The Craven Pothole Club Record

Number 42, April 1996


Club Rules & Constitution, Membership List and related matters are incorporated in the Craven Pothole Club Handbook published biannually.

Published by the Craven Pothole Club, Ivy Cottage, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. Copyright - Craven Pothole Club. No part of this Record may be reproduced without permission from the Committee of the Craven Pothole Club.

Contributions to this publication are welcome in any form and can be accepted on MSDOS disk. (ASCII or Word preferred)


Dr. R.A. Halliwell, Academic Office, The University, HULL, HU6 7RX

Tel No: 01482 465948(W) 876544(H) 466441(FAX)



I was asked a couple weeks ago why do we bother having Meets any more? By the kind of coincidence which shouldn't happen but does, the answer to that question has also been given me in recent weeks. I was talking to a Wessex guest at the Cottage and he was saying how successful the Wessex Club trip to Wookey had been and how he thought that the Wessex ought to have a few more meets suitable for the whole of their membership because it pulled the Club together and helped generate a Club spirit. This ties in nicely with two of the Meet reports in this Record. I enjoyed reading Jan Hoggarth's Meet Report because it summed up what Club Meets are about. Similarly the fact that we ran three separate trips on the Lancaster/Easegill Meet, catering for all levels and tastes shows the demand that is still there. Certainly I believe that several of the people on my trip into Easegill thoroughly enjoyed themselves on a trip which for many reasons they would not have been able to undertake if the Meet had not existed. When I did a rough check on the people mentioned in Meet Reports it is obvious that a large proportion of members do attend at least one Meet during each year. As was suggested at the AGM we may be having problems finding leaders for Meets but that is not a reason for abandoning the principle of Meets, it is a reason for finding ways of encouraging people not only to volunteer to lead Meets but also to turn up and actually do the job.

In this record you will also find a request from the YSS seeking assistance with a major water tracing project around Malham. This was the area first investigated by the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society almost a hundred years ago and we still know only a little more about the drainage. CPC involvement in the area is detailed in the very first Journal and commemorated in the song;

See the Craven, up at Malham
Excavating for a mine
Digging shafts of huge dimensions
Just to pass away the time

We may no longer be actively digging in this area (although I believe some members are still busy) but it should be of interest to all cavers to assist with this major project in a classic area.

I had thought that this would be a somewhat thin Record after the last bumper issue but several of the regulars have provided me with articles, albeit at the last minute so that I am avoiding the miserable outside on this Sunday afternoon by working on the Record, of course I should be caving but if I was the Record wouldn't reach you until much later than is intended. What about the rest of you? Are you really doing so little caving that you have nothing worthwhile writing about for the interest of your fellow members? If you are new to the sport why not write about what it means to you? It could be a refreshingly new viewpoint to the "oldies" like me and might spur us on to greater things in the way that Jan Hoggarth talks of her enthusiasm being rekindled. You have plenty of time between now and 17 June (the deadline for the next Record) to put pen to paper so why not do it?

Ric Halliwell

Meet Reports

Sell Gill Hole (12 January 1996)

Present: Pat Halliwell (Leader), Ric Halliwell, Ben Myers(G), Russell Myers, Roger Stevens(P), Tom Thompson, Maggie McPherson, Mal Goodwin, Paul Norman, Ian Robinson(P), Rob Pasley(G), Stephen Lent, Andy Hayter, Terry Shipley, Elaine Hill, Mark Boardman, Donald Kelly(P), Reg Parker, Emma Faid, Simon Parker, Simon Ashby, Peter Jones, Jan Little(G), Chris Little, Karen Lane, Nigel Graham.

An early start was made by the diggers who were hoping to go through into the "new" bit beyond the sump and make a start on getting further. Unfortunately the weather was rather wet and although they got through to retrieve some equipment left behind during an almost as wet retreat during December their advice was that the sump was likely to return if it kept raining.

The ladder team descended to the main chamber in fine style but on seeing the weight of water coming down the wet way most decided to give the crawls beyond the chamber a miss. The SRT team (led by S Ashby) came down more slowly and a people choke developed at the base of the third pitch. Eventually things speeded up and everyone exited the cave decidedly wet but hopefully having enjoyed themselves.

Overheard down the cave:

Ascending member (on ladder): "The lifeline's gone tight!"

Spectator waiting at the bottom: "Well climb the ladder then!"

Pat Halliwell

Kingsdale Master Cave (11 February 1996)

Present: Jan Hoggarth, Dave Hoggarth, Dave Edwards, Dave Kay, Ian Richardson (Prob), Russell Myers, Ben Myers, Robert Scratcher

When I realised at the January Committee Meeting that the Kingsdale Master Cave Meet was on 11 February I became most apprehensive because as many of my closer friends will be aware, caving has very much taken a back seat, if not locked in the boot, aspect to me these days. Mainly because I'm not as fit as I used to be but also because the last few trips I had done had frightened me without them being difficult in any way. Is this normal I asked myself or am I just a wimp.

The week before the meet came upon us here in Kendal with lots of snow and I started to hope we would not be able to find the entrance with a bit of luck. Then I had a phone call from one of our Probationary Members, he had not been on a Club Meet, in fact he had never been caving other than when he had attached himself to some of our members on a trip round the Gaping Gill system and decided to join our club. Frank was full of enthusiasm, what should he wear, did he need any specialised equipment, what was the cave like. He filled me with much of this enthusiasm so that when I put the phone down I felt I had a calling to get stuck in, forget my reservations, and show somebody with no experience what all the wonders of caving can be like.

Dave had given me many let outs that week when I was not well by saying it did not matter. I could stay at home and he would lead my meet, but I became determined that I must go if only to show Frank around. The next major difference I found was when we, Dave and I, went to book out the tackle. As far as I could remember there was one ladder and one lifeline and a very long belay to wind round a flake a yard or so from the pitch head. I remembered the ladder as being most awkward because it took off over a calcited edge which trapped fingers at the top. We ended up with a tacklebag full of bits. Karabiners, spreaders, belays, bolts, stich plates; and then duplicated it all in case there were many cavers, so that we could split into two groups and send some off to Toyland. Thanks for the help sorting out the tackle Dave, and thanks to Andy Roberts for making sure all the tackle was readily available and easily booked out.

Sunday morning dawned after a long night of lashing rain, this and the snow melt water had created a raging torrent of a stream in Horton. I once again became frightened about the amount of water that was about and wondered if we should cancel the meet.. Most of the people at the Cottage who had been going the night before now suddenly did not want to. However, we decided to take the tackle which had been made ready the night before and go and see what conditions were like in Kingsdale Master Cave.

Arriving in an empty Kingsdale I again thought I might be let off the hook and allowed to go home, then suddenly there was David Kay and David Edwards shortly followed by Ian Robinson. So we had to get changed. With David Hoggarth it looked as though we were heading for a majority David trip. We waited for Frank until 10.30 but sadly for me he never turned up, however I was changed, we had tackle and four eager cavers so off we set.

The water conditions in this dale were no where near as bad as they had been in Ribblesdale. Once into the entrance canals I realised that we were not going to be in danger of being trapped so I started to enjoy myself. The pitch was rigged and I was pleased to see that

these capable cavers rigged it exactly as I would have, perhaps I was not as out of touch as i felt I had been. One surprise however was the amount of fixed anchors and bolts that were now available, this made trapped fingers going over the edge a thing of the past with a nice straight drop for the ladder and plenty of choice for pulleys and stich plate. Everything felt much more improved than those old days when the lifeliner sat with the rope over his shoulder and relied (it seemed to me) mainly on brute force.

One group lifelined each other down and disappeared off upstream to see how far they could battle against the stream. No, I did not go down the pitch but I did feel much happier underground than I have done for a long time. The team were back within 15 minutes, the stream had become too strong when they had got to the place where it becomes too narrow, so in the interests of safety they had returned, exhilarated. Because brute force was no longer necessary I was able to lifeline the cavers up the pitch which also gave me a sense of participation which perhaps was not there in earlier years.

We decided to go with the tackle to Toyland and on our way back upstream met Russell, Ben and Robert, they visited the pitch head and then followed us up into Toyland. By now all my fears of being underground had been literally washed away and my enjoyment was very evident. Again I did not go up the pitch but waited for the return of the rest. I was not alone for long as there was now around another ten cavers who had decided there was only one place to cave with youngsters that day and it was KMC. After a short while of people trying to ascend and our lads trying to descend the short pitch, we eventually got all our cavers and our tackle out and departed for the surface. Ben had problems with his wetsuit trousers as they were rather large (belonging to Dave Allanach) and Robert did a good job of clearing the crawl of pebbles with a pair of wellies which collected all in their wake as he crawled out to the main passage.

I feel I can say that all had a good trip into Kingsdale Master Cave and I am most grateful for the chance to rediscover caving again.

Jan Hoggarth

North Lakes Meet (16 - 25 Feb 1996)

It all started with a "Severe weather warning for Scotland.. " which made us feel relieved that the original destination had been changed! Coupled with a reported lack of snow up there the Lake District seemed doubly attractive, since "lack of snow" in Scotland means a presence of the other sort of precipitation......

Friday saw the arrival of AH, CH, BJ and SP and a phone call from SA and AC to say that they would be late. "We will wait up for you. We are hard. We can drink all night and not fall asleep. It is only five o'clock and we're on our second bottle. (of wine - each)" z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z

Saturday, so I am told, dawned. Grey-ish. Hart Crag and Fairfield and lots of other things to do, so blow the weather forecast of Scottishy things arriving in the afternoon. The dreaded Zamberlan Mountainlite Biting Boot attacked SP on the walk up the always beautiful and impressive Dovedale, so he hobbled out. The snow up the open gully at the side of Dove Crag was wet and not very congealed, so it was more of a wade up than a climb. We played warrabout on the summit of Hart Crag in true CPC tradition as the Scottishy weather increased and threatened to soak and blow us off what we assumed was Dove Crag. SA and BJ headed off for Fairfield in the clag, whilst AH, SJ, JJ and RJ headed off towards the ridge of Hartsop Above How in the clag. Below 2000ft said clag cleared, so we could see the rain and sleet falling more clearly. The soft snow was not too conducive to exciting descents, but one slope just above the ridge gave the youngsters the chance to practice downhill skiing sans skis. AH arrived at the bottom in a heap after his tobottoming (sic) turned rather sideways. The hill further attacked him later on, immediately following a comment that the ridge was "becoming a little boring", whereupon the only rock with hard ice on sidled beneath his feet...Ah said AH on AH....... A wet but satisfied party literally steamed back in the car for the evening's whining and dinning.(sic) Heard the rescue helicopter.

Sunday, and Patterdale was once again attacked. SA, BJ and SP headed for Helvellyn, but after a late start and Scottishy weather forecast, SA and SP called it a day after Striding Edge, descending to Red Tarn, and BJ at the beginning of Swirral Edge, ascended to see why so many people had been falling off. SJ, JJ and RJ had an even later start and wombled up towards Greenside Mine. Saw a rescue helicopter.

Monday was birdy-watching day, with the Solway Coast, Campfield Marshes and Caerlaverock (in Scotland!) being visited in brilliant sunshine, whilst Carlisle was in a blizzard. TW, EW and MW arrived.

Tuesday was back to the fells - at least, a perambulation around Loweswater, visiting the Kirkstile Inn for Jennings' liquids.

Wednesday had a poor forecast, but RJ, JJ, SP, BJ, TW, EW and MW grabbed Greendale Tarn and Buckbarrow in Wasdale before snow stopped play. The snow consisted of individual flakes, each one perfectly formed and cold enough to remain as the traditional "flake". Saw a rescue land rover. Two other rescues were happening as well. Pity the Langdale helicopter was forced down and we didn't see it.........

Thursday gave BJ, JJ, SP and RJ one of those "days to remember". Radio Cumbria had PROMISED that the early clag would lift and that sunshine would happen. Setting off from Seathwaite the greyness seemed permanent, but lo and behold, as we reached the clouds at Styhead, they lifted to just cover the highest hills. Being the first of the day along the corridor route meant no tracks to follow, and the odd steep sections had the foot and handholds covered with snow....A couple following us enquired as to our intended route so they could follow us. We replied "Corridor". What we forgot to say was that we intended to leave it above Piers Ghyll and ascend Long Gully straight to the summit.

