Any views expressed by any contributor to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of officers of the club, do not necessarily coincide with those of the editor or the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, unless stated as being the view of the committee or editor.

Club Headquarters

‘The Belfry’, Wells Rd., Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tele: WELLS 72126

Club Committee

Chairman:         S.J. Collins
Minutes Sec:     To be appointed.
Members:          R. Bagshaw; D.J. Irwin; M.J. Palmer; N. Jago; T.E. Large; A.R. Thomas; R. Orr, N. Taylor, B. Wilton, M. Bishop

Officers Of The Club

Hon. Secretary: A.R. THOMAS, Allen’s House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Tel: PRIDDY 269.
Hon. Treasurer:  R.J. BAGSHAW, 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.  Tel: WHITCHURCH. 5626.
Asst. Treas.      B. WILTON, 27 bVenus Lane, Clutton, Nr. Bristol.
Caving Sec:       T.E. LARGE, 39 Seymour Ave, Bishopston, Bristol.
Climbing Sec:    N. Jago, 27 Quantock Rd, Windmill Hill, Bedminster, Bristol 3.
Hut Warden:      R. ORR.  ‘The Belfry’, as above.
Assit H.W.        N. TAYLOR, Whiddon, Chilcote, Somerset.  Tel. WELLS 72338.
Hut Engineer:    M. BISHOP, (Acting)  Address to follow..
Tacklemaster:    M.A PALMER. 27 Roman Way, Paulton, BS18 5XB
B.B. Editor:       S.J. COLLINS, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Nr. Bristol.
Librarian:           D.J. IRWIN, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tel: PRIDDY 369.
Pbs. (Sales)      C, Howell, 131 Sandon Rd., Edgbaston, Birminham.
Publications:     D.J. IRWIN.  Address as above
B.B. Post:         Mrs. K. Mansfield, Tiny Kott, Little London, Oakhill, Bath, Somerset.

MENDIP RESCUE ORGANISATION.  In case of emergency telephone WELLS 73481


 

Editorial

Yer Actual

When the B.B. which was numbered 300 came out, we said that, owing to the fact that editors cannot count, it was not the 300th B.B. and that when this actually did occur, we would let readers know.

The B.B. you now hold is the 300th issue to have been published since number 1 came out in January 1947.  At the risk of being contradicted, we make the claim that no other British caving magazine or journal has reached this lofty total and the B.E.C. is, naturally, first in this matter.

This impressive total has not been achieved solely by the efforts of its editors.  (In order of first appearance; Dan Hasell, Harry Stanbury, Ken Dobbs, Don Coase and John Shorthose, Alfie Collins and Dave Irwin). A succession of willing printers, distributors and - above all - authors, have all been indispensable to our having reached this landmark and our hearty thanks, as club members, should go to all.

Since the City and County of Bristol are currently celebrating their 600th anniversary of being granted a Royal charter making them a separate county for ever ¬which celebration seems to me to be a bit like the condemned man eating a hearty meal before his pending execution - we thought that a more modest celebration of our own in these pages might be excused by readers on the occasion of our 300th issue.  This will be found under the title of 'B.B. 300' - for which the editor begs your pardon in advance.

“Alfie”

Rhino Rift

….the easy way!

Here, at last, is an account of a trip in this cave - the first to be published in the B.B. since John Corn¬well discovered it!  Thanks to John Hunt, who wrote this account.

Many weekends of abseiling and prussicking at Split Rock Quarry, Wells, culminated on Easter Saturday evening, when Pete Palfrey and myself went to Rhino Rift for a quick look round. 

Although we had taken enough rope, we intended to get the cave in perspective and return the next day and bottom it.

The first problem we encountered was the difficulty in dragging the quantity of rope through the entrance wriggles.  On arrival at the First Pitch, we started the time-consuming job of untangling the rope and - after listening warily to the time lapse in sound of a stone thrown down - descended the First Pitch.

This proved to be awe-inspiring, especially as the second half is practically free and gives one the impression of being inside a huge cylinder.

We then promptly set up the second rope of fifty feet and abseiled down to the head of the Seventy Foot Pitch.  At this point we decided to call it a day and return later, as we had by now obtained a good idea of the cave.  We promptly made our way out and dashed to the pub.

Here, we discussed more suitable methods and decided to place all the ropes in a large kitbag in the order that they would be used.  The next day, we returned to the cave but due to a heavy rainstorm we decided that it was not even worth getting out of the car and so we returned to a good fester instead.

