Number 43, July 1996
Club Rules & Constitution, Membership List and related matters are incorporated in the Craven Pothole Club Handbook published biannually.
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).
As a consequence of several factors this record has been edited by Steve Pickersgill and Barbara Jenkins. When one considers all the work they normally undertake as Cottage Warden and Membership Secretary I am grateful for their offer to take on yet another task on behalf of the club, albeit on a temporary basis.
I was reading some First World War poetry with a class the other day and came across one of the sad lines of English poetry about a young soldier who had died:
"And no-one spoke of him again". (Siegfried Sassoon)
I then thought of the two members and friend we have lost recently and know, from previous experience, that this will not be the fate of Bill Spencer, Fred Austin and Margaret Bell.
Although I am a relative "newcomer" to the club I came to know Bill quite well after several Gaping Gill meets, especially 1993 when a few of us stayed up after tackling weekend. There are many incidents to remember and somehow GG will not be the same without him.
I did not know Fred well but have some amusing memories again of GG and the last time I saw him at the Foresters on Sunday of the 1995 AGM where he looked well.
Margaret Bell, although not a member, has been long associated with the club and will be sadly missed.
So everyone who knew these and others, please speak of them again, tell other people about them and maybe that will be their "life after death."
Barbara J Jenkins
When I agreed to take on editing this copy of the Record I did not fully appreciate the time it would take. We all owe Ric a great deal for the quality of the publication that he produces. In this issue we have 48 pages of the activities of Club members, ladder and lifelining techniques and Club news items. Recent members of the Club would be well advised to read Patrick's article on ladders and lifelining very carefully, after all we all entrust our lives to the person "holding the rope" when we climb a ladder. The Club now has an Internet site, courtesy of Andrew Brooks, we may even see the Club library with a modern catalogue one day. Let's all hope that the weather at Gaping Gill is as kind this year as it was last, and that we have another significant find to report in the next Record.
Next copy date: 30 September.
Present: Barbara Jenkins(Leader), Steve Pickersgill, Edward Whitaker, Tom Thompson, Chris & Jan Little, Roger Stevens, John Christie, Tony & Michael Whitehouse.
Sorry to be late - 5 months late - with this report. I was leading the meet by default as Fritz claimed he was being OFSTEDed - or was it LUSTEDed? ( I said I'd get my own back after the Little Hull comment ).
A horrible morning; snow - wet snow, hail - wet hail, rain - wet rain, wind - wet wind ( not from Steve for once ). Steve Pick and I went to Clapham hoping for no-one to turn up but there were Edward "I want to rig" Whitaker and Tom Thompson. As we knew we had at least 2 novice SRT people in Chris and Jan - Probationer - Little we asked if we could transfer to Sell ( Club Pot ) Gill. Nobody fancied the walk and wait at Bar Pot and anyway it would give Edward and the Littles more practice so all agreed.
Back at the cottage and a reluctant group set off up the Sellgill track - snow shoot. It was full. An hour later we reached the entrance to the "dry" route to find it full of snow and pouring with melt water.
While Edward was rigging, supervised by Steve, we made two snow persons which Tom made into a very rude snowman and well endowed snowwoman. For this we were rewarded with freezing hands. And the snow, hail, rain and wind continued to snow, hail, rain and wind wetly.
Tom helped Chris, I helped Jan. By the time it was my turn all movements and changeovers were done by sight as I couldn't feel my hands. The first pitch was wet. The second was very wet as I found when I stopped to see how near I was to the floor and swung under the waterfall.
The third pitch was wetter and Steve had taken over the rigging of two deviations and the bolt four feet off the floor! In true, unselfish, leaderlike fashion I decided to retreat (to save the queue on the ropes of course). Of the rest Steve and Edward reached the main chamber - very noisy and windy - well, it would be with all that water AND Steve there. Steve detackled the last pitch while the rest were retreating. Meanwhile, on the surface BJ had met John Christie, Roger Stevens, Tony and Michael Whitehouse arriving to derig. They detackled the two remaining pitches, all deciding it was far too wet and cold for any more heroics.
By now, I was in Ingleton and the cafe.
Thanks to all who endured the weather and to Fritz who didn't.
Juniper Gulf(23 March 96)
Present: Lee Cave (G), Chris Humphris, Barbara Jenkins, Karen Lane, Steve Pickersgill, Simon Rowling, Roger Stevens, Phil Thomas (P), Edward Whitaker and Simon Ashby (Leader).
A mild March morning made for a pleasant walk up from the cottage, the last few remnants of winter snow thawing in the shakeholes. Or was it summer snow forming from the winter stuff? If so, is it helped to form by the black light emitted from caves, which would perhaps explain why it's normally only found in entrances ?
Anyway, the descent progressed smoothly with the rigging done from P-anchors all the way to the bottom. These are generally well placed, the final re-belay appx. 5m down the final pitch giving a very good free-hang. The rope for the final pitch was only just long enough to reach the big ledge (about a foot clear of the floor unloaded !) and so the sump wasn't visited, but I seem to recall that it's not exactly the most thrilling of places anyway. I must remember that Elliot's rigging is tighter than a tight thing on a tight day. The de-riggers duly arrived to do derigging type things, leaving the rest of us to climb out and fall asleep on the surface before trotting back to the cottage. By this time Steady Eddie the Coffin Man was half-way back to Skipton having been heard earlier muttering about social functions or the like. The glorious rear guard re-appeared at the cottage a few hours later after a job well done and thus light refreshments (lemonade, ginger beer etc. - honest) were partaken of in celebration. Any villainous reports of the leader worrying like an old hen at the slight lateness of the rear guard are completely false, but thanks to Mr Wood for putting up with me.
Overall a good trip and thanks to everyone who came, particularly to Barb & Steve for washing the ropes on Sunday morning and Rowley for helping to pack the tackle. However, I would like to remind him that I will be packing my own tackle on July 20th.
South Wales Meet (5-8 April 1996)
In attendance: R. Myers, Ben Myers, John Allonby, Steve Pickersgill, Barbara Jenkins, Ian and Kath Peretti, Pat and Ric Halliwell, Karen Lane, Alan and Kim Davey, Patrick and Jo Warren, Pete Barnes and Julie, Tony and Michael Whitehouse, Chris and Jan Little, Malc Foyle, Rich Websell(WCC), Claire Sussman and Dave, Mike Bertenshaw.
Thanks to whoever put me up to lead this meet, it has been 13 years since I last caved in S. Wales which could have been problematical as I realised that my detailed memory of the caves had faded! However, with a cast of thousands and reasonable weather, it wasn't too difficult to surreptitiously send groups off to do their own thing.
I can't remember actually leading anything as such, except the very last day when everyone had gone apart from me, t'Cliviger Kid and our lad. I offered to show them the delights of the High Level Route through OFD1 and promptly got lost trying to find the start of it! A kindly Welshman soon put me right and we galloped through the big stuff even finding Starlight Chamber after a 20 year gap since I was last there.
Comments from our lad, about the nice pretty Ballet Dancer's Legs formation (if that's the right name), that they looked better on the poster in the pub probably reflected the fact that he was in the pub at the time, rather than the diminutive nature of the formations. They are rather exquisite but then, so are many of the other formations in the system.
On another day, Ric suggested a look at some rather exquisite helictites up Swamp Creek and so they were except for the thrutchy strenuous route our lad took in leading us there. Still, he got his come uppance when he missed the turn on the way back, on his own, and was left pondering his fate peering down the 60 foot drop where Swamp Creek joins the Main Streamway.
It was a good day that one, Top Entrance to the bottom entrance with a look at the exquisite Columns (it was an open day) on the way. The Cast joined on the tail of a South Wales Cast as we all went "oo and ahh" at those exquisite formations. It was something of a downer to hear one learned sage comment that these exquisite formations were probably little over 100 years old having formed from the lime deposits of the kilns above! They still look good though.
The through trip reminded me of the quality of the caves in these parts and even t' Cliviger Kid gave the impression of being impressed (if that's possible) commenting that since he was nearer his pension he thought it time to make the trip, having never been before and that t'caves were a'reet!
The Cast having dispersed to lead their own thing meant that different caves etc. were done on different days and the group who did the OFD through trip before ours started to cause some merriment when those of us left on the surface began to realise there was a possibility of them being overdue, it being a long time since they departed the living world. Needless to say, the hoped for entertainment did not materialise when it was noted that their ETA on the destination board was another hour later than we thought! Damn!
The leadership permutations led a small group of us to have a look at Ogof Draenen, the latest thing in S. Wales. As an inspiration to diggers everywhere I would recommend a trip. The number of digging trips I have been coerced on with "one last boulder to move and we are into caverns measureless to man" are numerous but this place is where it happened (and still is); the folded "railway tunnel" (baht train) is there, an amazing place.
Our lad brought it all down to earth after a few hours stumbling about when he described it as a "French import" having taken a dislike to big French caves when we ran him ragged round the PSM. I must admit that the angular, blocky nature of the floor in the big stuff did begin to wear thin after a few hours, you realise that you spend most of the time looking at your feet to avoid tripping up. Still, an amazing place which t' Cliviger Kid was tempted to go back to try and bag a few more klicks of passage - tasty stuff after the disappointments up here.
The other good trip with the Cast was into Dan-yr-Ogof, still an exquisite jewel of a cave despite the problems of acquiring the new leadership arrangements which speak volumes for the place as at one point there were more leaders than followers (except me acting as both). A pleasant trip to the Rising via the Green Canal (with enough flotation aids to raise the Titanic) was enjoyed by most with odd permutations from small groups leading their own thing through the lower part of the system by which we made our return.
Some had not had enough with the pleasant perambulation and made off into OFD returning by way of the delights of Cwm Dwr. I reflected on advancing years (and a few more days caving to come) and elected to make tea; a sensible option; I must be getting old.
All in all, an excellent few days caving in good company and an enthusiasm re-kindled on my part. Thanks to Pat for organising the permits and other arrangements; if all meets can be led like this, I'll do another.
Being a recent recruit to the club and eager to make a good impression, I was keen to make a success of my first and probably last, trip as meet leader; unfortunately I didn't, the main problem being I had never done the cave before and was relying on other people's memories and a photocopied description.
