Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 107, October 2000


Vercors 2000

Fourteen GSG members enjoyed a September fortnight of almost constant sunshine in the Vercors. Despite the best attempts of first the French then the British petrol protests, everyone managed to arrive, travel around, and get back home again without curtailing activities more than a little. It was close, as the first set of French protests stopped just in time for the car borne contingent to travel out, and the British protest ended just as the return journey started. During our stay we managed to find enough petrol to keep us going, though Dan and Fiona were worst off for a time as there was no diesel to be found anywhere.

The GSG 'hut' was a superb find by Carol Walford. Plenty of space, a bar built into the main room which had a semi-open fire and a two storey high ceiling, and a BBQ out the back. Also a large garage that did very nicely as an equipment store. The kitchen was well equipped for coping with the demands of the resident chefs - Julian imposing a large cooked breakfast every morning at 8am on almost everyone, and Pete Dowswell doing more than his share of producing evening meals for fourteen.

The group variously drove and flew out on the 1st and 2nd September. Ivan, Pete Ireson and Dave Robinson were the last to arrive landing in Lyon airport in the evening. The car drive to the 'hut' proved very smooth with Pete's GPS linked to laptop and Autoroute navigating us flawlessly to the very door. Regular SMS messages between Pete and Julian ensured the beer was poured and waiting as we arrived just before midnight.

The fortnight started with Grottte de Bournillon on Sunday. This was dry, warm, and a good introduction to large French cave passages. Oversuits that had been donned at the entrance were soon shed as we walked a steamy kilometer to reach a sump. Later we returned to the same valley to the Grotte de Gournier where J'Rat's inflatable - Battleship Potempkin - was used to cross the deep lake just inside the entrance. This was another enormous passage where progress could be made only by walking over gours that if found in the UK would be taped off and treasured.

Another speleological highlight was the Trou de l'Aygue - a superb canyon river passage with deep green potholes in the floor and a 90 m flat out crawl to reach it from the resurgence! After reconnoitering the route with one party, Julian returned later with a second for a pull through trip from the upper E2 entrance.

We all resisted the temptation to SRT 100 m pitches and restricted ourselves to the less gear intensive systems. Fine trips were had with a mixture of ladder and rope down an average of one cave per day. Particularly recommended is Scialet de Graille only a short distance from the 'hut.' Absolutely overgrown with formations and only a short 10 m ladder pitch to enter it. This was Rosemary's first ladder and her enjoyment both descending and ascending was audible to all!

Another fine cave is Reseau Christian Gathier. The Scialet du Toboggan entrance is only a minute or two from the road, and is very easily descended by a diagonal slide down a narrow rift. Coming back up is a different matter. It was all worth it for the kilometer of varied passage ranging from stal encrusted rift, to wide stream passage, to boulder filled chamber dwarfing Claonaite's Great Northern Time Machine. And only three short ladders required.

While some concentrated on caving, others ascended the peaks. A fine network of tracks led easily to most summits. Le Grand Veymont (2341 m - highest point in the Vercors) gave an excellent walk with no points of difficulty except running out of water! There's no surface water to speak of anywhere on the higher slopes. Later we climbed La Grande Moucherolle (2284 m) which did get a bit exposed and narrow over the last hundred meters to arrive at a summit bestrewn with sunbathing walkers.

As well as several other over and underground excursions we also partook of local museums. In one we were given a practical introduction to flint knapping - the resident expert making it look easy as he produced scrapers and blades. Also visited were sites dedicated to the history of the Resistance during the Second World Ware. Several villages were completely demolished by the German forces and many of the inhabitants - combatants and non-combatants - were killed.

Finally we added to our cave total by visiting all the show caves in the area - four - plus another couple as the various carloads drove off to their respective airports for the return journey.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the Vercors (except perhaps for someone on a certain ladder?). The combination of caving, climbing and culture, well lubricated by the local liquids suited everyone. Rather amusingly the 'old farts' had been relieved to find the 'young tigers' happy to miss the harder potholes - and vice versa! As we departed talk turned to what should follow in 2001. Hot favourite is a return to the Dolomites.


