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Club Officer’s Report – 1974 - Tacklemasters Report

The tackle situation is at present as follows: -

The GENERAL TACKLE STORE holds

100' of lightweight ladder

150' of standard ladder

290' of rope.

The RESERVE TACKLE STORE holds   

225' of lightweight ladder

355' of rope.

Some 700' of rope is about to be brought into service and this includes 500' of new polypropylene; 150' of lightweight ladder and 165' of standard ladder is under repair and should be in service again in September.  A further 500' of nylon rope is to be purchased by Christmas and about 100' of ladder is to be manufactured along with several tethers.

60' OF LADDER AND 200' OF ROPE ARE MISSING.

It should be remembered that the Tacklemaster's job is not simply to maintain existing tackle, but also to make or buy new equipment in order to increase our stock to cope with the demand made by more cavers going further a field in more difficult and complex systems.  However, time and the apparently excessive wear on tackle have so far combined to preclude the manufacture of new equipment.

A great deal more care must be taken with all tackle, both above and below ground.  Ropes should not be trodden on.  Ladders should be lowered, not dropped.  If ladders snag - especially when being carried in narrow passages - they should be removed carefully and not pulled off.  Much damage is done to eyes at ladder ends; wires, and even rungs and the only possible cause is the dropping of heavy objects, such as rocks, on top of tackle.  All our tethers are badly kinked, because insufficient care has been taken in selecting belays.

Back on the surface, ladders and ropes are not always washed thoroughly.  It is important to remove mud from ladders, as it retains moisture and promotes corrosion.  Ropes should be very thoroughly washed to remove grit one quick dip in the pool is not good enough.

The amount of ladder under repair, and the number of ropes that have been written off this year, are disturbing.  Please take note of all that has been said above.

Some tackle has been lost, and this should never happen without its being accounted for. However, tackle has been borrowed by non-club members and not returned.  In one instance, members of a Yeovil club were lent a Belfry key, and they subsequently borrowed a large amount of Belfry tackle.  One of the ladders borrowed was not returned, and this was not missed until one of the Priddy villagers found it on the Upper Green.

Some tackle is borrowed without its being signed out and some is not always signed back.  Tackle is all too frequently left lying about the Belfry or in the drinking pool.  Little wonder that tackle gets lost!

NON-CLUB MEMBERS MAY NOT BORROW OUR TACKLE UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES UNLESS A CLUB MEMBER IS IN THE PARTY.  BELFRY KEYS SHOULD NOT BE LENT INDISCRIMINATELY.

Where tackle is left at the top of a pitch, or possibly used by other parties as well, the standard weight ladder should be used, as wear is less apparent.  Swildons 20 is a case in point.

So much for wear and tear on, and loss of, tackle.  In spite of what has been said, the situation is not as bad as it appears, as very little money has been spent on the tackle recently.  The attempt to save money by having tellurite pressed on by friends in the trade has failed, as four to five months waiting have shown.  Although the present 315 feet of ladder, together with some new ladder all requiring tellurite will still be finished locally, in future, pressing for ladders and tethers will either be done professionally (and we shall have to pay some £1.50 for this per ladder) or we shall use our own tellurite press, which we acquired recently and which is at present undergoing repair.

Some of the digging tackle has been seriously misused this year, with instances of digging ropes being used as lifelines.  Digging ropes are identified by black markings on their ends, in addition to the blue B.E.C. identification marks.  PLEASE NOTE THIS and do not use any rope so marked as a lifeline. Digging tackle should be signed out in the usual way where possible.  There is no abundance of digging tackle, so look after it - especially on site.  If it is to be left on a digging site over a period of time, let the Tacklemaster know. This applies also to ordinary tackle left underground, as happens frequently on exploratory trips.

Many people seem to be unaware of the existence of the reserve tackle store.  The equipment in this store is especially for trips to other areas, and includes all the ultra lightweight ladder.  It has been used only five times this year.  The Tacklemaster MUST know if any equipment is required for expeditions, in order to ensure that 100' of ladder and appropriate lifelines are left available for general use on Mendip.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the nameless few (how I wish I could say 'hordes'!) who have helped and offered to help with tackle manufacture and maintenance, or have proffered advice, or even donated tackle.

Graham Wilton-Jones.
Tacklemaster.