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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


The Christmas Editorial

Well i'll start by wishing you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year, seeing as how its that time of year (yet) again.   It doesn't seem like five minutes since the last one to me, still it's the festive season again and this is the xmas ish.   I've had to cobble this one together quite quickly to get it out in time (hopefully), i apologise in advance to anyone who gets it after xmas, i'm doing my best.   You will notice that some articles have not been retyped, this again is due to lack of time on my part but i felt it better to include them anyway.   Many thanks to those of you who have contributed articles - please don't stop writing - and also to anyone who has helped out in other ways, particularly J-Rat for his help with the distribution (and others too numerous to name here).

This being the xmas ish i'd better report on the xmas dinner held at the Wellsway on 11.12.93.

By 8.30 there were some 65 of us assembled at the aforementioned hostelry, most already getting stuck into the (cheap) beer.   The atmosphere being one of general conviviality.   There seemed to be a contingent from each of the local clubs (even the Wexies!!).

Xmas dinner was served up and in some cases actually eaten, but it is true to say that a fair bit found its way to the Wexie table by other methods that were to say the least airborne, resulting in the temporary evacuation of a table or two by those not wishing to wear dinner.  (Vince knows nothing about this at all !!)

Eventually dessert was served, the wait caused by the highly attractive waitresses (not that i noticed them you understand) having to remove quantities of the first course from the walls.

By this time people were getting 'into the swing of things' - which roughly translates as pissed.  B.E.C. Get everywhere stickers were doing just that, getting everywhere, including onto dubious parts of other pubgoers anatomies and i gather the inside of Glenys' trousers!?!?  And things deteriorated nicely from thereon in!!!

At least Glenys still had trousers unlike Estelle who had hers forcibly converted into shorts (culprits anonymous see Estelle for details)

The rest of the night was a disco/pissup which seemed to be enjoyed by all, i even saw Rich Blake "dancing" at one point (i use the phrase loosely).   This went on until the early hours of Sunday morning generating a few king sized hangovers in the process.   Those that did surface the next day had had a good time.    I can't speak for the rest.

A vote of thanks to Estelle for her efforts in organising it.

Well thats about it from me, on with the rest of the issue, save to say comments are welcomed, also please note my new address inside cover.  Estelle has also moved and i will publish her new address as soon as i can, she can be contacted at the Belfry/Hunters in the meantime……….ta ta for now & Merry Xmas…..Jingles



Mr & Mrs RP. & M Hill,
Sultanate of Oman.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

September 5, 1993.

Dear Sir,

During my recent brief visit to Mendip I was interested to hear some of the banter in the Hunters concerning the membership fees for 1993.

Out of interest took the figure for 1978-79, when I joined, which if I recall was £8, and compounded it at 8% per annum.  I think this is a reasonable average rate of inflation over the years.  The result was £25.38p.  I think those who complain about £20 a year should think again.  I cannot remember what Hut fees were in those days but I suspect that they have barely kept pace with inflation as well. The phrase that springs to mind to those perenial complainers about membership fees is “You get what you pay in real terms for"!!

It would seem to me to be logical to assume that as The Belfry gets older the cost of maintaining it will increase.  Therefore we should be anticipating raising a real term increase in income to pay for this. The argument for how to collect this money, Hut fees or Membership fees, is of course an emotive one in this club. My own opinion is that, without a base, the club would cease to exist in very short order.  It must therefore be the responsibility of all members to ensure the continued survival of our headquarters.

On a sour note for a minute I have been "accused in public" so to speak of not paying my hut fees.  This I have found out today when I received my April BB!!!!!!!!!!!

It was sent to me surface mail!!

I did receive a BB in February but unfortunately there was no mention of the fees fixed at the AGM I wrote to the Membership Sec. (Airmail) receiving no reply and finally deposited a Cheque in the Hut fees box on a visit in May.  This cheque has not been cashed so I expect it to be returned or destroyed.  I have since paid my dues for this year and will willingly pay those for next year as soon as the amount is decided provided somebody has the wherewithal to let me know how much!!!

What I really object to is the manner in which my name is highlighted in the BB as a bad boy when a personal approach would have prevented me from having to point out where the incompetence really lies.

To sum up then: Please fix the fees sensibly this year, put them in the BB, send it to me Airmail, and if you want me to pay extra for this service?, I will willingly do so!

Sorry I can't make the Dinner, enjoy it for me!

Bob Hill.


How to fit a new one!!

By an anonymous contributor.

A Peeping Tom overheard this conversation in a lay-by near G.B. Cavern

There was a van and two B.E.C. members

One male and one female!!!

(He)      “Shall we strip off here Lover?”

(She)    “O.K. perhaps we should stay in the van.”

(He)      “Can you give me a hand? I always find this a bit difficult.”

(She)    “Sure, but I have never opened one of these packets before.”

(He)      “No worries, you just tear off the strip and pull it out.”

(She)    “WOW!!  It’s big and black!!”

(He)      “Yes, I thought you’d like it. Perhaps you’d like to peel it over.”

(She)    “Bloody Hell!!  I didn’t think I’d need two hands for this.”

(He)      “If you sit on my stomach and pull really hard, it will fit.”

(She)    “Oh God!  I’ve gone and torn it!”

(He)      “That’s totally ruined our fun for tonight, I could only afford one!!”


                        …and that’s how a B.E.C. member tried on his very first wetsuit.

                                                (I ‘spec…..you pervs…..!)


1993/1994 B.E.C. Committee meetings

These will be held at 20.00, at the Belfry, on the following Friday nights..

5th November

3rd December

7th January

4th February

4th March

8th April

6th May

3rd June

1st July

5th August

2nd September

The A.G.M. and dinner will be held on Saturday 1st October 1994

The A.G.M. will start ay 10.00am at the Belfry


Over The Edge

It was all Brian's fault. 'Grotte de Moulin Maquis - that's something different.  I bet few British cavers have been there! he announced.  It transpired that this particular cave opened from a ledge 3/4 of the way down a 400 metre cliff in the Vercors region.  The idea simmered at the back of our minds until one afternoon last summer I suddenly found my legs dangling ever 400 metres of nothing with the Bourne gorge below me.

The Vercors National Park south west of the French city of Grenoble is a cliff girt limestone plateau riven by deep gorges. The mountain peaks at the fringes rise to 2000 metres and are popular with walkers in the Summer - while the winter months provide excellent opportunities for skiing both on piste and cross country.

Cavers have spent decades exploring the subterranean complexities of the region, in the process discovering some of the deepest caves in the world.  Several cave systems emerge in the walls of the Bourne Gorge including the spectacular grottoes at Choranche.  Opposite Choranche the 100 metre high portals of the Grotte de Bournillon are the biggest in Europe but are dwarfed by the cliff adjacent to it over which tumbles the Moulin Maquis waterfall. Our descent would take us down the line of the waterfall.

The French have a name for this sort of activity 'canyonning'; they abseil down cliffs and gorges to leap with glee in and out of plunge pools.  Popular sites have permanent belays and guide books are published to assist the enthusiast.  The Moulin Maquis was no exception; the fixed belay points were reassuringly described as 'bon', and the only warnings were to keep teams to a minimum of three and avoid winter descents when icicles hang suspended over the assailers heads like so many Dameclean swords.

At 4 pm a mud stained trio, who had warmed up in a typical Vercors 'aven' (pothole) could be seen marching through the woods from the tiny village of St. Julien of Vercors.  An ancient muleteers track wends its way steeply down to a choked cave entrance issuing the stream which we, were soon about to accompany. Ropes were laid out, oversuits donned, harnesses attached, and bladders emptied.  The system we were using to make the descent used two ropes, each approximately 50 metres long.  The pull through rope had a loop in one end through which was clipped a karabiner.  The abseil rope was tied to the pull through rope and lowered, the karabiner being used to hold the ropes together below the belay point.  This provided an automatic locking system for the abseil.  When one reached the bottom one pulled on the other rope and theoretically the abseil rope would then be pulled through the karabiner and down the pitch for the next section.

Brian was launched into space first (it was his idea) dropping out of the sun dappled wood onto the brightly lit greenswarded cliff.  A shout two minutes later indicated it was my turn.  After gingerly shuffling about on the tree branch we started from I found myself swinging in space. As I gently dropped I watched the stream splattering over the lush grass growing on its downward path.  Some scrabbly penduluming was required to reach the next ledge where a brief test confirmed the pull through was working before - John the third member of the trio came down.

John arrived.  We tugged the pull through rope and for two minutes it remained obstinately jammed before suddenly snaking down in a heap at our feet.  We were now committed - 360 metres to go and no turning back.  Brian reached into his pocket to consult the hastily drawn sketch map of pitch lengths and belays.  A trouble free descent dropped us onto a wide ledge where the stream provided a cooling shower.  Beyond here we were out of the tree zone with 9 pitches to go.

Progress was slow, for pull throughs became trials of strength.  The sun swung behind a cliff and in shadow the cooling stream lost its attractions.  The pitches began to pass overhangs making the pull throughs even more tricky and each assailer’s arrival would be heralded by showers of tufa and moss tweaked off the cascades.  The ledges shrank and we could understand why, the Guide Book recommended no more than three persons per party.  One memorable ledge was no larger than a coffee table, the only encouraging features being the firmly cemented belay rings to which we attached our 'cows tails'.

Our mood lifted as the lowering sun emerged from its temporary hiding place but sank when on the next pull through the ropes obstinately refused to move even with our combined weights bouncing on it.  The lightest member of the party, Brian (of course) volunteered to prusik back up and release the snag.  We had all taken the precaution of bringing ascending gear hoping we would not have to use it.  We were now glad of our caution.  Even so ascending a single rope which lies over an overhang and which may be rapidly fraying is not a nice experience.  We were both relieved to see Brian again descending at normal speed with the rope running freely.  Things from then on went from bad to worse.

We had started our descent at 5 pm and had asked our wives to meet us near the base of the cliff at 8 pm. Even without problems this was typical caver's optimism for the French gave 4 hours for the descent.  At 8 pm by the light of the sinking sun 2 matchbox sized cars swung into the car park ¼ mile from the base of the cliff.  If we weren't in trouble on the descent we were certainly going to be in it at the bottom!

The wives viewing the cliff were mystified to see dots moving up as well as down.  Unfortunately although we could hear them shouting the sound of the cascade drowned our replies.  The ingredients were in place for what we cavers tend to call an epic (euphemism for cock up).

The situation had now reached the point where we had established a routine in which the last man down was lowered on the down rope to avoid pull through snags.  We landed on the massive ledge from which our original goal the Grotte de Moulin Maquis led.  Time expired, we ignored it pressing on into the deepening twilight. John went first and a few minutes later some shouting suggested he was on the next ledge.  I followed and having located him in the gloom pendulumed across; my residual adrenalin reserves were squeezed dry when I landed on his precarious perch and he announced it had no belay point.  We clutched rock, grass rope and each other while bellowing for Brian to send down the bolt kit (another precautionary item we had packed). It slid down the line like manna from heaven and John began to belt in the self drilling bolts.

Meanwhile, at ground level, the wives were increasingly confused by the toing and froing.  When two lights came on and not a third panic was not far from their thoughts.  There were only two lights because I had decided not to bother with mine - the biggest mistake I made that day.

The bolts were secured, hangers attached and a sling placed, then with a short prayer, John launched onto a pitch of unknown length which thought (hoped) was less than 50 metres! Brian's water stained creased crumpled map seemed to suggest that if we could make the next ledge we could walk off it and scramble down - to the gorge bottom.  John made it with 10 metres to spare and was rapidly joined by Brian and myself.  Rapidly coiling the ropes we blundered our way through bushes and boulders busily concocting the excuses we would need to placate our irate womenfolk and trusting we could still get a cool beer at 11pm.

Canyonning is fun but make sure you give your-self plenty of time for it!



Our guide book for the descent was Infern'eaux published by Didier- and Richard.  ISBN 2-7038-0065-7.  It is available in book shops in the Vercors but not in this country as far- as I am aware.  The techniques for- descent need to be rehearsed properly (as you may have gathered) and one should be prepared for all eventualities.


Letter To All Members

The following letter has been received from Tim Hodgson, an old 'Ex' B.E.C. member.

I have written to Tim saying that I will see if there is interest in an expedition to Costa Rica.

If anyone is keen, please let me know.  I would also like to hear from anyone who remembers Tim, he mentions 'Wig' in his letter so he must be very old!!!

Martin Grass.

Full letter follows on next pages ..............

The Secretary, Bristol Exploration Club.
The Belfry, Priddy, Somerset,

Dear Whoever got stuck with the thankless job.

It’s been many years since I've been in contact with the club, in fact I doubt if anyone will remember me now but I was a member once.

The reason I'm writing is because there are unexplored caves in Costa Rica, and maybe it’s time something was done about it. Costa Rica, as I’m sure you are aware is the country between Panama and Nicaragua, it's not some unknown beach on the south coast of Spain, nor is it to be confused with Puerto Rico.  It’s about the size of Wales.  But, because of its mountains, the highest is over thirteen thousand feet; it has a climate that varies between bloody hot on the coast to freezing on the tops of the mountains.

Between the two extremes are climates to suit everyone.  There are tropical wet forests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests and much more, the country is very beautiful, with a wide variety of fauna and flora.  There all sorts of exotic wild animals, from Jaguars, Tapirs and Peccaries to boa-constrictors, and poison-dart frogs. There are all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables, most of which are unknown in Europe, but surprisingly things like blackberries and strawberries grow all year round, as does asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower.  San Jose, the capital, is just a little under four thousand feet, and has a very agreeable climate, with an average temperature of about seventy five to eighty degrees all year round.

Costa Rica is volcanic and in an earthquake area.  It is on the joint between the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates.  This probably leads to a certain amount of instability in the caves.  Nonetheless there is one show cave with a twenty foot entrance pitch, which fat little old ladies descend on an electron ladder.  Gawd knows how the guides get them out again, but I'm assured they do.

I’ve recently been in touch with a dentist who is an active caver, he tells me that there have been several expeditions from Europe and the U.S.A.  The local cavers assist in every way possible and can usually find horses for transport, and help with accommodation.  They prefer expeditions of a scientific nature but original exploration is not discouraged.  They ask only that they get copies of any surveys or other useful information. They know the location of the bars nearest to cave entrances, and behave like other cavers in that they drink beer, sing songs (in Spanish) and pursue anyone who wears a skirt.  The dentist has promised me more information on the caving association here, and details of the various caving areas.  I’ll send this information on to you as soon as I have it.

It might be interesting to arrange a trip from England in the foreseeable future.  I could help with arrangements at this end, I’m president of a new hotel in the centre of San Jose which could be used as a base.  It’s a very good hotel, and is not to be treated in the same way as some of the establishments we have patronized for our annual dinners in the past!

During a recent tourism exhibition here, there was a travel agent from Bristol called Joanna Clarkson.  She has an agency called Trips, in Clifton Wood Crescent. I spoke to her on the phone about a month ago, and she said she would gladly provide any information she could about Costa Rice, and would be glad to take care of the travel arrangements; should the need arise.  Her phone number is 02-72-xxxxxx.

I would very much like to be able to show the caving association here a sample of the work done by the BEC.  Could you help me be sending me a part of the "Wigs" Cuthbert survey, if he ever finished it, and anything else that might help the locals to know what a good caving club the BEC is.  Keep the cost down, I’m not rich, perhaps you could fax me the cost, and I could arrange for my mother to send you a cheque.

I am enclosing some rubbish about the hotel, and if I can find anything that isn’t too bulky something about Costa Rica.  I hope to here from you in the not too distant future, even if it’s only a copy of the Belfry Bulletin.  I also hope there are some doddering old armchair cavers who still remember me.

Your sincerely,

Tim Hodgson


The Song of the CPS

Tune: The Bold Gendarmes. Author: Dickie Ray

Source: Belfry Bulletin No 104 May 1956

We’re Cavern keepers disingenuous,
Of Stalactites we take good care,
We never do anything strenuous,
When danger lurks we’re never there.
But if we see a moderate pothole,
Not too far, and not severe.

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

Some term our duties extra rural,
And little troglodytes we chase,
And when we see formations mural,
We stretch red tape all around the place,
And if we see a natural fountain,
That’s set in nature holy sphere,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

‘To lock all caverns’ is our motto,
And save the goodly caves from sin,
But just as we are finished,
Some blighter digs another way in,
But with our rope and tape and placards,
We’ll battle onwards, never fear,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

(CPS - Cave Preservation Society)


From Desert Sands To Mountain Snows

A Traverse Of The High Atlas Mountains Of Morocco

Expedition Report

Doctor Andrew Newton FRGS


This report describes a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco during the Spring of 1993.  The inspiration for this journey came from two previous expeditions to the High Atlas Mountains during the winter months of 1991 and 1992, during which ascents of Jebel Toubkal and Ighil M’Goun were undertaken.  Having climbed in the Atlas mountains with the object of ascending specific peaks I decided that I wished to explore the more remote valleys and uplands of the M’Goun area in an attempt to see more of the "lifestyle” of the local Berber people and document some of the facets of this lifestyle before it is too greatly affected by the development of tourism and trekking within the region.

I set myself the objective of completing a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains from the desert in the south via the Draa valley following the course of the river Draa to its source in the mountain snows of the M’Goun plateau and subsequently descending to the fertile valleys of the Bou Goumez region to the north of the High Atlas chain.

General topography

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco run as a single chain of mountains stretching in a curve from the north-east of the Country to the Atlantic coast near to Agadir in the west. The northern extent of this chain is termed the "Riff". The central section being of moderate elevation is termed the "Middle or Moyen Atlas", whilst the southern section of the range- is known as the "High or Haute" Atlas.  The High Atlas is split into two distinct areas by a mountain pass which runs south east from the city of Marrakech (formerly known as Morocco city).

The south western section of the High Atlas includes the peak of Jebel Toubkal (at 4,165 metres the highest peak in Africa north of the Equator) - whilst the north eastern section of the High Atlas includes the mountainous plateau known as the M’Goun range.


Travel to Morocco

Travel to Morocco is very straight forward with regular air services between London Heathrow and Casablanca, the modern capital city of Morocco.  From Casablanca internal flights serve the other major cities within the Country including Marrakech which is regarded as being the normal starting point for expeditions into the mountainous regions of Morocco.  During the winter months the National Airline (Royal Air Moroc) is the only carrier to fly regularly: however, during the summer months regular charter flights are available to the majority of destinations.

Land travel within Morocco is equally straight forward with an efficient National Bus Company (CTM) as well as a number of smaller local bus and coach operators.

Expedition Report

Marrakech makes a wonderful starting point for any journey.  Constantly bustling with humanity the city acts as a commercial centre for the Central High Atlas as well as being a popular tourist destination. The city is split into two sections, the old part or Red City comprising of an ancient medina and kasbah whilst the modern new city boasts luxury hotels and French-style colonial architecture.  The old town or medina is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways bursting with shops and trade stalls selling both local products and tourist goods.  The nearby square (the D'Jna El Fna or 'meeting place of the dead') is famous for its street entertainers, snake charmers and soothsayers.  Around the edge of the square tented fast food stalls offer an amazing variety of Moroccan culinary delicacies.

From Marrakech I journeyed south with CTM over the Tizi-n-Tichna pass to the city of Ouarzazate (in translation literally the 'place where there is no noise').

Ouarzazate is unfortunately a modern town created for the tourist industry.  However, it does serve as a useful starting place for journeys in the south of Morocco.

At Ouarzazate I managed to procure a slightly battered Renault 4 on rental for a couple of days. Using this vehicle I drove down through the Vallee du Draa to the oasis town of Zagora widely recognised in Morocco as being the starting point of the Sahara desert.

Zagora itself is a modern colonial border town consisting of a military garrison and administrative offices. However, to the south of the town on, the opposite side of the river the ancient kasbah of Amzrou is an entirely different world.  Surrounded by Palmaries and protected from the advancing sands of the desert by restraining walls and fences, the town has been a trading point for desert Nomads for several thousand years. Sadly, the town of Amzrou has recently become the home to many nomads deprived of their life style by the fighting in the Western Sahara and by drought in Mali and Mauritania.

Having visited the point at which the waters of the River Draa disappear into the sands of the Sahara desert, I commenced my journey north through the Vallee du Draa using the old trading route which runs on the opposite side of the Valley to the modern tarmac highway.  This route passes through many Berber villages and kasbahs offering an ever changing kaleidoscope of views of an agricultural way of life which has remained little changed over the last 1,000 years.  The lands immediately adjacent to the Draa river are highly fertile being irrigated by the waters of the river and fertilised by silt washed down by the annual flood cycle of melt waters draining from the Atlas mountains.

Having returned the Renaut 4 (in an even more battered condition), I journeyed by local agricultural transport to the market town of Skoura.  After a frustrating four hours of searching for a mode of transport to take me deeper into the Atlas Mountains, I finally located a transit van belonging to the commune of Irni-n-oulaoun which was due to leave Skoura that evening to take villagers back into the mountains.  After several false starts from the market place in Skoura (and two tyre changes) the transit van finally departed with a load of 22 villagers and their purchases from market, plus a roof rack full of provisions and supplies for the village store, squeezed into the corner of the van with my rucksack, I immediately became the centre of attention and throughout the six hour journey into the mountains, I was constantly questioned about my home, my family, my country and my view on Moroccan politics.  The Berber people are naturally gregarious and hospitable to travellers and even when travelling solo in the mountains of Morocco one is rarely alone.

The transit van eventually arrived in the mountain village of Imi-n-Qulaoun just before sunset so I gratefully accepted the offer of overnight accommodation with one of the families who had travelled up from Skoura. The following morning after a breakfast of unleavened bread and very powerful black coffee served by the 7 year old son of the family with whom I had spent the night (since his parents had already gone out to work on the fields), I commenced my trek on foot. From Imi-n-oulaoun I followed the Ait Moudzit valley north passing through a succession of small villages as I ascended the steeply sided valley towards the M'Goun plateau.

Whenever one approaches a village in the High Atlas valleys one is met by a crowd of Berber children whose daily duties include grazing the flocks of goats and sheep away from the village.  In the lowland valleys it is now normal for these children to instantly demand "un bonbon", "un stylo", "de l' argent", however, in the higher valleys the welcome is much more genuine with offers of food and hospitality abounding.  Long before one actually reaches the village one has gathered a large following much akin to the pied Piper of Hameln.

The upper reaches of the Ait Moudzit valley offer splendid walking at high level with the mountain track skirting precipitous crags perched above an impressive gorge containing the white foaming waters of the river.  All the small hamlets on the way up the valley are surrounded by impressive terraces of fields contained by restraining dry stone walls.  In the spring months the terraced fields are planted with maize and vegetable crops which are irrigated by the spring melt water which is channelled from the river via an ingenious set of man-made contouring water channels built along the field boundary walls.  Each terrace is sheltered by overhanging trees (palms in the lower reaches of the valley and almonds or flowering cherries at higher altitudes).

I reached the village of Tissougune in the later afternoon of the second day of the traverse.  Tissougune is the last major settlement in the Ait Moudzit valley and is one of the most remote settlements in the area.  As with all Berber villages I was met by a large group of children who escorted me into the village where I was met by the local Imam who insisted that I adjourn to his house for mint tea and bread and oil (a typical Berber mid-afternoon snack).  Before many minutes had passed the entire village congregated in the Imam's courtyard curious to investigate the foreigner in their midst.  On discovering that I was a Medical Practitioner the Imam immediately summoned a selection of his ailing parishioners requesting my assistance with medications and treatment.  (Modern health clinics are only found in the major agricultural communes of the Atlas region and even if they make the long journey to visit such a clinic the majority of Berber tribes people cannot afford to purchase the prescribed medications.  Consequently, the only medicinal treatment available in the mountains is that dispensed by travelling Herbal Practitioners and religious Faith Healers).  My afternoon surgery complete, I continued on my way accompanied by the village teenagers who insisted on escorting me up the precipitous waterfall behind their village.  As the sun started to sink towards the snow capped peaks on the horizon I selected a site for my mountain tent and much to the intrigue of the Berber children, I built my house for the night.  My evening meal of dehydrated high altitude rations aroused equal interest; the only time I have ever given a dinner party for ten in a two man tent at 3,000 metres altitude!

The third day of the traverse consisted of a long ridge ascent on to the main M'Goun plateau itself. The plateau consists of a long ridge running from north-east to south-west.  The ridge lies entirely above 3,500 metres with individual summits around the 4,000 metre mark.  Amsoud, the highest point on the ridge has an altitude of 4,071 metres.  The terrain is predominantly scree with limestone outcrops forming craggy edges and buttresses which afford easier walking than the main scree slopes of the plateau.

Unfortunately the good weather of the preceding few days had led to a rapid melting of the snow on the southern slopes, making the last 500 metres of ascent to the ridge a long slow and painful four hour slog through thigh deep wet snow.  My efforts were rewarded however as on gaining the ridge firm neve was reached allowing me to make rapid time to the summit of M'Goun prior to setting up my evening camp in a col at 4,000 metres.

The following morning I made an early start to take advantage of the overnight freeze and maintaining an excellent rate of progress I descended to the north into the Toufrhine valley (a high level valley lying between the two main mountain ridges of the central High Atlas).  I followed the valley north east to the M'Goun gorges which offer a dramatic and rather sporting descent of 2,000 feet over the space of one mile.  (To traverse the gorges it is necessary to climb down in the waterfalls following the exact path of the river as it cascades between limestone walls up to 500 feet high).  At the bottom of the gorges the river emerges from a spectacular rocky defile to flow through open green pasture, my surprise at meeting this unexpected view was surpassed only by the surprise of the small Berber herds boy who looked up from his flock to see me appear from the river soaking wet and somewhat bruised, (but nonetheless elated to have completed the descent).

This young herds boy escorted me to his house in the nearby village where his family made me immensely welcome lending me a warm dry wollen jalaba for the evening and plying me with large quantities of hot food.

The following morning I continued along the course of the river to the village of Agouti in the Bou-Goumez valley.  The Bou­Goumez is one of the most fertile of the valleys of the Northern Atlas and is known by the local Berbers as the "bread basket of Morocco".  The village of Agouti forms the road head of the Azilal road which penetrates the Atlas Mountains from the north.  Although I had initially hoped to be able to pick up a land-rover from Agouti, I discovered to my dismay that the winter snows were still closing the high mountain passes to the north and therefore I found myself compelled to spend a night in the village of Agouti (staying at the Mosque guest house) before continuing on foot to the village of Tabant from where I was able to secure myself a place in a land rover heading north the following day.

The land rover ride out to the regional marked town of Azilal consisted of an eight hour journey on loose stone pistes skirting precipitous valleys and passing through some of the most fantastic alpine-type scenery.  After an unscheduled stop to deal with a blow-out (a common occurrence on Moroccan mountain roads); interesting scenes ensued as it transpired that the only instrument available for re-inflating the tyre was a pair of old furnace bellows provided by the nearby village.

At Azilal I joined forces with a couple of Moroccan school teachers wishing to journey to Marrakech and between us we commissioned the hire of a grand taxi (the Moroccan equivalent of a long distance chauffeur driven limousine) and for the princely sum of six pounds I journeyed the remaining two hundred kilometres back to Marrakech in bone shaking dust ridden luxury.


During the course of my traverse over the central High Atlas I was struck by the unspoilt nature of the valleys and the continuation of the Berbers' traditional way of mountain life. This is by stark contrast to the over development of the valleys in the Toubkal region which have become highly popular with visiting European climbers.

Following my return to Marrakech I was fortunate to be able to meet some members of the Moroccan Mountain Guides Association who confided in me their concerns about the development of tourism in the Atlas.  It seems that lessons are being learned from the mistakes made in the Toubkal region and it is to be hoped that greed and political pressure do not get in the way of the development of sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.

The remote valleys of the central High Atlas are stunningly beautiful but they are also stunningly fragile. Unless treated with respect the high Atlas valleys could rapidly become yet another statistic on the trail-of tourist destruction.


MRO News

Number 5 Nov 1993


***  HELP WANTED  ***

Saturday 15th January 1994


MRO is to host this biennial conference based at Eastwater farm on July 8th,' 9th & 10th 1994. Obviously, it will require a great deal of effort by Mendip cavers to make this event run smoothly and it is essential that work should start as soon as possible.  Individuals, and clubs, who are willing to make a contribution to the organization and running of the conference, are asked to attend a preliminary meeting at The Hunters Lodge Inn on Saturday January 15th at 7:30 pm to start the ball rolling.

Saturday 29th January 1994


Video presentation followed by practical session with MRO kit.  Hunters Lodge Inn, 7: 30 pm.

