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Caving Trips

The Caving Secretary asks ALL club members and guest leaders to WRITE UP their trips in the appropriate log. Apart from this being required by the club rules and making a valuable record, IT IS IN MEMBER’S OWN INTEREST to write up trips, since money spent on caving gear is related to the amount of use it is THOUGHT to get the wrong impression is given without write-ups.

Route Finding in Wild Country

Although many of the practices described in this article... by Bob Cross…will seem obvious to some cavers and fell walkers, it will act as a reminder that dangers from exposure can easily be minimised by good route finding techniques.

There are times when the craft I shall outline will be of great value to both potholers and mountaineers. From my own experience, I can remember when club members were lost or went adrift on the fells.  For example, about three years ago a party of B.E.C. cavers planned to descend the then relatively unknown Black Shiver Pot, which is on the western flanks of Ingleborough.  They did not find it on their first trip and I believe it's true to say that only after three separate attempts did they finally find the hole. On another occasion, again on Ingleborough, where Bar Pot was the venue, the crew surfaced after dusk on a cold and rather misty night.  They were wildly uncertain of the direction back to the car park at Clapham and were very relieved when they got down to Clapdale Farm.  On yet another occasion, a party of club bog-trotters took the wrong turning during mist on a ridge walk in the Brecon Beacons, leaving their intended route and upsetting their plans.  The consequences or these happenings were frustrating and inconvenient rather than disastrous but, if we stop to consider a party of cavers emerging cold and wet into freezing conditions and darkness from a remote hole like Langcliffe Pot in Wharfedale or Pant Mawr in the little Neath Valley; dropping into the wrong valley; getting split up and becoming completely lost, they would be in real danger from exposure.  It could happen on any winter weekend away from Mendip and, although it may sound a little far-fetched, it is a very real possibility.  In climbing or walking, the chances of getting lost are much greater if skill is not acquired.  Great distances and remote places are often involved through terrain completely devoid of obvious landmarks and where extremes of weather such as thunder; blizzard; mist and white-outs can be expected.  It is thus vital to make yourself a competent navigator, and this is just as vital as being a good leader.

Wherever you go in the hills, you need a good map, a watch and a compass.  The need for a watch is obvious, it helps you to keep to your schedule and, more important, you know when the light will fade and you can make adjustments to suit.  As far as maps are concerned, the most detailed are the six inch Ordnance Survey maps, but the one inch covers more ground in a sheet and the two and a half inch series probably represents the best compromise.  If you are on the hills and you get lost, then any ground feature that can be recognised on the map will be useful and enable you to get a compass bearing back to your intended route.  There are a variety of features which we can use.  Stream junctions cairns, prominent boulders, trig. pillars, fences, stone walls etc. should all enable you to pinpoint where you are.  If you periodically glance at your map and keep a note of your position then, should the mist come down, you will already know approximately where you are and be able to walk out on bearings accordingly.

If there are no prominent features, then you'll have to be a little more crafty.  It is possible, if you have a keen eye, to make use of the contour lines mid the vegetation symbols.  This is where the two and a half inch map scores over the one inch series. If you look closely, you will see information of all sorts - walls, footpaths, boundary stones, bench marks, depressions, bog, heather, scree etc. all of which are as accurately positioned as the 'harder' detail.

Sometimes, even if you cannot see things, you can obtain hints on their existence, e.g., the sound of running water, the sound of traffic, chain saws working in a forestry plantation.  I've even heard tell that if you hear a raven caw-caw you’re very likely near a crag.