As we departed the Corridor Route, the clouds all cleared, leaving a breathtaking tapestry of white hills, brown and green valleys and dark crags and chasms. Long Gully is long and divides half way up, the left branch leading to Broad Crag col, whilst the right branch continues at about 50 degrees to just below the summit of Scafell Pike. BJ and JJ chose the former because it looked, well, less frightening (they didn't see the iced exit slope that steepened), whilst RJ, SP and SJ panted up the side of the latter, acutely aware of the meaning of the word "avalanche". The top layer of snow was, however, very thin and below it was the old, well-consolidated stuff into which our axes and crampons had a reassuring bite.

Emerging into the winter sunshine after the relative dark of the gully was another magical experience, but even more extraordinary was the fact that we had the summit of Scafell Pike TO OURSELVES! - for a while, anyway. We walked off slowly, savouring one of the best views ever. SP decided to "bag" Esk Pike on the way down as well as Great End. We hardly had the heart to tell him that Esk Pike was NOT where he thought, and he had missed it! We met TW and tribe who had wombled up to look for some snow slopes to practice on and then descended to Esk Hause. As we passed beneath Great End, we crossed a solo climber heading upwards. By now the light was declining and those long end-of-day shadows were extending their chilly fingers down the valley. Halfway down we stopped to pack our snow gear away, and saw the soloist half way up Southeast the time we had packed the sacks, he had finished this grade 3 climb and was on the summit....before we had reached the farm at Seathwaite, he had caught us up. "You've got to grab them whilst you can" he philosophised. He had been up Grassmoor earlier in the day.... Saw a helicopter - but it was a red OXO one!

Friday - Foulday. BNFL's Visitor Centre had been promised for the young ones, and this was a most appropriate day! Main Gully on Great End avalanched - one rescued.

Saturday's forecast was not very encouraging, nor were the actual conditions, with new, wet snow overlying the old stuff and cloudbase at around 1 500ft and "rain in the air" as we set off from Glenridding towards Helvellyn. There was a reversal of Wednesday's weather pattern and by the time we had reached Keppel Cove the decision was made to head for Raise and descend via Sticks Pass into Glencoyne. Soon the sky disappeared and the white ground merged into the grey-and-white air and the landscape vanished. A brief sailor's handkerchief of blue sky graced the pass, then the real deterioration set in. By the time the valley was reached we were sodden with very wet sleet, so heavy that the road was both awash with water and covered with white at the same time! TW, EW, MW, RJ, BJ, SP, RH, PH, AP and PP gurgled home. I think I heard a rescue helicopter (Some of us saw it - Ed)

Sunday. "A short walk" was envisaged, so parked up at Lanthwaite Green and walked DOWNHILL to Crummock Water, thence on to Mellbreak. The previous night's precipitation proved to have consisted of small white ball-bearings, but it was fortunately not on top of ice. The steep ascent to the North summit involved a short section of very steep, unstable, slabby shale and the layer of snow did not inspire confidence. From the north summit, the south one LOOKS definitely lower, but is, in fact higher! A pleasant walk down to Buttermere and a visit to The Fish and a welcoming notice forbidding rucksacks inside (leave the rucksacks outside, but take the contents in?) meant that it was The Bridge and Tetleys who profited from the desires of AP, PP, RH, PH, SJ, JJ, BJ, SP and RJ. Pity about the downhill FROM the car.........

So ended a very satisfying week of outdoor activities. Good food, drink, company and experiences (except one for BJ - enduring an episode of Noel's House Party) made for a successful meet. See you next year?

Those present: Andy and Chris Hayter, Barbara Jenkins, Steve Pickersgill, Simon Ashby, Alison Catt, Tony, Emily and Michael Whitehouse, Ric and Pat Halliwell, Alan and Pauline Pedlar, Sarah, Jenny and Bob (leader) Jenkins.

Bob Jenkins

Easegill (9 March 1996)

Present: Ric Halliwell(Leader), Pat Halliwell, Kevin Hopwell(G), Barry and Mary Hunkin, Frank Johnston-Banks (P), Collete Karley, Sheila Phoenix

I had agreed that as it was Tony's birthday he could lead the Easegill - Lancaster Sump - Easegill trip and I would take the people who did not want such a long trip. As we were both going in and coming out of Lancaster, and to offer Tony a bit more variety should he want to take it, I tackled County Pot.

Mindful of the team, which included three very keen but relatively inexperienced members, one total novice and one guest (who turned out to be very competent although this was not known at the start), we made slow progress down Toadstool, Mushroom and Razor Passage to Playpus Junction before turning upstream to Poetic Justice. A swift clim up the inside for me and a ladder down the outside for everyone else eased that potential problem.

Then it was on to Eureka Junction and decision time, to carry on or not? The general vote was to carry on so we set off upstream, under very low water conditions but pointing out the fresh flood debris in the roof. We soon reached the Assembly Hall and I climbed up expecting few of the others to follow. To my surprise the majority tied on and I lifelined them up the climb. I freeclimbed up into the approach to Easter Grotto and then hung a ladder down for the others. Despite my stories of the "You should have seen it 20 years ago" style this first visit for Barry, Frank, Kevin and Mary was suitably memorable for them. The inevitable comments to Frank of "Now you have seen this on your first real caving trip it will all be downhill from here on" did little to dampen his awe and enthusiasm.

We reversed the climbs with me free climbing and set off back to Stop Pot arriving there at the same time as Tony and co, or to be precise the slow part of Tony's Party; the Harriers had long since rushed past. We made slightly faster time out of County that we had taken on the way in and emerged to a glorious afternoon. I enjoyed my gentle womble round the near reaches and for those first time visitors to easter Grotto it was undoubtedly a memorable if somewhat tiring day.

Ric Halliwell

New Cave/Lancaster Streamway (9 March 1996)

Present: Peter Barnes, Howard Beck, Tony Blick (Leader), Rob Dove, Tony Jackson, Steve Kelley, Karen Lane, Neville Lucas, Simon Parker, Dennis Webb, Heather Wilkinson, and Ted Wood

Two of my most memorable caving experiences have been the traverse of the Lancaster streamway in both directions, entering and leaving the system via County Pot. The first was in 1970 with Dave Allanach, John Allonby, Howard Beck, Clive Green and Pete Grey. We were underground for about 12 hours investigating numerous side passages. It was a period when a number of different clubs were very active in the system, and that led to notable discoveries by the Earby Pothole Club and Manchester University. Our own club achieved some success with the discovery and exploration of the Magic Roundabout.

Some 18 years later Andy Bailey, Pete Collen, Maggie McPherson, Ted Wood and myself enjoyed the same trip taking something like 8 hours to traverse the system.

Memories of these earlier events prompted a suggestion to repeat these trips, and a little after 10.30am a party of 12 entered New Cave. Ladders were used on the entrance climbs and are considerably easier than using a rope. The party quickly divided into two groups with Howard Beck guiding the faster party, and myself being considerably assisted by Simon Parker in guiding the second group at a more leisurely pace. We met the former team at Diamond Hall on their return having reached the sump in one and a half hours. Continuing downstream, the Stake Pot choke proved more complex than I remembered, but the final sump was reached all too quickly, ending England's finest streamway. The return was pleasant, with the surface being reached at 4.30pm.

Tony Blick

Lancaster Hole (9 March 1996)

Present: Dave Hoggarth, Pete Gray, Alison Glenn, Mal Goodwin, Alan Davey, Martin Holloway, Patrick Warren.

Down the hole today to look for Cape Canaveral... Down the drop in Fall Pot, cunningly hidden off to one side through a gap. Down a ladder in Stake Pot, then the fun starts. Pete knows the way but makes sure that he isn't at the front when the passage turns into Quaking Pot. We find a chain ladder and climb it, entering passages like Old East in GG, but more shattered. Lured on by a draft, we find a drystone wall balanced across an eighty foot drop with a river at the bottom. No Cape Canaveral, not even on the other side of the drystone wall.

It's a different cave on the way back, shorter. Pete takes photos of stalagmite columns holding the roof up. Down a ladder, up a ladder, up the rope in Fall Pot, up the entrance pitch and out into a fine late afternoon. In the Hill Inn, we sup best bitter, and I try to pretend I'm not still wearing my caving undersuit.

Patrick Warren

Ireby Fell Cavern - Advance notice of work.

The CNCC Technical Group are planning to replace all existing anchors in Ireby Fell with ECO Hangers over the weekend of 21st/22nd/23rd June. We will also undertake some repair work on the entrance. It would be appreciated if cavers could avoid Ireby Fell on that weekend.

Glenn Jones

Forthcoming Events

Nidderdale Meet (4 to 6 May)

This is the opener for the Nidderdale Camp week-end and if there is anyone in the CPC who has not visited the Nidderdale Master Cave they can enjoy the experience on Saturday 4 May. Others who have been there before: including those who took part in the discovery of New Goyden forty years ago in 1956; may need no urging to come again.

Manchester Hole and Goyden Pot are both easily accessible and the trip can be extended into New Goyden; all three are large river passages. Those already familiar with the caves will be interested in Manchester Hole's new sump by-pass (The Swinton By-pass) excavated by a party of cavers from Swinton near Masham in 1993. This led into the 8m by 8m Divers' Chamber discovered by Andy Jackson of the BPC and Ian Lloyd of the CDG at Easter 1991. It is hoped that a dry connection may be found between Manchester Hole and Goyden.

Add to the above attractions. a scenic valley leading up to the wild fells of Great and Little Whernside, an old drove road over to Coverdale and a first rate camp-site at Howstean. I hope to see you on the Saturday. Barbara Jenkins will have more excitement to follow over the next two days. Meet at the car park by the old railway tunnel by Manchester Hole 10.00am on Saturday May 4th

Len Cook

Barbondale (19 May)

The Barbondale Meet on 19 May will meet where Barkin Gill crosses under the road (SD 665840) at 10 am. It is intended to visit Crystal Cave, Short Gill, etc. For further details contact the Leader, John Webb.

Spring Bank Holiday, North Wales, (25 to 27 May)7

This meet will be held at the large campsite at Nant Peris NGR SH 606585, in the Llanberis valley, with Snowdon, Crib Goch, the Glyder's and much classic Welsh rock within walking distance. Not only this, but Nant Peris has a good Robinson's pub too! I am planning to be there on Thursday evening.

Patrick Warren

Cottage Working Weekend (1 and 2 June)

This weekend has been declared a Cottage Working Weekend and all members are invited to come along and help with general renovations and maintenance. The Cottages are the largest asset of your Club so please come along and help with this essential work. On the job training is always available!! Various incentives to encourage involvement have been agreed, but you will have to turn up and do some work in order to find out what they are.

Celebrations (29 June)

Simon Ashby and Alison Catt are to be married on Saturday 20 July and will therefore miss the Lost John's Meet, unless the Leader decrees a very early start. Simon has asked me to point out that he will be having his Stag Night, and Alison her Hen Night, loosly based on Horton, on Saturday 29 June and all are welcome.

The "Somewhere in Europe" Meet

This meet was originally proposed to be Antro del Corchia in Italy but, due to a difference of opinion between the quarry owners and the caving fraternity, it has now been moved to the Chartreuse region in France.

The meet will be based at Camping de Martiniere in St Pierre de Chartreuse and will run from 20th July for approximately two weeks.

The caving here promises to be tremendous with some world class through trips in the Dent de Crolles system (Trou de Glaz, Guiers Morte, etc), a splendid looking ice cave trip (bring your crampons) and plenty of shaft bashing to be done for the more athletic amongst us. I am led to believe that there is excellent climbing and walking in the area although the latter may be somewhat limited by the precipitous nature of the terrain. Cycling, as always, is good. (That's what I thought but I was contradicted by Jan Hoggarth when she and Hoggy visited the area with Pat and myself - Ed)

A limited number of camp site places have been pre-booked for us however I must know how many places are required so that the booking can be reviewed. Anyone with a joie de vivre should contact me as soon as possible to claim a space. No misery guts need apply.