Saturday 19th February 1994


In view of the response to last years lecture and recent events both underground and on the surface, MRO has decided to hold this workshop annually. As before, the emphasis will be on the practical.  You owe it to yourselves and your friends to be up to date with Artificial Ventilation and External Chest Compression techniques.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Friday 11th March 1994


Annual meeting of the committee

Hunters Lodge Inn, 8:00 pm prompt.

next evening 

Saturday 12th march 1994


Hands-on experience of MRO equipment for small groups circulating around various demonstrations.  At the same time there will be discussions with club team leaders.  Please ensure that your club is represented. 

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 16th April 1994


A further meeting regarding the organization and running of the BCRC conference.   Please offer any help and time you can.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 30th April 1994


An afternoon session both on the surface and underground with the MRO radios and molefone in use.  Venue and times to be decided.  Watch for more details and posters.

July 8th.  9th     and   10th    1994



Surface and underground sessions, lectures, practical demonstrations, stomp, bars, cave rescue game, hangovers and much, much more.  Watch out for more details or, better still, come along to the meetings on January 15th and April 16th to see how you or your club can help make this event a success.



The Boys of the Hill

By 'Snab'

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the hill.
Have a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There'll you meet the caving clubs,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
Cavers come from miles around,
On Saturday nights they'll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill.
The Shepton brood, the BEC,
The Wessex and the MCG,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
Why not stop and have a jar,
In that fine old flagstone bar,
There's plenty of barrels of Roger's good ale.
Why not try the Butcombe brew,
That's the stuff for me and you,
We'll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill.

In the back room you will find,
Music there of every kind,
New songs and old songs that they sing there still.
Some’s all right and some are good,
Some are downright crude and rude,
'Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill.

Bodhrans rattle~ singers sing,
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill.
Simon's on the melodeon,
Tony Jarratt's drunk again,
Aren't we all say the Boys on the Hill.

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the Hill.
Had a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There they met the caving clubs,
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill.



Sussex Underground.

By John King.

Back in May 1990 there appeared in the B.B. an article and survey by Andy Garrod concerning Broomers Hill sandstone mine at Pulborough.  Intrigued by the article, Charlie (McQue) and I paid a visit with Jo (Hills) to the site and spent a while just browsing around. Charlie asked me “Where does this go?"  Marked on the survey as 'Mr Badger's House' I said it would probably be wise not to find out. Curiosity, however, got the better of us and so a few days later we returned.  Armed with a diver's knife and a sharp stick for the badger, and a compass and a knotted string for the survey, we ventured through the crawl very warily, the first 100' was very small due to the whole mine being backfilled with earth, through a final squeeze and into more adits like those in the first part of the mine but again backfilled to about half depth.  No sign of badger but we did find a nest of sorts with daylight entering through a small hole nearby.  Piles of rusting 'artefacts', mainly cans and drums, had been dumped here some time ago.  Most areas are passable by grovelling.  Although the survey is very crude it does show the extent of mining to be much greater than previously thought.  Pacing out the length on the surface, we found what appeared to be a cess pit in a field.  This would be over the final adit area which is only 20' down.  Hope it holds out!!!

While in the area it was decided that a disused canal tunnel nearby would make an interesting diversion. Joined by Barry with the coordinates and other information we were soon searching farmland around Hardham.  A suspiciously double fenced depression in a field was obviously what we were looking for, so, over the fences into a morasse, overgrown and smelly.  The canal route had been filled in almost up to the tunnel entrance.  The thin veneer of water was supported by at least six feet of mud (couldn't find a longer stick!) just inside the brickwork tunnel. Several bricks fell out on being prodded, obviously not the most inspiring waterway in Sussex.  The footpath which followed the route on the surface headed due south and very soon crossed a railway bridge.  On close inspection a cavity on the trackside appeared to be right over the compass bearing. We estimated the time between trains to be sufficient for a recce.  On the trackside we lifted a capstone and descended a fixed ladder, back in the canal again.  Nearly blocked by mud in both directions it was obviously impassable by canoe. In the southern distance was a splash of green light.  Back on the footpath we wondered about the new compass bearing as the metal ladder and the railway line were competing for attention when it was taken. Abandoning the ‘wild’ bearing we headed southish and eventually found the exit, where the relative water level was lower and the water itself quite clean.  This was the point from which any water borne exploration would commence. There was a snag however; the child proof entrance grille had only a small chink in its armour.  The tunnel was also too narrow to turn a canoe in and paddling backwards for half a mile or so did not appeal, so the good old plastic dinghy would have to do.  Some days later the said appliance was smuggled into position.  One tries to avoid drawing attention to oneself, one being a conservative type like all cavers etc etc etc ... As I couldn't persuade anyone that it would be a delightful afternoons boating, I had to paddle, measure the distance and the depth so as not to rip out the bottom, take photographs, all this without aid was quite tricky but I slowly measured my way north to an area of unbelievable beauty.  Red, black, ochre and white curtains, erratics and a myriad of straws with the prize specimen in excess of four feet and almost touching the dinghy as I passed.  The measuring suddenly took a back paddle in favour of photographic frenzy.  A whole roll of film went by, not bad for a brick tunnel.  Considering the delicacy of the pretties added to the fact that I was surely trespassing I think that the location must be withheld but if anyone wants to take a look, at their own risk, then contact me for arrangements.

There are several 'shifts' in the walls but it all looks quite safe, the water is mainly shallow but the silt persists all the way.  It resembles quicksand with water on top and is very deep, so falling out of the dinghy would be serious.  Trains could be heard going past nearby, which is a bit alarming at first.  The water is very clear and as the pretties testify there is little air current and no flooding, not even a rise more than 2 or three feet.

John King



Access & Conservation Round the Regions


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Derbyshire access, please contact Derbyshire Caving Association’s Conservation & Access Officer direct::

Pete Mellors, Edingley, Newark, Notts


At present there is very serious pollution entering the mine in the region of Ihe old Knollow Engine Shaft and the mine level which connects this to the foot of the Crimbo Hollow (Fourways) Shaft. The water in the level is stinking, brown and carrying some solid matter. The pollution can even be smelt in the open air above the Fourways shaft. The water moving in from Waterfall Chamber carries the pollution from the foot of the Fourways Shaft, down-stream along the coffin level, past Rift Chamber and on down into the Crimbo Swallow. There is likely to be bad air in the region of the pollution and there may even be methane gas since the pollution appears to be organic.

You are strongly advised to avoid this area of Knotlow Mine for the present and, in particular, be wary of using carbide in this part of the mine since methane can form an explosive combination with air.

Derbyshire Caving Association is aware of the problem and is currently taking steps to trace the pollution and to get it stopped at source. Even when the source is found and stopped, the pollution is likely to take some time to clear so you should continue to be wary.


As with all pollution related to agricultural practices and faming, there is a danger of contracting Weil's Disease from the recent episodes in Derbyshire. This is a potentially fatal disease which can be caught from water contaminated by the urine of rats. Cavers should be careful to take precautions: cover all sores, cuts, grazes, etc. and try to wash in clean water as soon as possible after caving. Remember too that, even where pollution is not obviously apparent, there may still be danger, as in the Stoney Middleton caves.  Water in surface streams may also be contaminated.

Cavers planning to visit Youd's Level or Long Tor Grotto should note that both entrances are active soughs which pass below houses in Matlock Dale and rats have been seen in the area,.

NCA has issued a free leaflet giving information on this, including where to obtain medical advice quickly. To obtain a copy send 9” x 4” s.a.e. to DCA Secretary, Jenny Potts. Also is available is a credit card sized information card on Weil’s Disease to fit in your wallet, for this send S.A.E. plus a 20p stamp or bulk orders for clubs are 18p each for 10+ cards, incl. postage. (Cheques etc. payable to DCA.)


Between Welton Mill and Hum the National Trust are currently assessing the value of caves for their paleontological and archaeological deposits and their wildlife interest.     DCA's   Conservation   and  Access   Officer has been told by the Warden of the Trust's South Peak Estate that once these studies are completed, DCA will be invited to discuss with the Trust ways in which caver access and conservation needs can best be met.

Meanwhile cavers are asked not to dig in caves above river level without written permission. The Trust is prepared to prosecute anyone who ignores this request. Access to caves in the river bed remains unaffected, as does access to old mine workings. In some cases permission to enter these may have to be obtained where the Trust is not the owner - consult the DCA Handbook for details.


KNOTLOW SHAFT TOP: This has been "ailing" for some time and the bolts didn't fasten properly. Thanks to the Crewe C. P. C. the top has now been re-fettled and new bolts and nuts provided. You Call either collect the official spanner from the Bull in Monyash or provide your own large adjustable. Just make sure that all is fastened securely when you leave.

P8 LADDER: The fixed ladder which bypasses the 2nd. pitch in P8 has now been replaced. Many thanks to the group from Crewe C. P. C. who did the job. The old ladder snapped when it was taken down, but the pieces have now been removed and are in the possession of the Crewe cavers, so if anyone would like to re-claim them, contact Ralph Johnson 011 0782-xxxxxx.

WATERWAYS CAR PARK: The car park is now re-surfaced so there shouldn't be any problems with bogged down cars for quite some time. Special thanks to the three Darfar P. C. cavers who shifted and spread 16 tons of hardcore in a day!

RAVEN MINE: Some parts of the route through to the new extensions are extremely unstable but Ben Bentham has been doing stabilising work recently and has also rebuilt the shaft top.

You may like to note that the cost of materials for all these access projects is funded by DCA, however the hard work, as always is done by individual cavers from DCA member clubs.

THE DCA HANDBOOK is currently under preparation for publication in 1994.

For information on Derbyshire Caving Association, send S.A.E. to: Hon. Secretary, Jenny Potts, Ashbourne, Derbyshire


Conservation plans involving DCA. English Nature and the Limestone Research Group are to be produced in respect of two newly discovered sites in the region, namely the White River Series in Peak Cavern and the Upper Entrance Series of Lathkill Head Cave (or Lathkiller Pot). English Nature, which sees its role as facilitating this kind of initiative in the regions, will meet any costs incurred.

Conservation plans offer an opportunity to document more fully the scientific aspect of specific SSSI's. They enable the  risk to  sites  to be  assessed  and monitored.  Just as important, they involve cavers in helping to protect for the future a unique environment which they in particular value and enjoy, not least because of the time they spend in exploring and publicising that environment. In the initial stage, the plans will involve locating and documenting the nature and extent of scientific interest. Reliable surveys and a photographic record, if not already in existence, will need producing. While River Series is better off in this respect than Lathkill Head. It is also subject to more controlled access, being located in a remote and not easily accessible part of a large and extensive cave system. You can do a lengthy, exciting and eventful trip in Peak Cavern without going near White River Series, Lathkill Upper Entrance, on the other hand, makes an exciting through trip now possible via a single main passage, and is vulnerable for that reason. The amount of use this cave gets is not yet known. In contrast to Peak, there is no monitored access.

The main danger to regional conservation plans such as these proposed in Derbyshire is that of an uncoordinated approach, to ensure success, the various parties to the plans must work together throughout and carry the support of cavers with them. For their part, cavers must learn to adopt the higher profile in leading the effort to conserve the caves they rightly value.

Peter Mellors, Conservation & Access Officer, Derbyshire Caving Association.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Devon and Cornwall, please contact Devon and Cornwall Underground Council’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: A. Neil, Plymouth


There are erosion problems in Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Dog Hole. Both are SSSI’s and the damage has come to the notice of English Nature, who want a conservation plan drawn up as soon as possible.  DCUC are working with NCA to draw up a comprehensive plan. The worry is that if the cavers themselves do not do this, English nature are likely to impose one which may stop access to both caves.

For information on Devon and Cornwall Underground Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Mike Hunting, Lifton, Devon,



If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Southern access, please contact Council Of Southern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct:  Dave Morrison, Clutton


After recent heavy rain very strong diesel fumes were encountered in the section of cave immediately before Sump 1, so much so that one party aborted their trip because members felt sick.


The Mendip Access Handbook is in production, due out next year.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Steve Cottle, Clifton, Bristol.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Wales, please contact Cambrian Caving Council Conservation and Access Officer direct: Mrs E. Little, Abercrave, Swansea.


This are is extremely “sensitive” as regards access ar present with local residents up in arms about excessive use of the area by cavers, so please make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate current difficulties.  Welsh cavers are working hard to sort the problems and have been able to prove that many allegations are unfounded.

Part of the problem relates to fears of residents on the Hillside about threats to their water supplies from the activities of cavers.  Certainly they rely on springs but there is now hope that the Welsh Water may be able to provide a mains supply and even public flush toilets at the Daren Car Park.

Please don’t use the road up from LLangatock to reach the car park by Daren Cilau as there are severe traffic problems on this very narrow and steep road. Instead drive along the tramway from Brynmawr.

You MUST park in the Daren car park and not outside the Chelsea S.S. HQ but beware of thieves who are regularly raiding vehicles left by cavers in the car park and take suitable precautions.  Be warned that thieves have recently injured a dog left in a caver’s car and that a policeman in civvies on surveillance has been injured by attackers.


At the request of the Landwoner, access is restricted to weekends only, maximum number of 6 visitors, experienced cavers only.  For further details contact the trips organiser: Andrew Clark, Nr. Monmouth


Currently there is a complete ban on access to the mines in the Clearwell area of the Forest of Dean because of pollution.  The ban will remain in force until the pollution is eliminated.


The new handbook has just been published and is available direct from Cambrian Caving Council Secretary, Frank Baguley, for £1.00 + 50p post and packing. (Cheques payable to C.C.C.)

Also available from Frank is the CCC Journal, “Red Dragon” for £2.00 + £1.00 Post and Packing.

For information on Cambrian Caving Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Frank Baguley, Ystradgynlais, Swansea.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Northern access, please contact Council Of Northern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: Phil Parker, Leeds.


Recently a group of cavers ripped up turf to dam the stream running into Meregill Hole.  The area is an SSSI so this came to the attention of English Nature and the dam was removed.  The CNCC view is that during rescue situations it may be necessary to dam the stream and it would therefore be acceptable but, during general caving and with modern techniques it is unnecessary to dam the stream.


Please replace the gate over the entrance on departure – it is to prevent dead sheep and other rubbish entering the cave system.


There has been some digging on the Fell recently for which no permission has been sought or given. You are reminded that this area is an SSSI and permission is required for ANY  digging activity underground or on the surface.  Failure to observe this will further complicate an already delicate access situation.


You are reminded that this cave is particularly sensitive to damage from inexperienced cavers and CNCC do not recommend that this cave be attempted by novice cavers.


During busy periods (most days) cavers parking at the roadside by the farm have caused problems by making access to the farm track by agricultural vehicles impossible. Farmers are working 7 days a week! Please allow them adequate access to their property. Failure to park sensibly will lead to parking restrictions and ultimately access restrictions


Current edition on sale in caving shops.  Also available direct form CNCC Secretary, price £1.40 incl. post and packing.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Les Sykes, Lancs.


Book Reviews

by Nick Cornwell-Smith

KENT AND EAST SUSSEX UNDERGROUND (ISBN 0948193-581) price £5.95  128pp.

by Kent Underground Research Group published by Meresborough Books 1991

One that I picked up recently was "Kent and East Sussex Underground".  Any book about underground activities in the South East of England always attracts my attention as having lived in that area.

Being a South West club, the members of the BEC, seem to disbelieve that caves and underground passages exist East of Watford Gap, unless they are on the mainland of Europe.  But it should be noted that there are many old and new underground excavations in the South East, witness the latest find by a combined French and British team of diggers.  A superb, classic phreatic shaped passage extending from the chalk of Shakespeare Cliff to France.

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been producing publications on underground sites in their area.  Some of CSS are also members of the Kent Underground Research Group and explore many of these passages.  This book is not a guide book on the lines of the Dalesman publications but, mainly a brief narrative history about the various types of underground passages and caverns that can be found in Kent and East Sussex.

The book starts of with a series of chapters about the various mines that are found in the area. Yes, that was right I did say mines. Most of them are old mines used to get at various types of rock and material such as Fullers Earth, sand and sandstone before the advent of easier transport from cheaper sources.  Gypsum is still mined in a vast complex with underground tunnels capable of taking land rovers and was first mined over 100 hundred years ago.  Small deposits of Purbeck and Ragstone Limestone were also mined from early Roman days.  Some of the limestone was used to construct St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Coal has also been a mining activity in the Kent Coalfields since 1886, and still continues, but for how long?  The miners in the Kent Coalfield mainly from the Midlands. At one time there were between 8 and 10 collieries producing coal in various quantities, but it never really challenged the coalfields of Yorkshire and South Wales.

The most common type of underground mine or quarry was the denehole used for excavating chalk to spread on agricultural land.  These were often dug at the sides of fields for individual farmers.  Chalk was also removed to produce cement, and one of the more famous in the area has been used for this purpose, namely Chislehurst Caves.  This cave was also used during the Second World War as an air raid shelter.  There is a short chapter on military uses of underground passages.  These include forts at Dover and on the River Medway.

The last chapters cover other uses such as water supply, and storage, ice houses, sewers and cess-pits and finally natural caves.  There are a number of caves that have come to light particularly along the sea cliffs. Some are just sea caves caused by the action of the tide, but others are genuine fossil phreatic caves.

This book gives an interesting insight into underground passages in an area of the country that many BEC members just travel through on 'the way to the ferry to France.  A potted History of the various activities is given and in some cases details of the sites, with maps and surveys are included.  Access details are also given in some instances.

If you are interested in other geographical areas, then it is a good read.

CAVES AND TUNNELS IN SOUTH EAST ENGLAND Part 10 (ISSN 0309-409X) price £3.50 74pp.

by Chelsea Speleological Society published by CSS 1992

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been publishing the Records of CSS.  Apart from the first two volumes, they have concentrated on the various caves, mines, deneholes, tunnels and other underground features which they find or research in the South East of England.  This latest volume, number twenty, is no exception to the usual mixture of natural and man-made cavities delved into by the CSS either in person or researched via books and articles.

This years selection of caves include the Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe.  These now public caves were dug as a folly by Sir Francis Dashwood.  They were used as a meeting place for the Hellfire Club, where various "forms of vice and perversion" took place, including "less reputable women procured from London, dressed as nuns." Alas, these activities have now ceased.

Nearby, in High Wycombe, is a bunker, used by the Ministry of Defence during the Gulf War.  Needless to say the CSS have not had a guided tour, but gleaned the information from the London Standard of January 1991.  Other military cavities included are the various types of RADAR bunkers and control centres used during the Second World War and beyond.  Plans are included of some of these and details of their current status where known.  Also mentioned are the tunnels bored by the Royal Engineers in 1916 to test out tunnel boring machines for use in the trenches of the Western Front.

A further interesting man-made structure detailed is the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway.  It is described in many books and newspaper accounts, but the actual site has been lost since the great fire in 1936.

Mines such as the Mote Park Ragstone Mines, Bassingbourne Coprolite Mine and Chadwell Chalk Mines are described, with a plan in the case of the former.

The only natural cave given a review is Seaford Head Cave, in East Sussex.  This fossil phreatic passage has been exposed in the chalk cliffs at the mouth of the River Cuckmere, but is blocked a short way in by a choke.

This gives a hint of the type of underground cavity which is included in this, and other volumes of the CSS Records.  I personally find the series of publications interesting as they give an indication of the underground environment in the South East, an area not noted for its natural caves, and what lengths cavers in the area go to, to get their "underground thrills", and I am not just talking about the Hellfire Club.


St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC September 1993

Chris Batstone
Ian Caldwell
Chris Castle
Andy Cave
John Dukes
Pete Glanville
Martin Grass
Chris Harvey
Pete Hellier
Jeremy Henley
Dudley Herbert
Ted Humphreys
Dave Irwin
Kangy King
Joc Large
Tim Large
Mike McDonald
Stuart McManus
Mike Palmer
Brian Prewer
Estelle Sandford
Chris Smart
Andy Sparrow
Nigel Taylor
Dave Turner
Greg Villis
Mike Wilson
Brian Workman

If people want leaders for trips down Cuthbert’s they can do it through me or contact one of the above leaders directly.    Jeff Price – Caving Sec

St.  Cuthbert’s Guest Leaders

Ric Halliwell  (CPC)
Graham Price  (CSS)
John Beauchamp  (MCG)
Malcolm Cotter  (MCG)
Tony Knibbs  (MCG)
Miles Barrington  (MEG)
Alan Butcher  (SMCC)
Mark Sims  (SMCC)
Tony Boycott  (UBSS)
Ray Mansfield  (UBSS)
Alison Moody  (WCC)



I have received the following letters from Jeni Galligan, the “Victim” in a recent Mendip rescue. The first was sent to Tony at Bat Products, the second to the Editor.

3rd November

Dear Mr. Jarret

I would be most grateful if you would display this letter of gratitude in a prominent position in your shop to enable fellow cavers to read it.  Many thanks.

On the 23rd October 1993, I found myself in a bit of a sticky predicament.  Whilst exploring G.B., I was unfortunate enough to break my leg in four places at the 40ft pitch.

With the combined efforts and a great courage of several caving clubs, these men and women saved my life, and to them I am eternally grateful.  Although it is impossible for me to thank everyone individually, I shall be writing to each caving club and ambulance crew that was involved in the rescue.

I must express my warmest regards to Vince Simmonds who brought me back to the land of the living, had it not been for Vince and his quick actions, I might not have lived to tell the tale.  Vince, a great big thank you!

I came out of hospital on the 1st November, and thanks to all you rescuers.  I am now on the mend and look forward to resuming my caving activities as soon as I am able, and also look forward to meeting you all again under better circumstances.  Once again a great big thank you.

            Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan.



B. B. Editor, C/O Brian Prewer.

To the Editor,

On Saturday, 23rd October whilst caving in G.B., I had an accident.  I sustained four fractures to my right leg.  It took 60-70 men and women five hours of sheer guts and determination to get me out.  I would be most grateful if you would publish this letter to express my sincere gratitude to all concerned.  They are as follows:

My team:

Paul Curtis, Damien Walker & Lynne Niland
Vince Simmons, who administered artificial resuscitation.
M.R.O., M.C.G., W.C.C., B.E.C.
Imperial College Caving club, London.
Roger Tomlinson, Paramedic.
And to anyone else who kindly assisted.

Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan


The 1989 Romania Trip - Better Late Than Never

On Friday 8th August Tony Boycott, Richard Stephens, Mark Lumley, Tony Jarratt, Rich Payne, Nick Sprang and Brian Van Luipen flew to Vienna to board the Orient Express to Budapest, Hungary.  Memories of the journey are blurred by the vast amounts of booze consumed but struggling with great heaps of luggage and nearly losing Loopy featured heavily.

The journey on the train from Budapest to Arad, Romania was even mere drunken with a hint of excitement provided by the writer staggering off the (luckily stepped)  train in the middle of nowhere for a piss and nearly getting left behind, passportless.  His last memory was of hanging on to the accelerating train with one hand, clutching his still functioning member with the ether and being shouted at in Hungarian by amazed locals as he was whisked off' into the night.

At 5.30am on Saturday we arrived at Arad and spent some hours wandering around the gloomy, depressing square in front of the station.  The grey skies and greyer buildings and the overall sense of communist oppression were not encouraging.  Armed soldiers and police patrolled the station and streets and the lack of goods in the few shop windows added to the stark reality of life in Romania at this time - only a few weeks before the Revolution and deposing of Ceasescu.

Eventually one of our contacts appeared - Liana, a female member of the Aragonite Club, could speak good English and told us that her friend Pelo was on his way.  Suddenly, at the far side of the new packed square, a huge rucksack could be seen bashing its way through the crowd.  Beneath it the small but perfectly formed Pelo; bespectacled, bearded, hairy and ragged, stomped purposefully towards us.  His English was non-existent but he typified the Caver worldwide and there were few communication problems.

We left Arad on a local train and after some 50kms of flat, boring farmland reached the village of Helod.  A walk along the track took us to a pub with grim draught beer dispensed through a hose like petrol.  After an enforced 6½ hour wait we got a train to Sudrijo from where we bribed a bloke driving a contractor's tractor and trailer to take us 36km up into the attractive limestone Apuseni Mountains near the village of Padis.  The fare worked out at about £1.50 and two packets of fags - no wonder the driver was a miserable sod.  Mind you, with all the other illicit passengers he crammed in he should have been a rich man.

It was 9.30 pm by now. Pitch black, isolated, 1150m up in the middle of Transylvania and we'd forgotten the bloody garlic!  A 25 minute walk with our mountain of kit, get us to our lonely campsite where a brew and food preceded much needed sleep.

The following morning we awoke to find ourselves in a superb, wooded alpine valley Valea Cetatilor, near Grajduri.  While we got organized and acclimatised our resident nutter, Pelo, set off on a 50km walk to try and get some carbide.  He reappeared that night with no carbide and a bottle of Vodka.  His heart was in the right place.

20/8/89 Pestera Neagra ( Black Cave) was reached by a long walk through the pine forest.  Several large entrances led to a pitch.  Dressed only in shorts and T-shirts and with no tackle we could not descend so we carried on a few hundred metres to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa (Barsa Ice Cave) accompanied by six Romanian youths carrying torches and a hand held carbide gobbler.  We followed the lads in, using their rope as a hand line on the ice slope at the entrance. Beyond lay several hundred feet of roomy but impressive passage and a traverse to the head of a short pitch with a streamway below.  No ice formations were seen and only a few calcite decorations noted in this well used cave.  Another entrance led us back to daylight and the long walk back to co camp - picking wild strawberries and puff balls as we wen.  These became hors d'oeuvr to a meal of "goulash curry" washed down with Voika, Whisky, Gin and Appeal orange drink!  That night an impressive lightning display preceded heavy rain.

21/8/89 Up early to the sound of sheep bells.  Frankfurters, bread, peppers and tomatoes made an interesting breakfast before another long walk to a series of potholes in the forest.  The entrances of Avenul Gemanata and Avenul Pionier were examined in the company of a horde of Romanian ramblers before we reached our goal Avenul Negra (Black Pot).  This vast open shaft has a fine rock bridge spanning it a few feet down.  We rigged an almost clear free hang of 240 feet on to a huge sloping pile of jammed "logs" - actually trees up to 50ft long.  A delicate traverse between and over these, and a 50ft sloping abseil down an ancient fir tree trunk led to a large stream passage.  Downstream went for several hundred feet to a sump with the names of several Polish clubs written in carbide smoke above it.  A side passage led to a three way junction where two streams entered.  These inlets were followed for several hundred feet to where they both ended in avens. Some of this was very spectacular, beautifully eroded streamway.

A mad rush was made from the pot due to impending lightning strikes and on the walk back we looked at Pestera Caput - later followed for some two hundred feet to a traverse/pitch.

The gourmet evening meal consisted of macaroni cheese, sardines and Angel Delight.

22/8/89   An hours walk brought us to Pestera Focul Viu ( Living Fire Cave _ not Fuckall View Cave!).  A steep ice slope led down through a roomy passage into a large ice-floored chamber partly open to the surface.  A couple of fine 20ft high ice columns are supposedly very impressive when the sun shines directly onto them through the entrance - hence the name of the cave.  A short ice climb with fixed log aids led to another chamber full of ice.  Various side passages were looked at.

Back on the march again down into a deep wooded valley with an enormous entrance at the bottom - Cetatile Ponorului (Citadel Sink).  This was 300ft high by 100ft wide, took a large stream and had fixed but rotten wooden ladders giving access to a massive river passage and another huge entrance.

This was followed for some 600ft, past three more entrances to a series of entertaining fixed aid traverses made from logs, wire and string.  After some 2/3 mile from the main entrance we were stopped by a deep lake. This passage sumps a few hundred feet further in.  A large side passage with an impressive false floor was looked at on the way back.

A tremendous cave and well worth visiting - only marred by our embarrassment at being in the same company as hordes of shorts-clad, torch carrying tourists while we were fully kitted up!

Austrian soup, corned beef hash, Angel Delight and Whisky finished off a great day.

23/8/89 We walked ever the hills to Padis which consisted of a few huts and the singularly unattractive Cabana Padis pub.  Rumanian beer being unbelievably foul we were forced to resort to Vodka banana liqueur, red wine etc. to accompany the local delicacy of scrawny dead sheep soup.  It being the Rumanian equivalent of Priddy Fair Day we get absolutely shit-faced and only by a miracle made it back through the forest in dribs and drabs at various times through the night.  Cut, bruised, battered, lost and with rucksacks full of smashed wine bottles we had had another good day.  No gourmet meal that night!

24/8/89   Only three of us were capable of investigating a nearby 20ft deep pot which dropped into a large cave with the sound of a streamway below a second pitch.  Not knowing its true name it was christened Avenul Mahmur (Hangover Pot).  This slope and 15ft pitch was later descended and the streamway reached.   Upstream a cold duck led to a sump after 200ft and downstream a wet 30ft pitch dropped into another sump.  A nice little system conveniently located near the camp.

