Number 48, October 1997
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 disk (ASCII or Word preferred) or by email
Dr. R.A. Halliwell, Academic Office, The University, HULL, HU6 7RX
Tel No: 01482 465948(W) 876544(H) 466441(FAX)
As our Chairman has so succinctly expressed himself at the last few AGMs it has been a good year. The year of the Harpic started off in a most memorable fashion with both the first underground President's meet for some time and the worst weather I can ever remember on a President's meet. There has been an increased amount of digging going on from the Cottage. The dig in Sell Gill went, yet again. There were new discoveries made in Gaping Gill, again. The winch meet was an undoubted success socially even if it was less financially successful than has been the case over the last few years. Membership numbers continue to grow, the Club Library goes from strength to strength, the Club Cottages continue to improve with all the work that is being done on them. The list of good news whilst not endless is long. Let us all work to ensure that the coming year will continue the trends of the last few.
The main diving news as always is presented later in the Record by John Cordingley. However this snippet arrived after the Journal had been put together
Hardrawkin Pot - the latest
The third downstream sump has now been passed via a short dive emerging in 300m of narrow cherty canyon passage. There are two short pitches and a few climbs, descending a total of 30m to end at a tiny sump.
Magnetometer Pot 18 May 1997 Present: Araceli Sarria-Nunez, John Allen, Chris Little, Barry Hunkin, Mary Hunkin, Tony Whitehouse, Elaine Hill, Donald Kelly, Denise Ashburne, Peter Hamilton, Margaret Stebbings, Andy Roberts, Mike Ashmore, Damian Sheeran, John Christie(Leader)
Just before the off I decided a handline might be helpful for the climb down to the well pitch. Back to the car only to doubt again and return to the tackle store to include a ladder for the aforementioned - both proved very useful. Good jaunt with all the party down to the top of Caton Hall. At this point 2/3rds of the party were ready to return to daylight. As leader I opted to stick with the majority. After a quick discussion with JAR who continued with Tony, Araceli, John A & Chris into Caton Hall for a look around. It was agreed to pull the ladder off the climb to speed their exit leaving the handline just in case - again a wise move. Once back at the cars to change I produced a 15 pack of JS Bitter - exactly one for each participant so tough on those who left early. It saved me ten ales. Thanks to Andy for helping clean the tackle back at Horton.
Alum Pot 8 June 1997
Present: David Kaye(Leader), Ian Perretti, Jeff Cowling, Alec Bottomley, Michael Bottomley(G), Pat O'Neil(P), Carol Robinson(P), Denise Ashburn(P) and Joanna King(P)
We arrived at the appointed time, went to the top of Diccan Pot, not quite the plan! Went down Lower Long Churn, we had the usual fun as we passed Double Shuffle and Plank Pool. Then laddered all the pitches.
Everyone enjoyed the trip. Thanks to everyone who came.
Sunset Hole 6 July 1997
Present: Denise Ashburne, Mike Ashmore, Tony Jackson, Reg Parker and Len Cook
The above all arrived in good time for the meet; the last named being first for once. We only lacked two things - a Leader and some tackle! It was assumed, more or less charitably, that Mike Scratcher had been misguided enough to go down Pasture Gill Pot and left himself too knackered for the following day. Another suggestion was that his car had broken down on the way. (In fairness to Mike I must point out that he had informed the Committee several months ago that he wouldn't be able to lead his meet and a replacement Leader had volunteered, but apparently didn't turn up - Ed)
Sunset Hole was first on the list and this was enjoyed as far as the ladder pitch at the end (more or less) of what is anyway a fine sporting cave. Some of us were probably relieved not to find the figure of Mike sitting at the top of a ready rigged ladder with cups of steaming coffee as fantasized by Reg.
Middle Washfold - Great Douk followed: always an enjoyable through trip unless too much water forbids access. I for one was agreeably surprised to find the low crawl at the beginning was not half full of water and comprised only a short part of the cave. (It gets easier don't it!). We had plenty of time to admire the formations on the way through and visit the old dig in Great Douk - one of those digs that should have led into something really big if there is any justice. It still could!
Hardrawkin, the next hole on our list, was only remembered by me as "Hardrawskin"; a long tedious cave passage with a lot of crawling before the ladder pitch. This time it seemed quite attractive with more upright walking than remembered.
High Douk Holes was completely new to most of us. As befits the last cave of the day the best bit came at the end with some superb formations asking to be photographed in a place so easy of access: a pity none of us had brought a camera along. [It was calculated that we had travelled over 3km underground, a sort of Lancaster Hole - County Pot trip on the instalment plan if you like. The latter trip is of course easier] No ladders, no great achievements, just a fun day out in good company.
A reflection on this day and age that we all appreciated having a car watcher who stayed with the cars. Perhaps Denise will pass on our thanks. Our thanks to Reg who really qualified as Deputy Leader by remembering where all the holes were and all about them.
A pity that so few turned up on what used to be regarded as the ideal meet for new and potential members to the Club. It was for John Frankland and myself our first meet with the Craven and we got a real sample of what caving and potholing was about without getting too committed too soon. Not like making your first trip down a big hole; but a day where anyone could bale-out at any time. Could I suggest that all aspiring members to the CPC put it down on their list for next year.
Schwäbische Alb (26 July - 4 August 1997) Due at least in part to the late issue of details for the meet, there were only 4 participants: Steve and Barbara Pickersgill and Andy and Chris Hayter. Apologies to all those who originally thought of coming but couldn't wait for the details to be published - you missed a good do.
Camp was set up at Campingplatz Phählhof, Bad Urach on the Saturday. The camping site was full and we were put onto a small area of the top meadow - usually reserved for feeding the horses. When asked what we planned to do in Bad Urach, I replied, "A little walking and some caving". "Oh well you are camping in the right place then" came the reply. Those who know me well will understand why little caving was done in the first few days, when I tell you that the site had a quota of voracious horse flies. Various parts of my body swelled alarmingly - and I also have an allergic reaction to anti-histamine creams to make matters worse.
Sunday was spent in local orientation with a circular walk around the northern part of the town. Your glorious leader had especially laid on the Schäferlauf for the day - Bad Urach's annual festival involving a very long procession with floats from all of the surrounding towns and villages. It had already started when we arrived and took over one hour to pass.
Monday was spent reprovisioning and in the afternoon a short drive to Grabenstetten saw us in search of the main entrance to Gustav Jakobshöhle. Chris and I had found the smaller entrance, normally used as an exit, on a previous visit. On this occasion the main entrance was easily found due to the screams and shouts from a group of school children waiting at the entrance. It was explained by their solitary minder that they were being escorted through in groups of eight by another leader and that the groups here were waiting their turn. We were asked if we wanted to go on through. One of us who shall remain nameless said yes although there had been no plan to actually go underground and we had no equipment. As we started in their leader asked if we minded taking a group of the children through. And so it was that the Craven did their first good deed of the meet.
Equipped only with the clothes we stood up in, and with two Petzl Zooms between the four, we escorted ten 12 year old children through. They themselves were only marginally better equipped with hand held torches and no helmets. All I can say about the cave is that it is dark (I didn't have one of the Zooms). Trip time around 20 minutes (even with the children). Seriously, the cave is about 420m long consisting of a single partially decorated passage that passes from the South to the North side of the bluff that sticks out into the valley to the East of Grabensetten. Parking is next to the sewage works and the cave is a few hundred metres down the track past the ruin and down the valley side until about 15m of height has been lost. Then to the West for about 50m - all on obvious paths. The exit from the North side is made under a cliff that is at the edge of the path used to reach the main entrance. Following the cliff to the North for about 50m brings you to an iron ladder that is ascended (I have a strong suspicion that this forms part of the storm overflow of the sewage works!), which bring you back after a scramble up the gully to the track.
Afterwards we were thanked by the caving leader for having saved her from her third trip through the cave. She seemed a little surprised when we said that this was our first visit to the cave.
Tuesday and as a special birthday treat for Chris we go to Falkensteiner Höhle - a large resurgence entrance. No water flowing from the entrance, but after about 50m the water is met and then followed up stream. After 400m the first Siphon is met - a roomy duck of about 2m with (on our visit) about 12cm airspace. With the exception of Steve, we were all rather anxious about the duck, but it proved to be much easier than it looked. Further progress was made upstream, through Reutlingenhalle and on back to the stream. Which now becomes quite pretty in places and the water begins to present a more active face with some small falls and steps of between 0.3 and 2m. After some time the three mud walls were reached and passed by Steve and BJ, who then proceeded on to the Fuchsbau about 1200m into the cave. Steve managed to climb back down to the water but was convinced that it was not the way on since the water was flowing towards him (as indeed it should have been). A retreat was made therefore in order to consult our sources of information (See article on caving finding) picking up the stragglers en route and photographing. On the way out we met a further party of about 20 school children being escorted into the cave by a single leader. This party was equipped exactly as the party the previous day had been, ie it wasn't equipped at all. Trip time around 4.5hours.
At the entrance we did our second good turn, administering first aid to a girl who had fallen and gashed both chin and calf. The family had been in the cave, but the accident had happened at the entrance. Despite the fact that hospital attention was obviously needed the family seemed to be quite unconcerned so long as a bandage and plaster could be applied.
Wednesday - walking to the South of Bad Urach - via the two waterfalls, with a view of seeking out Mondmilch Höhle (which we found) and Elefantin Höhle (which we didn't). It says something about cave finding when an 8m x 3m entrance only a few metres from the track cannot be found. Our third good deed was to help some lost German walkers. A copy of BILD (Germany's equivalent of the Sun but with most of the news taken out) was purchased to get the weather forecast - remaining sunny and hot for several days.
Thursday - cold and rainy! So "touristing" it was. A visit was made to the Nebelhöhle show cave - entrance 4Dm, unguided. This is billed as the Schwäbische Alb's most decorated cave. Because the tour is unguided, the lights seem to be left permanently on and this has had the effect of promoting strong growth of ferns, mosses and algae. Rather than being dismayed by this unnatural and artificial environment and for us ecological disaster, they are actually proud of the variety of plant life that they are growing and devote a whole chapter in the cave guide to the various species that have been dragged into the cave by visitors and left to live out their precarious existence. After exiting, the original entrance, which is on the other side of the hill, was sought out and found.
This was followed by a visit to Schloss Lichtenstein - a fairy tale castle - and a visit to the delights of Reutlingen in order to reprovision and visit the bank. I had previously advised Steve and BJ to avoid Reutlingen, it is very pretty, but it is a driving and parking nightmare. Too late I remembered my own advice.
Friday - still cool and rainy and with continuing unsettled weather and uncertain responses to rain from the local karst, we remained as tourists. A visit was made to the Steiff (teddy bear) factory museum, Giengen an der Brenze, followed by a visit to Charlottenhöhle - show cave, entrance 5Dm, guided but commentary in German. This is billed as the longest show cave in the Schwäbische Alb being 520m long. The cave is well decorated but the commentary consists mainly of making up silly names for the formations. As with Nebelhöhle, the effect of the lights is to promote the growth of mosses and ferns, which in places have completely covered and spoiled some of the possibly best formations. Again they seem to be proud of their achievements and I have to confess that one rather lengthy section of the guided tour was translated into English for the others as "aren't we bloody clever growing plants in the dark!" The laughter that resulted was not understood by the Germans - possibly just as well. En route back to camp we stopped and looked at Vogelherd - a small cave famous for the pre-iron age relics found. The cave has three entrances, two of which are large and roomy, the third being a small chimney. At about 30m length and about 2.5m high it is easy to see why this was used for human habitation in pre-historic times.
Saturday, and the weather has at last begun to buck up a little. Steve BJ and Andy visit Elsachbröller. This is about 100m away from Falkensteiner Höhle and was once originally part of the same system - now separated by the Elsach Tal. The cave however is in complete contrast to its near neighbour. The entrance is part way up an obvious dry resurgence valley - well dry in summer at least - and consists of a low crawl through breakdown to a breakdown chamber. Directly across the chamber, by the survey marker (follow the telephone wire) a shuffle down leads to a low - sometimes very low - muddy crawl. After about 20m a muddy pool is met and a twist to the left and slither up leads to a flat out bedding. The technique on the return is best described as half-pike and half turn dive into the pool. The bedding is followed by an even more muddy pool and then a small chamber where at least you can turn around. All ways or possible ways on seemed to be impossibly tight for our rather unsupple bodies and a retreat was made. Despite only traversing about 200m of the 1800m cave the trip time was almost 1.5 hours.
In the evening we were invited to a party being thrown by a Dutch couple on our part of the campsite, during which copious amounts of alcohol were consumed. This had a severely deleterious effect on activities on Sunday which was largely left to nursing hangovers and recuperation.
Monday, and our final attack on Falkensteiner Höhle made by Steve BJ and myself. Our information sources suggested that the previous limit of exploration had been on the right track. We made Fuchsbau within 1.25 hours but then spent about half an hour trying to find Steve's previous way down to the water. During this time BJ insisted that she had found a way down, but that the final drop looked intimidating. Eventually we decided to have a look and this was indeed the way on, with the climb down (as ever) being very much easier than it looked from above. We pushed on upstream along a rift passage until eventually time and energy ran out. On the return further pictures were taken of the cave beyond Fuchsbauhalle. Trip time 5.5 hours.
