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I am pleased to see that there are more meet reports in this Record although there are still some I have been promised which have yet to materialise. As an appetiser for the next Record I can confirm that the one day of the Great Sell Gill Expedition which I attended was truly memorable with ladders, ropes everywhere, a diver in the sump, the promised cream teas, and even a take away delivery of a cream tea from the cave out to the leader who for medical reasons had to remain on the surface!! Now all we need to do is to find some new cave and get that written up and the Record will be providing all the services you said you wanted when I first took it on.
In common with many areas of life the Club has decided to be more active in conservation matters. After asking for volunteers almost a year ago, we now have a volunteer, Howard Beck, who has been co-opted onto the Committee as Conservation Officer. Howard will be drafting a Club policy on conservation and we have already made it a formal Club requirement (rather than a strong informal recommendation) that no member dumps spent carbide underground. It has been agreed that all non-biodegradable rubbish will be brought off the fell after Gaping Gill. A number of members are talking about not just tidying the Main Chamber at Gaping Gill but making a determined effort to clean up other areas of the system. Many of these activities have happened in the past, the difference now is that they will be formalised and co-ordinated as Club action.
I had hoped that the letter by Peter Barnes in the last Record would have sparked several letters in response but only one has been received. I know that Peter's letter has been widely discussed with many people saying, as Paul Norman does in his response, "I agree with some things that Peter says but not with all of them". The concept of de-skilling which Paul raises has been independently raised by several members over the last month or so, and is also raised in the editorial of the latest Caves and Caving. Maybe that shows that people who have been caving for a long time tend to develop similar views on the sport. Fred Davies argued many years ago that "improving mountain paths just causes accidents to happen further from the road". The same may be true of Eco-hangers although the gross over use of our caves (by people introduced to the sport by commercial/education centres rather than finding it for themselves?) has made the replacement of the current spits a necessity.
Similar arguments can be applied to learning personal caving skills. The approach to new members in a Club like the CPC can be totally different to that in a situation where the novices outnumber the experienced cavers. There has to be an onus on a novice to say "I don't like this" or "How should I do that" and I am sure that all our members will be only too happy to provide this on-the-job training. The novices should be able to experience the thrill of exploration for themselves, with guidance from more experienced members on which caves to try. They should not expect to be metaphorically carried down the caves making no decisions for themselves and learning no skills themselves. As Alan Weight says in his Belgium report, it was great to go caving in caves where we didn't know the way and we could experience the thrill of exploring what were, to us, new caves. That is, after all, why we all go caving, isn't it?
Present: Chris Brown, Mick Thompson, Mark Ashworth, John Clare, Peter Barnes, Gemma Connolly, Patrick Warren, Simon Parker (leader).
On arriving at the cottage just before 8.30am I found most people still in bed and the rest still having breakfast. Those that had turned up for the meet constituted the skinniest bunch of cavers you have ever seen and we must have looked more like a Mr Puniverse convention than a caving meet.
Some discussion followed while I tried to think of an excuse to divert the meet. There was no way we could have carried all the tackle between us. The decision was made to take ladders for the first three pitches and SRT kits for the rest. It seemed that most of the remaining pitches were already rigged with rope so this would ease on the carrying somewhat. A quick change act at Storr's Common and we were off. This was a glorious morning; the sun was shining and the snow covered hillside was glistening. So much talk was going on about the way Quaking Pot had featured in a TV programme a few days earlier that I couldn't help but wonder how many people had turned up just because they wanted to see what had been on the telly.
Patrick and I set off in the upper entrance with all the tackle while the rest of the team went down the lower one to save time. We made good use of the 10 metre ladder on the second pitch though I wouldn't like to have had to carry it any further! Just as we were descending the second pitch a party from Oxford University arrived. Oxford must live down this place: it was Oxford that had to be rescued in the programme. One of their party had soloed the place the weekend before on a 19 hour, 4 Mars bar epic and had now come back to get his rope from somewhere near the bottom! Oxford used the SRT ropes which were in place on the second and third pitches, apparently left in by the CRO? We arrived at the third pitch just ahead of Oxford who each manage to drop something while passing a rebelay. By the time we had assembled in the rather more cavernous area at the foot of the third pitch and visited the grotto which adjoins, Oxford were well ahead and out of the way.
The benefits of only having tackle to carry for SRT now became apparent and it was with relatively little effort that we arrived at the forth pitch by-pass. This squeeze has resulted in many people turning back in the past and I had expected today to be no exception. To my surprise only two felt that they had had enough and the rest of us set off for the Crux. It had taken us three hours so far so to turn back now would still result in a six hour trip to have done about one third of the pot. We arrived at the Crux just as Oxford were extruding their last man through. The Oxford party had some pretty chunky blokes in it so there must be a message there somewhere.
Some shuffling of bodies over the top of each other resulted with Gemma and myself at the front. Based on past experience I didn't want to fight my way through first only to find no-one was able to follow so I sent Gemma in with instructions on how to find the correct level : "Don't worry if it looks impossible: it very nearly is!". A few minutes and several squeaks later she returned saying that she could only make progress without her helmet on and with it off she couldn't see where she was going! There was nothing for it I was going to have to follow her in and shine a light. I have to say, the Crux is a lot longer than it used to be and at the point where I thought we should have been through the only way on looked even more ridiculous than the bit we were in. Having now done what amounted to three quarters of the Crux three times Gemma thought better of continuing and a rather energetic retreat was made. As soon as we were back in the wide bit where one merely had to walk sideways Gemma expressed a desire to return again soon so she could have another go! She must be as mad as I was at that age!
I am now convinced that if this pot is to be bottomed it will have to be done on SRT. This conveniently gets me out of having to lead it yet again since I am not an SRT leader. As we emerged from the hole I heard Patrick in front shout, "I think it's snowing!". This turned out to be something of an understatement. Outside looked and felt just like something out of Antarctica. The only good thing to be said was that the biting wind was from a constant direction and that as long as we were walking into it we were going the right way! To have got lost up there would have been a very serious matter indeed!
By the time we arrived back at Storr's Common we all looked like snowmen. I had a fun time trying to find my car keys which were now buried somewhere under a snow drift. I also do not recommend getting changed in a blizzard, soon after stripping off I actually began to feel ill and I was greatly relieved when all the gear was thrown in the boot and was were safe inside. The adventure was not over yet however. Gemma had to be taken up to the Hill Inn where Tom was and Chris had to be collected from there and taken back to the cottage. The grit trucks were having little impact. The grit was just blowing away! At the Hill Inn Chris was nowhere to be found so I assumed he had found another lift and not wanting to spend the night there I set off for the cottage. At Ribblehead it was obvious I wasn't going to make it to the cottage so I turned round and tacked back up the hill and under the railway. Even the A65 was almost snowbound and it was a very long drive back to Leeds that night. Some juggling of tackle was needed over the next couple of weeks since much of it was in the wrong cars that night. So there you have it! Never a dull moment on a Quaking Pot meet.
Thanks to those who turned up, we might even get to the bottom next time!
(18-19 March 1995)
Present: Colette Karley, Roger Roome, Zoe Slack(G) and Dale Martin(Leader)
Saturday - Wapping Mine, Cumberland Cavern and Jug Holes
We took a trip to Matlock and ambled through some dubious looking old workings in Wapping Mine which connect with the more stable Cumberland Cavern. This section was once a show cave and contains stairs and paths, it is also covered in narcotics based graffiti. An exit couldn't be made from the Cumberland adit as it had recently been filled in, so we returned through the Wapping stopes.
On the return to Castleton we stopped off at Jug Holes where Roger and myself made a rapid through trip. The lower adit contains an old tub and railway from mining days and also has an interesting drystone arched roof.
Sunday - Peak Cavern
I hadn't managed to book Peak but due to the fact that there were only four of us we were able to enter, also John Cordingley needed a couple of tanks bringing out from Far Sump, so we passed as a working party. All went well as far as the end of the show cave where Colette's lamp decided to pack up so she had to be escorted back to the entrance. Now down to three we continued through the ducks and along the upper gallery. We paid a quick visit to the tube and then headed for Far sump to retrieve John's tanks with which we stumbled back to the entrance.
(2 April 1995)
Present: S Keedy(Leader), W Keedy, P Hamilton, D Maddison, I Woods, S Kelly, D Bushell, E Whitaker, T Thompson, G Connolly, P Warren, S Ashby, P Barnes, P Whitaker(P), R Bethal(P), M Thomlinson(P), R Clunie)P), S Lent(P), C Poole(P), J Stewart(G), M May(G), J Thomas(G), S Cornhill(G)
Twenty-three people turned up on what was a fairly cold, misty, morning at Bull Pot Farm. Parking was to be problematic since we coincided with the Red Rose AGM. The hole was descended without too much ado, and everyone who attended hopefully got an enjoyable trip without too much hanging around. The first descent was around 10.30am and the cave was successfully completed with everyone safely back in their cars by 2.30 in the afternoon. My thanks to all attendees.
(6-8 May 1995)
Camping: Simon Ashby, Pete Barling, Howard and Tamlyn Beck, Tony and Sarah Blick, Alison Catt, Rob Dove, Andy Elliot, Jason Green, Barbara Jenkins, Bob, Jenny and Sarah Jenkins, Andrew Knight, Steve Pickersgill, Rob, Linda and Alex Scott, Jo and Patrick Warren, Steve Warren, Tony, Emily-Jane, Michael and Merry Whitehouse.