The first obstacle of "Where exactly is the cave?" was solved by Len Cook who, with Alex Bottomley and Jeff Cowling had a pleasant day's walk over Fountains Fell and over the saddle between Plover Hill and Penyghent. A far more civilised way to spend a Sunday. They lead us to the entrance.
By the time people had been laddered down the first pitch and we had managed to find the right way on, somebody's light had failed and several people had had enough so about half the party went out.
The rest of us carried on with a crawl through freezing cold neck deep water of the aptly named wet crawl. A wrong turn was rewarded with some excellent decorations. We finally reached Caton Hall where a group on SRT gear were attempting to bottom the pitch on very dodgy belays. From this point we returned.
The roll call: Emma Porter, John Christie, Sean Howe, Oggy, Andrew Brooks, Jon Woodhead, Collette Karley, Peter Hamilton, Elean?
Present: David Kaye, Dennis Webb, Jan Hoggarth, Dave Hoggarth, Ted Wood, Simon Parker, Emma Faid, Reg Parker, Bob Jenkins, Sarah Jenkins, Jenny Jenkins, Alex Bottomley, Michael Bottomley, Ian Peretti, Alan Davey, Frank Johnston-Banks, Jeff Cowling, Jac Cowling, Patrick Warren, Jo Warren, Sue Allonby, John Allonby, Barbara Jenkins, Steve Pickersgill, Simon Ashby, Richard Pinkney, Rob Scott, Chris Little, Jan Little, A. Sarria, Russell Myers, Ben Myers, Mike Scratcher, Robert Scratcher, Tom Thompson, Ian and Len Cook (Leader). Believe Howard Beck and daughter present but not on my list. Apologies for any misspellings or omissions.
I had prepared a sheet of card to record those present, bearing in mind that Goyden's Labyrinth is a very good place for losing people. My wife said, "you are an optimist", looking at the size of the card: I had to agree! Thanks to members support it finished up full!
We were lucky with the weather and, with two fine caves as an attraction, some forty folk turned up. Some doubts were expressed about the ability of Goyden Pot to accommodate such numbers. They need not have worried as everyone clambered and splashed their way downstream after leaving the traditional candle shining in the "Window". A grand sight it was too, seeing the great river passage well populated with a succession of lights descending the falls. There was a nice bit of water, to everyone's surprise, as a reminder that there is sufficient catchment of water below the reservoirs to put some water in the beck.
My intention was to warn any newcomers that the Labyrinth was something of an anti-climax after the main stream passage, but most of us finished heading that way anyway. I reckon, if you ask anyone, "do you know the way round the Labyrinth", you have asked a daft question and, if they say "yes", you have got a daft answer! I doubt whether I have ever followed the same route twice and I suspect that a wide variety of routes were followed that day. However, you do not get lost in there; you soon find a way through. This way proved by everyone being out in good time to continue the day's play in Manchester Hole. A much quieter place than Goyden Pot but none the less impressive with a large stream passage and massive Mud Hall. The attraction, for those that had seen it all before, was"Diver's Chamber" beyond the sump and entered by the recently dug "Swinton By-pass". I met one of the pioneers of this epic dig on leaving Goyden and he expressed great hopes of making a dry link between the two caves. If you are addicted to mud a very fine variety awaits you trying to thwart you on the climb up and then encouraging a slide down the other side to entertain those already at the bottom! The new chamber duly admired, we retreated to daylight. Happily the sun was still shining as we changed and dispersed to the campsite or homewards. Of those present, I think Jeff Cowling deserves a medal as he came on the meet although booked for a sixteen mile charity walk the following day! To everyone else - I hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did and thank you for supporting the meet. It would not have been much fun without you!
The meet began at 5.00pm on Friday when Steve Pickersgill, Barbara J Jenkins and "Yew Cogar" were the first to arrive on the campsite at Studfold Farm. The first shock was that people are expected to book emplacements now; very continental. However the very accommodating farmer and his wife soon had us sorted with a square in the middle of the field "which only floods after torrential rain" as all the outside places were booked.
Having told the farmer that between 8 and 12 tents were expected the next surprise was the number of people who arrived. This was a very pleasant surprise needless to say.
By the time we'd visited the pub there were also Howard and Tamlyn Beck, Russell, Pauline and Ben Myers, Rob Scott, John, Sue, Scamp and Jimmy Allonby, Bob, Sarah and Jenny Jenkins, Simon Ashby, Dave and Jan Hoggarth, Mike, Jan, Bryony, Robert and Heather Scratcher with guest Stephanie, Patrick, Jo and "Tigger" Warren and Richard Pinkney, a guest.
During the very cold night Ian Peretti and Alan Davey slept in their car to avoid waking up the site at 1.00am and the next morning saw the early arrival of Ted Wood, Chris and Jan Little with guest Araceli Sarria from Spain. That's 31 people so far and it's only Saturday morning.
The plan was for Len Cook to lead Goyden and Manchester Holes on Saturday. Some of the campers gathered at the car park at the railway tunnel above the Nidd on the waterboard road to be greeted by many one day cavers. It's enough for me to say that 36 people had a fun trip; Len is writing the "official" report for the day.
Soon after we returned to the campsite, squalor had expanded; what a contrast between our ghetto in the middle to the beautifully set out tents, caravans and awnings of the "civvies" on the edge. But it was only "dirty caving gear" squalor.
Meanwhile Lawrence Elton, Judy Clark, Tom Thompson (who had been caving with us) and Barry Hunkin had arrived in the afternoon to go for walks to various places. Other activities taking place were cycling, tea-shop visiting and drinking. No dry ginger to go with the whisky but ginger biscuits dunked worked as well, if not better!
Karen Lane arrived very well dressed for a CPC camp; "been to a wedding but left after 4th pint as every one else seemed to be losing interest."
More drinking in the pub at Middlesmoor.
Sunday morning was relatively warm and sunny after another cold night. New Goyden this time with a slightly depleted group of 19. "Tommy Tom Tom" and Steve were first in to tackle with Araceli, Chris, Laurence, Barry, BJ, Sarah, Rob, Alan, Simon and Richard first group down the pitches into a fairly wet streamway. The upstream duck only had 2 inches of airspace. Thanks to the riggers for doing an efficient job.
Russell, Ben, Mike, Robert, Karen and Patrick soon followed. Jan to top of pitch only due to a wrenched shoulder doing "bananary" things in Goyden the day before.
Most of the cave was visited including some wonderfully gloopy muddy bits. Sump after sump seemed to arrive as we wandered round many passages that I had not explored before.
Thanks to the detacklers and we were all out in sunshine.
Bob and Jenny had been for a walk up the ridge to the dam, tea-shop and back, Hoggy and Jan had a good bike ride to Masham via tea-rooms and a pub.
Tony, Michael, Emily and Merry Whitehouse arrived. So 39 present some time although "only" 38 camped as Ted came for a day. I hope the person who asked Ric why we had meets was there!
Tigger was staked out much to Jo's disgust! He retaliated and now Hoggy's "scrap" bike needs counselling for "me(n)tal" stress.
More drinking in the pub.
Monday - the last day - and it rained. Was it to be the usual wet tent bank holiday? It brightened and the "official" walk set off for the drive to the dam and Great and Little Whernside and Dead Man's Hill and the teas-shop. A really depleted group of 5 - Steve, Patrick, Rob, Simon and BJ. Perhaps the walk was too HARD for the rest! Actually it was quite soft - underfoot. Five different routes up Great Whernside and we converged on the summit within 5 minutes of each other for a superb 360o view as far as Emley Moor in the south, Cross Fell - with snow - to the north, the Lakeland Fells in the west and the Kilburn White Horse to the east.
A good ridge walk followed until that bog called Little Whernside. I may not have reached the summit like the others due to a slight navigational error after stopping for a call of nature among the peat hags but I am ticking it off - I do not intend doing this hill again whatever Rob Scott says.
Another bog trot to Dead Man's Hill which was much better going. Having heard and seen many golden plovers we were lucky enough to find a nest with 4 eggs. Later Patrick spotted an adder basking in the sun and we also found a meadow pipit's nest, also with 4 eggs. Other birds seen during the day were Canada geese, goosander, skylark, swifts, swallows, grouse and the usual crows, jackdaws and rooks.
Down to a welcome cup of tea and cake at the tea-shop.
During the day another nature walk took place up the Nidd valley attended by a largish group and a few went caving but had left before we returned.
The tents had dried and all were away by 6.30 leaving a very clean campsite. Thanks to all who came whether you stayed for one day or the full time. It were a good do.
Whoever leads the next Nidderdale meet it may be as well to book the campsite if using Studfold.
Barbara J Jenkins
Barbondale (19 May 1996) ( or; The Mud-man cometh!)
Present: J Webb (leader), R Halliwell, A Brooks, M Baslington, Karen Lane, F Johnston-Banks(PM), and P Halliwell in-supportum hibernatium!
The prior days mega-meet had snatched all the warm sunshine, leaving a cold gloomy day in prospect for the few hardy souls who committed themselves to Crystal Cave and Short Gill Cave.
Crystal is a nice, albeit short, trip which after a cheeky "dig-your-way-in" shingle crawl climbs steadily upstream in a fine passage through flowstone-draped chambers to an easy duck. Two 4m climbs up serrated rock waterspouts follow to an impassable bedding,presumably bringing water from Dog Hole. The climbs would be interesting in high water as would the shingle crawl.
So to Short Gill, which I decided would be easier to exit with a ladder in place for the 5m body-sized entrance shaft, and was proved right. The next 3m rift climb can be bypassed at stream level and leads via a low muddy section to a series of active gours. The water level was obviously lower than normal leaving suspended calcite ledges that needed care in traversing.
"Small, tight trench to large stream passage" says the book, but for some reason I shot off down a flat out muddy bedding convinced it was the way on...Fool! Unable to turn round I spent a good ten minutes well and truly stuck trying to reverse uphill in very gooey mud, and would probably still be there if it wasn't for Karen pulling my wellies for all she was worth and getting kicked in the ribs as a thank you, sorry Karen!