On return to camp the information sources were again consulted and suggest that we stopped only 2-300m from the second siphon. In retrospect it is a pity that we did not push on, but equally the exit from the point that we reached was tiring.
Tuesday - decamp and set off for home. In summary - Hard caving, hard drinking and hard eating. Meet Song: "I'm not a picky BJ, I'm a BJ Pickysgill" to the tune "These are a few of my favourite things" - words to be published later.
The photograph below was taken in the first duck in Falkensteiner Höhle. The sketch survey is also of Falkensteiner Höhle.
Robinson's Pot 13 September 1997 Present: Steve (leader) and Barbara Pickersgill, Sarah Jenkins, Karen Lane, Andy Roberts, Bas Andrew, Barry and Mary Hunkin and Ian Robinson.
It's many years since the leader was last in this system, and the entrance was the only memorable bit. We provided amusement for two small boys as we descended under the wall of their house. At the bottom of the entrance shaft there is a bolt to tie the entrance lid to, to make it secure during the trip.
Most parts of the cave were visited, the wet crawl into MacColl's Rift was quickly passed, and after progressing to end of that passage, the connection into the Main Streamway was found. A bolt belay was available for the short ladder. Upstream was investigated, including the Worm Series, and also downstream as far as the sump. The formations in the streamway are well worth seeing.
We all exited the cave after four hours, again to the amusement of the two small boys. A very enjoyable trip.
County Pot 13 September 1997
Present: S Keedy(Leader), W Keedy(Son), D Maddison(Mate), R Maddison(Guest), Jan and Dave Hoggarth. H Beck(Tour Guide), L Elton, J Clark. Probationary members. D Ball. I Winstanley. M Hodgeson. A Bolton.
The morning sun shone bright and fresh in Horton, as anyone who has visited the cottage extensively over the years may or may not have had the good fortune to witness. Tackle and people were duly assembled, and on the thirteenth of September thirteen people met at Bull Pot Farm. Its a good job I hadn't had thirteen pints the night before or I might have cancelled the meet on the premise that we would surely be jinxed. As it was I ran round the car thirteen times to dispel the curse and we set of for County Pot in good spirits !.
The Pot was descended in good time and apart from a little waiting at the pitches, (which no one seemed to mind anyway, chatting and bragging etc in a most effervescent manner) "Broadway, Spout Hall, and Eureka junction", were soon passed. A short lunch break was taken at this point. Dave and Jan were left to do some photography and the main party moved on to Stop Pot where an ascent was made into the Upper Trident series. Much slipping and sliding saw us stopping just short of Corne's Cavern, some very well decorated sections were visited in these upper levels, ie Mainline Passage.
Now the grotty bit, The Manchester Bypass, a section of low crawls and thrutchy passage, better in memory than in reality which eventually with much swearing and bruising of body parts led us back with great relief to County Pot and the outdoor world.
Pints of tea and butties were had at Bernie's and amongst much discussion the day was deemed to be a success. My many thanks to all the folk that turned up, and especially to Howard for doing the most excellent job of tour guide (we would have been lost without him). I hope to see you all underground again soon.
Pool Sink (Thanks For the Memory) 14 September 1997 The leader was late. Let's face it, the leader was very late. This was due to a combination of sheep flock movement, milking time dairy herds on the road, learner and (probably worse) Volvo drivers, straw wagons and finally the leader's failure to read the meets card. Not to worry the tackle was at Bull Pot Farm waiting and there is never a shortage of members willing to take the initiative.
When I arrived the first wave (14 out of the 16) was just leaving to tackle the cave. Nick Thompson and I followed about ten minutes later. It's times like this when you realise that you shouldn't leave a gap of twenty years between visits to a cave. Both of us were convinced that the other would remember the entrance. We stuck our feet into Ease Gill Beck, stomped upstream each trusting that "I'll know it when I see it" .
Whilst Pool Sink could never be described as a tight cave the constricted nature of the top of the first pitch and the narrow twisting passage to it made a wait inevitable. I used to find these delays irksome but now they give ample opportunity to yarn with new members or old friends I haven't seen for a while. Pool Sink was no exception but, this time, it also gave me time to get my act together with the meet and plan the trip a bit closer. The twisted nature of the passage can be gauged by the fact that it took five minutes or so to find out that there were eight people between me and the ladder.
The first pitch strung everyone out and there was little or no waiting at any of the next pitches. (By the way does anyone know why the third pitch is described as wet when it is bone dry whilst the second is wet and fourth torrential.) We stole the bottom ladder off the last pitch and Tony Whitehouse, Nick and myself set off to catch the rest of the sprint team up.
Multiple amnesia struck the three of us almost simultaneously as with the perfect timing (if not tunefulness) of a male voice choir we stopped and said "I don't remember anywhere like this". It was a good time for Tony to get out his sensibly enlarged and sealed cave description. Actually it's never a good time to let Tony read a description; it can only ever end in tears. "It's simple", he said, "down the fourth pitch then downstream, down Jacob's Ladder, through a complex area and then there you are at Holbeck Junction". "Aye but where was Jacob's Ladder"? "Who cares this passage is going down so we'll just carry on, it must go somewhere". Fifty metres later and none the wiser we found everyone else at Holbeck Junction wondering where on earth we'd been (it was a comfort to know we weren't the only ones wondering this).
Decisions made here. We were going to Easter Grotto via the Assembly Hall, Gypsum Cavern and back to Holbeck Junction. The Leader led from the middle making a serious attempt at avoiding an accusation of a LIFO. It seemed a lot further than I remembered it but I carried on knowing well how caves contract over the years. At pause in a well decorated section I made the comment that "it's somewhere just like this that we climb up". However, being convinced that the climb was about 100 metres downstream, I looked no closer.
Once I realised that some folk were searching in Hiroshima I suggested a cautious retreat back to where I now "knew" the climb was. Only Tony was foolish enough to follow my bad memory back the hundred metres to exactly where the climb wasn't. Everyone else followed Simon Parker up the calcite climb to the horrible climbs to Easter Grotto. Some of us breathed the proverbial relief sighs that we had carried a ladder for the upper climb.
I scurried off through Easter Grotto but was dragged back because most folk hadn't seen it before and wanted to take their time. I really didn't want anyone to know that I was trying to get away to find the way on (I was after all the all knowing leader). Missing the flat out crawl that connects through to Gypsum Cavern I led those foolish enough to be snapping at my heels up into disgusting mud tubes. At the drop at the end of the crawl connection I thought I was having an out of body experience as I floated gently down to floor level. The most dignified exit I have ever made and many thanks to those who so delicately lowered me down. It leads me to think my next trip should be done in a sedan chair.
We tootled on and Neville took over the task of correcting my errant memory getting us to Holbeck Junction with little event (a bit of a turn up really given the rest of the trip). Here we split up with five of us detackling Pool Sink and everyone else learning the Wretched Rabbit route with Neville route finding. Tony threw down the gauntlet by suggesting that some of them would come back in to give us a hand detackling. This spurred us on and we were out just as Tony arrived at the entrance. A perfectly timed end to cracking trip. Thank you all.
We were : Norman Armstrong (P), Nick Clough, Mike Baslington, Andrew Dopson(G), Elaine Hill, Barry Hunkin, Mary Hunkin, Tony Jackson, Donald Kelly, Neville Lucas, Simon Parker, Petra Roessner (G), Nick Thompson, Alan Weight, Mike Whitehouse, Tony Whitehouse
By the way; does anyone know where Jacob's Ladder is?
Bull Pot of the Witches 27 September 1997 Attendance: Tom Thompson, Patrick Warren, Terry Instone(G), George Instone(G), Barry Hunkin, Mary Hunkin, Alan Bolton(P), Dave Ball(P), Andy Howe, Ian Robinson, Caroline Cullun(G), Dave Allanach, William Keedy, Dave Milner, Jackie Cowling(G), Jeff Cowling, Hugh Dowling, Alec Bottomley, Mike Bottomley(G), Karen Lane (Her), Andy Roberts (Him)
In the absence of the appointed leader, who was out of the country, I think I was volunteered to lead the meet, but I'm not sure.
The tackle was at Bull Pot Farm for 10.30, only half an hour late, and the first group sent off with it, plus a notebook and pencil so a signing in and out record could be kept at the entrance. Given the complicated nature of Bull Pot I had visions of some late arrivals going into the system and having the tackle pulled out on them. The signing in and out seemed to work well, except for one former President of the Club who didn't spot the book on the way in, nor did he spot it on the way out despite being reminded to look for it - Brian, you'll have to wear your glasses when you go caving in future!
As far as I can tell those attending split up into five groups, with Tom, Patrick, the Instones, the Hunkins, Alan and Dave Ball doing the tackling to the downstream sump, with the intention of visiting the Gours on the way out. The other large group, comprising Dave Allanach, the Bottomleys, the Cowlings, Hugh, Brian Varley and myself visiting the Gours first, then the downstream sump, and detackling. Andy Howe and William were seen in the Gour Chamber, and then set off for a general wander. Him and Her went photographing. Ian and Carol retired early when Ian experienced some difficulty negotiating the entrance!!
On the return to the surface at 4.15 the detackling party found everyone else had signed out and left Bull Pot.
I hope everyone enjoyed their trip as much as I did, and if I have missed anyone off the attendance list, its your fault for not signing in, but if the grouping were not exactly as described above please accept my apologies.
Putting these two attributes together we get the perfect answer to
"Why do go caving?"
"Because it isn't there! If it was there I wouldn't be able to go because I couldn't get in."
A year of distinct contrasts.
On the plus side the weather was good throughout the meet, ranging from a heatwave in the early part of the week to bright and cooler over the Bank Holiday weekend, with just the odd day of drizzle and low cloud. The turnout of club members to support the meet was the best I've seen in recent years, and as a consequence the daily duty rota seemed to be filled with willing volunteers without the need for too much press ganging. All the innovations/improvements planned since 1996 worked well, especially the new trailer, albeit that the moor was generally dry. The vast majority of members seemed to thoroughly enjoy their stay in camp, and achieved the right balance between work and play. All in all a highly successful year on the social and organisational side.
On the negative side, given that we had our act in order, where were the visitors? It was without question the quietest year for public descents for many years, and as a consequence can not be counted as a financial success. The mid-week period in particular saw very few people about on Ingleborough. It was not a case of people going up the 'borough and passing the winch meet, the whole hill seemed deserted on occasions. Numerous theories have been put forward as to why the numbers were down, ranging from "it was too hot", lack of advertising, earliness of the Bank Holiday, people not holidaying locally but taking summer breaks abroad with their Building Society windfalls, etc. Those visitors who did take the plunge with us certainly appeared to enjoy the experience equally as much as they have always done, and the general feeling from them was that it was good value for money.
The low visitor numbers, along with other issues and ideas arising from the meet, will be on the agenda for the Gaping Gill Sub-group to ponder over in the following months. Any members with any thoughts or observations on how things can be "improved" please don't hesitate to make your views known, either to me, or anyone else on the main Committee.
Tackling weekend (9th/l0th August)
Thanks to a very enthusiastic group of people who turned out early on the "Tackling Friday" we got off to a flying start, helped by the good weather, with all the winching equipment up to GG, and unloaded, that evening! By the end of the weekend the winch and gantry were in place and tested, the generator had been resited alongside the engine, the dam was in position and all the tentage was in place, not only that but we also found time for a double celebration - Howard's birthday, and persuading him to buy a barrel too! Thanks again to everyone who helped get the meet up and running so smoothly, and to the people in camp midweek who completed all those "little jobs" which get put to one side in our efforts to get the heavy engineering in place and operative.
The Meet (16th to 25th August)
The lack of anyone volunteering to formally lead the whole meet did not appear to detract from the day to day running, and the Guest Leader of the day approach worked well - thanks to everyone, both new to the role and the old hands, for taking up the leadership reins.
Operational and ready to roll by 8.30am on Saturday, with a full complement of workers to operate the system until well into the afternoon, when the general influx of members was expected to arrive with the beer and gear tractor run. Traditionally a steady day for visitors, and this year seemed no different, as was Sunday. Monday was extremely quiet, with numbers only increasing slightly each day as the week progressed.
Even the Bank holiday weekend was quieter than normal. The number of caving parties taking advantage of the winch increased this year, so much so that on some days they outnumbered the general public.
All parts of the GG system were visited by members during the meet, with the exception of Disappointment Pot, and it was good to see Ingleborough Cave included in the itinerary. The main shaft was laddered one evening and ascended by two intrepid individuals, one who completed the climb in trainers, and the other who curtailed the promising surface to Main Chamber communication trials, using borrowed walkie-talkies, when he dropped a set from just above Birkbeck's Ledge.