Day passes only : Roz Bateman (BEC), John Christie, Emma Faid, Simon Parker, Mick Thompson, Edward Whittaker.
A traditional camping meet, except that it didn't rain (much)! Saturday was very hot and much walking was done, also a traverse of Dowbergill Passage. Sunday was cooler and more civilised outings were undertaken. Monday was still cool, but the outside didn't matter as a trip into Birks Fell Cave had been lined up. The Official Caving was as follows:
Saturday - Dowbergill Passage - Simon Ashby, Peter Barling, Rob Dove, Andy Elliot, Patrick Warren.
Some caving trips are really memorable...for the wrong reasons. This was one such trip. We got off to a good start when SA cauterised his thumb with a carbide flame before he'd even got half way through the square entrance hole of Providence Pot. Next, much thrutching was to be had in the Blasted Crawl, and being last, I passed the time trying to levitate past the pools of muddy water. One such pool concealed a sharp pointed rock, which buried itself in my kidney after a particularly unsuccessful levitation. Two down and three to go, and not even at Stalagmite Corner yet.
At Stalagmite Corner, AE revealed that he had only bothered putting two lumps of carbide in his generator and had no spare (quote of the decade next morning - 'It was enough to start with!').
Now, Dowbergill passage is just a straight line on the survey, but it's a very long straight line, and of some vertical complexity. Thus let us move forward several hours, skipping over Indian rope tricks in the narrows, to the point where one can follow the passage at stream level all the way out, or nearly so. This stretch always seems to me to be dark and gloomy, of indeterminate length, and I always lose track of where I am in it. It must be even gloomier when you're caving on the dregs of a Duracell. It's also half full of freezing water which can prove to be nearly the final straw for a caver, knackered from thrutching and traversing in the earlier parts of the cave.
Thus it was with a sense of relief that we came at last on the duck and moments later the Buddhist's temple, salvation at reaching the pleasant pastures of Dow Cave, and positive ecstasy when we emerged to a warm evening in Caseker Gill.
The score: one cauterised thumb, one bruised kidney, a severe case of light failure, one near hypothermia victim, and (RD later reported) one severely bruised shoulder: Dowbergill passage five, CPC zero.
Monday - Birks Fell Cave - Roz Bateman (BEC), John Christie, Emma Faid, Simon Parker, Rob Scott, Alex Scott, Mick Thompson, Patrick Warren, Steve Warren, Edward Whitaker, Peter Whitaker.
In contrast to Dowbergill this was an excellent trip. Roz, John, Steve, Mick, Edward, Peter and myself reached Elbow Bend, and the others turned back earlier in the cave, having gone as far as they wanted. Everything went right and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. EEW recounted tales of the original exploration on the way in, and SEW handed round spam butties at Elbow Bend to celebrate VE day. What's more, we ate them!
Thus finished an excellent weekend - thanks to all who attended!
The Belgian Ardennes (Mr Early goes caving)
(27 May - 3 June 1995)
Andy and Christine arrived two days early to be met by the jovial Belgian camp site manager (JBCSM) in his best English "Are you Mr Weight"? "No I'm Mr Weight's friend". "Ah bon, I 'ave a leetle field for you". John, Carol and Heather arrived the following day. Once again the JBCSM reached for his English "Are you Mr Weight"? "No, I'm Mr Weight's friend, I'm early" "Ah bonjour Mr Early, I 'ave a leetle field for you and your friends" .
So began a three day meet that turned into seven days of fun, games, mayhem and misunderstandings with plenty of caving and climbing thrown in for spice.
Midday Saturday saw the majority of the meet assembled on the camp-site sandwiched between the river Meuse and the village of Anhee. Don, Patsy, Ric, Pat, Geoff, Rob, Nick, Anne, Alan and Becky had met on the Hull - Zeebrugge ferry for a sociable start to the meet. John had spent the morning having a further complicated misunderstanding with JBCSM. This led to the discovery that the showers were "Kaput - the floods in February, Monsieur, les douches sont kaput, les douches sont froides". This was our first introduction to Belgian understatement. Andy, meanwhile, was failing to cash a cheque at a bank because "the machine is kaput; the February floods you understand". We did eventually understand when we noticed that many of the fixed caravans on the site were brand new, the originals having been washed away. The camp-site had been flooded to a depth of about six feet and the ground floor of virtually every building in the village would have been inundated with two to three feet of water.
Having been instructed to camp in straight lines we set up camp in strict Gaping Gill disorder, scorched some square patches in the grass, had a brew and set out to work out where we were and what we were going to do. Around Mont we located Trou Bernard, Trou d'Eglise, Trou Weron and Trou Haquin. At Trou Haquin we discovered that a key is required for many caves in Belgium but, fortunately, one key fits almost all of the gated caves. Our Belgian contact in the Union Belge de Speleologie (UBS) before the trip had talked about arranging for us to collect a key but, due to a Belgian bank holiday and associated holidays, we hadn't made any direct contacts on this matter and we hadn't quite realised the significance of getting a key. A trip to the rather grand but fading Chateau Geronsart, the home of the UBS in Jambes near Namur, and rather difficult to find, got us a key duly signed out for four days.
Cold showers for everyone ("the February floods you understand") followed by our first Belgian Beer Binge (BBB). John Webb rediscovered Trappiste Rochefort No 10 and confirmed my memories of its affects on the faculties. In the morning when Heather asked for scrambled eggs on toast he had no more than a suspicion that the meal had a vague connection with bread and eggs. Just what the connection was though eluded him and the kit form breakfast lay confusing him for some (tens of) minutes.
Mick Thompson and John arrived early Sunday morning in good time to pitch their tents and fall asleep. For the rest of us Trou Haquin beckoned followed by Trou d'Eglise in the afternoon. In the event giving Trou Haquin a thorough going over occupied the whole day.
Everyone down the Trompette route where two Belgian cave photographers very much regretted letting us rig and descend the pitch in front of them. They didn't realise we (or more specifically John Webb) were photographing, as well. A large group descending the Boite aux lettres (Letter Box) persuaded us to seek our entertainment elsewhere. Digs were inspected, tight bits pushed and slippery bits slipped on until the Letter Box could be put off no longer.
Twenty years ago Mick Scratcher described this as polished and slippery and time has perfected the polish to that of glass. Beyond the Letter Box every nook and cranny was pushed to its inevitable and disgusting end. On the way out we became somewhat locationally challenged trying to find the by-pass to the Letter Box. The beauty of our predicament was that a group of Dutch cavers, who insisted they knew where they were, tagged on to us and followed our every move through a steeply ascending boulder filled rift. Eventually common sense prevailed and they abandoned us. (soon after Alan at the front of our party had caught up with the rear of their party which was following the rear of our party in devious ways through the boulders - Ed) I should add that whilst we did find our way out the fate of the Dutch group is unknown although I'm sure they still claim that they know exactly where they are,
On Monday Trou Weron was a much tougher trip altogether. Trou Weron, at 106m deep, is the second deepest cave in Belgium and proved a jolly little wheeze - it being impossible to emphasise the word little too much. The (ungated) entrance is easily located in a wooded valley and is just down valley from the stream sink. We had intended to rig both of the routes in the entrance series but the Banquettes Oblique route was almost immediately too tight for some members. Everyone made it down into Salle aux Journaux but only five made it beyond the little nip only some 30m farther on.
Geoff, Don, Mick, John Green and Alan pushed on to a truly awful pitch, just beyond the end of where Les Banquettes rejoined our route. Fortunately this was half detackled to leave the bottom half to be free climbed before the writer had to climb it. The ladder was transferred to a pitch immediately below and this pitch, in its turn, was also detackled so that the gear could be used on the final pitch into Salle du Fond. All five made it to the truly disgusting sump that is a pool at the end of a flat out crawl in mud that had a certain organic odour about it. The bottoming of this hole was certainly a triumph of ingenuity over the tackle list
Geoff and Rob's last evening in Belgium couldn't be let pass without marking the occasion and we arranged to eat out in the only restaurant in Anhee. The restaurant itself was situated above a health club with a full view of the Gym floor below where, to my personal relief, no-one was pumping iron. We were attended to by the proprietor who, it appeared, would act as waiter, barman and chef. He soon discovered that by the time he had taken half of the starters order we all needed more beer and by the time he had served the beer we had run out of bread. By the time he brought the bread we needed more beer and the first course still hadn't been ordered. So it continued until, in desperation, the proprietor phoned for help and disproved our rapidly developing theory that the staff had been "washed away in the February floods you understand". Once the extra staff arrived and had been bribed with tots of liqueurs (it was for the sauce not the chef the proprietor insisted) things got back under control and the meal was everything you would expect of a chef who is a fencing instructor. Grossly over measure whiskies finished the night for the fortunate few.
Tuesday was, in the main, a surface day. Geoff and Rob met Don and Patsy in Han-sur-Lesse to visit Grotte de Han which is probably the most famous show cave in Europe. Ric, Pat, Andy and Christine visited the cave a little later and then continued on to Rochefort in search of Nou Moulin, a cave we were to visit later in the week. Mick and John had heard much about Trou Alexandere and were persuaded to part with lOOBF each to run around some very muddy tunnels
Nick, Anne, Becky and Alan put in a day's climbing on the Cliffs at Freyr. This is a cracking location overlooking the River Meuse below. Identifying the start of routes is simple enough but, like Scotland, it is almost impossible to stay on route. By judicious choice of pitches on adjacent routes it is very easy to put together some cream climbs. It is just as easy, however, to get yourself into extremis so, beware. Having said this Becky and Anne found two excellent 80 metre routes. The first was an easy angled v diff with two or three steeper sections that provided interest. The second, a bold severe up a classic arrete, was a real joint effort with each convinced they couldn't have led the pitches led by the other.