After a nip down the "large" stream passage to the sump all exited to slightly better weather, but now joined by a strange creature.....the Abominable Mud-man of Barbondale!.........I wonder why Pat wouldn't give me a cuddle?
The committee agreed to organise a cottage working weekend at the February meeting, Ted Wood was to organise the incentive to attend (a barrel of Dent beer). The excuses came in thick and fast: " We've booked a hut in Scotland" - "It's my parents wedding anniversary" - "We'll be living in G______y (a foreign country) by then": being some that spring to mind.
The Cottage Warden and Membership Secretary arrived on the evening of the 30 May to find Terry Shipley had removed the kitchen sink from Ivy Cottage. During some investigation of the kitchen (which Barbara had threatened to redecorate during the weekend) the plaster above and below the kettle work surface, and below the gas rings, "fell off" due to damp and the attention of a pick hammer. We retired at twenty to closing time to quench our thirsts and then returned to continue the destruction until 1am.
On Friday we had planned to visit the eagle nest in the Lake District, to see the new chick, but the previous night's destruction altered our plans. A trip to Settle to acquire the necessary materials saw Terry and Steve replace the kitchen and bathroom sink drains on Friday, while Barbara sugar soaped the kitchen ceiling and the remaining walls. The kitchen sink was also replaced. The kitchen was still unusable, so the Riverside kitchen and dining room became the communal area. Friday night saw the arrival of Karen Lane, Nigel "I'll drive 300 miles to avoid working on my own house" Graham, Tony, Michael and Emily-Jane Whitehouse, Dave Hoggarth and Harpic and Ted "I don't feel well and I've got a temperature" Wood.
On Saturday morning another trip to Settle got the materials to rebuild the Riverside chimney. Reg Parker arrived for the day and Rob "I'll pay for everything" Scott. Chris Humphris had a day off serving beer, the Ivy windows and Riverside gable wall were painted, the Riverside Chimney rebuilt, Ivy kitchen partly redecorated and the bathroom repainted. Mal Goodwin arrived during the afternoon and Rob noticed a message that Ted had gone home, so he "forfeited" his workplace to fetch the beer from Dent. During the day much work was also done on the GG equipment by Alec and Michael Bottomley and Geoff Cowling. The pile of debris from the car park was also removed by Chris Armstrong. A communal feast was prepared by Barbara and the barrel duly drunk by all. "What a bloody sociable evening", said Harpic.
Sunday saw more windows and walls painted, more concrete mixed, walls rendered and general tiding up done. But there was still lots to be done, especially after Barbara and Karen decided to redecorate the "green" toilet. Removing the old decoration resulted in the inevitable plaster falling off the wall, closely followed by the cistern.
The following weekend saw Mal Goodwin painting on Friday afternoon and Steve and Barbara foregoing the luxury of digging in Sell Gill to complete more painting, rendering walls, refitting toilet cistern, etc. throughout the weekend. Attempts to get other members to help raised the usual excuses of "I only want to come here to go caving, walking, etc. If I wanted to paint a house I'd have stayed at home"!!
Remember, the cottages are a club asset, they are a useful place to stay, but they do need maintenance. The few volunteers who help to keep your cottages in good order ensure that we can continue to have cheap accommodation to fulfil our weekend ambitions, BUT WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE SAME FEW PEOPLE WHO DO THE WORK?
Working weekends can be fun and sociable occasions, so why not turn up for the next one?
Meet report writers
Several people have suggested that meet report writers use the names of people present in the text rather than initials as a) it is more personal b) it is easier to read and c) it sounds better!
The Bookings for Riverside are well down on last year. Several members have expressed concern about the complexity of the booking system. It has now been simplified by the committee. You can now make bookings up to six months in advance of the first day of your visit; a minimum deposit of £6.00 per day is still to be paid within 10 days of making your booking. All bookings are on a first come - first served basis.
I will only take bookings either in person when I am at the cottages or on the phone between 1800 and 2100 at other times.
Camping for the meet will be at Brotherswater. This will give opportunities to do the Fairfield Horseshoe, Hellvelyn, High Street etc. depending on the weather. Further details from the leader.
Anyone wishing to travel by bus to and from the AGM to the cottage this year please book a place through Barbara asap. CPC on the Internet
Andrew Brooks has set up a WWW site for the club. If anyone would like their e-mail address including on it could you let Andrew know.
As an extra facility for members at this years winch meet Steve and Barbara will attempt to run a message service. Anyone wishing to contact GG can either leave a message on the answerphone at 01845 597300 at any time or phone 0802 411695 between 1900 and 2100. We will try (no promises) to be available between these times from tackling weekend until the end of the meet. Refreshment tokens will be gratefully received from members using this "service".
Geoff Workman's dig near Stump Cross is progressing well but would progress even faster if Geoff could get more help. Anyone willing to help Geoff should contact him direct.
Northern Cave Diving News
There has been a lot of underwater digging going on lately. Much of it promises to pay off in the future but for this summary I'll just stick to the more significant events.
In Dentdale's Tub Hole Phil Howson has explored the Fourth Pool Sump for about 150m to a gravelly area beyond a collapse zone. These passages are fairly shallow and work continues. Over the hill in Kingsdale several divers have been working at the end of the Marble Steps Branch in Keld Head. Some intimidating squeezes have been passed but work has been hampered recently by bad visibility. Also in Kingsdale, Martin Holroyd has been active in Dale Barn's downstream sump. Using the new Illusion Pot entrance has helped (divers no longer need to suffer the horrors of Anathema Crawl!) and the current limit is 540m from base at very shallow depth.
In Joint Hole (Chapel-le-Dale) several of us have opened up a large rift passage in Sump 2 heading in the direction of Ingleborough. Unfortunately this has yet to be followed due to a horrendous pile of tottering boulders above the entry point. Round the hill at GG Ian Lloyd of the BPC did a significant dive on the Whit winch meet in Deep Well. He followed the other direction from previous divers and laid 160m of line south eastwards from the floor in the well. The depth varies between 13m and 19m and the end is thought to lie close to Shallow Well.
In Ribblesdale, Jason Mallinson has made progress at Alum Pot. He has passed the terminal boulder blockage in the downstream sump (400m from base) to reach an ascending shaft. This was not explored due to not having enough air to decompress but we eagerly await further news. Finally the great Malham die test is now almost complete. CPC members have helped in this work in various ways. The Lycopodium spore nets have yet to be recovered from Malham Cove Rising (could this be the first use of the technique in an underwater system?) and no doubt full details of the results will be forwarded to the club by the YSS when processing is complete.
Cave Diving - Germany
Cave diving in Germany has long been dominated by Jochen Hasenmayer, whose past activities are well summarised in Martin Farr's book "The Darkness Beckons" on pages 193 to 195 in the 1991 edition. Martin Farr records that Hasenmayer became permanently paralysed in 1989 owing to a faulty depth gauge used during decompression following a dive in the Wolfgangsee.
I'm sure most people would have thought that such an accident would be the end of a cave diving "career" second to none - he really was the Reinhold Messner of the cave diving world. An article earlier this year in "Der Spiegel", however, which I've summarised below, suggests otherwise Trube Wasser (literally Cloudy Water)
Hasenmayer has built a single seater U-boat (the Speleonaut) which is 2.5m in length, equipped with 9 electric motors, 6 search lights and 7 independent breathing systems. With his U-boat he intends to explore further the underwater caverns of the Blautopf system in southern Germany. The Spiegel records that in 1985, Hasenmayer dived (solo of course!) in the Blautopf (a large spring which is the source of the River Blau) and forced his way down through a dangerous opening into a rust-red, iron-oxide-coated, water filled tunnel, which he followed to emerge after 1250m into an enormous air-filled cavern, the Morika-Dom.
Hasenmayer is reported to believe that the Blautopf is the entrance to a system of karst caves occupying an area of 30 square kilometres and extending as far as the Alps, and in addition that it would give "access to the largest usable hot water field of the earth". Later this year, it is reported, he intends to use his U-boat to explore the further reaches of the system beyond the Morika-Dom.
Perhaps I should conclude by mentioning that the Spiegel is not 100% reliable - I'm sure that Hasenmayer can't really believe in the possibility of a "hot water field" and maybe he just hopes to raise finance this way! In any event if he does go ahead as planned, it should be very interesting to hear the results of his explorations
(Based upon Der Spiegel 10/1966 Pages 215 and 216)
PSM August 1995
As with most large trips, whatever they may entail, it usually only needs one or two people to oversee the organisation and to get the ball rolling for a successful event. This was definitely the case with the PSM.
When Simon first said to me about the PSM in August 1994 I had never even heard of it let alone know where it was!! Anyway, Simon said he was applying for a permit on behalf of the CPC for summer 1995 and I agreed to help organise the expedition. We knew that time would be short but having organised similar expeditions between us we knew that it would not be a problem. Once we had official confirmation of the dates Ric Halliwell, who had all the relevant books and journals, was able to get some information together for publication in the Record.
Simon and I had a meeting every week for February and March then every 3-4 weeks for April and May. We knew that once the more detailed planning had been done the rest would just fall into place. Initially uptake of members to join the expedition was slow and we needed 15+ people for the through trip of the PSM to be a success both financially and logistically. In the end there were 23 paid up members of the expedition, but unfortunately only 21 members actually made it out to France.
The rope was duly purchased as well as a dinghy which was paid for by the CPC. On our travels we also came across another dinghy at a bargain price which we decided the expedition could purchase. Simon brought, soaked and cut up the rope ready for distribution to various people for the trip to France.
All members of the expedition were kept updated and background information was also passed onto them as well as relevant sections of the Speleo Sportive a La PSM Guide, kindly translated by Andy Elliot.
All in all the expedition was a great success and everyone seemed to achieve their objectives, thanks to all those who could make it.
23 Expedition members £1150.00
Equipment sold £235.00
Sundry equipment (slings etc.)
+ replacement lost equipment £65.05
Rebate to expedition members £600.00
Totals £1385.00 £1385.00
As you can see the PSM expedition was very cheap to run with overall full expedition members only contributing £25.00 towards the running costs.