Monday morning was brighter, so once again we set off.  As soon as we had entered the cave, the ease with which the ropes could now be carried became evident, and we quickly arrived at the First Pitch.  After some initial searching, we found a place nearer to the edge where the rope could be attached.  We soon reached the top of the Seventy and attached the rope to a rather insecure-looking rawlbolt by means of a krab and abseiled to the loose boulders at the bottom.  Here we sat eating chocolate before I set off down a thrutchy passage to the head of a stalled up pitch of eighteen feet.  Having climbed half way down and looked around, I returned to the Seventy Foot Pitch and followed Pete out.  We rolled up the ropes, climbed around the fixed rope at the top and had a look at the so-called 'Satanic Walk' and one or two pretties at the head of the First Pitch before returning to the surface in a total time of two hours.

We both used very similar equipment - mine being a home made sit harness and Peter’s a Whillars harness with the added luxury of a closed foam back.  We both used clog figure-of-eight descendeurs and clog prussicking aids.

The ropes used were; for the first pitch 100 feet of braided number 3, for the second pitch 50 feet of hawser laid nylon number 4 and for the third pitch 120 feet of hawser laid nylon number 4.  The first rope was terylene incidentally.  Although terylene braided rope would have been far preferable on the fifty foot second pitch, as it is free for thirty feet and is very difficult to stop spinning on.


 

Recent Additions to the Library.

M.N.R.C. Newsletter No 69 The Pennine Way ( Oldham)

Caves of Wales and the Marches (Second Edition)

ULSA reviews numbers 3,4, and 11

Chelsea S.S. Newsletters Vol 1 complete, Vol 15 nos 1-6

S.M.C.C.J ournal Series 5 number 4

W.C.C. Journal Nos 145 and 146.

Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club Newsletter Vol 10 no 1

Grampian S.S.  A bibliography of technical articles.

Exeter D.S.S. newsletter Vol 9 No 1

B.E.C. Caving Log - St. Cuthbert’s           6.1.70 - 8.7.72

                                                            14.7.72 - 31.12.72

                                    - General             3.8.71 - 15.7.72

                                                            8.12.69 - 22.8.71

                                                            15.7.72 - 3.1073

British Caver No 60

Caves of the Avon Gorge Pt 1

Misc collection of postcards (in album )

Yorkshire, 1934 - 1937.Personal logs of F.P. Longbottom.

Caving - E.A. Baker (Reprint 1972)

Bristol Poly. C.G. Newsletter Vol 1 number 2 

U.B.S.S. Proceedings Vol 5 No 2 (1943)

The Climber - misc numbers.

D.S.S. Journals Nos 112.113.

C.T.S. (International) 1972 and 1973 pt.

C.R.G. Transactions Vol 15 numbers 1 and 2

            Newsletter No 133

            Technical aids in caving symposium (papers)

Spelio Scientia ( Belgium) Vol 2 No 3

D.I.S. Bulletin 1973, 1 (7)

B.C.R.A. National Conference 1973 programme.

Die Hoble Vol 24, Nos 1 and 2.

Cerberus S.S. Newsletter No 32

New Climbs 1966 (2 copies) 1969 and 1970

Ben Nevis and Glencoe winter climbs

Hill walking in Snowdonia

Climbing Guides to Wales Nos 3,4,6 and 8

Alpine Guidebooks No 3 Dolomites.

Axbridge C.G. Newsletter Mar, June, July 1973.

¼" Bartholomew maps of England and Wales.

 

Our thanks should go to the following people for their donations to the library: - Chris Howell; Dave Irwin; Nigel Jago and Kangy King who have all given items for the club collection.


 

B.B. 300

A light hearted account of the impact of the B.B. on one club member - and possibly vice versa.

On a freezing cold day in January 1947, an intriguing looking collection of folded paper dropped through the letterbox of my lodgings in London.  On opening it, I found that it was a thing calling itself the Belfry Bulletin, Volume I Number 1 - edited by one Dan Hasell (Whom I had heard of but not then met) and published by the Bristol Exploration Club (which I had just joined). This was my first contact with the B.B. (and vice versa) but not - entirely due to my own stupidity - my last.

During the following months, I got into the habit of awaiting its delivery with some interest - for I was marooned in London and (believe it or not!) dead keen to lay my hands on anything connected with caving.  Mostly, the B.B. arrived as expected and hoped for, although sometimes the odd month would go by without one.  Still, it had eight issues behind it by the time its first birthday came round and it looked as though, with any luck, it might go on.

