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Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol


Lessons from Leicester?

Occasions like the C.R.G. symposium on Cave Surveying at Leicester often provided interesting opportunities for speculation about the differences between the various caving regions of Britain.  Cavers with different points of views find themselves nattering over the odd cup of coffee between lecture sessions, and it does no harm to whether there is a grain of truth in some of the ideas which get thrown around.  What prompts this particular line of thought was the remark made by one of the delegates that Mendip had provided a much greater amount of speakers and exhibits per mile of cave in the region than had any other the other caving areas.  On mentioning this to a semi-retired caver who had been very active in nearly all the caving regions, he remarked that this was no surprise to him.  Since there was less caving to do on Mendip than in say Yorkshire of South Wales – no doubt Mendip cavers had more time to think about caving.

He went on to suggest that perhaps the future of Mendip caving could well be one by which we spend most of our time thinking up new ideas, techniques etc., which we tried out on Mendip caves – using the results to do our main discoveries on expeditions to foreign countries and, perhaps other caving regions.  It is certainly an interesting thought!

About the B.B.

Now it seems that I shall be editing the B.B. for a little while yet, a great effort is being made to catch up rapidly with publication dates, and it is hoped that the April B.B. will be at least sent out in April, while the May B.B. will actually be ready on time.  One small innovation designed to reassure those who suspect that their B.B. has been held up for ages by the postal department is that the bottom of the last page of every B.B. will carry the date on it.

Committee Meeting

The March Committee Meeting elected Miss J. Barker, Miss N. Brown, C. Abbel. R. Bridehaed, W. Cooper and P. Hamm to membership of the club.  The Hon. Treasurer reported that he had now received the draft conveyance for the sale of the barn.  The question of insurance of the new Belfry against the theft came up, but it seems that we should have to put in a great many security arrangements that would cost more than we could at present afford, so for the tine being at least, there will be no cover against theft.  You have been warned!  Alfie agreed to put temporary wiring into the new Belfry and ‘Prew’ agreed to look into the plumbing.  Pete Franklin produced a set of fittings for the showers at no cost., but the committee agreed to give the donating club £2 towards their funds.

On the subject of new buildings, several points were raised by the committee and all these will be looked into.  A number of other minor matters were also raised at the meeting.

Living in Style

by R.S. (Kangy) King

Lightweight mountaineering is the art of making sure that as much as possible is in the other man’s rucksack.

Alan Bonner and I must be experts, because during our last holiday, try as we might, our bags remained about the same weight.  I made sure that he carried his quarter tube of toothpaste – he made sure that I carried the matches.  The end result was of such rigorous weight control was that the necessities of life for a week would tot up to something like twenty seven pound a piece.

So Alan and I set off for the Pic d’Estats in the French Pyrenees.  We were camping a La Cortinada in Andorra and were separated from the eleven thousand (odd) foot of the peak by a range or so.  From an Andorran summit, the Pic d’Estats looks good.  We were rather a long way from it even as the chough flies, but with the eye of the faith we studied the combination of maps so essential at the borders of countries and discerning a route.  It seemed that the easiest way involved climbing to an eight thousand, five hundred foot pass and then trotting along a ridge to descend later by four thousand feet along a valley which linked the first realistic route up the Pic d’Esatas.

Mistakenly we allowed ourselves three days.

Second breakfast was taken by a pretty lake in the floor of the subsidiary valley we were following to gain the ridge and the col d’Aspinal.  My tum, which became pretty talkative during the next three days, demanded attention and got half pint of coffee.  Rumbling and grumbling, my tum, Alan and I gained the wrong end of the ridge. Very sad.  Not exactly bad map reading, we thought, so much as bad map. Anyway, we had no alternative but to commit ourselves to about a kilometre of grib Goch like ridge to regain the head of our valley.  Interesting, but frustrating as the hours went by on a slow ridge that should have spent in a fast valley.  We gained the col; corrected the map, and shot down the long, long valley as clouds gathered.

The approaching storm made us stop early to look for a bivouac site.  I was keen to convert a semi-detached cave, and Alan doubtfully agreed and started to peg the polysheet into a crack whilst tum and I got on with the din.  A tremendous crack of thunder announced the next part of the show and, huddled behind the sheet, we supped hot soup while the chicken curry simmered and the lightning flashed.  Quite a storm.  Lashing into the site, the rain poured down the rock and streamed over the sheet. After an hour or so of this, a network of cracks was penetrated and we philosophically used the resultant drips to wash up with.  At the first break in the storm, we hurried transferred to a dark, earth, smelly cabin built by local shepherds (who knew better than us) not far away.  We slept of the sheet and ignored the mice.

