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Caves in Upper Austria

A Chat – By Dr. Hans Seigal

This is not a scientific report, nor is it a complete list or description.  Such matters would have to be published elsewhere.

It’s hard to say how often I have been asked what we cavers are searching for underground.  Whenever people find out that I deal with caves and take part in expeditions, they ask me that question.  A comprehensive answer would fill a thick volume.  Let me try to say it in a few words:  we look, experience and explore.  We are servants of science, and in our community experts and laymen have equal rights.  He, who wants to become famous, is in the wrong place.  I must beg your pardon that I am going to talk about myself a little.

When I was a youngster studying at a secondary school (one of my teachers was a grand geologist and mineralogist) I visited the Dachstein Ice Cave.  The group was guided by the present manager, Herr Roman Pils.  I was much enthused and wanted to go there again and again, but I could not.  Only after World War II, being a patient of the military hospital at Obertraun, I met my cave guide again.  My friendship with this extraordinary man, gave me a great uplift, and though I am badly handicapped, I took up visiting that cave again and again.  I even worked there as a guide.  Encouraged by my friend, I underwent the examination for cave guides and joined the Landeverein fur Hohlenkunde (the Cave Research Group of Upper Austria).  In this way I became a caver.

Some years ago, I stated in an article written for some prominent periodical, that caves should be entered only in company with an expert.  But who is an expert?  He who is familiar with the matter is one.  In the case of caves this matter is rather extensive.  A caver must at least be familiar with all alpinistic techniques on rock and ice; he must know how to handle all the material a climber needs, including rope ladders, belaying material and an acetylene lamp (the best and most reliable source of light for the caver).

Before talking of the caves themselves, let me say: caving means teamwork.  It’s hazardous to go there alone, the danger being the same as with rock climbing – but in addition to that there is complete darkness in a cave (so have a good light with you).

But now let’s start talking business:

By January 1966, 866 caves were known in Upper Austria of which 277 were unexplored, 180 superficially explored, 110 almost, and 299 completely explored. We take it for granted that there are many more caves in our province.  Our cave Research Group together with the other provincial groups being united in the Verband Osterreichischer Hohlenforscher (Association of Austrian Speleologists) is eagerly working at a cadastral list of the caves in Upper Austria forming part of a cadastral register of all Austrian caves.  In this work are interested: our agricultural authorities, our army and, last not least, the administration of tourist traffic.

There is a lot of literature on our commercial caves.  In Upper Austria there are four: Dachstein Ice Cave, Dachstein Mommoth cave, Koppenbruller Cave (an active water cave) and the Gassl cave (near Ebensee, which – I am sorry to say – has been closed down for a few years for the lack of guides).

But here I want to talk of ‘wild caves’.  Most of them are reserved to speleologists and cavers as a layman would not be able to stand the strain.  It is not always the danger that keeps the layman off, but strain and endurance. There are not too many people who want to work in darkness and moisture, creeping on their bellies though tight passages in wet loam.

Let me begin with our Hierlatz Cave (1) extending a number of miles.  It has taken many years of hard work to explore and survey it.  Many brave men have done their share in it.  The entrance opens high in the northern face of the Heirlatz.  Formerly you had to climb up to that place and to creep in on your belly (now it’s a bit easier as the entrance has been widened by blasting).  In the entrance hall you put on your overall (which ought to be water-proof).   You fix your spikes as you have to ascend on ice. It takes a few hours to reach the main system.  Most of our tours took three days.  This cave is of great interest in many respects – geologically and morphologically. It’s hard for a layman to believe that there are many places spacious enough to build a large house in it.  A detailed description would fill a whole book. I am aware of the fact that even a week or more underground does not mean a record – we do our work for science.

A visit to Lettenmayr Cave near Kremsmunster is far less troublesome.  It is one of those caves are protected by our authorities (Authority for the Protection of Architectural and Natural Monuments) and you must ask permission so as to visit it.  Any kind of digging is forbidden, you mustn’t take away any samples of minerals or other things either.  It has been badly devastated when saltpetre was obtained, or rather extracted, from the cave after World War II.  Thousands of years ago it was populated by the cave bear (ursus spelaeus).  There are more caves of this type here in Austria the largest of them being the Dragon Hole (Drachenloch) in Styria from which wagon loads of phosphate were extracted after World War II.

To the mountaineer roaming our Dead Mountains (Totres Gebirge) (2), a cave entrance is not a rare view.  He often meets with such things.  Many a big hole has been a disappointment, while small ones have often opened up wonders. There is a dripstone cave near Hangender Kogel (you would possibly call it Slanting Peak). This is not a very high mountain but it’s an imposing one with respect to its shape.  Coming from Hochkogelhutte, you follow a narrow footpath that, quite abruptly, ends somewhere in the rocks.  But at last you reach the entrance near which (inside the cave) there is a jackdaw’s nest.  On you go climbing over big boulders.  Soon you are faced with wonderful dripstone formations (you Englishmen have a clearer expression in your language – you find both dripstone and flowstone). Deeper down you find terra rossa which proves that many millennia ago there was subterranean climate in this region. Words are too poor to describe all the wonderful things you will see there: among others there are clusters of calcite crystals resembling Christmas trees, although tiny ones only.

We cave people mostly avoid speaking of these things because such stories might attract people who are likely to devastate such places.  This has happened in the cave mentioned above, and that’s a great pity as such formations will not form any more – the climatic conditions have greatly changed. There are even eccentrics (you will also hear the word helictites being used for them) in this cave.  Far more of this type of calcite formation you will find in some other caves, especially in Excentrique Cave in Lower Austria where they prevail.  It would be a sin of omission not to mention a cave situated quite near the border of our province – the Raucherkar Cave (3) which is known to quite a number of you. Here you may find anything a caver’s heart may long for.  The start was not very promising (1961) but after the expedition of 1967 it has turned out to be a gigantic phenomenon.  Nobody can foretell what new things lie ahead of us in this cave.

There is one more range of mountains, the Hollengebirge (a misnomer as it ought to be “Hohlengebirge” – cave mountains).  In recent years quite a bit of work has been done here.  I must beg your pardon having told you so much that you have known already. Maybe you have not heard of the Kreidelucke (Chalk Hole) that is near a waterfall (called Stromboding) near Windischgarstein.  In dry weather it is quite a pleasurable trip, but when it is wet you might lose your boots in there.

Italienerloch (Italian’s Cave) is another interesting phenomenon.  It was given this name as Italians came here in former times to carry away large pieces of calcite sinter having colourful stripes (from a snowy white to a deep brown hue).  It was ground and polished and used for making tabletops, ashtrays, etc.  There are also Karst springs, the largest of which is Piebling Ursprung (Piebling Spring).  Divers have tried to find out its mystery.