25/8/89   We returned to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa where a 20ft pitch was descended and a winding streamway followed for some 200ft to a 15ft pitch.  Then several hundred feet of attractive streamway, interspersed with technical climbs and a 30ft deep free-climbable pitch was visited.  A deep sump pool soon barred the way.

The adjacent Pestera Zapedia was next explored.  A large, square entrance in a deep log filled doline led to a steep ice slope and 30ft ice pitch.  From here a long, awkward and meandering passage full of climbs, crawls and squeezes debouched into a massive gallery boring off into the distance - rather like parts of the Gouffre Berger.  As it was getting late we fought our way back out of this fine, sporting cave intending to return another day.  This was not to be due to atrocious weather - a great shame as we later found out that this system is some 20km long!!

26/8/89   Festered and dug in local dolines - to no avail.

27/8/89   Avenul Mahmur was revisited in the hope of finding new stuff but without diving gear it was hopeless.  A promising surface dig was also started but bad weather later thwarted us here.

28/8/89   A very long walk over the ridge into the valley of Girda Seaca took us to Pestera Ceiba Mare near where the river Girdisoara sinks.  A 180ft wide by 100ft high entrance, the largest in the country, split into several passages.  The first looked at turned out to be a unique slimy, moonmilk covered ramp which was climbed for ever 100ft until it became too exposed for safe progress.

Another passage led through a crawl to the main way on - a lengthy stream passage and large chamber where the river entered.  Several hundred feet of beautiful phreatic river passage ended in a wide, deep and log filled sump pool.  A series of high level phreatic tubes terminated high above the floor of the entrance chamber.

29/8/89    Torrential rain threatened to wash the camp away.  A Romanian sheep milk cheese suffered this fate but was unfortunately rescued by Pelo.

30/8/89    Thick mist failed to conceal the Bad News:- mice had eaten the Angel Delight.  This was offset by the Good News that the shepherds' monstrous dogs had devoured the sheep milk cheese.  We had had enough so packed up the camp - giving much of our gear to the shepherds - and headed off for (relative) civilization.  A desperate 15 mile, 6 hour walk got us to Pietrosa where we caught a very tatty bus to Beius - the most publess town in Europe.  There followed an exhausting train journey to Oradea and eventually Arad.

We travelled back via Budapest and a few days R & R in Vienna where we ate, boozed and festered to excess. We even got underground in the Seegrette at Hinterbruhl - a tourist gypsum mine where Heinkel 162 jet fighters were made during the 2nd World War (which we mentioned quite a lot).  The lower levels of this working are flooded and it is advertised as the "largest underground lake in Europe.”  Even more inspiring was the nearby pub with 100 different beers.

So ended a particularly interesting but thoroughly exhausting caving holiday.  The caves visited were excellent but would have been more so if we had had more surveys and information.  The oppressive dictatorship at that time, lack of food, poverty and overbearing attitude of the police made us glad to get out back to the West and the fleshpots of Vienna seemed on another planet.  Only two weeks after we left came the Revolution and hopefully change for the better.  I can think of one fat police officer in Oradea railway station who almost certainly get put against the wall - and rightly so.

Our very grateful thanks to Florica, Liana and Polo for all the time and effort they put in for us. Florica lives in London but the others are presumably still in Romania and hopefully alive and well.

 (Compiled only four years late from log books written at the time. Some surveys and information can be borrowed from Tony Boycott).

Tony Jarratt     10/12/93


Odds & Sods ...

There is a trailer at The Belfry, and it's been there for some time.  If anyone wants it they can speak to J-Rat and make him an offer, or whatever.  Any money would go to the club.  Any takers... ?


LES DAVIS, the new Mendip Warden and the Burrington Commoners have put forward two proposals for the Burrington Area as follows .....

1)       To close the Goatchurch car-park.  This has recently been used for tipping/dumping and most cars parked there these days end up being broken into, I know several club members can attest to this fact.  The suggestion is to put up a soil barrier, 'one vehicle' back from the road, whilst leaving possible Landrover access for rescue purposes etc...

2)       Fox's Hole.  Due to problems there, involving amongst other things the disposing of hypodermic needles, it is suggested that the site be gated.  Access would be given to cavers on some sort of key basis.  It is also noted that the site is used by bats for roosting ... so maybe a gate wouldn't do them any harm either.

If there are no objections to these proposals/suggestions it is likely that they will go forward in the New Year.  Comments and feedback is welcomed and may be addressed to Les Davis at the Mendip Wardens Service, Charterhouse Centre, Charterhouse, Somerset.


LOCKERS at The Belfry are now numbered.  If you are currently using a locker can you indicate which one is yours to the Hut Warden. If you wish to continue using it next year there will be a £2.00 p.a. reservation fee.  Any lockers not claimed and paid for by 31.1.94 will be forced open and emptied and given to someone else who wants one.  If you don't have one and would like one, see the Hut Warden.


Access to Keys: The lock on the key cupboard (for guest keys) has been changed.  The following people have access to the cupboard for issuing keys and permits to visitors:

Martin Grass, Blitz, Estelle, Jingles, Jeff Price, Nigel Taylor, Mr Wilson (Snr.), Tim Large, Brian Prewer, Ted Humphreys, Jake.

If anyone else feels that they should have, or needs, a key please contact the committee.


EIGHT Ladders have gone missing/are unaccounted for.  They should be in the tackle store and are not!!  If anyone has a ladder or knows of the whereabouts of one or more of these, please contact Mike Wilson.  Please remember to log tackle out of the store in the book provided.  The tackle is the property of the club and therefore available to all for use.



"MEGA BASH at The Old Hill Inn, Chapel Ie Dale, Yorkshire. 19 & 20.3 94!!!

Martin Grass has arranged with John & Sue Riley to have a weekend bash at The Old Hill Inn, like we had when they opened, it would be a weekend of walking, caving, diving & climbing, not to mention the usual barroom activities (Ballet dancing, Whist drives etc.)

I am informed that the Saturday night will be a singsong & P*ss up!!! (no one interested in that I'm sure). John & Sue are holding all bedrooms on a first come first served basis, so members should book through them on 05242 - xxxxx.  (Sounds bloody good to me. - Ed)

Watch this space for any further details.


I am informed by Chris Falshaw that not only do the B.E.C. GET EVERYWHERE!!! .........

They also DO EVERYTHING!! - i.e. Richard Roberts. (See St. Cuthbert’s Report p.17 & reference p.76) A member in the early '60s has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine.

When Chris told Alfie he said" Ah, the Wessex haven't got one of them!"  Kangy asked Chris what he had got it for and was told "Gene (Jean) Splitting". "Well" said Kangy "He could have split them down St Cuthbert’s!!"

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover:               Left:  Barrow rake and ‘that’ Vacuum cleaner.
                        Right:  A Dutchman in Wire Rift St. Cuthbert’s
                        Bottom:  Treebs and pal at Gour Hall St. Cuthbert’s


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


New Years Eve.

For the benefit of those who either weren't there or were there but can't quite remember what happened (though Lord knows why that should be!) what follows is a brief report on the festivities that were perpetrated at The Hunter's Lodge and The Belfry on the night of 31.12.93 - 1.1.94.  My informant wishes to remain anonymous as he does not wish to be sued or beaten up as a result of this article, though the editor may be persuaded to divulge his identity at agreeable price.

By ten o’clock the Hunter's was in full swing, all bars were open and pretty full, 'speleology corner' in the main bar had become a fairly non negotiable people ruckle and great fun was had 'groping' my way through it.  Most people, it seems, were in fairly high spirits by this time, indeed there was not a great deal of 'ebriation' to be seen at all!

The majority of BEC members had congregated in the back bar, the list of names and faces being far too long to detail here save to say all the regulars and then some were there, even some Dutch cavers who had stayed at the Belfry over Christmas had come back from Wales in order to share in the fun.

About ten thirty sounds of harmonious singing could be heard emanating from a corner of the bar; the 'Belfry Boys' were at it and before very long this developed into a full fledged sing song with all and sundry joining in.  Cries of 'They Words' filled the air 'twixt ditties and at one point the lights were turned off, presumably as a request from the Landlord to keep singing' they words’.  The highlight for me being a particularly sweet and harmonious rendition of 'The Exploration Club' I haven't heard it sung so well by so many for a long time. Much Ale and snuff were consumed amid the sounds of singing swearing and raucous laughter, and then suddenly it was time.  A disorderly exit from the pub preceded a totally uncoordinated 'Auld Lang Syne' (I swear there were at least three different versions going on at once) which was followed by that good old New Year tradition the 'Snogathon'!!!  It would seem that any fears of intimately communicated virii went out the window as most people got down to it in true style. (I went round twice and suspect I was not alone in this.)

Then it was back inside for the freebee beer and more carousing.  During this time a whip round for a barrel was organised and quite a lot of money was raised, funny that, people wanting a barrel tonight of all nights?!?!?

The festivities continued till about one o’clock when in time honoured fashion they were transferred to the Belfry.  (Presumably to give Roger and Jackie a chance to put the pub back together.)

The assembled crew became more and more impatient as for minute after minute the beer did not materialise, soon there was an angry baying mob awaiting the arrival of 'the Trevor'.  Had he not shown up when he did we would not have been able to stop the lynch mob that was being formed for his benefit, but to his credit he arrived and amid cheers and cries of ecstasy the barrel was installed in its rightful place.

The effect of this was stunning,  I have not seen a fifty person beer serum in some time and I can assure you it was a sight to behold.  From this point on things degenerated quite well, people no longer walking and talking so much as wobbling and slurring, lots and lots of kissing, groping and ****ing were going on.  (I can't help but wonder if there were a few red faces on Jan 1st).

By about three o’clock your reporter decided to retire as it was getting close to the time when people start hitting each other for no apparent reason.

Someone was having a good time singing the Novice Rap in the snake pit (see lyrics in this ish .... ed) as there were definitely sounds of rhythmic grunting and gasping emanating from the tents therein.

(Photo below ..... Estelle carves the turkey on Xmas day)


‘Nuff sed.  I think a splendid time was had by almost everyone, I know I enjoyed myself and al though I’m not going to mention names here I’ve got some great blackmail material for certain individuals .....

For example a certain member had an interesting way of losing his voice in that it appears to have become attached to a certain other members tonsils during the course of the festivities, names may be revealed at a future date unless money changes hands pretty quickly!!!

Apparently Babs left her camera at the Belfry and some very interesting photographs were taken in the small hours, unfortunately Rich Blake was so keen to see them that he opened the back of the camera before anyone could stop him, so it remains to be seen what photographic evidence still exists.

see you all soon .......



White Pit

Minutes of a meeting held between the Bristol Exploration Club and the Wessex Cave Club at the Hunters Lodge Inn January 2nd 1994.

Martin Grass read out a letter from the WCC to the BEC which suggested the need for a meeting with reference to formulating a management/access plan for White Pit.  He then called for suggestions for a Chairman. Pete Hann suggested Martin Grass and this was accepted with no further nominations.  It was accepted that this meeting should only deal with White Pit. Apologies have been received from Phil Romford.

Tuska outlined the history of the site.  He had been informed that Cuckoo Cleeves was for sale and made contact with Mr Masters. This was a most convivial meeting and permission was given to dig 18 Acre field and White Pit on the understanding that if anything was found there would be a need for preservation/access agreements.   A meeting had taken place with Mr. Masters at end of 1992 following discoveries in White Pit but no plan had been formulated.  Some confusion re fencing the site, dry stone walling, a stile, planting trees and spoil removal had arisen with a lack of communication between different groups of diggers.

There then followed some considerable discussion as to Tuska’ suggestions of an annual photographic record, liaison officers, digging records and access arrangements.  Blitz and Phil Hendy said it was essential that all agreements were kept as simple as possible.  Martin Grass suggested that essentiality we require one Liaison Officer and an annual meeting.  It was suggested that Tuska be the Liaison Officer on the understanding that this was only in respect of White Pit with the BEC and WCC, i.e. not a CSCC hat.  Tuska accepted this and said that in early 1994 he hoped all the Major Mendip clubs should have a Conservation and Access Officer and in future this might be dealt with by the BEC and WCC + A representatives.

The following was then agreed:

ACCESS:  The cave will be kept gated.  No Novices.  Party size to be a maximum of four plus leader/guide.  This person will have prior knowledge of the cave and appreciate the no go areas.

ACCESS CONTROLS:  The leadership/key situation was discussed and it was thought that currently Tony Jarratt has 2, Mark Helmore 1, Tuska 1 and Phil Romford 1.  J-Rat said that the MRO will need a key.  After discussion it was agreed that the WCC and the BEC would keep two keys each on Mendip, the BEC keys would be held by Tony Jarratt and Tim Large.  The WCC will inform both Tuska and the BEC of the key holders.

TAPPING:  Done.                                   ROUTES:  Obvious.

DIGGING/EXPLOSIVES: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.

CARBIDE:  No carbide to be used.

NOTICES:  One already in place.  J-Rat to talk to Brian Prewer about an MRO entrance sign.

PUBLICATIONS:  No restrictions on publications.

CLEANING ARRANGEMENTS: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.  Cleaning trips can be advertised in the BB and WCC Journal.

FIXED AIDS:  Currently rigged (Thanks to Bat Products). Entrance ladder to be removed.

PRESERVATION/MONITORING: Pete Hann will initially photograph the cave keeping a record of all photographic details.  At each annual meeting it will be decided whether or not this need repeating.  In any case it will be repeated at least every four years.

COMMERCIAL CAVING:  No Commercial trips to be permitted

Chris Smart        January 2nd 1994


Review of the Swiss Cave Congress (1991)

By C.J. Lloyd.

 (I know this is well out of date but felt it to be of interest nonetheless ......... Jingles)

In September 1991, Snablet & I attended the 9th Swiss Speleo Congress in Charmey, Fribourg Caton. It was a two day affair of lectures/presentations, slides, movies, gear and book sales and of course drinking and socialising, with two days of caving excursions both before and after for those who could attend.  The whole thing was put on by a small but energetic team from the local caving group - one of 39 clubs in the country.  Accommodation of all types was available with us chappies sandwiched into the camping area.  (A typical European camp site of postage stamp sized piece of 'grass', wall to wall with tents!!)  Some were even cheaper. .. dossing in their cars in the car park.  It was nice to see that some things can be free in Switzerland and one of those taking advantage of that was the 76 year old former president of the Swiss National Caving Association.

We arrived a day early after a few more than the standard number of wrong turns - actually they were the right turns, just the wrong town in the wrong Caton - but we were in the right spot for the first day of caving, which actually left the parking lot on time at the un-caver like hour of 08.00.  This part of Switzerland is not blessed with roadside caves so we had to walk up to the alpine hut below the cave, arriving at 11 ish in time for lunch.  This was a fully served soup and bread affair with wine (this being the French part of Switzerland) and coffee in bowls.  Suitably stuffed everyone moved a little further up the meadow to the caver's barn where we changed into our kit.  The cave was a short hike up the talus with its entrances spread out over 150m of almost vertical cliff.

Our group got to do a multi-entrance through trip in Reseau de les Morteys which started with a rope climb up the outside of the cliff to an entrance discovered only a few weeks previously.  A short way inside, a rope dangling onto a big cone of snow led up a 100m pitch to daylight, which was now solidly in the clouds.

An exposed traverse took us across to another entrance which immediately took us down a series of nice 10 - 30m pitches in tight belling meanders.  Then there was tight stuff in which some people had to take off their vertical gear to get through, and another spot where you wished you could but needed it to clip into a very awkward pitch head.  Quite a sporting cave which of course had to finish with 100m of frogging to get out.  The whole of the group wasn't out until 10.00, which was not a problem as most of them were planning on sleeping in the hut - which we must've missed hearing about. .. not speaking French.  So we had to tromp back to the car and bivvy in the car park.

At least we saved ourselves the drive for the next day and provided some amusement for the new arrivals, who discovered two soggy, wet body bags when they tried to park their cars in our spots.  Knowing the schedule we didn't rush up the hill, but did arrive in good time to hook up with a group going into the same cave again.  At 8.6Km and 300m deep and going, with multiple entrances, numerous trip combinations were possible.  I took an easy option and went in to see the Grand Salon, a room 60 x 60 x 50m high, which they had had to dig through a sand sump to find. I really kicked myself this time for my lack of French as it made communicating with my tall blonde beautiful guide quite difficult!

The next two days were busy running back and forth trying to catch all the interesting talks and slide shows.  They had the whole array of presentations and papers on Karst geology, hydrology, biology area reviews and new exploration.  If they didn't have slides or overheads I didn't stick around too long listening to languages I didn't know.  But I still saw lots of interesting presentations, spanning literally the whole globe .... the Swiss sure get around!  The main feature films and multi-track slide shows were excellent with the film of the French diver with five back mounted tanks and three on the front, and the Lechiguilia show being particularly memorable.  (The Swiss photographers were there as well, pushing their Lechiguilia book - which is excellent).  There was of course the customary banquet and drinking sessions where you could meet cavers from a dozen different countries including Russia and Romania.  French was the host language but most of the non French or Swiss communicated in English. I was approached by a German on behalf of an Austrian who wanted information from the British on caves they had explored in Austria.  Almost too much to take in two days.  And if you still had money there was a good selection of gear to buy including a bunch of titanium gizmos the Russians had brought and more books on caving than I ever imagined existed.

One of the competitions they had was for the best produced map, which was won by a Swiss caver (and congress organizer) and depicted their latest and 1100m deep find in Mexico.  It was superbly done with artistic details added to give a 3-D aspect to the big pitches and open spaces as well as big blocks on the floor.  Simple things really, but adding greatly to your visualisation of the cave.  They also had a mini -congress on mapping which included practical sessions underground, on paper and on computer.  It looked like they have a pretty whizz bang software package for mapping and plotting incorporating colour aerial photos, 3-D surface topography and map plots at any scale or rotation.

The following two days featured more caving trips for those who could attend.  We signed up for the longest, hardest rated trip which was limited to six people.  It was back in the same cave and very similar to the first day's excursion, but we finished the longer trip in less than half the projected 12 hours due to a competent party.  Mind you it was telling who was used to walking passage caving and those of us used to much squeezing and vertical work.

A word of special mention and thanks is due to the organizers who along with sorting out the weekend presentations, also had to rig this and the other caves for us to do our sporting tourist trips.

The last day we finally went to a different valley and hiked up to a new cave, Cournielles Cave.  This one was mainly vertical and we were quickly down to almost -200m.  The trip was punctuated by a series of OKs, as that was the only way all the nationalities knew that the rope was free. Afterwards Pierre regaled us with tales of 200 and 300m deep pushing trips that had produced his award winning map.  And of course before we all parted company we stopped in at the local cafe for a last beer together.  Again I was amazed at how small the world caving community is becoming when I found out that here in a cafe in Switzerland were sitting people from three different countries who had all been fortunate in visiting the hard to access Lechiguilia cave, which is in yet a fourth country.

A very worth while and enjoyable long weekend.


The Novice Rap.

Sally Humphreys.

If you're going down a pot-hole -
Then you'd better take care,
If you haven't been before, oh,
Then you'd better beware,
There'll be trouble in the tunnel,
There'll be stress under the ground,
If you miss your hand or foot holds,
You'll go down without a sound,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.

(sounds of rhythmic gasping!)

Don't you moan or gasp or stagger,
'Cos you know the rest'll grin,
Don't you grasp that shabby stal flow,
'Cos you know that it’s a sin,
And you're sliding down a rock face,
With your battery round your neck,
And there's nothing gonna save you,
As you scream 'oh bloody heck' ,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.
(sound of rhythmic gasping, crashes and swearing.)

So you're sitting at the bottom
Of a great big sodding hole,
With a bruise upon your tailbone
And a blight upon your soul,
And you think 'what am i doing -
Down this dismal pit of fear?',
But we recognise the symptoms,
You'll be back within the year,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.


Nobel Corner

It was with interest and appreciation that I read, in the Christmas issue of the Belfry Bulletin, of the achievement of Richard Roberts in winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. I know from my own work experience how important it is for sufferers of a complaint that brings people together to share their experiences and for which a journal is published regularly (keep it up Ed) to read of the success that people make of their lives outside coping with the condition that afflicts them.

I have been a member of the Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC) for getting on for fifteen years and this is the first report I have read of a person's general success.  In the past Editors have only published articles on how members have coped with the condition from which they suffer.

For example we have had information on how to overcome the trauma of discovering a cave system unknown to the natives of a remote province of Mexico only to find that within 500 ft of the entrance there is a 25ft overhang for which no ladder has been brought - poor imagination.  Likewise there have been reports on coping with the humiliation suffered when unable to find the entrance to the cave currently being explored on an Austrian mountain after a night in a mountain hut during which just a little too much recreational drug has been consumed, even though the entrance is in sight of the hut.

I could go on endlessly - the sump reached without diving gear; the 300ft pitch reached with 500ft of rope but no bolting kit - even how to cope with the agony of living with having discovered fifteen kilometres of cave passage under the Llangattock escarpment after years of digging, camping and adulation.  Every issue of the Bulletin has been filled from cover to cover with these articles on how it is to live with the condition of caving.

I could like to congratulate the new Editor, young John, on the change of editorial emphasis to the successes people have made of their lives.  After the clutch of Nobel prizes that I am sure he could find amongst past and present members could we have articles on some of the other successes of the members of the charity (BEC) such as:

"How I lived on the dole for ten years whilst holding down steady employment"  "How I lost a fortune in property development and recovered it by returning to what I was doing before"  "How I made a million from privatised Water Company inefficiency"  "How I retired early with a full company pension and was then employed as a consultant earning more than I had ever done when on the books"  "How I held down a well paid job for twenty years without the qualifications for doing so"  These and many more success stories would show the members of the charity (BEC) that they need not spend the whole of their lives worrying about the condition with which they are afflicted, namely caving, but that when they overcome the stigma, social discrimination and physical disability associated with caving, such as inebriation and sore knees they can make something of their lives.

I am sure that regular articles in the Nobel Corner would do more for our members' self esteem than issues full of stories about the condition from which we suffer.  Well done again Editor.


Publicity and Promotions Manager
Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC)

A charity promoting the cause of cavers and caving

As a result of the Nobel prize-winning BEC member some doubt has been expressed as to the stories authenticity ..... You cynical people.

Turn this page and doubt no more.

Thanks to Angus Innes for providing the info ....... Jx



Sharp (left) and Roberts realised genes included “junk” DNA

THE DISCOVERY of the highly unusual structure of genes in higher organisms has brought a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to two British and American rivals.  The impact of the discovery, made a decade and half ago, has been enormous: it helped to fuel a revolution in cell biology, both at the fundamental level of understanding the basic molecular machinery of cells and in certain areas of medicine, such as inherited diseases and cancer.

The prize-winners are Richard Roberts, who moved to the US in 1969 to work at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York, and Phillip Sharp, head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Roberts is now research director at New England Biolabs, in Beverly, Massachusetts.  The two researchers worked independently, and published their results within weeks of each other in the spring of 1977.

In an atmosphere that was more party than press conference, Sharp commented on the length of time the Nobel Committee had taken to award the prize for the work.  "There's a lot of research our there that warrants the prize," he said.  "Naturally, I'm delighted that they finally recognised our work, and the work of others."  In fact, several recent Nobel prizes have been awarded for discoveries that would not have been possible without the work of Roberts and Sharp.

In the early 1970’s, molecular biologists' understanding of the structure of genes was based on research with Escherichia coli, a simple gur bacterium that was relatively easy to study in the laboratory.  The picture of gene structure and function that emerged from the work with E. coli was straightforward.  A gene was known to be built from a continu­ous sequence of nucleotides.  The basic building blocks of DNA.  This sequence was copied into a stretch of RNA, known as the messenger, which contained essentially the same genetic information as in the original gene.  Next, this genetic information was used to direct the assembly of a protein molecule.

Molecular biologists assumed they would find the same system in higher organisms, or eukaryotes.  No one predicted that, instead of existing as a continuous sequence, eukaryotic genes would be split into several pieces separated from each other by long stretches of DNA that apparently contained no genetic information.  This is what Sharp and Roberts saw in early 1977.  "It was so unexpected that you not only had to be smart to see it but also bold to- announce it," David Baltimore, of Rockefeller University in New York, told New Scientist!  "Nevertheless, the insight made sense of a lot of puzzling data."

One of the puzzles was that the nuclei of eukaryotic cells are often awash with long strands of DNA that are far too big to be messenger molecules.  These could be explained by the discovery that the initial DNA transcript of the gene contains both the coding units of the gene (known as exons) and the non-coding sequences between them (introns).  Most genes are built from just a few exons, but some have more than fifty.  The true messenger molecule is made by the removal of the introns and the splicing together of the exons (see Diagram).  Although some of the details of the splicing process have been worked out, much of it remains a mystery.

Sharp acknowledges that had neither his team nor Robert’s team the discovery when they did.  Others could have stumbled on it within a few months. As it was, considerable rivalry developed between the two teams.  The result was nearly a dead heat.  Sharp recalls that the importance of the discovery was "obvious to anyone", and laments that he and his colleagues did not have longer to savour it. ''I'd worked ten years on this problem, and within two months of solving it, everyone was running around saying ‘Oh Yes, we've found split genes too’.

The fragmented structure of eukaryotic genes has far-reaching significance, and brings problems as well as benefits to higher organisms.  One conse­quence is that errors in the splicing process may lead to disease.  About a quarter of the 5000 known inherited diseases, such as beta-thalassaemia, result from mutations that arise during splicing.  Errors in splicing can also lead to certain forms of cancer, such as chronic myeloid leukaemia.  The splicing mechanism is also known to have occasionally transformed normal genes into cancer causing genes, called oncogenes.

Organisms benefit from splicing in several ways.  For instance, a gene that is made up of several exons may be "edited" in different ways during the splicing process to gener­ate different proteins. This allows a more flexible and creative use of genetic material.

In the longer term, evolution may be speeded up as a result of the existence of split genes.  If several exons from different sources are brought together in a novel combination, this may instantly produce a new gene coding for a new function.  This is potentially faster than the slow accumulation of a long series of mutations in an existing gene.  This evolutionary scheme, known as exon shuffling, was proposed by Harvard biologist Walter Gilbert within a year of Roberts and Sharp's discovery, and is now supported by a lot of experimental evidence.

The origin of introns is a puzzle.  Were they present from the very beginning of life, but were trimmed out of simple organisms as an act of molecular economy?  Or are they a form of molecular parasite which has infected eukaryotic cells but not those of simpler organisms?  Proponents of both ideas have some evidence to support their views, bur neither side yet has a convincing case.

Roger Lewis.  Boston


A minor Mendip Centenary

a snippet by Dave Irwin

Excuses for celebration amongst cavers on Mendip are never very difficult to find and as we all know are frequent occurrences; caving celebrations though are slightly less common. However, in 1994 we can celebrate the centenary of the incised 'T. W. 1894' that can be found in Cave of the Falling Waters in Lamb Leer.

Lamb Leer Cavern is one of The Mendips' earliest known caves.  It was discovered by miners and was first explored about 1675 by John Beaumont of Ston Easton.  Beaumont published a full description of the cave as far as the Cave of Falling Waters in 16801.  After this date interest in the cave dimmed and by the early years of the 19th century the cave entrance had been lost.  Following an intensive search in 1879 the cave was re-located and a full re-exploration of the cave took place by McMurtrie who, in 1881, had published an account of the cave together with the first survey2.  Several trips followed during the time when the cave was being considered being opened as a public show cave.  Several visits were made to the cave soon after its re-opening including a correspondent from the Times newspaper3 in 1882 and the monks of Downside Abbey in 1883, the latter publishing a report on their visit in 18844.

Cave exploration on Mendip was then in its embryo stage and one of the early enthusiasts was Thomas Willcox, manager of the Priddy Minery, who with the young Herbert Balch, descended the cave on a number of occasions during the remaining years of the 19th century. On one of these visits, during 1894, Willcox engraved his initials5 into the stalagmite bank in the Cave of Falling Waters.  This event is well known to most Mendip cavers from the 1934 photograph6 .

By 1897 Herbert Balch had become one of the acknowledged cave explorers in the district and together with his regular caving companion, Willcox, accompanied a party of individuals from Wells and the surrounding area, including Frank Sheldon, Mr. Selemann and Mr. H. Willcox, into Lamb Leer Cavern, near West Harptree.  The local paper7 published the following account [slightly abridged] which must have typified many that Balch would have led at this time.  The account is interesting in that it gives the reason why Willcox made the inscription and details of the improved tackle arrangements on the pitch from the windlass into the Main Chamber:

1.                  Beaumont, J., 1681.  An Account of Okey Hole.  2 Philosophical Collections, No.2, pp 4-5. Published: Royal Society, London.