The next day, day two, was to be “climb mountain and come down again” day (the day after being “going home day”).  Hoping that our detour and early stop had not left us with too much to do, we hurried off as dawn broke.  Unfortunately, we had another hour and a half’s descent before we could start to climb. The valley floor broadened out into a flattish plain.  The stream we were following developed by way of rocky gorges into a widish river.  To the right was the valley wall, reaching up to a skyline ridge.  The left was buttressed and split by gorges.  We had to find the right gorge, the one that led up to a glaciated plateau and thence to the summit.  We were carrying as little as possible, with food and ice axes; having cached our sacks at the cabin.

Alan solved the first problem, that of crossing the river, by wading in shallows to a place where the river ran narrow and deep and was bridged by two saplings laid side by side. We bounced across.  The map showed a vague path high on the walls of the Riofret gorge.  The right side of the gorge looked as it might, in fact, have a path up it.  In any case, there was no other choice as the left hand wall was steep and rocky and the bed of the stream descended between high rock walls in substantial steps.  So we embarked on long, slippery grass slopes, wetly interspersed with little rocky walls and slabs and found no path.  We were forced higher and higher and after one particularly difficult and exposed vegetatious slab, we paused to reconsider, and this time reluctantly turned back.  There seemed to be an awful lot of mountain left to climb, the clouds were gathering, and we were a long way from home.

The descent, though long, was interesting because of the difficulty of route finding on a convex ground. The axes were a boon and added to our safety.  Wet steep grass is no joke.

At the bottom of the gorge, we turned and went hard for our previous evening’s bivouac.  Bachelor’s catering packs provided a slap-up dinner and then gathering up the essentials, off we went again to get as high as we could before darkness.

Mist rather than darkness called the next halt and, being unsure of the way to the Col de Rat, we built a wall across a gap between two boulders and, fortified by pints of soup, farmhouse stew and coffee we slid, one at a time, underneath the polysheet and lay snugly, waiting for sleep.  Through the clear plastic we watched the mist clear and lie low in the valley while the lowering sun tinted cotton wool clouds with pink.  Yum yum.

Red sky at night – mountaineer’s delight.  We breakfasted and packed in a clear, crisp dawn.  The way to the Col de Rat was now plain to see and we tacked upwards, following an ancient smuggler’s route easily to the gap between the ridges.  At 7.30, we crossed into Andorra and sat straddling the ridge and the border. As breakfast two was digested, it became more and more obvious that the way to complete an already memorable trip was to traverse the ridge to a point above the camp site rather than tamely follow our valley.  That decided, off we went.  It was good – all day ahead of us; sun filled in a blue sky and unknown ridge stretching for miles, with only us to share it.

Time and again, we thought we were going to be beaten but, fascinatingly at the last moment, weakness appeared – stiff rock walls transformed into staircases; towers into canyons and gendarnies into corridors.  Perhaps not quite as easily as that for, at least once, I left my bag behind and mad an exploratory sortie before safe progress could be made.  But progress continued, and the ridge flowed behind us at a very reasonable rate.  It is a very satisfyingly ridge, of an even, stiffish standard with no escape down the sides except at a very few places where gullies intersect.  And it goes on.  We thought about five kilometres of it, most of it mot more than a metre wised with occasional swellings into summits of quite substantial peaks.

Eventually, after a morning, a lunch and an afternoon of traversing the rocky ridge smoothed into the gentler slopes of the terminal peak of l’Ortell.

We glissaded on the fir cones of the forest surrounding the peak and lost about four thousand feet in height – and our way – amongst the dense trees.  Following the slope and the odd path, we eventually emerged in approximately the right place, and, just in time for tea, swung into our base camp at la Cortinada.

Equipment Note

Something to sleep on or under, something to sleep in were a large percentage of the weight.  Cooking and food come next, and the very few clothes which were not worn come last of all.  The selection of climbing equipment carried varied with the severity of the peak but the comfort of knowing that it is available usually justified its existence.

Most of the know-how for our lightweight experiment came from Alan’s experience on the Pennine Way, which he completed solo.  The ‘something to sleep under’ consisted of a ten foot by eight foot lightweight polythene sheet.  It would have been easier if this had been a little larger.  The sheet, trapped all round with stones, can be very secure, as Alan can testify.  One soon becomes an expert at the selection of a site.  It is necessary to forget all about pitching tents, and to carry in the mind a mental picture of the sheet, which one can place in positions likely and unlikely.  Water drainage should be borne in mind but should not to be regarded as the most important parameter because in the limit one can always float on the airbed. Water draining from above should be guarded against as far as possible and all this means that building a wall is probably the surest method.  Don’t be put off by this.  A wall can be built in the time it takes to pitch a tent.  Alternatively, peg the sheet into a crack in a rock face or cover the entrance of a small cave or hollow or, if the worst comes to the worst, wrap yourself in it and ignore the condensation.