On Wednesday Don and Patsy continued their quest to visit the show caves of the area and spent the day in Dinant where they visited the Citadel, Trou Merveilleuse and a further Show Cave Mont Fat which has two or three entrances. Mick and John completed the set and had their trip to Grotte de Han whilst Alan, Becky, Andy, Ric, Pat and John Webb returned to Mont for a look around Trou d'Eglise.
This cave is in the centre of Mont and is easily located being, as you would expect, directly opposite the village church. The aroma at the top of the shakehole is best ignored lest the mind should migrate and wonder about its origin. The smell in any case seems lo have little to do with the cave itself which is clean and quite fresh. The cave entrance is gated against the tourist companies that have wreaked such havoc with the caves in Belgium but, once the gate is opened, cavers arc welcomed by a high quality, stainless steel fixed ladder. Strictly speaking, with the installation of this ladder, no equipment is now required for this cave but, should you wish to make the cave harder, you could take along a couple of ladders for the "puits" that are just a short distance from the foot of the entrance diaclase.
This is a smashing little trip made all the better by it being an active streamway that is something of a rarity in this area of Belgium. The Cascade in particular is refreshing and would be really spectacular in a flooding, cave. Climbs up into the roof are often well rewarded with some fine formations that, being only marginally off the trade route, have not suffered too much. John once again photographed until he ran out of film and regretted not having more such was the quality of the cave. The whole of the cave was explored and we found much passage that is not on the survey but failed to find bits that are! Bold traverses will be rewarded and many little round trips are possible.
Carol and Heather braved the Belgian Railways system to spend a day in Namur. On their return Heather tested the new camp site swings that had been built that day to replace the ones that had been (yes, you guessed) "washed away in the February floods you understand" .
Diagram not available in on-line Record
Thursday had been put at one side for our attempt on Trou Bernard which was to be our only rope trip. Given that Trou Bernard is known to be somewhat tighter than Trou Weron Ric elected to bring up the rear just in case he didn't fit. A 60m rope was exactly the right length to drop the first pitch (Puits Franz), Les Chicanes and into what we think is Salle Olive. In the event Ric did get stuck only 3 metres down the Chicanes. He returned to Puit Franz to try and locate the start of a passage that has recently connected to the Number 2 series.
From Salle Olive the descending rift passage nips in once again and Pat couldn't get through. She turned round and then spent ninety minutes getting back up the Chicanes that had taken only five minutes to descend. A couple of judiciously placed rebelays down the Chicanes would certainly help to keep out of the really tight and polished bits.
Puit Cureton is another awkward little tinker at the top but it does soon break out into a chamber that looks out onto the big pitch. We elected to drop the high route which gives a 40m pitch including the ramp section at the bottom. All three dekitted and due to some disorientation set of into the Cave section rather than the Labyrinthe. This is a cosy bit of passage and the writer turned back in some confusion having, remembered the cave (From twenty years previous) as being, strenuous but not tight. The other two returned eventually and whilst I climbed the pitch Mick went in search of the sump proper. An uneventful, if strenuous, exit was made and we were all out some six hours after first entering the cave. This, rather coincidentally, was the same time it took us to do the trip on ladders in 1976.
Becky, Nick and Anne had a leisurely start to a sunny, if breezy day's climbing at Dave. The crag is at the roadside overlooking the railway, the river and yet another road on the far bank of the river. All were very busy with traffic and communication on the climbs can be difficult. Becky was just about to follow Nick and Anne up one of the classic v diff routes when the Belgian rock police arrived. Did they have a Belgian climbing card? Becky explained that they were all members of the BMC which is affiliated to the Belgian group (or so she hoped) but they didn't have their cards with them. She quickly switched the conversation to caving and, as cavers on an occasional climbing day, they were allowed to continue. Two Belgian lads with an ltalian friend were not so fortunate and were given a red card and sent off. Becky, Nick and Anne enjoyed two classic, if polished, routes and a third one freshly gardened and bolted and, as yet, less frequented
Andy had to go to a meeting in Germany and so left early in the morning. Christine, John, Carol and Heather spent the day at Iluy where the Citadel has been turned into a small war museum with a special emphasis on the Holocaust. The highlight was a telepherique which was around half a kilometre across one span. Meanwhile Don and Patsy went first to visit Grotte Rochefort and then Grotte de Hotten which is a model of how show caves can be developed. Here they met the manager who is himself a caver. His club will be visiting the Dales in November so don't be too surprised to hear French being spoken in the cottage later this year.
This was Don and Patsy's last night in Belgium and so the second restaurant meal of the week was arranged. This one was at the Hotel de Touristes in Yvoir and it was altogether more traditional. The patron of the hotel kept us busy with ample food whilst Heather entertained us with her cartoon concertina books that she was drawing between each course.
Friday was everyones final caving day and unfortunately it was a great disappointment. Nou Moulin, which Ric, Pat, Andy and Christine had located earlier in the week, is according to the notes I took at the time "a fine entrance spoiled only by the cave beyond". The tackle list was two ladders short and we consequently (some thought fortunately) couldn't visit the low series. Nevertheless we explored as much of the cave as possible and once again John Webb photographed anything, that was even remotely photogenic. In fairness the cave passage shapes are quite something, it is just the overwhelming muddiness of the place that spoils it. (and the fact that it is only by climbing through the boulder choke at the far end that one gets above the flood debris level; this in a cave where the fine entrance is well below the level of the river running past it - Ed)
After Nou Moulin John, Carol and Heather left to catch their ferry home whilst almost everyone else set off for Grotte de Hotten. Ric, Pat, Christine and Andy got there perhaps an hour before the rest and upon being recognised as cavers from the same club as Don and Patsy, were given a quick lesson on the position of the light switches and were sent down to explore the show cave on their own. When Nick, Anne, Becky and Alan arrived the manager just sent us all down again and charged no extra for the last four. The cave was locked behind us as we left almost symbolic of the end of a memorable weeks caving.
Many thanks to everyone who supported this meet which I thoroughly enjoyed. The combination of good company, fine caves and excellent crags almost guarantees a good time. The Rochefort Trappiste equally guarantees that you forget all the bad bits. The beauty of caving in an area like this is that no-one knows the way down the caves and that feeling of real exploration, that we all forget after many years of caving in the Dales, returns. The leader accepts all responsibility for the weather.
Pat Halliwell, Ric Halliwell, Andy Hayter, Christine Hayter, Don Mellor, Patsy Mellor, Rob Scott, Mick Thompson, Nick Thompson, John Webb, Alan Weight, Becky Weight, Geoff Workman.
Anne Macksmith, Carol Webb, Heather Webb, John Green.
Below is a list of the caves visited by whom:
Day Cave Present --- ---- ------- Sunday 28 May Trou d'Haquin Geoff, Rob, John, Don, Andy, Ric, Pat, Becky, Alan, Nick, Anne Monday 29 May Trou Weron Geoff, Rob, Don, Ric, Pat, Alan, John Webb, Mick, John Green Tuesday 30 May Trou Alexandere Mick and John Green Wednesday 31 May Trou d'Eglise Andy, John Webb, Ric, Pat, Becky, Alan Thursday 1 June Trou Bernard Alan, Ric, Pat, Mick, John Green (Trou Napolean) Friday 2 June Nou Moulin Ric, Nick, Anne, Becky, Alan, John Webb, Mick, John Green
Gouffre Berger 1994
(This article was received too late to be incorporated into the Berger publication and has therefore been published in the Record - Ed)
After two years of waiting, training and listening to other people's stories we were finally on our way. The team was Mal Goodwin, Bob Jenkins and I, the mission was to rig from Camp 2 to the bottom. We set off underground at 12 o'clock on Monday morning. This was two hours later than planned due to an accident that had happened underground during the early hours. We were a good strong team. Bob and Mal had years of experience and I was young and very fit to help the old buggers if they needed it.
The entrance to the cave is very much like any other you would see in the Yorkshire Dales. The entrance pitches are interesting but nothing too technical. Cairn Pitch is a very clean and nice pitch. The meanders are interesting but again not as bad as they are made out to be, until you try to move down them with a tacklebag which is too big. Better to have more rope bags than to pack huge bags bursting at the seams as you curse trying to squeeze you and your bag through the meanders.
You will need a rope to get down from Meanders II onto Aldo's, it is a big step. Aldo's is a fairly big pitch which can be double rigged. Once at the bottom of this pitch you will have to put your knees to rock and crawl into the Starless River passage and then you start to see what all the fuss has been about. The roof disappears and everything just gets big. We walked through the bottom of Lake Cadoux and looked up at the traverse lines and were happy it hadn't been raining.
Down two more short pitches and " wow the roof disappears, the walls disappear and it looks like you are walking on the moon, rock boulders bigger than houses. Even the most powerful electric lights won't find the roof. Make your way right and you will find a wall, then follow it down on a fairly well worn path. Just short of Hall of the Thirteen you will find Camp One. The group before us had left a makeshift tent up against one of the walls. We dumped all our camping gear at Camp One and then pressed on to Camp II after a quick brew.