2.                  McMW1rie, James 1880 On the Lamb Bonom Caverns at Harptree, Somerset. Proceedings of Somerset Archaeological Natural History Society Vol. 23 ii pp 1 - 16, (1881); annotated survey inset between Parts i and ii : copies may be viewed i" Wells Public Library reference section.

3.                  The Times, 10th August 1882

4.                  Anon, 1884 A visit to the Mendip Caves at East Harptree, Somerset; on July 17th 1883. Downside Review Vol. 3 pp 102-107.

5.                  The date was added by Balch in 1895.

6.                  Ashworth, HW.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal, Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [upper photo. opp. p.16]

7.                  Wells Journal. 2nd December, 1897. The author is unknown but it is probable that Balch wrote it himself.  For many years local papers relied on individuals to submit news items relating to their activities; the editorial staff merely tidying up the text where necessary.

On Tuesday last, under [the] guidance of Mr. H.E. Balch visited the furthermost recesses of the great cavern of Lamb Lair ... A preliminary inspection of the upper parts of the cavern had been made a week or two since, and workmen employed to repair the windlass and platform which were in bad condition.  The beautiful stalactitic forms of the upper cavern being duly seen and admired in the searching light of the magnesium lamp, a halt was called at the entrance to the large chamber, to which access is only to be obtained by a drop on a rope of some 60 feet.  The old style of lowering with its terrible swinging and spinning was vastly improved by a heavily weighted guide rope which proved an inestimable boon, and so with much lowering and raising of men and of chattels, the whole party soon stood at the bottom of this great chamber, which whilst surpassing all others in its inaccessible position, also still more surpasses them in its grandeur and its beauty.  Time flies swiftly underground and by the time all had merely looked around it was time for tea, which was gladly partaken of.  Next the several parts and beautiful passages, without the addition of mud unlimited to the already mud-bespattered clothing of the party.  At 5 p.m. after one or two photographs had been attempted, the party moved on by slippery ladders and narrow and muddy ways in the beautiful chamber which lies still further beyond, where stalactite and stalagmite of exquisite beauty rewarded them for their pains.  Here it is, that what may be in time to come, a measure of the rate of deposit of the stalagmite, has been cut in the huge bank which comprise one side of the chamber: 'T. W., 1894" cut by Mr. Willcox ... Perhaps a century hence some visitor who is hardy enough to penetrate to this depth will find it still but little changed in such an infrequented spot, should be sufficient basis for a perfectly accurate estimate of this rate of deposit on this huge bank of stalagmite, which by the way, reaches some 50 feet in height.  Tired out, through the smallest passages and difficult of ways, the party slowly made their way to the waiting windlass once more and hence burdened and tired to the upper world again, which was reached at 9.35 p.m., Wells being reached at 10.30 p.m ....

The party of eight had been in the cave a total of eight and a half hours - considering their clothing and lighting - a remarkable achievement.  On a similar trip to that reported above Balch accompanied Lady Waldegrave and her companions into the caves - such was the interest in caves at that time.

The photographs taken on this trip may well have been used later by Balch in his later accounts of this cave.  It is worth pointing out that the cost of taking a photograph at this time was prohibitive for most people and so the case for a re-take would be generally out of the question.  Several pounds (£)9 would have been spent on each shot; bearing in mind the average wage of a man at the late 19th century would have been between 60p and 75p per week, thus in real terms today the cost would be about £500 - £600 per photograph!! Perhaps in 1994 someone ' ... who is hardy enough ... ' will find time to have a look and determine how much stalagmite has been deposited since 1894, with the landowners permission of course, and publish their results in the 'BB' .... and, what about a drink on 'Tom' Willcox and 'Herbie' Balch for their pioneering spirit.

Ashworth, H.W.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal. Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [lower photo. opp. p.16]

Wells Journal, 3rd February 1898


I was going to use this space to print a particularly incriminating photograph of two of Mendips native creatures, the 'Biffo' and the 'Wessexus Bonkum' engaging in what can only be described as 'fraternizing' on New Years Eve, but am unfortunately unable to do so for two reasons, one being that Babs won't give me the photo and the other being that I wish my testicles to remain attached to the rest of me for the foreseeable future!!

So instead I would like to use the space to say thank you to all of you who have contributed to this and other issues of the B.B.  Please don't stop writing ... your articles are the lifeblood of the journal and it can only be as big and/or as good as the articles I receive.  Keep it coming ..... Jingles.

Well now I've managed to fill up another half a page .... on with the rest of it ....


Radon in Caves

An article from the New Scientist magazine concerning Radon in caves.  12 September 1992

Cavers risk cancer from underground radon.

Radon gas in British caves is exposing thousands of potholers and other cave users (what?. .. ed) to levels of radiation up to 800 times the official safety limit in homes. Radon increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.  The Health and Safety Executive is considering what action to take after a survey team recorded the world's highest radiation reading for a natural limestone cave in Britain.

In a letter to New Scientist this week, Robert Hyland, a PhD student and a member of Manchester Polytechnic's Limestone Research Group, reports the conclusions of a year long survey of Britain's caves. Hyland found the average level of radiation was 2900 Becquerel’s per cubic metre.  The limit at which Britain's National Radiological Protection Board recommends action to remove Radon from homes is 200 Bq/cu.m.

The highest figure averaged over the year was 46000 Bq/cu.m. for Giant's Hole in Derbyshire.  Readings at this cave peaked at 155000 Bq/cu.m., during the summer when airflow is reduced and Radon, released by Uranium in rocks, remains trapped underground for longer.

This figure is the highest ever recorded for a natural limestone cave.  By contrast the highest figure for a limestone cave in the U.S. is about 54000 Bq/cu.m.  Hyland wants all cavers to know the risks before they go underground. "Children and people on management training courses are not always told of the risk”, he says.

The 1985 lonising Radiation Regulations limit workers to a dose of 15 millisieverts a year.  Such a dose increases the chance of contracting lung cancer by 0.05%.  This is about four times the annual risk of being killed in a road accident. With radioactivity of 155000 Bq/cu.m., a caver would pick up this dose in around 1 3 hours.

Over a year, keen potholers can clock up hundreds of hours underground.  Dave Edwards, chairman of the NCA's working party on Radon, cut his time underground from 200 hours per year to about 26 hours in the past year as he has become aware of Radon's effects.  He sees no reason for anyone to stop caving entirely, but says "We are changing our habits."  He has advised outdoor centres using Britain’s 20000 caves "to quietly find out about Radon levels and informally change the caves they use."

The Health and Safety Executive, still waiting to see the full results of the survey, is considering whether employers who send people underground are liable for any health problems caused by radiation.

Local education authorities may be at risk for the schoolchildren they send caving on trips and holidays. The Department of Education has provided no guidance and most education authorities are unaware of the risk.  Derbyshire County Council, however, recently stopped school parties from visiting caves while it checked Radon levels in the peak district.

Installing fans will reduce Radon in caves, and the HSE is satisfied that the installation of fans has averted any problems at tourist caves with high levels of Radon.


News from the Philippines ....

Jim Smart has written (to Trebor) from Iloilo City in the Philippines on his two month jaunt which includes a brief excursion over Xmas to Australia and Tasmania. After having been side tracked by the delights of Manila for ten days, he made his way to the province of Aklan on the island of Panay to suss out some promising stuff touched upon in Speleo Philippines '92.  Unfortunately, he found his exploring companion in Aklan riddled with sickness, possibly Typhoid.  A few weeks were spent nursing his companion, in and out of hospital, but some exploration was done and some caves found - a few 700m long caves in the Guimaras region, one with a 50m shaft to a second un-descended pitch.  Jim has been hampered by heavy rain in late November/December, although this should get better in the New Year.

I am informed that he is due back some time in February, so I hope publish more of his exploits then.






Blasts from the Past .

.. . some excerpts from the club log from years gone by ...

31 .7.71 Goatchurch.

Bill Cooper + 3 ...

Only went to beginning of drainpipe as I was just wearing swimming trunks!!  1 hour ... Bill Cooper.

2.11 .76 Eglwys Faen

Bob Cross, Mr N., Garth, Dell, Ross White, Batspiss ...

After wandering around the Llangattock escarpment, arrived at cave entrance.  The party being well equipped with a cigarette lighter, proceeded about 100’ into the cave before giving up and returning to the surface. 5 mins.

16.7.77 Conning Tower & Hillwithy

Batspiss, Ross, John King, Claire, John T. ,Chris Smart.

The hut warden threatened to go caving, so we went along to make sure he did.  It's not surprising that these holes are not locked, when Batspiss takes people caving he makes sure they never want to go with him again. Lovely grovels in the mud & slime. N.B. the mud is good for sticking on caving lights so you can’t see where you are going ... it seemed better that way!! J.K.

 (I must repeat John's remarks & say how eternally grateful am to Mr Batstone for taking me to such pretty & interesting caves ... I shall certainly go with him to another cave ... if I’m lucky ... Claire.)

Easter '79 South Wales ...

23 BEC, 2 WCC, 3 NWCC, 6 Pegasus, 1 GSG, 2 TSG, 8 Eldon, Countless NCC etc ...

There were no winners ... Only survivors!!!

Dec ‘83

(Following 2 entries made by Q????ers)

... We can all learn a lot from 'Quackers', anyone who can sum up 3 hours of caving in 6 lines, and that includes his name and the date, all written in Sanskrit (with a Somerset accent? !?!) - can't have all his marbles!!!  Anon.

2.1.94 Upper Pitts Hole, High Moral Ground series. 

Trevor, Dickfred, Jake, Estelle + 3CCG + Joan the sec +JR MCG.  Jingles at The Belfry as callout.

At 01.00 the party set off in miserable weather conditions, very wet underfoot, with the intention of surveying the Upper Pitts kitchen for an alleged barrel shaped formation. Unfortunately in the entrance series they met with an impenetrable barrier, since named Ebboracum (sic ... check your Latin ... Ed. ) which prevented any further progress.  The barrier spoke in granite (or limestone) tones, “This is a private function, the BEC are not welcome" it said.

We came, We saw, We were refused ......

But the High Moral Ground was ours!!!

Time 20 mins ......... Rating P.G.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Change ... Doug Cunningham has moved, his new address is as follows ....

Doug Cunningham (Brighton Explorers Club), Withersea Beach, East Sussex.


Blitz (Chris Smart) has asked me to point out that the telephone number published last month, for him on the Cuthbert's leaders list was incorrect.  The correct number is as on page 1 of this journal.


Of possible interest to those living locally is 'Folk in the Bath', a folk club hosted by Pete and Anita Mcnab, held on Sunday nights in The Bath Arms in Cheddar.  It is regularly attended by quite a few BEC members; indeed it seems to have become something of an unofficial gathering.  An act appearing in the near future is 'Fred Wedlock' and I can highly recommend this as a grand evening’s entertainment. (Unfortunately this may have been before you receive this B.B ..... never mind.)


BERTIE BAT.... Ever wanted your very own Bertie, for a badge, or for your tankard???  'Dave the Box' will make them to order a 'Bertie on a Barrel' comes in three sizes........

I must apologize to Dave for having lost the price list, but you can check with him in The Hunters if you are interested.  (They are original copper pieces and quite distinctive ..... Ed)


From Dick-Fred ... further to the meeting at the Hunters on 1.10.93, concerning the growing number of thefts from cars, the feeling of those that attended was that some form of Mendip Hillwatch should be set up.  The first meeting is to be held at the end of January.  I am attending as the BEC rep. and will report back to the committee so that the membership can be informed as to the results. Hopefully we will be able to formulate a plan to help reduce all crime on Mendip.


Related to the above, Les Davies has provided me with the recent crime figures, these may be of interest.

Theft from motor vehicles ...                    Burrington: (General)      92

The link:                        11

Goatchurch:                  8

G.B.:                            12

Total                             123

N.S. The Burrington general figure will include cave parking sites, but have not been specified by reporting officer I we can therefore assume that the individual figures for The link, Goatchurch etc .... to be higher!!!


Also from Les, as previously published, it was proposed at a meeting of the Burrington Conservators that the following steps should be taken ....

1)       The closure of Goatchurch car park with a soil bank close to the road, this would prevent access for fly tipping and deny a secluded car park to the car thieves.

2)       The closure by soil banks of the small unofficial pull ins that have been created on the North side of the Combe, again these sites have been targeted for vehicle related thefts.

3)       A Bat Grille to be installed at Fox's Hole to prevent access by unauthorized persons who have been using the cave for parties etc.. and causing considerable damage.


AND FINALLY ... (MIS) QUOTES OF THE MONTH!! both overheard at The Belfry on the night of January 1st/2nd (in the wee hours ... so called cos by then Trevor is usually so pissed all he can do is 'wee', often over some other poor unsuspecting belfryite ... !!!) by your dutiful reporter (sic) ....

T.Hughes: "We are here to chastise The Wessex .... Not to eulogise!

Joan (MCG Sec.) to J.R. (MCG) ......”Put it away john .... I don't want that up my nose .... !!!”


See you all for more fun and frolics in the next ish! (Hopefully late Feb) ... Jingles.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor



Well its been some time since the last BB and quite a lot has happened in the intervening period; for one thing I've had a chance to collect quite a few articles, some of which appear in this issue, indeed my thanks are due to those of you who have been forthcoming in this respect keep it up!

Since the last ish the BEC have, as usual, been all over the place including Ireland, Yorkshire, the Philippines and even occasionally to the Belfry.  I'm sure that Spike will have-something to say about some of these events later in the rag.

The most recent event of note on Mendip has been the British Cave Rescue Conference, which was held at Eastwater Farm on the weekend of 9-10-11 July and was a resounding success. This was organised by the MRO and thanks must go to all those involved in the setup and running of the event and in particular Dany Bradshaw.  A complicated program of events was scheduled for the weekend and went very well with only minor hitches, a credit to all concerned.  Practise rescues were enacted in GB, Eastwater & St Cuthbert’s and a large number of people participated both above and below ground.  There were also workshops and demonstrations throughout the proceedings.  I will not go into further details here as there is a separate article later on.

Before I end this piece may I just remind the membership that there are now only two committee meetings scheduled before the (dreaded) AGM on 1st October and that consequently any nominations for next year's committee should be forwarded to the Hon.Sec. ASAP & certainly no later than the September meeting.  Also Officers' Reports need to be with me by the September committee meeting in order that they may be published before the AGM.

It was noted, with some regret, at the last meeting that several of this years committee members will not be standing again next year and thus the posts will need filling .... any takers??

Finally I'd like to point out that there are articles not included in this ish that perhaps should have been, but due to time restrictions I'm unable to publish them as yet. Those of you who wrote stuff and can't see it here, fear not, its probably in the next one.

Well that's quite enough waffle from me for now, save to say that I plan to have the next issue out in a shorter space of time than this one.  Indeed its being prepared as you read this.

Cheers all ......... Jingles.


Austria - Dachstein '93

From the Log of Vince Simmonds.


A night of sorting kit and loading the van.  An early start tomorrow so a quiet night in the Hunters - at closing time we decided to go home.


4.15 am and on the road. A steady enough journey to Harwich in a slightly over laden van.  McDonalds big breakfast is definitely not to be recommended.  Arriving at the ferry port and discovering that you have your wife's passport comes as a bit of a shock - so the only thing to do is go for it anyway.  A very smooth crossing, only problem is - beer is 2 for the price of 1, result - 6 hour pissup!!. ... An eventful night-time drive through Germany.


Luckily we were waved through the Austrian border and by 9.00 am we had arrived in Halstett.  We had some breakfast in the town before heading up to the Seilbahn hut and contacting Rich Blake at the Weisberghaus. We were asked to get some supplies for Wolfgang & Elfi so we had to get ourselves a crate of Steigl.

The afternoon was spent basking in the sun by the side of a mountain pool - good beer cooler until the crate tipped over and all the bottles sunk.  Diving in ice cold water to get a beer soon sobers you up; for a while anyway.  The evening was spent at the Halstett Somerfest doing our bit for British diplomacy ... & failing miserably!!


Picture a sunny Sunday in Salzburg with a stonking headache, trying to find the airport when the only phrase book is on its way up to the Weisberghaus.  Sticking your arms out and making noises like an aeroplane gets some odd looks and people run away from you.  However, after finally getting to the Flughafen, VS met PNI, AB, FM bang on time.

A long slog up the mountain in the afternoon sun wasn't fancied so we caught the Oberbraun cable car and had a much easier stroll to the Weisberghaus. 

MK arrived late because he had been to Strasbourg instead of Salzburg.


After two glorious days the weather has turned shit.  A late start, it was 4.00pm before VS. RB, BL & Josef (Austrian caver) arrived at G7 (LUMPENHOHLE).  RB & VS entered the cave with 200m of 10mm rope in a very large Daleswear anti-caving bag & various ladders & bits of kit in an equally large bag.  We rigged some short pitches and beat our bags through; such gems as "101 Damnations" & ''The Exhaler".  We rigged a traverse around to the head of the big pitch, threw down a rock and decided we'd had enough and started to make our way out.  We met BL & Josef at the 10m pitch and while they started out we stopped for a smoke. It was then we realised it must be raining as we heard the sound of running water all around us.

8.00pm on the surface the rain had stopped and a steady jaunt back to the Weisberghaus in growing darkness.  The Steigl certainly went down well.


The weather forecast was not good so we went walking.  A search was made for the entrance to B1 before VS, RB, BL, IJS & AS went up to the Simonyhohle, the others carried on searching.  A Do-Diddley day just drinking in bars.


It was still raining so we eventually managed to talk ourselves out of caving.  IJS & MK had a look at G6-3, small pitches and cave blocked by an ice column.  The rest of us spent the day in the Weisberghaus playing pigs but mostly drinking, it was after all VS's birthday.  Elfi cooked a superb birthday supper. Schnapps, Steigl, Cider & Champagne do not mix well & everyone was wrecked.


Oh my head!!!   We've cracked back to the bar.

Boxhead ... "Is this the British Dachstein sleeping expedition?"

"Those chosen (by themselves) to snore for England!"

Going for G7 tomorrow.


An early start and we're off.  Snablet, AB & MK camped near the caves last night and we then all made our ways to whichever mission we'd decided on.  At G5 (EISTURNERHOHLE) we got some water supplies. RB, VS & VL headed off for G7.

AB & MK had started to rig the big pitch last night so RB went ahead to finish rigging and push on to the bottom.  VS & BL started the survey.  First drop was 46m followed by 38m then 21 m then 9m onto a very loose ramp, rocks went rattling down.  A 13m drop and a very wet survey station to a traverse.  RB was on his way back and reported that the pitch ended in a choke. (30m drop onto a large ledge and a 70m pitch.)  A steady ascent was made and an easy pace back to the Weisberghaus.

Snablet and Co. had better luck in G5, its still going.  PNI & IJS might have found another site close to the camp.


It's raining again and it's been raining all night.  MK has had enough .... he's left!

Spent the day in the Weisberghaus sorting survey data and drinking.


Great!!  It's stopped raining ... and started snowing instead .... it's freezing!!    We decided to go for it anyway, so we all slid and slipped our way across the mountain. Snablet and RB went for G5 even though the snow was beginning to thaw.  VS, AB, IJS & BL went to G7 to finish surveying & de-rig the cave.

Got to the 10m pitch only to discover that no one had any tabs, or as Boxhead called them.  ''The Elixir of Life."

VS arrived at the ledge below the 38m drop to meet IJS who said AB was returning.  As AB came up with a bundle of rope VS enquired as to the whereabouts of the other 200m rope.  "What 200m rope??" came the reply.  AB wasn't happy as he re-rigged to retrieve it.

A battle then ensued to get all the kit back to the surface.

Thankfully the others had kept the bar open in the Weisberghaus as it was now 11.00pm.

Snablet and RB had quickly left G5 as it was too wet.


Spent the morning kit sorting.  Snablet and RB have gone back to G5.  IJS & PNI are exploring a snow plug near the camp.

VS & AB went to G7 to bring back all the kit from the entrance.  Snablet & RB pushed another 5 pitches in G5 and it's still going.


The weather has changed again .... we now have a blizzard!!  Major fester day ... back to the bar.


We have to go for it today .. .VS drew the short straw.

VS & BL went into G5 to de-rig as much as possible.  Once underground the hangover soon wore off.  The thawing snow meant the cave was getting wetter and a certain amount of gear had to be left behind until next year.

A very drunken night in the Weisberghaus (for a change).


Everyone looks & feels rough.  Kit slowly gets sorted and packed and carried over to the Seilbahn.  More Steigl, Schnapps, good-byes & more Schnapps and then off.

The van was loaded and we were on our way.  We had a stop in Bad Goisen to see Robert (ex Weisberghaus) where we had to have a large meal.  We dropped BL at Salzburg railway station and VS, IJS, Snablet were the heading for the Hook of Holland ferry port.


Arrived at the ferry port with little time to spare and hassle because VS didn't have a passport. We did manage to make the Hunter's Lodge before closing time and Snablet managed to sleep all the way after shouting ''Your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to make the Hunter's"

(Tune Ode to Vince on his Geburstang (PNI et al) My Way)

And now the end is near
And so I face the final Steigl
My friends I'll say it clear
I state my case, which I know is feeble
I've had a right skinful
I've sampled each and every Goldbrau
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now

Schnapps!  I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
And then I tried a brew
A strange colloquial invention
It seemed to dull my brain
But thankfully it has all gone now
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.

For what is a man
What has he got
If not a beer
Then he has not.. ........ etc ...


Water Sampling in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

On Sunday 29th May, Jingles collected a set of water samples from the cave and Frankie and I startled a couple of adders while crashing around in the marshy ground in the valley, taking water samples and (if everything went as planned) measuring stream sizes.  Two Belfryites had membership numbers low enough to remember when I last used to do this kind of thing (more than 20 years ago), and several people asked what was going on.  It's all very logical, really.

Stream studies in the cave started in the earliest days of the exploration of the cave. An account of the early work has been written up; there may even be a copy in the library (C.R.G. Trans., Vol 10 No 2, p.49­60, May 1968).  Although I did some Pyranine traces, I was especially interested in measuring the characteristics of various inlet streams, and surface streams feeding the inlets.

In 1972 I wrote up my findings, embedding them in a draft account of scientific work carried out in the cave.  The text was intended to be the basis for the projected Report No. 13, Part 0 (the St Cuthbert's Report then being written and published part by part).  At that time I was unaware that I was being progressively disabled, and by the time the draft was retuned to me, I was incapable of doing anything with it.  In 1991, while recovering after the miracles of micro-surgery, I looked at the draft again, having been pressed to tidy it up for publication.

I had studied the Plantation Stream from its source (the Mineries Pool outlet), via Plantation Swallet to Plantation Junction.  There were some very unusual features.  The Total Hardness of the stream at Plantation Swallet and at Plantation Junction were both very precisely related to the stream size.  The correlation coefficients (the way of expressing how close the agreements are) were unusually high.  The situation contrasted very sharply with the G.B. stream, which I had studied in 1968, and where such correlations were absent.  However, my results were very dated, and I needed to know if they were still relevant.  Still rather shaky on my legs, I took a walk, helped by Frankie, around streams feeding the cave on a crisp winter afternoon, when all the vegetation had died back.

As soon as we got to the entrance I could see there had been a major change.  In the '60s and early '70s the stream had only ever been that size in high flood conditions.  Was the Plantation Stream breached at the "Maypole Overflow" comer?  We came back out of the depression, and along the track towards the Mineries Pool.  At Plantation Swallet, I was not surprised to see that the water no longer reached the actual swallet.  Ever since Tim Atkinson's trouble with "vandals" while he was monitoring the streams in 1971, the stream went underground half way between the swallet and the nearby "Maypole Overflow" comer.  The "vandals" had breached the clay lining of the stream, and I remember how surprised I had been that the new route had acted simply as a short cut into the cave, without causing any measurable changes in the stream.  I walked towards the "Maypole Overflow" comer, expecting to find the stream there, cascading down into the valley.  But at the comer, the stream bed was empty.  Just a bit soggy.  We traced the empty stream towards the pool. In the middle of the marsh near the pool, we found the breach, where the entire stream from the Mineries Pool outlet went into the depression, and on towards the cave.

The old Plantation Stream bed was very soggy, still draining a sizeable area of marshy ground, but the quantity of water would be only a small fraction of its former size.  We went back to the entrance.  At the old top dam the huge stream was back-flowing strongly into the Maypole Sink.

The Maypole Series would be spectacularly wet, and the Drinking Fountain would be going well. Looking back to the lid of the cave, I didn't have to use much imagination to remember what a roar there would be going over Pulpit Pitch.  But what about Plantation Junction?  Surely somebody would have noticed that Plantation Stream was only a shadow of its former self!  I was shaken when Zot told me that he had noticed no change whatever at Plantation Junction.  What on earth was happening there?

Here was the conundrum. If Zot was right, there would have to be a completely unexpected route from the depression to Plantation Junction. Because of the link between Maypole, Plantation and the Drinking Fountain, this possibility could not be ruled out altogether. For about two years I spoke to various Cuthbert's leaders, trying to get water samples to tackle this problem. There was no possibility that I could get well enough to go down and collect them myself, unfortunately. Perhaps I talked to the wrong people. Perhaps I didn't explain myself very well.  Then, just a few weeks ago, I talked to Jingles, and within days I was making up standard solutions, cleaning glassware that had been gathering dust for 19 years, and testing an alterative to portable weirs for measuring streams sizes at the surface.

Between 1966 and 1968 I measured the ratio between the sizes of Plantation Stream and the Main Stream at Plantation Junction on 8 trips. The size of the Plantation Stream was measured at the surface with a temporary rectangular-notch weir.  Plantation Stream was always bigger than Main Stream, the ratio varying from 2.2:1 to nearly 50:1.  Here was the yardstick for comparison with new data.

On Sunday last, Jingles gave me the bag of water samples.  Because of exams at Bristol University, I haven't been able to do some crucial analyses yet.  Total Hardness and Alkaline Hardness titrations provided the first new results.  Main Stream was bigger than Plantation Stream, and there is no unexpected new cross-link.  The Total Hardness titrations gave a ratio of 1.97:1, the Alkaline Hardness titrations gave 2.00:1.  All right, there's a lot of luck in getting such close agreement, but it made me feel good!

Stream ratios at the other junctions (Maypole stream, Old Route stream, Drinking Fountain, Disappointment Pot) are less precise (the salt concentrations were too similar) and I'm waiting until I've had a session with the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer before I'll commit myself, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed about the samples we took for salt dilution measurements on the surface stream.

The first results also make it clear how much the concentrations of salts have changed at Plantation Junction.  Some changes were expected, others were not.  I have been delighted by the results so far.  It felt good to be doing some water chemistry again after such a long layoff.  I had quite forgotten how much I enjoy doing this work, and I hope that Jingles thinks the results are worth the effort he made to collect the samples.  I am so very grateful to him for joining me in this project.

We are hoping to repeat the exercise in high, moderate and low-water conditions, and we will then be in a position to bring out an updated account of the hydrology of the cave.  I would like to share the pleasure I get in doing this work by bringing some of my gear up to the Belfry next time.  If you want to see how it's done, please come along, and see the results there and then, "straight off the burette".

Roger Stenner


Badalona B15 to B1

This is the trip that gave the BEC "A" team such an epic in 1991 that none of them would write anything about it.  Since I had managed to sneak in a year before it was decided after a longish lunchtime pub session that I should write at least something about it all.

After the grim battles of the Sima GESM the idea of sliding down ropes and walking out through a large river cave appealed to the Keith Sanderson caving holiday regulars.  A quick scan of " Great Caves of the World" showed that at that time, (1989), the deepest pull-through trip in the world was, so to speak, almost on our doorstep. Badalona B15 to B1 looked a doddle if you closed your eyes to the 116m pitch closely followed by a 54m pitch - oh and the Inferno a 30m low airspace swim which frequently sumps.  Not to mention the Belgian-type squeeze in the entrance series.  It was as good as in the bag.

Late July 1990 was fixed as a definite date.  Of the core team members there were Keith Sanderson (WCC), Mark Madden (WCC), JJ Bevan (NCC) and myself plus Kev Clarke (WCC) and Dinny Davies (ULSA).  Jake was going to come and help uphold the BEC honour but had to drop out.

The top entrance, (B15), is situated in the Ordesa National Park in the Central Pyrenees on the Southern slopes of the mountains surrounding Monte Perdido. Even if you have to use caving as an excuse it is a wonderful area to visit.  High snow-dusted peaks lead down to alpine meadows seething with butterflies and eventually end in a series of deep gorges all of which have been bolted for sporting canyonning.  In the main "collector" gorge can be found a number of resurgences, one of which, B1 or the Font da Escuain is the bottom entrance for the through trip.