Much the same happened the next year.  It came nearly every month with only the months of February and April disregarded by the management - presumably because Feb, was too short a month to count and April took them by surprise by coming so soon after March.  Then - just as the thing was becoming a familiar part of the scenery in my lodgings - the B.E.C. played one of those typical tricks designed to help its members keep on their toes by suddenly changing the shape of the thing and thus making it impossible to keep the copies in a neat pile on the bedroom chest of drawers.  As if to compensate for this, it now came out regularly every month - as indeed it was to do without a break for the next 35 issues.

For a club member exiled far from Mendip (and in those days; what with a six day working week; no private cars or bikes worth speaking about and no money to risk the overcrowded public transport, London was a very long way from Mendip.)  This regular appearance of the B.B. was a greatly appreciated event.  Each issue was carefully read as being the next best thing to actually being able to be on Mendip.  From its pages I learned of new caves and of new (to me) cavers.  Some of these I never managed to meet but felt that if I had, I would have known them through the B.B.  Of course, members were still coming back to Mendip from the war.  For instance, in B.B. number 13 I read:-

'We are delighted to welcome back into circulation again D. Bessell; R.A. Crocker and R.J. Bagshaw, all recently demobbed.'

Who, I wondered, were D. Bessell; R.A. Crocker and R.J. Bagshaw?  I never did meet the first two to my knowledge, but the last one does seem vaguely familiar.

Other statements echo down through the years like the hardy perennials they are.  For example; 'Cleaning up the Belfry is done by the same old regulars.  It is time the other perishers did their share.' 1970? 1962?  No, that one was printed in 1948.  Similarly, one read that 'The B.B. is, as always, in urgent need of material.'  It could have any year but was, in fact, 1952.

Even so, it was largely the B.B. that made me want to move from London to where the action was - and when at last I managed to do this, the B.B. was 37 issues old.  Now my news could be obtained at first hand - which was just as well because the B.B. was about to experience the first of the two major crises in its history to date (not counting, of course, the continual crisis caused by its present editor.)

Early 1951, the B.E.C. went through a rather drastic shake up in its management and the B.B., which had passed into the editorship of Harry Stanbury some way along the line, got caught up in the re-shuffle following Harry's resignation from the committee.  Don Coase and Johnny Shorthose stepped valiantly but reluctantly into the breach and somehow kept the B.B. going for London against fearsome odds.  One of the more intriguing results of this was the mystery of B.B. number 48, which should have been that for June 1951.  As far as I know, not a single copy of this issue exists, and it is generally assumed never to have existed; yet the following B.B. (Desperately entitled No 49/50 for July/August 1951) apologises for the late appearance of number 48.  Anyone owning a copy of 48 could, presumably make his or her fortune - or at least the price of a pint or two.

Don and Shorty struggled gamely on, but in February 1952 disaster finally struck.  Shorty had to move to Scotland from whence, in those days, even the B.E.C. would have found it difficult to run the B.B. while Don was about to become married and, presumably, had other things to think about. Ken Dobbs (otherwise known as Caxton) who had been printing the B.B. in Bristol, himself edited the next three editions as a temporary measure and, when it seemed that the B.B. was going to founder through the lack of someone to edit it, Harry Stanbury came forward again and offered to do it.  The committee accepted this offer, and the crisis was over.  Once more, the B.B. came out regularly.  In fact, it never missed a single month for - you've guessed it! - 35 issues.  There seemed to be some law of nature which prevented any longer run.

Going back to when I lived in London, I wrote an article for the B.B. but the editor - very sensibly - lost it (working no doubt on the basis that once he started publishing stuff by me, there would be no knowing where it might end.)  However, in 1952 or so, a number of us younger members (yes, I know it sounds odd, but this was 1952 after all!) decided that we would try to liven up the B.B. a bit and to our surprise, some of our stuff actually got accepted.

The B.B. in those days consisted of six pages of quarto as a general rule but in December 1952 we got a 12 page B.B. complete with decorative black and white cover by Tony Johnson.  On a rather different note, B.B. number 71 had the distinction of being the only B.B. to have one side of one page printed upside-down.  Part of a letter which I had written to the editor was, of course, on this upside-down page.

In December 1953, we had a 16 page B.B. with coloured cover and the B.B. seemed to be going from strength to strength.  This tradition of larger issues for Christmas became a regular thing and, when the larger edition for December 1955 was immediately followed by another large edition in January 1956 to mark the 100th issue of the B.B., everything seemed set for the dreaded 35 issue barrier to be broken at last.  Somewhat naturally, this was the cue for another crisis.

