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Cavers Bookshelf

By B.M. Ellis

SHROPSHIRE MINING CLUB YEARBOOK, 1965/6.  Obtainable from D.R. Adams, New Era, Princess Gardens, Newport, Salop.  7/6 (+8d postage).  58 quarto pages.

This is the fifth yearbook published by the S.M.C. and continues in their unusual but interesting form of being a printing of their trip reports.  The S.M.C. has a relative small membership but the amount of ‘caving’ carried out would be the envy of some larger organisations, especially as they are based away from all the caving areas.  This type of publication might be unusual but is has much to commend it; all of their members are informed of everything that has been going on in the club and all the working trips are published even if very little or no progress has been made.  Each issue so far has also contained two of three articles in addition to the log entries.

The year covered by this issue deals with a wide range of trips.  There are accounts of more than forty caving trips expeditions to North Wales (almost all of them working trips over thirty visits to mines, ten caving trips to Yorkshire and nine elsewhere, and reports on more that twenty meetings. Although the price is a little high when compared with most caving publications, it is interesting reading, is worth in place in any club library and is a must for anyone interested in the caves of North Wales or the mines around Shropshire.

The S.M.C. carry out most of the work on the Derbyshire caves and with the exception of the Shepton are the only club who bother to publish what they have done there.



A late night reading of “The Hard Years” showed that Joe Brown’s uniqueness can survive even ghosted writing, tape recording and spine cringing doggerel.  From the early years of questing experiment, through hair raising adolescent escapades, with apparent inevitability there emerges the ultimate climber.  Since Brown began his big climbs we can no longer believe that anything is invulnerable.

Brown has become a legend in his own lifetime and one examines the legend more closely, the more clear it becomes that he has every right to be so.  There is scarcely a development in almost two decades in which he has not been in the forefront.  Excess on Gritstone, the New Cloggy, Himalayan rock climbing, British grade sixes, steeple jacking and currently Anglesey Cliffs.

Not only in technique but also in attitude is he there.  The informal group if friends rather than the formal club.  The more thrusting drive of group motivation rather than the individual idealism of Classic Times.  The single minded week by week erosion of the climbing problem.  All have added up to this ultimate professional.

I suppose, as with “The History of Mendip Caving”, that a proper appreciation will eventually be written. Until then read “The Hard Years” and wonder.

“But we live in the most regimented society even in this country.  You practically have to have a licence to breathe.  You cannot move without people asking what you are doing.” I read that in a newspaper, the Duke of Edinburgh was carrying on about something or other.  It rang true and reminded me that walking back to Ogwen after a benighted incident and a very pleasant chap with “INSTRUCTOR” across his jersey asked us if anyone in the club had a Mountain Leaders Certificate. Well what do you say?  At the time we muttered about “years of inexperience” and “it’s a nice night” and “did he come here often” and thank goodness it was dark – it hid our blushes.  I suppose a better answer would be to ask how Joe Brown managed without one or, could you abseil from it?  Yes, of course, intensive instruction can help but who would you rather be with on the Coollin in a storm, a well balanced, fit mate who had worked it all out or someone who had been to all the lectures but hadn’t actually done any climbing this year?

Another thought provoking snippet from the press – “Four naval apprentices, on a weekend training exercise en route from Aviemore to Blair Atholl via Larig Ghui, became exhausted by evening in artic conditions and could not go on.  They stayed together and got into sleeping bags. Rescue teams alerted by other apprentices found and carried them to Braemar.  The victims were praised for sticking to the rules”.  Presumably the organiser was praised for exposing the apprentices to such conditions in the first place.

MORAL, don’t be organised. If you can’t avoid it, join the B.E.C. We individuals must stick together.