The all-day drive down through France was epic with temperatures on the auto route reaching 44 deg C, (111 deg F), and international warfare breaking out between the aggressive invaders, (Germans), and the natives over bottles of mineral water at the service stations.  When we finally arrived at the pre-arranged campsite in the town of Ainsa we were too knackered to do more than have a few beers and some food and then slope off into the undergrowth with our bivi-bags.  The rock concert going on in town only disturbed our sleep patterns for about the first four seconds.

Over breakfast next morning we discovered that we were not the only team who had permission to do the cave - there was a small tented village at one end of the site full of Belgian cavers all intent on the same trip.  Subsequent international discussions revealed that we did not actually have official permission.  They did. Their permit from the Spanish authorities was marginally more impressive than the Magna Carta whereas as our scruffy letter from the local caving club turned out to be the equivalent of having written to the Severn Valley for permission to go down Lost Johns.  As with the BEC/NCC the following year we did not let that stop us.

Day 1 was devoted to finding the bottom entrance and checking out the paths.  Traditionally the way back from the bottom entrance, (which is in the true left hand side of the gorge), had been to drive to the village of Escuain at the top of the opposite side and leave a car there for the returning party.  However there were several drawbacks to this.  First - the drive there was a real car wrecker, second - the path to the bottom entrance was an almost sheer descent of about 1000m and hence for a knackered party of cavers would be an almost sheer ascent for about 1000m and third - there was no simple way from Escuain to the top entrance which meant complicated logistics to do with cars and car keys.  As everyone who goes there quickly realises the more logical approach is to follow the track up the left hand side of the gorge to a small parking slot just below the abandoned village of Revilla from here a well worn path leads down to the floor of the gorge at a reasonable angle and 40 minutes walking past idyllic blue green pools and tempting cascades leads to the B1 entrance.  This is an easier track both for people and vehicles and has the added advantage of being the logical starting place for the walk to the upper B15 entrance.

With the temperatures still soaring to well over 35 deg C, (95 deg F), we stopped off at several pools on the way down to cool off.  The nearest large pool to the track was also being used by several French and German canyonners and walkers whose lean bronzed Adonis-like physiques contrasted strongly with our large flabby white beer bellies.   We consoled ourselves with the thought that this was incontrovertible proof that English beer is the best in Europe.

Back in camp tactics were discussed.  Before leaving England we had decided to cave as two separate teams each carrying two 60m ropes. As there was a 116m pitch on the trip this smacked to me of poor planning but I was assured by all the experts who had never been down the cave that we could use the re-belay bolts for intermediate pull­through stations.  Since I could not work out why this would not stand a good chance of leaving at least three people hanging on one bolt half-way down a 100m+ pitch I was mightily relieved to hear that the Belgians had re-rigged both it and the 54m pitch directly below with a new rope.  New bolts would have been nice as well since those in there were a tad dodgy, (for further information on this ask Bob or Dany about their experiences in 1991 - I believe that after appropriate trauma counselling they are now able talk about it).  Less comforting was the news that the Flems had been trapped by flooding at the notorious Inferno section of passage and considered it vital to install a food dump before anyone else from their party attempted the through trip.  In the light of this we slipped an extra Mars Bar into the tackle bag.

Incredibly for UK cavers we actually did have an early start next day and the first team of Keith, JJ and myself were on our way out of camp by 5:00am and dawn's early light found us walking up the hillside behind Revilla with loaded tacklesacks.  We were pictures of elegance in well ie, shorts and scabby t-shirts.  Above Revilla the path was an easy amble to a small refuge and from there a line of cairns erected by the Flems led to the entrance. Two hours walking maximum.

Keith and I kitted up in our wetsuits and harnesses while JJ elected for dry grots and oversuit.  Then JJ pointed out that while we had been changing his new watch, with a built-in altimeter, had indicated a change in altitude of 10m.  Since he had spent most of this time sitting on the same rock we discounted the obvious explanation and discussed the relative probabilities of either a sudden geological surge of the Pyrenees or a change in barometric pressure indicating in its turn an imminent change of weather. We settled for the change of weather option but was it going to get better or worse?  Wispy scraps of cloud had started to build up and there ensued a lengthy discussion in which Keith, (physicist), attempted to argue the case from first principles whilst JJ tried to remember what it had said in the booklet that came with the watch.  Eventually Occam's razor was brought into play with the time-honoured phrase of "Sod it.  We're here now and I'm not flogging all that way up this hill again."

The entrance pitch was about 45m and already rigged with a single rope and the entrance series which followed was narrow and snaggy although the Belgian-type squeeze presented no significant problems.  Half-an-hours caving and several pitches of up to 30m got us to aT-junction at about -240m where we picked up a small stream.  Here we turned left and followed the water down a much larger passage.  We had lost count of the pitches after a while which meant approaching each new pitch with a sense of trepidation as we knew that the big one (Pozo Grande) was our next significant obstacle and no one wanted to be the first to abseil 30m only to find another 86m of air below his bottom!  As it turned out we had no need to worry.  True to their word the Belgians had rigged it with brand new single rope and there were several re-belays en route.  We were glad to be using figure-of-eight descenders as the sheath of the rope had slid down and bunched up at the bottom of each section and it would have been a nightmare to do with a Petzl stop.  Apart from the problem with the rope sheath and some dodgy bolts the big pitch and the 54m one below it were relatively stress-free.

Below the big pitches there was a long stretch of big well decorated fossil passages all easy walking with only a few short pitches up to about 18m which led to the 28m pitch of Pozo Negro where the main river passage was met at a depth of about 925m.  Here JJ tantalised us with a sensuous goose pimpled striptease whilst perched on a spray lashed ledge as he sensuously slipped into a thin windsurfing wetsuit that he had been secretly carrying in the bottom of his tackle sack.

From the bottom of Pozo Negro the caving was sheer delightful fun.  We skipped down the passage leaping down small cascades into pools and abseiling the occasional short pitch for about two kilometres.  On the way there were two sumped sections which we bypassed.  The second of these was quite interesting as the fixed rope hanging out of the roof was quite heavily calcited.

In theory the next major obstacle was the Inferno a 30m low airspace swim.  However the actuality was a two foot airspace with a howling gale through it which was strong enough to set up waves on the water and a handline for the "swimmer" to use.  Despite the apparent lack of risk I took the precaution of unclipping my tacklesack security cord from my harness "just in case".

Immediately after the Inferno is the 21m Cascade Silvia which had been the main obstacle to upstream exploration of the B1 entrance.  This was a heavily stalled and stunningly wet pitch rigged dry by a traverse out to the side.  I clipped into the traverse rope and shrugged my sack off my shoulder only remembering that it was not clipped onto me when it was a rapidly diminishing yellow blob in the spray and gloom.  Once down at floor level we spent a while getting severely chilled and bruised under the thundering waterfall before giving it up for lost - only to find it floating down the passage ahead of us some minutes later.

Although the survey says that there is another cascade pitch before the entrance I have no memory of it. My next memory is of floundering around the lowish airspaces of the entrance lakes with a fast failing carbide light looking for the way out and crawling out into a stiflingly hot night. The trip from entrance to entrance had taken about 11 to 12 hours.

The walk out in the dark was entertaining mainly because we all just seemed to run out of energy as soon as we left the cave.  JJ set off first but stopped and then I fell over him fast asleep on the path.  I managed to get to the top first taking about an hour mainly because I knew that if I stopped I would never start again, Rip Van JJ was about half an hour later and then Keith was about three-quarters of an hour after him.

This trip is still the most "fun" caving trip that I have ever done.  Apart from possible bolt problems on the big pitch there is nothing particularly difficult, dangerous or arduous about it and having got the caving out of the way the rest of the holiday can be very pleasurably spent eating and drinking in the excellent local hostelries with the occasional canyonning trip to work up an appetite.

Rob Harper - 8/5/94.


The B.E.C. Go To Ireland.

At the beginning of April (some would say very appropriately) various members in separate parties descended on the Emerald Isle for some caving.  What follows are two accounts of the events that occurred.

From Estelle Sandford .....

After a lumpy Stranraer - Larne crossing (much agitated by the consumption of Murphy's) a drive through Belfast - past the police budgie cages - we arrived at Belcoo, found a pub, lots of Guinness & Pete Bolt.  We stayed at Corallee cottages which were a bit more upper class than the average caving hut.  J-Rat drove Pete out of their room with his farting and snoring on the first night!!

On Saturday we met up with Vince, Ivan, Roz, Davey & Steve, who were roughing it camping & we all went to Marble Arch show caves, where we also met Emma Porter.  We did Upper Cradle - big streamway & lots of boulders - then Lower Cradle through duck into Marble Arch show caves up into the extensions and out through show cave entrance.  (We were lucky to get through the duck, a party turned up later and found it flooded!!)  We moved on to Boho and did a pre-cocktails trip to Pollnagollum Coolarkin & big railway tunnel type cave with a waterfall at the entrance ending in a massive boulder choke.  Afternoon cocktails at Linnet and the Macguires in the South for the evening. Lots of other caving clubs about including Grampian, ULSA & Huddersfield Uni.

Sunday, split groups ... Vince et al digging Coolarkin.  J-Rat, myself & others looked at Leggacapple, a very wet dig site, & Gortalughany Pots on Swanlinbar border in Cuilcagh mountains - lots of wet entrances, then back to Boho to find the others.  Pete was whinging about being cold & wet so we dropped him off at a (closed) pub to sit in front of the fire.  After we'd been up to Coolarkin to see if the rest were there and found no van, we went back to pick up Pete who told us that the police had stopped and were looking for some cavers in a cave that sounded like Coolarkin, because of an accident.

It transpired that what had happened was that Steve (an asthmatic) had felt ill and wanted to go to Enniskillen hospital to get on a nebulizer for a few hours.  He had dropped the rest off at Coolarkin to dig and arranged to be back by 3.30 ish.  However the doctor at the hospital had decided that Steve was too ill to leave and despite him telling of cavers stranded without transport they still insisted that he could not leave.  When later a caver turned up, Steve explained details of the cave to him in order that he could meet them but at this point the RUC arrived saying that they were dealing with the situation.  They read Steve acts on terrorism and told him that if this was an ambush that he would be liable!!!  He had to sign forms and was left under police guard while 6 RUC officers went over to Belmore forest...5 hid in the bushes and a female officer, armed with a gun and in a flak jacket went down to the cave entrance only to meet Davey Lennard coming out.  (If his grots weren't brown beforehand they were now!!!)  They gave Davey a lift and picked up Martin Grass (rightly so .... ed) as Davey didn't know the way & drove them to Enniskillen to pick up the van. Finally we made it to Bush Bar in the south for Guinness and a lousy rock band.

Monday ... I went with Roz, Ivan, Vince & Davey to Shannon cave (Steve was still in hospital).  An interesting cave.  According to the out of date guide book it wasn't really much but a survey sheet we had gave more info ... the entrance being an Eastwater type boulder ruckle only tighter in places, also very loose, opened into slightly bigger passage with good formations and finally into a Welsh type big wide streamway with lots of high level bypasses - thank God as we needed them on the way out!!  We finally got to a shored up bit which Vince & Roz managed to get past into big passage but the rest of us had fun getting out when it started to collapse on us and trying to keep it stable for Vince & Roz to get out!!  (Apparently this bit regularly collapses and has to be dug out - Gaby Burns surveyed it and said he's never going back there again!!)  We went back via some pretty oxbows as the stream had sumped a lot of the lower passages (thank God for those high level bypasses) the water had risen by about a foot while we were down and the entrance was now interestingly wet!!

Martin, Mac and J-Rat went to Whitefeathers cave nearby and afterwards went for a sit down meal with some Irish birds they had pulled, taking Tony along as gooseberry, leaving me stranded in Belcoo.  Fortunately some ULSA lads were staying in the cottage opposite us so I had to go back with them via a party ... what a shame.!!

Tuesday ... All went to county Sligo Martin & Mac told us there were dry caves so most of us only took dry kit. .. went and found roughly where Secarrow caves were and parked up the Mercedes van.  We strolled up the driveway to ask the farmer ... no reply so we looked around in adjacent woodland and along the road, then Martin, Mac Tony & Steve went to knock on the door again.  The rest of us were just off the road nearby when we heard a screech of tyres, a hand break turn & saw a Garda car haring up the drive.  The sight that followed was highly amusing .... Tony, Martin, Mac & Steve being herded down the driveway by aforementioned Garda car. It turned out that we were in a community watch area and that someone had informed the Garda of potential terrorist movements.  They had thought that we were either exchanging arms or breaking in.  They had even sent a special branch man armed with a flat cap!!  The Southern Garda are much more relaxed.

After this we managed some caving with Davey & Vince going up stream from a very wet resurgence into reasonable cave system.  We then went over to Keshcoran caves, 17 entrances in all. Vince & Roz tried digging one and made about one foot progress.  Between us we looked at all of them.  Then back to Belcoo where Martin, Mac & Tony went to an Egon Ronay restaurant while the rest of us roughed it on chips and went to the Linnet bar till late. The Landlords son trying to teach us Irish folk dancing and Davey trying to teach Morris dancing at 2.00am was quite interesting.  Poor Steve was not allowed to drink due to medication.

Wednesday ..... Me, Mac, Martin & Tony did the boat trip part of Marble Arch then with Steve went from Noons hole to Linnet bar on a long walk across Belmore Mountains to find digs ... Lots of potential.  The rest went to Boho caves, and met in Linnet for afternoon cocktails.  We the went to Mr Johnson’s to look at his etchings, on the underside of his staircase dating back to the 1930s Yorkshire ramblers, also a 1959 BEC, WSG, BPC trip ... names engraved included T. Marston, F. Darbon, D. Terry, C. Smith, D. Hoskins, T. Nash & I. Dear.  It must have been a caving hut in those days as it had dates of first descents also.

Tonight the oldies (Martin, Mac & Tony) were too tired so just stayed in & went to bed early whilst the rest of us went to the Linnet, one more time.  Its amazing the body's capacity to drink a gallon plus of proper Irish Guinness and get up the next morning and go caving with no undue effects.

Thursday ... Maurice, who owns Corallee Cottages, came caving with us down Pollaraftara ... entrance rift and crawl to main streamway, mud climb ... really slimey through muddy series and on to some pretty gour pools then into canals.  Tony produced a pink blow up pig, blew it up, and knowing that Vince & Co were just in front of us so we'd meet them on the way back, took the pig along the canals and met Vince.  Tony left it at the sump for someone else's amusement & we came out. Met Martin & Mac who had had light failure & so stayed back ... we all went out.

Final nights cocktails in the Linnet, left very late.

Friday Going home ... unfortunately both parties went via Giants Causeway on the way back !!!!!!


Another version of the events perpetrated by the BEC comes from the log of Vince Simmonds (Who has been rather prolific with articles this issue .... thanks Vince ..... Ed)

Northern Ireland - Co Fermanagh Easter '94.

Vince Simmonds, Dave Lennard, Ivan Sandford, Roz Bateman, Steve Grey.


After a couple of beers and something to eat in the Hunters, we were on the road by 8.30pm.  The motorway traffic was heavier than expected. We had a scenic tour of the Peak National Park to pick up Steve - pity it was too dark to see anything.!!


We arrived at Lame by 11.30 am and a steady drive saw us arriving at Belcoo at 2.30pm.  We soon located Steve’s mates from Huddersfield, got his caving kit, had a brew & ready to go caving.  A bit of navigational misunderstanding & we finally located the caves.

White Feathers Caves ... (St Augustines Caves.)

Cave 1 A rock bridge upstream which no-one visited.

Cave 2 Another rock bridge 50m long with a good sized stream RB & VS explored this one.

Cave 3 An impressive entrance arch with several openings to the surface.  A good size stream passage meanders gently past some decent formations until it gets deeper and faster, then swimming leads to the bottom entrance. It was so much fun we did it again!! Players were RB, VS, DL & SG (Ivan gave it a miss) also several of the Huddersfield group.  After searching for the others and a very mellow night at the Linnet.. ... Boho.


It snowed a lot last night & there's a puddle in the tent coz Ivan left the door open, it also snowed in his sleeping bag.  Guinness doesn't give you a hangover!!  Drove into Enniskillen after breakfast to buy some maps, an unnecessary journey coz we later found we could have bought them at Marble Arch Cave.  The Marble Arch system was the scene for today's activities.  Taking part were .. .VS, RB, IS, DL, Emma, J-Rat, Mac, Estelle, Pete Bolt & Martin Grass.  Steves not feeling too good.

Upper Cradle Hole .... A gentle stroll upstream in a sizeable passage to a sump.  Downstream didn't go far & ended in a small lake. About 20mins caving.

Lower Cradle Hole .... Another stroll through large stream passage until reaching deep water & a swim; through a duck into a small water filled chamber with a lot of people bobbing about.  Another swim & duck into the showcave.  Quite a novelty going through the showcave in kit.  Before long a climb over a barrier, more swimming, a choke & then more walking in stream passage.  We did find some rather nice mud to wallow in.  Walked around for a bit coz Emma said we had missed something but we couldn't find it so we headed out.  We were going to swim out of the tourist boat trip but as the water level had risen by 12" we decided to give it a miss.  When later seeing the water coming out it was probably a wise move.

Coolarkin Cave .... Located in Belmore Forest near Boho.

Almost a shorts & t-shirt cave if it wasn't so cold.  A large stream passage with banks either side to walk on, ending in a monster choke described as " slur on Irish caving!"

Adjourned to the Linnet for cocktails.


Weather was shit so we decided to go digging the choke in Coolarkin cave.

RB, DL, VS & IS went digging, Steve was feeling much worse so he decided to go to Enniskillen to get nebulized!!  (He's athsmatic.)

VS had a tentative look into the boulder choke but could find no obvious route & it was decided to dig where the stream was sinking.  A lot of time was spent diverting the stream down one hole or another. VS managed to make some progress into the choke but the area was extremely unstable.  RB went down where the stream previously sank but again digging would be long term.  DL & IS spent all their time dam building & stream diverting.  We all had a poke at a hole halfway along the main passage, but it quickly closed down.  RB took some compass bearings so we could check the surface layout.  The frustrating thing was that water could be heard flowing beyond the choke.  After 3.5 hrs digging we decided to check the surface out.

On exiting the cave DL & VS were greeted by 2 RUC officers and as we entered the wood 4 more with rifles ... a little disconcerting!!!

We were questioned as to how many people were here & if we were meant to be meeting someone.  It was eventually explained to us that Steve had been detained in Enniskillen hospital with some pneumonia like virus & that one of us was to go with them to collect the van.  So DL got to ride in an armour plated Sierra!!

It turned out that Steve had to sign anti terrorist papers & an armed guard was left at the hospital in case we had set them up for an ambush.

While waiting for DL to return VS, RB & IS went in search of the shakehole responsible for the choke, we soon located it but there were no prospects for digging here either.

4.4.94 Shannon Cave ... Nr Skeagh ( Cuilgagh Mountain)

This was one of two caves recommended to us as being ok during wet conditions.  Just as well coz its been snowing again & the ground was already saturated. RB, DL, VS, IS & Estelle set off to locate the entrance & as normal spent some time in the wrong place before deciding to drive 2 miles up a forest track, moving fallen trees on the way.  We then had the problem of turning the van round without getting it stuck in a bog.

A damp descent through boulders getting damper the further we went, eventually leading out into more sizeable passage.  Dropping down through several levels there are some nicely shaped meandering passages before finally dropping into the main passage.  This was up to 50' high & meandering.  A good brisk walk with some boulder hopping and some squeezes. The passage then closes down to a very unstable choked area which RB & VS negotiated past some dodgy looking shoring.  We then followed some large stream passage to a huge chamber, probably 100' high, before rejoining the others.  On the way back we missed a crawl through boulders and found ourselves following the aptly named mistake passage.

We had a few fits & start route finding on the way out, partly due to rapidly rising water levels & damp squeezes on the way in were now very wet.  One place that had been a duck with 6" of airspace was now under water.  Luckily there was a route over the top.  We got back to the surface into a blizzard after 4 hrs of thoroughly enjoyable caving. We then drove to Enniskillen to collect Steve, who we met at a police road block after he had talked a nurse into giving him a lift back to our campsite.

Some food in Enniskillen and a steady session in the pub.


All of us drove to Co Sligo for the day & just for a change the sun was shining.  Our lesson for today was not to jump out of cars & vans & go running about in a community alert area as the screech of Garda patrol cars soon tells you its not the done thing.  It was soon sorted out, though it was amusing to see Martin, Mac & J-Rat being shepherded down a farm track by a patrol car!!!

Lecarrow Cave Nr Ballinafad (Lough Arrow)

2 entrances Sink & Resurgence, unfortunately a through trip was not possible.  DL, VS & J-Rat (pants t-shirt & boiler suit) entered the resurgence & followed some very pleasant stream passage with lovely formations.  About 200m of stooping passage with some wet thrutches closing down at a choke & sump. At the sink we were joined by Martin & we followed a gently meandering stream passage up to 15' high & 4' wide once again with some superb formations.  The passage eventually ended at another sump.

Caves of Keash ....

17 or so entrances high up on a cliff & very visible from the road.  Most of the caves were not long & were occupied by Brock! Steve said he pushed one for 600'. (What a Badger???? ... Ed)  RB & VS spent some time trying to dig a hole through into a chamber but lacked tools & time.  There were several joints running parallel to the cliff & joining several entrances.


After drinking in the Linnet until 2.45am & not getting to bed until 5.30am, enthusiasm for caving was waning fast!!!. .. Still no hangover.

After dropping the others at the impressive Noone Hole for walking DL, RB, IS & VS decided to have a look at Boho caves.

Cave 1 ... After locating the various entrances, sink & resurgence, we decided on the through, to wash out the cobwebs.  Went u/s in decent cave passage, very cherty, & joint controlled.  Turned around & went d/s this time exploring various side passages, some dry & grovelly with a few formations.

Cave 2 ... RB & VS had a look at another resurgence.  A very narrow cherty rift with a lot of water, closing down after 40'. Very slimy.

Cave 3 ... ( Ravine Caves.)

A high, open joint with daylight showing. A climb up leads to a chamber with moonmilk.  A small hole leads to another chamber with several joint passages leading off, also decorated & all dry.

Cave 4 ... ( Ravine Caves.)

Another resurgence with a fine waterfall a little way in.  Followed the stream passage for about 30m to a sump.  Several side passages were followed but could not regain access to the stream.  The downstream caves were all located in an old quarry that had been allowed to re-naturalize & with a 30' waterfall was a very peasant place.

7.4.94 Pollaraftar

Everyone apart from Ivan & we were joined by Marius Lennard from Corallee.

A Sunny day at last if a little breezy.  A very pleasant walk over Knockmore about 20 mins to the entrance.  A climb through boulders into a clean washed rift led to a chamber where the 2nd entrance ladder pitch entered.  A walk down a small streamway led to a bit of thrutching along a high level sump bypass.  Then followed a walk through sizeable passage with a good deal of breakdown before coming into larger stream passage.  A muddy climb with a dubious bit of string led to a short muddy section before better passage with formations.  A long chamber with goured floor was followed before a climb up to boulders led to an exposed climb down the other side.  The passage then led to some canals, a good deal of swimming & some fine formations the passage finally ending in a large choke & sump.  On the return trip we were met by an inflatable pink pig closely followed by J-Rat.


After dropping RB in Strabane DL, VS, IS & SG made their way to Co Antrim to visit the Giants Causeway - a very impressive sight.  A landslide meant we could not follow the cliff path as far as we wished.  We then dropped in to Ballinatoy Harbour where we had a look at some small sea caves before making our way via the coastal road to Lame.

Snippets .

On the way to the Linnet one night Steve pulled in to let a car pass, when it didn't he opened the window to wave it on only to find himself looking down a rifle barrel, another RUC officer checking us out.

Specky to Estelle in the pub ...

"If you didn't swear every other word, you wouldn't spend all night talking."


An Arresting Experience In Myanmar.

Helen Harper

I am writing to set the record straight.  Rob, my husband, has fabricated a tale claiming that I was responsible for our arrest and detention by the army in Myanmar ( Burma) earlier this year.  It wasn't me who led us into trouble and what follows is my side of the story.  Many of you will know about an incident after Batspiss' engagement party involving half the Wiltshire constabulary in 1986 and another in Matienzo in 1990 when even his best buddy disowned him.  Since then I have been very reluctant to let him go abroad without me being there to keep an eye on him.  Shame I can hear you cry but is a man who's only line of defence is "But I've only been arrested twice since we got married" really safe let loose on his own?  He needs a grown up, to look after him, i.e. me since Blitz cannot be trusted!  On this occasion however both of us ended up in trouble.

I won't bore you with stories of being a member of an 8 person caving team to Meghalaya, where we surveyed and mapped 14kms of new cave passage or the visit to some small caves in Orissa and Andra Pradesh made by Rob and I.  That can be left to the real cavers.

I shall start with our arrival in Myanmar.  Having obtained our 2 week visas in London, well in advance, we extended our trip to South and East Asia by flying to Yangon ( Rangoon) from Calcutta via Bangkok.  Once in Myanmar we set of on the tourist trail 'up country'.  Myanmar has a regime similar to China, there are open areas where tourists can visit, grey areas where tourists are not supposed to go but are usually tolerated and closed areas which are strictly. 'No Go'.  This is because the Hill Tribes are fighting a guerrilla war with the socialist military government, funded by growing poppies for opium production. Consequently the government do not want tourists wandering around in these areas.  Whether this is for the protection of the tourist or to prevent them seeing what the government army is up to in these areas I do not know.

For the first part of our journey we travelled from Yangon to Thazi by train then by bus, (a Toyota pickup with about 30 people inside, on the roof and hanging off the outside), to Kalaw in the Southern Shan States which was an hill station in the days of the British occupation.

Here Rob realised we were only about 70kms north of an area for which he had references from some Aussie cavers.  Fired by tales of rivers disappearing into limestone ridges and entrances that could be seen from the shuttle flight to Yangon, he tried to find out if we could reach the town nearest to this area, Pinlaung, by public transport or Jeep hire.  The manager of the hotel at which we were staying informed us that it was not an area we could enter without asking permission from the Township branch of S.L.O.R.C.  (very 007) the State Law and Order Restoration Council and the local Police. Another local then advised us not to bother to ask because we would not be granted permission anyway.  Having had this set back Rob said 'F**k it lets go' but I wimped out and refused much to his disgust.  We then travelled on to Inle Lake and spent 2 days being ordinary tourists again. By this time I could see that if we didn't try to get to this potential caving area Rob would go it alone.  In fact he suggested that I tag along with some other travellers and meet up with him again later in Yangon.  I was then more concerned about him getting into trouble on his own and possibly disappearing without trace, so AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT I agreed to accompany him to Pinlaung.  We tried again to hire transport via a Burmese Mr Fixit but he refused to have anything to do with our escapade.

We decided to go it alone by public transport and caught another bus back to Aungban from where it is possible to travel north to the famous Pindaya caves.  This confused all the locals because they were convinced we should be going north to see caves not south.  At Aungban the next bus driver wouldn't have anything to do with us and directed us to the train station.  Here the Postmaster took us under his wing directed us to a stall for refreshment and explained that the train standing in the station would go to Pinlaung but didn't depart until 3.00pm, this was at 11.00am.  The station building was new but not completed, such is Burmese hospitality a room was opened especially for us to rest and wait, accompanied by a large pile of avocado pears a local cash crop.  Rob bought the tickets unhindered and we were directed onto the train by the Postmaster.  Then started an epic third world train journey, when it took 7 hours to travel 70kms.  Rob struck up a conversation with a man called Mr Black who spoke quite good English and owned a teashop in Pinlaung.  He and his mates left the train at the township.  As it slowed down people, goods and luggage piled out of the windows.  At the station proper about 3kms down the track we alighted.  It was about 10.30pm and dark.  We were told we could not sleep there and had to walk back into town. We set off down the road and after about 1.5kms a pickup truck passed us and a voice called "Mr Rob, Mr Rob, very sorry, this is my friend from army intelligence"

I was amazed how calm I felt at that moment.  We independently expected to be taken off for interrogation and torture.  After climbing into the pickup we were driven into the neighbouring army camp.  Every one kept assuring us that we had nothing to worry about.  Much to our surprise we were not dragged out to have electrodes clipped to sensitive parts of our bodies but taken to the town guest house.  The old man who ran it was woken up to let us and our escorts in.  Soon more members of army intelligence arrived and demanded to know what we were doing there.  Our passports and visas were scrutinised and Rob produced the photocopied references he had for the disappearing rivers.  The army people claimed to have no knowledge of any caves or rivers going underground.   However the old man knew something and even though he was talking Burmese he was obviously pointing in the correct general direction and telling them all about it. We were told off for not going through the official tourist authority M.T.T. (Myanmar Travels and Tours) and that it was not a "secure" area. However they said that they would enquire if we could stay and explore but that we must not do anything until permission was granted.  We slept soundly that night and awoke to find one of our guardians outside our door the next morning.  Had he been there all night?