Another Mining Museum Cash Crisis

The Museum of Lead Mining at Wanlockhead is hoping that the precedent set by the 90,000 loan from the Scottish Executive to the Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange will be repeated for them. They too are short of funds following local government reorganisations and are looking for 20,000 to stay open.



The July visit had found several interesting sites. A return visit in mid-September by Roger, Jim, Barry and Yorkshire Dave pushed some of these and added several more to the list:-

On the 1st October Roger, and Jim returned to the adit at NS 866 132. This enters the New Glencrieff Vein but the precise location hasn't yet been identified. They lugged several lengths of scaffolding, clips, cordless drill, hammers, chisels, bits of wooden batons, pegs, bolts, survey kit, 120m of rope, and lunch up the hill. They were making damn sure they were going to get down the shaft. It was rigged first with two pegs in the left-hand wall of the passage creating a Y-hang to a scaffolding frame they built over the shaft. Another Y-hang from the bars went right down the centre of the shaft.

The shaft has a clear drop of 30m. It is followed by 10m of passage over a collapse to another shaft. This was about 12m with the first 4m vertical and the rest on a ramp of about 75 degrees. It was rigged from the rope down the first pitch, using a tackle sack as a rope protector.

The bottom of the second pitch drops into a passage. To the right after 20m there is a collapse but looks passable. Left leads to another shaft in a recess to the left which drops some 15 to 20 m into water. There may be an accessible level from the bottom. Continuing on the main drag Roger and Jim passed another filled in shaft with some of the winch base timbers in place. Now into a working seam rising several metres above, and with deads below their feet they moved very carefully along. The passage terminated at a collapse. This may not be too far away from an entrance as there were bits of vegetable matter about.

What was evident was that others had been down in recent times. They saw modern footprints on the floor and a newspaper from 15 September 1982. This is about the time J Landlass was doing his exploration. The mine is still in relatively good condition and has a good air circulation.

More visits are planned to push the unexplored sections and descend the final shaft.

New World's Deepest Cave

A Polish expedition has extended the Lamprechtsofen, at one time the world's tallest cave, by linking it to a higher entrance. It is now at 1632 m, the world's deepest cave. It lies in the Leoganger Steinberge massif in the north of Austria, and this achievement crowns 24 year of work by about 30 Polish expeditions mostly led by Andrzef Ciszewski.

The expedition explored Vogelschacht cave, linked to the Lamprechtsofen in 1995. More than 1 km of passage was discovered and a series of climbs and pitches led eventually to the bottom of a previously explored pothole, PL-2, at a depth of about 400 m. There are higher entrances nearby which could be linked and increase the depth still further. More at

SCRO Practice Rescue

On Saturday 7th October about a score of SCRO members joined with Assynt Mountain Rescue Team and the RAF for a joint exercise. The scenario was that a caver had fallen down a pitch in the Farr Series of ANUSC, and had pelvic and possible spinal injuries. The cave presents a couple of interesting challenges to bringing out a casualty on a stretcher, especially if you aren't allowed to bend the casualty about. So it would be a good test and also a realistic one. Someone falling in that part of that cave is a likely accident. It's 'new' since it has only been open about 20 months, so there are still plenty of loose boulders and insecure holds waiting to collapse under a less than careful caver. How insecure we were shortly to find out.

The day started with a combined briefing with AMRT, followed with an operations and safety lecture on helicopters for the SCRO alone from Duncan Tripp of the RAF. Meanwhile the AMRT went to walk up the glen to the cave and set the scene. At 10:45 am a Sea King helicopter arrived and took all 19 SCRO members and their equipment in four trips to near the cave entrance. The first load was the SCRO medical team (Kate, Suzanne and Julian Warren) and they were winched down, but the Sea King landed to offload the others to save time.