Yet again some "new stuff" was unearthed, although not perhaps of the length and magnitude hoped for, and a diving session was carried out in the Lost River series. (See elsewhere in the Record for details)
The resiting of the generator, alongside the winch engine, was successful in minimising the amount of cabling needed, however it did have problems from its neighbour when an injector on the winch engine became faulty and it was sucking in the resulting fumes. Both problems were quickly resolved by our resident engineering team.
Not so easily resolved at the time was a problem with the chair's guidewire pulley which arose on Bank Holiday Monday of all days, when prudence dictated an early finish to winching operations. Every year the meet sees an attempt to introduce something new, usually under the guise of continuous improvement, not always with the outcome expected. 1996 saw the "Street Lighting Committee"' and their attempts to "improve the illumination in the Main Chamber" - a short lived and unsuccessful experiment terminated by the majority Luddites the following morning. . This year it was the "Waterworks Committee", and the introduction of a water pump to get a supply up to the toilet tent area to improve hygiene facilities. Not as easy to predict the outcome of this initiative, as views on the idea seem favourable in principle, but not so favourable in practise (another one for the GG Sub-group)
Just a few random memories which have stuck in my mind from the meet.
It was good to see the broad spread of ages in camp, and by my reckoning there were no less than four past Presidents in residence for at least a week each, plus the current incumbent for over two. Long may it continue.
I can't recall such a hectic round of birthdays being owned up to by those in camp at GG before, ranging from a first for a junior Davey (not a club member just yet) at one end of the spectrum, to a 75th at the other for Hugh Bottomley, who I hope enjoyed being dragged to the beer tent for a presentation by that well known Myers and Harpic double act. (Sorry to disappoint those who thought this might refer to Howard who I mentioned earlier, he just looks that old!).
Two non CPC member occurrences came to my attention, and thanks to our own members who came to the assistance of the people concerned (i) the annual arrival in camp of a bedraggled three peaks walker, with suspected sprained ankle, to be ferried round to Horton. At least this year he was considerate enough to thank his saviours; and (ii) the arrival of a camper who left the Hill Inn to do Ingleborough in shorts and T-shirt, with his dogs at 8.00pm, with an ETA of 10.00 back in Chapelle-Dale to meet his wife. Having become disorientated in low cloud on the summit he ended up at GG asking directions. He was genuinely amazed he was on the opposite side of the hill from his intended goal. Are these common weekly occurrences that normally go unrecorded because no-one is at GG, or is the run up to an August Bank holiday the unofficial silly season?
An extremely memorable and enjoyable winch meet, even though it didn't make money (maybe that is why is was so enjoyable??). There are issues to be resolved for 1998, and lessons learnt from this year, and that is how it should be - the meet is too important economically, socially and from a public relations aspect to stand still.
Thank you very much to all those who helped with the organisation and running of the meet, before, during and after the event. I am reluctant to single out specific individuals for particular praise for their efforts as there are so many who deserve it, not to mention a limited few who do the absolute minimum.
The following email was received from a satisfied visitor to the winch meet on Sunday 24th August.
"Many thanks to you all. A super day, organisation of the event brilliant! So many times clubs of all kinds have open days or open events where all to often the club barely tolerates anyone coming along. Not so today we all felt very welcome and part of the event."
No one in camp seemed aware of the rift, so using a may-pole loaned by Paul Norman and conscripting Jeff Cowling into the party we returned and succeeded in reaching the top of the 6m high rift. What appeared to be a large passage crossing over the rift turned out to be a widening on a bedding plane about 3m in diameter and completely choked. Some nice straw stalactites of the type found in Anagram Passage, Whitsun Series, decorated the roof and Ben described a yellow coloured "fungus" covering the fill of one wall.
Others had been there before judging by the footprints; a little disappointing that it went nowhere but an interesting exercise all the same. Pool Traverse is to be commended as an entertaining route for those jaded by SE Passage.
During the 1997 winch meet a few of us spent some time deliberately pottering around the less well visited parts of the system. On 19/8/97 John Allonby, John Cordingley and Paul Norman visited this Lower Stream Passage Pot area, mainly to have a look at the downstream sump. The extensive moorland "gripping" done in the late seventies was known to have blocked this sump with extensive deposits of sand3 and we wanted to know if it had become diveable again. In fact the sump still looked pretty blocked but it was obvious that there was plenty more to do above water in this interesting part of Gaping Gill.
The shaft down to the sump is much bigger than would be expected from the size of the approach passage above. In fact the many loose flakes and linear nature of this rift suggest that it is actually formed within the South East Passage fault. In the opposite direction from the sump (ie north west) is a descent to a choked passage which appears to issue a lot of water in flood. Above this point is a window 5m above the floor which enters a high narrow fissure trending north westwards (see below). There also seemed to be a way on out over the pitch head to the south east so we sorted out the rope and set about climbing into this. From the pitch lip an easy shuffle forwards met the fault plane at which point the traverse became slightly more impressive. Straddling in the roof of the 15m deep rift on somewhat loose footholds required a couple of bolts to be placed for protection. From the second of these a 4m ascent next to some large jammed boulders reached a rocky platform which had clearly never been visited before. We'd run out of bolts by this point so the continuation, initially blocked by a few rocks, was not pursued.
The following day we returned, tooled up with the necessary gear, and shifted the rocks. The party consisted of Allonby, Cordingley, Norman and also Dave Morris. A short rough crawl, following the flow direction in flood (shown by many small scallop marks) soon led to a short walking sized rift passage. This was gained by an easy 3m climb down beside a jammed block. Bouldery holes in the floor were crossed to reach a point where the rift closed down ahead, with no obvious way on. This spot was about 41m from the top of the 15m pitch. Stones thrown down the choked floor holes fell into deep water with an ominous splash, almost certainly connecting with one of the airspace sections in the sumped area explored in 1970. A grade 2 survey of this new passage was carried out before derigging and checking the north west side of the rift at the pitch head. Here a continuation rift was too narrow but stones thrown down it dropped into the bottom of the 15m pitch, presumably via the window 5m up the wall (described above).
These explorations, although of no great extent, have shown yet again that new ground can still be gained in Gaping Gill with relative ease. The extension described above, together with the CPC Lost River Chamber extensions found last year, have shed more light on the development of the system. In particular the route of the Main Chamber water towards Ingleborough Cave appears to be largely controlled by the South East Passage fault. Evidence of large scale flooding in the Lower Stream Passage area may well indicate that the Main Chamber water reaches this fault upstream of Mud Pot. It then follows this major fracture zone via South East Pot (collecting the Queensbury water en route) to flow through upstream & downstream branches of the Deep Well sump. The Hurnell Moss fault must be encountered in the short missing bit before entering the upstream sumps of Ingleborough Cave.
Dick Glover4 always said that dry weather flow from Main Chamber to Ingleborough Cave is via deep slow phreatic conduits but in flood higher level overflow channels convey the water there much more quickly. Maybe the system of jagged epiphreatic rifts in the Lower Stream Passage Pot extension and Lost River Chamber area, formed at an intermediate level between the Porcellaneous band and the modern "water table", gives an insight into how this actually occurs? If so, perhaps there are similar discoveries waiting to be made further towards Ingleborough Cave along this fault system. Dedicated diggers please note! Future surveyors might like also to note that our survey begins at the prominent nose of rock on the left at the pitch head, just next to the obvious thread belay at roof level.
(1) CDG Newsletter No. 17 (1970), page 11.
(2) BPC Bulletin 5 (8), Spring 1971, pages 20,21. (Includes sketch of sumps.)
(3) CDG Newsletter No. 77, (1985) page 12,13.
(4) Glover, RR, 1974, "Cave Development In The Gaping Gill System", in "Limestones And Caves Of North West England", Ed Waltham AC, pub David & Charles, pages 351,352.
"Determined as he was, the diver struggled breathless up the rope, glad to eventually be back in Lost River Chamber."
Taking advantage of the annual GG Pilgrimage it was decided to dive the Sump below Lost River Chamber in the new extension which was found last year during the Winch Meet.
The route into the extension which starts from the scaffold covered hole near to Bar Pot, was rigged three days before the dive, also a bolt was placed at water level. This was to aid kitting and serve as a belay point for the diving line. Surprisingly the visibility was about 1-2mts, and it looked like the rift was widening below water level, as it is only about 0.5mts wide at this point.
Continuous heavy rain, the day before the dive was planned threatened to cloud any hope of half decent visibility in the sump. Hopefully it would take a while to flow through and not make any significant different to the situation.
It was only planned to be a reconnaissance dive, previous depth tests had plumbed the rift sump to be over 37 metres deep. Because of the deep nature of the phreas, it was imperative to use two completely independent diving sets even at this early stage. Also a full complement of auxiliary equipment including fins and a 50watt light was taken. On hindsight this proved a bit of an overkill, due to the difficult approach to the water. Also on the day of the dive the support was a bit thin on the ground, and the carry was strenuous with only Simon and Emma to help the diver with his burden of kit.
The pitch down to the sump is a long narrow rift, at least 12 metres deep. At the top the pitch head, is formed by a huge mud covered boulder choke occupying the top 3 or 4 metres of the rift. Because of its dangerous position it was safer to abseil fully kitted down to the water surface, this would avoid being stoned from lowering equipment over the boulder cone. When crossing the steep mud cone in full diving gear, wearing fins, it was impossible to avoid sending showers of mud and rocks hurtling down into the flooded rift below, transforming the apparent clear water into turbulent sludge. Inevitably some kit had to be lowered and subsequently hauled out, which caused some worried moments when huge mud pats fell on the diver's head.
When safely at the foot of the pitch at water level, it was obvious that the cascading mud and rocks had just sunk into oblivion, not disturbing visibility too much. This point, the widest part of the rift at 0.5metres, was the best place to descent yet in direct firing line of the hanging boulder cone. Fortunately the rift was too narrow for the largest boulders therefore they made a good wedge for the rest.
The diving line was secured to the bolt and descending slowly feet first, it was realised, the rift, only widening slightly, was considerably narrow and would not allow any real finning movement.
Large scalloping of the walls indicated fast moving water of considerable force at one time, yet the rift continued much the same, not more than 0.5mts wide. In both directions (SE) and (NW), along the rift it was too narrow to descend at any other point than the centre. Continuing to descend slowly, the cylinders kept snagging on the walls hindering the progress. The only route was still the direct line below the belay, as this was still the widest.
When reading -14mts a suitable eye hole provided a secure tie off point for the line, the descent continued just as awkward down to -24mts with no enlargement in sight. Therefore uncertain of the safe position of the line it was thought not prudent to continue, without suitable belay to keep the line in the widest part of the rift, to enable a safe return.
A slow ascent followed butting the line from the reel at the eyehole tie off, the diver made a precautionary safety stop at -3mts before surfacing, well within the no-stop limit of 25 minutes for 24mts depth reached.
After a short rest some of the kit was sent up the pitch, but proved too problematic with the mud slope. Therefore the diver had no choice but to prussik out fully kitted, which was difficult in the narrow rift. Somewhat exhausted, the mud cone slope was somewhat desperate to climb and it was good to be back in Lost River Chamber!
The climb back out to South East Passage was hard work, it was difficult moving the tackle bags along the muddy rift above riggers ticket route. It was a relief to be greeted by Fritz and Henry to help pull the last bag out, and then Tom was met at the Portcullis shortly afterwards.
It had turned out to be something of an epic, and an eventful journey back to the Main Chamber. For on the slippery boulder slope above SE Pot proper the diver slipped head first and self inflicted several minor injuries. However, the impact of his head against one rock caused severe compression to the middle ear, resulting in a Barotrauma to the ear drum. Fortunately not too serious, and the rest of the journey was uneventful. We surfaced shortly after midnight to everyone's relief, especially those suffering a shortage of alcohol.
The diver would like to express his gratitude to all who were involved and grateful thanks go to Simon, Emma, Fritz, Henry and Tom.
I am writing this article for record purposes. To the best of my belief, everybody knows the first time GG was climbed by wood and rope ladders, it was in August 1895 by the famous EA Martel. Very few though, know the last time it was climbed in this manner.
Every week on a Monday morning in 1956-58, I used to get up early; just to read the Daily Express to see if there had been any fatalities or accidents in the English caves. It was a fascination with me, never having been down a cave or pothole. Then early in 1958 I heard that a club, The Bury Cave and Pothole Club, had been reformed and having joined them in 1958 I made my first trip underground on a day I will never forget. It was into a massive cave system - Gunnerfleet Cave, 370 feet long and I came out alive. I only intended to go once, to find out why idiots risked their lives every weekend in a stupid sport. Now years later I feel a lot older but am still going down underground, taking a few photographs.
One of the proudest moments in my life was in 1963 when I made a clean sweep of all the trophies in the Craven Pothole Club Photographic Competition, something which has never before or after been equalled. Now after a lot of waffling lets get back to the main topic of this article.
About August 1961 at one of our meetings of the Bury Cave and Pothole Club, we were discussing the 1962 meets and I said "How about GG?" Everybody laughed, and no wonder, we only had 60ft of electron ladder and no money but about 12 members. We had to raise money, so we ran a dance and made a few bob; then twice a week at my place in the cellar under my butchers shop we had a working bee and by August 1962 we were ready.
