The Editor and publishers join in wishing all our readers a very happy Xmas and a good year’s caving in 1956.


B.E.C. Weekend Visit to Derbyshire

By Jack Waddon

Over the weekend 21/23rd October, a visit to Derbyshire was made by the B.E.C., a party consisting of: - Norman Petty, Ian Dear, Tony Rich, Russell Jenkins, Roy Bennett and Jack Waddon.  The various members of the party arrived independently by motor-cycle at Whitelee Farm, Sparrowspit, during Friday evening, after battling across Axe Edge in a bitterly cold headwind on the last stretch of the journey.

On Saturday morning a visit was made to Middleton Dale, which still retains some of its former grandeur, although long since despoiled by intensive quarrying.  Many of the old mine-workings in the side of the Dale run into natural rifts and caves, and a good deal of time was spent in exploring some of these, but it was not until every member of the party had acquired a quantity of mud on his clothes that it was thought advisable to change into caving gear!

In was apparent that a trial for lead was in the course of being made at one point on the North side of Middleton Dale, where a sizable cutting excavated along the line of a lode, there were quantities of Galena in large masses lying about.  It was here that a piece of Galena weighing about 20lbs. was accidentally dropped on the foot of Ian Dear, who complained hard and long in the time honoured manner of cavers.  From amongst the ‘gangue’ minerals in the lode, several samples of white Fleurite showing good crystal structure were obtained.  The most interesting find here was a piece of Iceland Spar (the transparent variety of Calcite) which fractured into perfect rhomboids, in which the characteristic phenomenon of ‘Double Refraction’ was amply displayed.

After Mrs. Vernon had reinforced us with a good lunch back at Whitelee Farm, we set out for Peak Cavern, where Les Salmon of the B.S.A. had arranged a trip for us to the inner reaches beyond the part shown to the public.  Les had brought three of his friends along with him, and about 4pm, we all entered the cave, and changed into caving gear.

Before proceeding beyond the tourist section it was necessary to drain a sump, which operation was successfully accomplished with the aid of several lengths of flexible pipe; these were first primed, after which the water in the sump was siphoned away.  It was about 20 minutes before the water in the sump dropped to a comfortable level, but even it was difficult to pass through without getting chest and stomach considerably- wetter than one would wish.

The cave now became more interesting and large, and after a while a 20ft. ladder pitch brought us into the main stream way once more, which consisted of a high rift passage with a barren water worn floor.  There was pronounced scalloping on the walls.  Splashing merely downstream we travelled some distance before meeting deep water and a long sump, though which the C.D.G. have passed from the end of the tourist cave further downstream.  Since we were not mer-men, we retraced our steps and went upstream, where, on a ledge above the stream, we came across a beautiful nest of cave pearls, about 9 inches across.  It contained a high number of white pearls, all perfectly spherical, and uniform in size.  (Each the size of a pea).

Pressing on further upstream, a duck was passed, beyond which another long sump, passable only to divers, was reached.  We returned the way we had come, noting several examples of oxbows in the walls of the rift, high above the present stream.

The sump which had been drained on the way in had now partially filled again, and almost complete immersion was involved in negotiating it.  After the howls of protest at this further ducking in icy water had died down the voice of Les Salmon (who had a thermometer) was heard announcing the temperature as being 46oF, which is of course colder than normal for British caves generally.  We were soon dry and changed, and we left the cave just on midnight.

One advantage of having done a very wet trip on Saturday was that there was a jolly good excuse for not caving on Sunday, so a long walk was taken along the ridge to Mam Tor.  Descending to the road, we passed the Temburn Odin Mine, where a couple of thunder flashes dropped down the deep shaft produced awe-inspiring echoes. Amongst the mining refuse were some examples of purple Flurite with perfect cubic crystals.

Since we were near the Blue John Mine (an extensive show-cave first discovered by miners) we decided to visit it.  We went round the normal tourist section in a large party of other visitors.  At one point Roy Bennett (who was at the rear of the party) suddenly dived up a low side passage, but soon emerged with the news that ‘it didn’t go’, and a tear in the seat of his trousers.

On the way back to Whitelee Farm for lunch, we passed through Windy Knoll Quarry, where we obtained some interesting sample of Elaterite (a rubbery bitumen smelling of engine oil) which oozes out of the rock at this and a couple of other places in Derbyshire.

After having eaten, tracks were made for the respective homes, and all agreed that the success of the weekend was due in no small measure to the co-operation afforded to us by the local cavers, not to mention Mrs. Vernon’s usual excellent cooking.

Jack Waddon.

