year was the start of a high standard survey.  To begin with, all the tackle had to go to the Duck. Coase, Petty, Collins and myself dealt with this rather awkward job, passing numerous items from hand to hand whenever we could not get along carrying the gear.  Alfie, of course, started composing a song to go with the shouted checks on items being passed along.  The chorus was something like:

First tripod forward
Second tripod back
Third astro compass
UP Fourth man's crack!

The kit eventually reached the Duck and the first leg of the survey made back to the Gours.  We then had to push on in order to get out by closing time.  All went well until we were up the Entrance Rift and Petty, who was in front, decided to try a different way of getting through the Shunt into the bottom of the Entrance Shaft.  For the benefit of those who never met him I should mention that Norman was over 6 feet tall.  How he managed it I do not know but he seemed to get himself doubled up the wrong way round and was jammed in there for Gawd knows how long. When we eventually surfaced closing time was horribly close.  Without changing out of our filthy wet overalls we put a cleanish sack on the driving seat of Don's car and he drove to the Hunters with the other three of us hanging onto the outside of the car.  We passed money in and the hilarious mob within passed mugs of beer out through the windows to us.

Mention of the Entrance Shaft reminds me that part of the shoring was a large board stating that:

Climbing is Dangerous
and is Prohibited
by order
G. Robinson Manager Gough's Cave

As I am now employed by Cheddar Caves I find this memory rather amusing.  I had originally taken a sign from the other side of the road.  Older, more responsible, members told me to take it back because it must be National Trust property.  This I did the following Saturday after closing time and took the Gough's Cave sign instead which was deemed to be perfectly O.K.

Round about this time we started to break through the Bank Grill in Gour Rift.  King and I were there one day thumping away with hammer and chisel and were, we thought, about to succeed.  Both of us were nearly out of carbide but as there was a small stock in the Dining Chamber, went on hammering away.  We eventually gave up when our lights were seriously low and sped to the Dining Chamber to re-fill. The whitewashed wall on which messages were left said that Don's party were on their way out and were very sorry but had used all the spare carbide supply.  The other spare carbide supply was in Pillar Chamber and it is probable that the time Kangy and I took to get there has never been bettered.

On the following weekend Tony Dunn and I eventually opened the Bank Grill and Tony went through. He came back to say that it did not appear to be worth pursuing.  As far as I know this is still true.

That autumn (55) was really the end of my "early" Cuthbert's.  I had failed my exams which finished my deferment from National Service. In the November my call-up papers arrived, but I was not aware of them.  I had crashed my motorbike the night before and have no knowledge of the next four days.  It could have been worse but I was wearing an ex- WD crash helmet purchased from Roy Bennett three hours previously.  After two more medicals the Army still wanted me.  Due to argumentative skills learned in the Hunters' and the Belfry I persuaded the Army to leave things long enough for me to have another go at the Great Traverse of the Black Cuillin of Skye in May 56.  This I managed with John Attwood and returned to find that the Glosters wanted me next Thursday.

Thank you for asking for the stories of caving with the wonderful characters concerned.  I am glad to say that last week I had my first visit to Cuthbert's II - many thanks to Chris Castle and Richard Long who acted as guides and minders.  In another few days I shall be at Alfie's Geriatric Dinner - 50 years after my first club dinner which I regret to say was the Wessex.


Club News

Firstly, for those who have not already heard, I have some sad news.  Frank Jones passed away at the end of last year.  An obituary can be found below.  I am sure that I am not alone in saying that his seat by the fire in the Hunters' seems strangely empty - although Quackers is doing his best as a stand in for Frank.

Tony and others are soon due to return from their Meghalaya Expedition and news of their exploration will be in the next issue of the BB.

Phil Rowsell has sent brief news of his six months digging in Tasmania - he has mentioned something about a new shaft in a system on Mt. Anne and the possibility of a new Australian depth record. Somewhere in Tasmania there are some poor knackered cavers gazing at a calendar and thinking of the rest that they will have when he returns to Mendip!

Work has begun at the Belfry on clearing the ground for the new extension.  Contact the Hut Engineer for details of future working weekends as this issue will be too late for the early March one.