We obtained permission from Dr Farrer to dam Fell Beck and put the water down Rat Hole for the assault. We had made 400feet of wood and rope, 10 inch rung space ladder, plus 160feet of electron.
I'd checked and rechecked Martel's descent and we could not fail on an exchange between Gaping Gill and Bar Pot, even with a small party. So on the 1st of September 1962 we lugged all our tackle over the moor from Clapham and if you have never carried wooden ladders plus 1000ft of the old type 3/4inch manila lifeline plus personal caving and camping gear, you have never lived!
On Sunday 2 September we were up just after daybreak, a good day, the sun was shining and the beck was low and by 10am everything was ready, the team had laddered Bar Pot and the ladder was down GG, now it was up to me. I fastened on the lifeline and started the climb down. All went well until I reached the ledge 190 feet down, there was all the ladder neatly piled up. When I pushed it off my only worry was becoming entangled and dragged off the ledge. Well, I passed the obstacle and restarted the climb. After the 200ft mark the climb became easier but wetter. I found that although the beck was dammed somehow water was still coming down the shaft from somewhere and the occasional rung was slipping. We found out later that this was due to the pegs snapping and letting the rungs slip down.
Finally I reached the floor of GG and the eight months of hard work, as I stood there, seemed small for the achievement we had accomplished. I still even now remember thinking to myself as I stood there alone looking up the shaft, we have accomplished something that the Craven Pothole Club, Bury Cave and Pothole Club and BSA will never do again on wood and rope, because by this time every club was using electron ladder.
By 4pm we had done an exchange plus 4 of the group had climbed GG both ways, all we had to do was de-ladder and off back over the Pennines to Bury. Now I hit my major mistake, how do twelve people after caving all day pull out 400ft of wood ladder. We could not even move it, (Even Martel made the same mistake, he used two horses to get the ladder out), then we saw a party of hikers coming down Ingleborough, so with their help we got the ladder out and by midnight we were back home, tired out but happy.
A few of the names in the party that I remember were myself, Brian Holt, Ken and Dave Taylor, Dave Parkinson, Vic Simpson, Eddie Woodall, Dave Ratcliff, Dave Sykes, Allan Hayhurst, and after 25 years names I cannot remember. To all new cavers, keep good records, dates, names of all members of every party you go down with because someday you might need to recall your records like I'm doing now and you don't know or forget names etc and then true records are lost forever.
Anybody who has ever climbed GG will agree with me. The feeling after you have touched the floor after a 350ft climb and stand there alone in solitude and look up at the ladder stretching upwards out of sight towards eternity with your lifeline which had been your only safeguard between life and death for the past fifteen minutes, and feel the quietness only touched by the sound of cascading water on your left, and the earthy smell of a deep daylight chamber, plus the colours of the strata of the rock face facing you and the darkness behind you like black satin velvet; I then realised what a magnificent feeling Martel must have had 77 years before to be the first person in my position now.
Well that's it. I started this article in 1983 and it has taken me fourteen years to complete, is this a club record. Good caving to you all for the years to come.
PS Best wishes to everyone who can remember me. For the records I was not deported to Australia in chains for poaching!!
(CPC member since 1959)
In some ways Brian's article has been overtaken by time because as part of the centenary celebrations of Martel's descent the shaft was again climbed on wood and rope ladder specially built for the purpose - Ed
"It seems to be a tradition in Britain for a club to get a permit for a week in the Gouffre Berger, which was the first thousand-metre-deep cave in the world, and then to cast about for a team of thirty or so, including some virtual novices, and go off there on a holiday. This ought to be a recipe for disaster, but it works for them, at least some of the time. The report on the Craven Pothole Club's 1994 expedition to the Berger is unusually fun to read. Rather than the traditional British expedition report, with dull sections on planning, transport, medical matters, finance, and so on, this report consists almost entirely of personal stories of their caving experiences there by fourteen of the members of the expedition. I can't imagine a better way to get a feel for this famous cave, at least in dry conditions. An appendix contains a report on a trip there in wetter conditions by one of the expedition members who had also been there a couple of years before.
And I learned a new bit of caving slang, the word 'boflt'. At first it appeared to be a typo or at least unpronounceable, but it turns out to be pronounced 'f-in bolt'"
It is proposed that a Pie and Peas Supper and Slide Show be held at Ivy Cottage on 25 October. Please contact Steve or Barbara on 01845 597300 before 17 October if you would like Pie and Peas.
Now in 1997 the saga continues.
After the euphoria of breaking out of the sump had subsided, we realised we were no nearer our ultimate goal, we had merely passed another milestone. Progress could be made in two directions, vertically up the aven connecting to Calcite Way, or carry on forward beyond the boulder choke, hopefully into open passage and eventually the rising at New Houses. We decided the choke provided the most potential, but where would we start?
We reasoned that since the old sump and the 1937 rift follow the same line of development, then the continuation must also follow that same line, but at a lower level and possibly stepping under the right hand wall.
We had the following options:-
(1) Follow the water through the choke.
(2) Follow the choke at a higher level in the boulder chamber, this would give us a 20ft horizontal head start.
Both of these could be ruled out owing to the unstable nature of the choke, due to the constant erosion by flooding.
The 3rd and only viable option, was to create a level on the same bearing as the 1937 rift in the solid right hand wall. This would provide a degree of protection, while also enabling us to keep in contact with the choke.
The end of the 1937 rift has been heavily modified by blockfall development, resulting in some precariously poised slabs forming the roof over what we hoped would be the eventual way on. This was an open joint at floor level, only 2" wide but it was taking water. Before progress could be made forward we had to stabilise the roof. On Sunday 31st March 1996 we returned, along time was spent playing "what happens to this, if we take out that". Eventually we had a consensus, the results were quite impressive leaving a safe working environment.
The push for New Houses started on Saturday the 11th of May 1996.
Diary entry Sunday 12th May 1996.
"Yesterday's efforts have unfortunately allowed four more slabs to drop from the roof. I hope this is only stabilisation and will not prove to be an ongoing problem. One rather mean looking block has dropped about 3in and wedged, since we have to crawl past it to reach the face, it will have to be removed, that is of course, if it is still there next week. The dig is now 8ft long with hopefully another 4ft to clear."
Steady progress was made until the first weekend in June, which had been designated for cottage refurbishment. Sunday morning Paul arrived in the new digging mobile, a Range Rover! We set off to rig the entrance permanently, and generally inspect the dig. Riding up to the hole (with the farmer's permission) in the new transport was absolute luxury. No hitting your head on the roof, while being kicked up the backside by the seat, as you struggle to hang onto rope to stop the back door flying open.
There had been a severe flood since our last visit. The low sections just before the dam had cobbled up again, only this time to such an extent that they would pose a serious hazard if caught out by rising water levels. On the way out these were cleared once more.
Diary entry Sunday 9th June 1996.
"The joint we have been following in the right hand wall has stopped, and the draught has gone. The dig is now 12ft long and 6ft deep, so we are now into unexplored territory even by 1937 standards. The sound of water seems to be getting nearer."
Diary entry Wednesday 12th June 1996.
"The dig is now submerged. It would seem the rift did contain a stream, probably the one which now sinks in the cobbles behind the spoil heap, we will have to wait and see if we have created a 6ft deep puddle."
After digging back some 4ft, the rift was uncovered and the draught reappeared clearing the steam from 4 sweaty bodies. The water which had been running horizontally under the dig, now took a more vertical course where the rift started to close down. At this point a second stream could be heard, it had a much deeper tone to it, unfortunately no one could be sure just where it was emanating from. Because the working face had now been enlarged by our female equivalents of the JCB (Karen and Barbara), it was now possible for a 6ft 2in digger with giraffe proportioned legs, to be effective while digging down. I attacked it for the first time in ages. It really was quite comfy now, I could dig and scrape away at the floor without having to practise some advanced form of yoga with my back and knees. I soon realised my hands where going deeper into the water than they were when I had started, I had inadvertently blocked up the drain hole and the water was coming up fast. Our leader called for power with a sense of urgency in his voice, then attacked the floor with the Hilti chisel. The situation was getting desperate, the water was above wellie tops and I was being cursed for his now cold feet. Earlier in the day I had remarked that the boulder choke could not be more than 2ft away through the left hand wall, if it was this, or just blind panic I don't know, but Paul attacked the front facing left hand corner. The plug was pulled and I was banished back to the spoil heap. The new hole draughted and echoed, as a result the dig turned left at 45 degrees towards the choke.
The life of a generator stopper and starter can be a cold and lonely one.
Because the gennie does not like to run unloaded for long periods of time, it became customary for one member of the team to give the digging crew a 2 hour start before walking up to the hole to look after the generator. Even though these members of the team were not actively digging, without their willingness to sit in the cold for hours on end, this project would have been much more difficult.
The 16th June 1996 was one of the hottest days of the summer. I arrived at the entrance dressed in shorts and tee shirt absolutely lathered. First job establish contact with the dig, then take the intercom up into the sunshine, and find somewhere in the shade to read me book.
About 4pm the enemy arrived with a frontal diversionary attack, keeping me occupied with how wonderful Glover's Chamber is and the terrible weather they had at Gaping Gill. Meanwhile, Parrot the BPC double agent, had sneaked down the wet way to recce the dig. He was captured by friendly forces and sentenced to 10 buckets on the spoil heap.
The sun was on it's last legs when the team arrived on the surface to be greeted by a very red surface person. They all complained how hot it was, while I was wishing I had brought a jumper.
Diary entry Wednesday 24th July 1996.
"Today's mid week trip by Paul and Neville had to be aborted because all the ropes on the entrance pitches have been stolen."
The disappearance of the ropes and the imminent annual CPC gathering at Gaping Gill, meant we could not return until mid September. Six hours work resulted in the exposure of the boulder choke. The floor was becoming more digable and the main water flow could be seen. We had reached one of our goals, a safe route to the edge of the choke, with the main water flow being a bonus.
A considerable amount of rock could easily have been removed by hand, due to the highly faulted nature of the limestone beds in what had now become a 5ft square alcove in the left hand wall. However, the roof was formed by two large blocks each approximately 3ft x 2ft x 10in, these where supported by buttresses of shattered shale in the dig walls. If we where to carry on down, we would de-stabilise what was holding up the roof, the consequence would not be an happy ending. Paul assured us they were well and truly wedged and perfectly safe. The team where not convinced, since this usually means that two good bangs with the hammer and the whole lot comes down.
We returned three weeks later, fresh evidence of ponding in the main chamber was evident. The low sections upstream of the dam which usually collect the cobbles washed down from the main chamber had in fact been scoured clean, nature seemed to be working with us for a change. The dig itself however had not fared well, as Ric and Paul where about to find out. The alcove leading into the choke was submerged, and no amount of effort could encourage it to drain. With this in mind the dig was tided up to await the winter floods, we would return next spring.
The settled cold weather of the Christmas holidays provided an unexpected opportunity to make progress. I must admit my reasons for rousing the team were a little self centred. I firmly believed that a concerted effort would have us exploring uncharted territory before May, when I was due to become a father.
On Saturday 28th December 1996 we returned. The alcove leading into the choke contained about 2ft of water, but considering the rate of flow emanating from the choke, was estimated at 10-20 gallons per min with no effect on the water levels, where was it going?
The obvious direction to proceed was down, this was ruled out by the amount of water entering via the choke in what was comparatively dry weather. A lot of time was spent inspecting the roof, and more importantly what was holding it up. Eventually John, Paul and myself came to a collective decision to go back to the right hand wall, go forward at least 6ft and see what happens. The abandoned alcove would be back filled with the large debris from the next digging session, hopefully this would aid drainage.
Some one had to start the gennie, John and I drew lots. Reaching the surface I realised how much warmer the cave environment is in winter compared to the open fell. After two and a half hours sat at the bottom of the entrance pitch, the sun was starting to go down, and so was the temperature rapidly, eventually John and Paul were on the surface and I was frozen daft.
The drive up in the morning had been interesting when the temperature had been above freezing. Now the sun had gone down, and the track had turned to sheet ice. The chances of getting the vehicle down, the way we came up with no damage, seemed minimal. The prospect of leaving it up there over night and having to abandon it if the weather turned nasty, would be embarrassing to say the least. We decided to carry on up the hill past Jackdaw and drop off towards Birkwith. All went well until it started to get dark, at this point it transpired that Paul had been having one or two private thoughts as to the wisdom of what we were now doing. We stopped, had a look around and realised we where half way to Wharfedale. We had done some really silly things during the last 5 years, so jovially I suggested a pint in the George might warm us up. I must admit, I was more than a little concerned about the predicament we were now in. It was getting dark, the track was becoming more treacherous as the temperature dropped. We had already modified the near side door handle and surrounding body work on a gate post since leaving Sell Gill. We where sopping wet, dressed in next to bugger all, and I was showing the first signs of hypothermia. It was decided to turn back and hope for the best, we made it just, but not without some interesting moments and another close encounter with the same gate post.
The rest of the Christmas holiday allowed us to make steady progress until New Year's eve, Paul went home, and the club meet down Alum Pot was diverted to the Helwith, to watch the telly.