I know I ought to say a few words about our hypogean fauna but this is so very much specialised an item that I do not dare to do so (I know some of your specialists to whom I want to bow most devotedly).  But there was some event that I want to mention.  In the late twenties one of our comrades found a tiny beetle - a trychophaenops angulipennis.  At first scientists were in doubt whether it had been found in places indicated by him. But he was proved the truth of his report and, in this way, geologists had to abandon a whole theory on the glacial period.

But let’s stop thinking about work, let’s go down into the caves and look for the wonders waiting for us down there.  Gluck tief or as you would possible say Good caving to everybody.

P.S.  I do hope you will not mind my English.

References numbered in the text above are the Editor’s additions.  Refs 1, 2 & 3 see B.B. No. 214 (Dachstein Massif, Hirlatzhohle, Raucherkar System, Kroppenbruller Hohle, Dachstein Ice Cave & Eisrienwelt. B.B. 222 Raucherkar System.  B.B. No. 237 & 239 – The Ahnenschascht.


“Historic Occasions”

by ‘Alfie’
‘Stills’ by Jock Orr

Editors may come, and editors may go, but that indefatigable body – the Belfry Bulletin; Scientific and Historical Research Unit – still presents its annual report, and once more creeps from its bat-infested garret to present yet another amazing piece of research to a bewildered public.

This year, by diligent search in old attics, rubbish dumps and the like, an enormous amount of old cine film has been unearthed and, by careful editing and splicing – and the consumption of vast quantities of ‘Sutton Red’, we proudly present a cinematic record of Historic Occasions in the childhood of various club members, for the edification of all.

The original intention was to provide each reader of the BB with a copy of the film; a projector and a screen.  This scheme has been vetoed on the flimsy grounds of expense.  In the face of this pinchpenny attitude, we must fall back on verbal description – although we confidently expect various cinema tycoons to vie with each other in securing the worldwide distribution rights.

On, to coin a phrase, on with the show: -

……..The camera reveals an outdoor scene.  A small, sturdy boy is standing by a table outside a pub on which a full pint glass has been left.  He looks around furtively.  Satisfied, he reaches up and grasps the glass in podgy little hands.  He raised it to his lips, a little unsteadily, and drinks – and drinks – and drinks.  With a sigh, he replaces the glass on the table above his little head.  He burps.  Suddenly, an expression of extreme anguish comes over his little infant face.  He bends double and is violently sick.  We have witnessed an Historic Occasion.  Alan Thomas has just drunk his first point of rough.

‘He looks around furtively’

……..Now we see a scene inside a pub.  A small group of serious faced young men are sitting around a table.  There is a single sheet of plain paper in front of them. They all stare at it.  “It’s no good”, says one of them.  “We have just got to think up a name for this club.  We can’t go on calling it ‘US’.  After all, the lot we have been calling ‘THEM’ for the last few years have just named themselves the Wessex Cave Club”.  There is a long pause.  One man finished his pint, looks in to the glass, and says, “How about the Beer Emptying Club?”  There is a sad shaking of heads.  “I like the initials,” says another.  There is general agreement on this, except for one member.  “What about the Westminster Speleological Society?” he suggests.  “Black mark,” replies the Chairman.  “They haven’t been invented yet.”  The offender collects all the glasses, and this makes it his round.

……..In a garden, a small boy is playing.  He has just taken his mother’s clothes airer to pieces and is tying all the round wooden rods together with strings.  He works away industriously.  At last he is finished.  He ties one end to the branch of a tree and begins to climb up the wooden rungs. Nearly at the top, the string breaks and he falls down.  “I shall never grow up to be a Tacklemaster at this rate,” sighs young Norman.

………Back to the pub again. The same group are sitting round the table on which is now a piece of paper with the initials B.E.C. written on it. All stare at it in silence.  “How about the Booze Education Club?” suggests a member at last.  “All our members already know how to drink,” replies the Chairman, “Which reminds me….” The offending member collects the glasses…..

………The scene is now a schoolroom in which a solitary boy sits writing lines.  The camera advances and we see what he is writing ‘I must not poke fun at Mr. Symes’ on each line.  He swears fluently under his breath as he writes.  Suddenly, he pushed the paper away, takes a clean sheet, and writes: -

This is the tale of Mr. Symes

Who made me write a thousand times

That fun I must not poke –

He stops; thinks, and mutters ‘Joke? Folk? Soak?’  The door opens, and a forbidding figure in cap and gown enters.  “What are you doing Collins” he says, “Nothing, Sir.” Replies the boy, crumpling the paper.  “I don’t think I’m old enough to write a speleode yet.”

………The camera now reveals a group of young choristers about to sing a hymn.  The face of one of the boys looks familiar.  The organ plays the first notes, and the boys start to sing, “when I survey….”  At this point, the boy we have seen noticing stops singing and, oblivious of the hymn being sung all around him, mutters, “That’ll be the day” and starts to doodle a Grade 1 survey of the North Transept in his hymnbook.  It is the Wig.

….The pub.  Now, someone has scrawled on the paper saying BEC the words ‘ Ban Easy Caves.’ The Chairman is speaking.  He is in a bad temper.  “Now that we had dealt suitably with the member who wrote that, has anyone any sensible suggestions to offer?”  One of the members is in a state of great excitement.  How about ‘Best Ever Club?’ he asks.  “It’s accurate, simple, and it conveys the feeling of the essential modesty for which we are noted.”  The Chairman scowls.  “Quite a little orator today – aren’t you?” he sneers.  “It won’t do”.  “Why not? “You should never state the obvious,” replies the Chairman, handing his empty glass to the member in question.

…..Now we see a children’s party.  A small girl has just recited her party piece, and an equally small boy is being pushed into the centre of the room.  He looks round; takes off his jacket, and starts in a clear, high voice: -

‘She was as beautiful as a butterfly
And as proud as a queen
Was pretty little Polly Perkins
Of Paddington Green.’

Yes, it is Norman again.

……Another schoolroom scene. The room is full of small boys at their desks, their heads bent over their work.  The master is walking between the rows of desks, glancing at the boy’s work.  He stops; frowns, and speaks.  “Bagshaw!” He says, “What was the problem I gave you to solve?”  Repeat it boy.”

Dutifully the boy answers – “A club has assets of £50.  It receives a donation of £20.  What are its assets now?”  The master pauses and collects the attention of the class.  “Why then, Bagshaw, is your answer £60?”  You have got it wrong.”  A cunning leer diffuses itself over the boy’s face.  “It’ll work, sir” he announces confidently, “It’ll work.”