Flossie goes caving
I joined the expedition to France at the last minute (literally) and did not really have a lot of choice in the matter. I managed to get a lift down to France with the two Simons who managed to squeeze me in (not squeeze in me!!). We had a good trip down and managed to entertain a few motorists on the M1 and N29. We stayed over night on a farm track, to be awakened by the baker at 6.00 am. We headed off from here to the Col de PSM, about 2 hours drive away. On the way up to the Col we passed through the cloud to eventually pop out above it, wow what an amazing sight, just like the view from an aeroplane. The mountain peaks were sticking out above the white fluffy cloud to give an amazing view. At the Col was a clear sunny day but on descending the hill towards St. Engrace we passed back through the cloud and then back down into the valley to the camp site. The two Simons were feeling energetic so they went up to the EDF tunnel entrance while I stayed at the campsite and made the most of the sunshine. They found the walk quite easy and straight forward but said it would not be fun in the heat of the day with a tackle sack.
On Monday I was not feeling up to much but a group went up to the PSM Col to find the SC3 entrance. (this next part is from an account by Rowley). Walking up from the ski station the track was easy going and very obvious!! They came across Tete Savage where the BPC booking in and out sheet were evident and so a good luck message was left to them from the CPC. The SC3 search party apparently made hard work of finding SC3 as the red way markers were not always evident. For future reference the easiest way to find the entrance is to follow the new track from Tete Savage for about 20-25 minutes. The three trees talked about in the guide book are evident on your right as you go round a slight left hand bend. From here they said there was a view across the plateau to Pic D'Ossieu.
After speaking to the BPC and finding that no key was actually required for the EDF tunnel and that it was almost a free for all if you knew how to get in, we decided to recce the EDF tunnel end early (permission granted from the BPC lot who did not mind provided we did not hinder them). I was on this first trip into the cave and it was basically a bottom rigging trip with all the necessary gear being taken in. It was absolutely amazing, the passages were massive and the Verna chamber was certainly BIG. I could not even see the far side of the chamber with my light. We all trekked through the cave following the description, but really the route was so well marked that it was hard to go wrong. Around most of the large chambers such as Chevalier, Queffelec and Loubens were paths along both sides which was an excellent sight to see the chambers being lit up in this way. Everyone was taking it in turns to carry the tackle and I contributed to the weight of the dingy, but not significantly.
The Tunnel du Vent certainly lived up to its name and we soon became cold standing in the main part of the tunnel setting up one of the dinghies and the pull back lines. There was already a semi-inflated dinghy here which we were reliably informed had been left by the TSG. (I'm not sure whether they were too lazy to remove it or actually had left it for the BPC lot at their request). On our departure from the cave 5 days later one of our members removed the boat and it is now being enjoyed by his kids!!
I went across the Tunnel du Vent in the smaller of our two dinghies with the two Simons and the club's yellow dinghy. On arriving on the other side it was not quite so windy as the tunnel splits into a `Y' shape and we were on the left hand side of this `Y'. We stashed the yellow boat in a safe place ready for the through trip and found the way on through to Salle Principle de Viona where we met some of the BPC group who were going from the right hand side of the `Y' wading through the water in wet suits with the aid of an inner tube - not to be recommended by the look of it!!
I was to stay here and look after the two dinghies ready for the through trips.
It was a welcome sight to see people on the through trip and they were pleased to see me (in one way or another!!). Some of the fixed wire traverse lines through the Tunnel du Vent had broken and fallen into the water causing our dinghy pull back lines to become tangled. It certainly was not a nice job sorting them out in the middle of the tunnel when wet in a howling gale.
We stopped in the Aragonite chamber close to the Tunnel du Vent where the brew kit had been stashed. There were the two Simons and John Helm. We stopped for about 45 minutes in all which allowed for some hot food and snacks to be consumed ready for the trek out. The trek out was mainly just a long walk as by now between us we were beginning to recognise a lot of the features and where the marked route was likely to go. We arrived out into daylight and the temperature was just beginning to cool down which was nice for the down hill walk back to the car.
The rest of the week was enjoyable but I stayed in camp most of the time looking after things and making some fun for the rest of the camp. Dressing up in peoples caving gear was my speciality. I even managed to spend one night in Simon Ashby's tent which was warmer and more fun than the larger tent which I was sleeping in.
A most enjoyable trip and so nice that I managed to put a smile on a few people's faces!!
Flossie (THE blow up sheep)
Somewhere in South Wales, Easter
After attending and enjoying the Forest of Dean/South Wales meet at Easter 1995, I decided I would like to attend again this year. Leaving early Good Friday morning we arrived too late to join any trips that day. Never mind, Kathy, Kim and I had a pleasant walk around the show caves of Dan-yr-Ogof. Sitting in the sunshine eating an ice cream after a hard day show caving you can watch a video by Sid Perou telling you how caves are formed in limestone country. This shattered my illusion of Welsh Caving Dragons, miners or even dinosaurs; well I do come from down south and it now means I can almost tell the truth to the visitors at GG this year.
Camping at over 1000ft (I think that's 350mts.) can be very cold in Wales so reluctantly we had to go to the pub in the evening to warm up, also plans are laid for the next days activities in these establishments. A number of trips were arranged, and I was down to a choice of two that seemed plausible at my age and experience. One, Dan-yr-Ogof beyond the show cave to the Green Canal, and two a through trip from Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2 to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 (yes it's all Welsh to me too!). Stories of the cave rescue dog soon turned me against Dan-yr-Ogof. As I have said before I am not a hard caver and if I had to be rescued by a dog I would be too embarrassed to come to the club again. I would like to know if it wears a helmet, or where do they stick an Oldham T2 battery.
I had been in both caves before but had never done the through trip, so I decided to make some enquiries on what was involved. Some climbing, swimming, traversing, and Mars bars are needed for this 4 to 5 hour trip I am told. The only exercise I have had since Christmas is getting in and out of the car, so I had another pint and hoped that this would slim me down, make me fit, and transport my forgotten wet suit up before morning. It did not work, but it tasted OK. Back to the tent, warm, happy and tired, up at five for a call of nature. The tent looked pretty with all that frost on it I thought as I stood outside in my bare feet snapping off the icicles.
Next day dawned, beautiful sunshine, cold enough to freeze the whatsits off a brass cave dog, but the icicles had gone. A wet suit was commandeered, I know Alan is my son-in-law but I did not pull rank on him. Kitted up off we went. The entrance is a short up hill walk from the camp-site. I was knackered, the beer gut Alan seemed to have left in the wet suit did not help. In to the darkness and sit down for a few minutes. I wear Photochromatic glasses and they take a while to adjust to the darkness, it's coincidence that my heart slows down at the same rate. The passages inside OFD2 seem huge and almost from the entrance the pretties start, most are taped off and still look very nice. The Trident and the Judge are worth looking at, a hole in the roof just drips formations of all sorts. Stand up caving most of the way, climbing up the walls in some areas but not much crawling. Half hour or so in you start climbing down to the active streamway. This is obtained by a climb called the Maypole. I am told that most of this cave was discovered by Divers from OFD 1 and they used a Maypole to climb this pitch. I managed to fall down some of it but was guided on to a ledge by Steve Pick's boot. From this safe retreat I was shown the next step. This consisted of standing on a block of limestone about six inches wide wedged between the walls of the cave, leaning forward and stretching about six foot, to a hand hold in front of you at knee level. At this crazy angle you have to move your left foot onto a tiny foot hold about four foot in front of this and swing round to the right. It seemed I was about a hundred foot above the floor and in true Peretti pot hole tradition, I froze to the spot. An offer was made to rope me between Alan and Steve, I gratefully accepted. Thus secured I stood up looked at the hand hold leaned forward, grabbed it, jumped at the foot hold, swung round to the right, and climbed the easy six foot to the ground, held up only by the tight rope round my waist. It is was one of those manoeuvres that need to be done in one go you bounce of the left wall and the position of the hand hold pulls you to the right place. I had stopped and thought about it as impossible, rather than just doing it.
Down what was called a minor feeder to the main stream, it seemed miles. One of those interesting stream passages with no roof, that you can see. Just wide enough to go down sideways, water lapping round your feet, brilliant stuff. Down a six foot water fall into the main stream, bugger it chest high, then I stood up. Whist walking down the stream passage lot of pools on the floor are encountered. I soon got used to these, most only came up to my knees. Ignoring my mother's warnings of the nasty things that would happen, I got my feet wet. I romped down the passage stamping in the puddles, slashing through the pools. Then splat, water over my head, hat floating above me. "That will teach you," said Alan, it was only about 4 foot wide but must have been over 6 foot deep. Thinking I won't need a wash tonight I sloped off still happy.
We walk down one of the best active cave passages I have ever seen, it looks like a marble shower, I shouted, perhaps that why they call it Marble Showers came the reply. At some point in this passage some orange formations were encountered, BJ assessed that we were now under the South Wales Club Cottage. This was possibly the result of the countless diced carrots thrown up outside the cottage door. It was more entertaining than the scientific explanation.
You can only follow the stream so far in OFD2, I am told it sumps before the connection to OFD1. At the start of the connection the stream is left, then you are in crawling, climbing, cave country called The Connection. This is up and over boulders, or down and under in puddles, hands and knees type passage. Then at the end of a rift, my biggest fear, a 30 ft climb up the wall, the Divers' Pitch. After watching other people climb it, all over 6ft tall, or built like match sticks (I didn't see BJ at this point) I asked for a rope. Thus attached I ran up an easy climb with great big hand and foot holds, leaving the rope slack. Why don't I believe these people when they say it's easy? Next the dreaded Letterbox. I had been told this was an opening 15ft off the floor, that you slid out backwards and fell either six foot or fifteen depending on luck. I watched the person in front slither backward down a sloping passage and disappear smiling downwards. At this point I thought I might go out the way I came in, I then remembered the Maypole. I backed gingerly down the passage egged on by Alan with a "now I scare the sh#t out of father-in-law look" on his face. My feet go out in to space, "keep coming," shouts Steve Pick from below, now my thighs are out in space. I now think I am only stuck to the floor by some sort of cave superglue. "Keep coming and reach down with your right hand and grab the rope," I hear. My hand plaits into the rope, I gripped it so tight both my hand and the rope went white. "Now slide over to the right," I am told. At this point gravity took over and the superglue joint broke. I am now standing on a huge ledge with Steve. "That was good fun can I do it again." I missed the first word of his reply but the second was off. Again the thought of doing something was far worst than the experience. I am grateful to Steve for putting the rope in, that's an experience I am not ready for yet.