Diary entry Friday 10th January 1997.
"We seem to have had mid week visitors, somebody as been playing with our hole. The blocked-up alcove in the left hand wall leading into the choke as been pulled out and inspected. Are we attracting the attentions of pirates ? There is now a definite echo.
The weekend of the cottage dinner and club meet down Sell Gill proved to be interesting; could it be that our leader volunteered for this one knowing he would have a captive digging crew. The probationary members seemed under the impression that they were expected to remove at least 3 boat loads of spoil from this long standing club dig, before they could apply for full membership. Just where this idea originated I don't know, but the clearing was done in half the time. Could this be why it is known as Club Pot?
Again we seemed to have a distinct echo, only this time it seemed to reverberate 3 times. When we all reached the surface, Ric who had been last man out, informed us he thought he had heard boulders falling after we had exited. Could we be nearing the end, and I had not been imagining the echo during the past few weeks?
The following morning the snow has all gone, the hills are green, and the river is rising fast. The chances of getting down the hole are nil. Our leader appears from the Crown having just breakfasted with his beloved. He takes one look at the river, then makes every excuse known to man why we have to go down the hole. I think Ric had got him excited with thoughts of boulders falling into the unknown. Eventually John was persuaded to accompany him, on the pretence of retrieving the ropes. It transpired that the cave was in full flood, making it impossible to proceed beyond the main chamber.
Diary entry Wednesday 15th January 1997.
"Last Saturdays effort has revealed the boulder choke once more and water can be heard just below the floor. Is this the same water we encountered 5ft back ? Which way is it flowing ? We will have to wait until Sunday when we will be able to remove the blockage in the floor."
Diary entry the 20th January 1997.
"Reaching the spoil heap the first thing noticed was it's untidy state and the tools scattered all over the place. We all rushed down the dig expecting the worst. The limestone joints holding back the choke have been dug out, the choke itself has been entered for about a body length, resulting in the working face being de-stabilised and the possibility of the choke running in. The pirates have returned, It would seem their knowledge is limited, or could it be they had taken this mistaken opportunity to beat us too it? From now on we will have to be more security conscious regarding how the dig is left between visits."
After the initial excitement we returned to the day's objective, which was not to make significant progress but to uncover the water and determine which way it was flowing. If it flowed from left to right we would carry on forward and down. If it flowed from right to left, this would imply it was an inlet since it would be running towards the up stream flow. If this was the case we would have missed the way on, and would have to go back up to the area where we first turned left into the choke and dig down.
The sound of water still seemed only inches away, but each time we removed a block from the floor another seemed to be waiting below it. Eventually a hole was uncovered and the water found, this was in fact 3 to 4ft lower down and flowing from left to right. Laid flat out and digging at arms length another sound could be heard in the distance, only this had a much deeper tone. We were still on the right track, but the wall holding back the choke had now become so unstable it could collapse at any time. We had to go back to the solid right hand wall and go forward once again, resulting in the second alcove being back filled.
Work continued until the 29th March 1997, when the trip had to be aborted due to the working face being submerged. Water sinking in the 1937 rift, was flowing through the boulder choke, passing through the first back-filled alcove and emerging out of the second. We returned a week later intending to dig out the second alcove and re-open the water drainage to the stream below. Arriving at the dig we found it to be dry. The dig was surveyed in relation to the chambers above the choke, this would enable us to see where we were in relation to the known break-down area. As a result it would seem we were now some 2ft beyond the area of known collapse. This had to be my last trip before junior arrives, I was left pondering would I be there for the break through.
On Sunday 13th April, I had just sat down after a busy weekend emulsioning the ceilings; the beers are at hand, and the cars are on the grid for the Argentine Grand Prix! The phone rings.
"It's Paul, guess what! I'm stood outside Sell Gill and It's gone!"
"Your taking the p--s."
"No it really has gone, we're looking down a 30ft pitch and we're coming back on Tuesday to go for it."
The hole had it's final revenge, I was not there to see it roll over and curl up it's toes in defeat. Also the phone call via satellite, had deprived me of arguably the best Grand Prix action of the year.
The following Tuesday afternoon the team assembled at the cottage. I had missed out on the previous trips and was keen to see for myself the eventual break through. A further 10ft of progress had been made, resulting in a 3ft square passage leading to a black void. Looking out over a 30ft pitch into a chamber below I thought
"This is it, call me a taxi to New Houses".
Paul and Ric had already descended and made a preliminary investigation when I arrived at the bottom. Any thoughts of running down streamways and plunging over cascades were quickly dispelled; we were in a large breakdown chamber, roughly rectangular in shape, which was a continuation of the 1937 rift, as predicted at a lower level and dissected by the choke, A Grand Day Out.
The obvious exit was via a short scramble up to a window in the left hand wall, this gave access to the bottom of an aven, No Way Out, estimated at 70ft high. This would put the visible extent at approximately the same height as the aven above the choke in the 1937 rift.
The north wall of No Way Out is made up of large blocks marking the extent of the choke at this level. Ric and myself entered the choke through an undercut in the boulders, which led into a void. Ric climbed up between three large blocks to investigate a body sized tube heading back into the choke at a higher level, this we assume is the main drainage from the 1937 rift above.
The right hand wall of the terminal chamber is formed entirely by the fault. The downstream end contained a 6ft high by 18in wide rift, which slowly decreased to a body sized solution feature becoming too tight after approximately 25ft. Directly behind, upstream, was an alcove with a mud bank in front, the top of which contained some fine mud towers with pebbles sat on top. Beyond here a wall of fault breccia four feet wide separated the solid right hand wall from the choke on the left. With Ric hanging onto my wellies to aid retrieval, I was able to shine a light along an open joint into what appeared to be the way on.
If this was the long awaited big break through, the team had every right to be subdued on the way out. It was not a break through as such, just another milestone.
On Friday evening 18th May 1997 Paul and I returned. The upstream end of the fault still seemed the better option, the deciding factor was the weak draught emanating from somewhere in front. The following morning the full team returned; the majority of the previous night's dig was soon cleared leaving one problematic flake, which could be rocked with the bar but refused to come out. John and myself decided to attack the floor and try to undermine the offending article. Once the chippings were cleared large flakes were easily barred out and the working face took on a more vertical nature. We realised significant progress could be made at this lower level, so the mud bank was cut back to give us room too work. Our leader became unhappy that buckets of mud, not rock, where now exiting the face, we where accused of making it bigger in the wrong direction! We carried on forward and down until a point of diminishing returns was reached. The problematic flake was now 3ft above and 4ft behind us, it still rocked and refused to be removed.
Pat who had now been sat in the cold for over 4 hours at the bottom of the first pitch, started the gennie and even offered to stay put just in case we needed power later on. We progressed forward until power was needed again, at this point the new dig was not looking good; it was still open, but not getting any bigger. We had now been underground for some 10 hours and lights where looking a bit dim, John and I exited followed by Paul and Ric about two hours later. The following morning the open joint looked even less promising, it seems we may have dug our way into an alcove.
The saga had to be suspended on the 20th April 1997, due to the team's numbers being depleted for various reasons. During the next few months, Pat, Ric and John went off to Mulu, my son Ian came into the world, Paul severely knackered his back again, and we had the wettest June on record.
It was mid-August when we returned with Bob Makin and his Mole Phone to radio locate A Grand Day Out in relation to the end of Calcite Way, and finally survey the new extensions. The thieves had made another visit, this time taking all the power cable which had been laid down the entrance pitches to the start of the main chamber. With the loss of the ropes earlier in the year and now the power cables, the generator was the obvious next target, this was rescued the following evening.
The wet weather which hampered the dig during early summer had in fact worked in our favour, the mud-deposits on the walls of the terminal chamber had been washed away, proving the choke to be the hydrological controlling factor. The most interesting aspect was the mud bank containing the mud towers, this still showed evidence of previous foot prints, suggesting the area of the final dig was not the main drainage route; this now appears to be along and down the continuation of the fault.
Now seems the right time to sit back and assess the project so far. Our original aim was to pass the sump and connect Sell Gill to Haytime Hole, then follow the continuation to the rising at New Houses. We estimate that the rising is only 50ft below the present level of exploration and still a considerable distance away. It has been suggested that we now leave nature to act on the floor of the terminal chamber and see what happens. We still have the avens to climb and the low passage beyond Grommet's Demise above the 1937 rift as still to be fully investigated.
During the last five and a half years some questions have been answered, however, many more have been presented. I will leave these to Paul Norman to answer in a subsequent article.
The Group now has a World Wide Web site (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/members/andy.mccarron/cnccteca.htm) which lists the caves which have been re-bolted. The caves are listed by the Rigging Guide which contains them and also the latest Stop Press status of caves being bolted but not yet in the guides is included. Further information on the site includes notes on the safety of anchors and the tests which have been undertaken on anchors. There is also a very good article on the care of ropes for SRT.
Following the traverse onto the wide terrace of Parker's Route 43 deteriorating weather precluded any inclination to test the measure and exposed approach to the famed Cioch. And so we retraced our steps, a prudent move that in any event was almost a necessity in order to allow sufficient time to digest what was to be the first of many mammoth evening meals.
The very next day witnessed a crack of noon start as the same four drove north of Dunvegan to locate and pick over the acclaimed "coral" beaches. The said strands were devoid of coral, and for that matter anything else that would have kept a single beach comber in anything but a poverty-stricken state of limbo. However, during the course of a circular amble we 'bagged' a juvenile (b)eagle and were the focus of attention of enumerable bewhiskered faces beaming inquisitively from the briny depths, and seeming to implore us creatures of terrafirma to "come on in the water's fine".
There was no delaying the inevitable any longer, when on the Saturday the magnetic attraction of Coire Làgan once more drew us into the rocky heights of the misty isle, alas with legs noticeably buckling beneath the strain of yet another telescopic breakfast. Kath was treated to the more delicate amenities of the Cioch Slabs and, in a gravity versus adrenalin (the brown variety) traverse out onto the Cioch, Kath stood where those of lesser mettle witness their family flashing before their very eyes.
Afterwards Pete abseiled out into depths of Eastern Gulley to return to the hut, leaving the remaining three to leg it over Sgùrr Sgumain and tip toe like three reluctant Polynesian firewalkers along the delicate ridge to Sgùrr Alasdair (Alexander's Peak). via the mauvais pas by-pass. A subsequent descent into upper Coire Làgan was affected by the Great Stone Chute.
With the arrival of Russell Myers and Dave Allanach, later that same day, the Craven and District Formation Snoring Team was complete and in full training for the all Britain chainsaw impressions.
The next day Russell and Howard returned to the upper Coire Làgan and struggled up the down elevator to reach Bealach MhicChoinnic bound for the Dubh Slabs via an obscure hump of a bump known as Sgùrr Coir' an Lochain (the peak of the coire with the lochan). From here an equally obscure downward route led the pair onto the south-western shore of the remote Loch Coruisk, from where Sgùrr Dubh Mor was ascended by the dramatic Dubh Slabs forming the east ridge of Sgùrr Dubh Beag.
A return into Coire Làgan was easily affected over the south-west ridge ("bristly ridge" ) of Alasdair and little frequented screes. Meanwhile the remainder of the group were abroad in the Torrin and Elgol regions of Strathaird seeking out cafes, and underground cavities measureless to those who in the event failed to find them.
By Monday evening a veritable caterwaul of capital ZZZs were spilling from the upstairs windows of the memorial hut, effectively preventing spontaneous slumber for those of a more delicate physiological nature, those feeling the greatest need having resort to hastily fashioned earplugs whittled from karrimat material. Somewhere later the next day, the Snorefinder General, accompanied by the man o' the magic sticks, bent his way beneath a fiery orb to the dank and dismal recesses of the chambered tomb of Rubh' an Dùnain, where he communed with the inmates of the big sleep in his quest for an answer to the riddle of the alphabet's final letter.
Somewhere not a million miles from this strange tableau that redoubtable man of the black stuff, Myers, was leading his intrepid band of followers into the hallowed ground of Coir' a'Ghrunnda, a strange sounding name of unknown lineage which is believed to roughly translate as the hollow of the bouncing buffet. An excellent day was enacted traversing Sgùrr nan Eag and neighbouring Gars-Beinn, unaware of the palaeocrystic ritual that had taken place by the shores of Loch Brittle.
The snorefinder's sojourn into the catacombs of Skye seemed to have worked a minor miracle, for in the wee hours of the next day the night air was disturbed only by the occasional wheezing and a few subdued burblings of lower case zzz's.
By mid-week the meals for some, the nightly raspings for others, were becoming as much a major challenge as the Cuillin themselves, one culinary gauntlet thrown in our face revolved around charming into a roasting tray enough prime Cumberland sausage to rival the combined residency of the new Skye Serpentarium. The crux of the matter was vested in whether four could eat for eight, and still haul themselves onto the hills the next day.
Amid much controversy Thursday evening saw the nightly raspings augmented by the inception of a guest snorer. Masquerading as that University know-all, Bamber Gasometer, the guest led the ensuing synchronised sawmill impressions which subsequently attained such a crescendo that the shockwaves shook the bunkroom and even threatened the very fabric of the building.
