Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 103, December 1999


GSG Annual Dinner 1999

The Halloween theme of this year's annual dinner gave members an opportunity to reveal their true personalities - witness the picture of our esteemed hut warden to the right. There was no repeat of last year's excitement with no rescues and 56 members sitting down to dine on time.

The Inchnadamph Hotel served us well and many members stayed there for the weekend. One change from 1998 is that the "east wing" bedrooms above the dining room have been extensively remodelled giving them all en suite bathrooms. A great improvement.

The weekend found the Farr Series in ANUSC very well attended. And the assembled masses managed with much hammering to dismantle the scaling pole (left there since May) and take it back to the hut. Please, please, please next time you use it try greasing it first.

Annual Dinner 2000

Now is the time to nominate dinner venues for 2000. As a truly democratic club we allow you all to vote on the choices at the AGM. The list, voting form, and AGM agenda will be circulated with the next Newsletter. So far we have one suggestion - Wales - from Jake.

Send your suggestions to Ivan by mail, email or telephone. The more details the better and bonus points if you volunteer to organise it as well!

Annual Subscriptions 2000

Your annual GSG subscription falls due on 1st January and if you pay promptly you'll avoid any increase approved at the AGM. Subscriptions were last increased in 1993 and are still 10 for full members, 15 for joint and 5 for junior. There is a 50% reduction for students, the unemployed and old age pensioners. Make your cheques payable to "GSG" and sent them to:- Ivan Young, 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP.


Assynt Digs

Rana Hole - The latest acquisitions are half a dozen yellow buckets and a new diamond shovel. The buckets are easier to fill than the sand-bags and depth was being gained rapidly through soft sediments. However heavy rain then flooded the dig and there has been no progress since the dinner when we hauled out 141 bucket loads and gained another metre. Jake inspected it in mid-November and saw about 1.5 metres of water. Perhaps we should install a diving board? If we don't want to spend half the time baling, we need a spell of dry weather to let the water drain.

ANUSC - Some progress has been made in the Drip Chamber dig but after a start by Andy Peggie we're also digging at the choked passage to the left of the entrance. This has always been written off as an obvious connection to the streambed, just as the choke at the end of Breakdown Chamber so obviously connected through to the waterfall. However the latter is now the way into the Farr Series so the other end of this main passage could well do something unexpected as well. It might even link to the Drip Chamber dig!

Ivan spent an hour or so digging in November and returned with Roger Galloway in December. We followed the right hand wall to a point where the roof ascended and it became "self-digging" with rocks randomly falling out of the roof and walls. Some adrenaline releasing pokes with a crowbar served to collapse the piles of breakdown back to a solid wall and roof. It is still fairly easy going though great care and caution are needed. Total progress to date about 5 metres.


During the dinner weekend Simon Brooks made two attempts on upstream sump 4 in ANUSC. The first found no way on as visibility rapidly decreased to zero. On the Sunday Simon at last found the solution. He had to be at just the right depth to find a rift leading on. Too high and he was in roof pockets, too low and in the mud. The rift is back in the main flow and appears to continue at a comfortable size.


On their return journey from the Annual Dinner J'Rat, Tony B and Estelle diverted to Appin and banged the terminal chamber in Draught Caledonian. Malcolm McConville and Martin Hayes had been there earlier drilling the shotholes. As yet there hasn't been a return trip to investigate the damage.

West Lothian

Whitequarries Shale Mine - In September Goon, Fraser, Graham and Stephan Honig returned to the shaft mentioned in the last Newsletter laden with ladders and ropes only to find an easy slither down a few metres into the Dunnet Shale workings of Philpstoun No 6 Mine. They found the workings flooded to about 150 feet above sea level, but that still left about 1km of passage to explore. Hundreds of metres of railway, a dilapidated winch and other industrial remnants were found. A later visit by Roger, Jim Salvona, Dan Harries, Peter Ireson and Ivan visited all accessible areas and compared it with the abandonment plan obtained from the Coal Authority. A more detailed account appears in the October '99 GSG Bulletin and the plans are now lodged in the GSG Library.