The next pitches were all short and not difficult. The canals were full of old rope left from trips over the years, one of the ropes seen was left from the Wessex 1988 trip. All were shredded but I think the theory behind it is it's such a pig to rig so leave it all in situ and then replace it as it breaks. You'll only get wet if it breaks on you, there should be no damage to you just your pride. Once in the canal you might as well stay in there, only 100m long. Whilst we were there they were only waist deep, but this will change with the weather conditions. There must be something there for you to traverse on in case weather conditions change whilst you are below the canals. The pitch just below the canals is tricky to get on and off but once on is a simple pitch to negotiate.
Down the rest of the pitches approaching Camp II and we are running late. I can see our sherpa team at Camp II waiting for us . All we can see is very faint lights at Camp II which is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but they were still a long way off. The walk down to Camp II is slippy with some handlines in the very steep sections. Bob had one of the lines break on him which shook him up a bit but he was ok.
Once at Camp II we meet our sherpa team who had decided they would make their way out and go to the bottom another day. Dennis remained. We stocked up on food here with meat and pineapple chunks washed down with a cup of tea with a high sugar level. Whilst underground we drank large amounts of Isostar which was great for the energy levels. It also took away the flavour of the Puritabs which were needed for the large amounts of liquid which was consumed whilst underground.
I left Bob and Mal finishing their food and rigged Gache's which was within sight of the camp. Point to note, if water levels rise the top of Gache's is not the place to have Camp II. I moved on to Grand Cascade only to find that the rebelay was stripped and Bob above me had the bolting kit. We threw Bob in to place the new bolt and finish rigging the pitch. We crack on over a pool which was already rigged and all of a sudden, what's going on, have we missed a pitch, this is a dead end (wrong). We went back 25 feet and got on out hands and knees and crawled for what felt like miles but was only 25 feet, this cave doesn't let up.
Then we reached the top of Little Monkey. At this point I was totally knackered. Bob and Mal were in no better state than me so I started to crack on with the rigging , because I was beginning to tire it wasn't as good as it should have been. All of a sudden Plan B came into action. Simon Ashby and Simon Rowling our rigging chase team arrived fresh after travelling to us with no gear. I looked at Simon A and said crack on mate and he took over the rigging and we cracked on to the bottom the rest in tow. Once at the bottom of Hurricane you are not at the bottom of the cave. It is a twenty minute walk over boulders to the bottom.
We all sat at the bottom patting each other on the back, wishing we had a pint of beer to drink and thinking about the trip out.
I shot up Hurricane first and soloed to Camp II to get some food and drink on the go for everyone as they arrived. The two Simon's arrived at Camp II, had a quick brew and pushed on. Mal, Bob and I pushed on up the Grand canyon, this was hard work. Believe it or not the pitches were easy compared with walking up that boulder slope. Mal had run out of cigarettes and was starting to get agitated with himself so he moved on up from the Canals to Camp I on his own. Bob and I brought up the rear. We spent twenty minutes looking for Balcony Pitch which we must have walked past five times due to it being a new white rope laying against pure white calcite. Bob talked to his Petzl squeak all the way up Balcony as I snoozed at the bottom. The Hall of Thirteen was a welcome sight knowing my sleeping bag was very near. The stench of urine was very evident at the bottom of the Great Rubble Heap (shame).
My bed was calling me and I was so pleased to find my kit. Mal was just putting the finishing touches to blowing up his air bed. We were all very tired and got 3 - 4 hours sleep. When we got up there was some confusion on where the cooker was so we ended up improvising and cooking on night light candles.
Then started the last part of our trip out. Walking up the Great Rubble Heap was hard work but got us into the swing of things again after our short sleep. Some of the entrance series ropes were double rigged which made things quicker as we made our way out. Through the Meanders and to the bottom of Cairn Pitch we ate what food we had left. Just a few pitches and we would be on the surface. Mal; was first out and Bob followed and I was last to leave the cave, after 33.5 hours we were out.
Mal and Bob were a great team to work with and if they want to go again, I'll cave with them any time.
Cueva de Sa Campana, Mallorca, revisited.
This is an excellent and impressive cave located above the Pareis Gorge on the Mediterannean island of Mallorca. See Record 14 pages 11-13 for a location map and a fuller description. It was visited again in January by Dave Hoggarth and myself, during a week's holiday to the island.
Campana in its upper part is basically a series of huge chambers. Leaving the gloomy entrance hall and stepping out into the blackness of Sala des Gegants is quite an experience - it's just immense. The chamber is reputedly big enough to swallow Palma cathedral whole. The boulder slopes bring back memories of the great rubble heap in the Berger. It is advisable to leave something reflective in an obvious place near the point of entry to this chamber, otherwise ...
The third chamber still contains the most remarkable helictites I have ever seen. The deepest point we reached, the bottom of the fourth chamber is probably 180m down, the cave is 300m deep in all.
To set the record straight, ignore the pitch lengths in Record 14, this is what we actually used:
Entrance: 20m rope belayed to a large stal.
Pitch in Sala des Gegants: 12m belayed to stal, backed up to block, down a slot to a comfortably large platform. Then 40m belayed to stal gets past the steep section of the slope below.
Pitch into third chamber: bypassed by a climb on left (descending). Take care here because the steep muddy crawl suddenly ends at this 10 foot climb.
Pitch at top of fourth chamber: 10m belayed to stal boss, backed up to block. Rope only really needed for top 10 foot.
Cova de Rotja (Tuesday 9 May '95)
Hoggy, Jan, Angie and Mal
A walk of about 3km along the coast line from Ermitade La Victoriea, to Penya Rotja brought us to the old lookout / gun post over looking the Cap des Pinar. The entrance to the Cova de Rotja is directly below, however this would involve an abseil of approximately 60 metres. We took the alternative route, descending a steep wooded slope and traversing to the left around the headland to reach an obvious opening in the cliff face.
Equipped with head torches, cameras, and clad in shorts and tee-shirts, Ouch ! We explored a dusty entrance, leading to an enormous hadeing chamber, which has been dissected at various levels by boulder falls covered in flow stone, and false floors, to form a series of interconnected chambers. Many active formations were seen, but the majority are ancient, consisting of columns and bosses which look like they have been covered in coral. Beware the sharp floor when the roof becomes low, and the area leading to a pitch / pitches, in what could be the way on in an unstable boulder choke.
After 3 hours underground we had a pleasant lunch in the entrance with a wonderful view out to sea. A nice walk back and ice cold beer at the Restaurant de Victoria, can be recommended. Angie says she liked it.
Torrent de Pareis (Wednesday 10 May '95)
Angie, Hoggy, Jan and Mal (transport).
For directions for this walk see "Landscapes of Mallorca" Walk 13 - Torrent de Pareis (Green 1994), known to us as the Gorge walk.
Mal dropped us off at Saint Pere chapel, opposite the bar with the stuffed Black Vulture. Hoggy, Jan and Angie started out on a country ramble, until we picked up the red markers and turned left at yet another rock arch, (Mallorca is full of them). Mal continued down to Sa Calobra, which took an hour and a half. This was partially due to the very narrow, convoluting road and the ten touristed coaches that had passed whilst dropping us off.
Meanwhile back at the rock arch, we picked up a steep snaking path, that took us to Voltes Llargues (the long bends). From the path the rock houses can be seen across the valley. The guide book points out a fig tree, a good place for a rest in the shade.
We continued down the long bends, hopping from shale to boulders, rather like being at Flambrough Head without the sea. We thought this would have been a good place to see some birds. We could hear them, but they chose to stay perched high in the cliffs, well out of sight.
My neck had become terribly itchy and swollen. I thought it could have been some kind of allergic reaction. Jan came to the rescue with anti-histamine tablets. Thank goodness for first aiders.
Following the stream bed and around the next bend we came to a kind off cross roads, where Torrent de Lluc and Sa Fosca, twin streams, converge; but due to the recent drought on Mallorca, not a drop to be seen. The vertical rock faces go up and up, until you get neck ache. Apparently when this gorge was first discovered, the explorers were lost for two days coming from Sa Fosca "the dark place". A large boulder marks north (Sa Calobra), south (Lluc), west (Sa Fosca), east points straight up a sheer rock face, advising "millor no eneri" - better not go! As the sky becomes a narrow stripe, because of the height of the rock we took off our sun-hats, to try and capture some breeze.
From here the outside caving began. Hoggy went ahead finding the path and Jan and I followed complaining about people with long legs, who could hop over boulders in one stride. Occasionally Hoggy had to help and "strongly encourage" us to drop between boulders, pointing out the foot and hand holds. We became experts at finding the way by the shiny rocks, which had been well polished by hundreds of other bottoms. This is one of the Mallorcans favourite walks. Kindly someone had roughened the rocks, I think with a meat tenderiser, to make the very steep parts, less dangerous. Thank you.
We stopped for lunch, on a fairly flat area, after a hard climb. I had really enjoyed the walk / scramble so far. We progressed further over much of the same. We noticed in the sides of the rock face, many open caves with visible stal poking out. One particular entrance looked remarkably like a smaller version of GG main chamber, we all commented on it. The path took us up and around another stream inlet. This meant wading thigh deep in the Mallorcan whippy grass. I (not used to such strenuous exercise) was beginning to tire. After another rest we were considering how to negotiate the next clamber down, when this familiar blonde head popped out from behind a boulder, Mal.