…..Once more, the pub. All members are showing signs of extreme frustration.  The paper still contains only the letters B.E.C.  A member speaks.  “What about Bagshaw’s Exploration Club,” he suggests.

Very close replies the Chairman.  “Very good indeed, but not quite right.”  The member reaches for the Chairman’s glass.  “No need for that” replies the Chairman, actually smiling.  With a look of amazement, the member sits down again. Suitably emboldened, another member speaks.  “How about the Building Erecting Committee?

There is a silence. “Again ahead of time again!” sighs the Chairman.  There is a shout of “Usual penalty” as the member rises to collect all the glasses.

…..A boy sits in a very small room, regarding the clean, painted surface of the door.  He produces a grubby pencil and draws a head, then a body and legs.  He concentrates.  He draws one hand with the fingers outstretched form the nose, making a rude gesture.  He draws the other hand making an equally rude sign.  He writes underneath a completely unprintable word. You-know-who has just drawn his first cartoon.

…..The pub, for the last time.  It is Christmas time, as we can see from the sign behind the bar wishing all patrons a Merry Christmas.  The Committee do not look merry.  The Chairman speaks.

“Gentlemen.  It is Christmas Eve.  If we can’t find a name for this damned club tonight, I suggest we disband it.” There was shocked silence.  Then one member speaks, “Which town are we in?” he asks.  The secretary consults his notes.  After some time, he announces triumphantly, “ Bristol

“Good,” replies the member. “Now, what are we trying to do?” Patiently, the Chairman replies, “We are conducting an exploration to find a suitable name for our club.” “Then why not,” explains the member, “Call it the Bristol Exploration Club?”  There is a long, dramatic, broken at last by the Chairman who takes the member’s glass.

“I think we all owe this chap a pint.  Let us drink to the – what was it?”  The secretary hastily consults his notes.

“The Bristol Exploration Club.”  He says.  They drink.

(Copyright in all civilised counties and Hinton Blewitt.)

P.S.  If the reader likes this style, we suggest he reads the books by S.J. Simon and Caryl Brahms.  ‘No Bed Bacon’; ‘Don’t Mr. Disraeli’ etc.


St. Annals mineshaft

Forest Of Dean, St. Annals mineshaft, Little Dean Hill, has been recently capped by the local Water Board.

Cuthbert’s Leaders Please Note

A new lock has been fitted to the cave entrance.  New keys are obtainable from Phil Townsend on exchange for the old key.

Letter To The Editor

Dear Dave


What I have to say to you is mainly for the benefit of those younger members who may not know of the existence of the above fund.

For many years this Club had a very good bloke in it by the name of Ian dear.  When he died he left a sum of money to assist the younger members of the Club to visit caving and climbing areas abroad.  This money has been invested and is known as the Ian Dear Memorial fund.  It is administered by a sub-Committee set up by the General Committee of the B.E.C.

Any member of the B.E.C. who is under the age of eighteen, or in exceptional circumstances (such as still undergoing fulltime education) any member under the age of 21, may apply for a grant of up to ten pounds towards the cost of a caving or climbing trip abroad.  Application must be made by the first day of March in the year of the trip.  Brief details of what the applicant intends to do and what he expects it to cost him should be sent at the time of the application. Once the Committee has satisfied itself that the applicant wants the money for the purpose for which it was given.   The money is a gift to the member and does not have to be returned, but it is nice to think that the member might when he is older and in more affluent circumstances think of making a voluntary donation top the fund.

Some of the young members who are eligible for a grant under the terms of the Ian Dear memorial Fund might be interested to know that the 1969 Ahnenschacht Expedition has vacancies for keen hard cavers (ability to climb ladder essential).  It is hoped in 1969 to complete the exploration of the lateral development from Schachtgabel and descend the other deep shafts that were discovered this year.

Anyone interested can obtain further details from me at any time.

Yours sincerely
            Alan Thomas, Hon. Sec.


EDISON CELLS: - Dave Irwin has a few cells for sale at 30/-. Members wanting any of these cells should contact Dave quickly.  A few switching headlamps are available at 10/- ( Oldham type).  Profit from sale of these lamps will be given to the Hut Fund.  Don’t forget buy B.E.C.!


From R.S. King (Kangy)

The B.E.C. Toulouse Branch has arrived and set up base camp at: -

21 Rue Lionel Terray,
31 Blagnac,

This is estimated to be the optimum distance from the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees and the Southern French caves but a little too near work.

 (Note from Eddy Welch – Eddy is able to get documents, B.B.’s and various reports to him if anyone wants to use this channel).

C.R.G. Southern Meeting 1969

The C.R.G. Southern Meeting, 1969 to which the B.E.C. is acting as host club is to be held on19th April in the Ballroom of the Swan Hotel, Wells.  The lectures will be followed by a dinner in the same place.

For a fortnight to correspond with this meeting the B.E.C. is mounting an exhibition of Caves and Caving in the Lecture Theatre of Wells Museum.  Any offers of help with this or bright ideas should get in contact with Alan Thomas.


Synthetic Ropes for Caving

By Roy Bennett

Because of their greater strength and freedom from rot and mildew, synthetic fibre ropes have displaced those of natural fibres almost completely for general caving purposes. Ropes of four materials are generally available: -

Nylon, Terelene, polypropylene and polyethylene.,

These differ in many important respects, and it is convenient first to consider these differences with respect to general underground usage, and then to discuss special applications.  The report “Ropes made from man-made fibre” published by British Roles Ltd.  Gives an up to date coverage of the properties of interest to cavers and is the source of most of the information used in this article.

Strength And Size

For 1¼” circumference ropes, a size commonly used for caving, the minimum breaking loads are: -


(BG.S. 3977)

4590 lbs. (dry)

4270 lbs. (wet)


(B.S. 3758)

3500 lbs.

(dry or wet)



3020 lbs.

(dry or wet)


(B.S. 3912)

2400 lbs.

(dry or wet)

To obtain the same strength as Nylon in the other materials the following circumstances (to the nearest available size) would be required.








1⅝” - 1¾”

Thus, as regard bulk, Nylon is the best, while Terelene and perhaps polypropylene are acceptable, but polyethylene is getting rather large for ordinary caving purposes.


As well as the size of his ropes, the caver is also concerned with their weight.  For 100ft. lengths of the above sizes we have: -








5.7 – 6.5lbs.

Thus the effect of the lower strength of polypropylene as compared with Nylon is cancelled by its lower density, and both these ropes have an advantage over Terelene or polyethylene.  For the usual 100 to 120ft. of rope used on Mendip, this is perhaps not very important, but it is worth considering where the big Yorkshire pitches are concerned.