For various reasons, the quality of print in the B.B had been getting worse, and it had often been quite difficult to read some of the copies.  As a result, some of the people who wrote regularly for it, wrote less often and said that if the club wanted a readable magazine, then it ought to spend some money on better equipment and fork out for a printed cover like the Wessex Journal had.  Others said that there was little point in doing all this because people did not write for it as they once had.  As a result of all this, no B.B. at all was published between May and September 1956, the longest gap in the B.B.’s appearance there has ever been.  There were even some people who said that the B.B. had outlived its usefulness now that nearly all members could get to Mendip easily if they wished, and that the B.B. should be wound up.  Before anything so drastic actually happened, an A.G.M. came along, and several of us went to it determined to see that the B.B. continued.

Of course, I see now where we made our mistake.  It was, one thing to go to the A.G.M. to make sure that several, other people worked hard to improve the B. B.  It was quite another thing when the four of us - Bob Price, 'Spike' Rees, Dave England and myself, found that we had been saddled with it and given the resounding title of  'B.B. Editorial Board'.

It took us until March to produce our first B.B. - with a printed cover and much heartbreak with the duplicator.  The club in those days had an old Ellam's model which we were convinced that some enterprising member had stolen from the Science Museum. It used to take us a whole evening to print six pages with a circulation of about 120.  One of us would turn the handle while the other three sorted out sheets which the machine had condescended to print from sheets it had blithely ignored.  We then counted the ones with print on and fed all the rest back into the machine for another go.  We often needed six or seven goes per page before we got the number printed that we wanted.

Somehow, using this system, we managed to print a 20 page issue that Christmas with a rather fine linocut cover by Daphne Stenner, and staggered on into 1958.  With 32 issues behind us, and every chance of breaking the notorious 35 issue barrier, disaster struck yet again November 1959. After a long and frustrating evening, we finally surveyed the scene of utter chaos; pushed our through the piles of scrap paper which lay everywhere and retired to the nearest pub.  The duplicator had had it.

With Christmas coming along, we reviewed the situation over a number of pints.  As the blood content of our alcohol streams steadily dropped, our schemes got progressively bolder.  We decided that we would somehow manage one last issue on the old machine and then go in for a complete face-lift again.  This would involve the use of a new typewriter; an electric Gestetner machine which we would hopefully borrow time on from B.A.C.; a new cover, different size of paper and centre stapling.  That, we agreed, as we slid slowly under the table would make up for the loss of the November issue.

Surprisingly enough, it actually worked.  The new cover design was easily settled.  We asked members what they would like and they said “A cover like the Wessex Journal”. We thought personally that a cover saying WESSEX CAVE CLUB would look a bit odd wrapped round a B.B., but gradually we got round to understanding what our members meant and so we came by a copy of the Wessex Journal by devious means and studied its cover carefully. Since it was a two colour motif on a white background, we decided that ours must be a THREE colour motif on a white background.  This ambit¬ious scheme was a trifle marred by the fact that the three colours either overlapped or failed to meet each other and that the bat had a face like a pig. Its resemblance to various members of the editorial board was freely commented on by members of the B.E.C.

I got permission to use the firm's duplicator in the lunch hour, and it was only at this stage that the snag in the whole arrangement became apparent.  While I had been getting this permission, the rest of the Editorial Board had been doing a bit of crafty time and motion study.  They put it this way. "Look", they said, "You typed the stencils and then we used to help print, collate and staple it.  Now, all you've got to do is to take it in to work on a Thursday once a month after you've typed it on the Wednesday evening.  On the Thursday, you'll have a couple of hours to spare between leaving work and coming down to club, and that'll give you plenty of time to do the folding, collating and stapling.  Our job will be coming down to club and reading it."

Arguments were in vain. I tried to appeal to their better nature but they said they hadn't got one.  And so it happened.  Of course, the B.B. in those days was only six or eight pages and it could really be started on a Wednesday evening and brought down to club the following day. In fact, on one occasion, I went to a lecture at the university one Wednesday and brought out a B.B. in which the lecture was described at club the next day.  Once this routine had got itself established, it went on - and on and on.

Many years later, the firm declared the Gestetner was to be scrapped and I was told that I could put in a bid for it.  I suggested £1 and to my surprise it was accepted.  It worked for the B.B. until the end of 1971, when it was given to Dave Irwin who uses it still for publications.  It was a very good pound's worth!