In case this phrase should make the reader wonder, “How tight is a duck”?  This duck was not watertight, and if you, gentle reader should wonder how a duck became a caver and ventured so far underground, let me hasten to point out that in this case a ‘duck’ is a low passage almost, but not quite filled with water.  -  Ed.

Some Gale.

“At times we had to incline our bodies considerably from the perpendicular to counteract the atmospheric thrust”.  (Climbers’ Club Journal, 1903.  Prof. Tyndall’s, ‘A Stormy Day on Helvellyn’).



Near Massacre in Glen Coe.

By Rex Aldridge.

On the last day of a wonderful week of camping, climbing and walking in Glen Coe, three of us set out to climb the Chanceller.

We started up with myself in the lead, Austin second, and Doug third and pack horse.  As the guide book had warned us, the rock was loose, rotten and vegetated.  (Cheddar is sound by comparison.)  However we surmounted this bad stuff and lunched at the foot of a wall of ‘diff’ standard.  We were on a ridge of rock and heather which abutted against the wall. The ridge dropped away steeply on either side to vertical walls of rock which in turn went down to big scree gullies.

I climbed up the wall for about twenty feet, foresaw difficulty, and brought Austin up to give me closer support.  With Austin belayed, I reconnoitred for a way up, but with no success.  (It took so long over this that Doug, who was sitting on the ridge at the foot of the wall, became absorbed in watching traffic, 1,500ft. below us in the Glen.)

I came back to Austin, changed places with him on the rope and belayed myself.  Austin had a try, got about ten feet to my left, about five feet above me, and got stuck! 

After looking quickly to my belay, adequately (so I though) around a substantial hunk of rock, I tried to dissuade him from falling off.  But he insisted, and so I reassured him that in the event, I could hold him easily.  Never do that!  Never mind the leader’s peace of mind, tell him that he doesn’t stand an earthly if he comes off.  Doug alerted at the foregoing conversation, returned to his traffic watching on hearing these words of assurance.

Sure enough Austin came off.  He fell vertically for a short distance, then the rope coming taut, he started to pendulum towards and beneath me.  At this point I remember being jerked further from my stance than I thought the belay would allow.

Then I seemed to be waking up from a heavy sleep, I had been dreaming about climbing I thought. But this rock and heather seemed very real, and wasn’t that Doug up there calling, “Rex, are you alright?”, and I could hardly breath and my shoulder hurt.  Gosh!  I remember, I must have come off - Oh! wasn’t I miserable.  My next thoughts were, “Well, I’m alive and not too badly hurt”.

Austin and I has fortunately fallen either side of the ridge and this had prevented a fall down the vertical walls to the scree gully.

Doug soon had us on the crest of the ridge again and roped to a rock belay.  After putting his Anorak on me and tying the rucksack with spare food and torch on to us, he hurried down for help, while Austin and I were still exchanging repeated apologies for our respective contributions to the mishap.

As it got dusk, Austin and I realised that we were probably stuck for the night and moved ourselves into a recess just off the crest of the ridge, and out of the wind.

Then as darkness fell, Doug (stout fellow) returned with two volunteers, a quilt, a flask of tea, and a first aid outfit.  With the quilt we were warm, and comparatively comfortable, and Austin’s lacerations were bound up.  The R.A.F. were on their way!  (A hundred miles away as yet, but we didn’t know).

The R.A.F. arrived on the road below us as about midnight, but in spite of a searchlight (which was a morale booster) they weren’t able to reach us till dawn. Imagine our relief when they reached us, - bars of mint cake ad-lib., cups of tea, nice comfortable stretchers and blankets.

Not liking the prospect of being first down a practically vertical wall in a stretcher, I gallantly insisted that Austin have the first vehicle.  Another point I considered and which turned out to be correct, was that the first party down would receive all the missiles of loose rock.]

Without envy I watched Austin’s stretcher being guided over the edge and disappear, a jab of morphia and then it was my urn.  The descent was quite something – the most difficult that the Mountain Rescue Section had yet done – I was glad I was being carried.  The frequent proximity of falling rock and the apparent likelihood of being tipped feet first, head first, or sideways, down a gully, served to keep me awake, and maintain interest.

By 4pm, we were down on the road, and being loaded into an ambulance, and relax for the first time in 25 hours.  I dozed in the ambulance on the way to hospital at Fort William, - but my dozing and subsequent night’s sleep were frequently interrupted as we tried to duck away from imaginary falling rock.

Oh, Belford Hospital!  Hot drinks and food, piping hot pyjamas, electric blankets – not to mention the wonderful nurses, - but I must stop or somebody will be falling off on purpose.

Rex Aldridge.