There remain several enticing holes in nearby fields and we intend to visit them - cautiously. Peter Dowswell has volunteered to borrow a gas detector. We did feel some minor effects from excessive CO2 in this last set of workings and should take what precautions we can before exploring any more.


A fine trip in October saw Fraser, Dave Robinson, Roger, CJ and Stephan navigating from County Pot to the Minarets. The December visit to Grange Rigg and Christmas Pot coincided with torrential downpours and the through trip was impossible. All descended to various depths of a well-watered and extremely cold Christmas. Goon and Lloyd penetrated the furthest. On Sunday Jingling was descended by various routes and an exchange made by Fraser, Ricky, Martin, Lloyd, and Dave Robinson.


Half a dozen members (Roger Galloway, Kate Janossy, Derek Pettiglio, Peter Dowswell, Peter Ireson, and Ivan) spent a fortnight in the Dolomites in late August - early September. The main objective was to climb the via ferrata that ease the ascent of many of the mountains.

Via ferrata range from easy scrambles to difficult rock climbs with permanent aid. There is usually a thick steel cable running along the route bolted to the rock at intervals. There may also be steel ladders, stemples and other ironmongery at tricky sections. Some were built by Italian and Austrian troops during the 1914-18 and include quite extensive tunnel systems. These provided impregnable gun emplacements, observation points and communications routes, and in one mountain were used to undermine enemy positions and blow them off the mountain. They are all well maintained and the Italian are continually expanding the network and renovating the war-time positions as tourist attractions.

Though the Dolomites are limestone (Dolomitic limestone of course), they are remarkably non-cavernous. We did traverse two short natural caves, both with via ferratas in them, though most of our underground activity was in man-made tunnels.

The whole time was spent camping in Cortina d'Ampezzo and is highly recommended. Great mountains and superb routes almost all with a Rifugio near the top serving food and drink. A longer account of the expedition should appear in the next Bulletin.



Greetings from Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. I have been across central Australia, and climbed on and round the original twin falls of Jabiru (nice 30 metre chimney climbs into roaring but warm streamway). I have to report that the Mad Max movies can definitely be reclassified as documentaries since being in Coober Peedy.

Gair Dunlop

(Ok guys what is the correct spelling for the Twin Falls?)

Scottish Cave Database

Dick Grindley is finding the task of creating the database of Scotland's caves more difficult than expected. If anyone reading has experience of DESIGNING Access data bases please contact him. To quote:- "I'm getting bloody fed up of my lack of progress."

Dick Grindley, 6 Ravelrig Park, Balerno, EH14 7DL. Tel:-0131 449 3949, email:- <Dick>

Air in Assynt

Some useful information for the GSG's divers from Estelle:-

The Diving Officer of Ullapool BSAC is Darrell Campbell 01854 612383. Darrell has the club's compressor in his garage that will pump 3 12L bottles in less that 1/4 hour. Two other easily accessible members are Ian Hepburn - 01854 612469 and Malcolm Macleod 01854 612085. The Hard boat out of Ullapool is Goldseeker and is run by Scott Coleman - 01854 655272.

Estelle Sandford


Julian is gathering responses from members wanting to partake in the proposed Vercors expedition in September. If you are interested and haven't contacted Julian yet - do it now!

There are access problems in the area but so far this only applies to the Berger. The problem lies in the local commune's responsibility to pay for rescues in their area. Because they were refused the right to demand cash from visiting cavers before descending the Berger they have used European water supply legislation to close the cave. Theoretically this could close many French caves and even apply all over Europe. However that's in the future so don't let it stop you putting your name down. Contact:-

Julian Walford:- e-mail: walfords post: 6 Sweyn Road, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7NW

Forthcoming Meets and Events

See the GSG events page for details.