In 1961, my greatest disappointment connected with the B.B. occurred.  The Wessex Journal had passed into the editorship of Chris Hawkes at the time, and I suggested to him that it would be a grand gesture if we got together just once in the year and published a joint Christmas edition.  To my delight, he agreed and we soon became quite enthusiastic about the project.  Difficulties were easily overcome.  For instance, the joint number would bear BOTH serial numbers.  At the time, both journals were of the same format, so there was no difficulty there.  I designed a cover, a copy of which I still have as a sad reminder of what might have been.  It showed a Wessex Gryphon and a B.E.C. bat shaking hands.  I mentioned the project to the B.E.C. committee, who thought it a very good idea, as did the club A.G.M. in the October of that year. Chris said that he had encountered no difficulty in his talks with the management of the Wessex Cave Club except that they thought it should be extended to include the other main Mendip club of that time - The Shepton Mallet Caving Club.

Nothing daunted, I added a Shepton pile of rocks to the design for the cover, so that the gryphon and bat had something to stand on, and surrounded the whole thing with the Shepton rope design - but alas!  The S.M.C.C. said that such a publication would not be in line with their publishing policy, which was only to publish serious work carried out by members of their own club.  The W.C.C. then said that if the S.M.C.C. could not see their way to joining in, they too would have to back out - and the grand Christmas number was dead.

Apart from this, there were of course, special numbers of the B.B.  In May 1960, a Silver Jubilee edition to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the B.E.C. was produced.  Christmas that year surprised us all by having no less than 36 pages, which was later surpassed by two 40 page Christmas editions and finally, in December 1965 by a 48 page number.

Time went on.  With the publication of number 176 for October 1962, the 35 issue barrier finally fell.  In July 1961, the record for the greatest number of issues for a single editor went by unnoticed by all, including myself.  In July 1965, I had somehow managed to make my century and in January 1966 equalled the output of all the other editors combined.  Only one thing enlivened matters during this long time. In March 1963, a column started in the B.B. written by one 'Stalagmite'.  His forthright comments over the next twelve months attracted much attention and there was great speculation as to who he could be.  In fact, he became quite a legend and his identity one of the best kept secrets of the B.B.

In spite of the record 48 pages for Christmas 1966 again it was becoming painfully obvious that the B.B. could do with new blood, and during 1967 I offered to resign.  At once, no less than two volunteers sprang forward - Alan Thomas and Dave Irwin.  Dave won the toss and so, with a modest 22 page issue for December 1967, I signed off and settled down to the prospect of becoming a reader of the B.B. again.

And that was the way I intended it to stay.  Apart from an annual allegedly humorous article at Christmastime, I decided that I would never again write for the B.B. but merely let it come to me as it had done years before.

When my B.B's started to arrive, with no effort at all on my part, I was certainly not disappointed. I was amazed.  Great big thick B.B.'s of a size I had never dreamed of started to arrive.  A new, modern cover; new size and new enthusiasm had woken the B.B. up yet again.

Dave edited the B.B. for two years, but the value he gave to the club was far greater than the short time would suggest.  In terms of quantity, he gave members no less than 458 pages of quarto, and his 60 page Christmas number for 1969 set a record which, in these days of rising paper prices, may never be broken.  This edition alone contained more pages than the whole of the year's issue of the B.B. for 1951.

It was not only in size that the great improvement to the B.B was felt at this time.  Dave had attracted a variety of writers whose joint efforts brought the B.B to the notice of many people outside the club to the extent that a subscription scheme for non-members was instituted and became successful.

At the end of 1969, Dave felt that the club's Caving Publications had greater need of his services, and Mike Luckwell volunteered to take over the editorship of the B.B, starting in January 1970.  The story of Mike's tragic death in North Wales is still fresh in our memories.  I was given the stencils which he had prepared towards his first edition and I am convinced that we lost a fine editor as well as a very pleasant personality and keen mind in that mountaineering accident.  The fact that, for example, his editorial was going out under a Latin title gives some idea of the style he would have brought to the B.B. had he lived.

The rest is recent history. As a temporary measure for the next two years, the B.B. was kept on at a more modest 12 pages of quarto per month, and then we went metric which required yet another change of size, cover and now publish at 24 pages of A5 per month printed by the offset litho process. The size of the B.B. is now dictated by the cost of materials.

What the future will bring is anybody's guess, but the B.B. has shown a remarkable ability to survive in the past and no doubt will continue to do so for a very long time to come.

 “Alfie”

*****************************************

Notice: -  The B.B. Editor is now on the Telephone – the number is CHEW MAGNA 2915.

Members Change of Address.

Nigel Hallet, 144, Stockwood Road, Bristol 4.


 

Club Officers' Reports - 1973 - Hon. Librarian’s Report

Now that the library is permanently installed at the Belfry members are making full use of its contents. Over 100 items have been out on loan to members.

Since the last A.G.M., various missing items from other club publications have been added to the collection by using old B.B.'s for exchange.  Our own output has been increased by the addition of Caving Logs; Hut books and other manuscripts.