Photograph not available in on-line Record
He was glad to see us, as he had already put the wind up a group of Italians, pretending to be "A bit of an Animal"! He had spent the day chatting up and escorting grannies on boat trips, bumming a free lunch, drinking beer and generally having a good time. Mal had thoughtfully brought us some beer. However as Hoggy was driving and Jan and I couldn't face it, Mal carried it back, inside him!
We strode on with renewed vigour, swapping stories of the day's events. The end of the gorge is a small bay which goes down to the sea. Jan remembering their trip in January, was amazed by the lack of water in the bay.
Fria Raphel (Thursday 11 May '95)
Hoggy, Mal, Jan and Angie.
This was the day we had waited for, a trip into the new extension found by Dave Elliot early this year. I am not going to reveal the exact location of the entrance, because that would not be fair. Dave gave us unprecedented access to the unpublished manuscript of his new book, "Caving in Majorca", so go out and buy it, its a best seller, I will.
This cave is one of Majorca's deepest and is only 15 minutes of flat walking from the road. The first half of the walk is dead easy, this brings you to a cabin, from here you need a compass. Don't wear anything furry, the hunters sit in the trees, you may get shot. The second half of the walk is more involved, but beware, trousers are a necessity, we did it in shorts and regretted it. Arriving at the entrance which is a large tree covered doline in the middle of nowhere, the girls looked like they had been introduced to a whip maniac with a leg fetish
Hoggy set off for a look down the shaft belayed to a tree due to the lack of bolts. After 30 minutes of swinging about he had spotted a single bolt, which he could not reach, and appeared to be of no use any way. Hoggy came up gagging for a drink, and sent me down for a look. Since I am supposed to have the legs of a giraffe, I thought that by standing on a small ledge, and levitating backwards, I could reach the bolt. However the ledge had other ideas, and turned to dust sending me crashing across the shaft into the opposite wall. Hoggy shouted "Are you ok". Jan said "He's only being dramatic", Angie was indifferent.
After a conference on the surface, Hoggy set off from the unobvious end of the hole, again belayed to a tree. Some minutes later he shouted that he was on a ledge with a bolt in and get the bag of rope. I followed down expecting to see Hoggy sat waiting for more rope, but he had disappeared. I was dangling next to an obvious opening in the shaft wall, with a 130m pitch below me ( Grand Pau ). While thinking how could this go unnoticed for so long, Hoggy appeared "this is it", swinging in I joined him.
Walking around the corner led to a balcony and a steep slope over looking a massive chamber. The formations as in Cova de Rotja, are very old and are covered in the same strange appendages. It was impossible to calculate the number of stals growing higher from the floor or ceiling. The whole chamber was made up of flow stone covered boulder piles and false floors containing swirling rings of red, brown, and yellow calcite. The formations were not pretty in the sense of delicate white straws, they were more gob smacking because of their size and number, Columns 6ft high and 2ft in diameter topped off the flowstone mounds. Stals 15ft long dropped from the ceiling in abundance. Everything had a thin coating of grey dust which initially gave the chamber a gloomy appearance. The chamber walls were covered in curtains with helictites growing off them. But what was really strange, was the definite line around the chamber walls, above which no formations were present.
Unfortunately, the locals deserve their reputation, wonderful floors have been destroyed for the sake of getting their bums muddy.
Eventually the chamber ended at the head of a pitch, with a calcite ramp in the middle rising out over the pitch at 60 degrees this gave the impression of two separate holes. Time to play Hoggy's favourite game, boulder trundling. The first rock went over the edge bounced a couple of times then nothing. Rock number 2 was larger, again this bounced a few times then nothing. We looked at each other in disbelief, I picked up the biggest rock we could find and with some difficulty, launched it over the edge. We heard it bounce at least once then silence, 7 seconds after launch a dull thud was heard. Using the formula S = ut + 'at2 then dividing by 2 to compensate for the deceleration due to the bounce's this would give a depth of approximately 140m WOW! The intention was to go as far as we could then take some photo's on the way out. So armed with 2 - 35mm instamatics and 2 slave flash units we headed back.
Being inquisitive by nature, or is it that Yorkshire cavers will poke their heads down any likely looking hole, the return journey was slow, but paid off. About half way through the chamber I noticed an alcove containing a calcite slope. What really caught my eye was the fluted wall on top. Carefully climbing up the edge revealed a pitch to the left, with a shaft above. To the right the calcite continued, and appeared to be sloping down. Flat out and edging forward, the floor sloped sharply down into a large chamber festooned with the finest formations I have seen.
The floor looked like a child had been let loose with a set of paint brushes closely followed by a french polisher. Considering the damage that has already been done to the main chamber, I was convinced we had found something new, I felt like a kid with a new toy. Alas we would have to settle for second and third, when Hoggy arrived, he spotted some scuff marks on the slope down into the chamber. This area appears to be a fossil overflow from the main chamber, unfortunately it closed down at a calcite blockage behind a wall of columns.
A lot of time was spent trying to get the slaves to go off, so if the photo's aren't up to much, my apologies. Time was now getting on, so we made our way out photographing on the way. A total of 3' hours was spent underground.
Caving was not the sole purpose of this holiday. Apparently Majorca is an excellent venue for bird spotting, especially in May when the migratory birds stop over on their way, to where ever they go. Jan had set her heart on seeing a black Vulture, and apparently we were in the right area, so the girls had stayed on the surface with eyes peeled. The Black Vulture is an endangered species, which used to feed on the dead donkeys left on the mountain trails. However since the advent of the motor car, their food supply has dwindled to such an extent that the locals go out occasionally and shoot a sheep or goat. After a number of hours without success, Jan thought it would be a good idea, to play dead. Alas the only thing she attracted was a black crow.
Cova Sa Campana (Saturday 13 May '95)
Hoggy and Mal.
After being dropped off on the main road to Sa Colabra by the girls, we started the 25 minute walk up to the entrance. In reality this turned out to be nearly one hour of scrambling up steep boulder tracks, being whipped about to the legs, by what Hoggy called, trip you up as you go grass, and stabbed by Janus thorns. Reaching the broken coll was a relief, the view was breathtaking, looking down into 3 hidden valleys and out to sea, over the Torrent De Pareis gorge. Descending into the coll, the path disappears, but keeping to the left brings you to the end of the depression, over looking yet another hidden valley. Traversing the hill side to the right, and losing height slightly brings you to the entrance which is completely hidden from view until you are on top of it. Walking through the rock arch reveals the top of a boulder slope in the roof of a massive black chamber, the way on is to the right, a sloping 35m pitch, belayed from the stals just within the entrance. Working our way through the chamber and down, we encountered a large stalagmite, estimated at 18ft high and 4ft in diameter, I made a mental note as a marker for the return, since my petzel head set seemed very dim. Hoggy assured me it was ok and the lack of light was due to the size of the chamber, which just seemed to absorb it. I wished I had my carbide.
Keeping to the left we entered another large chamber. I should point out, that these are of Berger proportions and just as steep. Descending a boulder slope, brought us to a flat area over looking the second pitch into yet another large chamber. The top of the pitch is a bit awkward, anyone who has caved with me will know that my climbing abilities, especially downwards, are limited. So mindful of the lack of rescue facilities ( there are none, you are on your own ) and my escapade in Christmas Pot, I shouted for help. The pitch is split about 20ft down at a ledge where you rebelay to the stalls on the left hand wall. Abseiling down a calcite slope (70m) dropped us into the bottom of the chamber. Taking a short detour keeping to the left, we entered a well decorated Norman arch shaped alcove, where Hoggy found a full nativity scene courtesy of Inca caving club.
Carrying on through the chamber we came to a low rock arch, Hoggy had forgot to tell me, I would have to put knee to floor. On the other side a steep slope led down to a boulder choke with a howling gale blowing out. Half way through, I got comfy for few minutes to cool off. This also gave me time to see how Hoggy tackled the climb down (help needed again). Emerging out of the boulders at the top of a large rubble heap, again another massive chamber, but this one was truly pretty. At the top the roof had large isolated pockets of pure white calcite, as we worked our way down, the formations became more numerous and increased in size. Cova Sa Campana had certainly saved the best till last. The floor was made up of gour pools 2ft deep, the roof was a lattice work of pure white helictites, only these were 4ft long and 3/4" in diameter, and covered an approximate area of 80ft by 50ft. Around the corner was the way on, this was a low arch leading to the 3rd pitch which drops into another even larger chamber. Standing at the top of the pitch, the draught coming from below was very cold, the strange thing was that it came in rhythmic waves about 30 seconds apart, as if something was closing and opening, releasing the compressed air. Could a connection to the sea be possible, with the draughting effect being caused by wave action? We had run out of rope, I think this had been a deliberate ploy, apparently the cave changes character here and becomes more active and really grotty.
The trip down had been effortless, it was hard to believe we were 500ft down. Route finding on the way out can be difficult, but has been aided by the placing of stolen motorway reflectors at strategic points. However, due to the nature of the pitches, too steep to climb using a hand jammer and not steep enough to prusik, this combined with a cave temperature of 70F and high humidity made the return very tiring. Reaching the entrance chamber was like walking out into day light. The sun had moved round and was now shining directly through the entrance, 4 hours earlier I had been wishing for my carbide.
The girls had taken the car and gone drive about for the afternoon, so time for a picnic and beer in the sunshine. We now invented a new game, called Cause an accident! Because the pull in was on the apex of a blind bend on a mountain road, it seemed a good idea to drape the ruck sacks over the fence posts to let the girls know where we were. It wasn't long before the passing traffic, noticed 2 apparently lonely ruck sacks, stuffed full of goodies, ripe for nicking. The expressions on the drivers' faces were a real treat as they would slow down to check nobody was about, then spot us, and accelerate away into the path of a car coming head on doing the same thing.