PS If you require general inspiration then read Subterranean Climbers by P. Chevalier. If you want more detailed information then see Chartreuse Souterraine by B Lismonde (there is a copy in the Club Library).

Alan Weight

Water Tracing in the Malham Area

This article has been submitted by the YSS as part of a request for help from CPC with this project. Not only is Malham a classic area for karst hydrology studies it also featured in the history of the CPC with the link being commemorated in caving song. The Committee has agreed to support the project financially but help on the ground is also required. If anyone is willing to help please contact Roger Turton (Tel 01636 682793) to find out how you can assist - Ed

As part of an on-going project in the Malham area, a small group of YSS/NPC/CDG/WRPC members are undertaking a major water tracing experiment at the beginning of May 96. We cordially invite all interested CPC members to become involved in the project. Although volunteers are mainly required for injecting tracing materials into the sinks and taking samples from the various risings to be monitored any help, no matter how small, would be appreciated. It is our intention to use the YSS school at Helwith Bridge as a base, why not come along and make it a social event as well.


The overall aim of the experiment is to obtain as much information as possible concerning the drainage pattern of the Malham catchment, however, there are three areas where we expect valuable results:

1. Sink to rising connections - we hope to confirm previously proven connections, establish connections for those sinks not previously tested and possibly through the use of dye budgeting determine the importance of risings in relation to each other.

2. Gain an insight into the way water flows through the system in terms of flow through times (velocity) ie some sinks have been tested before, in two cases many times, but on each occasion different water conditions have prevailed. So whilst a quoted flow through time of 2 hours from Smelt Mill Sink to Malham Cove and 44 hours from Kuling Hole are both correct no direct comparison between the two can be made.

3. Exploration of the Aire River Passage has added a new dimension to the Malham drainage pattern. Over 1K of sump lies behind the face of the Cove into which there are several inlets; by placing detectors and plankton nets at selected points in the sump we hope to prove some of the inlets.


We intend to achieve our aim by injecting a combination of chemical and particle tracers into eight of the sinks that feed the system and establishing points of emergence/flow through times by sampling water, plankton nets and "detectors" at regular intervals.

Chemical Tracers - A wide variety of chemical tracers can be used to trace underground drainage systems the most common type used being the strongly fluorescent dyes. These dyes can be used in two ways:

1. In high concentrations to give a visible effect, the bright green of Fluorescein for instance.

2. In low concentrations, invisible to the naked eye, detected by measuring the fluorescence of the water by a fluorometer or in even lower concentrations by the use of "detectors".

We shall be using the second method. As the dyes chosen ( Fluorescein, Rhodamine and one of the Optical Brightening Agents {OBA}) fluoresce at different wavelengths each can be separately detected in the same a water sample. This can carried out continuously in the field, which would require a number of fluorometers, or as in our case by taking a succession of water samples for subsequent analysis. The detectable limit for a fluorometer is in the region of 0.1 parts per billion, therefore, in order to detect concentrations lower than this "detectors" will be used, for the Fluorescein and Rhodamine activated charcoal in nylon bags and BP cotton wool in plastic bags for the OBA. Paul Hardwick from the Limestone Research Group at Huddersfield University has agreed to take responsibility for the supply and testing of the chemical tracers.

Particle Tracers - The spores of the club-moss, Lycopodium Clavatum are to be the tracing medium. Cellulose walled, about 25 microns (0.001") in diameter and slightly heavier than water these spoors can be dyed in a variety of colours making it possible to trace up to seven sinks simultaneously. They are introduced into a sink as a slurry in water and can be collected at risings by allowing the water to pass through fine mesh plankton nets. The inside surface of the nets is scraped at regular intervals to obtain samples of the sediment which is then examined for spoors under a microscope. Bill Gascoine of the BCRA hydrology unit has agreed to supply us with spoors and plankton nets. Following the test we shall undertake examination of the samples ourselves.

Timetable -

1. Divers to place nets and detectors in the Aire River passage 27/28 April.

2. Thursday & Friday 2/3 May 4 people to place nets and first batch of detectors in the risings as well as take a water sample from each rising to act as a control.

3. Friday, 3 May, 2200 hrs, 12 people to inject tracers into sinks.

4. Friday, 3 May, 2359 hrs 6 people + 1 co-ordinator to commence sampling.

5.Shift changes - 0800 hrs, 1600 hrs, 2359 hrs

6. Tuesday, 7 May, 2359 hrs last sampling team to finish.

7. Wednesday, 8 May, 4 people to take one last sample,

8. Saturday & Sunday 11/12 May, Equipment removed from sinks, final samples taken.

Sinks/Caves to be tested

Grid Name Spoors Dye

894655 Tarn Water Sinks Yes Yes

882660 Smelt Mill Sinks Yes

874638 Kuling Hole Yes

869637 K2 Yes Yes

865658 Gorbeck Cave Yes

871662 Wise Pot Yes

872647 Grizedale Hole Yes

868655 One Way Cave@ Yes

875640 Pikedaw Sump in Jubilee Ext@ Yes

Pikedaw Sump off Cavern 104@ Yes

@ Only one sump in Pikedaw will be tested. If there is insufficient water in Pikedaw then One Way Cave will be used as a back up.

Sites/Risings to be monitored

These include sampling behind Malham Cove by the divers at a number of points along the Aire River Passage. Surface sampling includes several risings close to Malham Cove, around Aire Head Springs, Cowside Beck, Gordale Beck, Tranlands Beck, Gordale, Hamberside, Keltree Well, Mires Barn, Malham Reservoir and Stockdale Beck.

At most surface sites water samples are to be collected on an hourly basis, although at some sites samples are only required on a 2-hourly or even 8-hourly basis.

Club Pot

The wet route in Sell Gill has now been rebolted by the CNCC Technical Group. The route closely follows the "Elliot" route with two exceptions. When you come out of the oxbow to get onto the first pitch proper, instead of the two rebelays on the nose there is now a Y-hang across the shaft. On the final pitch there are now two rebelays, both are further out than the spits on that huge wall that forms one side of the shaft. The lower rebelay is at about the same level as the "Elliot-spit" whilst the other is about 3 metres above it. It may be possible to rig just from the top rebelay but this has not yet been tried.

Northern Cave Diving News

Explorations in Yorkshire's phreatic zone have continued steadily over the winter. Perhaps the most significant finds have been made at Rawthey Cave, a resurgence for the Bluecaster area north east of Sedbergh. Here Phil Murphy and Andy Goddard have passed Sump 2 (and three further sumps) to reach a large dry boulder choke. A total of 168m of diving is needed to get to this dig; work continues. The cave is large and well developed but the biggest surprise came when a ramp was climbed before the end to find several chambers and a very rich deposit of human and animal bones. These are clearly of great age and other divers are asked to avoid this site until further notice.

In the Three Counties System a lot of work has been done to try and connect Downstream Notts with Upstream Gavel. Welsh readers will be pleased to learn that this has so far not been successful, Rupe Skorupka's intensive search of the early parts of the Gavel sump having revealed little of note. However he is set up to inspect the deep zone soon which is still the obvious way on really. Rupe's limit in Downstream Notts Sump 4 was passed by Rick Stanton but it becomes very badly choked just beyond. Elsewhere in Notts II a team of divers has been climbing Mincemeat Aven which is creeping up towards Leck Fell's Pirate Pot valley, with all its draughting digs. Unfortunately a nasty fall (due to hitting the back wall when a bolt popped) caused Andy Goddard some serious injuries including a broken arm. The resulting self rescue, with the help of Martin Holroyd, Dave Morris and Rick Stanton does great credit to those involved.

Martin has also been active in Dale Barn's sumps (using the new Illusion Pot entrance in East Kingsdale). More line has been added downstream (towards Dry Gill Cave) and the upstream Boottrapper Sump is now apparently over 500m long. A search of the big corner in the East Kingsdale Branch of Keld Head by Geoff Yeadon and Geoff Crossley failed to locate any likely connection; it may be that Boottrapper originates from elsewhere in East Kingsdale?

Meanwhile over the hill to the east the huge rising at God's Bridge has seen further attention. The most upstream entrance was forced a bit further by the writer but then choked. However just beyond this point a new entrance revealed a further section of this conduit. "Sleet Cave" consists of a short crawl to another sump which gets too small after 12m. The origin of the large stream flowing through these caves is not yet known but it may be nothing to do with the known "main flow" from Joint Hole etc. A thorough survey of this area is being conducted with the help of master cartographer Paul Monico.

Finally, an ambitious dye test is to be undertaken in the Malham area over the period 2 - 8 May 1996. Offers of help with sampling etc would be very welcome and should be addressed to YSS member Roger Turton (tel. 01636 682793). (See elsewhere in this Record for further details - Ed)

John Cordingley

A welcome return to Transylvania

Following a successful and enjoyable reconnaissance caving expedition to Romania last summer, it was with eager anticipation that I planned a return trip for the summer of '95. The group consisted of five cavers from Britain and our four Romanian hosts, associated with the Clubul Speologilor Amatori based in Cluj-Napoca.

From past experience we decided that three hours care of British Airways was preferable to thirty six hours care of National Express Coaches, and booked our tickets accordingly. Having arrived we then divided our time between a week exploring the Danube Delta, and a week or so caving in the Bihor mountains in the heart of Transylvania.

The Danube Delta is in the south of the country, with little permanent land, and networks of streams, rivers, lakes, reed marshes, and forested islands. The Delta is a protected National Park and foreigners need to obtain permits to enter, and a further permit for fishing rights from various offices in Tulcea. We travelled down to the Delta by overnight train to Tulcea via Bucharest, and then by a NavRom ship to the small village of Partizani. Here we persuaded a local, drunk, old fisherman that he really needed a few days holiday and should lend us his boat for a few days. We agreed a cheap price, and exchanged a bottle of vodka which is the real currency in these parts, and the deal was done! So with our new, slightly leaking, transport, we set off along the tributary rivers to find a camping spot. The best way to see the Delta and its incredible diversity of wildlife which hides in the backwaters is to either bring a canoe or negotiate for a boat or lift from the locals.

The Delta provides a unique habitat for over three hundred species of birds, many of which are found nowhere else in Europe, and many other animals including otters and wild boar. We saw herons, gulls, swans, waders, curlews, eagles, "water chickens" as we translated from the Romanian, and many flocks of pelicans, which regularly flew over the camp in formation. A veritable bird spotters paradise. Romania has Europe's largest population of pelicans, and more than its fair share of mosquitoes and leeches! We had three days of swimming, fishing and boating out to the various lakes. The river is teeming with wildlife, with loads of fish forming our principle diet. The more experienced amongst us were able to pluck fish from the river without effort every few minutes, whilst the others preferred to barter with local fishermen. We exchanged vodka and a supply of preserving salt for handfuls of pike.

After we returned the hired boat, we "hired" a horse and cart to take all our baggage back to the NavRom ship which took us along the River Danube to the Black Sea coast for a couple of days on the beach at Sulina. The beach was close to the boarder with Russia (The Ukraine) so we had to gain permission from the local army base to camp on the beach, but this worked out okay and we had little trouble from them save for a daily dawn patrol. The place wasn't too safe however and we did have the tents visited whilst we were away one day, and came back to find someone had stolen our towels!! Since trying to buy a replacement towel of any quality proved impossible, they must be highly prized items in Romania.

Don't get any ideas that this was an idyllic beach holiday however. The town here was fairly grim, over-run with cockroaches, and being at the very eastern tip of the country you felt you really were at the end of the world. Sulina was once a large commercial port but is now mostly obsolete. The guide book described it as a place where you "experience a hopeless sinking feeling, in a place where people get stranded, feel themselves abandoned by civilisation, take to drink, and waste into a half animal-like existence"!! Ceausescu's answer to bring prosperity back to this corner of the world was to establish a large toxic, radioactive waste dump here for all of Europe. After radioactive leaks were observed by Mir Space Station this was closed down and cleaned up a few years ago. However in its favour, swimming in the Black Sea was good, the water was really warm and there was lots of sand on the beach. When it got dark the sea flashed with light from small sea slugs which glowed green when you disturbed the water by swimming through it, producing quite an eerie effect.