Knot Weight

This is similar for ropes of all materials.

Resistance To Shock Loads

Because of its greater elasticity Nylon is markedly better at absorbing shock loads than is either Terelene or polypropylene.  The performance of polyethylene ropes in respect is poor and they are not recommended for such applications where such loads are concerned.  Under normal caving practice, where ropes are used for ladder lifelining or for handlines, high shock loadings should not be encountered. On the other hand of ropes are made generally available to members, sooner or later someone will use one for rock climbing either above or below ground, and will expect a satisfactory performance if the leader falls off.  Thus polyethylene ropes present an unnecessary risk and as such should be rejected for general caving purposes.  By the same criterion, Nylon would be preferred to either Terelene or polypropylene.


Although ability to absorb shock is important, too much elasticity could be embarrassing on a long ladder pitch.  With no slack in the lifeline to begin with, a 200lb. caver at the end of a 300ft. rope will fall the following distances before coming on the rope: -


1¼” circ.



1⅜” circ.



1½” circ.



1⅝” - 1¾” circ.


Thus in Gaping Gill main shaft (345ft.) the caver will have to climb somewhere near these distances before the lifeline can afford complete protection.  In the case of Nylon, if he falls of say 30ft. up, he will certainly hit the bottom hard enough to sustain injuries.  Persons capable of climbing such pitches are unlikely to come off so near the bottom, but if this extra protection is considered worthwhile, or if any of the much larger overseas pitches are to be attempted, polypropylene or Terelene are to be preferred.  For Mendip caves, where the largest single pitch is some 90ft. there can be little disadvantage in this respect in using Nylon ropes.


Nylon and Terelene both have good performances when subjected to continued or to repeated high loads of up to 75% of the breaking load.  Polypropylene is less good and polyethylene is relatively poor.  Although general purpose caving ropes are likely to be fairly heavily stressed from time to time, they should only have to cope with such large loads very infrequently so that these differences are not so important as they might appear.  Nevertheless, the above three materials are definitely to be preferred to polyethylene in this respect.

Abrasion Resistance

This is an area in which data comparing all four ropes is rather limited.  Both Nylon and Terelene show fairly good resistance to coarse abrasion in a standard test in sand, markedly superior in this respect to polypropylene and polyethylene.  This is very relevant to caving usage and more comparative data would be useful. On the above evidence Nylon and Terelene are to be much preferred.

Effect Of Heat

Nylon and Terelene retain much of their strength up to temperatures well above the melting points of polypropylene and polyethylene.  These latter materials show a progressive strength loss with rise of temperature, so that at 100oC for example, Nylon and Terelene show no significant change, while polypropylene and polyethylene have lost 60% and 85% respectively of their strength.  Ropes can be heated by accidental contact with carbide lamp flames or during an arrest on a fairly long abseil.  The first hazard can be avoided by using a back position for the lifeline, a good idea with any rope.  The second can only be safely avoided by not doing long abseils on polypropylene or polyethylene ropes.  Thus these ropes, if in general use could be dangerous in this respect to someone unaware of their limitations.

The frictional heating caused by rubbing between a moving and a fixed rope can also cause damage, particularly with Nylon.  This situation should be avoided by, for example, the use of a karabiner.

Effect Of Chemicals

In general ropes should never be exposed to chemicals in any form.  Caving ropes are at risk however from accidental spillages of electrolyte from lead/acid or nickel/alkali accumulators used for lighting. Polypropylene and polyethylene are unaffected by either material.  Nylon can be seriously weakened by sulphuric acid electrolyte, but is only slightly affected by caustic potash, while Terelene the reverse is the case. Nickel/alkali lamp sets are more common than lead/acid ones so that while in this respect polypropylene and polyethylene are better than other fibres, Nylon is to be preferred to Terelene.


The retail prices per 100ft. of the four ropes (March 1968) are as follows: -


1¼” circ.



1⅜” circ.



1½” circ.



1⅝” - 1¾” circ.


thus showing a clear advantage to polyethylene, with Terelene being rather expensive.


As might be expected, no one rope has all the advantages.  For general purpose caving in areas where big pitches do not occur, Nylon is to be preferred.

Where longer pitches are to be done, the choice as between Nylon, Terelene and polypropylene is much more open.  In the writer’s opinion, the balance of advantage lies with Nylon for the Yorkshire potholes, and with polypropylene for the larger overseas pitches.  If abseiling is required in this latter case, then Terelene would have to be used in spite of increased weight.

For rescue work, there would appear to be no advantage to depart from Nylon for lifelines.  Hauling ropes tend to be quite large to afford a good grip, so that there is an ample strength margin with all fibres.  They are subject to quite severe abrasion however, but usage tends to be fairly low, so that polypropylene has been found satisfactory, at least in the short term.  Monofilament of fibre film polypropylene may be worth considering as they both have better abrasion resistance and are quite a bit cheaper. They may not afford as good a grip however.  Natural fibre or composite natural and synthetic fibre ropes have been used on Mendip. They do present problems of rot prevention however, particularly in the long term, and this tends to cancel the advantage of their increased abrasion resistance.


Address Changes

M. Baker, 22 Riverside Gardens, Midsomer Nortonm Som.
J.D. Statham, 22 Malleny Ave., Balerno, Midlothian, Scotland

Colour Coding of Caving Tackle used on Mendip

To enable cavers to recognise their club tackle, a colour code was agreed in 1960.  The colour code is still in use today.

Axbridge Caving Group


Bristol Exploration Club


Cerberus Speleo.Society


Mendip Caving Group


Mendip Nature Research Committee


Shepton Mallet Caving Club


University of Bristol Speleo. Society


Wessex Cave Club


Westminster Speleo.Group


Wessex have a colour coding for various lengths of rope in addition to the normal red sleeve.

Cuthberts Guest Leader System.

Since the setting up of Guest leader system for St. Cuthbert’s new log sheets are being prepared. This will enable the Guest Leader or any B.E.C. leader, for that matter without a Belfry key, to fill out the caving log form, which will be stored inn the changing room at any time mid-week. The form to be clipped into the Cuthbert’s log book as soon as possible.


Mine Shafts and their Dangers

By Pete Turner

When I read about Rookham Wood Mineshaft (Mar’ 68 B.B. p 28-29, sketch survey p30) the account of the attempts to dig the shaft bottom made me shudder, having had two narrow escapes at similar attempts.  This prompted me to write of my own experiences in Derbyshire and North Staffordshire.