North Shaft, Mongo Gill
Nearly two years ago one of the Clubs visiting Mongo Gill complained directly to the landowner that it was unsafe and asked whether or not they could dig out the bottom of Shockle Shaft. The landowner wrote to me as CNCC Access Controller, asked me to do something about it and I chased the Club concerned and suggested:
This they did, but the landowner's interest was by now aroused. He then requested that work was also undertaken on North Shaft. The UK Landforces School of Adventurous Training who used to use the system for training purposes agreed to commission a mining engineer to assess the state of the shafts. His report suggested that the shafts were fine but stressed that care was necessary in the boulder chokes, especially when taking novice cavers through them.
Meanwhile the heavy winter rain had started to wash out the top of North Shaft and made it look even more unstable. The Landowner repeated his request that the shaft "be made safe". I approached CNCC who agreed to cover the estimated 500 pounds costs of the materials required. It was decided that the best time would be towards the end of April when the weather would be better and the days longer, but we would not be in the closed season.
Terry Shipley specified all the materials that would be needed and ordered them for delivery to the roadside at the point nearest Mongo Gill. He went up early on Friday 21 April and with Geoff Workman and Ben Myers supervised the delivery of the materials; and with help from Gordon Hanley of Stump Cross Cave got much of the material moved close to the entrance. They also built a temporary safety platform about 10 feet down the shaft in case anyone fell in whilst we were working.
Alan Weight, Pat and I, joined Geoff, Terry, and Ben Myers early on the Saturday morning at the hole. We were soon joined by Les Sykes (CNCC Secretary) and friends, plus some YSS members, Russell Myers, Tom Thompson and several other members (apologies for forgetting the names of everyone who was present).
Work started with cutting back the entrance top until we had a fairly large flat edge round the shaft top. (It was getting steadily colder) Then scaffold poles were placed across the hole and bedded and cemented into cracks on the "high side" of the shaft. (It was starting to drizzle) In order to keep the working area dry Gordon Hanley kindly brought us a large tarpaulin which we pegged down round the shakehole edges. Terry started to cut the plywood sheets which he intended to use as shuttering and he soon had a reasonably tight fit round the shaft. (It was starting to get very windy) A few nails and a bits of wood set up an edge to the shuttering and it was time to start mixing concrete, en masse but we had hired a petrol mixer. (It was raining hard in the strong wind and it was a steady job going round the tarpaulin and refastening it down!) After putting the manhole cover rings in place and sorting out the reinforcing mesh it was time to start laying the concrete. (By now it was sleeting) The concrete just kept coming, about 6 tons of it. Towards the end Terry started dry mixing the concrete for the area around the edge of the shaft; there was so much water in the air and on the ground that it wasn't necessary to add any to the mix. Finally Terry swiftly constructed a shuttering to go around the manhole rings and it was time to start mixing again. Eventually, around 5pm, it started to dry up, and the work for the day was finished.
The following day saw considerably improved weather and a much reduced group of us; Terry, Geoff, Pat, Alan and myself. Terry soon had the shuttering within the manhole ring sawn out and I was sent down to retrieve the safety platform which we though might need sawing up to get it out. Luck was on our side, it just fitted through the hole when held diagonally. Then all I had to do was dismantle the scaffold bars I was standing on, a small scale version of dismantling the gantry.
I eventually clambered out and all that remained was a bit of internal pointing of the manhole rings. We were soon finished and then all that remained was to wheel barrow the top soil which had been removed on the Saturday, back to the hole and spread it over the concrete cap. we were finished by early afternoon and then it was simply a case of tidying up and getting everything back to Stump Cross or Geoff's house.
There is a small amount of work still to be done to stabilise a few areas immediately under the cap. This will be done in the near future using expanding foam and more temporary shuttering. The landowner has expressed his satisfaction with the work and so there shouldn't be any threat to access for a few more years. I am very grateful for the help provided both by members of the Craven and the other Clubs who turned up.
Figure of 8 Descenders
Many of us have used this easy little device, especially to abseil off when climbing. However we all know that it suffers from the problem of having to be unclipped from the harness in order to be loaded and more importantly that it badly kinks ropes. It was this latter fact which led to the ban on the use of Figure of 8 descenders on Club SRT rope.
A little while ago a couple of Club members and a friend (I'm not including names in order to spare the embarrassment) agreed to an evening pull through trip down Swinsto. Whilst they were getting changed the friend pulled out his figure of 8.
"You are not using that on my ropes" said the member.
"That's ok, I have my own rope, we can use that" was the reply.
So they set off on the friend's rope. This proved the point about figure of 8's by being very tangled and twisted. At one point the member was totally stopped by the rope being so twisted that he couldn't get it to feed through his Petzl descender. As he straightened out the twists he suddenly managed to clear them and plummeted the remaining few feet to the ground bruising not only his pride but severely bruising himself. We can all say that he should have locked off his descender before trying to uncoil the kinks but equally I suspect we have all done exactly what he did. The moral is clear, don't use figure of 8 descenders and don't use ropes which have been used with figure of 8 descenders unless you are going to be especially careful.
The High Pyrenees: not just a good place for caving.
This brief article presents a few facts about the Pyrenees and details of a few of the interesting things to see and do in the PSM region other than caving.
Legend has it that Pyrene, the lover of Hercules is buried somewhere in this range of mountains hence their name. Their distance from major cities means that they are much less well frequented than other ranges, so wild vultures, wolves and even bears (20 at the last count) are still seen occasionally.
The central Pyrenees are part of the Basque country, and only became part of France in 1659 when the "Peace of the Pyrenees" was signed between Louis XIV and Philip IV of Spain. Thus although French is spoken, l'Euskara (both in Spain and France) is the local language. It is not a region that is over developed for tourism so hotels and restaurants are reasonable value, and although a few flash ski resorts do exist they can easily be avoided. There is plenty of space for high mountain walking, climbing, canyoning, mountain biking and trout fishing (hence trout as one of the local culinary specialities).
A large section of the high Pyrenees form part of the Pyrenean National Park from whom free brochures can be obtained (see address list), and whose symbol is a pyrenean deer (an izard). PSM is in fact a couple of kilometres west of the parks boundary but the details on animal life, refuges etc is relevant and useful.
The nearest village to PSM is Arette which was reconstructed after the earthquake (Richter magnitude 5.3) of the 13/8/1967 which damaged a large part of the village, giving evidence of the active tectonics in the region with a 1mm/year movement of Spain into France.
Nearby is Ste-Engrace, a tiny mountain village, with a beautiful 11th century church which was once an abbey. Access has recently been improved with the opening of the Col de Suscousse road directly from Col de la Pierre Saint Martin. The walkways which access the gorges of Kakoutte nearby are free to cavers with a letter from the "Marie" (or 20FF adults, 17FF children), and were first explored by Edouard Alfred Martel at the beginning of the century.
A couple of kilometres from Larrau (13Km NW of PSM) are the gorges of Holzart, these gorges were first bottomed by Martel, and at one point an Indiana Jones style rope bridge spans a 202m drop.
Oloron-Ste-Marie 30km N.E. of PSM, is situated at the confluence of the Aspe and Ossau rivers (locally known as "graves") in a defensive position first used by the Romans. It has an impressive 13th century cathedral, old quarter, and good restaurants.
Navarrenx, 40km north of PSM is a fortified town once seat of the Kings of Navarre, built in 1550, and now renowned for its salmon and trout.
The "Grottes d'Isturits et d'Oxocelhaya" are the nearest show caves in the region and are 60km NW of the PSM. They are largely known for their Mousterian to Magdalenian cave paintings, but there are also some formations (open 1000 to 1800, 26FF adults, 14FF children)
The medieval bridge of Orthez (60Km north of PSM) is considered one of the best examples of its kind in France.
The small Spanish town of Isaba is only 30km southwest of the Col de la Pierre Saint Martin, for those who like to sample Spanish cuisine.
The town of Pau, 45km N.E of PSM is worth visiting. It was "discovered" by a Scottish doctor in 1842 as an ideal place for a winter "cure", and became extremely "a la mode" with the British in the Victoria era with its Boulevard des Pyrenees built in the style of a British coastal promenade. It has a casino and the first golf course built on the continent.
The coast of the Pyrenees Atlantique can be visited and Biarritz (a former whaling town) and Saint Jean de Luz (visit the house of Louis XIV) are well worth seeing.
The men of the Pays Basque are noted for their strength and so games, in the style of highland games take place in the summer time, the main event this year being on 20 August at Saint Palais (50km NW of PSM). Games consist of rotating a 100kg stone ball 40 times around your head; lifting a 276kg stone with one hand; turning a trailer (356Kg) around in circles as many times as possible; tug of war, etc.
The GR10 (grande randonne 10) known as the sea to sea a French long distance walking track (running the full length of the Pyrenees) passes over the Col de La Pierre Saint Martin, and through Ste-Engrace. It is well marked for those wanting to follow a section of it.
Le pic du Midi d'Ossau (2884m) is a very popular high mountain walk, 20km east of PSM, also on a smaller scale the Pic d'Anie (2504m), starting directly from the Col de la PSM. The highest peak of the region is however that of Balatous (3146m) and 30km east of PSM. Its first recorded ascent by Charles Packe in 1862 for the newly formed Alpine Club, taking 8 days due to difficulties in finding a route to the summit.