The final two days gave rise to two ventures. Firstly Dave A., Russell and Howard walked from Sligachen to Glen Brittle via Coruisk and the Bealach Banachdich, and Russell, accompanied this time by Dave M, negotiated Amphitheatre Arete. And so completed an excellent week of rumination, perambulation, somnolent nocturnalism and mechanical impressionism.
Maybe we should have seen it as a sign when we arrived in Brunei to find that only two of our eight pieces of luggage had arrived; John and Sue Allonby's caving gear and a tackle bag full of disposable nappies for Gordon. When the rest arrived three or four hours later there were virtually no customs men around so we avoided any problems on that front (At least it avoided the imaginary comments of "Ah you Westerner's with your Immodium and nappies, you are expecting problems with our food, no").
The following day a friend of Steph Gough's persuaded Royal Brunei Airlines to follow Singapore Airlines example and fly all our excess baggage to Mulu free of charge. (He said we wouldn't pay because the excess baggage costs were to be charged to all the other passengers, but there were only two other people on the plane!).
When we arrived at Mulu International Airport we bumped into Ting, our local agent, and said "Hi. Are we glad to see you to help us move our luggage". The response of "What are you doing here you aren't due for another week" was not what we had expected. However he quickly commandeered a pick-up truck for the luggage and drove us to the edge of the National Park, introduced us to the temporary Officer-in-Charge and then flew out of the area for three days.
The temporary Officer-in-Charge was very welcoming, swiftly provided accommodation for us and told us we could go where we wanted, a considerable change from our first visit in 1990. However when a few days later we said we would like to go to Berang's Entrance to Clearwater (which we had visited in 1990 and which was about 2 hours through the jungle with no path) a problem emerged. "Of course you can go and would you mind taking a guide with you so you can show him where the entrance is". End of that plan.
There was also the slight problem that our carbide which should have arrived a week before we did was still no where in sight or even on site. After three days of being told that it was on it's way, it's arrived, it's still coming; we managed to borrow half a drum from the National Park Stores (their entire stock). Eventually our carbide arrived a week before we were due to leave. There had been problems finding a boat to bring it up river so our agent tried to air-freight it. The airline took one look at the warning on the side of the 37.5Kg metal drum and said no way. However being a resourceful sort of chap he repackaged the carbide in two cardboard boxes with a bin liner round the outside of each and these passed the airport scrutiny!!
Light relief was provided by a visit of local VIPs. The Government of Sarawak was keen to exploit a new jungle walk and the local politicians thought they ought to try it. Thus late afternoon one day, after an 18km jungle walk, into the National Park HQ complex strolled the politicians in charge of Forests, National Parks and the Secretary of State. Somehow I can't imagine many British Politicians being able to undertake that walk.
However enough of the background we did, eventually, manage to start caving. We had a few acclimatisation trips in Simon's Cave and Stone Horse Cave where John and Sue, who were on their first visit, began to appreciate the sheer size of Mulu Caves. When Alan, Becky and Gordon arrived we set off into the jungle to have a look at the first of the isolated hills near the airfield. We spent a full day searching about 3 or 400 metres along one side of the hill; distances are very difficult to estimate when the only way to see where you have been is from the cleared land round the airfield, a mile away. We found lots of collapsed small caves with strong draughts and promise but no way in. One small cave went for about 100 yards before closing down but was scant reward for fighting our way through the jungle.
We were still having grave difficulties persuading any of the locals to come caving with us. However Dave Gill had promised that his brother-in-law would cook for us (so long as he didn't have to walk far in the jungle) and an afternoon drinking session persuaded his friend Liang to come with us. This was useful because as well as having his own boat, Liang thought he knew where the entrance to Leopard Cave was having been there over fifteen years earlier! We also managed to hire a large boat for luggage, and borrow an engine for the boat off the National Park and we were about ready to go up river to where we wanted to stay. Of course very little of the food we needed had arrived but we were told not to worry fresh food would be sent up river each day!!
And so we set off up river, we didn't have to get out and push the boat too often because the recent rainfall (the amount of rainfall in this supposedly dry season was rapidly persuading John and Sue that they wouldn't want to be present in the less dry season) had raised river levels so we made good progress. On arrival at Long Lutut we quickly unloaded the boats and set up camp. Alan, Dave Gill, Sue and Liang set off to mark the track for the 40-minute walk through the jungle to Leopard Cave by breaking branches (the conventional local path indicator) and tying yellow and blue marker tape to the trees every few metres (essential for Europeans with no jungle eye). After finishing establishing the camp, John, Ric and Becky set off after the others intending to go as far as the upward rope we had left in the cave in January 1994.
The path marking was excellent and with only a few off path detours we caught the others up at the entrance. After exchanging a few words and John surprising Sue by giving her some caving gear so she could continue into the cave we were finally underway. Water levels were considerably down on those of our last visit in the wet season and the swim in the entrance was only about half the length that I remembered. We soon reached the rope and I set off up it dragging a replacement rope. However once up it I decided that, although a bit gritty in the middle the rope was safe and so, with some help from John who had come part way up the pitch, I used the spare rope to haul up all the kit for the following day before abseiling back down to the others. A wander upstream in this fine river cave completed a relatively easy day and we were back in camp before nightfall to a nice meal of rice, buffalo and vegetables.
The following day Sue and Liang were to look for the North and Snaketrack entrances of Clearwater whilst John, Ric and Becky went off to find Pete's Peccadillo in Blackrock. This was the main aim of our expedition and had been visited once on the last expedition by Becky. After some route finding difficulties in Leopard Cave we reached the connection to Clearwater and the long slog up the steep slope to the connection to Blackrock. We were soon on new ground for all us except Becky but made good time until we were in the apparent vicinity of Pete's Peccadillo. Then we hit problems, we knew where we thought it was on the survey, and Becky remembered vaguely what it looked like but despite spending nearly five hours going up and down the passage we couldn't find it. Even the time honoured Mulu tradition of taking compass bearing and pacing distances to match the ground to the survey only confirmed that we were where we though we were. After some head scratching we agreed to call it a day and make our way back out for a think. We were obviously in a bad way as we went through the same bit of passage three times in Leopard Cave before we found the way on to the drop to the river. However the jungle marker tape instantly proved their worth as we emerged into the pitch black jungle night and were able to find our way back to the camp with only a few hesitations where we couldn't immediately spot the way on. Charlie our cook provide jugs of tea and a very nice meal of rice and buffalo and vegetables.
The next day was a day of rest to recover from our exertions and to ponder the survey. We decided that the name "Phoenix" on the survey did not refer to the side passage nearest where it was printed but must refer to the main passage next to it. This meant that we needed to search the east side of that passage for the side passage we wanted and not the east side of the side passage we had been in! (complicated eh). So it was time to pack the gear and, as no food had come up the river, have a meal of rice and omelette and vegetables.
This time Liang, who though he had last caved seriously about 15 years before, decided he would come with us. He had no SRT gear so we decided to take travelling ladders for the pitches. We again made good time to the area we wanted to search and soon found a side passage that matched Becky's memory. However when we got into it we still couldn't make sense of the survey so it was back to the compass and estimated distances to work out where we were. Then we spotted the climb down, at the top of the first climb up, but before the second climb up, alongide the slope down (easy isn't it when you know what you are looking for). Soon after that John found a spit in the wall, it wasn't an ECO hanger but it had to be the way on. A steep and greasy handline climb down got us to the bottom of Pete's Peccadillo and the strong draught, our final destination after nearly two weeks spent getting there.
John set off up the climb but decided half way up that even with the protection of "friends" he was going to have to put at least one bolt in. Thanks to having Liang along we had two ladders with us which John could use as etriers whilst he put in the two bolts he needed before he could clamber on to the top of an arete. "It's draughting strongly and it drops down the far side in big passage", came the message. Becky scrambled up the ladders and I followed while Liang slumbered at the base of the climb. There was a body size hole in the top of the arete and John inserted himself into this so that we could belay the ladders to him before I set off down the sloping rift on the far side using the ladders as a combination handline/ladder.
At the base of the slope there was a T-junction with draughts coming from both directions. I shouted to Becky to come down whilst I had a swift look to the west where a stal grill blocked the way to a larger passage and so I went east in what looked to be a nice size but quickly turned a corner and started to rise. It was a beautiful floor covered in crystal flakes like snow, and with little stalactites covered in the same material and looking like Christmas trees covered in snow. The bad news was that it was becoming increasingly steep and the "snow flakes" were the only things to hang on to! "What's it look like" shouted Becky from 20 or 30 feet below. "It looks like it is going up to a roof with a possible passage but we aren't going to get there", I replied. I slowly and carefully retreated back down the slope, which looked even steeper from my precarious perch half way up it. Becky set off to investigate the other way whilst I returned up the sloping rift to John, who had meanwhile put a bolt in for the ladders so they were no longer belayed to him. "My way didn't go. Go and join Becky whilst I stay here to lifeline and see how she is getting on." It seemed only a little time later that they both returned with equal tales of steep (but draughting) ramps which it would be impossible to tackle with the kit available to us.
They rejoined me on the arete and then climbed down to Liang. I put the rope through the hanger and having tied the ladder to it, John held the rope while I gingerly climbed down and then it was decision time. Should we pull the rope down and derig because it was obvious that we weren't going to get anywhere, or should we leave it rigged for Alan to come in and have a look. Eventually we agreed to leave the rope and having grabbed the ladders for Liang we started our long and somewhat despondent trip back out. Once back in camp, after our 14 or 15 hours away it was time for rice and omelette and vegetables. Alan had visited whilst we were away and left a bottle of whisky but there was still no sign of the promised food. Remarkable as it may seem none of us had the energy or the inclination to open the whisky.
The following day was another rest day with Becky intending to go down river to look after Gordon whilst Alan came up to join us. Liang set off down river with Sue and Becky to collect Alan. Meanwhile one of our agent's boats came up river with two large fresh fish for dinner. A few hours later Liang and Alan arrived together with a large chicken for dinner. With no means of keeping food it was time for a feast of fish and chicken, with rice of course, and this time we did drink the whisky.
It was agreed that Alan and John would go back into the cave the next day for a final look at the new bit of cave and then derig it. Pat and I would set off about six hours after them to meet them part way out and help with carrying the gear. Pat and I had a quiet morning before Charlie started to prepare lunch and we got chips with tinned tuna fish sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The food area was definitely beginning to look up now it was time to leave. We left camp four hours before were due to meet Alan and wandered slowly through the jungle listening to the birds and debating whether the missing bits of marker tape might have been taken by monkeys as hair ribbons. We arrived at the entrance and started our lights and were about to set off into the cave for our rendezvous, still some three hours in the future, when John and Alan burst out of the cave looking like a pair of racing pack mules! We quickly took some of the tackle off them and after a drinks stop it was a swift walk back to camp and more rice and eggs and vegetables.
The next day was our final one at Long Lutut, we had no more objectives we could reach from there so it was time to pack up and return down river to the National Park HQ.
On our return we were a little unsure what to do because our main objective had crashed out. Our secondary objective of Clearwater six was out of the question because we couldn't get any help to set up the necessary underground camp and in any case it was too wet. Then Liang said that he had found a cave about eighteen months ago, would we like to go and look at it. Yes please was the instant reply and so the following day saw Pat, Becky, Liang and myself setting off on a somewhat roundabout route to the other isolated hill near the airfield. Liang soon found the small entrance which quickly opened up into a large cave. After a brief period of sight seeing we settled down to survey along the left hand wall. We soon had 500m in the book and on reaching a relatively narrow bit ( we could actually see the far wall) decided it was time to take a cross section. The passage was 60m wide! We carried on surveying a bit further up a long slope and stopped at the start of a large strike passage heading off into the distance. On the way back we were careful to ensure that we could find the cave again because Liang had to leave that night. When we asked him if there was a more easy-to-follow route back to the river he said there was and showed us. It involved about twenty minutes balancing-on/striding-along 8" diameter plastic drainpipe cutting through the jungle to a local village, but it was easy to find and follow. We arrived back at HQ well satisfied with the day's work.
The next day we returned, together with Alan, and where the passage opened out we surveyed rightwards until we found a large hole in the floor which we descended to find 300m of wide stream passage which led to another entrance. On climbing back out of the hole we also surveyed part way long the right hand wall of the huge passage before again calling it a good day.
Alan, Andrew from Aberdeen University and I returned the next day to continue the survey in the strike passage but unfortunately we eventually emerged out of the side of the hill. After searching for side passages we continued the survey of the right hand wall, occasionally crossing the passage to ensure we were still in the same passage as had been surveyed previously, and managed to link up with a previous station to get a closed loop.
On our final day in the park we returned to photograph the cave and push a few loose ends which unfortunately didn't go.
All that remained now was to pack up the kit we were taking home, find good homes for the kit we were leaving and have an expedition meal. All of this we achieved without too much difficulty! And then it was time to leave. Whilst we had been caving Gordan had spent much of the time with a child-minder at the airport. The result of this was as we walked to the plane to fly out virtually the entire airport staff lined up on the tarmac to wave him off! A fuller report on the exploration of Pete's Peccadillo and Porcupine Cave will appear in the forthcoming Explorations Journal.