After a few more under and overs we are back in the streamway. The marks on the wall show how much water was held back by the mud and boulder choke that the SWCC undermined without realising it. Fortunately the choke gave up the ghost midweek while the cave was empty. Again the steam passage is magnificent, a band of Calcite about 3 inches wide runs along the centre of a floor of black limestone, the A40 I am told. It is also present in the roof; in places the passage curves and the calcite looks like a saw cut from floor to roof. After some time the stream is left and you are walking in a large dry passage. Just before the exit is one last treat, a dip (sic - Is this a Freudian typo?) in Pluto's pool. At this point BJ got revenge on Alan, submersing herself completely, at the appropriate moment she surfaced and dragged him under. I almost felt sorry for commandeering his wet suit, but not for long. After seven hours underground we emerged back in to daylight, having dropped over 900ft and nearly two miles from the entrance. At this point you think your trip is over, but you have to walk 700ft back up the hill to the camp-site. About 5ft up the hill I emptied my Welly boots, this made it a lot easier for the next 50ft. Then age set in and I watched the birds, looked at the view, made all sorts of excuses for walking slowly, I even saw a Red Kite. I am told they are rare, I am glad Pigeons aren't that big, they could cover your windscreen in one go. At last we arrived at the camp-site, off with the wet gear down with some food. At this point most people feel better, I wish I was one off them.
That evening back at the Pub saw us planning the next day's adventure, a high level trip in OFD 1. I had seen some of this trip before and thought why not, beer seems to cure vertigo. Unfortunately when I tried to stand up to go to the bar my legs would not let me, Alan went for me, it cost me a pint! I had forgotten that 7 hours exercise in three months would leave most muscles aching, they were now telling me so. The icicles were back early in the morning, I used two for walking sticks. I did not make the trip the following day, my legs would not let me. Some people mocked the way I was walking but I forgive them, one did let me stand on his head last year.
Again as I approach 50 I have done something I would not have thought possible at 40. Again club members have helped me with time, advice, food, drink and a strong arm. I know this trip should normally take between 3 and 4 hours, I only slowed you down because I enjoyed the company. I have always felt you are never too old to learn, on this trip there were two valuable lessons. (1) if you don't exercise for three months you can't walk after this trip for three days. (2) If someone eats BJ's Bran cake in a cave don't walk behind them three hours later. Many thanks to all on this trip particularly Steve, Alan and BJ (for the loan of your body), my friends in the South think I am old enough to know better, I'm glad I don't.
Diary of a Provisional
It all started at G.G. - I wonder how many have said that through the years - I went (there is not really a good word for it ) down in the chair last summer for the first time dressed only in a T shirt & shorts to "have a look". I stayed at least two hours and got very dirty indeed following some lads down to Sand Chamber (or so they told me!) and back. I got some very funny looks later on top of Ingleborough that day. I had the summit cairn all to myself!
I received a reply to my membership enquiry later on and (you fools you!) got duly elected to the grand position of probationary member. Four meets you must do I was told, before we will even consider letting you into the inner sanctum. OK so far but what now? What do I wear?, what is it like - i.e. how wet and cold do you get ?, where do I get those light things you put on your head? and even worse questions came to mind. I know, I thought. - I'll ask a nice helpful person from the club. Maybe they will know.
The rest is history (see Jan's article in April's Record - it's good to see I have a positive effect on people despite my age!) My wife gave my a very belated present of some very strange clothes (her words!) from Inglesport and I was ready for the big time. I arranged with Jan to come up to the Kingsdale meet - but I felt as sick as a very big dog that weekend and could not turn up - Disappointment was not the word for it. Sorry Jan - and to think that you all waited for me too!
However, there was bound to be a next time and it came soon enough in the shape of the Easegill meet in County Pot. I was taken under the very capable wing of Pat and down I went. A what? A bowline? What's that? The nice thing about being in a club is the number of folk only too eager to show you the latest theories in knot research to attach lifelines and the like. Well I met some other new members who had started because of G.G. Last year as well. I was not alone here! On and on we went - that's all I remember really as I spent most of my time gazing at the beautifully decorated ceiling and tripping up and then watching my feet and then banging my head. Complicated stuff, this caving!
"Have you had enough?" Pat said somewhere around Eureka Junction. I remember thinking Hell no! I'm enjoying this as I tripped up for the hundredth time... and on we went. I climbed up the ladder (an interesting experience for me - caving ladders) to Easter Grotto and was absolutely stunned. This is one of those places I thought, where everyone should visit at least once in their lives. I dare say there are better places, but that sight will stay in my memory for a long time.
On the return, we strangely started to go uphill. "Surely there's some mistake here" I thought. I am used to going downhill to go home when out walking. I was duly corrected and told to get on with it! My memory fails me at this point but I remember something about staggering across the moor to Bullpot Farm and waking up in my car! Honest officer I hadn't touched a drop all day! Ric said rather nonchalantly in his report "a somewhat tiring day". He has got to be kidding - I was absolutely down on my knees knackered! What a way to find out that I must really be the grade A couch potato my wife said I had become after all !
All set for trip no. 2. I saw in the program that there was to be a meet at Tatham Wife Hole. I phoned up the leader and asked him if it would be OK for a simple beginner like me. His reply was not what I expected.
I was told it was a wonderful cave to do (it probably still is!) - but he mentioned a little word spelt d-u-c-k-s, just in passing of course. What the heck are they, I wondered. Two days of thinking that maybe this was not really a good idea - I might actually get WET for heavens sakes!!!.......and I bottled out, giving Neville my apologies and deciding to tackle something without d-u-c-k-s called Magnetometer.
This is different from Easegill I thought as we came to 1st Well Pitch. This is definitely different from Easegill I thought as we started Wet Crawl. Where are the large passages I saw in County Pot? I almost bottled out over a crawl over a small rift in the floor at one stage but all thanks must go to the patience of our leader Hugh. I was really impressed in the concern given by everyone to all those of lesser ability (i.e. me) during all the meets that I have attended. Tired through chasing up side passages to find the way, the canal section of Wet Crawl appeared and the less brave amongst us decided enough was enough and we came out.
No. 3 was a day's pass to Nidderdale and Goyden & Manchester Hole. This was more like it, I thought, and then witnessed a very young person(s) go flashing past. This was more like Easegill I thought. Maybe this caving lark wasn't that difficult after all. Coming out of Manchester Hole thinking thoughts like "Is that all?" or "Have we finished already?" meant I must have enjoyed it. Thanks Len.
No. 4 and only just in time before my passes run out (my wife is expecting a baby in July!). Into Barbondale I went. Where was everyone? Well I was there at 10.00 if no one else was! Maybe I got the place wrong and so I continued into Dentdale. Nope, no one there either and so I headed back to where I had come from Ah there they all are. Well they had a good excuse, caving the previous day while I was being shown the delights of cot blankets in Mothercare!
The air was full of tales about the delights of the Kingsdale meet the previous day . Why didn't I do that one, I thought - until something called S.R.T. was mentioned.........
Crystal Pot was ... well ... interesting. I got wet. Very wet. In fact my head almost went underwater. AH that's what they mean by a d-u-c-k! But where was my earlier lack of bottle, I mused as I went through the second sump. In fact I really enjoyed it. All of you who left it alone - well you really missed something here.
Short Gill on the other hand.... I began to think the others were right after all. Talk about mud and goo and crawling and mud and crawling and mud and crawling..! John managed to get stuck at one stage searching for a new way out of the mess - I can't say I blamed him!
So in four meets I had "matured" from one naive novice who got incredibly tired to a keen but still naive beginner who will have a go at anything now and who only now gets quite tired (as compared to plain knackered) at the end of a trip. Less of a couch potato I hope too. What a shame I have had my passes withdrawn for two months - just as I was starting to enjoy myself. Roll on G.G. in August.
My thanks have really got to go to all those who had the patience to look after me on these trips. I couldn't have done it without your help - honest!. And thanks to Jan for starting me off - I still feel bad about not turning up for Kingsdale!
Russell's Cycle Ride From Land's End to John O'Groats
The ride went very well all told, blessed with good weather on the whole but not that much in the way of tail winds to give us assistance.
It was a step into the unknown, for none of us had ever ridden so far at such an intensity before. We had set a target of 100 miles per day and actually achieved 112 miles per day average.
The first day across Cornwall was probably the hardest and we had to push ourselves hard to achieve the 100 miles from Land's End to just beyond Tavistock in Devon. Whilst the hills are not particularly high there are a lot of them and some are pretty steep. Scotland, by comparison, was pretty reasonable considering the size of the mountains. The roads tend to go round them at reasonable gradients rather than straight up and over a la Cornwall.
There was a sting in the tail on the last day, riding between Tain and John O'Groats. The Braes of Berisdale came as a bit of a shock to the system with an uphill climb of around 1500 feet from sea level. The road was a series of relentless hairpins going up but sheer joy swooping down the other side at 40 mph+.
One abiding memory was arguing the toss with a policewoman who did not want to let us cycle through the Mersey Tunnel. Needless to say, she won and we suffered the ignominy of crossing on the ferry complete with the song!
On the leg from Lancaster to Dumfries I got separated from my two companions, Sugdon was never any good at directions. I found myself alone in Kendal and for the next 70 miles, not knowing whether they were in front of behind. Near Dumfries my daughter, Sarah, turned up in the back-up car to announce that they were half an hour behind. A wrong turn and a troublesome puncture caused the delay. It was a salutary lesson, Shap Fell is a lonely and desolate place when you are on your own.
Mechanically, my bike performed well with only two punctures to contend with. The other two suffered varying problems, both grinding their bottom brackets to bits (and John his bottom) Sugden's legs began to wear out near the end and on the final night of the ride he revealed a grossly swollen lower left limb. My offer of a remedy based on previous meat inspection experience was declined in favour of removal of an over tight elasticated ankle sock. Morning revealed all to be well (it was probably the thought of the knife!)