No region of France would be without its own culinary specialities, the Basque region food is generally spicy (much use of red chilli), with plenty of Atlantic fish dishes. Sheep milk cheese, sweet Jurancen wines, and Armagnac are also locally produced.
Useful addresses and telephone numbers:
Gaping Gill 1995
There will be three important changes to the arrangements this year from those of previous years.
Diagram not available in on-line Record
The reason behind the request stems not from any previous misdemeanours on our part, but is involved with the local farming communities on-going discussions with the Min. of Ag. over stocking levels on Ingleborough. It appears that the Men from the Ministry are trying to equate the vehicular wear and tear on the moor to the number of sheep grazing there, ie more wear and tear equals more trips, which must equal more sheep, which must indicate higher stocking levels, which indicates possible overstocking. Our help is simply being sought during the present discussions. (If anyone is really interested I will gladly give them a little more information if they contact me directly). Please abide by what is, at the time of writing, an informal request and remember NO personal vehicles on the fell
If you can foresee any problems in getting yourself or your gear on the meet, please let me know and I will see what can be done to help.
The transport arrangements are the same as in previous years, and are as follows
Tackling weekend - 12 August - 9.30 at Ian's farm yard
Beer and Gear - 19 August - 9.30 at Ian's farm yard
Tackle Removal - 28 August - 5.30 from GG
Gear removal - 12.00 from GG
Car parking will again be available in the field adjoining the camp-site. Please make use of this facility rather than clogging up the village.
My co-leader assures me the weather will be excellent, so if it isn't don't blame me.
I look forward to seeing you all up at GG
Northern Cave Diving News
There have been a couple of "weather windows" over the spring and one or two interesting advances have been made. The 130m long Beck Head Rising near Witherslack (Cumbria) has received continued attention from the NPC underwater diggers; A.Goddard passed the terminal squeeze but didn't follow the rising continuation due to fears about the return. Ironically the dry weather has prevented further progress here as the silt isn't clearing. The same problem has held up the NPC at Leck Beck Head - the connection with Lancaster is playing hard to get.
In Notts II the enormous Oliver Lloyd Aven has finally been scaled to the top some 45m up. Rupert Skorupka's reward was 40m of narrow canyon unfortunately becoming too immature to follow. He also made the first good survey of Sump 3, Notts IV and Sump 4. The way on towards upstream Gavel was found in the process but is intimidating.
Further east in King Pot Rupert has laid a bit more line in the upstream sump and surfaced in a huge aven with no dry land. The underwater continuation (towards Growling, Brown Hills etc.) is blocked by a loose boulder slope. Meanwhile Chapel-le-Dale's Dale Barn Cave has started to expand following the opening of the Illusion Pot entrance in south east Kingsdale. Using this entrance Martin Holroyd has found the way on in the downstream sump towards Dry Gill Cave and also laid another 100m northwards in Bootrapper Passage Sump. The end here, 460m in at -8m, is still wide open and large.
Joint Hole has revealed a bit more new stuff; the end of The Deep Route has been pushed a further 50m by the writer, ending at 30m depth. A choked inlet rift in Sump 2 has also seen some digging activity. The same NPC divers continued to make the best use of the end of the rainy season at Malham Cove where the writer clocked up over 5 hours of diving time on one particular digging session. The choked 625m shaft was actually passed but exploration had to be postponed due to instability and lack of flow.
In downstream New Goyden a promising large aven has been partially climbed by M.Bass and P.Monico. This project has also been postponed in favour of various Himalayan first ascents. (It seems some people have their priorities all wrong!) Finally, although not in the Dales, I'd like to record my thanks to those CPC members who kindly helped transport gear in Peak Cavern on the weekend of the club meet. A small extension was made, including the discovery of yet another sump, the 58th in the system!
101 Great Excuses
(First seen in a Burnley CC publication)
"I've got to go out now, I've left a primus alight in my rucksack."
Vale - Frank Parsons
Joined the Club in 1939
We sometimes refer to the pre-war members of the Club as the pioneer members who established the Club as what was to become one of the major clubs of its kind. On March 9th the Craven Pothole Club lost another of its pioneer members when Frank Parson passed beyond the veil two months short of his 97th birthday. He is the second nonagenarian in the Club and no other member has lived to such a huge age. He was 92 when he last attended a Club function, the 1990 AGM and Annual Dinner. For 56 years he retained a keen interest in the Club. He was by no means inactive in his old age. I was delighted to entertain him in my own home before and after the 1990 AGM. After he had related his recent experiences of flying out to California for a holiday I thought that he might be ready for an early night to bed. When I suggested this he said "I haven't had my evening walk!" So we turned out into the November night to walk around the estate where I live. Probably because he didn't use a walking stick to steady himself and I was afraid of him falling, I was walking slowly. He said "I can walk quicker than this you know!" Frank was fond of music and played the piano as relaxation. Each morning and evening he would play from the great composers for twenty minutes non-stop without music. He said that this kept his fingers supple and enabled him to write neatly in his diary.
As a young man he had an interest in both geology and astronomy, interests which he retained all his life. He attended night school classes in geology and through these he became interested in caves and caving.
Frank was travelling from Liverpool to Tyneside on a very clear September day in 1937 when he was captivated by the beauty of Ingleborough which was so striking in the sunshine. He turned south to look around Ingleton and visited White Scar Caves. That was his first visit to Craven. He was subsequently vetted by Arnold Waterfall and Edgar Smith (as Frank put it in his own personal history of how he became a proud member of the Craven Pothole Club). He retained his interest and enthusiasm for the Dales and for the Club of which he became a Life Member. He was Vice-President of the Club from 1951 to 1954 and was President in 1955. He was a quiet and modest man who was very much respected and well liked by Club members of all ages whose good fortune it was to know him.
Frank was not associated with new explorations and discoveries. Nor was he a person who sought the limelight. He enjoyed visiting the well known caves and potholes and introduced his colleagues at the Newcastle Chronicle office to potholing when CPC members would give their support in laddering pitches in some of the well known pots including Alum Pot, Sell Gill and others. He also introduced parties from the Newcastle Publicity Club to the joys of potholing.
Several thousand flash bulbs, written off as redundant because of a safety risk, were rescued by Frank and given to the Club. Many a good underground photograph has been taken by Club members using these bulbs. Frank's knowledge and experience in the "newspaper world" enabled him to give help to various Editor's of the Club magazine.
Photograph not available in on-line Record
The photograph shows Frank Parsons, third from the right, on one of his trips underground with members of the Newcastle Chronicle. On his left are two former active members and past Presidents of the CPC: Johnny Frankland and Alf Birkett
When Frank left school he started an engineering apprenticeship with Swan Hunter from 2 September 1914 to 19 May 1919 and then spent eleven months in RAF as a flight cadet. He returned to Swan Hunter but left there on his 23rd birthday in 1921. He joined the Kemsley Newspaper and ultimately served 31 years as an executive and became Works Manager.
Frank had many interests. He was a member of the Alston Railway Preservation Society and of the South Tyneside Railway. He was keen on golf and bowls and good at both. He became President of the Summerhill Bowling Club.
Finally in his 97th year both his hearing and his sight began to fail him. He also had to go into hospital for an operation and spent six weeks in hospital before going to his daughter Doreen's home. He died of a heart attach but passed beyond the veil peacefully in his sleep.
Frank was a generous man with his time, his experience and his money. His final gesture to the Craven Pothole Club was to bequeath a handsome sum of money to the Club. (It is interesting to recall how many of our early members have held the Club in such high regard as to help it financially in this way.)
So we have lost another CPC "great", but he will always be remembered and his name will crop up time and again in conversation between members who knew him. "To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die".
National Cave Heritage Centre
As those of you who read Descent and Caves and Caving will be aware, a group of people in the UK are currently seriously looking at the idea of developing a national caving centre ("National Cave Heritage Centre").
The plan is to raise a capital sum by an application to the Millenium Commission (who have expressed interest in the project) and purchase a suitable site upon which to develop a show cave. (We looked at purchasing an existing show cave but there isn't one on the market at present). Proceeds from the show cave will be used to fund the running costs of a visitor centre which would include laboratory facilities for cave and karst research, as well as facilities for educational groups and (probably) administrative facilities for the benefit of the UK caving community.
I should stress that this is not just an airy-fairy idea - the people involved in this project are well aware that we will probably have to raise funds of the order of 2m pounds to purchase and develop a suitable site. We have already had a favourable response from the planning authorities in every major caving area and, so long as the funding from the Millenium Commission can be secured and our development plan can be proven to work (i.e. estimates of visitor numbers can support the anticipated income requirement) this project will definitely be going ahead. Both NCA and BCRA have backed the project in principal and with "pump priming" funds.
Within the next month we will be announcing the site we propose to develop. I'll post more information on this when available: suffice to say at the moment that we have been unable to locate suitable sites in the Dales or the Peak District (not for want of looking, I may add) and the current front runners are a site in South Wales and a site on Mendip.
The reason for publicising this (apart from informing people of what's going on) is to ask if anyone knows of any precedents for this type of development elsewhere in the world. Obviously we intend to draw on experience from the development of show caves elsewhere in the world in developing our own site, but I would be particularly interested to know of any site which supports facilities over and above the normal show cave gift shop/restaurant type commercial activities. I would also be interested to know of any instances of a national or regional caving organisation purchasing a cave or access to a cave, for whatever reason.