Not much on the list right now. Attention has been diverted to preparing for Meghalaya. Now is a good time to tell me the caves YOU want to see on the list for next year. Do it now and the next Newsletter will have a much healthier collection. So far I have South Wales, Somerset, and Short Drop/Gavel on the wish list. As usual there will be many Assynt, Appin and local trips being planned that won't appear. Contact us at the Cambridge on a Tuesday evening to learn what is happening. (Tel home:- 01383 860653)

Fraser Simpson


Keeping oneself informed should be a necessary trait in any field of interest, which is why caving clubs maintain libraries and stocks of archive material.

Despite clear indications from the 'Additions to the Library' which appear in every Bulletin, it is possible that some members do not fully appreciate what a wide-ranging and valuable resource the GSG enjoy in their library. I therefore intend to highlight some applications - perhaps unusual - which you may not have considered.

To preface this series, conditions of library use are provided. Abuse of these few rules is discouraged. In the past, valuable items have either gone missing or been damaged and defaced so dependence on a little self discipline exists.


  1. Books should not be retained for longer than one month unless a prior arrangement is made.
  2. Care is expected to preserve the integrity of volumes. Multiple use can lead to irreversible deterioration when books are not treated with respect.
  3. No book should be passed over to another member without first returning it to the Librarian.
  4. Some rare or valuable volumes will be retained for reference only, due to their irreplaceable status.
  5. Defacing library material, eg writing on pages, is not permitted.
  6. Borrowers who lose material will be expected to replace or provide sufficient funds to replace same.

A completely up-to-date software version of the library (MS Word 98) may be obtained by providing an empty floppy disc.

1. Childrens' Books

It is inevitable when a club reaches the venerable age of nearly 40 that members will begin to produce offspring. Whether you want them to follow in your underground footsteps or they spontaneously show an interest, consider the club's collection of books written for children, fiction and non-fiction, which are available for borrowing.

There are 84 volumes in this category, many out of print or hard to find and I highlight just a few below to give a flavour of what is available. Non-fiction first.

For the very young, there is James Webster's Ladybird book 'Under the Ground' which covers everything from cave men to miners, road tunnels and potholing. Colour pictures and simple, minimal text. On the same level is the MacDonald Starter book 'Caves', which is a reading aid with key words indexed at the rear.

Moving to a slightly older age group, we have Elizabeth Hamilton's 'First Book of Caves' and three recent volumes, all excellent value. 'Caves. Facts, Stories, Activities' by Jenny Wood, contains good colour photographs and is packed with facts. 'The Dark Zone' is a cartoon story book from America which I recommend highly for its environmental consciousness and computer-wise culture. (See and for sheer fun, Robert Crowther's 'Deep Down and Under the Ground' is a pop-up book with sliding panels. However, most of it concentrates on artificial cavities.

For the early teens there are many excellent books, despite their age: Ernst Bauer's 'The Mysterious World of Caves' is really comprehensive, and like Garry Hogg's 'Deep Down' covers stories from all over the world. Two dated, but very readable British books are 'How Underground Britain is Explored' by Showell Styles and C.H.D. Cullingford's 'Exploring Caves'. Finally, the Look Closer book 'Cave Life' by Christiane Gunzi is a classy production with colour pictures covering all troglobitic life, plant and animal.

The range of childrens' fiction is vast, including a selection of charming Victorian and Edwardian stories which admittedly will not necessarily appeal to today's reader. Most of the books are aimed at the 11-15 age group, although books for younger readers, such as Stig of the Dump, are held. Many books, despite their titles, only reach caves in their denouement, but a very small selection of the 'mainstream' novels appears here: Written by people who have explored caves and therefore have some understanding, Conon Fraser's The Underground Explorers (1957) and The Underground River (1959) describe gripping explorations on Mendip. Also, Showell Styles' well-known The Lost Pothole (1961) deals with the subject in Yorkshire. Peril in the Pennines by Winifred Finlay (1953) will strike a chord with regulars to the Dales and a slightly more unbelievable tale is The Pothole Mystery by Vernon Noble (1950's) where the girl goes caving in a dress(!) John Sweet's The Secret of Rumbling Churn (1951) is also a good tale. Several books by Malcolm Saville and Richard Church are available, as is a volume in The Hardy Boys series. Set further afield, John Christopher's The Caves of Night (1958) and Ruth Park's The Hole in the Hill (1962) deal with caves in France and New Zealand respectively, and that doyen of authors Norbert Casteret has produced a children's novel called Mission Underground (1964) which one would expect to be factual in content. There are dozens more but space precludes further listings.