Firstly some statistics (courtesy Richard Frank, HfbB - Blaustein Cave Research Group, gathered via the Internet) about the distribution of caves in the area:
size ? <5m 5m-49m 50m-499m 500m-4999m >5000m
number 436 ? 1643? 187 16 1
The most obvious source of information is the cave guide - Höhlenführer, Schwäbische Alb by Hans Binder, 36Dm. As far as I have been able to ascertain, this is the only cave guide for the whole of Germany, although there are several other caving areas.
The first thing to say is that, naturally, the guide is in German, but unlike French guides, where you can probably muddle through with limited knowledge of the language, unless you have a good knowledge of German you are going to get very little from the guide.
The second thing to say is that this is not a cave guide as we would understand the term.
1. Not all caves in the area are recorded.
2. The locations are not precisely shown! There are outline plans (map gives an impression of exactitude that does not exist) to each area, often covering 3,4 or more of the Topographische Karte, Landesvermessungsamt Baden-Württemberg. 1:25000. (called B-W Map from now on - but BJ can give the full name for the tapes sent to our sight impaired members). The result is that a 9cm square in the guide represents a 25km by 25km land area. Cave entrances are marked by dots with a number attached. The number sequence seems to relate only to the individual B-W mapË. This means that on a single page there may be several caves numbered for example 25 - one for each map. If you are lucky, there will be one town shown on the guide's plan for each map. Some rivers and some idea of valleys are given in the plans. No roads, paths, buildings or reference points are given in the plans. The plans will probably get you to the right side of the right valley provided that you use the B-W map in conjunction. Caves marked on the B-W maps are shown with *.
3. The guide does not describe the caves!! About half the guide is given to geology and the local cave formation. The remainder covers the caves area by area, but concentrates on the discovery of the cave rather than the description. So for example the guide states of one cave, "discovered by J Hasenmeyer......" (yes I know there is a clue here) ".....at the fifth siphon they....." leaving one to wonder what happened to siphons 1-4, of which there is no mention at all. You cannot even tell whether it is possible to get into the entrance without tinned air.
4. Along with this, there is no precise description of how to get to the cave entrances and no grid reference or co-ordinates for the entrances.
Ë The number sequence for each map is not continuous and suggests that there is in fact a registry of caves somewhere. Any ideas?
Where a cave is recorded, there is a note in the margin with the B-W map number and the number of the cave as shown on plan. After naming the cave some statistics are given in brackets (usually, but not always) - such as entrance height, width, length, amount of water flowing etc. There is one survey in the guide - Laichinger Tiefhöhle - which is a show cave! In short, whilst it is pretty indispensable as a key source of information, I cannot recommend the book as a guide in the accepted understanding of the word.
Baden-Württemberg 1:25000 Maps (referred to above) around 10Dm each
These are standard, OS style maps covering the region. They are frequently not available off the shelf although most book shops can order them. For Bad Urach, 7422 (Lenningen) and 7522 (Bad Urach - which is top centre on the map and spills onto 7422) are the most useful. Each map covers about a 12.5km square. These allow you to put the plans in the Guide into some sort of context and give you a chance of arriving at the right valley. Some cave entrances are marked, many are not.
RegioCart, Wanderkarte 1:50000 Map - Mittlere Alb, Munsinger Alb 12 Dm
This covers an area of about 50km by 40km and despite its smaller scale actually shows more cave entrances than the B-W maps. Its disadvantage is however that as a recreational map, the cartographer is trying to squeeze a lot of information into a small area. So sometimes the cave symbol can be displaced - example Gustav Jakobshöhle where the cartographer is trying to get a view point, ruin, public barbecue, a cave entrance and the contours to show a steeply sided valley all onto basically the same spot.
Baedeker Allianz Reiseführer Schwäbische Alb 35Dm
This tourist guide (German language) is an unlikely source of cave data, but contains information on all show caves (20) in the region together with surveys for a number of them and a survey of Blautopf. This is an even more unlikely choice of cave for a survey in a tourist guide since it consists of a lake leading directly onto a 1250m sump to a large chamber with the sump shown as continuing on. All in all this is a better source of surveys than the Höhlenführer!!!!
Die Falkensteiner Höhle - Eine Besucherinformation der Arbeitegemeinschaft Höhle und Karst Grabenstetten 10Dm
This gives some further information on Falkensteiner Höhle but does not include a complete description of the cave. It does however contain a line survey. There is also information on some other local caves and a picture showing a caver using the minimum airspace in the second siphon of Falkensteiner. A very similar picture in the Video "Wilde Falkensteiner" has this as the first siphon and it does seem as though the second siphon is indeed flooded.
"Wilde Falkensteiner Höhle" - Video - Wolfgang Graf 49.90 Dm
This 32 minute video is actually a collection of still photographs with dialogue and some music - not too intrusive - presented in Video format. This gives an excellent presentation of the cave and follows the route through. It also has a few shots of the entrance in flood - a salutary warning to anyone who would ignore the advice.
"Wilde Falkensteiner Höhle" - booklet - Wolfgang Graf 9Dm
A small pamphlet of the Video - which I didn't realise until I had bought both. 22 colour photographs and a description of the cave from entrance to beyond siphon 2. The text is short, but a little strange at times until you realise that this is the same text used in the Video and in one case the text makes reference to a picture that is in the Video but not in the booklet. Best suggestion for non-German speaking UK cavers is to use this as the cave guide for Falkensteiner Höhle, translate slowly at your leisure and enjoy the pictures.
And on the ground
The Schwäische Alb seems to consist of a tilted limestone plateau deeply incised with valleys. The general outlook can best be described as __
You are either in the midst of trees or
Looking out over a spectacular view of trees or
In an alpine pasture surrounded by - you guessed it - trees.
The majority of valley sides are very heavily wooded, and this is precisely where the majority if the cave entrances are to be found......or not as the case may be. This makes cave finding on the ground difficult without precise locations - witness our lack of success with Elefanten Höhle. Consequently data sources become very important in identifying cave entrances and locations.
With no cap rock most caves are resurgences - active or abandoned. The shafts that do exist seem to be mainly slip features close to the valley sides. Looking at the cave size distribution above and with 20 of the more important caves as show caves we already cut deeply into the caves open to "normal" cavers. Then remove the caves that are sumped resurgences - many of them - and it seems at the moment that the three caves visited on the meet constitute most of the more important, open caves in this part of the Alb.
A Caver's Guide to Falkensteiner Höhle
For a description of the discovery of the cave see Höhlenführer, Schwäbische Alb by Hans Binder"
Location: This entrance seems to be universally marked on maps about 6.5km north north east of Bad Urach.
Take the road from Bad Urach towards Grabensetten. About 3km after Pfählhof Campingplatz, there is a car park on the right hand side of the road on a fairly tight bend. Park here. There is a small sign showing that this is the Falkensteiner car park with dire warnings against staying overnight.
The obvious track, barriered at the start, passes a BBQ site and swings round into the Elsach Tal and soon crosses the stream. Immediately to the right is a resurgence up a small dry valley - around 40m long. At the top under a small rock face lies the entrance to Elsachbröller. Continue on the track to the first branch in the track. Follow the signs to Falkensteiner Höhle. A few metres further on over a sharp rise and the entrance is reached. Total distance from the car park around 300m.
Warning: This is an active stream cave. The first siphon sumps after continuous rain and with snow melt.
The entrance portal - 12m x 9m - lies in the face of a limestone cliff. In normal caving conditions the entrance stream will not be flowing, if it is, think carefully about the warning. The guide does give a graphic description of a party trapped for three days after snow melt.
On entering, the passage quickly closes down to stooping height and a large pool is soon reached followed by the active stream, which sinks in an alcove to the left. Turn right and continue upstream past a turn to the right (the water disappeared at this point until a couple of years ago when the exit became blocked). The passage continues over fallen blocks and through chest deep water (in places) for a further 330m where a mud bank with ascending passage to the right is reached. Drop back down to the water and the start of the diving lines. The next 10m is in stooping passage with around 0.5m air space. The roof then dips to the first siphon. We were told by someone who claimed to have done the cave some 20 years ago that the siphon was originally 20cm below the surface. Today there is some 12cm airspace in good conditions. The siphon is best tackled by non-divers by standing between the two diving lines lying back in the water and pulling through on the left hand (as you lie in the water head upstream) line. The siphon is about 2m long and quickly reaches passage with plenty of airspace and room to stand up. The siphon is roomy and should present no problems in normal conditions.
Continue upstream in roomy stream passage for around 100m until the roof dips down to the water. A climb around to the right gives access to Reutlingen Halle - Reutlingen Hall. Climb on up and onto large blocks above the stream. At the last block there are a bolt and piton installed. Move back around 3m and squeeze down through the blocks to the stream - right hand side moving inwards.
Continue upstream. The passage becomes decorated in places and a series of small falls gives some life to the cave in contrast to earlier where the water has been slow moving, ponderous and somehow a little ominous. Continue past the Badewanne - fairies bath tub (sorry that is Charlottenhöhle speak for the obvious formation) to the great cascade - around 2m high in about 4 steps - which is easily negotiated.
At the end of the cascade stretch ( the cascades are all very small) we reach the first of the three mud walls. These walls each have rope assistance provided (plus the occasional crowbar as a hand hold. On the second wall the rope starts up then traverses to the left. Ignore the rope going on upwards. The route then drops briefly to the water and on up to the third wall, which can be by-passed by a crawl over a drop to the right.
Traverse (rope installed) over 10m drop and proceed forwards into Fuchsbau Halle - Fox Hole Hall. This is a chamber with mud and blocks as the floor. There seem to be several possibilities to drop down back to the stream but the easiest is by continuing, around the left hand bend to the very end of the chamber. On the left hand side, where water can be very clearly heard below, squeeze down through blocks into a short crawl to a drop to the water. This looks intimidating, but is easily climbed - even though the walls appear to bell out in all directions.
Having regained the water, continue upstream. A low section then follows but squeezing over large slabs avoids a further dunking. This then leads to Königshalle - Kings Hall - a very well decorated section of the cave. Dropping back to the water leads to the Kolkstrecke a seemingly never ending stream rift passage.
At this point we turned back. The remaining description is therefore taken from Wilde Falkensteiner.
At the end of the Kolkstrecke, the water becomes deeper and swimming becomes necessary. ( At this point it recommends that all people passing beyond the first siphon wear a neoprene suit - sorry I did not read this until after our second trip - seriously however, in winter and spring, especially with snow melt, attention should be taken of the possibilities of hypothermia).
At the far end of the swimming section, Banische Halle is reached. A region with block breakdown in the floor as in Fuchsbau Halle. Shortly afterwards the second siphon is reached. This is a 4m dive and is followed shortly by the third siphon a further 1m dive. This then leads in time to the Riffstrecke - described as the best section of the whole cave. The fourth siphon is reached at 3400m. Further siphons continue on from this point in a seemingly unending fashion.
The other big news is (as predicted in the last Record) the connection of Witches Cave to Downstream Pippikin. Sump 1 surfaces at 420m from base, most of it fairly deep. Sump 2 continues shortly afterwards and descends more gradually to a typical 30m depth. However, between these two sumps is about 250m of well decorated and in places large high level passage. This may be the continuation of the Gour Hall tube in Pippikin on its way to an old truncated resurgence south of the Gavel Pot wall, close to Easegill. However, Notts Pot isn't too far away, with the possibility of a most strategic connection on the cards - Welsh cavers beware!
In between these two sites on Ingleborough, various probes were made into sumps in Gaping Gill on the winch meet. That under the left wall of Farrer Hall in the Whitsun Series proved to be very short (!) but in the Lost River Chamber Sump 2 Dave Morris was able to descend 24m in a very narrow flooded rift. It continues down! Elsewhere, the downstream sump in Hardrawkin Pot has been passed after just over 100m by Rick Stanton. A short length of dry rift passage led to another sump (50m long) and a bit more dry stuff to - surprise, surprise, yet another sump. If this thing doesn't hit a pitch soon it'll be sticking out of the hillside!
As usual, details of much of the above are available in the CDG Newsletter. Number 125 (October 1997) will be available by the time this issue of the Record appears.
The easiest way to get me is by E mail at: " firstname.lastname@example.org ". You can ring me (ansafone) on 01254 774336 or drop me a line at 29 Lynwood Close, Darwen, Lancs., BB3 0JY. I can pass on any material to the organisers.
If anyone would like to go then all information about the this function (on Mendip in May 1998) is available from Mike ("Fish") Jeanmaire, Elm Cottage, Old Dam, Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire.
No I am not the composer of this wonderful description of a glorious sunset. It was written a hundred years ago by the Yorkshire poet John Hartley. Yet I often think of them as I stand at my living room window of our bungalow on the fringe of Appleby, the former county town of what was Westmorland. I often marvel at the wonders of what I see. To the north east I can see the Pennines. To the west I witness the wonderful sunsets and the many varied patterns of clouds which enjoy such a variety of constantly changing colours as the sun dips below the horizon. It is at this time of day that I can watch the changing colours of the mountains. If I am sitting by the other window of the same room I can see High Cup Nick, the shoulder of Cross Fell (highest summit of the Pennines) and Murton Pike which I occasionally climb (if only to keep myself fit enough for the annual Gaping Gill meet).