Rex Aldridge is a new contributor to the B.B., I hope he becomes a frequent one.


Can anyone tell me why?

Reply to Question in BB96.

Vibram is the trade name for a deeply in cut rubber sole fitted to a climbing boot.  It is of Italian origin, being introduced, I believe by the ‘tigers’ of the Turin section of the Italian Alpine Club in the years before the war.  Its use spread rapidly throughout the continent and by 1945 it was old fashioned to wear nails.  Nowadays nails are a museum piece in the Alps except on the feet of British Climbers.

The name Vibram soon became applied loosely to all boots equipped with similar rubber soles, even though of another make; the genuine Vibram sole carries the words, ‘Vibram Brevettata Montagna, which roughly translated means that Vibs make molehills out of mountains.

Vibs took on slowly in Britain; the young climbers with no inhibitions and traditions about footwear tried the ‘new’ boots as soon as they visited the Alps, found them good, and brought them back into this country.  The older generation shook their heads and said that it was unwise to learn to climb in anything except nails.  This, most unfortunately, is still the official attitude of the Mountaineering Association, but I consider it to be erroneous, a short-sighted and prejudiced thinking and not due to practical observation and experiment.

Dennis Kemp.


in the Waggon and Horse  recently:-

"This ought to tone up B.B., now they've got two English graduates writing for them'',

Up with the University,
English a la B.B.C.,
Death to the wogs!
With BA (Hons) in B.E.C.,
We're the last word in Literacy,
No more muttering moronity,
Sublingual imbecility
Of speleologists (or Trogs).


British Mountainering Council Circular G.30/207.

Reprint of:-.


(A statement issued by the B/M/C/ Equipment Sub-Committee)

The B.M.C. have in the past (R.P. Mears, ‘Snap Links’, Mountaineering Vol.1 No.3 January 1948) advised climbers that some karabiners are on sale and in service which do not reach a reasonable standard of strength for use in running belays, abseils or as a link in the leader’s rope.  (The loads involved in ‘artificial’ climbing may be considerably less, and this use of karabiners is not here considered.)  Among these weak karabiners are the cheap war-surplus articles that are used extensively in this country.

Recent tests instituted by the Equipment Sub-Committee and by the trade have shown that these ex-service karabiners are very variable in quality and that many are made from low grade steel.  Under a tensile load of only 500lbs., many of them have been found to distort sufficiently to disengage the keeper and to prevent its re-engagement when the load is removed.

A load of 1,000lb., has been sufficient to pull them open.  Some have performed a little better, but only occasional specimens have sustained as much as ¾ ton.  As far as the Equipment Sub-Committee are aware, all the inexpensive, unbranded steel karabiners on sale in this country are war surplus articles of which this performance is typical.  It is probable that most climbers possess one or more of these karabiners.  One report has been received of a karabiner opening during an abseil.

The discovery that large stocks of ex-service karabiners are still in existence, as yet unsold, together with the growing use of karabiners for running belays, abseils and as a link, in the leader's rope, has led the Equipment Sub-Committee to recommend that none of the war-surplus karabiners should be used for these purposes.  The Ministry of Supply, the war Office and the Air Ministry have been informed of these facts and conclusions.

Some foreign karabiners on sale in this country are of better quality.  Tests have been made on some of them and the results are given below.  In all cases the keeper was in its normal position.  The specimens were taken at random and appeared to represent the construction and workmanship of the respective makes, although these tests are no guarantee that all karabiners of these makes, are of the same quality.

STUBAI, oval, weight 8½ ozs, screwed sleeve over end of keeper.  One tested.

Hinge broke at…………………………………………           5,400lb.


STUBAI, oval, weight 4½ ozs, Nine tested.

Three, keeper slipped out of engagement………………      1,700lb.

One, hinge broke ………………………………………          2,500lb.

One, withstood without failure…………………………         2,800lb.

Four, hinge broke………………………………………          3,300lb.


AUSTRIA, pear shaped weight 4ozx, three tested.

One, keeper slipped out of engagement………………..      1,700lb.

One, hinge broke……………………………………….          2,800lb.

One, catch sheared……………………………………..        3,300lb.


WM PAT AUSTRIA, forged, weight 4½ ozs, One tested.

Withstood without failure………………………………          2,800lb.


ASMU forged, weight 4½ ozs, One tested.

Hinge broke…………………………………………….           2,240lb.


P. ALLAIN, forged aluminium alloy, weight 2½ ozs, two tested.

One, opened slightly ……………………………………        1,100lb.

One, opened wide……………………………………..           1,700lb.