The final ride into John O'Groats was magic with a tailwind, downhill, the sun shining and immense views out over the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys and beyond. With a bit more speed and a ramp we would have been able to ride around those too.
The whole venture was immensely enjoyable in good company with Steven Sugden and John Goodhand cycling and my daughter Sarah with her friend Claire supporting us in the back-up car. If I had known how well it was going to turn out I would have been tempted to turn round at John O'Groats and cycle home! Maybe next time.
For those with a statistical bent, I logged the following from my trip computer:
I also calculated that we would need 5000 calories a day to keep us going. Despite eating everything in sight, I managed to lose 2lb! It was just an excuse for an eating binge really.
Some Notes on Ladders and Lifelines on Club meets
SOME YEARS AGO, an article on ladders and lifelines by Arthur Champion appeared in the CPC Record. Following a thought provoking letter in last year's Record (No 38) perhaps it's time for something similar to appear again. Of course you can't learn caving from a book, but background reading helps. Many lessons learnt over the years, often not obvious, can be passed on in this way.
This article is intended to be a guide to the use of ladders and lifelines on the typical CPC Dales meet. It doesn't treat problems of construction, see the Handbook for these, and it doesn't go into the problems in new caves or expeditions.
I've organised the article so that problems are discussed in more or less the same order as one would encounter them on a trip. Each section contains a general discussion, followed by tips and points to think about. I've tried to explain that there is usually a good reason for doing things one way and not another, not just club tradition!
The first thing to do on coming across a pitch is to look for a belay, not for the ladder, but for the lifeline, so that manoeuvres at the pitch head can be safeguarded.
Belay points in typical Dales caves are usually obvious: a natural flake, a boulder further back up the passage, a jammed block in a rift, etc, or, just as commonly, bolts. When inserting a hanger into a bolt, tighten to finger tight, then a further quarter turn with a spanner. P-hangers or eco-hangers are increasingly to be found though. A diligent search will usually reveal something to use as a belay point: an obscure eyehole, for example. Remember though not to get carried away and climb out over the pitch head to find the first belay point.
Once a belay point is found, the basic belay arrangement is set up. Two possibilities are shown in figure 1 and 2. Referring to figure 1, one possibility is to tie the tail end of the lifeline into the belay point using a bowline for example, or use a sling, or wire belay + karabiner, and a figure of eight tied in the end of the rope. If using a wire belay, avoid incorporating the C-links into the system. CPC wire belays are designed to allow karabiners and pear shaped maillons to pass through the eye of the thimble (figure 3). Once the rope is tied off, tie yourself into the rope with enough slack to move around at the top of the pitch for the next stage. This can be done with another figure of eight + karabiner to a belay belt (climbers often use a clove hitch tied into a karabiner attached to a harness/belt). It's also possible, but time consuming, to tie a figure of eight with a large loop, climb inside the loop, and adjust the knot to take in the slack.
The preferred alternative for caving is shown in figure 2. Tie yourself into the end of the rope (bowline around the waist or figure of eight to a karabiner and a belay belt), then tie the rope off to the belay point (figure of eight + karabiner into either wire belay, sling or bolt) with enough slack to manoeuvre, and then proceed. This is a useful method because one can easily start lining safely from this position with eg a Stitch plate and karabiner tied into the other side of the rope where it comes out from the belay point, as shown in figure 2. When the last person has descended, it is easy to pass the rope through a pulley, untie from the belay point whilst remaining tied into the rope end and lined from below, then descend the pitch on a double line (see figure 2 (b) and (c), and the next section). Another advantage of this system is that one is not tied into the live rope. This is also the method recommended in the video Cave Safe II which has a very good animated sequence illustrating this technique.
Figure 1. Basic lifelining set up (B = Belay point, S = Stitch plate / Italian hitch, L = Lifeliner).
Figure 2. Preferred lifelining set (B = Belay point, S = Stitch plate / Italian hitch, L = Lifeliner). When the lifeliner is about to descend, a pulley is set up (if not already in place). The belay point and Stitch plate/Italian hitch are removed ( (b) and (c) ) and the lifeliner descends, protected at all stages by being lined from below. Reverse this procedure for first person up. (d) A very common variant where the Stitch plate / Italian hitch is attached to the same belay point as the pulley will be. (e) A less common variant where one (robust!) belay point is used for all lifelining purposes.
Variants of this system are also shown in figure 2. Firstly (figure 2(d) ) the karabiner and Stitch plate may be clipped directly to the belay point, which often serves as a belay point for the pulley later. This is a very common arrangement, particularly since P-hangers are often conveniently sited for setting it up. Another arrangement (figure 2(e) ) is to use the same, sufficiently robust belay for safeguarding the lifeliner, as a point of attachment for a karabiner and Stitch plate, and for the pulley.
Next a belay point for the ladder should be found. Only in rare (bombproof) circumstances, should this be the same as the lifeline belay. Wire belays are traditionally used for natural ladder belays. If a bolt is to be used, and this is not uncommon, a spreader must also be used so that excessive strain is not placed on the wires at the point where they enter the top rung. Remember to try to make things easy for yourself, and other, potentially tired, people, by making the ladder as easy as possible to get on and off.
If a double line is to be used, a belay point for a pulley should be found, close enough to the pitch head so that the rope runs freely through a pulley and down the pitch. Try to avoid having the double rope pulling through cracks or narrow slots, so that it doesn't jam. Often a pulley is used even when lining from the top of a pitch so that if the climber falls off the ladder, he or she is able to get back on it again, and doesn't end up hanging with the ladder out of reach. Cave Safe II emphasises the need when using bolts for at least two anchors for lifeline belays. This is particularly important for double lining as the force acting on the belay point is potentially twice the weight of the held climber.
Of course individual pitches may be difficult: the worst I've come across is in Marble Sink where one ends up looking over the head of the pitch, after a flat out crawl and a right angle bend, with absolutely no chance of turning round! A close-to-ideal example is Bar Pot big pitch, where all these techniques can be put into action. Nevertheless one should never compromise on safety just because a pitch is awkward, equally one should avoid becoming blasť just because a pitch is well known, or short.
Finally unrolling ladders and lowering them down the pitch is simple enough. However always try to make sure that the ladders are clipped on to something (usually the wire belay) so they can't fall down by accident (and always make sure you are tied onto something so you can't fall down by accident: the weight of four or more ladders is easily enough to knock someone off balance). A useful technique to take the weight of ladder(s) hanging down a pitch is to support them by a foot between the top rungs. This frees the hands to clip on the next ladder. The reason for unrolling ladders at the top is that if they were just allowed to unroll as they fell, rungs can pass through the gaps between other rungs and twist/kink the wires.
Further points (with no apologies for repetition!):
The pitch is tackled and the lifeline belay has been set up, so now it's time to start lifelining people down. The lifeline system will be like one of those illustrated in figures 1 and 2, and the standard system of calls is given in section 5. For the actual belaying, the club has Stitch plates, karabiners and oval maillons that can be used. A Stitch plate preferably or an Italian hitch should be used to lifeline. Only very rarely should body belays be used nowadays.
Stitch plates provide a convenient and easily used mechanical belay. Tie a figure of eight into the rope where it is attached to the lifeline belay and attach a karabiner. Form a loop of the 'live' rope and pass through one of the slots of the Stitch plate, then clip this loop into the karabiner (figure 6). The rope going to the climber is the 'live' end, the rope going to a pile on the floor is the 'dead' end. It couldn't be simpler! However you MUST think about the action needed to lock off and release the Stitch plate. To do this, line the parts of the lifeline system up as they would be if there was a caver hanging off the end of the 'live' rope. You must be able to swing the 'dead' end of the rope through 180 degrees to lock off the Stitch plate (see figure 6). This is the action needed to hold a fall. The Stitch plate is easily operated: on descent allow rope to pass through the system as the climber demands; on ascent, take in rope to keep a reasonably tight line to the climber. During these operations though, always maintain a grip on the dead end of the rope. If it becomes necessary to hold a fall, then bring the dead end back through 180 degrees, and the Stitch plate should lock up easily.
Figure 3. Avoid C-links in the lifeline system by clipping a karabiner or maillon through the eyes of a wire belay.
Figure 4. Ensure that if one side of the belay system fails, the whole lot doesn't fall apart.
Figure 5. A karabiner or large maillon clipped through the eyes of the ladder belay wire means that if a C-link on one side fails, the whole lot doesn't fall down.
An alternative is the Italian hitch. This only needs a karabiner or large oval maillon, and is as easily operated as the Stitch plate, with the added advantage that it is not necessary to have the 'elbow room' that the Stitch plate requires. Its use is simple: set up a karabiner as for the Stitch plate and tie an Italian hitch knot into the karabiner (figure 7) - be sure you can tie an Italian hitch! Apart from possible uncertainty with tying the knot, the main disadvantage of the Italian hitch is that it puts twist into the rope. This is probably OK for short pitches or few ascents/descents, but may become unmanageable on longer pitches. The operation is similar to the Stitch plate, except that, firstly, the knot reverses itself when the direction of the pull changes - this occurs if a fall occurs when rope is being taken in. Secondly, it is not necessary to move the dead end, merely increase your grip on it until the knot locks up, allowing for the reversal of the knot if you are taking in. Again, always maintain a hold on the dead end. Figure 6. Use of Stitch plate: (a) Basic arrangement - keep hold of the 'dead' rope at all times when lifelining. (b) Bring this end backwards to lock off - be sure that there is enough room to do this. (c) If the Stitch plate jams under load, rotate it slightly with one hand to release, whilst holding the rope with the other hand. (d) An extra karabiner reduces the tendency to jam.
A much less satisfactory alternative is the body belay. The rope is taken around the waist (or alternatively the live end can go over the shoulder). To increase friction a turn of rope is taken around the wrist handling the dead end. The rope is paid out or taken in by moving the hands up and down the rope, again making sure that the dead end is never let go: this is because in a fall, one relies on holding this end and using friction around the body to take most of the weight. A fall is held by bringing the dead end of the rope right around the body. It is well worth practising holding and lowering a weight (eg at Horton), if only to see how uncomfortable it is. Also note that once the rope is loaded, the lifeliner is locked into the system.