The first incident is worth recounting.  Back in 1959 I was a member of a small group exploring three caves in Slitter Wood, near Matlock.  The first member had just started to descend a 25ft shaft when he dislodged a rock which started about two tons of rubble moving, leaving our club mate surrounded by rocks from the waist down and fighting for his life.  We got him back to the surface badly bruised but with no bones broken.  We went back to the shaft to find out if the passage was blocked.  To our surprise, where we expected to see the blockage was an open shaft which was later plumbed and found to be 100ft. deep.  This was our introduction to lead mines and their hidden dangers, and it should be noted that this shaft was in a natural cave.

Mine shafts and their cappings vary from one area to another.  A few typical types will now be described.

The most common mine is one consisting of a single shaft, the lead being worked on a small scale, following a joint.  The depth may be from 10ft. to 40ft. (Fig.1).


Fig. 1  Single shaft – very common

The second type of mine has a double shaft.  The lead was again worked on a small scale, but the mine was deeper.  The main shaft was used for haulage and the climbing shaft was driven fifteen to twenty feet away in a series if steps, breaking into the main shaft sometimes near the bottom and sometimes twenty to thirty above the bottom, giving the miners easy access to the workings. (Fig.2).

The triple headed shaft is the third type.  Nestor Mine at Matlock Bath is a good example of this uncommon type of mine.  This mine has a main shaft 90ft. deep and from the bottom of the shaft three more shafts radiate to different parts of the mine. To my knowledge the three shafts do not reconnect.  Fig. 3.

Five further types can be listed.  They are 1) Double Beehive (Fig. 4), 2) Single Beehive (Fig. 5), 3) Conical (Fig.6), 4) Stone Slab (Fig.7), 5) Timber (Fig.8).  The fifth type can be lethal as they are usually overgrown with grass and may give way when stepped on.  Cattle and sheep are the main victims of this type of shaft covering which is very difficult to locate in an open field.    


Fig. 2 Double Shaft - Common


Fig. 3  Triple headed shaft - rare


Fig. 4  Double Beehive


Fig 5-6  Single Beehive or Conical


Fig. 7  Stone (or wooden) slab.


Fig. 8  Timber.  Open top with wooden sleepers part way down the shaft.  Very common


Typical shaft ginging run-in and must be watched when descending

The last few years have seen a great deal of attention paid to the exploration of the Gouffre Berger in France.  But before the Berger came into prominence, another cave system in France could boast the legendary quality which surrounds the pothole nowadays.


The Gouffre de la Pierre St. Martin

Translated by Bob Bater

The Gouffre de la Pierre St. Martin, in the Basses Pyrenees, received a lot of attention in the early 1950’s.  The early explorations are well documented in books by Casteret and Tazieff and make exciting reading.  Since that time, however, Pierre St. Martin has again risen to attention.

Not long after the discovery of the cave system, in 1950, the importance of the exploration was extended beyond that of pure adventure.  The St. Engrace area, dominated by the rugged plateau where the cave is situated, was severely under developed through lack of electric power and lack of water for irrigation.  Not that water was scarce in the area, but that which abounded nearby had insufficient fall for hydroelectric purposes, and too low for use in irrigation.  The discovery of the large underground river of Pierre St. Martin brought hope to the area, and in 1959, the deficiencies were righted with the completion of a tunnel driven through the mountain into one of the large chambers of the cave system where it collected the water and channelled it to the power station.  In this way, not only has the exploration served speleological history, it has also served man.

Until 1954, the exploration of the system was concentrated mainly on the downstream side, i.e. roughly north into France.  The position of the entrance almost on the Franco-Spanish border meant that inevitably, as Spanish speleology advanced, the Spaniards would begin to take an interest in the system, and true to form, when the squabbles over whether the entrance was in fact in France or Spain died down, they participated in the expedition of 1953.  This culminated, in 1954, with the first significant advance upstream.

After 1959, access to the cave was greatly facilitated by the completion of the artificial tunnel, and the great entrance shaft fell into disuse.  Nevertheless, explorers were still faced with quite a trip to reach the Spanish part of the cave south of the entrance shaft, 2½ kilometres beyond where the tunnel joined the natural cave.  By 1965, the Salle Balandraux on the French side and the Sala Susse on the Spanish side had been reached.

As prospects in the cave seemed to diminish, although the explorers suspected that there was still quite a bit of cave to be discovered, they turned their attention, presumably through the influence of the Spanish cavers, to careful exploration of the surface to the south of the cave entrance, in Spain.

For many years previously, the Frenchman Max Cosyns and his group of helpers had been exploring the area around the cave.  They were seeking the mysteries of the Kakouette and Holcarte Gorges.  These narrow, winding chasms had fascinated many with their curious streams of water issuing from their sides.  Cosyns first tried to penetrate the outlets, but meeting impenetrable sumps, he was forced to give his attention to the high plateau 6km. away, which caught the rainfall which must form these streams.  It was on one of these reconnaissance trips by one of his parties that, in 1950, Georges Lepineux, accompanied by Giuseppe Occhialini discovered the entrance to the Gouffre.

The Spanish equivalent of our ‘Speleologist’ magazine, ‘Geo y Bio KARST’, of May 1968, prints extracts from the book ‘Jusqu’ au fond du Gouffre’ by Corentin Queffelec, in which it is described how an expedition, of which he was a member, snatched the World depth record from the Gouffre Berger.  The following account is based on these.

Seventeen years after the discovery of the entrance of Pierre St.Martin, in 1967, Cosyns’ teams had exhaustively examined the Arros region, on the Spanish side of the border. They had assigned a number to each of the entrance they had found and had noted some for special attention. Amongst those was a pothole referred to as the ‘Sima de la Tortuga’ ( Tortuga = Tortoise) also called, in Basque, ‘Bassaburuko’ which means ‘savage head’, hence the French name for the cave, ‘Tete Savage’.

The first descent of this pot was made by Roger Marcorelles, who, backed up by Jean Claude Alibert, made an all out effort to cover every corner of it.  He reached the bottom 234ft. down and immediately became intrigued by a weak current of air coming from a crack in the wall.  On the way up, another thing caught his attention; some distance away, on the wall of the shaft behind the ladder, he could make out something shaped like a huge tortoise shell.  Was it a fossil?  Was it a formation?  It is still not known what it is, but it helped stimulate Marcorelles’ interest, together with the draught and the fact that while in the pot, he has seen no sign of snow.  This was unusual for potholes at this height, but could be partly explained by the small entrance.  He suspected, however, that the draught had a lot to do with it.

After some rather uneventful visits to neighbouring pots, Marcorelles, with Alibert, and this time also with Gilles Reboul, returned to the attack on the Tortuga.  Reaching the bottom again and still finding no obvious way on, he began to re-ascend, dejected, and cursing freely (aswedo).  180ft. from the top he stopped abruptly.  He could see something on the wall.  It was a tight rift.  Swinging the ladder, he was able to set foot on the ledge, and he slid into the hole.