In addition to various exchange publications, several items of great interest have been included: Longbottom Diaries 1934 - 1937; a photocopy of Catcott's description of the descent of Pen Park Hole; Pen Park Hole correspondence (1958); Bakers Caving; celebrated American caves; Northern Caves Volume 1; a Tour of the Caves, and many others.

The committee has agreed to the purchase of climbing guides (costing about £25-30) and the back numbers of ULSA reviews.  Several other items have been given to the library – such as a complete collection of ¼ maps of England and a 2nd edition of Caves of Wales and the Marches.

In December 1972, a library list was published and is available at the Belfry for the small sum of 10p.  This is of considerable use, especially for members living away from Mendip and wishing to borrow items through the post.

Additional shelving space will be required in the coming year, which will cost approximately £20 to accommodate the already overflowing books.

D.J. Iwin.


 

Néouvielle - Central Pyrenees - 12 and 13th May '73

We received this screed from Kangy complete with a note from his typist saying that the article which follows contains more padding than any normal sleeping bag!  It is, in fact, in Kangy' s normal and most readable style.

Rendezvous at 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon as far as possible along the route to Cap Long. Incredulously, I stopped my car at the avalanche barely 2 km out of the village which, itself, is about 18 km from the 'roads Bridges' department hostel where we hoped to spend the night.  Several other cars were there, with other member of the party preparing to carry their gear.

At  4.30 p.m., I shouldered my ‘karrimor’ rucsac and skis de randonnee and calculated, unhappily, that I would have to carry this lot uphill for the next four hours at least.  At 5.30 p.m. I stopped, not the last, but regretting the pace which was faster than normal.  My hip hurt because I had over stretched it and my foot had cramp.  I fixed my boot with some sponge under the instep, tightened the rucsac straps to raise it higher on my back and continued on at a deliberate pace. This was the set of hairpin bends where, two years earlier, Arboucalot and I had left the car and spent twelve hours wading knee-deep in heavy snow to attempt the same mountain.  Another saga.

I picked my own way through avalanche debris and rejoined the road; walking on the edge from which the snow infill had melted.  At 6.30 p.m. I joined the fast men sitting around at Lac d'Oredon.  I sat with them wondering why I had come ("C'est bon, le ski.").  At 6.45 p.m., the fast men shot off up the grass slopes to join the road, now straight, wide and black with clean asphalt.  I plodded behind with the last man, refusing to work up a sweat and munching a cake for tea.

A cold mist developed and snow covered the road.  Dusk gathered.  I felt my pulse – 120!  I didn't, quite, feel bad enough to stop and anyway, was not tempted by the terrain. On each side, pine trees were growing out of broken, rocky ground.  Road edges were flat, but at a steep gradient with the bitumen squeezed up into the loose, grey gravel border.  Grey mist confined the view.  I passed the time imagining bivouac sites.  I was now last.  The ground levelled out as the road disappeared under a snowfield.  M. Moreau was there in the gloom, fastening his skis as I joined him.  At 8.15, I fitted the Silvretta bindings to Mark James's old ski mountain boots thinking that, at least, it made a change from road slogging.  Moreau plodded off without saying much, and I followed on, liking the different sensation of sliding and the pack lightened by the removal of the skis.  Moreau fell twice, resignedly, while I stood by and watched, wordlessly.  We crossed the dry surface of the bridge, carefully placing the skis to avoid large stones.  The hostel lay on the other side and slightly above.

At 8.30 p.m., I took off the sac and stood the skis and batons against the wall and went in.  The others, who had not long arrived, were still exploring the rooms.  The place, being private, is very well equipped. Gas lighting, stoves, everything for cooking and eating - except grub.  I went back to the bridge with M. Norman and filled two large containers with water.  It was now almost dark.  The tea I had started went down well and sweating backs were dried out against a fire which someone had lit.

An hour or so was spent chattering and bantering happily, eating soup and omelettes and trying out various red wines.  Outside, I found that the mist had lifted and the mountains stood out clear in the moonlight. Superb!  My Black's 'Romsdale' sleeping bag was far too hot and I only got off to sleep after midnight by lying under rather than in it.  I suppose I rested.  My hip gradually stopped hurting.

At 4.30 a.m., M. Plenier got up to start the day.  I lay on until 5 o'clock and then got up, had breakfast, pack my bag (my small super-lightweight bag) and stood around waiting for the others.  At 5.45 we started out.  The snow was frozen hard and some of us walked carrying our skis. Others skied.  It made little difference on the slightly rising ground.