Good co-ordination of eye and ear coupled with accurate compass work can get you out of nearly any fix. Compasses come in all shapes, prices and qualities.  The sort we want for moor land walking has a base protractor.  This is a Perspex rectangle fitted with an arrow etched into the plastic base that runs through the vertical axis of the compass needle. The SILVA range of compasses are this type.  They enable accurate bearings from one point to another to be taken from a map.  I will not go into their operation, as it is quite simple and will be explained in the instructions for use which come with almost any compass.  If you want to be really fastidious, then the silva RANGER is the one.  This has a sighting vane and, on the most expensive model, a clinometer.  A sighting vane can be useful on occasion, e.g. for determining an astral fix, but that is outside the realm of this article.  When you take bearings, add 80 west to allow for magnetic variation.  This matters little over short distances, but the effect of ignoring it will give an increasing error the further you go.  If for some reason, after walking for some distance on a bearing, you wish to retrace your steps, set your compass to a back or reverse bearing.  If the forward bearing is greater than 180, subtract 180 from it and if it is less than 180, add 180 to it.  When you're in mist or darkness and cannot see your target, you've got to set your compass to a bearing from the map and make sure that you walk in a straight line. To do this, send a man ahead until he just begins to disappear, stop him and get him to move right or left if necessary until he is dead in line with your bearing.  Now walk up to him and keep repeating the process.  If you are alone, then try to find some object in the line of the bearing - perhaps a boulder or a clump of grass and walk up to it.

If you are completely lost and are walking about in all directions looking for a landmark, it is important to know just how far you are walking.  Count your paces as you go.  The average pace is about one metre.  Down the side of the 2½ inch map are alternate black and white steps.  Each of these is 100 metres.

Note where the wind is striking you.  If it's in your back and it comes round into your face, you may be walking in a circle. However, if you have already taken precautions to avoid this, don't panic, as the wind often does strange things in the vicinity of crags and ridges.

In summing up, there are many ways of establishing your position and direction, and I hope that this article has been of some use, especially to those who have not had much experience of walking across the fells.  I should like to end it by recounting an experience that happened to me when I was walking in the north.  I took a pal in the Craven Pothole Club up a fell side in the Pennines known as Widdle Fell.  The purpose of the tramp was to examine a sink in the limestone that I had noted earlier in the year.  It was winter, and the snow lay think and the mist was down below 1,200 feet. The sink was easily found, being in the bed of a steep, fast-flowing stream, well marked on the map.

After inspecting the sink, we pushed on to the summit of Great Knoutberry Hill (2,203') just for the exercise.  We had no compass and no torch, only a one inch map.  Visibility was very poor and our only means of navigation was the map. We had about five hundred feet of very steep, rocky slope before we reached the summit plateau.  This proved tiring but we reached the top quite quickly. Here, our stream was shown as coming out of a tarn - indeed its name was Tarn Gill.  Crossing the stream's source was shown the North/West Riding county boundary, running in a south westerly direction straight to our goal and we hoped to find a feature that marked the boundary.  We soon found the tarn, and sure enough, crossing the stream was a broken down stone wall.  We followed this in a south westerly direction for some distance to its end, but we were not yet on our summit.  Closer inspection of the ground revealed a line of spaced hardwood posts - the boundary posts!  These were followed straight to the trig. pillar on the summit.  Here, we rested a while - reflecting on our faultless navigation - when suddenly a voice spoke.  “Na then, lads, bit chilly, ain't it?” and we turned in disbelief to see a shepherd, dressed in cloth cap, baggy cords and clogs and draped in an old stinking sack.  At his feet ran a scraggy border collie.  “Hast tha seen any sheep behind't walls?" said he.


Owing to pressure of work, Nigel Jago is no longer able to continue as Climbing Secretary and the Committee are therefore appealing for volunteers for consideration as climbing Secretary.

Another Notice

Owing to the attempt to save paper by combining the first two pages of each B.B. from now on, there is not normally any space for the usual reminder that the opinions given in the B.B. are not necessarily those of the club.  An attempt will be made to put a reminder in the B.B. to this effect from time to time where other space permits.

SUBS for 1974 are now due!

Yes, we know that nothing will happen to any member until the end of April.  We know that some members reckon that the next A.G.M. is the proper time to pay.  We know that this is a tradition not to bother too much about when you pay – BUT if you don’t pay now, how do we know that you will – or might – later on?  The committee has to budget now and if it doesn’t know how much is going to come in, how can it decided how much it can spend? Point taken?


Members are advised NOT TO LEND OUT THEIR BELFRY KEYS.  There have been instances of non-members borrowing keys; taking out club tackle and NOT RETURNING IT.  If YOU want YOUR tackle kept safety – please help.