After a couple of days travelling back North to Cluj we set off for two camps in the Bihor mountains and the real business of the expedition. Firstly to a caving camp in the Garda Seaca Valley with other cavers from all over Hungary and Romania. This was a joint exploratory cave camp organised by the Oradea "Z" Caving Club, from whom we had received an official invitation. This was the valley in which we had previously witnessed recent gruesome results of a bear attack on some cattle last year. Here we explored four caves. The first was the well known Hodobana Cave system some 15 km in length. The cave certainly lives up to its reputation of a labyrinth with many twists and turns and interconnecting passages. Next a visit to the Coiba Mare - Coiba Mica cave, two joined caves, the first with a huge entrance, an active and sporting stream-way and some large formations. Pestera Oilor (Sheep's Cave) was located nearby filled with wet clay and mud formations which kept us slipping and sliding about for hours. Finally we had the privilege to visit a well hidden cave unlocked for us by the Oradea group called Hoanca Apei Cave. The name doesn't translate into English. This cave had some fabulous formations, and pure white passages, with soft flow stone on all the walls, floor and ceiling, and a wealth of cave bear bones. The cave bear (Ursus Spelaeus) became extinct some fifteen thousand years ago.

We made some friends and useful contacts at this camp, and were invited to Hungary, Poland and Russia, to cave if we ever get the time and the inclination. After several days camping here we moved onto the Vladeasa Valley. Here we embarked on a digging trip to extend the Avenul cu Spinare Cave visited on our last expedition to Romania. The cave is a 60m surface shaft with some continuing decorated passage at the bottom. The dig unfortunately proved fruitless since the winter rains had deposited several metres of stones and gravel in the small passage that had taken five men ten days to clear last time the cave was tackled in December. However we were able to bolt the cave for them to avoid using the typical Romanian 'rotten log' belay, which was already on it last legs last summer !

Lastly we visited Pestera Varfuras, a cave previously explored by some other members of the group last year, but new to this year's team. The reputation of the cave's notorious "body sized" squeeze had grown to scary proportions since last year's visit. Hence the night before the trip was spent around the camp fire contemplating each others vital statistics in comparison to the size of the squeeze. One of our Romanian hosts, on the other hand, left to pre-rig the pitch to speed our forthcoming trip, and later returned to the camp fire with the shout "Varfuras is an ice cave !". Having found ice formations in the entrance series left over from the winter, he had brought back sufficient to accompany our vodka which we drunk from our less than appropriate plastic cups.

Half an hours caving from the entrance, beyond the squeeze, the cave is immediately impressive as the rock floor of the stream passage gave way to beautiful clear pale green gour pools surrounded by white moon-milk. Most of the plethora of stalactites and stalagmites were composed of a moderately solid moon-milk. Hence the formations had the consistency of very thick blancmange, and could be wobbled easily from side to side. This is a very rare phenomena, since moon-milk is usually not solid enough to hold in formations of the type we saw. In some cases minerals in the soil had coloured the formations. For example, at one point we saw a six metre long moon-milk curtain stained red, which was also quite flexible. It was also our privilege to enter a hidden section of cave, which took some finding. The chamber was called the White Gallery, and is rarely visited by cavers, except the few who know of its existence and whereabouts. Matyas our host, himself had not been there for several years. It is hard to describe fully and do justice to the place. The chamber was fairly small but filled completely with the moon-milk formations. The ceiling and the walls were covered with stalactites and flow stone, and the floor with gour pools, all pristine white. Four foot prints led into the chamber beyond which no one had trod in order to preserve the formations, despite the fairly obvious way on through the chamber.

The caving and camping was brought to an abrupt end the following day when extremely heavy rain and two over head thunder storms washed out the camp and the caves. We returned to Cluj and planned two days sightseeing to occupy us along the long return journey to Bucharest.

Romania had changed considerably over the past year since our last visit. In the past few months new arrivals in the country included Pepsi Max, soft toilet paper, and a MacDonald's in Bucharest. Can anyone stop the onslaught of Global MacDonaldisation! We saw many more foreign tourists and some Romanians with foreign cars. Also there were now things to buy in the shops rather than the miles of mostly empty shelves of last year. Unfortunately many of the items in the shops were imported and hence too expensive for the majority of Romanians. It's still a poor country, and hence transport, food and accommodation are cheap. If you needed any further persuasion to go there the beer was as cheap as 18p for half a litre and quite passable to drink, and ice creams were bought for only 6p. I must emphasise that we would once again have been quite helpless with out the assistance of our Romanian hosts, and cavers thinking of visiting the country are strongly advised to contact the Emil Racovita Speleological Institute in either Cluj or Bucharest, who will put them in touch with local caving clubs, and hence allow access to the best caves which are usually locked. I can supply further information as to the country and its caves on request, and a copy of our expedition report will be donated to the CPC library shortly. Currently our next plan is to raise the finance to bring two of our Romanian friends over to England in the summer of 1996, to see the sights of Britain both above and underground, and return some of the hospitality they have shown toward us.

Andrew Knight

(PS: Many apologies to Barbara for the unpronounceable Romanian in this report!)

Caving by Tramline; A Winter Expedition to Hungary

Hungary is a small country in central Europe which is mainly composed of a huge flat plain dominated by the river Danube. The people speak the most difficult language in Europe; Magyar, similar only to Finnish and hailing from some deep and desperate origin in the transiberian migrations. Almost all trace of this bleak and mysterious horseback culture has been subsumed in a thriving colourful cheery and thoroughly westernised society which can now only be recognised as a post cold war country by a few difficult to eradicate statues and street names, the former needing chemical persuasion and the latter are being changed as we read.

There are three main caving regions in Hungary, in the north, the Bukk and the Aggtelek, typical karst with stream caves and a few thermals, and the Buda Hills, which form part of the Capital City, Budapest. What makes the Buda Hills unique is twofold; firstly, the caves are formed by hot water action, and this is reflected in their topography, and secondly, their position, ie under the lively streets of a capital city! Briefly, these caves were formed by joints and fissures being invaded by thermal waters ascending from areas of tectonic activity deep in the crust. These underground waters are of varying chemical and ionic composition and corrode the fissures, however it is when mixing occurs between surface percolation waters and thermal waters that the largest chambers develop. This is because thermal water can be close to saturation, but when such mixing occurs corrosive capability is renewed.

The second controlling feature has been the gradual lowering of the karst water table by a process of uplift of the limestone mass accompanied by the cutting down of the river Danube, which corresponds to the level of springs and resurgences. This process has caused the thermal waters to abandon the "cauldrons", to use the local term translated. Subsequent discovery of these features has been largely accidental whilst quarrying and driving foundations, since there are few known open fossil resurgences. Ancient formations which grew in thermal waters exist, including Aragonite crystals, "peastone" calcite, gypsum knives, gardens of Barytes and Quartzite as well as more familiar stalactite and gypsum features.

A number of the caves are showcaves but of these most can be visited by arrangement as a group of cavers, so enabling a visit to the undeveloped portions, as well as the caves which have no public access, and these visits are expediently arranged by the same good folk

Gellert Hegyi Cave.

Known as Rock Chapel Cave, this showcave still displays hot springs rising from the hill beneath. The Lower chamber displays good mineral formations.

Pal Volgyi Cave.

In the Szep Valley large quarrying activities on either side of the road revealed a number of fascinating systems. The longest system in the Buda Hills at over 7km, the upper 650 metres can be done as showcave unspectacularily, fresher looking territory can be explored with a guide as an arranged trip to where more interesting formations are taped off. Various sites feature incredibly lifelike fossil specimens.

Matyas Hegyi Cave.

Across the road from Pal Volgyi in the next quarry, Matyas is a maze of confusing chambers and crawls. Little of interest in the pretty variety, it's nevertheless an excellent humid romp with plenty of climbing, traversing and thrutching which can take up 3-6 hours depending how far you want to go.

Szemlo Hegyi Cave.

2 km long, this was one of the first showcaves in Buda. Pretty with peastone and some well decorated stal sections, the guide will explain how a very slim and deservedly popular young lady was persuaded to pass the "eye of the needle" squeeze. This cave is renowned for its' use as "speleotherapy", in which patients with respiratory illnesses are treated. Apparently, and despite it's location the air in the cave exceeds west European standards for operating theatres.

Ferenc Hegyi Cave.

The most intricate maze in the city and in excess of 4 km, this involves a more masochistic tour, having very few large chambers or even spaces. However it offers dramatic peastone scenery, barytes and thermal spring vents; its like caving on top of a turkish bath! In 1976 four lads got hopelessly lost and sadly perished.

Joszef Hegyi Cave

The Daren of Budapest, this place is still "going", at 5km its expected to double. Annual summer camps organised by the city council plan pushing trips! It justifies it's name "Crystal cave" because the aforementioned are in abundance including some premium specimens, added to which many chambers reach 50m long by 15m high, unusual here. Peastone of pristine whiteness is set off by red and orange stal. Permission harder to get.

Further afield.

About 100 or so other caves are known in the Buda hills; many have been and still are important palaeontological sites and much has been learned about early man in the area. There are a few potholes, though only 20m deep. Of interest to divers only, Janos Molnar Cave is a thermal flooded system which would doubtless make a pleasant change from Joint Hole, added to which you can see manganese-hydroxide crystals growing on barytes in their native environment!


To arrange caving trips contact Peter Voros at Pal Volgyi Cave Office on Szepvolgi Utica 162, telephone Hungary 188-95-37. Peter is an excellent chap and speaks good English. For a very reasonable price he can offer guided caving tours including oversuit, helmet, carbide set etc so if your just passing through you will only need spare trainers and socks and your undersuit - it's dry almost everywhere. Typical cost would be £30.00 all in for 4 people for a 4 or 5 hour trip. There is an excellent bar at the Pal Volgyi Site (The quarry is now landscaped) and you can get a fine pint of beer for 60 pence or a splendid pint of Hungarian brown ale for a quid. Budapest itself is an exciting city where you will never be stuck for things to do, and most forms of food and entertainment can be had for about half what it would cost here.


In Buda the cheap and friendly Backpackers Guesthouse which is open 24hrs on Takacs Menyhert Utica 33 tel 185 5089 and ask for Attilla or Kristina. In Downtown Pest (across the Danube) try Hostal International 140 8585 or 129 8644. Further off but cheap and friendly in Pest are various independent hostels for around £4-5 per night, and camping is available.


If you are around for a few days £4.00 buys you a 3 day ticket to travel anywhere on Budapest's superb public transport. If only passing through its £2.00 for a one day or 25p per ride, buy single journey tickets at any newsstand or tabacaria. Don't use the machines for tickets you will lose a quid before you find one that works. To get to Pal Volgi take Metro 3 to the bottom of Szep-volgi Utica, then walk up the latter and get the bus outside MacDonalds, where you can stack some carbohydrates before you go if you so desire. The cave is at the top of the hill and is both well marked and well known. Caves are called "Barlang" in Magyar. If anyone is interested in a trip "Out East" this year or next, please get in touch.

Tom Thompson

(Previous articles on caving in Hungary have appeared in CPC Record 16, pg5-8, 1988 and CPC Journal 5(6),pg316-317, 1978 - Ed)

Pierre Saint Martin 1995

Apologies for this article being somewhat late (about 6 months), but work commitments and wedding arrangements have taken priority. Disorganisation and a lack of motivation had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever, honest.

As written in the earlier meet report, the trip was as successful as could have been hoped, with everybody achieving their aims and having a good time (or so it seemed and I certainly hope they did). Also, Chris & Andy Hayter and Cliff Poole were mistakenly omitted from the present list of that report, but they were most certainly there. In this article I will not give a day by day account of my trip as Rowly & I did most things with John Helm and his article in the previous record was more than adequate. Instead I shall try to give more accurate information on what we found compared to what we expected. On the whole there weren't too many surprises, as follows.