At 7 o'clock, the steeper slopes were reached and, unequivocally, the skis were donned.  We climbed using seal skins and, in addition, those that had them used 'couteaux' - knife-like edges which cut into the snow and stop the skins and skis from sliding sideways when traversing.  I didn't have them and carried my skis quite often.

Eight o'clock and a stop for breakfast in the sun.  The snow stretched out smoothly and steeply to the wall of the summit.  We climbed slowly and, on the final snow slopes, where the couteaux-equipped skis forged ahead, I stuck mine upright in the snow and struck out directly for the left-hand arête, while the others made long traverses to the right.

As I arrived, Plenier shouted back that there was a bad passage on the ridge.  I hesitated but decided to go on.  He was right.  I came back, more onto the face and used strips of rotten snow and good handholds to climb.  Four metres from the top I ran out of enthusiasm for rotten snow.  The others, comfortably arrived, were vastly amused. At twenty years old, I would have taken a chance on the snow and would have managed somehow.  As a dad, I asked for - and got - a top rope, which pleased me.

9.45.  The views from the summit were almost unbelievable and occupied us happily until mid day.  We watched the slow progress of a party following our route.  We nibbled food, drank and chattered.  The sky was completely clear.  Then we rattled down the right-hand arête and, while the others put on their skis, I ran down to mine not to be left behind.  They came down in carefree, wide sweeping turns and I joined them.  The surface was excellent - a few cm of soft snow on top of hard, and in an exhilarating run we descended in five minutes what had taken us two hours going up. Understandably, we paused frequently to look and comment before diving into a series of broad turns across the wide snow slopes of the valley.  An intricate traverse was carefully retraced.  That, and two rather frightening schuss, and the hostel was in sight.

From 12.15, we idled around in the hot sun at the hostel.  Feeling rather ‘one up’, I drank a can of Newcastle Brown Ale.  We pottered around packing and cleaning up. At 3 p.m. we humped packs and skied by a connecting route to join the road.  We passed between rocky outcrops, traversed the length of a frozen lake, went through the pines and made a swift series of turns to stop by a vigorous stream to pack the skis.  My mind 'switched off' so much for the downhill road that I didn't quite understand when Plenier started to put on his skis.  The road, in fact, was partially covered in snow and with care, because of a savage ravine to the left, we skied on it.  The two series of hairpins were as good as a piste and lower still the thin thread-like path of snow continued.  I enjoyed that unexpected 4 km of ski transportation as much as anything. At 4 p.m. I reached the end of the snow road and repacked the blessed planks.

A road is a road, but going downhill in warm late after¬noon sunshine, this one wasn't too bad.  I noted, with interest that my heartbeats corresponded with my pace.  I was content.  I recognized the avalanches which had caused the extra work and, shortly afterwards, arrived at my car.  I was slightly tired, somewhat stiff and very happy ¬5.30 p.m. on.  Sunday - 25 hours after starting.


 

Letter to the Editor

40, Ralph Road,
Horfield,
Bristol 7.
21st August 1973

Dear Editor,

Every time I read the B. B. I feel that I would like to write a letter to you about certain points in the B.B.  However, laziness and forgetfulness comes over me until the next edition.  Finally, after reading the July B.B., I felt that I must put pen to paper.

On counting the number of members on the club committee, I find that we have a total of eleven. Last October the club members voted for nine members only to be on the committee.  Somehow, we have got two extra members who have not been nominated and elected by the members of the club.  If we need eleven, why not vote for eleven - or stick to the nine who have been properly elected?

On the subject of voting, why not have spare forms?  It has been known for the post office to lose letters do eat papers and children rip them up. It's a poor system when you cannot get a spare form.  The government is pretty inefficient, but at least they will let you ha a spare form.

A lot of B.E.C. members live in Bristol and for them, the venue of the A.G.M. is a poor one.  During the day, a trip up to the Belfry for the A. G. M., then back to Bristol, pick up wife, change etc., then back to Mendip again for the dinner! This arrangement amounts to eighty miles of travelling during the day at least.  Those who live on or near Mendip will only have a few miles to travel to attend both the A.G.M. and the dinner.  At least the mileage and the inconvenience were shared when the A.G.M. was held in Bristol! At this point, I apologise for not attending the A.G.M.

The B.E.C. is a caving club and I always imagine the role of a caving bulletin or magazine is to convey NEWS of CAVING.  This, the B.B. does not do.  I would think that some caver who is on Mendip regularly could jot down the latest news. Someone will inevitably say "Why doesn't he do it himself?"  Well, I'm not on Mendip regularly enough but even so, I pick up news that would interest others on Mendip.