A little used final alternative, which is still worth being aware of, is an alpine style belay, where the friction of the rope around a boss, rounded flake or spike of rock is used.
As a final comment, when lowering tackle (or raising tackle for that matter), don't suddenly start using granny knots, etc. If a ladder falls on somebody's head, it could damage the ladder. Also, after a rather bizarre incident in Car Pot where a ladder was left hanging half way down a pitch, I now prefer to tie ladders properly to the rope (as in figure 8 for example) rather than just thread the rope through them.
Some more points:
Everyone's down the pitch, and so is all the tackle if it's been planned right. The last person down is then lined from the bottom through a pulley. If the lifelining set up is as shown in figure 2 this is easy - the lifeliner at the bottom arranges a belay, then the last person dismantles the lifelining system and climbs down, being protected at all stages. The two ends of the lifeline are then tied together so that the whole lot won't fall down at some stage.
Yet more points:
Figure 7. Use of Italian hitch: (a) How to tie the basic knot. (b) The knot reverses itself through the karabiner when the direction of motion of the rope changes.
For the first person up, reverse the procedure for last man down. Remember though that there will probably be little assistance from the lifeliner because of the weight of rope and friction. To get round this, other people can take in at the bottom, whilst the lifeliner concentrates on operating the belay device. On arriving at the top, it is easy to assemble a belay for lifelining without having to untie from the rope end, if the arrangement is as shown in figure 2. Again this is the reverse of the 'last man down'.
Lining people up pitches is really straightforward. There is a standard set of calls (see section 5), which are the same as those used in descending. When throwing the lifeline back down, gather up enough in coils and then throw them down the pitch. This avoids the rope passing through the ladder. Shout ROPE BELOW (preferably before the rope end lands on someone's head).
Points for lifeliners.
Now some comments on ladder climbing technique: When climbing larger pitches, start at a steady pace and try to keep that pace. I find that running up the bottom part of the ladder to gain height as quickly as possible (ie in an attempt to get it over with) just doesn't work. Concentrate on using the legs to push yourself up the ladder, rather than trying to pull up on the arms. The arms should be at face level or even lower.
Concentrate on keeping as vertical as possible. Don't climb ladders with a tackle bag on the back because the weight tends to pull the body away from the vertical, and the shoulder straps further strain the arms. Tie the bag onto your waist, or better still haul all tackle up the pitch. When resting on pitches, wrap your arms around the ladder, or wedge them through the rungs. Hanging on your arms is not really resting!
Points for climbers.
Detackling is straightforward reverse of tackling. Remember to check in any pools around pitches for small pieces of gear that may have been dropped; you might end up coming out with more gear than you went in with.
This is an area that isn't really addressed in any of the articles I've seen. However there are some useful tips, and a bit of thought can pay dividends.
The key when descending is to push tackle to the front. The best arrangement is to have a competent person at the front tackling the pitches, then the leader makes it his or her job to make sure that the tackle is there when it is needed. One tip is to lower all the tackle down a pitch after the first couple of people have descended, and before the bulk of the party actually descends. Keeping tackle moving during descent is easier as people are wanting to go to the bottom, and this can't happen until the last pitch has been tackled.
When coming back out things are more difficult. People now want to get out of the cave, and they can do this easily since all the ladders are in place. The danger is that all the tackle will end up with a few people at the back. One way to avoid this is to work out how much tackle there is distributed amongst all the people capable of carrying it. As soon enough tackle has been collected for a couple of people to set off, send them out. Obviously though, it is sensible for these people wait at the top of any pitches for the next group to arrive at the bottom. This avoids the trouble of setting up double lines again.
In popular but deep caves, beware of losing people, and I don't mean down holes in the floor. Enthusiastic hordes turn up at the beginning of the day and the mountains of tackle at the cave entrance disappear. Groups then go as far as they wanted and turn round, to make their own way out. This leaves the mountain of tackle down the cave and perhaps only a few stalwarts have the pleasure of pulling it all out. But then they can feel they've earned their beer in the pub that night (assuming the pub is still open by the time they've got out).
For ladders and lifelines, you really only need two knots: the bowline and the figure of eight. These are illustrated in figure 8. I've also illustrated a stopper knot which should be tied using the spare end of the rope, to stop the bowline/figure of eight coming apart. Two stopper knots tied into each other form the double fisherman's, used for making up rope slings. Also shown is the alpine butterfly, which is a useful alternative to the figure of eight for tying a loop into the middle of a rope, and a version of the alpine butterfly that can be used to tie ladders onto ropes.
Points on knots:
SRT buffs will want to know many more knots of course, but this is an article about ladders and lifelines, so hard luck.
Thanks to all my friends and mentors who have given me these ideas over the years, especially such innovations such as those shown in figure 3, figure 5, and others described in the text.
Here are some references that you might also like to read. As said above, this article is directed towards CPC ladder meets. These references contain more information on other aspects such as rescue techniques.
Figure 8. Some knots: (a) Bowline knot. (b) Changing the size of the loop in a bowline. (c) Stopper knot or Fisherman's knot. (d) Double Fisherman's knot, often used to tie rope slings.
Figure 8 continued. (e) Figure of Eight knot tied in a single and doubled rope. (f) Alpine Butterfly knot. (g) Tying a ladder into a rope with another version of the alpine butterfly knot.
The last point: Just because it says so in a book, video, or even article on ladders and lifelines, doesn't mean it's right! Use common sense; think it through for yourself.
This article represents only the current opinions of the author. Neither the author nor the committee accept any responsibility for death or injury caused by acts or omissions based on this article.
It would appear to be traditional of previous Hon.Tacklekeepers to, at some stage of their term of office, address the membership on the burning issues of the day. Nothing quite so radical here I'm afraid, just some observations, clarifications and notifications associated with club caving tackle (not SRT gear). It has been four years since the tackle was assessed, and despite their misgivings the committee took the monumental step of supplying the ancillary ironmongery that that allow the wire bits to be safely rigged, crabs, stitch plates and the like. Its reassuring to know that all those expensive, easily lost items have remained by and large, intact and in good order, however, a small number of items have slipped through the net and are I suspect still at large. In keeping with current government practice a tackle amnesty has been decreed which terminates at G.G. If stowaway gear hitched a lift on your battery belt, I'd like to know !
What follows are some do's and don't's of borrowing tackle, some will help me others may help you, if you have any thoughts or comments of your own I'd like to know those also. Finally, you will of course forgive me if I appear to be teaching grandma to suck eggs.
The bane of my life currently is having to unclip ladder c-links and redo them in the manner suggested in the CPC Handbook. A lot of people, or one very active caver, insist on crossing the ladder tails across the full width of the ladder when returning ladders to the store. This makes for a very sturdy bundle of wires, but in a short time it causes the tail to set, opening the lay and exposing the core to corrosion. If a ladder is to be dragged through confined spaces then by all means cross the tails but release them before booking back in. Larger diameter tackle sacs may alleviate this.
Inevitably more tackle means more numbers on the booking sheet and this appears to be causing members some problems. Might I suggest that when indicating the item on a sheet, the number is circled and if a mistake is made ( yes I know there are a great number of numbers ) then a cross is placed through the circle.
Ropes are our lifelines and should be treated with the greatest of respect. They should always be washed thoroughly in the rope washer immediately after a trip or at the latest the following day. Dragging a rope through the wet bits in K.M.C is insufficient. If you are taking a single rope then a tackle sack is no extra weight and more convenient, so why not use one ? Several methods?!! appear to be used for coiling ropes, the chain sinnet ( sausaging ) is preferred
Depending on the length of the rope it can be halved or quartered but don't chain it into a short ball, it takes longer to dry and does not fit into a sac as neatly. After washing and chaining please leave the wet rope to hang on the pegs in the washing area, it dries quicker and doesn't cause the rope rack in the store to collapse when loaded at one end, as happened last week !
Some of our new braidline rope exhibited a cosmetic defect whereby unterminated strands appear to protrude from the sheath. This was taken up with the manufacturer who confirmed that the fault did not affect the integrity of the rope. If you happen to observe this don't be alarmed, but mark up the rope for my attention.
The tackle booking sheet has a brief section available to record the loss or damage to a piece of equipment. Please use it, and the tie on tags available in the store, isolating the tackle for my attention, note also that if a leader genuinely misplaces an item then he will not be held financially responsible but if you don't record the loss its replacement is delayed and further complicates tackle auditing.
Contrary to some tackle sheet entries we do not have for instance 692 wire belays, if only I could be so industrious, this refers to the date of manufacture. All wire equipment is marked in a similar manner, with uncompressed ferrules threaded onto the wire tails, one tag indicates both date and a CPC motif, a second indicates the equipment number and a third the length in metres and feet. Some ladders which have been shortened to 20ft (6.0m) are quickly recognised by the presence of red insulation tape wrapped around several rungs of the ladder. They are also marked in the more permanent manner described.
Several members have approached me to request loan of tackle to go "abroad", usually the weekend before departure. The club rules clearly state that permission must be sought from the committee and not the Tacklekeeper, for the purposes of definition abroad may be anywhere in Ireland, Scotland or on the Continents ( if it leaves Sheet 90 as was, on anything other than a club meet, then its abroad ! )
The conversion of Bridgend saw the introduction of a drop test rig, the rules for its use are posted on the rig. Club tackle ie crabs and maillons etc should not be used under any circumstances for attachment or any other drop test purposes. If you use the facility maybe you could leave note of your results ?
Maillons should always have the sleeve screwed up, only a slight knock in the sleeve open position is enough to render the m/r difficult or impossible to use. Whilst on this subject, the gate threads of crabs and maillons occasionally require cleaning and lubrication of their threads, to this end in the G.G store, a workbench, vice, wire brush and oil are provided, if you have difficulty with threads avail yourself of the facilities.
The club drills and battery packs are available for use by members. After a chequered career to date and after much musing by the committee it has been decided that both sets will be stored at Horton, although at the time of writing one battery is being overhauled. The equipment may be booked out in a separate log kept with the drill. These arrangements are not permanent and the situation will be reviewed prior to the AGM, however it may be prudent to contact me to check on availability before making a specific journey. It is intended to produce a more detailed article on their use in the next Record. If you have any strong feelings about the arrangements for drills then let me know. Similarly two sets of survey gear will be kept at Horton and may be booked out along the same lines as the drills.