Living in a sheet like this is a most agreeable sensation.  The open end means that condensation is avoided.  The lowness of the sheet keeps the rain out.  There is no feeling of claustrophobia, because the sheet is like a window, and waking in the morning is delightful – almost as good as going to sleep directly under the stars.  Certain formalities, however, have to be observed.  The space is constricted and, if two are to share it, a little organisation is necessary.  This becomes obvious the very first time one uses the bivouac and it simply boils down to moving one at a time when dressing; cooking or sometimes even breathing!

On the move, home constantly changes as the sheet is moved from one doubtful site to another.  The sheet is always changing, and therefore is no fear of becoming bored with its appearance or a persevering drip or a tiresome slope or a painfully placed stone.

Fortunately, somebody invented the airbed.  Since my early camping trips when I trained myself to sleep on my back and stoically ignored the insidious seeping of cold from below whilst keeping half awake, stupefied with the awfulness of it all, I have never been without one.  A fortnight with what seemed no sleep and a perpetually bruised hip drove me to buy one.  Not a large one, because I’m mean both about money and weight, but a three-quarter length one.  In fact, my last airbed suffered the ignominy of having its pillow cut off.   I suppose the best length would be the length from shoulder to mid-thigh.  I’ve never tried a foam bed on the hoof.  Sounds bulky.

The rest of the sleeping arrangements can be completed – to my satisfaction at least – with a sleeping bag. Don’t scrimp on this item.  At high altitude, lying in an inadequate bag as the cold soaks in during the long night, it is possible to regret the extra pound or two or so of down which one could have had for the outlay of a little more cash.

For cooking, everyone has their own pet heating method.  We used gaz, the two hundred gram size.  Alan now prefers it to paraffin, and so do I.  It’s quick and light and so there is every incentive to knock up a quick hot meal or drink.  It’s clean, so it can be stuffed straight back into the rucksack afterwards, perhaps even into a saucepan.  The saucepan – one off and large – should be bought from Woolworth’s for as near nothing as possible, so that it is very light.   It will have a handle.  Good. Make sure you hold onto it while cooking.  If you don’t know why, and don’t, then one day you are going to be absolutely furious, as you spill all your dehydrated soup.

The theory then is that comfort makes all things possible.  Nothing to carry; hot food at the drop of a hat; long luxurious nights of deep sleep and not a care in the world.  We don’t seem to have said much about dehydrated food we carried.  It was Bachelor’s mainly; the catering packs with the splendid instructions ‘Take seven pints of water, then add the contents of the packet to make fifty generous helpings.  We found them tasty, and we noshed like lords.


Change of Hut Warden

Owing to his taking up work in Leicester, ‘Jok’ Orr has had to resign at Hut Warden. The Committee have elected Peter Franklin as Hut warden and Tim Hodgson has been co-opted on to the committee to asct as his deputy.

Pete’s address is; 93 Devonshire Road, Henleaze, Bristol

Caving Meet at Easter

This is now to be held in Yorkshire, NOT Derbyshire as previously arranged. Contact Caving Secretary for further details.

Cuthbert’s Leaders

The committee have asked that Fred Davies should be thanked for his work of renovating some of the fixed ladders in Cuthbert’s.

Working Nights

Every Wednesday is working night at the Belfry.  Please turn up as often as you can.  There is plenty to be done and there will be always be somebody at the Belfry to show you what wants doing!

Monthly Notes Number 32

by ‘Wig’

Now that the hullabaloo has died down following the discovery of Wookey XX, work is quietly moving to obtain permission to sink a shaft into the new part of the cave. During January, divers transported an electromagnetic device into the large chamber lying in the lower reaches on the new cave.  A fix was made at this point.  A second fix was also made, though I understand not so clearly, near the point where the divers broke through.  With the information brought back by the divers, Jim Hanwell plotted the cave onto an OS map and showed that the end of the new cave was to the north, and in the region of a shallow valley with a small outcrop of limestone.  The estimated depth of cave at this point was fifty to eighty feet.  Whilst the transmitter was doing its stuff, the divers located another three hundred feet of passage at the upper end.  Before digging commences, either by cavers or contractors working for the cave management, another attempt is to be made in the very near future to locate the upper end of the cave with as much accuracy as possible.