For instance, G.B. has a new entrance.  One of the depressions has collapsed into the cave.  A pitch of about a hundred and fifty feet (estimated) leads into the top of the Gorge.  At present, the entrance looks very unstable due to mud.  Also in G.B., the way up to the ladder Dig no longer has a ladder.  A possible way up is to lasso the rawlbolts and to use slings to get to the top and then drop a ladder down.  In all, it makes it more difficult, which I suppose is the reason for doing it.

St. Cuthbert’s: Just before the duck is a waterwheel.  At the time of seeing it, this wheel was revolving and pumping all to no avail. The aqueduct just beyond the sump is excellent.  A deep hole below with no water is presumably the site of a dig.

Little Neath River Cave: U.B.S.S., have dived the end sump into VIII.  It is a three hundred foot dive from VIa and the passage of VIII is about fifteen hundred feet of typical Neath passage. Sump 9 bars the way on.

Madame Taussauds have bought the cave and paper mill.  It is their intention to blast into the ninth chamber and back to the third - taking in, perhaps, five, six, seven and eight, on the way.  This would give a circular route.  The exploratory dives in Wookey will, of course, become much shorter. They expect to have the new way operational by February and the surveying is almost completed.

Has anyone got any more caving news or digging news?  If so, send it in.

Yours,

Colin Priddle

…..followed by a reply from the editor………….

Lavender Cottage,
Bishop Sutton.

Dear Colin,

Your first point really wants an answer at some length, which I hope to cover in a future B.B.  I hope it will be sufficient for now to say that co-option is a fully recognized feature of almost every committee I have ever been associated with and that our rules are, in fact, much tighter in this respect than most.  Of the twelve member of the present committee (which is the maximum allowed by the constitution), nine were elected and three co-opted.  Barry was co-opted in line with the request of last year A.G.M. to ensure the continuity of the post of Treasurer.  Nigel Taylor, at the committee's desire to implement the A.G.M. ruling of the year before that the committee should do everything in its power to ensure that effective Hut Wardening takes place.  Jock had to be absent for some time on business and the committee felt that an assistant needed to keep the authority of committee status.  Martin Bishop, our most recent acquisition, was co-opted to ensure that the post of Belfry Engineer was being carried out under the committee's direct observation. The committee had qualms about going to the maximum number allowed by the constitution this year because they knew that a very large proportion of the present members were not standing next year and they wished, under these circumstances, to give other members some experience of working on the committee.

You will appreciate that this is an explanation - not in any way an apology.  The committee feel that co-options are a perfectly legitimate part of their operation where they consider this desirable in the best interests of the club during their year of office.

On voting, your point is well made.  Personally, I agree with you.  I do not feel strongly enough to put up a resolution seeking to change the new system, but perhaps you do?  I would not even second such a resolution, but nevertheless, that is the correct way to get the system changed if you feel strongly enough.  Although I would personally prefer to see copies available at the A.G.M., I am content to stick with the findings of a properly constituted sub-committee, formed at the request of the last A.G.M., whose findings have been endorsed by the club committee.

Your last point gets an enthusiastic "Hear! hear!" from the editor, although it must be pointed out that the B.E.C. is not solely a caving club.  Thank you for your information and I understand that Dave Irwin is considering re-starting his caving news, possibly under a new title. I assure you that I print as much caving news as comes my way, but when you consider, for example, how long it has been since Rhino Rift was opened and the fact that only now have we an article on it, you will appreciate that we are not getting people to write.

One answer would be to have an editor who was an extremely active caver, but this might result in ruining a perfectly good active caver!  I have tried to make it easy to write by providing the box in the Belfry, but at present it contains nothing more than an energetic spider who has made a very thick web inside;

Yours,
Alfie.


 

Monthly Crossword – Number 38.

 

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Across:

2. Cave trip for example, not on. (3)
5. Stoke appears in one. (4)
6. Change of vane in cave. (4)
7. Connection between Tributary Passage and Ridyard’s Wriggle in Stoke. (9)
9. Dhobi Colt for document sometimes necessary. (5,4)
12. Reef, perhaps? (4)
13. Bad behaviour in Cuthbert’s? (4)
14. Mendip Green. (3)

Down:

1. Half. (4)
2. Ancient cave chamber? (3,6)
3. A vice fray on Mendip? (5,4)
4. The other half? (4)
7. Short month. (3)
8. Tip backward. (3)
10. Bow across this can be 12 across. (4)
11.  Move forward in a cave slowly and imperially. (4)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

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