After primitive ablutions around the back of the guest house we walked up to Mr Black’s Teashop where we had been invited for breakfast.  Our escort came too.  Then we had a tour around town.  A Buddhist festival was in progress so we watched the elephant dance.  Not a real elephant but a pantomime elephant like a pantomime horse danced by teams of two men who needed regular replacements.  At 9.00am another intelligence officer arrived and after a hurried conversation with our original escort we were informed that it was not a secure area, it was not possible for us to visit, we must return to the guest house immediately and go back to Aungban as soon as possible. With that we were marched back to the guest house and made to stay in our room.  Rob was even followed to the toilet in a shed on the land behind the guest house.  We tried to leave by bus or train but were told this was not possible so we hired the pickup in which we had first been detained, at our own expense, to take us back to Kalaw.  Our army intelligence escort travelled with us and made sure we checked in and paid for our room at the hotel before he left.

We were treated with great courtesy throughout the whole incident by every one we met.  The Burmese are the friendliest most helpful people we have encountered so far in our travels.  Rob is now trying to obtain permission through official tourist and government channels to return and prospect for caves.

So far Rob has only been arrested three times during our married life.  Admittedly I was detained with him on this last occasion but I was NOT responsible for our predicament, I was led astray!


Spike's Bit...

Most of what I would have gossiped about has been published elsewhere in this rag, but there are one or two bits juicy enough to mention .......

Like when some of the members went up to Yorkshire to visit John & Sue Riley at The Old Hill Inn and got pissed up .... just for a change you understand.

Apparently one night there was this bloke handcuffed to the cartwheel in the bar!

Enter one B.E.C. member of the female persuasion (Who in the interests of decency and potential blackmail threats, will remain nameless .... won't you Babs .. !!)

She enquired of the manacled one as to what was going on ..... he replied that it was his stag night. "Well they're not doing much to you are they?" she said and promptly disappeared.  Moments later as if by magic she had returned armed with razor blades, foam and a wicked grin.  At this point the victim probably started feeling a little nervous.  To cut a long story short (& Curly) she debagged him and removed his short & curlies replacing them with a blue condom and a BEC sticker.  I wouldn't fancy his chances explaining that one to his bride to be!!


Dateline 23/7/94. Venue Priddy Village Hall.

The occasion this night was the celebration of the union of Andy Cave & Angie Garwood .... now Mr & Mrs Cave ..... to whom the author of this piece offers his congrats (As do we all I'm sure .... Ed)

Free beer, music, fun & frolics were had by all.  An appearance by The Belfry Boys and an excellent blues band went down very well, as did several barrels of Roger's finest.

The theme was "Boots & Headgear" and most people made an effort with only a few boring F**t’s turning up in caving helmets ..... shame on you.!!

The party went on till 1.00 when it abruptly teleported back to chez Cave where it revitalized itself and lurched on until about 5.00 a.m.  A good time was had by all and we even cleared up the next day.

I'd like to go on & on but Jingles won't let me .... still there's always next time I suppose.

ta ta for now ...... "Spike".


Odds & Sods

Estelle Sandford has moved (again ) and is now resident at the following address  Wells, Somerset
Greg Villis has changed his phone number to .... 0934 xxxxxxx


Chas Wethered has lost a windowpane.... sorry spectacle lens.... he reckons it’s in the streamway somewhere between the entrance and sump 1 in Swildons Hole and will buy a pint for the finder.  I'm sure we'll all be rushing off down there to look for it won't we???


As many of you may already know John & Sue Riley want to flog the Hill Inn in Chapel Ie Dale (NO NO NO I hear you cry .. .'tis sad but true)

So if any of you mega rich members fancy buying a pub for Xmas give them a ring.  They can be contacted on .... 0524-xxxxx.

I personally doubt that anyone is gonna top Sue's food though ....... Jx


The Belfry Boys .... those purveyors of exotic harmonies (You What!!!) will be appearing at the Bath Arms in Cheddar on the evening of Sunday 18th September 1994 at 8.15pm, if anyone is foolish enough to be interested.

Rumour has it that they might be making an appearance at the club dinner this year too, so best make sure you are not there eh????


Folk In The Bath starts up again on 4th September, at, surprisingly enough, The Bath Arms in Cheddar 8.15 on Sunday nights.  Snab has lined up some excellent acts for the season (So why has he got the Belfry Boys then???)  Anyone who is in the area on a Sunday night is more than welcome to come along.  At times this venue is almost a BEC meet! and is always a fun night out.


Nominations for next year's committee should be forwarded to the Hon Sec to reach him no later than 1.10.94


And finally

Roger Stenner informs me that the drinking cup in the entrance series of St Cuthbert’s Swallet actually takes water from the Belfry septic tank .... mmmmm lovely.

On hearing this Zot was heard to exclaim ....

"But I've been drinking it for 30 years & it's had no effect on me!"

............................................ I rest my case.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover:              No comment.


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


Inside Cover:      Emma Porter (a prospective member) is “interviewed” by J-Rat & Jingles.


April fool it the Belfry Bulletin!


Hello again folks, BB time is here ... whoopee!!!

Judging by the response to the last issue I considered it wise to let "Spike" loosed again so he'll take over in a minute.  I'd just like to appeal to you all for some more articles.  This has been the main reason for the delay in this issue, or rather the lack of articles has.  I know that there are those that that have promised and are indeed at this very moment scribbling away, but I could still do with more input.

I'd also like to apologise for the poor print quality or some of this ish .. .its cos I'm between computers at present and I’m having to beg borrow and steal time on other systems (once a hacker etc.)  I’m hoping to improve the look of the BB with the next issue, thanks to Dave Turner’s Laser printer so I hope that will make up for it.  Oh and if there is any smelliung pisstakes in the prunbtong its cos I was in a Harry!!

Spike's Corner:

I managed to escape from my cage to attend Rich Blake’s Birthday bash at the Belfry, little did I realise that it was the official Belfry "Winter Olympics.  (See Belfry Walls for evidence!?!?!?).  I was greeted at the door by a wall of sound, the first time I’ve seen a stereo that size in The Belfry (and some would say hopefully the last…ed).  Having struggled through the almost solid decibels I was nearly fried alive by the resident fire breather and flame thrower…Ivan.  I hear tell that Zot was banned for this many moons ago!!  When the flames had cleared I realised that the kitchen had been transformed (as usual) into a ski jump.   The kitchen had been transformed into a ski jump.  A highly lubricated Belfry tale was mounted at a ”Black Run” angle at the far end and extreme mirth was had watching Snablet, Rich Vince et al Luging, skiing and falling down it.  This degenerated into a tennis/cricket match where anything that could be thrown became a ball, including certain individuals!  Once the throng were knee deep in broken crockery etc. (including Ivan’s suspected broken shin!!) things slowed down a bit. Just before I departed someone put the Sex Pistols on the stereo (always a recipe of disaster) and I have a vision of Blake, Snab and Vince “dancing” to the beat.  At least they say it was dancing, all looked a bit iffy to me, needless to say various individuals were differing shades of green the next morning.

I also Went to Sian Menab’s 21st "Rocky Horror" party at the village hall the other weekend. This was a dammed good bash and can be summed up quite succinctly.  "Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders, Beer, Dancing, Nurses, Stockings Suspenders, Food, Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders and ......... Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders. (Get the idea???)   If you can't imagine what its like I suggest you speak to Snablet or Dave Lennard as they are both reputed to have had "First hand Experience" later in the evening.

A good time was had by all who attended; even Andy Sparrow was depressed up, tho’ I have to say that Mrs Sparrow looked better in her gear than Andy in Basque.  (As Snab said to me, if one testicle fall out either side he would have been a Basque separatist!!)   I also saw the editor of a BEC magazine dressed to the nines, best dressed woman there weren't you jingles. (Lies lies all lies…Ed).

Personally I can’t wait for the next one, Nurses, stockings, suspenders ... ad infinitum.



By Phil Romford.

Sandpit is a unique solutional feature on Mendip, situated at the top of the catchments between Swildons Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and at the head of Ebbor Gorge above Wookey Hole.  It is a large, roughly rectangular solutional depression about 50 by 23 metres and 11 metres deep, the longer axis is North to South.  Sand Pit may be an ancient collapsed cavern; the possible evidence for this being the vertical cliff sides, the highest being about 8 metres, and, the vast amount of boulders infilling the floor.  It is shown as a small walled in feature on sheet 280, Wells area geological map at NGR ST 533497.

Sandpit is of great interest both in geological and potentially hydrological terms.  It is situated only about 150 to 200 metres south of the South Western Overthrust fault in Burrington Oolite (BO), which is faulted against the Clifton Down Limestone (CDL) to the north.  The South Western Overthrust fault trends approximately North West from near Cheddar, to the South East at the Emborough Thrust near The Hunters Lodge Inn, where it is offset by the Stock Hill Fault.  The fault dips at an angle of about 60 degrees SW.  In Sandpit the BO apparent dip is approximately 350, bearing 2600.  The name Sandpit no doubt derives from the fact that the limestone rots in localised lenses to a fine pale yellow/grey siliceous sand.  Generally, the limestone beds visible in Sandpit are massive, averaging about 1.5 to 2 metres.  The rock is fairly easily broken, unlike that at White Pit; my assumption is that the limestone in Sandpit was not sufficiently close to the fault to be affected by localised frictional heating and consequent metamorphism.

Sandpit is owned by Richard Masters of Lower Pitts Farm and is scheduled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The basis of the SSSI schedule being Geology and Biology.  It is therefore, a site of some considerable sensitivity in ecological and conservation terms.  The land owner asked me to discuss the prospect of digging with English Nature (EN) who are the body administering SSSI's.  After careful discussion I was able to ensure EN that digging would be carefully considered to take account of the fragile nature of the ecology.  This was agreed on the basis of a very small team of diggers who would continually update the landowner of progress.  EN granted a formal consent to the land owner allowing our team to proceed with caution.

There has been a sporadic history of digging in Sandpit since 1907 when the MNRC dug a small cave in the SW corner; in 1940 the UBSS dug a 3 metre shaft near the centre; the SMCC dug near the UBSS shaft in 1962 and later in 1965 (My old dig); the WCC in 1968 and finally in the late 1980's by EMI Caving Club.  None of the digging revealed anything of significance.  The current dig, started Spring 1993 is at the lowest point of the hole near the western cliff.

Tim Large and I sited our dig on the exact spot that I had previously dug nearly 30 years earlier. This was following the West wall down vertically; we very rapidly found that below infill level, the cliff was stepping out in well defined ledges about 1/2 metre wide and deep.  At a depth of 3 metres we had to dig outwards away from the wall to gain more depth. By now Brian Murlis and Chris Towser had joined us on a regular basis.  To date we have excavated to a depth of approximately 5 metres at the deepest; at that point we found that once again we were hitting solid bed rock.  The decision had to be made whether to tunnel following the rock down at an angle, or, whether to move out another couple of metres and dig another shaft.  After a lot of soul searching we decided on the latter, which will most likely be concrete lined for safety. We are now getting down into large blocks which may be promising. It least it may make it easier to consolidate the shaft.  The soil infill seems looser and with less clay than the upper levels and is certainly undisturbed by previous diggers. Since there may be items of archaeological interest, we shall take soil profiles as we dig the new shaft to build up a picture of the prehistory of the depression.


The situation of Sandpit is an interesting one: Since it is more or less in the centre of the Swildons, Cuthbert’s, Wookey Hole triangle, it gives rise to speculation on what lies beneath the Sand Pit infill. The drainage patterns of the major swallets feeding Wookey Hole indicate that there may be a major confluence probably nearer to St. Cuthbert’s sumps than any other swallet (see St. Cuthbert’s Report-Geomorphology).  The three major cave systems all terminate at sumps north of the South Western Overthrust fault.  This indicates to me that the confluence may be in the fault itself, at a depth of around 180 metres, at or near the saturation zone.  This means that Sandpit could be directly above major cave development. Indeed, White Pit, which is only about 500 metres to the NW, has a high level well decorated passage which trends due East. It is certainly possible that the two features may link, ultimately joining with The Master Cave (sic).



Tax changes affecting caving clubs.


Press Release:

Tax changes affecting caving clubs.

Following further investigation the details of the likely effects of the changes in tax legislation are becoming clearer.

The basic requirement of clubs and societies is simply to inform their local tax office of their existence. The tax office will then send a form on which the club can declare the amount of any taxable income, along with instructions on how to fill the form in. So long as the form is completed and returned within the time scales required there should be no further action required on the part of the Club and in many cases no tax will be payable.

Clubs should note that there are penalties for not filing their return within the specified period, but that these are only applicable if the local tax office has sent out a demand for information and this has been ignored.  On the other hand, treasurers and chairmen of clubs and societies may become personally liable for penalties and any tax due if they wilfully attempt to evade tax by failing to inform the tax office of the existence of their club.

A recent article in the NAMHO Newsletter (No. 24, January 1994), written by one of the Inland Revenue team responsible for the changes in the regulations, clearly describes the action which should be taken by treasurers and other responsible people in clubs and societies.  Copies of this are available, free of charge, by contacting the NCA Treasurer at the address below, enclosing an SAE. The names of people requesting the information will be kept on file and if there are any developments in the future the Association will try to keep people informed.

Nick Williams
Treasurer, National Caving Association,

Wednesday, February 9,1994

New tax changes affecting clubs and associations.

1.       Introduction.

A new piece of tax legislation became effective on 1st October 1993 (CT Pay and File).  This legislation applies mainly to limited companies but it also includes unincorporated associations, i.e. voluntary clubs, associations etc. In the following text the following definitions are applicable: -

Organisation - any voluntary club or association

Inspector - the local Tax District of the Inland Revenue.

2.       Previous treatment.

In the past, organisations have been strictly bound by the same rules as companies but the inspectors have exercised a lot of discretion.  Although income from subscriptions is not taxable, bank or building society interest is.  Most organisations have a deposit or building society account but the total annual interest received, and thus the tax due, is minimal. In most cases the interest is paid net of tax anyway.  Since it would cost more to assess and collect the tax than would be received, the Inspector, sensibly, did not pursue clubs where the tax liability was minimal.

3.       New Rules.

In respect of accounting years ending 1 October 1993 onwards, organisations, other than charities, are bound by the same rules as other companies. These rules are as follows: -

a.                      Within three months of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation will receive from the Inspector a tax return (form CTIOO) and a formal notice to make a return.

b.                      Within nine months and one day of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation must pay any tax due. They will calculate the tax liability themselves on the tax return (CT200).  Interest will be charged on any tax paid later than this date.

c.                      Within twelve months of the organisation's accounting year end the organisation must send the tax return (CT200) to the Inspector.  Nil liability must still be notified on a CT200.  A penalty will be charged where the CTIOO is returned later than this date as follows:

- £100 where returned up to 3 months late;

- £200 where returned over 3 month late.

4.       Charities

Registered charities must still return accounts to the Charity Commissioners as before but they are obliged to make a return on form CT200 if sent one by the inspector.

5.       Compliance

At present, Inspectors are only aware of the existence of a very few organisations.  The Inspectors can only issue a notice and Form CT200 if they are aware of the existence of the organisation and it should be noted that the penalty for late return of Form CT200 is only applicable if the organisation has received an official notice.  There may, therefore, be a temptation to refuse to notify the Inspector of the existence of the organisation in the hope that the organisation never receives an official notice.

This is NOT advisable since the Inspector may discover the existence of the organisation at a future date through the activities of investigation units. In such cases the Inspector can not only assess the unpaid tax for back years but also charge interest and penalties. Where an organisation is unincorporated the person assessed will be the Chairman or Treasurer personally on behalf of the organisation.

6.       Recommendations

For both organisations and the Inland Revenue to comply with the new legislation would involve a great deal of non cost effective work.  However, the legislation cannot be ignored completely. The answer is to obtain an "Extra Statutory Concession" from the Inland Revenue whereby they agree that the organisations need not send in details if their taxable income is below a de minimis amount.  I have sent a submission to the Inland Revenue Head Office asking them to consider an Extra Statutory Concession.  I will keep you informed of future developments.

Adrian Pearce.

Reproduced from NAMHO Newsletter No. 24, January 1994


From Chas Wethered

A little over three moths ago I met an old friend, Martin, in The Hunter's for Saturday lunch.  We decided it would be a good idea to take his two sons, James and Edward, for a look round

Goatchurch cavern, a gentle trip, as this would be the boys' first underground adventure and Mart's first trip in about 20 years.

We went to Brian Prewer's to borrow helmets and lamps for Mart and the boys, in exchange for a modest donation to the M.R.O.  Martin and Brian then recalled that they had caved together all that time ago, some reminiscence was indulged in as they got their kit sorted out, then off we went to Burrington Combe where we changed into our caving gear in Mart's van.  My first trip to Goatchurch (see BB 470) had been on a Tuesday morning in summer, Saturday afternoon in autumn found the cave 'inhabited' but nowhere near as busy as on my earlier visit.  In we went by the main entrance, Mart and I kept up a running commentary of sensible advice and naming sections of the cave for the boys, interspersed with 'witty' asides in Goon Show voices.  Members of 'a certain age' will be familiar with the antics of the Zany characters invented by messrs Milligan, Secombe, Sellars et al. (B*gger off Chas!! I can remember that myself and still have my copy of 'The Ying Tong Song'…certain age indeed!!...Ed.)

The humour and daft voices were to allay any fears that 'Little Jim' & 'Neddy' might have had. They said later that they weren't worried as they had enjoyed our jokes (poor deluded children) and had found their first adventure in the depths of the hill great fun and wanted to go again.

Next day, Sunday, lunch again at the Hunter's then to Priddy Green.  To Brian's for kit as before, then after changing in the barn we crossed the field to Swildons Hole.  Being the last man and being detained by a call of nature (Butcombe), not wanting to delay my companions, I suffered a hiatus of my mental process and dropped heavily into the entrance.  I landed on a small loose rock with my right foot, that ankle refocused my remaining brain cell with a sharp stab of pain.  A severe reminder to be more careful, later diagnosed by my G.P. as damaged ligaments, not serious but bloody painful.  Once exploring and pointing out the formations and intricacies of the dry ways to the lads (again with Martin & I sounding like 'Eccles' & 'Bluebottle' etc….."Oooooh…..He's fallen in the water?!?!") my hurt all but disappeared only to return with a vengeance later.  We took the boys to the top of the 20' and back, here was a good but light flow in the streamway giving the lads another new experience.  James wrote the imaginative poem (which follows, Ed) based on the weekends exploits, which I hope will give enjoyment to all us Belfryites.



Down Swildon's Hole.

With heavy belts and mining boots,
With nife cells, hats and lamps,
Down Swildon's Hole go one, two, three,
Hoping now to chance,
The trip down Swildon's hole and back,
But what dangers will there be?
Said one to others; Let us go,
And from all the things that I now know,
The trip all round, both to and fro,
Will take too long, and so,
I have thought another route,
That more our plan it does now suit.
Three boys they clambered down the hale,
And searching all throughout their soul,
They found no fear, or just for now.
The Rift, the Pipe, the tightest crawl,
Now would not divide them all,
But later, and now that is here,
The boys did not find cause for cheer,
And running out now was their hope,
'Cause one of them had dropped the rope!
Now here they stand, just down a climb,
And all they could now do was whine,
And holler, bellow, scream and shout,
In hope that someone could get them out,
But alack, outside the rain did fall,
And forced these boys only to crawl
Through flooded chambers, pipes and rifts,
Come up for air or catch the drifts,
And float along until they saw,
What looked a lot like a smooth glass door.
A closer peer revealed the clue:-
The water now: backwards it blew!
This was the hole the boys came in!
Oh how they made a terrific din!
One by one, they clambered out,
And there and then they gave a shout,
Because now all of them were free,
And had not come to misery.
Now on this world were three less graves,
But there are some terrifying caves!

James Torbett – Aged 12 – 25/10/93 -


Skiing In Crans Montana

When Jingles requested more articles for the BB I bemoaned the fact, in the Hunters one evening, that I could not help out as I had never done anything remotely original or interesting in the caving world about which to write an article.  "Why not write an article about skiing" says J-Rat, who like me believes that Jingles has a lot to be thanked for the rejuvenated BB and who, of course, is dependent on others for material to be published.

Well just as in the caving world I have never done anything interesting or original so in the skiing world, but I am aware that not so many cavers have skied so an article on the mundane will do just as well.

Are there any similarities? Well I suppose so, both sports depend on going downhill and then up but in the reverse order; both involve getting cold and sometimes hot, but for very different reasons; both require some nerve to enjoy to the full; both involve boozing for added pleasure; both have seen an amazing development in the fashionability of the cloths used; both depend on specialist gear to some extent and finally in the case of an accident requiring rescue both involve some trauma to the victim unless, in the case of skiing, you are taken off the mountain in a helicopter and then the trauma is whether your insurance policy covers the cost.

The main difference is the accommodation and food associated with recreational downhill skiing which s normally quite luxurious, and, even if it isn't, very expensive.  This I know puts many cavers off the sport when they think of the weeks or months, for the same cost, that they could spend enjoying themselves in the discomfort of the jungles or arid zones of the world under canvas, living off the land and drinking with the natives.  Well there's none of that in recreational skiing, rather superheated chalets or hotels, five course dinners, coffee at £2.00 a cup, a half of beer at more than that and a plate of chips at 3,000m for a fiver.  Now for someone, dare I say it, who has never stayed at the Belfry, these disadvantages are not serious rather they are positive advantages (excepting the cost).  You can of course hire an apartment and self-cater but even that isn't cheap.

The other main difference is that most downhill skiing could under no circumstances be considered "natural".  Purists who consider the fixed aids in Cuthbert’s an outrage would have nightmares at the sight of the uphill transport systems, the massive reshaping of mountains to produce skiable pistes (originally French for paths) and the bashing of the snow by amazing tracked machines (once seen in operation you would never bother to buy a 4WD vehicle) that seem to be able to go anywhere and work all night to produce easily skiable conditions.

What other differences are there?  There are far more women skiers than cavers and many are better than the men.  I am not sure whether this makes its difference for the better or worse as far as the readership is concerned!  The cost of going uphill is astronomic once you are anything more than a beginner.  In a resort with 100km or more of marked pistes a lift pass for a week will cost about £100.00.  If you don't own skis and boots you will have to hire both, if you've never skied before it makes sense to have lessons.

Skiing is very weather dependent with a short season, except on glaciers, on which you can ski all year - during the 1985 Berger trip I took off for a day to ski the glacier at Les Deux Alpes its often too cold, too sunny, too limited visibility, too much snow, too little snow but for all that it is often just right.

Off piste skiing, of which I have no experience, would I am sure appeal to cavers more as it is natural to the extent that you are skiing the untouched mountain snow.  It requires a different technique from piste skiing.      Of even more attraction   to BEC             members would be ski touring, or mountaineering, in which you go uphill as well as down on your skis and move from hut to hut.  You need an excellent knowledge of the mountains, or better still a guide, and joy upon joy the accommodation and drinking habits get much closer to caving as mountain huts, though warm, cannot be described as luxurious and the camaraderie and boozing legendary if a bit expensive.


This resort is on the north side of the Rhone valley about 80km east of the eastern end of Lake Geneva.  We sometimes fly from Heathrow in the morning to Geneva and then take the train from Geneva to Sierre and then a bus or rack and pinion railway up the mountain to Montana in time for tea.  More often than not now we drive leaving Somerset late Friday afternoon, catching an evening ferry at Dover and then driving

through the night arriving in Crans in time for breakfast, a journey of 550 miles across French motorways, then lesser roads across the Jura and finally more motorway in Switzerland.  Travelling this way we can be skiing by lunchtime on Saturday.

We tend to go to the same place most years for a mixture of reasons.  We have a friend who lets us his luxury apartment, three bedrooms and two bathrooms for the two of us.  On a day when there is no cloud the sun shines for eight hours when in other resorts less well positioned it will shine for one or two hours.  The resort is the biggest in Switzerland but hardly used by the Brits.  It is difficult to understand why except that it all faces south so that when the sun shines the snow melts quickly, but in the early season, provided there has been a good fall of snow the sun and snow can be a wonderful combination - from 10.00am to 4.00pm in hot sunshine in mid February on a mountainside between the altitudes of 1,500m and 3,000m can be magic.

The guidebooks say that Crans lacks challenging runs and this is true to some extent but for us this is compensated by the fact that Maggie and I can ski the whole mountain together, over 100 kilometres of marked piste, without Maggie getting scared and the views across the Rhone Valais to the Southern Alps with their rows of peaks higher than 4000m is spectacularly beautiful, to say the least.  Whatever the guidebooks say, in certain conditions the runs are challenging and sections of some of them are always challenging at least for the intermediate skiers that we are and always will be.

The apartment we hire is 50m from the "Les Violettes" lift from the resort, a six seater gondola, which takes just over 10 minutes to lift us from 1, 500m to 2, 200m initially over banks of fir trees and then, above the tree line, rugged mountain scenery.  From there we can transfer to a cable car which, in another ten minutes takes us together with 100 other skiers, packed like sardines, to 2,950m and the edge of a vast, aptly named glacial bowl, "Plaine Morte", which has little attraction to us downhill skiers.  Instead we head off down the one route from the glacier.  This is reasonably steep but wide in most places, interspersed with short, narrow and scary tracks traversing the more precipitous sections, the more daring players ski over the edge of these tracks but not us.

The view down and outwards is one mass of snow covered mountain with no trees and across the Valais a vast range of high alpine peaks.  Further down our route cuts into a wide valley, on either side of which we can now see other ski lifts and other skiers taking other routes from these lifts that mainly stop at about 2, 500m.  Towards the bottom of the valley, which is still a good 700m above the resort, it levels out and we ski faster and in a straighter line, not having to turn continuously as we have had to until now to avoid going too fast and losing control. We ski out onto a mountain path which is almost flat, past the "La Toula" lift, at the tree line and pole along for about a km until the track reaches the "Cabain du Bois" lift and then tilts down hill on narrow paths between the trees in the forest. These tracks are fun when we are on our own but horrid when there are lots of other skiers as there is very little room to manoeuvre and much danger of collision.  We are always pleased when we reach one of the many open spaces, which in the summer are mountain pastures, which allow some relaxation whilst skiing down to the door of our apartment.  From the glacier to the door it is an uninterrupted run of just over 11km and takes about half an hour if we ski non stop but we seldom do this as it is very tiring and misses all the point of being in the mountains, enjoying the views, the fresh air and the sunshine if we're lucky.  It can take much much longer if it’s snowing hard and a white-out with the only guide as to where we are the posts that mark the centre and edges of the piste, no view, freezing cold, mind chillingly frightening and requiring vast quantities of gluwein at the first mountain restaurant we come across.

Most of our skiing is above the tree-line from 2, 500m to about 1, 900m across the wide southern facing, interlinked mountain slopes of Petit Bonvin, Cry D' Err, Bella Lui and Chetseron, with some on the tracks down to the resort through the trees most of which end at one of the four main lifts out of the resort.  If we time it right and the snow is good we can always get back to our apartment on skis from wherever we are on the mountains but normally we ski into the centre of town to spend an hour or so in the late afternoon at Gerber's, a wonderful tea room with a three piece band playing gentle afternoon music, with a stunning array of Swiss cakes and confectionary and a range of fizzy beers that would look out of order at the Hunters.

Still wearing cumbersome skiing boots, we leave Gerber's suitably refreshed to window shop at Cartier, Gucci and other elite houses of consumerism before picking up the planks and heading off for the apartment on the bus, the cost of which is covered by the ski-pass. The day ends with a long lie in the bath, supper cooked by one or other of us and a good book.  Sleep comes easily after all the fresh air and the need to wake early the next day to get the best of the skiing.

Jeremy Henley


(Under) Ground Rules.

Purloined from 'The Mendip Caver'

Make of these what you will ...

Do not question the leader's decisions - Obey his instructions! Always stay in sight of the party - Do not lag behind - or rush on.

If you are Cold/Tired/Sick/Scared or Hungry - Say so!!  There is no room for pride or martyrdom - so be honest.

Distraction can cause trouble - Focus on the task at hand and stay concentrated.

Know where each step is going before you take it.

Relax at every opportunity. Conserve physical and mental energy.  Panic worry and uneasiness waste energy!  Stay calm and collected.

