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Stop – Press  -  Breakthroughs at  Rana  Hole, Assynt,  Scotland

Tony Jarratt

     Over the Christmas – Hogmanay period a minor Mendip Invasion of Assynt took place with Paul Brock, Siss Balomatis, Duncan Butler, the writer and Robin “Tav” Taviner (GSG/WCC) in attendance. Norman Flux, Mark Brown and Anwen Burrows represented both GSG and SUSS and a host of Grampian members, including old Rana lags Julian Walford, Ivan Young, Martin Hayes, Andy Peggie, Roger Galloway, Annie Audsley, Kate Janossy and Derek Pettiglio appeared. Fraser Simpson luckily made a brief appearance armed with his video camera.

On Boxing Day Paul, Siss and your scribe visited Skye-way and the impressive Two A’s Chamber before squeezing down into some 70m of rift and bedding passages found earlier in the week by GSG local Chris Warwick and daughter Shona. A new stream entered on the north side as a 5m waterfall and sank in a boulder choke in the floor of Way On Chamber. A passage above was blasted after a couple of minor extensions were added to the cave.

Next day your scribe, Paul and Siss squeezed into c.20m of choked phreatic passage (Santa’s Grotthole) then joined Julian and sons who were digging in vain at the floor choke. To aid access a charge was fired in the rock wall on the S side of the choke. On the 28th Tav and the writer cleared the spoil and started shifting the choke when black voids appeared below and part of the floor collapsed into a short pitch – much to your scribe’s distress! Leaving it to settle they banged their way into 6m of passage nearby – Misfire Rift. Having optimistically brought SRT kit and a rope they were duty bound to garden and push the pitch so Tav acted as safety man while the writer descended the steeply angled and well decorated Black Rift for some 8m to a c.6m vertical drop into Black Cuillin Chamber where two ways led off. Mark, Anwen and Duncan visited next day and thoroughly emptied the rift of tons of “hanging death”.

A large team were back on the 30th and after Mark rigged Black Rift he pushed into some 50m of narrow, dry phreatic passage into Blue Chamber – named after its resident sump pool and in memory of Paul’s late lamented Border Terrier. Others dug in a boulder blockage in the northerly trending stream sink a few metres from the pitch but decided bang was needed so your scribe was inserted to drill three obstructive sandstone boulders. Drill and rock quality problems prevented this but after a half hour’s work with a crowbar the writer pushed the furthest rock forwards and followed it through into a 2m high stream passage. Mark, Paul, Siss, Fraser and Duncan (a perfect mix of GSG, SUSS and BEC) joined him to traverse over the shallow Flake Rift on a massive and dodgy looking rock flake, ascend a short and muddy climb and squeeze through a low section to the head of a steep flowstone slope in the side of a mighty chamber after a total of around 20m of new passage. Your scribe worriedly free-climbed this as he expected another deep pitch into Belh Aven in Uamh an Claonaite below. To the north a massive and unstable boulder slope (Raigmore Steps as it turned out) led to a wide breakdown passage with a roaring streamway and plenty of scuff-marks and footprints to prove that after 12 years of digging they had made the connection – into the base of Belh Aven and not the top as predicted! For the writer it was almost 32 years since he first dug here! Thoroughly elated they visited the stunning Great Northern Time Machine, inspected the bear bones nearby, posed for Fraser’s video and returned to Two A’s Chamber to imbibe the “Champagne” providentially left therein (and a second bottle with the rest of the team on the freezing surface!). Many tourist trips then followed and on the 1st January, Mark bolted up Belh Aven for some 60m to a horrific boulder choke (Belh End) with the green-dyed Rana stream entering. A magnificent week’s digging and exploration with, luckily, all the right tools and dedicated company for the job. Norman now has to find a new project! The combined system is around 2868m long and 111m deep – Scotland’s longest and deepest by far. Slainte.

Keys and leaders

By Toby Maddocks

A plea from your Caving Sec…

After numerous calls and emails from club members and after checking the members’ key box for quite a few weekends many of the keys are missing in action.

If you have used a key from the members’ box recently, or even not so recently and not yet put it back, please can you do it as soon as possible. Our Hut Warden and other committee members have found it quite embarrassing when keys are missing from the members’ box and members have not been able to the cave of their choice. I will publish a list and put it up by the box shortly so that we know what should be there. If you do use keys from the members’ box, please can you sign them out as well – the book is now pinned to the wall by the front door (left hand side as you come in). Many thanks to the members that have been doing this.

On a lighter note, though I would like to ask if anyone who might be interested in being a Cuthbert’s leader please email me. I’m currently training up myself with a couple of other BEC members so that we can share the load of trips into our cave with the current leaders. At present to become a leader you need to:

Have completed a minimum of 15 trips with current leaders

Be able to have sufficient knowledge of the cave so that you are able to protect the cave formations.

Have completed your training / validation trips with a wide range of current leaders and have gained secure knowledge of the main tourist trips.

If you would like to know more then please email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   Happy caving!!