Whilst all this was going on, the St. Cuthbert’s Dining Room Digging Team – though this name should change to the Sump Digging Team – pressed on with the final phase in the construction of the new dam in Sump Passage and the repair of the pipe joints in Sump I.  Sump II was dived in February by John Parker of the C.D.G. who found that the passage closed down after twenty feet but that the floor dropped rapidly for some thirty feet. The bottom was a no-goer as the way on was through a very small hole just large enough to get a boot through. Apparently below this point, the passage widened, but just by how much is anybody’s guess.

Readers will by now be aware that the political rumblings of four years ago have just reached the eruption stage.  In the mid 60’s, the Council of Northern Caving clubs issued a circular letter urging the formation of a National Council.  It hinted that, should the clubs in other regions not move with them, then the C.N.C.C. would go ahead on its own.  A brief summary of the events that led to the formation of both the C.N.C.C. and the C.S.C.C. – followed later by the Cambrian Caving Council appeared in the B.B. at that time.  The Council of Southern Caving Clubs was formed with a dual purpose in mind. Firstly, to protect its members from external influences, and secondly to be a toothless monster (the veto principle being adopted when any issue was to be voted upon) not affecting the autonomy of its members.  Circumstances prevailing locally set the channels of thought for each of the councils.  The Northern had problems of access where landowners would not negotiate with individual clubs.  On the other hand, the Southern clubs had the opposite situation, having good relations with the landowners or farmers, who were prepared to negotiate with the individual clubs, so that the C.S.C.C., was not prepared to enter into access arrangements in any form.  Negotiations between the councils commenced and, after many hours of discussion, a draft set of clauses was published (see the B.B. for October 1969). Unfortunately, the stumbling block that is not yet resolved is the question of voting.  The south wanted to maintain the unanimity principle, whereas the remainder of the regional councils were pressing for a seventy five percent majority system.  Deadlock was reached and the representatives of the various councils were then left to report back to their various councils.  In January, the C.S.C.C. met and discussed the problem, and found that they could not see any reason why they should change their minds.  The real worry of members of the southern clubs is that the arrangements that have been made by them with various landowners could well be ruined, as one of the main functions of the Northern Caving Association is the thorny question of access by a simple straight majority vote.  Thus, other regions could well leave the Southern clubs defenceless unless we could use the veto or unanimity principle.  The outcome of the meeting, after the unanimity principle had been vetoed by the Welsh representatives, was that a majority of 90% would be required for all changes to the constitution; new members and finance – whereas a 75% majority would be acceptable for all other matters. Whether the other councils will accept this compromise is not yet known, but it is hoped that reason will prevail and that the N.C.A. will be freed from any form of access control, particularly when so many widely differing arrangements are to be found in each region. It its far better that the local organisations deal with access problems in their own way, rather than to allow the Hon. Sec. of the N.C.A. hundreds of miles from the trouble spot, to deal with the matter.  Let us hope that our unfortunate politicians can win the day at the next confrontation.

Nearing the end…

A final burst of enthusiasm has come over several members of the B.E.C., the M.C.G. and N.H.A.S.A.(!) that by splitting into two teams, the Cuthbert’s I survey – except for about five hundred feet – will be completed during Easter week.  The remaining points will be passages requiring maypoles and very thin members such as the inlet passage known as the Drinking Fountain. By the end of April there will be a dyeline print of the plan available for the Belfry, and the full survey will be published at this years’ Annual Dinner together with Derek Ford’s geomorphology of the cave.  For members who are wondering what has happened to other parts of the Cuthbert’s Report.  Don’t worry – they are on the way.  A tremendous amount of cross-referencing is required between each part, and so delays are inevitable at the moment.  On the stocks, ready for printing, are the sections dealing with the Rabbit Warren; Maypole Series; Rabbit Warren Extension.  In addition, the following parts are waiting final bits and pieces: - Main Chambers; New and Old Routes; Rocky Boulder and Coral series and the Long Chamber series.

One or two members have not yet received their copies of the spelaeodes.  Will anyone NOT having received the copy ordered please contact Dave Irwin.  Will all who have made sales PLEASE send the money to Bob, so that part 2 can be got under way.