Area Details (Facilities & Accommodation)


There was an "arcade" of small shops and cafès/bars in the base of the main apartment block. Most of the shops were souvenir shops (postcards, stamps & general tat), but a couple sold food (bread, milk, tins, some fresh meat/charcuterie), although at quite a high price. All of the bars appeared to sell food. There was a post-box in the arcade. Apartments can be rented at the ski-station and appeared to be reasonable value, if a bit cramped when fully occupied. Tony Whitehouse + 5 hired one on arrival and seemed pleased. Contact him for details on prices etc. The road to the ski-station from Sainte-Engrâce is definitely open, although a bit rough due to winter damage. It's often littered with large cows and was somewhat exciting to follow in 5m visibility fog.


As indicated in the maps reproduced in Record 38 (April 95), the Bracas camping area is somewhat spread out, with the main area (approximately the size of the area used by the CPC at La Molière) being a short distance up a rough track just passable by normal car. The track is about 1.5-2 km on the right going down hill from the ski-station towards Arette. Immediately on the right as you turn in is a water tower (Château d'eau) and trough/pipe for drinking water. Also, on the left and further along on the right of the track are some smaller areas, but it appears that the local farmers prefer these not to be used as this is where they graze their cattle. Apparently hordes of BPC camped there and it wasn't exactly "Entèntè Cordiale" for a while.

ARSIP Chalet

On the outside of a tighter bend about 3 corners downhill and less than 1 km from the Bracas track. This seems to be the field base for ARSIP (Association pour la Recherche Seleologique Internationale a la Pierre St. Martin) and run along similar lines to an alpine hut, with a warden plus food and bunks available. The cave booking form (see below) had an option for staying here, but whether you can turn-up on spec I'm not sure. Some permit organisation is obviously done there as lists of clubs doing what were on the walls. We bought some ARSIP surveys and publications and spoke to the ARSIP members present, who were friendly and helpful.


A very spread out village along the valley base, with the Mairies' office and few cafès/bars, but no food shops or bakers that we found. The majority of us camped at the Camping Oyhanart in Sainte-Engrâce de la Caserne, the first part of the village reached coming up the valley from the Tardets direction. This had reasonable facilities (toilets, showers, washing-up sinks, power points, fixed barbecue, etc.) and was next to the river for a swim or rope washing. The cost was approximately. £4.50 each per night for Rowly & I, plus 2 small tents, a patrol tent and the car. The owner took a bread order each evening, which we then collected from his site office/bar/home the next morning. Also he hired out his 4WD (driven by himself or his son) to the BPC to bring gear back from the EDF tunnel, but we didn't find out the cost. About 10 minutes drive on up the valley is Sainte-Engrâce - Senta. Here is the turning left for the ski-station, the Roman church and the track to the EDF tunnel. Opposite the church was a bar that always seemed lively and next to it an Auberge (Youth Hostel / bunkhouse). A couple of British lads were staying there and seemed to think it was good value.


You pass through here just after joining the main road going to Tardets from Sainte-Engrâce. Nothing much really, though John Helm thought the Hotel des Sports pleasant.


Where we ended up the most and not far from Sainte-Engrâce. All the food shops, small supermarket, bank, Maison d'Press (maps) and several cafès/bars. I can't actually remember a petrol station, but I'm sure there was one.


A reasonable sized town that probably has anything generally required. We only visited the Leclerc supermarket, quite large (food, hardware & petrol station) and easy to find. Just follow the signs from the edge of town and it's about a couple of km.

Aramits & Arette

Appeared similar to Tardets, but we only passed through a few times.


A bit smaller than, but similar to Oloron-Sainte-Marie.

Cave details

Generally, the information in the Spèleo-Sportif guide was pretty accurate and we have some copies of Andy Elliot's translation left if anyone wants one. The main difference was in the amount of tackle we required.


The top entrances to the PSM system (SC3, Tête Sauvage etc.) must be booked in advance through ARSIP as they control who is down where & when. Write to them (at the address below, in French & including an International Reply Coupon) and they will send a form on which you request/specify; dates, numbers, entrances, routes, accommodation (camping at Bracas, ARSIP Chalet or others) etc. and post back to them. What you've been booked for will then be confirmed by return of a typed up version of the form. Also, they will point out that insurance is obligatory in France and that they would like to have copies of your certificates. We booked about 10 months in advance and got what we requested, so there would seem not to be such a long waiting list as with the Berger.

As for caving in the system via the EDF, or in other systems in the area, it would seem that ARSIP like to told of your intentions but have no jurisdiction.


The EDF entrance was easy to find from the S-S description, though an unmentioned path following white-green-white slashes gave a more gentle ascent. The track was quite rough in places, passable by 4WD but Russell & I only managed to get our cars about halfway. Russell also shredded a tyre in the process. The EDF hut next to the entrance is a bit rough, but gives shelter and we left clothes etc. there during trips. However it is open, so no valuables unless you're well insured. The tunnel entrance itself is a few metres away, sealed with heavy steel doors.

Access is an interesting issue and would seem not to be so regulated as suggested in S-S, which tells you to obtain a key from the Mairies' office in Sainte-Engrâce. However, the office will normally be shut in the summer and the ARSIP people we met said just to let yourselves in and shut the door afterwards. The locks certainly looked pretty knackered and anyone on the trip can explain the method of opening the doors without keys. Beware of the strength of the draught behind the doors, it really needs two people to open or shut them!!

The SC3 entrance was also quite easy to find, just don't leave the track to soon and get onto the rough stuff as we did!. It is about 20 minutes walk from the Tête Sauvage (a wooden "chimney"), on the right approximately. 50m from the track. The actual entrance rift is halfway down the side of a small hillock, overlooking a small dry valley into the main karst bowl. The name is also painted above it in big red letters. The "three small pine trees" mentioned in S-S were 5 pretty stunted ones.


The tackle (see list below) we took proved to be enough, though only just in terms of maillons, krabs and slings. The SC3 was bolted in typical French style, ie. quite minimal at times and with some long hangs off single bolts. Therefore the number of hangers was more than adequate, but a lot of maillons were used to avoid rubs below knots and slings/krabs used for backups & deviations. The rope lengths all proved adequate, but I don't recall there being any more than about 10m spare at the bottom of any one pitch. The 20m sections for the through-trip were occasionally useful and should be carried. All of the climbs encountered had some kind of rope on them already, but most were of dubious vintage. The three climbs between the EDF and Tunnel du Vent are best equipped with ladders for convenience, 30'-40' for the Metro climb and 20' for the other two. All the climbs, with probably the exception of the Metro, would be free-climbable with care, but a line makes life a bit more certain.

The boats taken were excellent and performed well, with only the lightweight one ending up punctured. The club boat hardly looked as if it had been touched after the trip, just a pity it weighs a ton! The only other problem was that there is a lot of old rope & wire in the T.d.V., which caused the pull-back lines to tangle and this took some time to clear. Overall the T.d.V. is a bloody cold place, and really must be crossed as quickly and dryly as possible.

As for the remaining equipment, the brew gear in the Salle d'Aragonite was OK, except that we only just had enough gas. The club first-aid kit was also left in the Salle d'Aragonite, but thankfully wasn't required. In a similar vein, the logging in/out books weren't needed to locate people, but thanks to everyone for dutifully filling them in. The books were made from standard waterproof cave surveying paper, spiral-bound with plastic sealed cardboard covers. The spiral held a pencil firmly in place.

In The Cave

As stated before, the S-S information was quite good and so there is no point repeating what it says. However, here are some extra points of interest.

Rigging down SC3 is simple enough if you can rig a major Dales SRT cave and have had experience of French SRT routes before. See Tony W.'s (thanks Tony) rigging topo for details of our route. We had to place a couple of bolts and being able to do so was useful. The sliding down the ropes bit was again no more difficult than a decent Dales SRT trip, everything just being a bit bigger. For carbide users, note that there is no surface water at the entrance and very little in the cave until the foot of the Belfry.

Once in Bassaburuko Inlet progress is obvious enough, but we were a little surprised to end up flat-out in a bedding plane a one point!! The various oxbows to avoid wet bits were generally easy to find, however the water seemed quite low on our trip and so we didn't have to put to much effort into keeping dry. Higher water levels could mean a lot more traversing etc, which could increase the time and effort required significantly. You know when you've arrived in Cosyns Hall as the name is painted in big, white letters on the large boulder you exit behind. We took approximately. 3Hrs from the SC3 entrance to Cosyns Hall.

From Cosyns Hall to the Grand Canyon the route-finding became a little more involved, but still not difficult. Rope was used on the climb & 2 pitches after Cosyns and the following Pierrette Hall was again identified by its name painted in big, white letters on a boulder. The exit is very much opposite the entry point to the hall and is a bit convoluted through calcited boulders. Don't be tempted off left up into the Max Couderc inlet as we were. Monique Hall is next and the drop straight into the pool at the end is just that, though it is possible to perch on a boulder while trying to put off the inevitable. This is a pretty brutal introduction to how cold the water is, especially as it's immediately up to the chest! Susse (an aperitif that tastes like dust according to John Helm's wife Alison) Hall follows soon and is a gloomy place. The "summit arete" is quite an obvious feature comprised of angled blocks, stay on it a long way and try not descend amongst the huge, slippery boulders too early.

The magnificent Grand Canyon starts at the end of the hall and stomping down the huge, square sided passage was a real experience. We managed to avoid nearly all the pools by ledges and only the fourth boulder choke caused us any problems. Basically we made our through following the right hand wall, about 2-3m above the water level. The climb up into the Marmite Gallery was easy to spot, just before things were looking to wet for comfort. The gallery is aptly named, with a continuous succession of big scour pools, some, but not all full of crystal clear water to catch the unwary. The climb up half way along was quite testing and it would be well worth finding the by-pass, something we didn't manage to do. Further along, the climb up just before the Grande Corniche was a bit loose, but the climb down barely noticeable.

The route to the Hidalga Shaft was clear, as was the exit slope and scramble up the side rift was aided by an old section of ladder. The Principe de Viana Gallery (named after a Spanish institute, whose cavers first explored the gallery in '54. These included Felix Ruiz de Arcuate of Ruiz Pitch in the Berger, who was lost in '71 in the nearby Lonnè-Peyret) descended to the final pools before the T.d.V., the last one being out of depth. We traversed past 2/3rds of it on the right-hand wall, then jumped down onto a boulder into waist deep water and waded the rest.

When installing our boats on an earlier trip, we left them at the left-hand branch (coming from the EDF end) of the tunnel, which has a gently sloping sandy beach and plenty of head room. To reach this from the Viana Gallery side don't take the obvious drop into the water, but go a few metres up & right and find a flat out tube over cobbles with a powerful draught. This quickly leads to the beach. Coming from the beach, it's a branch off to the right with a small climb up into the tube. On the other side of the tunnel we had an hour break & brew in the pleasantly draught free Salle d'Aragonite before continuing. Cosyns Hall to the Salle d'Aragonite was approximately. 4Hrs.

As we'd already been to the T.d.V. via the EDF, we knew the route on out reasonably well. The first section through Navarre Hall is probably the most complicated as you have to work your way through a lot of boulders, ending at the first climb on the way out. This is actually up the side of a huge, 10m thick slab that's fallen from the roof. However this section, along with the rest of the way in or out was well marked with various cairns, tape, reflective markers etc, so if you get lost then to be honest you're not being careful enough. That's not to try and say it's dead easy, just that there are enough markers and the S-S description is good enough for a competent party to follow.

We did find a compass useful on one occasion to help orientate a section of survey. The slope in Lèpineux Hall needs care as it is very steep and rather loose in places, we don't want another epitaph next to Loubens at the foot of it. Just below the hall is the second climb on the way out, down through boulders that are also a little loose. The next chambers are easily crossed, Elizabeth Casteret, Loubens, before reaching the 10m climb up at the end of The Metro. S-S suggests that this can be climbed, but a ladder seemed a far better option to us. Staying high in the next hall, Queffelec (designer of the later, electric winches used in the Lèpineux Shaft) means an upper gallery can be taken into Adelie Hall, instead of lower & probably flood-prone lower route. We did go that way once by mistake however!