There were several small pots in the floor and pieces of the roof jutted down so he couldn’t see ahead, but after a little wriggling, he realised that his feet no longer rested on the floor.  Straining his neck, he could see the head of a pitch at his feet.  How deep was it?  Perhaps 60ft.?  He searched for a piece of rock to throw over, nearly losing his grip as he did so on the steeply sloping passage floor.  Recovering from his fright, he found an ample supply of bricks and threw one over. Four seconds.  One fifty to two hundred feet he reckoned.  Some tackle was needed.  But he and his colleagues soon unconsciously decided that the pitch had told them all it could, and none of them was to return for the time being.

Later, Noël Lichau, Pierre Rigau and Corentin Queffélec entered the cave, intent on exploring the pitch which Marcorelles had forgotten about through lack of faith.  Gilles Rebout and his team accompanied them. The latter soon laddered the pitch with 160ft. of ladder and went down.  Immediately ahead was another pitch of 50ft. between boulders, then another 100ft.  They had run out of ladders.  Returning to the surface, they set off for the Sima de Monique nearby.  Marcorelles had transferred his efforts here, but had had no success, and so they thought they would de-tackle it and use the ladder for the Tortuga.  Marcorelles, hearing the news, soon regained his faith in the Tortuga.

Gilles and his team. With the tackle from the Sima de Monique, went back down the pot while the others retired in the base came at Arros.  During the night, their rest was disturbed by several noisy cavers stumbling through the darkness towards them.  It was Gilles and the others.  They had got down a total of 1,050ft. and it was still going.

Sleep forgotten, they all stayed up talking till dawn.  A four man party was picked to make a major assault on the pot.  Seeing it was already laddered down to 1,050ft., each man was given 425ft. more of ladder.  This would make the depth attainable exactly equal to the depth at which they would expect to meet the impermeable strata.  Before setting off, however, Arcaute suggested what everyone had scarcely had dared to envisage.  What if they should make a connection with the Pierre St. Martin?  If they should, wouldn’t it be a good idea to draft some kind of inscription down there to commemorate the occasion?  Optimism got the better of them.  Arcaute dictated the text, which was written down in French and Spanish.

“This point was reached by an advance team from the Sima Bassaburuko, going underground in Arros by way of the Sima de la Tortuga or the Tete Savage.  These men, participating in a campaign organised by the A.R.S.I.P. are but the latest link in a long chain of men and effort, which began in 1950. The link alone is of little value. What matters is the chain.”

The four men, Marcorelles, Alibert, Douart and Reboul reached the head of the pitch beyond the narrow rift where Marcorelles had first found it.  It was then that he realised that, effectively, the Sima of Tortuga had ended, since the pitch ahead was only part of a large shaft which extended above them and which must reach almost to the surface.  He had consequently named it ‘Bassaburuko’, a name demanding vocal gymnastics for the Frenchmen.

From pitch to pitch, ledge to ledge, they went deeper until they got to the deepest point previously reached.  They re-calculated the depth on the way down and made it 980ft.  They hadn’t been hasty in working it out before.  Roger Marcorelles, who hadn’t been there before, saw that Gilles’ optimism was well justified.  They gained depth very rapidly.  First a pitch of 25 or 30ft., then another of 50, then a large one of 100ft.

From the -980ft. mark, Alibert descended first.  After a few minutes he shouted for more ladder.  325ft. was down now, making the pot a total of 1,300ft. deep, or round about the level of the black shales, the ones that outcrop in Pierre St. Martin perhaps? Alibert was shouting something. Neither Marcorelles nor Reboul could understand him, but Michel Douart had started down just before and he relayed the message.  He, Michel, was to carry on down to where Alibert was.

The two were left in silence.  Gilles shared Roger’s last cigarette.  Roger re-calculated their depth.  Allowing for all possible errors, he reckoned they must be down 900ft. at least, and the two must be getting on for 1200ft.

Suddenly two blasts of the whistle, almost inaudible.  Take in, he thought, and woke Gilles.  They began hauling in, but after a short while, the signal came to stop.  Then start again.  Then stop.  They realised that both men were coming up the ladder at the same time.  It must have been awkward to send the rope back all the way.

Jean Claude’s smile told them everything.  Babbling some fantastic story about Pierre St. Martin, Michel Douart was temporarily forgotten and was left to swing on the ladder, shouting for a lifeline.

The two advance explorers had set down beside a small stream.  Deciding to follow the water down, they had ducked beneath a low archway and entered a passage filled from side to side with a pool.  This proved no obstacle, and the passage continued, past the first signs of the black shales, into a gigantic passage containing a river. The black water meandered along in a series of rapids.  This must be Pierre St. Martin!  from the other side.  Setting their message on top of a large boulder out of the way of future floods, they pondered on the chain.  They had to get back to tell their colleagues.  They started back at a quick pace, calculating their depth as they went. But there wasn’t really any doubt in their minds.

By the joining up of the Sima de la Tortuga/Bassaburuko pothole with the Gouffrre Pierre St. Martin, the total depth of the system, from the Tortuga entrance to the deepest part of the Pierre St. Martin known up to now, the complex Olivier, is 1152 metres (3,744ft.).  Thus, in 1967, the Gouffre Pierre St. Martin claimed the world depth record.


Vital Statistics and New Surveys

Black Shiver Pot, Meregill: Length 2,000ft., depth 520ft.  Survey CRG Grade 5.  ( Leeds Univers. S.S.)

Shooting Place Pot, Yorkshire, Askrigg to Muker road, in same valley as Crackpot Cvae. Water from new pot joins cave. Length 1,000ft. and two pitches of 15ft. and 20ft.

Notts Pot – entrance collapsed.

Smeltmill Beck Cave, Yorkshire, new discovery, length 1 mile.  (Details in London Univ. C.C. Journal No. 6 – in B.E.C. Library).

Bunkers Hole, Devon: 400ft.  extension by D.S.S. & Exeter Fire Brigade Caving Club.

South Wales – O.F.D.1.
All entrances to OFD 1 are now locked. Keys available at S.W.C.C. Headquarters.

The B.E.C. Sees in The Millennium

The following report has been received a little early but as B.B. space will be short in future your Editor thought it better to be printed now than too late!

by Eddy Weyland - Social secretary

Whoever thought of charging £25 each for tickets for the millennium party in order to raise the rest of the money needed for the New Belfry deserves congratulations.  Some fifty members paid up and there were a few gate crashers.  The party was also a great success socially.