A simple Home – Made Cjharger for NiFe Cells

by B. Prewer

Following the article on the care and maintenance of Nife cells which appeared in last month’s B.B., we are able to present members with a practical circuit for building a charger for their cells.  This article is by the same author as the previous article – Brian Prewer.  It has a great advantage over more conventional forms of charger in that the current is set automatically by a transistor, which takes the place of the variable resistor normally found in chargers for regulation charging current.  Thus, with the circuit provided by ‘Prew’, any number of batteries – depending on the transformer supply voltage – may be charged in series without the need for adjustment. The charger will give any current from 0 to 2 amps. It may thus be used

To charge other types of battery.  For the NC 113 C cell, as stated in the previous article, the charging rate should be 1.75 amps.  Further details on this article, or the previous article, may be had by contacting Brian Prewer.  –Ed.

The circuit is shown on the next page.  Details of the components follow: -

Mains Transformer.  (T1)

Primary…..240 volts. (tapped if necessary)

Secondary...20 to 30 volts at 3 amps.  The higher the secondary voltage, the more NIFE batteries may be charged at once. However, care must be taken not to exceed the rating of the diodes and transistor.

Silicon Rectifiers.  (D1 to D5)

Type 1S420 or equivalent.  Forward current 10 amps.  Peak inverse voltage 100 volts.

Transistor (Tr 1)

Type ZN 3055.

Resistors.  (R1 and R2)

R1, 470 ohms, 2 watts.  R2, 2.5 ohms, 10 watts.

Variable resistor (Vr 1)

1,000 ohms.

Zener Diode (Z1)

Type Z2A56CF, but any 5.6 volt zener diode will do as long as it is rated at about 0.5 watt.

Meter (M1)

To read 0 to 2 amps full scale.  A 0 to 5 amp meter will do.

Electrolytic Capacitor (C1)

500 microfarad at 50 volts working

General Notes:

The transistor must be mounted on a heat sink, otherwise it will overheat and destroy itself.  The heat sink should be finned and have an effective area of at least 150 square inches.  It should be about an eighth of an inch thick.

All the components, including the finned heat sinks, but excluding the transformer; main switch and fuse, may be obtained from; A. Marshall and Sons Ltd., 28 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2

A suitable transformer may be obtained from; Samson’s Electronics Ltd., 9/10 Chapel Street, London NW1


Readers will have noted the poor quality of the reproduction of the two photographs of inn signs which we printed in the January B.B.  The Stencil was one of the few which Mike Luckwill had produced ready for his term as editor of the B.B., and the idea was to print to show readers the improvements which he would have made to the B.B., if he had lived.

Alas!  We expect that Mike must have had access to a duplicator if much better quality than the one which is used at present for the B.B. duplication!  Our good idea thus failed to come off.  Even so, quite a number of readers recognised the signs, and had visited the pubs in question.  Maybe we should run a pub identification series?


The B.B. is VERY short of articles; letters, or any useful form of contribution from readers. Please, if you have done anything which you think others would be interested in (within reason!) WRITE IT UP AND SEND IT TO S.J. COLLINS, HOMELEIGH, BISHOP SUTTON, BRISTOL

Impressions of the Symposium on Cave Surveying held at Leicester by the C.R.G.

The first impression obtained by the writer on arriving at Vaughan College was that is was a remarkable achievement for the organisers to have packed out the hall which held two hundred people to the extent that many additional cavers had to stand at the back.  I estimated that about 230 were present at each of the lectures through the day.  When one considers that the subject of Cave Surveying is a specialist one not likely to prove very attractive to the average caver, it was a remarkable attendance.

I will not go through the papers in detail, except to note that Mendip speakers were well in evidence, although there were very few Mendip cavers in the actual audience.  Some interesting fact emerged from the papers as a whole.  The O.F.D. surveyors, for example, relied on the fact that errors tend to cancel on very long traverses, and thus developed a high speed method of surveying which, although not very accurate for a pair of given survey stations, nevertheless produces a good enough result over the very long traverses they encountered.  The accuracy of radio (or more correctly, magnetic field) location methods was another eye opener.  Accuracies of a foot or two are being claimed with some confidence, provided that the depth of the passage is not too great.  Depth measurements are less accurate.  The use of computers to translate elevations, bearings and distances into Eastings, Northings and depths was also impressive, although the writer had the feeling that some of the computer boys got a little carried away with the possibilities of the computer later in the afternoon.

The subject of survey presentation was represented by papers by Mendip authors – ‘Wig’ and ‘Alfie’, and it begins to look as if Mendip has the monopoly of work in this field at present.

Anyone interested in the subject of cave surveying will able to purchase the complete set of proceedings of this symposium later in the year when they are published.  The B.B. will keep members informed of arrangements to get hold of copies.


The Belfry Bulletin for March, 1970.  Printed (stencils completed) by Wednesday, March 25, 1970.