Apathy and boredom are your enemies - they will exhaust you very quickly - keep a positive and vital attitude.

The only barriers are those you create for yourself!!!  Believe you can do something and create the possibility ...... Intend to do something and create the probability .....

- Then create the reality ..... do it!!!


The Butcombe Blues.

By Mike Wilson.

Its pleasant to spend weekends just pubbing,
Doing the rounds with friends and he likes,
Pots clinking, people chatting, shoulders rubbing,
Jake and Blake wobbling around minus bikes.

Having drank all night at the Hunters,
And managed to stay standing up,
You find to your horror some punter's,
Gone and purchased a barrel to sup.

So you stagger to the bog in a stupor,
And manage a fumbling pee,
Then back to the bar for another,
Is this twittering wreck really me???

Last riders are called and the lights flash,
Finish your pint at a push,
Chip in for the barrel with hard cash,
Then have a last pee near a bush.

The nights not finished till morning,
You crawl out of your pit looking grim,
Climb over the bodies still yawning,
All having indulged alcohols whim.

Short of cash and totally exhausted,
Let’s go down to the caff for a bite,
Last night couldn't really be faulted,
Shall we have another barrel tonight???


Blasts From the Past.

Some more entries from the club log, from years gone by ...

16.6.64             Barry Lane, Oliver Lloyd, to St Cuthbert’s, the latter trying to learn the way.   During 3 hours any holes were entered, bottomless pits explored and a lake waded. The level of the lake was very low. O.C.L. found a way of getting up the entrance rift: with one foot in the bottom rung of the ladder - he recited one of Ramsay McDonald's speeches, the hot air so engendered rapidly got him to the top of the rift. - O.C.L.

26.8.64             Chris Harvey + Novice - Trip to Trat's Temple, Swildons Hole. - As we came back to the streamway, I noticed a hole high up in the roof and tried to climb to it. Unfortunately on the way up I slipped and fell about 15 feet where the novice was there to stop me.  Otherwise an uneventful trip.  Chris Harvey. (Who??? ..... Ed.)

22.11.64            Eastwater. R. Stenner, Joy Steadman, Brenda Plummer, Jock, Paul Morrel, Peter Fich, Dave Connolly, leader: Joyce Rowlands.

A miserable trip (inevitable in this cave) made hilarious for a while when one of the party (not the writer) got well and truly jammed.  Roger.

14.3.65             Eastwater - Balch Memorial trip.

Party: B. Wilton, C. Harvey, K.& P. Franklin, D.&K. Searle, H. Kennett.

60 years ago Eastwater was opened up by Balch et al.  To commemorate this fact a party was assembled in period dress to descend the cave. The illumination consisted of standard no. 7 candles carried between the thumb and forefinger.  The route taken was the 380' way, Traverse, Canyon, S Bends, Top of verticals and out via Halleluiah hole.  Time of trip one and a bit candles length = 2hrs.

13.8.65 Friday, Withybrook - Henry Oakey, Nick Miller.

By dint of taking off all our clothes we were able to get through a certain squeeze and get down into the streamway.  Extraordinarily tight, painful etc ... ' Better than flagellation!!!'

19.9.65             “Do not put in B.B.”        (Couldn't resist it could i? ... Ed)

At 1.30 precisely Messrs. Palmer, Kingston, Wilton & (Snogger) Hall - were supping ale at the Hunter's Lodge Inn, when a phone call was received with information about an exhausted caver below the 40' pot in Swildons. The above four, plus Biddle & Petty, descended to the water rift and found the bloke had already got up, so the party was guided out. - A half hour fiasco.  P.Kingston.

1.1.66 Hunter's Lodge Inn.       WIG HONKED!!!!



Trebor received a letter from Steve Milner in Australia, here is an excerpt which may be of some interest.

I noticed in Descent, that there is a slightly warped account of the blowing up of a cave in Sellicks Hill, just down the road from us here in Adelaide.  True, the cave was blown up by the quarry, but it was in an attempt to avoid the possibility of a conservation order being laid on the cave by the elected government. (The blast was on the eve (almost) of the election).  Nevertheless the majority of the cave exists and we are negotiating access, conservation orders, independent enquiries etc ... The Australian quarries are far more brazen in their activities than Hobbs quarries on Mendip.  The damaged cave is in the same limestone as the new cave that we have found on Kangaroo Island and really is quite beautiful, well worth preserving.

Speaking of Kangaroo Island, we are off for 10 days at Easter to push the caverns measureless to man; I expect we should have lots of success.

Happy Caving ..... Steve


Working Weekend.

The Belfry (as regulars will know) is currently in desperate need of some 'tender loving care'.  Well we all know its not going to get any of that but it might just get the once over at the next working weekend.  The date has been set for the weekend of 21st & 22nday.  Members attending and working will not be expected to pay hut fees (the usual arrangement) and hopefully there will be a meal on the Saturday evening as there was last time.  Trebor & Estelle have prepared a provisional list of tasks and these were agreed at the last committee meeting ......

Interior ...

1.                  Investigate and rectify intermittent hot water to left hand shower unit.

2.                  Investigate and rectify lack of hot water to shower room and hall we wash basins, in conjunction with defective immersion heater/hot water tank in roof space.

3.                  Shower room wash basins loose.

4.                  Replace various missing tiles to shower room walls.  (May be difficult until walls are allowed to dry out thoroughly.)

5.                  Continual problems with right side shower coin box - always breaking, jamming etc. Suspect left side shower box would be similarly afflicted if that shower was used more. 

6.                  Central heating erratic - radiators very hot on mild days.  Still significant smell from CH boiler.

7.                  Shower holder to right side shower loose/incapable of holding shower head. 

8.                  Flourescent tube in changing room needs replacing.

9.                  Dented/Broken inner face of changing room external door needs plating like the external face.

10.              Repair broken right side bulb holder in guests bunk room.

11.              On going repairs to hall WC cistern.

12.              Two electric bar heaters in boxed-in section of roof space not on during cold weather recently.

13.              General all round spring clean required.


1.                  New porch roof.

2.                  Up-grade front door to security door.  Wired safety glass??

3.                  Tune up delay mechanisms to external lights so they stay on for 1 minute?

4.                  Form gulley to base of front left gutter downpipe.

5.                  Replace missing downpipe to rear left corner of building, together with repairs to rotten/missing soffit and fascia board in this location.

6.                  Rectify bad leak to gutter/downpipe to front right corner of building.

7.                  Replace rotten sill/frame to guest bunk room left end window.

8.                  Re-decorate externally.

9.                  External emergency light over main fire door working??

10.              Replace poor quality, broken guest bunk room external door.

11.              Belfry site.. General clear up and disposal of rubbish.    (Big bonfire ... ???)

Obviously these repairs etc are ongoing so some may have been taken care of by May.  But as always there will be plenty to do and the support of the membership is needed, so make a note in your diaries.


OO- ER Missus ... !!!

About four or five weeks ago (maybe longer by the time you read this) we had a party of students staying at the Belfry from Kingston Uni. in London.  They have stayed at the hut on a number of previous occasions and aren't a bad bunch at all.  Unfortunately this time the hut was 'oversubscribed' resulting in too few bedspaces. On the Friday night some of them had been happy to sleep on mattresses on the bunkroom floor.

The saturday in question there was a barrel at the Shepton hut, which is another story altogether and I don't intend to go into that here, save to say that the party got continued at the Belfry and lasted till quite late .... During this time some of the Kingston lot, who had been asleep in the Belfry kitchen were wakened.  The high spirits of the partygoers resulted in a lot of crockery getting smashed and all of Kingston’s food being eaten.  It was awkward the next morning when not only did they not have anything to eat their breakfast off, but also had no breakfast to eat.  They were understandably upset about this.  The result being that Estelle had to buy replacement food for them as well as reimburse hut fees to the tune of about £20.00.  It would also seem that we have lost what had become a regular hut booking.

This was discussed at the last committee meeting and it was felt that there is a balance between having a good time (even a wild one) and the upsetting of paying guests to this extent. Need I remind you that we need to have guest parties stay at the Belfry for financial reasons let alone anything else.

It seems a shame that this sort of thing has to happen when even a modicum of control would avoid such situations in the future.

Digging Fund.

It was suggested at the last committee meeting that a digging fund be set up for the regular digging teams.  No decision has yet been taken but comment and feedback are invited from the membership ........ what do you think?????

A possibility would be to subsidise the purchase of tools and equipment for use on club digs, with individuals or teams being able to approach the committee and request funding for projects.

It is important to stress that this would be a club fund for club digs only and not a 'top up my tankard please' fund .....

Any comment is welcomed and can be forwarded to the committee via the BB editor, whose address is at the front of the 'rag'.


Martin "I'm not a yuppie Honest."  Grass would like you to know that his new Carphone (Poseurphone) number is 0385 xxxxxxx.


Sarah Bennett

1st October 1959 - 27th January 1994

The Caving world has suffered a sad loss with the death of Sarah Bennett on Thursday 27th January. 

Sarah clearly derived a great deal of satisfaction from her caving activities, particularly with the Chelsea on Llangattock and the BEC on Mendip.

A pleasure to cave with, she not only contributed with her considerable expertise, but with cheerfulness and an exemplary team spirit.  Her positive attitude was never more remarkable than on the Daren rescue in the winter of 91/92.  Faced with the daunting prospect of the journey from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe to the surface, with a dislocated shoulder, she was clearly concerned with the wellbeing of her rescuers as with her own predicament.

Sarah enjoyed the social side of caving with equal enthusiasm.  Barbeques at Whitewalls, singsongs at the Belfry, parties at the Restaurant - all were entered into with admirable high spirits.  The caving world will be all the poorer in her absence. Our sympathies go out to Henry, Sarah's family and her many close friends.

Mark Lumley


"And the lion shall lie down with the lamb"

Luke William English DEVENISH FIExpE
18 October 1920 - 24 February 1994

Mendip today is a sadder place for me, L.W.E. DEVENISH, known to many affectionately as "Dev" or as I have had the honour to have known him simply as "Luke" has died.

I have known Luke for only a fraction of the time that others have known him, just a mere 25 years in fact, but I have lost a dear friend and one of "life's gentlemen" is no more.  However, Luke's wife Norma, and their children Peter, Colena and Janine, and grandson Sam have a greater loss, and it is to them that we must send our deepest sympathy and respects.

Everyone that I have spoken to, that was fortunate enough to have known Luke, admits to having been touched by that magical spirit of his.  He was a perfectionist in all he attempted.  He would endure great discomfort, yet never complain of this. He would chide me for failing to wear ear-muffs or a dust mask when we were drilling and blasting, yet he would then sacrifice his own health and insist I use his equipment, when there was only one set in the Landrover, as I had mislaid mine.

One of the many tales that cheers me now is that of a young James HANWELL, Esq, who having been spotted walking at Priddy, towards Wells, was accosted by Luke and summoned to sit up in his open-topped windscreen-less jeep.  Together the pair tore off at break-neck speed, headlong down over Deer Leap towards Wookey Hole, as they neared the lower part of the road a thunderous and blinding crash occurred, shards of wood and curses profound ............... Luke is alleged to have exclaimed a great oath and cried "that's the third bloody gate I've hit across this road!!"

In recent years, in the coldest of weather, Luke could be seen about the City of Wells, in a bright lumber-jack type short-sleeved shirt, he was at that time hardy in health, but always with a soft nature. As a tutor and mentor he was like a lamb, gentle and considerate.  In recent years, after terrorist incidents, Luke would often telephone me at odd hours with valid suggestions and say, “I wonder, have you considered this?" He always kept a keen, sharp and active mind and he was ready with a suggestion that others would have overlooked.

L.W.E.D was a man whose interests in life were so strong, rich and colourful, it was almost infectious. He was a student of H.E. BALCH and with Oliver LLOYD and both Richard and Howard KENNEY, acted as pall bearers to the great pioneer on his death.

Luke was one of those characters in Mendip Caving, that dwindling Hall of Fame, who gave us much of our caving heritage on Mendip.  He was one of the discoverers of the Black Hole series in Swildons Cavern.  An ardent caver, not just on Mendip but also in the early days of speleology in France.   He once showed me, back in the late 60's, part of an early electron ladder he had constructed, and may well have been the first maker of such equipment.

I was fortunate in being Luke's next door neighbour in Chilcote, and one day on being offered employment by him, I readily accepted and there followed one of the most rewarding and formative periods of my life.  Luke's constant stream of tales and anecdotes could, with little effort, be encouraged from him, and often he would gruffly conclude these and dismiss them as being of no great import, yet to a starry-eyed youngster, this was history in action.

At work Luke's sheer physical strength and grit always manifested itself.  There are countless tales that those who resorted to his services of blasting, diving and demolition, or like Mike THOMPSON and Ian JEPSON, who have also assisted him, can recount.

I shall always remember seeing the dumb-struck awe that even hard-boiled Irish Navvies and site workers would hold him in, on the many construction areas we worked on.  A job well done was Luke's own satisfaction and reward.

On leaving a muddy, icy, wet site, tired, aching and with thumping "bang-heads" we would travel many miles at the end of the day to return to Washing pool Farm at Chilcote, Luke puffing in his King Edward cigar.  He would tell me of days long past, digging with H E BALCH at Badger Hole, Wookey, or when he had lived at the Star Hotel in Wells, and as an M.N.R.C member, he would spend hours at Wells Museum sorting out bones under BALCH's tutelage, or walked from Wells to Loxton, and after caving, slept the night in a cavern prior to his return to Wells.

Luke was the man who helped build the Wessex Cave Club Hut at Hillgrove, in one mad weekend, and later held the club together and took over the Chair of the Wessex from George WILLIAMS.  He later became President of the Wessex.   He was the man who, with Howard KENNEY, resolved to re-establish the Mendip Rescue Organisation after the War and was the number one call-out Warden until he retired on his 50th birthday.

Luke had a strong conviction that a man should always retire when he reached his peak, rather than overstay his welcome and thus was a man of his convictions.  He found the Roman lead pig ingots at Rookery Farm, which now lie in the Wells Museum, he was also the maker of the first underwater cave diving photograph at Wookey Hole in 1959.  He was the man who could move at all levels and not seem out of place with those in any section of society.  He was the man whose vision and interest and sheer downright professionalism, lead to the foundation of the now firmly established “ INSTITUTE OF EXPLOSIVES ENGINEERS".  He was the man who was always fair, honest, earnest, truthful, jovial, loyal, strong and loved his family, of whom he was immensely proud.  He was a lion of a man, called Luke DEVENISH.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Changes ...

Brian Murlis, Weston-Super-Mare
Andy Sparrow, Priddy, Somerset.

N.B. Andy requests that any 'visitors' do not park outside his house, but park at the Green and walk up to the house from there.


From Estelle, The Hut Dragon, oops sorry, Hut Warden.

Four lockers are still unclaimed but still padlocked.  If contact is not made with Estelle or they remain un-emptied by the 1st of May they will be forced open, emptied and given to someone else.  (There are people waiting for lockers)  So if you have a 'Guilt Factor' and have not yet paid your locker fees (£2) get in touch with Estelle.

Also ...

Anyone visiting the Belfry is requested to bring old newspapers for fire starting as long as the cold weather persists.  We need cups and plates too, preferably plastic and UNBREAKABLE if anyone has any spare.


BOB HILL is active (as ever) over in Oman and has written to me with the following ....

I have recently visited Majli's AI-Ojinn 'Meeting hall of the spirits'.  Second largest chamber in the world I am told.  900' by 600' with a 520' free hanging abseil, which was pretty impressive.

The sinkhole I mentioned in my last article has been pushed to 120m in.  We are now at - 50m and the passage continues downwards, with the roof appearing to level out at about -55m.  We intend to push it again soon but need some more gear and a few workup dives in the sea first as it will probably be a 60m dive.  An article on this and a survey and on Majli's trip will be forthcoming shortly.


I had a letter from John Nicholson a non member who visited recently with his son Martin and two Venture scouts ... an excerpt follows ....

 “Please thank the others for the friendly way in which we were welcomed to your HQ and shown the ropes.  A highlight of the weekend for me was to visit the Hunter's (after at least 35 years) and to find myself talking to someone who recognised me from the '50s. This last visit and a couple of other trips made in the last year, have wetted my appetite for some more caving and I would be interested to know if there are any other 'Antique Veterans' who would be willing to let someone of my ilk join them occasionally.

Once again thanks for all your assistance and for helping to make it a great weekend. I hope it is not too long before we all meet again on Mendip."

I have John's address and telephone number if anyone wishes to contact him …..Jingles.


Quote of the Month….

From a Caving Secretary who wishes to remain anonymous, on introducing the committee to a new member ....

"Nigel's not here but he takes all the Cuthbert’s trips!!!!"




More Odds & Sods ...

St Cuthbert’s Reports .... for visiting Parties....

There is now a locked box, fixed on top pf the key cabinet at the Belfry, containing Cuthbert’s reports and surveys.  It can be opened with the Cuthbert’s key.  Money for the reports should be put in an envelope, marked as such, and “posted” to into the hut fees box.

(In the event that there are no surveys available, take a name and address and the survey can be forwarded.)


BEC T-Shirts and stickers are now available from Tony Jarratt.  (Usually to be found at Bat Products….surprisingly enough).


The editor apologises to any members who have joined recently, I am still working on the updated Membership list at the time f publication.  As soon as I am able I will publish details.


Local members are reminded of Cheddar Folk Festival, taking place in Cheddar, of all places, 7/8/9/May 1994.  See “Snab” for more info.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian Caldwell
                               Graham Johnson
                               Vince Simmonds


The main difference between ordinary people and B.E.C. members seems to me That B.E.C. members are ‘go for it’ people.  This has occasionally led (fortunately – rarely!) to injury or even death, but hasn’t it better to get out and do things rather than just be a spectator?

The other thing about ‘go for it’ people is that they tend to have strong characters and express their views forcefully.  This sometimes leads to clashes of personalities, unfortunate but almost inevitable, of which we have had several recently.  I don’t think that there is a solution, but suggest it would be helpful if all parties tried harder to see the merits of opposing viewpoints and to remain 'cool'.

That's enough pontificating!

The next BB is due out before the end of August so that postal deliveries can be made in time for responses to be received before the AGM (Saturday the 3rd of October).

We're back to the old format for this BB as Phil couldn't spare the time to modify my files.


Club News

Membership Changes

We Welcome one new member this time, who is:-

Martin Riddell, Clevedon, Avon

Any time the membership list is published we get a number of address changes!  The changes I've got are listed below but some addresses are still wrong (comment in the Hunters - He doesn't live there anymore but I don't know his new address, etc.).  Please let John or myself know if you found any errors in the addresses and know what the changes are.

731  Bob Bidmead, West Harptree, Bristol
727  Bill Cooper, Totterdown, Bristol
936  Dave Nicholls, Camborne, Cornwall
1046  Dave Shand, Rhiwbina, Cardiff
1066 Alan Turner, Chippenham,Wilts
887 Greg Villis, Weston-s-Mare

Roy Bennett Plaque

This was unveiled on Sunday the 28th of June.  22 people attended in Cerberus Hall.  Wig did it and made a short speech and Kangy added a few words.  Photos were taken and the BEC song was sung.  I didn't know Roy very well but the occasion was moving. Joan was very generous and provided a barrel and sandwiches in the garden at the Hunters afterwards which everyone enjoyed.  Zot figured that the average age of the cavers in Cerberus Hall was 45!

Club Dinner and AGM

These are on Saturday the 3rd of October.  The dinner will be at the Webbington.

This year we will be having a proper election for the committee as for the past few years it has only been done by a show of hands at the AGM.  Nominees for the committee should send their names to the secretary as soon as possible.  Voting slips will be included in the next BB.  Most of the current committee will be prepared to serve again but the whole club should have the opportunity to select those that they wish to see doing it. The first nine 'past the post' will be elected!

St Cuthbert’s

The leaders list published in the last BB was in error!

Apologies-to Joc Large who should have been included.  Also we have two new leaders who are:-

Dudley Herbert
Dave Yeandle

The following bits are from Jeff Price

On two recent occasions visiting clubs have not shown up on the date arranged for their caving trip. As a result of this, in future, clubs who have booked trips through me will be asked to telephone their leader a week in advance to confirm the trip.  This will take effect as soon as possible.

Jeff has given me a roll of tape to be used by BEC St. Cuthbert’s leaders to tape or re-tape formations in the cave with instructions to hang it up at a convenient location.  I shall leave it next to Kanchenjunga.


Mike Palmer has come off the BEC OFD1 leaders list.  The committee would like to thank him for his support over the years.

Tim Large has now been accepted by SWCC as an OFD1 leader for the BEC.

Also the SWCC would like to remind us that OFD is not to be used for commercial caving trips and that any BEC trips must have at least 2/3rds paid up BEC members on it.


48 Years Ago

Contributed by J'Rat

Taken from British Caver Vol.12. 1944: -

BRISTOL EXPLORATION CLUB - (letter to Editor from Hon. Sec. J.H. Stanbury)

"The B.E.C. is to engage in the activities of Speleological Exploration, Archaeology, Crag-Climbing, the exploration of Natural and Man-made Cavities, and such things as will from time to time meet with the approval of the Committee".  Extract from rules.

"Of necessity, due to war conditions the activities of the Club have been seriously curtailed. During the last 12 months we have organized 18 large scale caving trips, plus a number of surface trips to various parts of Mendip.  Our active membership now, unfortunately, less than in pre-war days, being now about the forty mark.

We are excavating a cave site on Mendip, and making good headway.  In addition, a smuggler's cave in Cornwall in being excavated, also with good results".

Knowle. Bristol 4.     27/4/1944

Ed's note - It would be interesting to know the final results of the two digs mentioned and their locations.  Perhaps Harry could tell us??


Caving In Central Kentucky. U.S.A.

by James Wells

Dad (Oliver Wells - ed.) suggested that I write a note about caving over here, so here goes.

Let me start by inviting BEC members to come over here and go caving.  There are plenty of good caves to go to in the area from Elizabethtown to Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Tennessee to the south has more caves and they are generally nicer, but the cave area around Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky has a couple of overriding attractions for me, first and foremost, the incredible connectivity.  Mammoth will someday be 500-600 miles long, and there is no area in the U.S. that has similar potential.  Second, the area is only 80 miles from my front door, over a hundred miles closer than the good stuff in Tennessee.  Third and least explainable, the Mammoth area has a charm that keeps people coming back.  The landscape isn't overwhelming, but it's worth seeing, and I like ridge walking even on the days when we don't find an entrance.   The caves have plenty of personality, and certainly make you work before you can have the next breakthrough.

The main attraction is Mammoth Cave.  Total length is now something like 320 miles, of which about 250 is within Mammoth Cave National Park.  Mapping in this part of the cave is conducted by the Cave Research Foundation (CRF). They are mostly re-mapping now, huge quantities of passage whose previous survey has been deemed to be not up to scratch.  Until they achieve their re-mapping goals, most new exploration is that which is found during the re-mapping.

The rest of Mammoth Cave is that part which was known as Roppel Cave until its connection with Mammoth in 1983.  Roppel is explored by the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition (CKKC).  I've been a CKKC member since 1981, and am currently president. Roppel is about 65 miles long, and contains some very fine passage.  This year we are working on a new entrance which will revitalize exploration by putting good leads within 1-2 hours travel.  One of the more exciting leads is the upstream Logsdon River Sump. The first sump is 700 feet long and very shallow.  The second sump was pushed until running out of line a couple of hundred feet in.  In between the sumps, a large walking passage goes two ways, unexplored.

The area has a bunch of other major caves ;-

Fisher Ridge Cave System.  This cave, explored by Detroit Urban Grotto of the NSS, has just passed 50 miles in length.  The cave comes within a few hundred feet of connecting with Roppel, but many of the Fisher Ridge cavers are opposed to a connection, and have gone as far as vandalizing activities around the nearest Roppel entrance.  The cave also extends under parts of Eudora and Northtown ridges.

Crump Spring Cave.  This cave was mapped for over 10 miles in the 1970's.  I don't think anyone ever goes there anymore.  The way into the main part of the cave is called the Whimper Route, because you whimper when you go through it.  In my experience, people give up prematurely on hard caves in this area, so there may yet be good leads in Crumps.

Vinegar Ridge Cave System.  This cave is 7.3 miles long and has 123 leads by my count. Exploration has been slowed by a 700' crawl which is known to sump, and when sumped, stays that way for years. The main part of the cave was found in 1984.  Currently the crawl is half full of water passable but not convenient with dry walking passage beyond to overheat any person wearing a wetsuit.  I really want to get back in here but have not had the time. Last trip we stayed on the near side of the water crawl, and dug into a canyon that went 300' to a 10' waterfall, which has not yet been descended.

Hicks Cave.  This cave was inherited by CKKC from a previous group and is about 21 miles long. Original exploration was through very wet passage near the Green River.  Progressing miles upstream, explorers broke out into 2 good complexes of dry upper levels.  Exploration died due to killer trip duration and flood risk.  In 1986 a back entrance was completed, but a propane explosion in the cave in 1988 shut everything down for a couple of years.  The source of the LPG leak has been found and stopped. CKKC has started trips here in the last half year, and has mapped 3000 feet of new cave, with plenty of leads remaining.  In my last Hicks trip, a friend and I pushed one lead and finished the day with 1250 feet mapped and 9 unexplored leads.  This cave is a long way from Mammoth, but may someday connect.

Whigpistle Cave.  This cave is over 20 miles long, and is not far from Mammoth Cave on the southwest edge of the park.  The initial way into Whigpistle involves thousands of feet of bathtub passage, but there are large trunk passages on the other side.  One lead was pushed through low airspace to find a portion of the Logsdon/Hawkins River, the same river explored for over 6 continuous miles in Mammoth.  On a return trip, the lead was found to be sumped with soupy mud (maybe this is a job for OCW!).  Nobody has ever been back to this part of the river.  Interest in Whigpistle is reduced by the observed occurrence of sudden water level changes in the entrance pool, thought to be linked with collapse in Turnhole, which is the resurgence for the cave.

Grady's Cave.  Is a neat river cave, which has been mapped for 12.5 miles by Joe Saunders.  I went there once, and spent most of the day walking and boating in huge river passage.  The lead we mapped was miserably small and wet, though.  The cave is in the sinkhole plain to the east of Mammoth, and most non-stream passages are choked with silt from agricultural run off.

Horse Cave.  Was a show cave in the 1920's and 1930's, but was closed to all entry in 1943 due to pollution.  For decades the entrance emitted fumes stinking of waste from a nearby creamery. In the past few years, waste management practices in the area have improved dramatically, and the cave became enterable this year.

Mike Yocum, Alan Canon and I began the survey on August 31st.  We mapped the entrance sinkhole (several acres) and mapped in 50 x 50ft stream passage for 500 feet, then walked ahead to what might be the largest cave room in Kentucky.  In areas, the rotting remnants of the tourist trail poked through the mud.

In two further trips the mapped length of the cave has reached about 4500 feet.  The large passage sumps downstream just beyond the large room, and breaks into components upstream.  The best remaining lead is a stoopway with a good breeze.  None of the passage we have seen so far is virgin, but the cave has reasonable prospects for a real breakthrough.

I've never been to James Cave.  I know it's over 10 miles long, and is famous for vertical exploration. Apparently the whole cave is the world's largest dome complex.  The cave is near Park City, to the southwest of the main Mammoth area.

Those are the main caves in the area.  Of course there are zillions of smaller ones (50 feet to 5 miles).  The search for new caves is hampered by the lack of any central directory of cave locations.  Most locations are rediscovered from time to time.  There is no way to tell what has been done in a cave that you find, unless you happen to talk to the right person.  My survey of Carpenter Cave in Allen County (about 60 miles southeast of Mammoth) turned out to be at least the third survey of that cave.

Update:  On October 20th 1991, Alan Canon and I found an entrance while ridge walking.  A stream resurged, flowed 15' above ground, then went back underground in a grim looking belly crawl in water.  Alan got down in it and went a hundred feet to a decent hands and knees crawl with a strong breeze.

The next Saturday we were back under ominous skies to give it a push with wetsuits on.  The crawl became a narrow canyon, which went on and on and on!  After perhaps 1500 feet we debouched into a dome with a large keyhole-shaped cross passage. From here we scooted in every direction, covering a total of between 3000 and 4000 feet for the day, leaving nine continuing passages including two pits over 50 feet deep.

On November 3rd we started mapping the water crawl, which has been named Bob.  A howling cold gale made us pack up the survey after 150 feet and scurry farther into the cave.  We placed some hanging survey in nicer passage, then looked around, finding two more large pits and a nice upper level walking passage which we left after 500' of pushing.