Anyone with comments or questions, contact me and I'll do my best to answer them.
(If anyone wishes to contact Nick let me know and I can supply his address. I have already told him about the Belgian Show Cave operated by a Caving Club - Ed)
UKUK 3615 - Martel and other caving related information services available in France
As there seems to be increasingly more UK based cavers visiting France on caving expeditions/trips/holidays I will present details of a useful information service which is widely used on this side of the channel.
In France an innovative communications system called Minitel has existed for the last 10 years. This service is operated by France Telecom on the existing telephone lines and consists of a small home terminal (keyboard and screen) often integrated with a telephone, connected to the normal phone socket. Using this "UKUK" apparatus, telephoning 3615 and then typing the name of the service it is possible to access a multitude of services directly from home. It has recently been estimated that 70% of all homes and 97% of all businesses in France now have Minitel terminals. It is slightly similar to the more limited Prestel service available in the UK to travel agents.
There are many services which may be accessed by this system including, banks (statements, accounts, transfers), telephone directories, shops (orders by credit card number), weather information, universities (enrolment), hotel and travel bookings,and government agencies.
The services of particular interest to cavers are, Martel, Speleo, and Expe. Both Martel and Speleo are run by Edikarst a company which specialises in karst studies from Montpellier.
3615 Speleo consists of general information and looks rather like an electronic bulletin board. Meetings can be advertised, items of equipment sold (though not open to companies), contacts for trips, book reviews, course details, French info, diving info, and even jobs.
3615 Martel gives access to various data bases, tourist caves of France, catalogue of French caves (2500 at present), catalogue and descriptions of classic trips, catalogue of sporting trips and a bibliographic catalogue.
3615 Expe is a service run by G.Marbach from Pont-en-Royons in the Vercors. His extensive shop catalogue covering caving, climbing, canyoning , and mountain biking can be studied and orders made directly by Minitel. It is basically a mail order service which he operates, and is extremely useful when the nearest decent tackleshop is 400 km way. Gear ordered normally only takes 3 days to arrive if ordered by this service (when paid for by credit card).
So now that your appetite has been wetted for the service comes the big problem for folks in the UK. British Telecom no doubt fearing the flooding of the British market with cheap French imports (Petzl gear, frogs legs etc) or even worse French technology does not allow this service to be accessed from the UK.
So if you'd like to see how it operates you'll have to come over to the other side of the water. (there is a really fast through-trip that you can do now, only 35 minutes from entrance to entrance!)
Whilst in France just ask the friendly tourist office staff if you can use theirs (remember it costs approx. 2.19F/minute).
The entrance to the Holloch in Switzerland, the third longest cave in the World, has been purchased by a private organisation. There is no other easy entrance to the 170km long cave and trips are now only available if booked and paid for in advance to the "Trekking Team". Prices of 50 pounds to 70 pounds for an 8 to 12 hour trip in a group of 10 have been quoted.
Letter to the Editor
In spite of his denial, one could be forgiven for thinking that one of Peter Barnes reasons for joining CPC is to preach the philosophies of commercial and educational caving interests and of the safety experts who seem intent upon making this world a boring place.
Part of caving involves recognising and dealing with danger. Being exposed to danger is an important part of any serious caver's education. A club like Craven expects to produce the best cavers who will explore difficult and remote systems around the world. We must never adopt the mentality of the youth group leader tending his flock of sheep. Members must accept responsibility for themselves and not unnecessarily depend upon others to achieve their own aims.
The techniques used by the club have served us well during hundreds of club trips. New ideas are adopted by the Club when it's members recognise a need for changes. Imposed rules are either accepted by consensus or rejected and ignored. CPC is a club of free spirits many of which object to apparent attempts, such as the one in question, to impose change, for what ever reason. I believe that for new members to appear so self-opinionated and immediately start to question Club standards is both ill timed and arrogant.
The main thrust of Peter's letter propose changes in technique leading to reduce risk. This is a general trend within our society and is roughly mirrored by the emergence of health & safety experts, and commercial enterprises using caving as a vehicle for character building and similar "educational" purposes. The latter, in which Peter declares an interest, has, arguably, been responsible for many damaging activities.
In accepting the changes that have occurred essential elements of cavers' training have been removed. The closeted world of SRT with Eco hangers and a rope to hang onto at every hazard does not prepare cavers for venturing outside of the UK as they (the eco hangers) don't exist and you may be expected to teeter along a narrow rift or figure out how to rig a new pitch for yourself. The main benefit is to enable inexperienced parties deeper into cave systems without exposing instructors to claims of irresponsibility.
CPC built it's reputation on hard caving and discovering new cave. Training novices should never ever become an aim in itself. Meets of all standards should enable members to learn their own capabilities and limitations as well as how to work in a team so that trips needing large resources can be undertaken. SRT has made clubs less relevant in the UK but as the Berger trip demonstrates, there is still a real need for clubs if our horizons are to extend further afield than the UK.
Having said all this there are three specific points upon which I would like to comment:
Peter may be a full member on paper but until he involves himself in more than just the occasional meet so earning respect as a caver, I suspect he will be ignored.
That's all folks.
Tenth National Swiss Caving Conference
The 10th National Swiss Caving Conference (6-8th October 1995) in Breitenbach (10km south of Basel) organised by the Swiss Speleological Society. Format rather like BCRA conference: oral and poster presentations, film shows, gear stalls and testing, and competitions. There will be about 50 lectures on subjects such as karstology & sediments, hydrogeology, regional speleology, palaeontology & archaeology, biospeleology, historical mining, caving techniques, and material. This year there will also be special workshops on water analysis in speleology, and cave surveys. There are also official visits organised both before and after the conference (as well as ones organised at the conference itself), to caves and mines in Switzerland, Germany and France. The conference Info Booklet (in 4 languages) gives details of campsites, hotels, program, meals.
Further details contact: Urs Widmer, Therwilerstr.43, 4054 Basel, Switzerland. Tel (061) 2814181
Sell Gill Project
Some members will be aware of the work which has been going on in the sump area of Sell Gill. It is proposed to recommence the work and extra diggers are required. Any members interested in helping in the push are asked to contact Paul Norman on 015395 60135(H) or 015395 723415 X5373(W). Both intensive weekend and mid-week trips are planned.
Journals for Sale
A non-member has asked me whether or not any of our members would like to purchase some cave journals for which he has no further use. No reasonable offer will be refused. All bids to reach me (preferably in a separate sealed envelope) by the end of August. The journals in question are all BCRA publications as follows:
Caves & Caving Numbers 1, 9 to 14, 16, 19 to 21, 23, 26 to 31 and 35 to 47. 37 in all between 1978 and 1990
BCRA Transactions Numbers 3(3/4), 6(1) to 7(3) and 8(1) to 8(4). 11 in all between 1976 and 1981
Cave Science Numbers 9(2), 9(3), 10(1) to 11(3), 12(3), 13(1) to 16(2). 23 in all between 1982 and 1989
Jottings from the Committee
The CRO had written requesting copies of various surveys which it was agreed we would supply to them. A letter of complaint about the way the Editor was carrying out his duties had been received by the Chairman and President. The Editor replied to the points made and it was agreed that no further action was necessary. It was noted that the Club had still received no formal notification regarding the current DYO access situation and its implications for our recognised DYO leaders. Howard Beck had written suggesting that the Club should have a Conservation/Environment Officer and it was agreed that he should be co-opted onto the Committee, pending the AGM, with the title of Conservation Officer. The Cottage Warden reminded members that the outside of Ivy and Riverside need repainting, materials and a list of the jobs which need doing are available at the cottages. It was agreed that the current Club climbing rope should be pensioned off, but a new one would be purchased when a project, such as scaling an aven, required one. There was a discussion of the letter from Peter Barnes in Record 38. It was agreed that the technical matters should be dealt with by a reminder in a future Record of the correct way to use certain items of tackle. It was noted that six members of the Club had successfully attended a casualty care course organised by the CRO for its own members. It was agreed that a donation should be sent to CRO as mark of our appreciation of the invitation.
It was noted that both persons who had agreed to refurbish the gas supply in Ivy Cottage had fallen ill and were unable to undertake the work. It was reported that the leak in Riverside is believed to be due to faulty haunching on the chimney which will need replacing. After an investigation into the probable double cover for Public Liability provided by both the BCRA and Eagle Star policies it was agreed to cancel the Eagle Star Public Liability policy. It was noted that members were not returning tackle to the store after it had been washed. It was agreed that the Library should include video tapes of caving or other activities related to the aims and objectives of the Club. Where possible any donated tapes would be copied so that only copies were loaned out rather than originals. It was agreed that the current encouragement to members to remove their spent carbide from caves should be strengthened to make it official Club policy that all member's spent carbide should be removed from caves. There was a considerable debate on the arrangements for Gaping Gill, most of which is covered in the earlier note from Dave Milner.
We welcome the following as new members of the Club:
The following person has been accepted as a Probationary Member and will probably be attending meets during the next few months:
Elaine Susan Hill.
Changes of address:
C & P Barlow,
A & B Weight.
Changes to the Handbook:
J Cordingley, postcode should read BB3 0JY.
S Keedy, date of joining Club should read 1983.
All best wishes for the future are extended to Judy Clark and Laurence Elton who were married earlier in June.
Lancaster/Easegill Meet (23/24 September)
Please note that through trips in both directions will be on offer on Saturday 23 September. Only trips into Easegill Caverns will be available on Sunday 24 September