We all squirmed through the entrance tube - the Chiselled Hole - and entered the larger passages just inside. A couple of hundred yards later the next obstacle was the breakthrough dig. A short section of passage dug through sediments and boulders that then twists down and round into a flat out muddy crawl for a couple of wet body lengths to enter the Farr Series.

As we (I had been in the last helicopter trip and was one of the last into the cave) started into the crawl we met the early birds coming out closely followed by the stretcher party. This was much earlier than we expected. The practice hadn't started from where we had planned but nearer to the crawl. The first party into the Farr Series had found that a short 2 to 3m climb we'd always considered solid had started to collapse. Not wanting to convert a practice into the real thing, they'd decided to start the rescue on the near side of that climb. So while the medics applied spinal splint, casualty bag and stretcher, and stabilised the 'casualty,' some of the others set to work stabilising the cave by kicking down as much loose stuff as would move. We plan to leave it for a while to sort itself out and monitor it regularly.

It proved impossible to move the loaded stretcher through the crawl even before reaching the breakthrough dig, so we split into two parties. One to take the casualty from the near side of the crawl in the stretcher through the rest of the cave, and one to attempt extricating a second volunteer through the crawl by other methods. To our surprise both were successful.

We'd tried before to pull a loaded stretcher through the Chiselled Hole and failed. This time we were better prepared and it worked. The secret was a combination of two things. First:- On the inside Roger wedged a rigid ladder into the entrance rift at the height of the crawl to support the stretcher while it was slowly eased into and through the crawl. This saved folk trying to support the stretcher above their heads for a long time. Second:- Keith set up a series of pulleys to give a straight pull on the stretcher from a haul party on the surface with a Z-rig (3 to 1 pulley system) on the haul rope. This allowed precision movement of the stretcher with casualty, and to my surprise, he was pulled through without any damage though it did take about 20 to 25 minutes. We didn't even scrape his nose off! And that had been a real possibility. While this was under way the other party arrived after successfully pulling casualty number two (Kate) in a spinal splint through the crawl by using yet more cunningly placed pulleys.

On the surface our casualty was taken out of the casualty bag and stretcher and transferred to the mountain rescue McInnes stretcher. He immediately felt cold and started shivering so we fired up our Little Dragon airway rewarmer again, and allowed him a quick blast of warm air. He quickly felt the benefit and is now a convert to the advantages of this piece of kit. It's standard issue to all UK cave rescue teams, but most Scottish mountain rescue teams still remain to be convinced of its worth.

So both major obstacles have now been shown passable. In a real rescue we'd take in hammer and chisel and knock off a few more pieces of rock to make both jobs easier. Afterwards we all assembled back in the Rescue Post for a debriefing session followed later by a BBQ as darkness fell and intermittent showers gently wafted down.

On Sunday Keith put on a training/demonstration session for SCRO and AMRT on assembling and using hauling systems with pulleys, Jumars and Stops. Fraser who'd videotaped Saturday's activities from start to end continued filming. Along with more tape from a later session Keith put on at Web Access in Granton, Fraser plans to produce a training video.

Overall it was a fine weekend with all objectives achieved and Taigh nam Famh full to overflowing. Another club was also there and I counted about three dozen people, 19 vehicles and seven tents to cope with the overflow! It's only meant to sleep 20! Wonder if we'll have the same turnout at the next event in December?

SCRO Arrochar Exercise

As discussed in the Pub, I'm organising a joint MR & SCRO training day with Arrochar MRT on Sunday 3rd December. The plan is to make a weekend of it and have a meet (no rescue) on Saturday 2nd poking about in fissure caves or touristing in Jacobites or whatever people want to do. Then on Sunday, we'll have a training exercise with the MRT. Exact scenario and location to be decided, but it will involve a cave of some sort and more than likely a pulley or two. Arrochar is not far from home, so people can come along for whichever bits they fancy, not necessarily the whole weekend (only the beer is compulsory). Accommodation to be arranged, but not camping! If you intend to come please let me or Roger or Ivan know.