As of February 1st 1992, about 4000 feet has been mapped in the cave.  Copious leads and seven virgin pits remain.  Mammoth Cave is 200 feet away at the closest point.


The British 1991 Dachstein Expedition

by Chris Lloyd (from Canada)
Surveys drawn by Snablet

All the accounts of caving in Austria I'd heard described tight 'orrible sharp passages and endless exposed rifts punctuated by awkward drops all flowing with, or about to be flowing with, water from the continual thunder storms which pass over the high desolate mountains.  The approach walks were long and wet and the camps just wet.  The dangers of lightning strikes were never dwelt on too long.

But people kept going back so surely it couldn't be all bad.  One of these returning regulars was Paul Ibberson and when he described this years plans to stay in a mountain hut equipped with a bar and return to push a cave discovered in a new valley which is located above the largest cave system in Austria, I decided to see for myself what Austria was like.  The chance to find the world's deepest through trip was too tempting to miss.

I arrived at the Wiesberghaus on Aug 19, a day after Paul, Dave and Richard, and was greeted with a shot of schnapps from the friendly hostess Alfi and her husband Wolfgang. When I had returned with my second load the others had returned from humping loads up the hill and were settled into the bar wondering where our fifth member was.  Snablet turned up at 11pm having driven straight from a month's caving in Spain.

Tuesday saw us packing 100's of metres of rope and other gear for the slog up to the cave entrance, located 1 hours walk from the hut over the most heavily dissected limestone terrain I'd seen.  Building cairns as we went, we eventually relocated the cave Richard and Snablet had found at the end of last years expedition.  They'd penetrated about 100m to the top of a large pitch so now Richard and Paul headed down with 200m of rope to see where it went.  The rest of us spread out over the open valley to check for other entrances, of which there was no shortage.  Rills, runnels, sinkholes and shafts were everywhere in the bare limestone and over each new rise, another dark hole beckoned.  But it quickly became apparent that it wasn't going to be as easy as it looked, everything was choked with rubble or snow plugs.  A few hours later we regrouped back at G1 (the abbreviated name given to our first cave) and heard the same news from Paul and Richard.  They had dropped a 40m pitch into a big chamber with no way on. Our first dud!

The next day we returned to survey G1 accompanied by Peter Schieller, a local Hallstatt caver who was up for a couple of days recce.  More likely checking up on what the rival British are doing above his pride and joy, Hirlatz Hahle, a 68km system with a vertical range of 1000m, most of which is above its single entrance.  The map plots indicate that its upper reaches are beneath the area we are exploring and an upper entrance could possibly be the world's deepest through trip.

We surveyed G1 to -100m and 164m in length while Richard and Dave were further up the hill checking out G2. Snablet had discovered the horizontal entrance the previous day, leaving it at the top of a pitch.  Richard dropped that and spent an hour negotiating a squeeze to get to the next drop.  They left it at that vowing to name it Quaking if it went (in memory of Britain's most infamous tight cave).  Fortunately it didn't!

Thursday saw Snablet and Paul start in on G3 while Richard and Dave dispatched G2.  I had good views in mind as I set off up the mountain to check an entrance near the top of a large cliff.  So far the weather had been un-Austrianly brilliant and I wanted to get as high up as my sore knees would allow.  A very exposed scramble got me down to my targeted hole, which was a horizontal tube headed straight into the hill.  Getting excited I abseiled back down with my pack and crawled in to check it out.  After 20m, the narrow passage opened into a chamber with two parallel rifts continuing on into the mountain.  I checked these, finding a pit along one while the other branch went in and looped back around to the other side of the pit.  Exploring about 100m, I knew I'd have to return with the others and some rope. Further up the mountain the views were spectacular across all of the Dachstein and over to the surrounding mountain ranges.

Meanwhile Snablet and Paul had dropped 3 pitches down the  tight meanders in G3, and we all converged in time to have Richard go down to find the fourth one choked.  This quickly led to a consensus to keep Richard off future pushing trips.

With 3 duds and nothing good in sight Paul and Snablet attempted to locate a cave closer to the hut another of their group had pushed to -250m last year.  That was unsuccessful as were our attempts to push my G4 up on the cliff.

Spirits were dropping fast and another day was lost looking for last year’s cave, while Richard and Snablet started in on the extremely small G5.  Its small draughting opening had been spotted earlier but left as a last resort.  Richard managed to rig and drop the 20cm wide entrance slot after much verbal abuse. Snablet and I checked other entrances waiting for Richard to return.  Eventually the cursing returned and Richard emerged with the bad news that it was going, though he had had to break through an ice blockage to find the way on.  Snablet was sent in to rig the second drop with easily the most awkward rigging so far encountered.  While Richard returned with more rope, I worked on enlarging the entrance as it was starting to look like we might all be using it a fair bit.  On their return they were grateful for a hot brew as they had been crawling along ice flows and had turned back at the top of a big pitch where everything was coated in ice.  Maybe this will be the one.

Everyone was back up the hill the next day with high hopes; though with threatening weather we didn't want everyone in the same cave.  Richard headed in with more rope while Paul and Snablet surveyed in behind.  Dave and I headed over to the next valley to check some more entrances the wide ranging Snablet had located.  After Dave had scouted it out in shorts I kitted up and took our 20m push rope to get down the first 7m free hang.  Using the tail got me down another 10m over an ice lip into an icy chamber.  A cold draught was blowing up an ice coated ramp and I couldn't see round the next corner. Another hopeful to check.

Back at way G5 we waited for Richard to emerge with the news that Paul was headed down a 50m pitch on a 30m rope.  Fortunately he had another rope and managed to bottom the large chamber, but there was no apparent way on.

The next day we were even later than normal getting up and an official rest day was proclaimed.  We lounged in the continuing beautiful sunshine thankful that the usual expedition rains were absent this year.  Later we strolled to Oberfeld, a cafe at the top of one of cable cars which is run by, and subsidized by, the Austrian army including the biere prices.  This was the start of what ended up being a long evening as we were later invited to join Heidi's birthday celebrations back at the Weisberghaus.  One of many local inebriations we were invited to join.

The repercussions were somewhat predictable though, back at the entrance to G5 the next day.  Nobody was up to the hard work required and two were only capable of the walk back.  I went to push G6 supported by Dave snoozing in the entrance.  Snablet, as usual, was finding more entrances, which was good as my effort brought me to a small draughting hole too small to pass. Some chiselling or a little bang would get one through to the larger space beyond though.

Wednesday was to be our last full day on the hill, so G5 had to be finished.  Snablet and I went in first to continue the survey with Richard passing us to check the bottom and Paul and Dave pulled up the rear photographing. Now I got to experience for myself just how 'orrible it really was.  And it was!  Below the ridiculous entrance slot a series of nasty, tight, twisty meanders had to be negotiated flat out on ice ledges, earning the cave its full name of Ice Gymnastics Cave or Eisturen Hohle.  The vicious hairpin corner at the top of the second pitch almost turned me back, but my legs did manage to bend that way enabling me to back out of the 50cm diameter hole dangling on my cow's tail, feet still caught in the hole.  Once sorted out I could head down the 15m pitch into a chamber dominated by the 20m high free-standing ice pillar on the other side.  Almost 2m in diameter, it had an ominous bend in the bottom - the whole thing must be creeping down!

Another series of tight icy meanders and a short pitch put us into the spacious ice coated alcove at the top of the 50.  It was 5m in diameter for 30m, before belling out into the large chamber below.  By the time we surveyed to the back Richard was nowhere to be seen; only a small slot in the corner suggesting there may be more passage.  We speculated for a good while if it would go or not until we heard grunts and Richard's customary cursing coming out of that same small hole.  Relieved that we wouldn't have to go chasing him, he confirmed our fears that indeed it did go.

I led the way out meeting Paul at the top of the 50 where I gave him the bad news.  If that wasn't bad enough a huge crash shattered the silence and the walls shook as if they were going to fall down.  We wanted to dive for cover but were both tethered to the rigging.  At the bottom, Dave and Richard dove for opposite walls while Snablet had to cower on the rope trying to make himself as small as possible.  But nothing came down and once the silence was complete again it was broken by three people simultaneously exclaiming, "What the fuck was that!".  Nobody could say for sure but the consensus was that it was the ice pillar above collapsing.

I offered to let Paul go ahead since he had been waiting around getting cold, but he said it was quite alright, I could go on up.  Everything was fine until I got to the short rope below the ice pillar chamber, where the tattered rope bag was below the rig point and a huge boulder jammed in the passage.  These weren't there on the way in!  The panic level started to rise until Snablet arrived and told me the bag had been moved on the way in and that the way out was beneath the boulder not over it. Eventually I worked out the sequence to get my head around the corner to confront the real damage.  A huge ice block was blocking the entrance into the chamber that definitely wasn't there on the way in!

Fortunately I was able to wriggle out over the block and sure enough the pillar was missing. Hanging on the opposite wall was the rope for the next pitch, now with its bottom embedded in the ice rubble which totally covered the floor.  Luckily it didn't get wiped out like the ice flow next to it.  Obviously the pillar had fallen right across the chamber hitting the far wall.  Too close, far too close!

It was a great relief to get out of that chamber and negotiating the meanders above wasn't nearly as hard as on the way in, even dragging tackle bags.  The rest of the de-rigging want well and with everything off the hill the rain finally arrived, raining all the next day.

Friday was departure day for Paul, Dave and Richard with Snablet driving them to the train station in Salzburg.  But only after a huge lunchtime feast and schnapps from Alfi and Wolfgang to send them on their way.  I spent the afternoon checking small holes on the nearby cliff face, to no avail.

Snablet returned the next day and we headed back up the hill to survey G7, his last find.  It went in about 50m at a steep angle and then followed a tight meandering bypass another 30m, to a spot choked with boulders. These were removed and Snablet squeezed into the hole, not returning for a good while.  Said he'd gone in to where there was a large black space.

We returned the next day with a couple of ropes and rigging kit.  Getting in to the choke was much quicker this time, now familiar with the route, even the Exhailer (a 20cm wide body long squeeze) was not so bad. Surveying through the next section was another story.  Its name of 101 Damnations about sums it up.  But the black space beyond was spacious and an 8m drop led to continuing passage.  The survey was put on hold to push on ahead.

The way on split and Snablet was volunteered to check the lower narrow slot while I went on above, in what turned out to be the same route.  This was confirmed by me dropping a rock on his head while trying to get the tackle bag down to him so he could start on the large echoing drop below. By the time I wormed my way down through the Razor Blade Alley he was at the end of his 20m ready to head out for more.

Returning with more rope we continued surveying to the big drop and pushed it 40m to the bottom with a couple of rebelays.  A 10m horizontal jog took us to yet another shaft 6 x 8m in diameter and deeper than the 20m of rope we dangled in it.  Foiled again, but with the bolts set we would be ready to go tomorrow.  Not getting back 'til after midnight, tomorrow was declared a rest day.

Well rested we were actually caving before noon on Wednesday taking in yet more rope to see what we had. Snablet headed down the last pitch on a 50m rope and hit a boulder pile at 30m, with no obvious way through.  A bypass was noted and I pendulumed over into it, finding a 2m diameter tube leading down into darkness.  As I was placing the bolt for this route the boulder pile beneath Snablet shifted, settling a few centimetres, and bouncing stones could be heard echoing far below both him and me.  He moved quickly to tie back into the rope while I hurriedly finished setting the bolt.  I had to place another rebelay 5m down and only got half-way through when my light died, leaving Snablet to lead down again.  He descended hesitantly as the odd stone was still popping out of the sinking boulder choke behind me and crashing somewhere below him.  A 25m free hang put him into a 6 x 8m high passage which sloped down towards another dark pitch sounding deeper than any we'd done yet - 60 maybe 100m?  But lacking rope and time we surveyed out de-rigging as we went, thankful to be clear of the 'Beware of the Sound of Thunder' pitch and above 'Capitan Steigel's Amazing Sinking Boulder Choke'.  Another sporting cave to return to next year.

Back at the Weisberghaus we calculated our new depth to be -166m., over a few Steigel 's (the local biere) and a wonderful farewell dinner from Alfi.  And of course we didn't get away the next day without a couple of farewell shots of schnapps.  Prost! Prost!





Caving On The Ho Chi Minh Trail

by Tony Jarratt

Thursday 16th April. 1992

I am sitting in a butterfly filled rock shelter just across the river from the atrocious track that forms part of the wide system of roads, trails and jungle paths which was used by the Viet Cong to transport food and munitions during the American War.  My sole companion is a local policeman, Du (pronounced "zoo").  On the border with Laos, this is potential bandit country so he is armed with a machete and a bayonet.  I have my Swiss Army knife.  Our three colleagues are walking the 15km back to base but I have a duff foot and can't walk far.  If we are lucky an ancient 6 wheel drive Chinese truck carrying Bob and Dany will collect us in the next 24 hours.  If not - so what?  We're in Vietnam, these things happen and it's all part of a great trip.

The last two years had been spent by Howard and Debbie Limbert and friends from Yorkshire together with our geologist contacts at Hanoi University in preparing for this year's expedition.  The B.E.C. were represented by Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw, myself and a few Bertie stickers. On the 1990 recce trip, the district of Bo Trach in Quang Binh province (some 30km. north of the 17th parallel) was chosen as a potential major caving area.  A completely separate Yorkshire team, including ex-B.E.C. man Jim Abbott flew over with us to investigate an area near the Chinese border.

We flew from Heathrow to Hanoi via Bangkok with me hiding under a flat cap and headscarf to avoid being spotted (!) as a Chickenpox carrier!  Needless to say the rest of the team kept well clear and I got three seats to myself for most of the way - dead cunning!

The cloud cover over Vietnam was thick and low.  Breaking through it at about 300ft, we emerged over miles of flat paddy fields - riddled with numerous circular ponds on each side on the runway.  These were American bomb craters!  Good morning Vietnam.

The customs men in the dilapidated airport building visibly blanched at our mountain of kit and quickly ushered us through to our waiting friends and an old Russian 32 seater coach. An hours drive to the city provided a glimpse of the local lifestyle.  The sides of the dusty road were lined with small wooden shops selling a great assortment of items – beer, tyres, bicycle parts, food, etc.  Beyond them the rice fields stretched into the distance.  The road itself was a melee of trucks, bullock carts, jeeps, cattle, an occasional car and thousands of bicycles.  With horn blaring our driver bulldozed his way through the lot into Hanoi and to our hotel where we stayed for the next three days.  Being a leper I got a "luxury" separate room (with a gorgeous young maid called Bang – honest!).

During these three days we shopped and ate in the city.   Imagine rush hour in London or Mexico City.  Exchange 90% of the vehicles for five cycles each.  Deduct the noise, pollution and aggro.  Transform belligerent taxi drivers into smiling, piss-taking lads on tricycle-propelled rickshaws and you have Hanoi.

Not a beautiful city but fascinating.  Capitalist communism is the norm.  The bustle of the traders in the old town and market places is contrasted by the austere public buildings and Ho Chi Minh's Lenin-like tomb.

After exchanging our fistfuls of U.S. dollars for literally rucksacks full of the local currency – Dong – we were ready for the journey south.

On 18th March our bus left Hanoi for the two day trip to the village of Phong Nha (or Son Trach). Impressions of the country were of limitless paddy fields, broad rivers bearing an assortment of wooden boats from coracles to motorised barges, women in conical straw hats, tower karst, millions of bikes and bomb craters.  These line the sides of the only main road and rail route from Hanoi to Saigon.  The odd ruined bridge testified to laser-guided direct hits.  The more we saw of Vietnam and its people, the less respect we had for the U.S.A. and its politics.  The friendliness and hospitality of the locals was overwhelming, from the poorest peasant to General Vo Nguyen Giap - retired hero of the French and American wars and in his day second only to Uncle Ho.  He visited us later in the trip and wants to write a preface for the expedition report.  (Unfortunately he is at present under house arrest - for mixing with cavers?)

To visit this country as a tourist is at present expensive and plagued with red tape.  Our path was smoothed by our working relationship with the great bunch of geologists at Hanoi University - Prof. My, Drs. Thuong and Ngha and graduate student Minh.  They all joined in the trip for various periods of time.  Prof. My (pronounced Me) is a non English speaking Party man.  He doesn't smoke or drink but has an eye for the ladies.  He is the only fat man in Vietnam, and short with it.  For the first week he was out of his depth and well dressed.  He left here yesterday to help a sick colleague back to base - two stone lighter, wearing wet boots, shorts, a filthy T-shirt and a three-day growth.  He is now one of the lads!

At last we reached Phong Nha village.  It is in a fairly remote location on the banks of the Son River and bisected by the main Ho Chi Minh Trail.  It has a row of tiny wooden pubs selling local and Chinese beer - the latter very acceptable and equally powerful.  A thriving market selling rice, vegetables, fruit, the odd snake, doughnuts and fly covered meat catered for our needs.  A sea of curious and smiling faces.  Hordes of small kids fascinated by hairy, pointed nosed and 2 metre tall white men followed us everywhere.  Paradise; surrounded by incredible forest covered limestone towers and flat, green rice paddies.

After settling into the People's Committee meeting room and getting permissions sorted out we were at last ready to go caving.  Our first project was to continue with exploration and surveying of Hang Phong Nha, partly in order to aid the locals in their plans to establish it as a major tourist attraction - which it most certainly will be.  It is reached by a 2km river journey in either a hand propelled boat (Doc Moc) or motor boat.  A wide inlet on the east bank of the river is followed to the large entrance which has been pulverised by American bombs and rockets.  Hang Phong Nha means Cave of Wind and Teeth.  The draught is still there but the stalactites adorning the entrance are now at the bottom of the river.  This is not your average cave!  No need to disembark the boats take you right in and up the river passage for some 1.6kms, to land at the base of a massive boulder slope which is climbed to a huge, well decorated chamber and 200m of tunnel to the upstream river cave. After a couple of weeks of pushing trips this system had been explored to a total length of 58m, ending in boulder choked passages close to the surface - as evidenced by the resident snake! Most of this distance involves swimming across enormous lakes in a passage generally 15 - 20m square.

An unfortunate result of the publicity given on T.V. and in the local press to our exploration was the death of two Vietnamese tourists and serious injury of two others when a huge stalagmite on which they were climbing collapsed.  Because of this we drew up a set of suggested rules for the boatmen/guides which will hopefully help conserve both the lives of visitors and the natural beauties of this world class cave.

A little further up-river is the Dark Cave Hang Toi.  This is a 5km+ system of huge and generally dry passages with spectacular formations and a top entrance in a jungle filled doline.  A young wood-cutter, blissfully sleeping here in the safe knowledge that Vietnam was now a nation free of foreign devils, wished he had been wearing his cycle clips when two passing multicoloured monsters trekked up the river bed shouting "Ere young 'un, seen any 'angs?"  Incidentally the very wet inlet cave that Bob and Dany found upstream now bears the nickname "Full Neoprene Jacket".

The exploration of these two systems ended the easy part of the trip.  It was now time to go further a field and become intimately acquainted with the jungle and its wildlife.

Our aim was to visit the head of the Chay River  - a tributary of the Son.  Rumours of a large resurgence cave lured a small team of us on a 5km motor boat trip and three hour walk up another branch of the Trail.  The first two hours was pleasant and easy going despite the heat. The last hour was purgatory.  It started when the flip-flop attired guide picked something off his foot with the warning "Sinh".  A casual glance at my new Line 7 boots (advert) revealed two or three caterpillar like nasties heading anklewards at a great rate of knots.  Fear and loathing descended as one wimpy Brit now understood Vietnamese for leech! There followed an hour of running through the jungle and stopping every twenty metres or so to poke them off with a stick.  Those unlucky enough to miss one had to resort to the traditional fag-end treatment and for once the smokers were not assailed by cries of "filthy habit". Dancing rapidly through the worst bits became an almost daily routine and once one had been "leeched" the fear passed as it was painless but messy.  Their loathsomeness persisted though and they were stamped on, cremated or decapitated whenever possible.  Apart from leeches the jungle was also home to tigers, bears, wild boar, deer, porcupines, monkeys, poisonous centipedes and over 300 types of venomous snakes.  Practically none of these were seen, though in one cave Rupert Skorupka found a flattened 4" long centipede inside his pit and in the entrance trod on a snake. It was not his day but the snake didn't think much of it either.  Luckily it slithered off in disgust.

Back to the Chay River. After our three hour stroll a bivouac was set up in a tiny rock shelter with a leech free sandy floor.  Our two local policemen/guides (one ex Viet Cong) immediately built a fire and brewed up.  Nhuong and Khang knew their stuff and as well as their jungle knowledge they carried half a gallon of "rice vodka" and a loaded revolver.  When we went fearfully off to sleep they got pissed and staggered off into the jungle to shoot fish or anything else that got in the way.

The following day a short walk and climb over a heap of boulders revealed the 15m high by 10m wide entrance to Hang Vom (Arch Cave).  A swim along a 100m long lake led to a collapse doline with the true Arch beyond. A huge entrance leading to a vast underground lake - probably one of the world's largest at c. 100m x 80m.  We swam, stupefied across this and climbed a cascade to a further lake surrounded by mighty calcite columns.  A typical 20m square river passage led on.  We had another mega system to go at and the leeches could look forward to more meal deliveries.

Hang Vom was eventually explored for a total length of some 15km.  During two trips Carl Maxon, Paul Ibberson and I surveyed some 3km of 15m wide, sand floored tunnel with spectacular formations ending at another entrance in a cliff somewhere in the jungle.  This would probably be almost impossible to find from outside.  The incredible main streamway provided plenty of difficult and sporting caving across enormous lakes and over boulder piles and gours for a length of about 10km, ending in an open doline with three huge entrances on the far side - one 100m high.  These were not explored.  This is one of the finest caves anywhere and would suggest is on a par with some of the Mulu systems.

By now this cave had become a regular visiting place and the jungle bivvy spot (the Betty Ford Clinic) and a couple of underground camps well patronised.  A further enhancement to work here was provided by local character "Captain" Khwang our main boatman and village entrepreneur. Having been heavily involved in our Chinese beer sessions he took to bringing several bottles in his boat when he collected thirsty exploration teams.  As he owned a bar this was both easy and remunerative.  He was astute enough to learn sufficient English in a week to be able to converse reasonably well and was able to swig a litre bottle of beer without using his hands.  It also seems that he learnt the rules of soccer at martial arts school!

Apart from leeches the team were beset by minor ailments and injuries - our worst case however being Mick Nunwick who almost died from either typhoid or Weil's disease, enhanced by a badly injured leg received in Hang Phong Nha.  He was eventually admitted to Dong Hoi hospital - once a showpiece of Cuban aid but now worse than the Belfry!  This rather grim edifice provided its own amusing moments.  As Mick lay in his private ward, with fellow cavers dossing in beds at either side, others of the team would arrive for lengthy visiting periods - sometimes up to several days.  Beer and fags were purchased from the hospital bar and the ward became a sort of medical boozer.  The chief consultant (a mini Charles Bronson look alike) would pop in for a quick glance at Mick before settling down to a bottle of ale and a fag, the dog end of which he would toss, still lit, into the corridor.  Other patients, visitors and passing kids would stand gaping in for hours.  Group photos of the nurses became the norm and those specially favoured sported an expedition badge.  One morning Charles Bronson complained of a headache caused either by the booze of the previous night or falling off his moped.  He had a fag and some beer, scrounged some exped. medicine and felt better. Sadly for Mick he was not well enough to stay in Vietnam and was last seen hobbling onto the Saigon Hanoi "express" train.

Simon Brown had a near miss when he fell off an underground tree - washed in by floods – and suffered bruising of the chest.

This accident occurred in the Minh Hoa area, a day's jeep ride from base and a very scenic landscape of high limestone towers.  Though one good through trip river cave was found, about 3km, other leads in this area amounted to little.  A cave visited by Pete Ward and me being rather like a muddy version of Stoke Lane Slocker and another one nearby being notable only for the memorable sight of a small boy with a live bat on a bit of string - rather like an animated conker or very energetic yo-yo.  Another ingenious use of wildlife by Vietnamese kids is the adaptation of the beating wings of a large hand held beetle as a portable fan!  I am told they also glue these beetles upside-down to bits of cardboard with wheels on and race them.

Back to caving - for the last few days a few of us have been living in the entrance of a huge and promising river cave, Hang Cha Ang, in another patch of leechy jungle.  On arrival we decided to have a meal and then leisurely survey the first 500m or so.

At station 13, 300m in, it sumped.  This isn't normal for Vietnamese caves.  Two separate days of jungle bashing with small boys as guides eventually saw us at a secluded valley where the same river entered a large cave.  Not far in it was blocked by massive boulder falls but by leaving through another entrance these were by-passed and a further section of cave entered.  The lower levels were sumped but a promising series of dry, upper level passages were surveyed for some distance until the presence of a 4ft long black snake curtailed our activities.  It can wait for the next expedition in 1994, as can the possibly mega resurgence cave found by Howard upstream.  The walk into this area is horrific - jungle covered lapiaz.  The walk out was worse as the small boys got lost and we nearly had to spend a night out with no food, water, mosquito nets or bivvy bags.  As it got steadily darker we luckily escaped the clutches of the "green hell" and Hang Cha Ang was one of the most welcome caves we had ever seen!

Darkness is now also drawing in at this rock shelter.  Still no sign of the truck (or any truck) so we will spend the night here.  Du has just informed me, using drawings, that in January this year bandits machine-gunned eight travellers only 11km further up the Trail!  I have opened up my Swiss Army knife.

Friday 17th April, 1992

6am and still alive. So is Du, though having seen the bullet scar on his leg and shrapnel bump on his head received during three years as a soldier in Kampuchea he probably has a charmed life.  Breakfast consists of tea, fried eggs, the remains of yesterday's chicken supreme and prawn crackers.  A couple of local bomb collectors have dropped in to help eat it. They have also provided the second course - noodle and pig fat soup with rice.

At 10.30 Du and I took all the kit up to the Trail and spent a few hours drinking rice vodka with the wood cutters.  At 2pm the truck finally arrived and we set off back, pausing only to turf off some hitch hiking locals and replace them with a few 500lb bombs and a selection of artillery shells.  Back to the village by 5pm for lots of beer.

The next few days were spent packing and having farewell parties with the locals.  Pyrotechnics and ale featured strongly.  Back in Hanoi the reunited teams gave lectures and attended more feasts and booze ups.  On 25th April we sadly left this superb country and its wonderful people for a week's R & R in Thailand.  Notable for the novel use which young ladies have for ping-pong balls, I found this country not a patch on Vietnam.  A nice touch in Bangkok though was the reception party of Brian the Hippy and girlfriend complete with huge Bertie placard.  We certainly do get Everywhere!  We deny any connection with the recent riots though.

The full report on the Expedition will be published later this year.  Anyone wanting a copy please contact Dany a.s.a.p. so he knows how many to print.  In all we explored and surveyed over 28kms of cave, most of which was enormous river passage. A very successful trip.


Letter to B.B. Editor


Dear Ted,

As the sole organiser of the last two Annual (and, I believe, highly successful) Dinners perhaps I might have the same prominence in right of reply to Alan Thomas's vitriolic letter of criticism regarding the dinner.

Alan, obviously after many past years on the B.E.C. committee, has finally realised it is a mistake to go to the same place year after year.  This is no doubt based on the multitude of dinners at WOOKEY HOLE and at the CAVE MAN at Cheddar, so I can only agree, it was time for a change.

Change we did, and the WEBBINGTON, with its higher standards of decor, service and facilities was well suited to the B.E.C.   Far from deteriorating, the Dinner has improved and, coupled with a greater variety of dinner speakers and guests, continues to improve.

It is definitely an untruth to say that anyone is told where to sit Alan (Why, were you?).  In fact, a table of eight persons arranged in a circle means you have a greater, NOT lesser, opportunity to mix than in long tables when you can speak easily only to adjacent diners and perhaps three persons opposite, if you are lucky!

You appear somewhat out-of-touch Alan, with the general club view that the B.E.C. be 'tidy' at least once a year.  The ladies in their 'finery' are justly matched by members and guests in collar-and-tie.  There never has been, of course, a rule that it must be a suit.  Yes, by common agreement, 'T' shirts are out; we are NOT the WESSEX!  Perhaps you would feel happier if 'T' shirts were worn, but then why have you always dressed-up,  'Cape and all?'  The membership want a tidy dinner.  Is it not their right to have the BEST dinner for the BEST club on Mendip?

As for numbers, Alan, the last two WEBBINGTON dinners broke ALL records (excepting the 50th of course) for attendance figures.  Doesn't that tell you something, Alan?!!

Still, there is no room for complacency.  You may recall that in the B.B. after the dinner I asked for comments from the club, so I could ensure that the 1992 dinner will be a success.  I have only had your reply - via the B.B.!

"Mr. N".