A bit of a belly-dance along a small ledge around a pool with a low roof leads into Chevalier Hall, which has numerous paths across it. The one we found easiest was to follow was along the right-hand wall (out). The end of the chamber is close to the Salle Verna and there are two ways to it, down through boulders at the very end of the chamber and into the river, or a climb up to the right (out) over boulder piles. The former is the most direct, but could be somewhat too exciting in wet conditions and then the other, dry way would be best. A lot of people must go that way as it is well worn. After that it's not far to the huge, black void of the Verna, which to explore is a whole trip in itself, and the sombre EDF Tunnel. Pray that the doors are shut, else the strong draught quickly chills you to the bone. The T.d.V. - EDF section took us 3Hrs, therefore 11Hrs in total and we emerged to warm, balmy evening.

Overall an absolutely fantastic trip which included all the best elements of sporting caving. Definitely the most enjoyable caving I've ever done, made all the better by all who was there and especially by Rowly & John's company on the through trip. Thanks to everyone.

Permit Address:


Comitè Departemental de Spèlèologie des Pyr. Atlantiques

5, Allèe du Grand Tour

F-6400 Pau France

Guide Book & Maps:

Spèlèo-Sportive a La Pierre Saint-Martin. M. Douat, J.-F. Pernette & S. Puisais. Édisud.

SC3 & EDF - IGN Cartes de Randonnèes, 1:50,000. Pyrènèes Carte No. 3, Bèarn

SC3 - IGN TOP 25 Series, 1:25,000. 1547OT, Ossau.

EDF - IGN Serie Bleue, 1:25,000. 1447 Nord, Larrau.

IGN Serie Bleue, 1:25,000. 1547 Ouest was not used, but it should show the SC3 area and therefore would be useful.

Tackle List:


Entrance Pitches- 70m

Puits de la Nuit- 65m

R 5- 10m

R 5- 10m

Bryce Canyon- 90m

The Belfry- 90m

The Belfry- 70m

Liberty Bell- 70m

4 x Through-trip handlines- 4 x 20m

50 x Twisted Plate Hangers & 7mm Long Steel Maillons (CPC)

Approximately. 15 x Karabiners, various

Approximately. 15 x 1m, 25mm Tape Slings

10 x Tackle (Berger) Bags (CPC)

1 x Heavyweight Inflatable Boat + Paddles, Pump & Carrying Frame (CPC)

1 x Lightweight Inflatable Boat + Paddles & Pump

4 x 60m, 5mm Polypropylene Pull-Back Lines

1 x Bolting Kit

2 x Epi Gas Stoves + 2 x 250 & 1 x 500 Gas Canisters

2 x Mess Tin Sets

1 x Comprehensive First-Aid Kit (CPC)

2 x Logging In/Out Books


1. All rope (except for some short CPC 10mm Edelrid lengths) was 10mm Beal. The lengths used were as in Spèlèo-Sportive a La Pierre Saint-Martin + approximately. 10%, after shrinking.

2. The numbers of Karabiners and Tape slings used are approximate only as they were provided by party members, and some were employed after the initial rigging.

Changes Afoot

Recently the entrance series of Swildons Hole has undergone significant changes. In fact there have been quite a few changes within the cave since the famous 1968 Great Flood, which scoured out the Water Rift floor deposits to divert the stream - and cavers - past the Forty Foot Pitch.

This article describing changes which I have observed in Swildons Hole since 1973 is set against my own reminiscences.

The "Old Forty" is still there, of course, high and dry, and cavers negotiate it occasionally for its own sake. The waterfall had been a serious obstacle, and various attempts to deflect the water culminated in the installation of a length of 10" diameter cast-iron pipe at the head.

After the Forty was abandoned, the pipe somehow migrated a short way back up-cave, to lodge discreetly in a narrow rift in the Water Chamber wall. Until the late '80s. when the legendarily-indefatigable Pete and Alison Moody, the Wessex Cave Club's specialists in body-size tubes and evil digs, decided they wanted a bit of the pipe for a strong-box. Well why not? Puzzling the weege parties somewhat, Pete Hann (WCC) and I helped Pete and Alison haul the pipe from the cave. Another club member cut it to length for them - and I had the off-cut for the smokebox of my model steam-wagon!

In late 1973, a hopeful novice and the two guitarists for whom he drummed, from the Dorset Caving Group (now you know who to blame), emerged from a dry introductory trip in Flagpole Rift, a mass-movement cave on Portland, only just in time for last orders. Even then we had to stand in the beer-off doorway, as we were still in muddy caving grots. Years later Yours Truly and co. returned to the rift to connect it to neighbouring caves, but a few days after that first evening trip, ventured down Swildons Hole Cavern, on a DCG trip to Mendip.

My mentors were a varied group who muttered magical incantations like "Barnes Loop", "Old Forty" and "Butcombe". only one of which, I was later to learn, is an ale... isn't it? Leader Mike O'Connor having disappeared for some time during lunch (in the Hunters), I was informed he'd gone to borrow a ladder "from the Wessex Hut", which quite naturally I took to be a gear-store in a lock-up garage or farmer's shed.

We reached Sump One uneventfully. in caving terms, if you can so lightly dismiss your first serious caving trip. Down one of these here "Elektron Ladders" too: not bad, only eighteen months after a Post Office apprenticeship being indecently curtailed partly over a little disagreement with telephonepoles. Poles are high and exposed. Oh yes, I'd heard of "Elektron" (a brand of aluminium alloy) ladders, as I used to be a bookworm who had read various caving books years before I actually started caving. Meanwhile our friends on this daytrip were apparently picking primroses in somewhere called "Eastwater".

In those days, we had a choice of ways down Swildons. Immediately inside the manhole entrance, an 8-foot overhang dropped into a small chamber, then a further wet cascade into the Showerbath Chamber. Alternatively, you could slide under boulders at the head of the overhang, descend a wet rift into Showerbath Chamber, or squeeze over the rift into narrow ZigZag passage to the top of Jacob's Ladder. Descend the Ladder Ramp into the Short, or pass the top of it into the Long, Dry Ways. These unite again in the Old Grotto, which carries a stream from an inlet in the lower Long Dry Way, before rejoining the streamway at the Water Chamber.

Following the Wet Way from the Showerbath Chamber, we encountered a hands-and-knees crawl to the head of the 12ft Well waterfall, by-passed by gingerly crawling to its left and descending a gully in the wall. Then one is flushed through the aptly-named Lavatory Pan (nature has a great sense of humour), the going eases, and we enter the Water Chamber.

The Water Chamber held a huge central column of varied fill, supporting a massive block against the roof. The Chamber outlet is the Water Rift - once horizontal and very wet to the Forty-Foot pitch, now a descending rift to the wet Eight-Foot Climb onto the floor of the Forty aven.

Please bear with me, gentle reader, if I can supply only the vaguest dates, but they are not too important. Some time in the late '70s, the crawl to the Well went. The stream had cleared out a gravel-filled T-section canyon, entered by a tricky climbable cascade, leading to a narrow fissure which squirts water and caver out of the wall at the base of the Well.

Sometime in the '80s, the debris column in the Water Chamber collapsed, leaving the block perched precariously across the stream trench, where it elicits sidelong glances from the caver, who tarries not in passing below

Debris from these changes started accumulating on the Old Forty floor, added to by WCC digging spoil from Rolling Thunder, an inlet into the aven at floor level. The 8-foot climb became more like 6-foot: though it seems only a rough estimate. Much farther downstream, the Double Pots, a brace of drops into circular pools, have become a lot shallower, although whether or not from gravel from near the cave entrance is debatable.

Back to the entrance series. Butcombe Chamber was found a lofty rift chamber off The Oxbows, and quite at odds with the adjoining crawls. Binny's Link was opened, a short crawl linking the chamber between the two entrance drops to the top of Jacob's Ladder. Thus, a dry route to the Water Chamber meant I could wear dry grots when adopting Eric Hensler's wartime dig in the lower corner of the Chamber. (Another crawl, Kenney's Dig, joins Jacob's Ladder to the Wet Way just above the Well.)

So, from the Water Chamber, one could exit the cave by an impressive variety of routes within yards of each other. Indeed, I have known people spend three hours in the cave without going past the Twenty-Foot Pitch, just by exploring all the Dry Ways, Oxbows, etc. (Indeed several years ago a CPC group supporting Alan Weight as guest speaker at the Wessex Dinner, appointed Nigel our "Alpine Guide" for just such a trip because we believed that the 20 was far too vertiginous a drop for us to attempt - Ed)

Come the '90s, the cave went into overdrive. Local diggers dug open aquatic Baptism Crawl, from the bottom of the Showerbath waterfall to the base of Jacobs Ladder. This split the stream, half now entering the Short Now-Rather-Wet Way. Rather worryingly, it created a hole immediately under the climb, obscured in wet conditions, and hungrily waiting for an unsuspecting visitor to slip off the cascade.

The boulder floor of the Overhang chamber, i.e. Showerbath Chamber roof sank, and turned the overhang from an awkward climb into a dangerous drop into a deep hole. Good thing the by-pass rift and Zig-Zag are there...

Then the deep hole disappeared. The latest changes have:

filled that pit,

blocked the Zig-Zag with a dropped boulder,

opened the stream notch, creating an easy ramp down into the Overhang Chamber,

dried the Showerbath climb, in normal conditions.

left the by-pass rift open, but curiously has made its entrance more accessible. (I'm suspicious about that change: gravity works downwards, not sideways, even on Mendip.)

wedged a rock in the Well fissure, making the fissure more awkward. Will the waterfall come back?

Who says caves change imperceptibly? The cave's vadose canyons contained deep gravel deposits, so one might claim rejuvenation effects. This fails to hold water, though, as between each gravel-floored stretch of passage are bedrock sills which act as controlling weirs.

The entrance series drops through several limestone beds separated by shale or mudstone, and their joints and bedding planes are all heavily eroded. The first 20 or 30 feet depth of the cave is almost a stack of blocks, dipping at perhaps 20*.

Baptism Crawl dig probably had little or no effect on erosion, but it sent a decent flow down the Short Dry Way.

Have the burrowings of Homo Speleogensis var. facere been a contributory causal factor in so modifying the streamway environs within the present timeframe? If so, would-be diggers - including me - ought to consider our actions a little more carefully before attacking streamways. However, I think the present changes in Swildons are natural. The two digs are through old gravel chokes. The two Dry Ways are only just fossil, and swallow more of the surface stream than they did 10 years ago. (Could this be linked to pumping from the water supply borehole? - Ed) The Long one is an earlier entrance passage, ending up-cave in boulder chokes under the valley. The Wet Way (main streamway) had not yet fully captured the stream from the Short Dry Way, water entering from the choke which was excavated to form Baptism Crawl.

Many cavers familiar with Swildons Hole Cavern believe that the entrance is now fairly unstable, due eventually if not to collapse entirely into a boulder-filled shakehole, then for the entrance chambers to become one, steep, rather loose boulder chamber. Watch this space, really

Finally, as I promised Mrs. Main when I was confused recently by their own admittedly out-dated request sign on the Manor Farm barn, I pass on the message:

Please pay at the house opposite the gate into the fields leading to the cave. The sign still says pay at Manor Farm, but this changed after the collecting-box had been stolen.

Footnote: "Barne's Loop" is a richly-decorated oxbow in Swildons Hole. "Primroses": Primrose Path passage, ending at the extremely tight squeeze (never passable to me) onto Primrose Pot pitch head, in Eastwater Cavern. The names are rather ironical. Primrose Path is typical Eastwater: an awkward, gloomy thrutch.

Nigel Graham

Elsewhere on Mendip

If you decide to visit Longwood Valley and its caves (Longwood-August, Rhino Rift), GB Cavern or Charterhouse Cave: the thieves are about again. Five cars were broken into on the 17-18th February weekend, by oiks who smash cars open, grab anything they fancy and flee. On that Sunday afternoon, one of four cars there had had its rear windscreen shattered and the parcel-shelf damaged. The owners were still in GB.

The other cars, including mine, were untouched. We had left my car empty, parcel shelf removed and the glove-box open.

There wag also a suspicious character in the car-park of one of the Mendip club-huts late one night the same weekend. When surprised by lights being switched on, he drove away.

Charterhouse Cave: I was a leader for several years, but relinquished this as I can no longer visit Mendip regularly. Wessex leaders currently are Mark Helmore and Vern Freeman.