In addition to those Belfry regulars who bought tickets there was a large number of members we so seldom see now.  By far the oldest person present was Mr. A. Thomas, of the Gulf de Grochen fame, but he denied this.  Several regular members were accompanied by their fathers (and a few mothers) many of whom were lapsed members who rejoined, some paying £50 for life membership. These included Mr. Philip Kingston, father of Phil. Kingston and Mr. Colin Priddle, father of the Priddle brothers. One former member who was not accompanied by his son was Mr. Coles, whose main concern seemed to find out what young Phil got up to at weekends and seemed scarcely able to believe that he went caving!

Tim Hodgkinson showed some video tapes that he and Julian Sett. had taken in the Bagshaw Caverns on the Moon.  It was a pity that these video shows are always greeted with hoots of derision as some members would really like to see the tapes.

Some old tapes were played with interviews with one of the pioneers of the Cuthbert’s survey, Mr. Irving. Members were amazed at the accuracy of the early surveys when they heard from Mr. Irving of the crude methods and instruments that used to be employed – in fact those old chaps surveyed by instinct.

Members were equally impressed when Mr. Priddle described how they used to go into the water in St. Cuthbert’s clad in nothing but wet suits – they were tough in those days.

Ed. note –         Eddy Weyland tells me that he is planning a meet to the Bagshaw Caverns in 2002 to celebrate the 55 birthday of the Belfry Bulletin.  Also BEC Caving Report No. 469 will be published next June: the 45th revision of the St. Cuthbert’s survey.


The Romantic Outdoors

By Hedera


What’s the point of it all? You wander trudging up steep desperately loose moraine at an ungodly hour of the day.  Legs aching, breath rasping and shivering all in the same instant. You wish you could switch your mind off for these few hours and switch on again with the sunrise, but it’s no good. Wish we’d done more training at home.

Then the sun, warm and brilliant, the rock brown and rough, its colour accentuated in contrast with the gleaming snow fields arcing away up to the blue above.  Pitch follows pitch and now it’s almost too hot.  Time distends and it’s almost as if we’ve been groping upwards forever.  Sitting on stances, gazing into blinding space the earlier sense of urgency is lulled away; to be suddenly roused again by an angry bawl from above.

At the top we can at last drowse with an easy conscience but somehow we don’t want to, half an hour for photographs and an orange, too much scenery gazing seems to dilute the magic.

Memories of the descent are blurred by fatigue, but the highlights are a series of narrow escapes as we descend at a speed slightly less than that of the rock we dislodge in the process.  Off the rock onto the glacier; mushy now with the sun.  The quick gallop soon turns into a suicidal glissade but we’re too tired to care.  Off the glacier onto the path and it is over? The path describes a sort of sine wave down, down through bushes, forest and finally down to the valley.  My poor toes massacred once again.  The last few yards are the longest of all then collapse in the homely squalor that British climbers call home when abroad.

The impressions gained on this the first alpine route are somehow more vivid than those of subsequent days.  First the heartbreaking grind when you swear fervently that you’ll never complain about the Cromlech trog again.  Then the brilliance of the snows as the sun catches them, soon turning to an eye-aching glare; above warm granite and blue sky and the endless vista of white mountains. The effects of altitude are not obvious being cumulative, you put it down to you lack of fitness.  On the descent the fatigue is soon forgotten and yet on reflection the hut flogs seem inextricably connected with the actual climbing and even the easiest climb becomes an epic by previous standards.

Dave Steel.


You now need your 1 inch Bristol-Newport O.S. map number 155 to help with this recently contrived walk. 

The opening of the Severn Bridge has given ramblers a new area to explore. This walk gives some idea of the beautiful countryside around Chepstow.  The walk starts and finishes in Chepstow and could be done in an afternoon – distance is 10½ miles.

Turn left from the Chepstow bus station and go down hill to traffic lights.  Turn left along the main road for about 250 yards when a path between houses can be taken.  Follow path to road – cross over and follow farm track for 30 yards.  Then turn right over stile.  Fine views from this point.  Descend to valley.  Cross the B4235 and go through gates leading into wood.  Follow wide path.  On emerging from wood cross lane and keep straight on.  Lane leads past farmhouse and continues as footpath to farm - Rogerstone Grange.  Carry on up hill to Chepstow Park Woods.  Travel N.W. through wood for over a mile until one can look down on Devauden – nice pub here if open.  On leaving pub, turn left and almost immediately bear left down lane.  Follow sunken lane to road – stile opposite leads one up steep rise to lane that goes to small village ‘The Cot’.  Keep going past village and when lane turns sharp left – north – take gate into field shortly after bend.  Climb up through wood going east, over barbed wire fence, where one can get a fine view of the Black Mountains Penterry Church close to the road is worth a visit.  Turn right along road – view towards Severn Bridge. Just past sign to Windcliffe Court take stile on left and bear right at next stile – this leads to the main road A466. Bearing right – cross road and climb over gate that leads onto Chepstow Racecourse.  Walk SW over racecourse to the outskirts of Chepstow.

Ron Pepper.


At the crux the mist becomes a drizzle making the slab damp, slowing progress.  The Snowdon trains climbed slowly and as slowly descend. Still Tony considered.  Then, fascinated, I belayed him as he removed first one black rubber shoe and then the other.  He became dormant once more.  I eased my cramp, then concentrate as the stockinged feet slid out of sight. One Snowdon train later I heard the sweet sound of a belaying piton hammered in.



We moved on over snow and rock past an impressive lake bounded by snow and ice to a compact camping site on a rocky ledge in a valley at the foot of Pic d’Aneto which towered thousands of feet above.  We pitched camp about 6.30pm which was fairly early, but lucky, because no sooner had the tents been erected than a violet rain and hail storm broke and lasted for about an hour.  After the storm we had our meal and retired to bed with the wind buffeting the tent about our ears.  Although this wind continued well into the night, the tents were properly held down with large stones and withstood it.

Richard Greenway

Merry Christmas - ‘Hedera’


Drainage Development in the West Totes Gebirge ( Austria)

Preliminary observations

by Mike Luckwill

The Totes Gebirge are a complex of many kinds of limestone and dolomite situated east of Bad Ischl and north of the Dachstein massif, in Upper Austria. Bounded to the west by the Traun river, which takes most of the drainage from the Dachstein, the western third of the mountains is dominated by the Schönberg: a ridge attaining a height of more than 2,000 metres.  To the south of the Schönberg a gently sloping plateau is the site of the many entrances of the Raucherkar System, and to the north, the Schönberg drops steeply into the tributary valleys of the Traun (Fig.1).


Figure1.  North – South Section from the Schönberg

The area under particular consideration is that delineated by the northerly drainage of the Schönberg, and is mainly on the Dachstein Limestone (Fig. 2).