I feel that it must be providential that my wife Bertha and I discovered this place when we were looking for a place wherein to enjoy our retirement. Our friends and relatives sometimes ask why we retired to Appleby instead of returning to our hometown of Keighley. I have always yearned for the wild open spaces of high hills where there was the challenge of mountains to be climbed or caves to be explored (and I did explore some caves even before I had heard of the Craven Pothole Club). Now we are truly in our "garden of Eden" for here in Appleby we have all that we need and all that has meant so much to us all our lives.
I was born in Keighley but spent my childhood days at Oxenhope on the edge of the Bronte Moors. My father was a great walker and even in my childhood days he took me for long walks. I well remember a nine mile walk that I did with my father in the Lake District. I was under ten years of age. As we walked towards Nether Wasdale we could see the lower slopes of the Scafell mountain range with clouds hiding the summit. My father told me that they were the highest mountains in England. This information gave me no idea of their real height. As they disappeared into the clouds my childish mind concluded that they must be many miles high. I never forgot the impression they had on me and I wondered if I would be able to climb them when I grew up.
By the time that I was eleven I had climbed my first 2000 foot mountain in Scotland. Soon after leaving secondary school I was exploring the Dales with my younger brother. We would cycle to Bolton Abbey and climb Simon's Seat via the Valley of Desolation, or we cycled to Kettlewell to climb Great Whernside and to Buckden to climb Buckden Pike. At twenty years of age I started to spend my summer holidays in the Lake District and climbed many of the mountains there.
Now here I am at Appleby, only twenty minutes drive by car to Ullswater and 75 minutes drive to the wild beauty of Crummock Water and Buttermere. On the other hand I can be on the lower slopes of Wild Boar Fell, the 2324 feet high mountain in Upper Edendale within 40 minutes of leaving home. Clapham can be reached in just over an hour. What more could I wish for?
But Edendale has a story of its own. It has so much to offer for people of all ages.
The river Eden rises on Black Fell Moss half a mile north of the 2257 feet high Hugh Seat and between Hugh Seat and Hanging Stone Scar on the easterly fringe of Mallerstang Common with Wild Boar Fell on the opposite side of the valley. This area is really the cradle of the river Eden. The infant Eden soon becomes a fast flowing beck as it enters Red Gill. Its turbulent waters then plunge down the limestone gorge of Hellgill and here it is known as Hell Gill Beck. Half a mile after leaving the gorge it plunges over a 45 feet waterfall, the only real waterfall on the river. Close to the highest point on the Settle/Carlisle railway at 1169 feet above sea level the beck, now known as the river Eden turns sharply to the north. Here the young river passes through the area called Mallerstang Common. It is this part of the Eden Valley that is well endowed with numerous caves and potholes albeit small ones with one or two exceptions. For those who like the gauge their potholing achievements in terms of the number descended, they have plenty to go at hereabouts.
The river soon passes the only tiny village in the Mallerstang Valley (Outhgill) and the ruins of Pendraggon castle built on a knoll between the road and the river. It then meanders its way past the village of Nateby before it plunges into the ravine at Stenkrith over a bed of conglomerate known as bockram. The rocky river bed in the ravine is eroded by the action of water and the grinding action of pebbles which has created several small "pots" in the river bed. (The late CPC member Johnny Frankland lived within fifty yards of the ravine.) The river then flows in quieter mood through the market town of Kirkby Stephen and continues its winding way passing close to the villages of Great Musgrave, Warcop, Sandford and Great Ormside to flow through the centre of Appleby.
The Eden and its tributaries are the main drainage from the Pennines as it meanders through a glacial flat bottomed valley which is very fertile and provides rich pasture land. This can be seen at a glance by the deep green colour of the fields. Here is a sheltered climate in contrast to that of the Upper Eden valley. After heavy rain and melting snows the river can become swollen overnight and cause extensive flooding in Appleby when a siren alerts the town to emergency action.
Appleby is only a small town and a very picturesque one steeped in history. it has all the services that one needs including the only manned railway station between Settle and Carlisle. There is no more than a total of 400 yards of shops, banks, post-office, garages and cafes but it has ten pubs.
Appleby enjoys a drier and milder climate than the surrounding country. The mountains of the Pennines, Lake District and Howgills shelter our bit of Cumbria, taking the rain. Of course we do get rain but often we are enjoying our own mini climate, walking in the sunshine while the surrounding mountains are shrouded in heavy rain clouds.
Bertha and I do much walking some of which is on the hills and mountains. Consequently we do get caught in rain and snow. I recall a few years ago we were climbing High Seat (2328 feet) when we were caught in a blizzard as we neared the top. We tried to shelter in the lee of the tall cairn as wind driven snow fell all around us and we warmed ourselves by wrapping our hands round hot cups of coffee from our flask.
And of course we have been caught in the famous phenomenal "Helm wind" which flows in Upper Edendale and the exposed hills around Dent Head and Blea Moor. In my story of the "Big Snow" (Ref. the CPC Journal of this year) I mentioned the sudden changes in wind on that winter's day in the hills around Garsdale and Dentdale. We had been caught in the "Helm wind".
The "Helm" is a winter wind full of freakish behaviour. It was a great hazard during the building of the Settle Carlisle railway in the exposed parts of the Upper Eden Valley. It swept this wild countryside in angry gusts. One minute it would be strong enough to blow you off your feet and yet the next minute it would be perfectly calm. it can also localise itself; for example it can be perfectly calm on a railway platform while at the same time the trees in an enclosure a hundred yards away can be seen to be buffeted by this strange freak of a wind. Sometimes this monster of a wind will vary in such a pulsating manner as to break up the low lying cloud on the hills into cloudlets like the puffing of smoke from the steam locomotives of yesteryears.
To those in Edendale who take an interest in the phenomenon of the skies the "Helm cloud" enables them to predict the weather. Occasionally it can be seen lying on the top of the mountain ridge from Cross Fell in the north and stretching many miles across Great Dun Fell, Knock Fell and Dufton Fell. Local people will read the pending weather from the nature of the "Helm Cloud". If the cloud is white the "Helm wind" will blow without rain. If the cloud is dark grey then wind driven rain can be expected. The "Helm wind" gets its name from the helmet of cloud that precedes the wind. It also serves as a warning to farmers, railway personnel and to drivers of long and lofty road vehicles on the exposed stretches of road. It is a signal to secure their tarpaulins firmly on their hay-ricks and vehicles.
But the whole of Edendale is not rugged. Nor is the "Helm wind" a daily occurrence. There is a marked change in the appearance of the countryside once the river has passed through Kirkby Stephen and continues its winding way towards Appleby and beyond. Probably this is best seen from the train on this section of the Settle Carlisle railway. Between the now disused Crosby Garrett and Ormside stations we pass from the limestone country into red sandstone country. Now the houses, farm buildings, castles, churches and bridges are built in red sandstone which give a distinct character to this part of the country between Ormside and Carlisle. Between Appleby and Armathwaite a network of country lanes, some of which are very narrow, link picturesque villages most of which I have explored. Bertha and I keep to these narrow lanes and field paths on our walks, and so see very little traffic.
Geologically the whole of Edendale is very interesting. Between 260 and 220 million years ago Cumbria was part of a hot desert in a period the geologists call the Permian and Triassic Periods. The Eden district was a low-lying basin between what became the Lakeland hills and the Pennines. The oldest and most widespread Permian rocks are the Penrith sandstones which rest on the older Carboniferous rocks between Kirkby Stephen to the south and Armathwaite. Another spectacular scene in Edendale is High Cup Nick which can be seen clearly from our home at Appleby. This is a U-shaped valley carved in the Pennines by glacial action. A band of dark rock known as the Whin Sill runs round the head of the valley as a vertical exposed cliff. The Whin Sill is an igneous rock known as dolerite and is similar to volcanic lava.
There are many other attractions to the country lover. There is a very wide variety of wild flowers and bird-life. There is the evidence of Roman roads and forts. The scenery provides a great interest for the photography and the artist, and there is much to learn about every village and town in relation to history and folk-lore.
As for us oldies, the highest lakeland mountains which we have climbed several times are becoming too much of a challenge for a day's climbing. However we have what we personally call our mini mountains. These are Murton Pike (1945ft), Dufton Pike (1578ft) and Knock Pike (1306ft). These conical hills stand out against the background of the main bulk of the Pennine Range. Together they form a good example of an inlier (in this case the Cross Fell inlier) where an area of exposed rock is surrounded by younger rocks.
A 15 minute run by car takes us to Murton our starting point for the climb. If we do not stop en route it takes us 80 minutes slow walking to the trig point on the summit from which there is a splendid view. We know this area well as each year we make it our annual ritual to climb it on New Year's Day or the nearest fine day to New Year's Day. This we call a good afternoon out. Every age, age brings its compensations!
I don't think that we shall want to leave Edendale. It is truly our garden of Eden.
The 1967 tragedy at Mossdale Caverns was referred to in the CPC Record number 47 (July 1997). That reminded me of an incident there.
A CPC meet was held at Mossdale Caverns on June 29th and 30th 1963. I was one of the party that entered on the 30th. My diary notes that it had been very wet before this meet and that water was flowing into the system. A relatively dry narrow entrance was however entered. The stream was soon met but there was no problem with water in the Western Passages and some areas were dry. I still remember what happened shortly after we emerged.
My diary (excuse my grammar) states:- "Emerged in mist. After last man emerged it poured down and system would have been impassable.".
I clearly recall an increasing waterflow that soon covered our entrance/exit. My recollection is that the downpour had been unexpected. A major tragedy involving the CPC was possibly averted by the fortuitous chance of emerging when we all did. There was no mention of the event in the brief report of the meet in the 1963 Journal (page 161). Perhaps there was no need to mention it as it happened after we emerged. However, in view of the 1967 incident we may have been very lucky.
I thought the comments below might interest you for the Record. They are taken from an article by Dr Bob Sharp in "Carabiner" Vol 6, August 1997 which is the official newsletter of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team. The article was written after I had taken a couple of staff from my university, including Bob, for a first time caving weekend.
"So what did I learn? a number of things,
Caving is a very safe sport.
Cavers work to a very strict code of ethics. Not only are they environmentally conscious, but they also support and help each other in the extreme. They always work in pairs/groups and freely use the equipment set up by other cavers without removing/stealing it. Caving is a club sport and few people operate outside of the club situation.
Cavers are technical wizards and have systematic and well established procedures for all situations such as lowering, moving along fixed ropes, belaying, abseiling, ascending, etc. I suspect that climbers could learn a lot about safety and good practice from cavers."
The last line is praise indeed from a committed Scottish mountaineer!
All the best,
I was pleasantly surprised therefore to read in the Higher that the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has for the last seven years had a member of staff operating 1000m down a coal mine searching for illusive dark matter, hypothesized by cosmologists to make up 90 percent of space. Surely just another name for dark light and proof that the CPC are once more in the forefront of scientific investigation!!
In response to an appeal it was agreed that we would pledge £100 towards the costs of purchasing land around the entrance of Ogof Draenen if that proved necessary in order to maintain access. Noted that the YHA were again advertising trips down Gaping Gill on the winch at a considerably higher fee than we charge. Agreed that preparations for the production of an explorations journal would start towards the end of the year under the editorship of Alan Weight. The Secretary indicated her intention to resign from the post.
A formal letter of resignation was received from the Secretary. Dave Allanach agreed to be co-opted to the post for the remainder of the year. It was agreed that the Gaping Gill trailer should be stored behind Bridgend without its axles and wheels when it was not in use. Noted that the electrical work in Ivy Cottage has still not been done and it was agreed that a new contractor be asked to undertake the work. Reported that Geoff Yeadon had agreed to be chief guest at the Annual Dinner.
It was noted that the plywood sheets fitted to the bed of the new trailer had been removed prior to its storage at Horton. The Cottage Warden reported that the electrical work in Ivy Cottage had been completed and a new window obtained for the entrance hall. A number of matters arising from the GG Meet were passed to the Gaping Gill Sub-Committee. It was noted that the President's Meet would be around Attamire with a Sunday evening meal in the Settle area.
Denise Ashburne, Sean Karley, Paulette Easterbrooke, Joanna Kirj, Wendy Ripley, Carol Robertson, Heather Wilkinson.
The following have been accepted as Probationary Members and will probably be atttending meets during the next few months:
J Allen, Nicholas Clough, Martin Corey, Andrew Dobson, Patrick Gannon, Mike Hobson, Andy Thomas.
Change of Address:
Rob Dove, John Helm, Dave Meek, Sheila Mitton, Dennis Round, Adrian Smith. The following have moved but as at present their new addresses are not known: Alan and Kim Davey, Paulette Easterbrook, Tony Blick.
To Paul Spence and Janiece on their recent marriage