Kate Janossy

Forthcoming Meets and Events

Oct 26->30 South Wales GSG Annual Dinner
Nov 4 Falkirk Falkirk tunnels
4 Assynt The Allt bonfire and fireworks
11 Yorkshire Juniper Gulf
11/12 Assynt All the usual digs plus French cuisine Saturday evening
25/26 Swaledale St. Francis Level, Cliff Force... et cetera
Dec 3 Arrochar SCRO exercise with Arrochar MRT
9 Yorkshire TBD
Feb(most of) Meghalaya

Next year's trips will be in the December Newsletter. Let me know NOW what caves you want to see on it. Contact us at the Cambridge (0131 225 4266) on a Tuesday evening to learn of the many local and Scottish trips not included in the list. (Tel home:- 01383 860653)

Fraser Simpson

Swaledale Meet

Dave Hodgson (Yorkshire Dave) is organising a Swaledale weekend. He has the run of a huge house (parents away for the weekend) in Reeth, with room for camping and a pub just along the road. He suggests St Francis Level and Cliff Force Cave on the Saturday and is open to suggestions for the Sunday. As always if you intend to come please let Fraser know.

Tunnels at Falkirk

New member John Crae invites members to join him at the site of the Falkirk Wheel - the Millennium project to rejoin the Forth and Clyde and Union canals with a boat lift. Here he'll guide us through the new tunnel dug under the Antonine Wall and the 1821 tunnel under Prospect Hill, Falkirk. It's going to be on Saturday 4th November at about 1 pm. If you are interested contact John either at the Cambridge on Tuesday evening or by phone (Tel home:- 0131 554 1054, Tel work:- 0131 668 8820)

Elphin Caving Centre

A brand new fridge/freezer has replaced the old fridge in the niche just outside the kitchen. Some surplus bangers and burgers reside in the freezer section. These were left over from the BBQ after the rescue practice and are there to be consumed. New mattress covers have now been fitted to the front bunk room. Thanks to Roger for finding the material and to Liz Millett and (mostly) Chris Fitzsimmons for sewing them.

Confirmed Taigh nam Famh Bookings

Date (nights) Group Size
Nov 10/11 2000 GSG - French evening 10?
17->19 Caithness Mountaineering and Ski Club 12
May 5->12 2001 Mendip Migration 2001 (core time - bank holiday is on 7th) lots

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.

If you want to stay in the hut please tell the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible to check if there will be space (01592 202627).


No progress to report at Taigh nam Famh, but plenty of plans. Jobs in the queue are:-

  1. Finishing the BBQ area walls and erecting some form of framework suitable for a tarpaulin.
  2. Completing the harling on the existing wood store.
  3. Constructing the proposed new wood storage area for guests.
  4. Thoughts are also alive on a conservatory in front of the kitchen window to a) give more room for eating and also b) provide a midge free environment for admiring the view.

And if that isn't enough for the GSG hut building sub-stratum:-

Appin Hostel Proposal

The following proposal was brought before the GSG Committee recently and was approved. If you want to help in any way please let us know. Be clear that we don't want this proposal to escalate and for it to dominate our lives and subtract from our caving hours in the way that the construction of Taigh nam Famh did.

Appin has been relatively poorly visited by the GSG of late - with a few honourable exceptions. Perhaps the reticence in travelling to Appin stems from the lack of a convenient overnight base. Establishment of such a base would not only kick-start fresh interest in the caves, but the very fact that work would be needed would get members into the area.

We propose that the Group should initiate the search for a bothy similar in style and construction to the old Knockan hut. Enquiry and contact can be made with local contacts (and members) to help with this. Once such a hut is purchased we can then dismantle all usable fittings from the old Knockan hut, hire a van , and transport it to Appin thus saving additional expense in setting it up.

In the medium term we suggest that this hut would be for GSG use only, to avoid not only the administration of visitors, but also having to provide accommodation of a higher standard than required for weekend caving purposes.