A new computer has been installed in the Library courtesy of Becca Campbell and Bristol Waterworks.

Finally, although there has been a fair deal of trips by club members in recent months the Logbook reveals only a fraction of this activity.  There are two good reasons to fill it in.  Firstly, it is an historical record for the use of future cavers. Secondly, if it is not used more, the extracts from the Logbook section of your BB is going to read like a personal log for the few that bother regularly to write up trips.


VALE: Francis (Frank) John Jones.


Frank joined the BEC in the early 1960s whilst he was living at his parent’s home in Clifton.  At the time he was working as a draughtsman.  He caved through the mid 1960s, frequently in St. Cuthbert's (which seems to have been his favourite Mendip cave system).  He then joined the Merchant Navy - his departure from which launched the countless jokes about a "discharged seaman".  Moving to Priddy at the end of the decade he remained in the village until his death from a heart attack while at home in mid December 2001.

Frank near Quarry Corner in St. Cuthbert's Swallet on the 5th of January 1964.

Photograph by Roger Stenner.  Also present on the trip were: Dave Irwin, Joyce Rowlands (now Franklin), Brenda Plummer ( Wilton), Joy Steadman, and Kevin Abbey.  Other sites visited on this photographic trip included Mud Hall, Pillar, Boulder and Upper Traverse Chambers.  For a more recent (albeit posthumous) caving trip by Frank see Tony's article on Hunter's Lodge Inn Sink.

His well attended funeral, with well over eighty mourners, reflected his popularity and his ashes were scattered in a number of places locally - indeed there are now plans afoot for a lasting memorial to one of Mendip's (and the BEC's) true characters.

If you have more information or stories about Frank, and particularly about his caving years, please send them to the Editor for publication in the next issue.


Extracts From The Logbook.

14/11/01: Eastwater Cavern ( Soho Dig): Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Went down to survey dig and check possible leads with no bang fumes.  Andy made it into '"Thank God" Chamber, which was good. Squeezed through into rift and had good look around. Rift continues on, generally pretty narrow (5 inches), but seems to be wider at bottom.  Narrow part for next 2-3 metres, needs to be widened.  Tried to squeeze through, but well tight!  Not the mega nightmare previously thought, but definitely a project. Climbed up rift, but no way on. Surveyed our way out. Good trip. Not all is lost, but guess this will be next year's/summer's project!

17/11/01: Priddy Green SinkiSwildon's: Mike Alderton, Rich Bayfield (S.U.C.C.) and Chris (S.U.C.C.)

Priddy Green Sink through trip (not bad for Chris's 5th trip) had a look at possibilities for blasting drainage from Mud Sump from this side, but nothing looks promising.  No ladder on Twenty, despite hundreds of cars when we left, so set up hauling line for Rich and Chris.

28/11/01: Welsh's Green Swallet: Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Tourist trip to have a look at dig etc.  Not as muddy as expected.  Now off to "Tassy" ( Tasmania) for six months.  See you in June!

5/1/02: Rhino Rift: Ivan Sandford, Rob Harper, and Adrian Hole

Typically disorganised trip in - left keys in Land Rover, rope too short etc.  Dug passage to Stal to a workable size.  Cold, wet, squalid - but made good progress until water became a problem.  Skip needed. Ivan of the opinion that no breakthrough imminent, but still a good site - must go back with wetsuits.  Rob found squeeze easy.  Ivan did not - mainly due to having to have RH stand on his shoulders to get through.

12/1/02: G.B: Mike Wilson, Tom, and Ben

Steady trip to the Ladder Dig. Looked at the RH dig and took some photos of same.  Out via standard route.

Dollimore's Series: good digging to get connection!  Headed south downstream to choke, where we had a prod at a couple of likely spots before turning our attention to the choke.  Climbed up and removed several rocks before being halted by a precariously balanced slab (above head) and several of its pals - will go back with another type of persuasion!  Onto Yellow Van Passage where the connecting duck was more than that, but did find likely spot in the roof tube to wait for fumes to clear.  Turned and made way out.  Around nine hours.