Figure 2.  Sketch map of the environs of the Schönberg.
Solid lines:  Contours at 1900, 1700, 1500 and 1100 metres.
Broken lines: geological boundaries: dL – Dachstein limestone: L – Lias:  L+ - Lias plus others: d- dolomite.
Fuzzy large dots indicate Peaks.   Dots indicate cave entrances.


Figure 3.  Joints in the north face of the Schönberg

The drainage of the limestone is joint controlled, except where superficial water from the soil is cutting channels in the rock which represent the initial stages of clint and gryke formation.  There are two types of joints in the limestone which for the purposes of this article will be called A – joints and B – joints.  They are both illustrated in Fig. 3.

The A – joints consist of three mutually perpendicular families of joints with separations of the order of a few feet.  Fig. 4 is an attempt to show alignments of these joints, which will be called A1, A2 and A3 joints.  In the locality of the Schönberg the A1 joints strike 030o – 210o and dip about 80o – 90o in a westerly direction.  The A2 joints dip 10o – 15o along 030o, that is along the strike of A1 (true dip is about NE).  The third set A3 are nearly vertical and strike 120o – 300o; they are poorly developed and are an aid to erosion rather than a controlling factor.  The B – joints are fault features although little movement has occurred along them in this area.  Their strikes tend to run about 020o and their angle of dip varies considerably from joint to joint and also down each joint.


Figure 4.  Spatial distribution of A joint families

Surface water is supplied from two sources: run-off from rain and snow, and melt water from permanent or semi-permanent snow patches.  Run-off water is quickly channelled into a drainage system which, under the influence of the A – joints, runs along the intersection of the A1 and A2 joints: it thus bears along 030o and at the same time sinks about 15o. The snow patches on the other hand, promote the development of pits.  The A1 aligned sides of these form smooth, vertical walls, frequently 30 metres deep; whereas, the other two sides, formed by lesser developed A3 joints, tend to be step like.  The result is a rectangular pit with cross section as shown in Fig. 5.  Formation of these pits and other dolines on the Schönberg plateau concentrates the run-off from the area into a number of focal points where it then develops a cave down the intersection of the A1 and A2 joints. As can be seen from Fig. 6, the cross-section of these caves is closely controlled by the jointing and some of these simple, A-caves appear to have developed lengths of as much as 1,500 metres.


Figure 5.  Vertical section of rectangular pits.

Unfortunately, the beautifully simple picture of surface pits at about 2,000 metres feeding water to long, simple A – cave has been complicated by glacial erosion.  The major effects of the multiple glaciations that occurred during the Pleistocene period were two in number.  Firstly the changing temperatures and the changing topography frequently altered the supply and nature of surface waters; and secondly the periodic lowering of valley floors and hence the base-levels altered the erosive power of these waters.  Unravelling the timetable of these events required the analysis of a considerable amount of data and is not helped by the fact that each glaciation frequently removed the evidence of previous glaciations!

The last glaciation, the Wurm IIc (Wurm III of some workers) was responsible for the erosion of the Fuertal and the Hinterglas, the two valleys immediately north of the Schönberg and running approximately NW – SE.  This resulted in the tri-section of the A – Caves (see Fig. 6) and left the entrance to the Ahnenschacht, the largest system in the area, stuck on top of a narrow ridge!


Figure 6.  Section through Schönberg and Ahnenschacht (not to scale).

Previously to this, the A – joint drainage had intersected a B – joint and erosion down the dip of this joint resulted in the formation of the Ahnenschacht.  For a depth of some 300 metres this superb cave follows the same joint, which is always visible in the cave.  Occasional shifts to the north along the B – joint indicate the influence of the A – joints on inlet waters.  Little deposition of calcium carbonate has occurred in the cave (except in one rift, See Thomas) and at the present time what little formations one can find are rotting.  A sequence of calcite deposition and consequential rotting, located at a depth of about 30 metres appears to correlate with Wurm glaciations.  Some indication of the conditions extent during these times may also be derived from the alterations of phreatic and vadose features as one proceeds down the cave.  Three distinct processes have occurred.  Phreatic conditions have produced tubes and half-tubes above the joint, leading eventually to anastomoses.  Vadose conditions involving little water have modified this development, frequently causing collapse; and vadose conditions involving large quantise of water (supplied for example by melting snow) have formed canyons and vertical pitches and have also caused the transport of collapsed material and other fill.

The existence of a steady base level for a considerable length of time allowed the development and enlargement of an A – cave below the Fuertal which bears about due north and dips about 15o.  The extension of this system would bring one to the intermittent-spring line in the Aibl-grube.  Luckily a minor joint, developed by percolating waters to form a sloping rift, has connected this A – cave with the B – cave at a height of about 1,500 mettes above sea level, thus facilitating its exploration.


Figure 7.  A- caves on north face of Schönberg.  Distance apart of A – joints may be as much as 6 metres but often is only 1 metre.

At the present time drainage is being modified by the annual weather cycle which, in Spring, introduces into a system the melt water from as much as 20 metres of snow.  Snow patches lasting throughout the summer in protected hollows and pits create vertical inlet features and ensure a constant supply of water to the lower parts of the cave, regardless of weather conditions. The resulting waters are at present creating a system, presumably A – joint controlled at a depth of 100 metres below the older system.  As yet nothing is known about this system, except that its extension northwards brings one top the Ursprung Brucke: the permanent spring in the Aibl-grube.

Further exploration and accurate surveying of the Ahnenschascht should lead to the correlation of many surface features with their subterranean counterparts and for this reason extremely fascinating.

REFERENCE: Thomas, A.R., ‘Ahnenschaschat 1968’. BB Vol.22 No.9 pages 103-114.


The July Floods Again

Members will already know that flood water in Velvet Bottom uncovered large quantities of Roman and iron Age pottery.  A few flints were also revealed.  Those who went collecting pieces and still have them are asked by the Bristol Arch. Research Group to send, or take the fragments to the Bristol Museum for identification.  You may have something quite important.  Please make this known to your friends who also went collecting there.

B.E.C. Caving Reports

Bryan Ellis now holds the reminder of the spare copies of the Caving Reports.  Members wishing to fill gaps in their collections are advised to get in contact with him quickly as they are selling out fast.  A recent meeting of the B.B. Editorial Sub-Committee have decided not to reprint many of the reports nos. 1-12 as they are containing much out of date material.

Members wishing to dispose of their old B.B.’s and caving Reports are asked to send them to Dave Irwin as there is a small, market for old issues.  Ant proceeds from sale of this material will go to the Belfry Fund.

WEE, THAT’S YER LOT – and a Very Happy New Year to yer!