If your kids are asking to be fed information on caves, dip into the club collection. There is something for every taste.

Alan L. Jeffreys, Librarian.

Elphin Caving Centre

Pete has invested in a new axe and log splitter. Please do not use them inside. The floor has already suffered enough. There's a good stock of wood in the store at present, however please remember that the rule for visitors is to bring fuel and not rely on the wood store.

The hut is now nominally full for New Year with Plymouth CC plus Ivan, Roger and Dave Hodgson and his mates. There is always the floor of course - and the old hut - for unexpected arrivals. The Alt are closing the bar at 11pm on the 31st and from then on it's a ticket only buffet plus firework display and bring a carry out! We've got a limited number of tickets almost all of which are taken. Eric might be encouraged to issue us more for well known faces, but with many other hostelries such as the Inch and Kyleskue closing, the whole of Assynt is threatening to descend on the Alt.

The 1998/99 financial year has now ended and I'm doing the accounts. Would all members who owe fees (you know who you are!) please pay then now with the annual subscription. Make cheques payable to "GSG" and send them to Ivan.

A final note is to remind everyone that the maintenance and cleaning of Taigh nam Famh is the responsibility of all of us. Please attempt to leave it looking better than when you arrived. That way it'll stay the best kept caving hut in the country. We're not asking you to clean the place from floor to ceiling. As well as normal sweeping and tidying why not clean one area really well. Perhaps the hobs, perhaps the fridge, or select one room. It's up to you.

Taigh nam Famh Bookings

Hut fees are 4.50 per night for non-members and 2.50 for GSG and BEC members. Reduced to 3.00 and 2.00 for children, students, unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of 2.00 only when the hut is full. Rates for the Knockan hut are 50% of these. Note NO reductions over New Year period.

If you are coming to any GSG event please tell the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible (01592 202627)


Jake has repainted the floor in the kitchen and continued through to the shower area. The paint is there to do more but we need to wait for warmer weather. There are quite a few maintenance jobs accumulating and Peter is making up a little list. I'll publicise it in the next Newsletter. In the meantime if you notice anything needing attention either fix it or send a note to Peter.


Membership News

Welcome to new members

Other news about members:-

Congratulations to Anne Hodgson and Nigel Robertson. Lachlan now has a baby brother called Aonghas (Angus). Born Wednesday, 6th October at 10:23 am and weighing in at 3.16 kg / 6 lb. 151/2 oz, everything went well and Nigel is now back to full steam on alt.caving

Fraser Simpson joins the select band of members who have experienced close encounters of the deer (and dear) kind. Just before the Aultguish pub a large stag removed his door mirror and cracked his windscreen. After Fraser had stopped from 60+mph there was no sign of the stag - just a few hairs left in the crack.

Ray Watters has moved to Cheltenham. No address as yet but he can be contacted via email at raymond

Austin Harley excused himself from this year's dinner with the excuse that he was visiting Roger Brandon in Oz. Chris Fitzsimons is also going there for a few months but to Perth in the west .

New Members

(Addresses removed from on-line version for security.)

Alan & Aileen Butcher; Lloyd Dawes; Julie Hesketh.

New Addresses

Simon & Jenni Brooks; Chris Fitzsimons; Austin Harley; Thomas Holdsworth; Ewen Macniven; John Varty & Florence Delafraye.