Mendip Rescue Organisation Lectures: The MRO runs a short series of caving first-aid lectures each year, to which all cavers are invited. Recently I attended that given by Dr. Andy Watson, on Exposure and Hypothermia.

Formerly of the Royal Navy, Dr. Watson had hoped to show us the latest RN training video on the subject, but was thwarted by its having been classified as "Restricted"! Why the symptoms and treatment of hypothermia should be a matter for the Official Secrets Act is a mystery, physiology having not yet discovered international politics.

Andy distributed a 7-page booklet he had prepared from various publications and from his own notes, detailing the mechanism, symptoms and treatment of hypothermia. He asks "Who is at Risk?" Everyone, the notes tell us, going on to outline who may be a greater risk. We learnt that those drugs which exacerbate the condition include cardiac and some tranquillising medications, an important point in cave-rescue medicine. We learnt that the treatment for mild hypothermia differs significantly from that for severe (highly-dangerous) hypothermia, particularly that the latter case requires no unnecessary movement, even to replace wet clothes. Something I for one had never previously known, was the severe dehydration present in advanced hypothermia, and advice was given on rehydration.

Perhaps the one aspect of dealing with a deeply-cold victim, who requires proper medical attention as soon as possible, is that he should be kept in a horizontal position as far as possible. The RNLI inshore-lifeboats place chilled rescuees on the floor of the boat, head sternwards, so the feet are a little higher when the boat starts planing on the fast return trip. Most contentiously, Dr. Watson described how two of the six Lyme Bay canoeing-accident victims may have suffered heart attacks as winching them from the water turned them from the reclining attitude they had had in the sea, to an upright posture. The RAF and Army now helicopter-winch marine rescuees horizontally. This has obvious cave-rescue implications: raising a stretcher horizontally from Alum or Rowten Pot, or even up the Lost John's pitches, may be feasible. How would one deal with rescues in narrower pitches, eg Bull Pot?

At the end of this quite technical, interesting and thought-provoking lecture, held in the Hunters' Lodge functions-room, we trooped into the bar, there to imbibe in the full knowledge that a heavy session would lower our resistance to cooling until well into next day....

The MRO have been organising these lectures, which include practical sessions on, eg resuscitation, for a few years now; an extremely worthwhile activity especially when you reflect that on any caving weekend, any of us could be volunteered into being a rescuer. Do any of the other CROs run such caving-public lectures? I've not heard of any: if not, I don't see why not, even allowing for the geographical spread of the larger caving areas.

Nigel Graham

3D Exercise

If you want to "climb every mountain" and preserve England's green and pleasant land, you can do so from the comfort of your PC. A three dimensional virtual reality walk and climb is being developed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park as part of a £12 million scheme designed to conserve the Dales for future generations.

Spotted by Alan Weight in "PC Week" dated 26/3/96

Biochemistry for Cavers

Think of your body as a finely tuned machine, a bit like a motor car. You drive it to work everyday and it gives you no trouble. Then once or twice a month you decide to drive it up the equivalent of the north face of Everest - by taking it pot-holing. How does your delicate machine manage to cope with such a gear change? What is going on inside the engine to allow you to survive such an ordeal? In this article I hope to take you through some of the processes which our bodies undergo to keep themselves in A1 condition.

The general principle for survival is to keep the cells in your body alive. Obviously some cells such as brain cells and heart muscle cells are more important than others and if it came to the crunch these will be kept going at the expense of other cells (such as toe cells!). Cells don't need much - water, energy, nutrients and oxygen - and it's the body's job to deliver these at the right time in the right quantities. Keeping the balance just right is a process called homeostasis and much of your body's physiology is part of a feedback control circuit designed to do just that.

Consider the needs of your body in ticking-over mode. Water is taken to your cells by the circulatory system through blood vessels, and its the kidney which is responsible for regulating your fluid loss. Energy is stored in muscles, liver and fat tissue, and is also kept at a constant level in your blood by the action of hormones. Nutrients such as amino acids are stored in the liver and muscle. Amino acids can also provide energy but are needed as building blocks. Other nutrients such as salts are carried in the blood - these are regulated by the kidney. Finally oxygen is carried by the red blood cells in the circulatory system - the heart and lungs are involved in moving the required amount of oxygen about.

Now what happens when you increase your physical activity or if the external temperature changes? More energy is required by the muscles to do the work and if its cold, energy is also needed to keep your temperature constant. The way in which the body responds to these changes in conditions and maintains the status quo is essential for survival.

Fuel for thought

All functions of the body require energy as fuel and this is taken in the form of food. Food is eaten as carbohydrates (sugar and starch), fat and protein, and all of these can be broken down to produce an energy currency called ATP which cells use to live. Energy can be moved from organ to organ and cell to cell by being converted into other forms, mainly gluocose and fat. Different parts of the body prefer to use energy in different forms - eg. the brain requires glucose as its sole source of energy. This means that glucose levels in the blood must be maintained to sustain brain function. Muscles can use a wider range of fuels - glucose, fatty acids and ketone bodies (a breakdown product of fat) but they prefer to use glucose for bursts of activity. So it is carbohydrates which are the most important food for a days caving.

Eating a good breakfast can give blood glucose levels as high as 120mg/100ml. This glucose can be stored in the liver and muscle in the form of glycogen. The average 70kg person has stores of glucose and glycogen in muscle and liver of about 1,600kCalories. After a meal (eg. double breakfast with beans at the Fountain) this can be a lot higher. Even at rest, this fuel will get used up - but expenditure of effort will result in it being used up more quickly. The liver responds to the levels of blood glucose dropping by converting its glycogen stores back into glucose.

Whether glucose is stored in or released from the liver depends on the action of two hormones - insulin and glucagon. Insulin tells the liver to store glucose because there is plenty in the blood. Glucagon tells the liver to release glucose because there is insufficient in the blood.

Insulin is only produced when there is plenty of glucose in the blood eg. after a meal, and so once it has done its job to get blood glucose levels down it in effect turns itself off. Insulin also pushes glucose into muscles where it is used up or converted to glycogen.

One potential problem that cavers face results from the fact that generally it isn't customary to take sandwiches down the cave - unless you like them squashed and soggy. So after the huge breakfast, most people eat nothing or take a wee snack with them such as a Mars bar. After you have run down your blood glucose levels you may feel quite hungry but the last thing you should do is to eat very sweet food. The reason for this is that a Mars bar is concentrated glucose. It is readily absorbed into the body and blood glucose levels shoot up over a very short period of time. For this period you will feel quite good as glucose rushes into the muscles. However, high blood glucose leads to insulin being produced which will very rapidly push the glucose into the liver for storage. As the blood glucose levels approach 80 mg/100ml, insulin production will be switched off, but the high amount of insulin already made will be around for longer and will continue to lower the blood glucose levels even further. This means that it is potentially possible for blood glucose levels to drop quite low and you will feel terrible.

So what is the solution? One way round this - if you really must eat - is to take a snack which has more complex carbohydrates such as starch. Some oat bars contain sufficiently low glucose and high starch that the blood glucose will go up slowly. Dried fruit is also good - prunes, raisins and apricots. Insulin levels will not shoot up as rapidly and the control system will be more finely tuned. If you do feel really tired, and your muscles are aching and you have to get up that pitch, then its likely that no amount of energy will help in this situation. Your muscles may well be bound up with lactic acid due to overactivity and this will only disappear with plenty of rest. Down a cave, this is not the most sensible thing to do because in general the sooner you get out the better. This aspect - stamina - can only be built up slowly over many trips, so take a short break and get someone else to help you get out - this is a team sport after all. .

Mobilizing the Fat

But do you have to eat at all down a cave? A caving trip will easily use up all your glucose and glycogen stores, so if you don't eat what does the body do to stop you collapsing in a heap? Well other fuel sources are still available. The average person has about 24,000kCalories stored in protein and 135,000kCalories stored in fat. During an energetic trip you may use up as much as 6,000kCalories a day, but you still have enough energy reserves to keep you caving for a month! The 1,600kCalories of carbohydrate reserves are used up quickly though - easily within a day trip - so to keep yourself going, the body must start mobilizing the fat reserves. Its essential to keep blood glucose levels above 50mg/100 ml to keep the brain going, so some of the fat reserves must be turned into glucose. The brain and muscles also start using fat as the main fuel. As soon as blood sugar levels drop, fat stored in adipose tissue is mobilized as triacylglycerols, and the liver starts converting energy into glucose - a process called gluconeogenesis. This keeps the blood glucose levels at an acceptable level. In a caving situation, there may be a short lag whilst these metabolic pathways are activated. During this time, you may feel tired and hungry, but it will only be temporary. Once your fat is mobilized, your muscles will be able to use this energy source directly as fuel. Incidentally, many migratory birds can use their fat deposits to fly at 40 km per hour for 60 hours non-stop. Fat is a very efficient fuel and produces 6 times the amount of energy as glycogen/glucose. So the fat caver will have much more reserves than a thin one.

Survival Tactics

In addition to slow release carbohydrates, its an excellent idea to take some easily used fuel such as glucose (Mars Bars) down a cave just in case you get stuck there for a long period of time. Its not at all important that your blood glucose levels may drop temporarily in this type of situation because chances are you'll be sitting around waiting to be rescued and its not so critical as if you were trying to get up a pitch which requires huge amounts of energy. It is essential to keep your metabolism firing mainly because you need to keep warm. The amount of energy you lose due to heat loss has to be made up from your overall fuel reserves so your body will try and minimise heat loss by shutting down peripheral blood supply - your hands and feet may feel cold. This is not a problem though it may be quite painful. Keeping still and curled up to reduce surface area is the best thing to do. Walking about trying to get your hands and feet warmed up will only increase your heat loss and reduce your energy levels. Layers of body fat will keep you warm - so the fat caver wins again at this stage! To come to the thin cavers rescue, one of the reasons some people have more body fat than others is that they aren't very good at burning off excess energy in the form of heat. Thin people are thin because they can do this, so chances are they can feel as warm under cold conditions as long as they have plenty of energy to burn.


1. Eat a good breakfast containing complex carbohydrates such as starch - porridge, bread, beans etc.

2. Take some oat bars or dried fruit for a day trip

3. Keep a supply of chocolate for emergencies


Integration of Metabolism, Chapter 23 of Biochemistry by Lubert Stryer, (1981) (published by W H Freeman and Company, San Francisco)

Metabolic Adaption to Prolonged Physical Exercise by H Howald and JR Poortmans (eds) (1975) published by Birkhauser Verlag, Basel.

Elizabeth M Ellis

This article is reproduced with permission and is copyright. It was first published in the Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Volume 3 Number 1.

The oldest Europeans?

Discoveries that change the understanding of human evolution are a rare occurrence but for a team of Spanish archaeologists they are becoming an everyday event. The team is credited with discovering the oldest human remains in Europe at a site in Atapuerca, northern Spain in July 1994.

The findings at Atapuerca, a range of limestone hills near Burgos have changed the current views on the colonisation of Europe. In July 1994 a set of human teeth, together with 50 more fragments of fossilised bone belonging to four individuals, and some primitive stone tools were dug up. Geomagnetic dating techniques subsequently established that the bones were at least 780,000 year old, almost 300,000 years older than Boxgrove Man who had, until then, been the oldest European. The leader of the team has suggested that everything we knew about evolution in Europe a year and a half ago now has to be reassessed. He believes that the remains could be the missing link between the early African species and Heidelberg Man who lived in Europe about 400,000 years ago.

In the Sima de los Huesos or Bone Cave, reached by crawling along a narrow tunnel, bone fragments of 35 individuals have been discovered. Although at a mere 300,000 years old they are much younger they represent the best example of a group of the human population at the time. The extremely dry conditions in the cave means that the finds also include delicate parts of the human skeleton that usually do not survive the effects of weather and time. Atapuerca is undoubtedly one of the richest archaeological sites in Europe and excavation has been restricted to one month each year with the rest of the year spent processing all the new data revealed each year.