Here endeth the lesson.
Top of the Scouts
Keighley born Hugh Bottomley is the new president of the International Scout and Guide Club. He has been an active member of the club, which has its headquarters at Baden Powell House in London, since 1962.
During the past 14 years, he has travelled some 400,000 miles promoting the Scout and Guide movement world-wide.
Mr Bottomley spent his childhood in Oxenhope and attended the former Keighley Grammar School. He founded the Keighley New Church Scout Group in 1941 and was its Group Scout Leader until leaving Yorkshire in 1956. Although Mr Bottomley now lives at Appleby in Cumbria, he retains strong links with Keighley.
Reprinted from the Bradford Telegraph & Argus 13 May 1996
Jottings from the Committee
It was noted that 76 members had not paid their 1996 subscriptions, a larger number than at this time last year. It was noted that the gas system in Ivy Cottage needed repiping urgently and Dave Hoggarth agreed to undertake / oversee the job. Howard Beck announced that he would be stepping down as Conservation Officer at the next AGM.
It was reported that the gas re-piping of Ivy Cottage had been completed. Paul Norman had written requesting some funding (from the special projects fund) towards the costs of the Sell Gill dig and in particular for the special consumables involved in gas testing etc. to allow safe but intensive weekend digging. After a vote (during which those members involved with the dig abstained) it was agreed to make a donation of £500.00 towards the cost. A member had written asking the Club to sell a booklet "A Tourists Guide to Gaping Gill" by the late Dick Glover at the winch meet. The proceeds from the sale would go to the CRO. Worries were expressed that the booklet might encourage non-cavers to believe that they could safely leave the Main Chamber. This was totally contrary to our policy of deterring non-cavers from leaving the Main Chamber, a policy which may be even more important in the light of the new Adventurous Activities Regulations. The committee agreed, with regret, that the booklet should not be sold at the CPC winch meet.
It was reported that the beer tent roof had been repaired and that 200m of SRT rope had been purchased. Peter Hamilton was added to the SRT leaders' list. There had been a poor turnout for the Cottage working weekend, but much work was completed. Due to confusion voiced by several members about booking Riverside the arrangements were changed to allow bookings to be made on a rolling six month basis. It was also agreed that New Year would be booked on a first come - first served basis. The tacklekeeper had noted that equipment had not been reported as missing by members, equipment can be inadvertently lost and members should report losses to facilitate replacement. Arrangements for the storage of the Club drills and battery packs will be reviewed at the September meeting. The Ruggerini engine used on the GG generator is to be replaced. It was agreed that only two vehicles should be allowed on the fell for the GG meet (subject to permission from Dr Farrer and Mr Holland).
Howard Beck has informed the committee that he will be standing down at the next AGM. This is a new post which was only created at the last AGM, surely an indication that the members present believed this to be an important area of club activity. If we don't teach new members all aspects of cave conservation then we can't complain if they damage the caves, but others could quite rightly complain of any damage done by our members. Therefore it is important that this post is filled. Anyone who might be willing to stand should contact Howard Beck for further details about what is involved.
New energy source for Caving Lamps
Tom, aged 7, Ted Wood's grandson, walked into Cave and Crag clutching some brass, and said, "Could I have some CANDLE mint cake please."
Quote from the PSM trip
From a group exiting onto the balcony from the EDF Tunnel and overlooking La Salle de Verna, the following comments were heard, "It was good of the last party to leave those night lights burning on the other side of the Verna. You get a better idea of the scale of the place, it's huge!" All stared out at the twinkling star-like lights in the distance. " Those lights are moving, they are the headlights of another party!"
"It's bloody enormous!"
You quickly run out of "big" superlatives in the PSM.
Vale - Bill Spencer
You have to know what it was like to be a new member of the Craven Pothole Club when the first tentative pothole meets were held after the war in 1945. I was one of the new boys who looked upon the Club's pre-war pioneers with a certain awe. They were the elite of the day. Probably the thing that pleased our founder Albert Mitchell and his pre-war followers was the fact that so many returned after the war to take an active part in Club meets and to ensure the Club's survival after a period of five years or more when the war put an end to Club meets. One of these pre-war members was Bill Spencer who joined the club in 1938.
At first I knew Bill only as one of the pre-war "Greats" who came back to introduce us new boys to the requirements of safe underground exploration. We were in the hands of the most experienced members of the Club who were our sponsors and our trainers. In those days there was no such thing as Probationary Members. Perhaps we had to prove to our "CPC Elders" that we were the right sort to be worthy of the title of CPC Member, but it was accepted by the pre-war members that they were the ones who would ensure that the new boys were trained and made to feel at ease even in the most severe pots. It was the pre-war members that proposed and seconded us for recognition as Club members.
As I got to know Bill better I learnt that he was also a Scoutmaster. So we had this second thing in common. There is a saying in the Scout Movement that "Once a Scout always a Scout." Bill never lost his Scout connections and up to and including the last time that I saw him in 1994 he always approached me with the out-stretched left hand shake, the traditional way of Scout greeting Scout.
It was at the first post-war Gaping Gill meet in 1947 that we became much closer friends. There were no more than 20 campers. On the first evening Bill was one of a pre-war party who showed us round the most frequently visited parts of the system. During that week I spent an afternoon with Bill trying to prove that a cleft in the wall of the Main Chamber, marked on the Gaping Gill survey of the day as too narrow, was in fact penetrable. We cleared flood debris to a depth of 40 feet and then had to confirm that it was indeed too narrow.
During that Gaping Gill meet it was Bill and Arnold Waterfall who noticed what was presumed to be a carcase of a sheep in a rather advanced state of decay. Following the meet Bill had doubts about what he had seen. It was Bill who suggested to Arnold Waterfall that a small party should descend Flood Exit Pot and check if the carcase that he had seen could possibly be the remains of a human body. It was! This was known as the Corpse Lifting Expedition to Arnold Waterfall, Bill Spencer, his brother James, Eric Light, Tim Wood, Denis Brindle and myself who constituted the party. After that meet I knew Bill much better. He was one of the "Queensbury Lads", the other two being Eric Light and Bill's brother. These three would cycle from Queensbury and at the end of an arduous day potholing faced the tiring cycle ride back through Keighley and mostly uphill to Queensbury. Bill was one of the hardiest Club members at that time.
Then there was the first ever through exchange trips in the newly discovered Stream Pot. While Johnny Frankland, myself and another took ladders to the foot of the bottom pitch in the South East Passage, Arnold Waterfall and the Queensbury Lads laddered the other pitches. They then hauled up the ladders from the bottom and lifelined Johnny and myself and another up to the top of the pitch. We lifelined Bill's party down the pitch and then lowered the ladders to them to take out via the Main Chamber and the chair. The other three of us went up the other two pitches taking the gear with us. Bill and Arnold were waiting on the moors at the entrance to the Stream Pot route into Gaping Gill. So it was in some of the arduous pots that I learnt what a reliable companion Bill could be.
In his later years Bill's face quite naturally grew older looking but his face always had that infectious smile and a twinkle in his eyes. He always remained young at heart. In his last Gaping Gill camp in 1994, Bill was in camp during the week before the full meet. Only Roy Taylor, Brian Varley and myself (named by someone in camp as the Last of the Summer Wine) were in camp with Bill. In spite of his considerable age he did as much work in preparing for the main camp as any of us.
He camped "Hiker Camp style" using the minimum of gear in a small tent pitched on a level patch cut out of the hillside many years ago and which he sowed with grass seed. This was "Bill's patch" from where he could survey all that was going on at the shakehole while sitting in the entrance to his tent. The Rover Scouts of the pre-war years and during the war years used a "Gilwell Canteen" as their only cooking gear. This was before the advent of all the sophisticated cooking paraphernalia available to us today. It consisted of a very small pan, a small frying pan which was deep enough to double up as a saucepan and a deep dish-like plate, all of which nested together. In 1994 Bill was still using his Gilwell Canteen but now afforded himself the extra luxury of a small kettle. His tent was always immaculately tidy with everything within easy reach without moving from where he sat in the entrance to his tent. One always got the impression that he was an "old hand" at both camping and potholing.
It is a sad thought that we shall never see Bill again in this life for, as Scouts would say, he has "gone home" and that is what the Scouts' sign of a circle with a dot or smaller circle in the middle means. There is no-one in the Club that I have been down Gaping Gill with more times (over a period of 47 years) than Bill. Each year he would always take an immense interest in recording any changes in the rock slopes, sand banks and the various places where the Fell Beck water disappeared. He would notice year by year any rock movements on the slopes since the previous year. He helped with the North Passage dig and his annual must was a visit to East Pot which he tended to call his own. In 1994 we had to restrain him from going down it because we had promised his wife Irene (to whom we all send our sincere sympathies at this sad time for her) that we would "look after him" and discourage him from being too adventurous.
He has now gone but will never be forgotten. Hopefully he will meet up with other CPC pioneers who have already passed beyond the veil. "To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die".
Bill Spencer in Bar Pot 1993 (age79)
Although Bill is seen here using "old" technique he was still as keen as ever to learn about new technology. He was very interested in the Stitch Plate and its workings as Steve Pickersgill was lifelined up the entrance pitch. Photograph by Barbara J Jenkins
We welcome the following as new members of the Club: Ian Robinson, Jan Little, Frank Johnston-Banks.
The following have been accepted as Probationary Members and will probably be attending meets in the next few months: Joan Ashmore, Michael Ashmore, Mike Baslington, Araceli Sarria-Nunez, Emma Carpenter.
Change of Address: Dave Allenach, Tony Blick, Dave Bradley, Andrew Brooks, Duncan Goodwin, Andy and Chris Hayter, Tony Jackson, D Moore, Denis Round and Sheila Mitton, Mick Scratcher, Martin Hauan.
Congratulations and best wishes to Simon Ashby and Alison Catt who marry on the 20th July.
Late News: We are sorry to hear of the death of Fred Austin; see the next Record for an Obituary. Also Margaret Bell, a friend of John Normington and known to several members, has died.