Non-Member News

Ex-member Mike Ross (1986-90) emailed us recently to congratulate the club on the extensions in Claonaite and ANUS. He's now based in New York and visited the Bone Caves when on holiday in Scotland this year. One of his memories of the GSG is:- "...was at the ANUS 21st party, with my girlfriend (now wife) who encountered Goon wearing only a helmet... she didn't go caving much after that...!!" He's back in the UK three or four times a year and could even go underground again if we catch him on his next visit.

Assynt News

Shellfish - The outbreak of amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) toxins in scallops continues to keep large areas of the west coast closed to scallop collecting. Some areas further north have had the ban relaxed, but GSG divers are advised to continue to restrict their diet.

Quarry at Durness - There is a proposal for a large quarry at Durness. We believe it won't affect any of the caves and allegedly it will only go ahead if the locals support it.

Floods - The heavy rain in early December threatened to cut the main road and all the lochs were at record heights. When Jake walked up the Allt nan Uamh the risings above the Elephant trap were spouting several feet into the air, and he found it totally impossible to cross the river below the Bone Caves.


After Goon's starring role in 999 another opportunity for television coverage arrived this autumn with the BBC2 program Outside Now. First we had to satisfy the BBC that we were a responsible club and fax them details of our insurance cover and supply details of membership of national bodies such as BCRA and NCA.

That done we met the team of three from BBC Aberdeen one weekend in September. Over the course of the Friday and Saturday they shot a couple of hours of video inside ANUSC. It was broadcast in November and lasted all of four minutes. Despite the short play time they did a good job of putting across an impression of what caving is like - better than 999. We had a quiet chuckle at Fraser talking about how caving took him far from the madding crowds whilst all around the GSG surged through the cave! So far the program has resulted in about half a dozen enquiries.

Afterwards the autumn BBQ was held outdoors without the need for a windbreak. This was funded by the money paid by the BBC to Ivan for his starring role - most of which mercifully ended up on the cutting room floor! The Library now holds a video of most of the footage shot for the program.

Sound of Music Evening

Another Dowswell extravaganza, this lived up to its billing for the Austrian cuisine, but the short notice saw a distinct lack of wimples and lederhosen amongst the participants. The eight members were more than adequately stuffed after three excellent courses with lashings of double cream. Most welcome after a day of horizontal sleet and hail showers. Julian Walford and Peter Dennis had taken their skis and Carol had taken Roger's dogs up Canisp and actually found enough snow to ski - for a few minutes. Ivan and Roger battled against the wind up the Allt an Uamh to dig in ANUSC, and Peter Dowswell did some work for East of Scotland Water (sad person) then attempted Cul Mor just as the weather turned really nasty.

After the meal Pete took it as a challenge to get the temperature up to a new record. A couple of hours of stoking the stove saw the heat peaking at 30.1OC with the outside temperature at 2OC. We all left for the Alt to cool down.

The following day was a real contrast with unbroken sunshine glinting from the frozen peaks. Roger, Julian, Carol and Peter Dennis ascended Cul Mor while Pete Dowswell and Ivan left earlier after a spot of hut cleaning.

Internet Caving

Remember the GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:-

Email for the GSG can be sent to <ivan>

Email for the Bulletin should be sent to <goon90>

The GSG Newsletter is distributed by email to all members who volunteer their email address. If you didn't receive this one I either don't know your email address or you've changed it. If you want the latest news without delay just email a note to the above address and I'll add you to the distribution list.

GSG Attire - for that last minute Christmas Present

GSG T-shirts and sweat shirts are available at 10.00 and 26.00 They are high quality products with an embroidered club crest (approx 10 x 7 cm) on the left breast. There are a variety of colours - wine, blue, green, red... all in XL size. Contact Goon to hear what choices are available and to order one. (Tel:- 0131 661 1123)


Tell Pete Dowswell (or Ivan) as soon as possible of any other hut bookings. Remember it is first come first served. And don't forget to pay afterwards!

Tell Fraser of any caves you'd like to see on the meets list

Send address list changes and corrections to Ivan

Send contributions to Goon for the next GSG Bulletin!

And send in your nominations for the next Annual Dinner.

And Finally - a Magnificent Millennium to All

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