Extracted from the Times Higher dated 23 February 1996

Neanderthal cave in France

The "research news" section of "Science" (26 January 1996, pg449) has a brief article reporting that an evidently man made low wall made from broken formations in a cave at Bruniquel, southern France, has been tentatively dated to 47,000 years ago, which would put it back in the days of the Neanderthals, quite a bit older than the oldest paleolithic cave paintings (Grotte Chauver, 31,000 years). That Neanderthals, previously thought to have little mastery of fire, could have been so far into the dark zone of the cave is remarkable -- assuming, of course, that the dating (said to be only a lower limit to the age) holds up to further scrutiny.

Cure for claustrophobia?

I came across an article in the November 20, 1995 issue of the periodical ADVANCE (Vol 8 No 23). It was written by Judith Bagdasarian, the director of medical imaging at Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, California.

It deals with a study of patients that experience claustrophobia while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). All patients are screened before MRI's and a full 10% are found to be claustrophobic. These patients are medicated and generally pose no problem. It is the latent or unidentified claustrophobic patient that poses the problem. It is when they are "slowly stuffed into that tube" and required to lie there for an extended period of time that they begin exhibiting signs of discomfort. Soon the discomfort breaches the threshold of anxiety and the procedure has to be terminated well before completion. This causes multiple complications including loss time and revenue for the hospital not to mention the discomfort and time loss to the patient that must undergo the procedure again. This study found that unidentified claustrophobia affects 7% of their patients to the point of premature termination of the procedure.

Someone from their staff reported that they saw a segment of NBC's "Dateline" on December 16, 1994 in which Dr. Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist and psychiatrist, stated, "The smell of cucumber seems to reduce claustrophobia." Because of this comment the medical imaging department of Verdugo Hill Hospital purchased research and development materials consisting of an $8.00 bottle of concentrated cucumber oil and a $1.00 package of cotton squares.

In a study of 30 patients who complained of claustrophobia midway through their MRI examination a cotton square containing a drop of cucumber oil was placed under the nose of each patient. In all cases, the examinations were resumed and carried to completion. That is a 100% success rate! They do not expect their 100% success rate to continue, but for the modest investment and great returns, they will continue using the procedure.

A follow up to the article sometime later gave sources for the cucumber oil. It is a company that makes natural cosmetics called Garden Botanika.

Everyone has been on a cave trip where someone has expressed varying degrees of discomfort when doing a tight crawl. It would be very interesting to see how this works on different cases from the slightly uncomfortable to the truly panicked.

David W. Kesner

This first appeared in Cavers Digest 5272 and is reproduced here with permission. - A later Cavers Digest stated that Garden Botanika only sell synthetic cucumber oil and suggested that an aroma-therapy supplier might be able to supply "real" cucumber oil!

Cave Statistics

The following lists are based upon those prepared by Eric Madelaine and held on the world wide web.

Longest Caves in the World

1 Mammoth Cave System United States 563km

2 Optimisticeskaja CIS 183km

3 Holloch Switzerland 165km

4 Jewel Cave United States 161km

5 Lechuguilla Cave United States 142km

6 Sieben-Hengste-hohgant Switzerland 135km

7 Fisher Ridge Cave United States 126km

8 Wind Cave United States 121km

9 Ozernaja Ukraine 111km

10 Gua Air Jernih Sarawak 109km

16 Easegill System UK 71km

29 Ogof Ffynon Ddu UK 50km

40 Ogof Draenen UK *42Km

66 Agen Allwed UK 33km

95 Ogof y Daren Cilau UK 26km

* The length of Ogof Draenen is as given by Bill Gascoine

Deepest Caves in the World

1 Rèseau Jean Bernard France -1602m

2 Lamprechtsofen-Vogelschacht Austria -1532m

3 Gouffre Mirolda/Lucien Boucelier France -1520m

4 Shakta Vjacheslav Pantjukhina Georgia -1508m

5 Sistema Huautla Mexico -1475m

6 Sistema del Trave France -1441m

7 Boj-Bulok Uzbekistan -1415m

8 Laminako Ateak Spain -1408m

9 Lukina Jama/Manual 2 Croatia -1393m

10 Sistema Cheve Mexico -1386m

13 Pierre Saint Martin France -1342m

15 Gouffre Berger France -1278m

203 Rèseau de la Dent de Crolles France -668m

685 Ogof Ffynon Ddu UK -308m

On 25 March 1996 the database contained information on 1154 caves from 73 countries. It included 727 caves over 300m deep and 587 caves over 5 kilometres long. The combined total length of all the caves in the database is over 11,000 kilometres.

Ric Halliwell

Caving Politics

I had the dubious honour of chairing the CNCC AGM on 9 March at much personal sacrifice, foregoing the Lancaster/Easegill Meet, and to cap it all I also attended the NCA AGM in Stafford on 16 March. The masochistic element of a caver clearly shows through, this being my ninth AGM to Chair.

Both events ran true to form with the usual agendas and issues being raised. However of note from the CNCC Meeting is the replacement of the Leck Fell Access Secretary Chris (Dani) Danilewicz of the NPC by Jim Sloane of LUG. Rightly or wrongly, this particular post had attracted more than its fair share of criticism over the years about the way in which it was administered. Whilst I always have great difficulty in coming to terms with being too critical of anyone acting as an unpaid volunteer in such situations, the matter resolved itself when not just one but two volunteers (one from ORCA and one from LUG) came forward offering to do the job. The ballot amongst the representative clubs was pretty close with Jim taking on the job and Dani receiving our thanks and gratitude for doing it for a lot of years.

The NCA AGM took place under its new constitution which should have meant a few hundred delegates turning up as the new structure allowed individual club representation and there are 340 or so on the list. Surprise, surprise a few hundred did not turn up and even more surprising were the same old faces around, albeit wearing different hats. I had my CPC hat on albeit sat behind a CNCC sign.

The new structure effectively emasculates the Regional Councils and other constituent bodies by removing the power of veto at the AGM, giving the CNCC 1 vote along with 300+ other clubs to approve or disapprove issues which are then put to a postal ballot of all members after the meeting. The intention is to extend NCA membership to individuals in the near future.

Whilst CNCC has clearly gone along with these changes, it has been with a growing sense of unease at what is being perpetrated. Whilst the move towards a more democratic structure is quite laudable, two issues loom in my mind about the reality of the situation. The first is financial and begs the question of just how much is this new structure going to cost; it is not too difficult to see a monstrous self perpetuating bureaucracy arising with more paid officials needed just to service it and a spiralling increase in cost. Against the backdrop of a rapidly diminishing Sports Council Grant to prop it up, there is only one person going to pay - Joe Soap caver, thee and me! The situation requires careful monitoring but unfortunately leads to falling into the trap of getting involved!

One positive outcome of the meeting was the announcement that the Radon Working Party had completed its work and produced a final draft (No 10) of its recommendations - illuminating stuff. The National Council agreed to deliberate how and what, etc of the report to produce bearing in mind its sensitive nature.

All in all a rather full month March, I continue to serve.

Russell Myers


As most people will be aware the access arrangements for Casterton Fell are currently being renegotiated by CNCC. Part of the agreement will be the cessation of usage of the route to Upper Easegill across the fell. In order to assist with the negotiations all cavers are requested to use the route via Lancaster and Link Pot and then up the beck to reach Upper Easegill.

The latest CNCC Newsletter reports that the driver and passenger of a white Metro A517 MCK have been seen acting very suspiciously around cavers' cars in Kingsdale. The idea of collecting the numbers of suspicious cars was suggested so that in case of theft these could be passed to the police. The police have indicated that the most vulnerable places for cavers are Alum Pot Lane, Kingsdale and Chapel-le-Dale.

In addition to the rigging guide CNCC has now produced a number of rigging cards. Encased in plastic these measure 115 by 160mms and contain information on access, the route, minimum equipment required, rope lengths and any special warnings. Caves covered so far include Rowten Pot, Juniper Gulf, Jingling Pot, Alum Pot, Bull Pot, Sell Gill Holes and Notts Pot. The cards are priced at £1 each.

Floyd Collins

For those of you who thought that you had heard everything comes the news that the Floyd Collins story has been made into a musical. The story of how Floyd was trapped underground and eventually died back in 1925 has already been told in the book "Trapped" and has also been dramatised in the film "Ace in the Hole".

One reviewer has pointed out that whilst all the story happens around him Floyd has to lie motionless, he left no memorable quotations, no death bed speeches, was a bachelor with no known female acquaintances and therefore the musical should be a disaster. However the same reviewer continues that the music and lyrics forma touching and gripping retelling of the ghastly events. The music played by an eight-piece countrified orchestra is a mixture of Bluegrass and new age melodies and apparently particularly memorable is the ballad "Between a rock and a hard place" The ending where Floyd's entrance into eternity is compared with an explorer's first tentative steps into eternity is a soaring moment at once both hopeful and sad. The wooden plank set, backlit tableaux, and period perfect costumes evoke a photojournalistic nightmare. It is suggested that with a little more work the play could become a minor masterpiece of the American theatre.

Based on reviews appearing on the Cavers' Digest

Jottings from the Committee


It was noted that the Health and Safety Executive had acknowledged our comments on the proposed Adventure Activities Regulations. A member from the insurance world had written enquiring about the Club's position regarding insurance for GG and it was agreed that he should be asked to vet our current policies. A replacement radiator was to be fitted in Riverside. The piezo ignitors on the Ivy gasfires needed replacing. The new lifeline rope had been cut and would be put into service shortly. New "O-rings" had been purchased for the SRT hangers to replaced those which had rotted. It was agreed that Mr and Mrs G Hanley (of Stump Cross Caverns) should be invited to the next Club Dinner as guests of the Club in recognition of their assistance with several digging projects.


Information on the new rules applying to DYO Leaders had been passed to all current leaders. It was noted that leadership will no longer be limited to a leader's own Club. It was agreed that two visiting Rumanian Cavers and two of their caving hosts from Hull University could use the Cottage for one week free of charge. Agreed that the Red Rose could borrow the big GG tent for their 50th Anniversary Dinner subject to guarantees that any damage would be repaired. The piezo ignitors in Ivy Cottage had been replaced. It was announced that Ken Chappel had agreed to accept the Committee's nomination for Junior Vice-President at the next AGM.


Agreed that the SRT Tacklemaster purchase 200m of new SRT rope before the GG Meet. As a result of an on-site inspection it was agreed that a new sink and base unit should be installed in Ivy Cottage. Terry Shipley was asked to quote for the work. The faulty drill battery pack has been replaced. It was reported that Jim Hanwell of the Wessex Cave Club and NHASA has agreed to be guest of honour at the 1996 Annual Dinner. Although a reply had been received regarding the GG Insurance it was agreed that this required further consideration by the Gaping Gill Sub-Committee. In line with the new NCA Constitution Russell Myers was formally empowered to vote on behalf of the Club at the NCA AGM.

Vale - Peter Atkinson

Members will be saddened to hear of the death of Peter Atkinson, who was a member of the club from 1984 to 1992. Peter joined the CPC whilst in the 6th form at Ermysted's Grammar School in Skipton, where he was a long standing school friend of mine. As well as GG and caving meets, he also came off on several Scottish winter meets. On leaving Ermysted's he moved to the University of East Anglia in Norwich for a number of years, and largely dropped his caving interest although he continued to be very active in cross country running. More recently he had returned back north to Leeds.

Last September our paths crossed again at a scientific meeting in Berlin, where we spent several evenings reminiscing about caving, Wednesday evening digging trips in Dow Cave, prospecting in Wharfedale, travelling up to Crianlarich on a Thursday evening with Roy and Ken who insisted on a pub stop in darkest Erskine (north Glasgow)... Tragically a few weeks after this, I learnt he had died after suddenly passing into a diabetic coma. He was 30.

Patrick Warren

About Members

We welcome the following as new members of the Club:

Sean Howe, Donald Kelly, Roger Stevens.

The following have been accepted as Probationary Members and will probably be attending Meets during the next few months:

Jan Little, Phillip Thomas, Heather Wilkinson.

Changes of address:

Dave Kaye, Andrew Knight, Bernard Montague-Grainger, Daren Ongley, Simon Rowling.


To Andrew Knight on the award of his Doctrate for a thesis on Analytical Electrogenerated Chemiluminescence.

To Tony (Bones) Bennett and Penny on the birth of their daughter