It will be noted that, with the exception of the heavy 8oz Stubai, none of the above karabiners is as strong as a full weight nylon climbing rope.

Karabiners of sound mechanical design and high grade materials are now being developed in Britain.  Pending the availability of good quality British karabiners, climbers are recommended to use the better of the karabiners listed above or others for which dealers can guarantee comparable performance,.

Acknowledgments.  The generous assistance of the trade, the R.A.F. Mountain Rescue Organisation, the Ministry of Supply and others is gratefully acknowledged.

Can Anyone Tell Me Why?

Replies to Questions in BB97.

The Climbers’ Thesaurus of Warped Words and Paraphrases has this interesting entry:  Vibrams - Climbers' Jargon for Vibrations and Jim-jams, both peculiar to persons in exposed situations.  Hence, “To have the vibrams”.

The question on the fear of falling concerns that morbid subject ever popular with climbers.  Personally, I feel far mope comfortable looking at 200 odd feet of exposure than jumping around, soaked and frozen to the marrow, avoiding the pot-holes in Swildon's.  It’s purely psychological, as someone in the Hunters' was heard to remark to a pink elephant.

A tip from James Kirkus:  When about to ‘peel’, don't clutch at the cliff with your last desperate finger-nail.  Turn round and choose a likely spot, no matter how far below, and JUMP FOR IT!  I have not heard if he ever put this into practice.


There is a Clogwyn in North Wales

The following Epic has been complied and submitted by Ron Newman.

Tune: “There is a Tavern in the Town”.


There is a Clogwyn in North Wales,
And all the routes on it went in nails,
Till some slick chap,
With hammer, peg and dap,
Put hard V.S. routes on the map

Fare thee well, for I must leave you,
Do not let the parting grieve you,
And remember that the best of friends must part.
Adieu, adieu old routes, adieu, old routes, adieu,
I can no longer climb on you,
I’ll hang my boots on a weeping willow tree,
And may the world go well with thee.

He bought a hammer, gleaming new,
And for each foot a rubber shoe,
And furthermore,
To complete his store,
Assorted pitons by the score.

With karabiners, slings and pegs,
Dangling round his waist and legs,
He climbed so bold,
On the pitons he’d been sold,
Up slabs where there’d never been a hold.

Until he had to make a move,
In an overhanging groove,
And he pinned his fate,
To a piton long and straight,
But forgot all about his increased weight.

The pegs he carried weighed ten stone,
And he weighed fourteen stone alone,
As he turned about,
With a panic-stricken shout,
Saw his pilot-anchor coming out.

His last, remaining only hope,
Was an ancient hempen half-weight rope,
And he saw too plain,
With anguish, woe and pain,
It would simply not take the strain.

He fell on screes above a llyn –
Momentum carried him straight in,
But though he could swim,
And thrashed with every limb,
(slowly) His ironmongery drowned him.

And so you budding mountaineers,
If you want to live for many years,
Then forget your daps,
And new routes on the maps
And leave the pegs to other chaps

Final Chorus:
Fare thee well, for I must leave you,
Do not let the parting grieve you,
And remember that the best of friends must part.
Hello old routes, hello, hello, old routes, hello,
No longer from your well worn tracks will I go,,
I’ll take  my boots off that weeping willow tree,
And know the world goes well with thee.

Mendip Topics

By ?

Mendip’s characteristic road side verges are now being removed in the Priddy area to widen roads for the passage of bigger and uglier coaches during the summer weegie invasion.  The Hillgrove – Hunters Lodge – Miners Arms – Castle of Comfort and Priddy – Miners Arms roads are all suffering in this respect.  These grass verges date back to the first extensive enclosing of Mendip land as fields in the late eighteenth century.  The roadsides were used for many years by commoners for grassing their sheep, and was also useful for travelling stockmen who could grass their animals on the way to market.

In more recent years the verges have been of great service to caving motor-cyclists who are known to ‘Run out of Road’ on occasions.

However as consolation for the gradual loss of this traditional Mendip feature we have evidence of a traditional craft being revived.  Namely the craft of dry stone walling, new examples of which are to be seen between Farrington and Chewton Mendip and around Priddy.  There are stone wallers now practising at Priddy and Chewton.  The Blagdon Fete walling competition has done a great deal to revive this art.  In eighteen hundred the cost of building a wall was approx. eight and six per twenty feet, now it is considerably more than ten times this.

In mentioning items associated with Mendip’s past should not be forgotten.  From the practical evidence produced by certain researchers in this field there is no need to worry about the decline of this essential; industry.

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _ + _ +

R.J. Bagshaw, Hon. Sec. & Treas., 56 Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Editor BB, 48 Novers Park Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4..