Fraser Simpson, Alan Jeffreys

Membership News

Welcome to new members:-

John Crae - We met John at the tour of Hilderston silver workings in September (NL 106). He works at Historic Scotland and has a keen interest in what we might discover in the old workings at Wanlockhead - even if HS won't allow him to enter while working for them. He is presently writing the definitive work on Scotland's canals.

Graham Mullen and Linda Watson - have half a century of caving experience between them all over the UK, Europe and the USA. They were with us in the Vercors and by joining made it a 100% GSG event.

Robert Smallshire - has spent the last 12 years caving with NPC and ULSA mostly in Yorkshire. He discovered Crucifixion Cave in Langstrothdale and lists digging among his particular interests. We need to introduce him to Rana!

Richard Smith - was one of Fraser's proteges travelling to Assynt and Yorkshire with Fife College. He has now resurfaced and promises to provide some competition to Fraser in the video department.

Nigel Robertson and Anne Hodgson's wedding in Settle was attended by several members travelling down from Scotland. More turned up later for the rave at Dalesbridge, which was more than can be said for the band that never appeared. However the disco kept going all evening and kept hammering out hits from last century. It was noticeable that the average age of those attending was low with seemingly more kids than adults.

New Members

Addresses have been removed from the on-line version of the newsletter.

John Crae, Graham Mullan & Linda Wilson, Robert Smallshire, Richard Smith.

New Addresses

Addresses have been removed from the on-line version of the newsletter.

Stephan Honig, Keith Lawrie, Robin (Tav) Taviner, Peter & Ann Reynolds, David Robinson, Estelle Sandford, Chris Warwick.

This Newsletter was emailed to all members with a known current email address. All you have to do to receive it is to send me an email, and I'll add you to the distribution list. ivan

Internet Caving

A couple of sites for those wanting detailed maps. provides maps at a variety of scales. Just enter a postcode to track down a precise location. In response, a list of all properties with that postcode is displayed. Select the one you want and it is highlighted on a chunk of 1:10,000 map. This worked well for some postcodes but failed on a couple of more remote examples. You can also download 1:50,000 and larger scale maps a bit at a time. allows you to download copies of 1:10,560 maps from the 18th century for almost the whole of Britain. As for Multimaps you only get a small chunk at a time but you can pan, download again, save, and then stitch them together to cover a larger area.

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

! ! ! W A R N I N G S ! ! !
Some of Our Caves are Crumbling

Swinsto Great Aven

Latest news from Great Aven is that the transit sized block has fallen, and while East Entrance was still open a couple of weeks ago the boulder pile on the floor appeared to be slowly crumbling towards it. Philosopher's Crawl looked as though it might be blocked and the continuing shower of debris from above plus movement in the pile on the floor could very easily block East Entrance as well. Pull through trips are definitely out and caution required even to poke your head up East Entrance. The newsgroups have gone quiet, but check uk.rec.caving for more news. Perhaps this will restore interest in the classic Swinsto/Simpson's exchange trip?

Lancaster Hole - Fall Pot

There has been some movement at the bottom of the Fall Pot boulder choke in Lancaster Hole. Great care should be taken when entering or leaving the Main Drain by this route. The choke is being washed out by floods and is very unstable. The results of a collapse here could be dire!

ANUSC - Farr Series

During the SCRO/AMRT practice the seemingly solid 2 m climb down in the Farr Series to pass the aven heading down to the streamway was seen to be crumbling. A good shove with a couple of pairs of wellies collapsed a goodly chunk of it. This area was always one to be treated with some caution, and it now requires an overdose until it settles or has been settled.

*** R E M I N D E R S ***

  1. Tell Peter Dowswell (or Ivan) as soon as possible of hut bookings. Remember it is first come first served. And don't forget to pay afterwards!
  2. Tell Fraser of the caves you want to see on the meets list.
  3. Send address list changes and corrections to Ivan

GSG publications (prices to non-members in brackets)

Caves of Skye           6.00 (8.50)  QRA Assynt and Coigach
Caving Songs of Mendip  3.00 (4.00)  Field Guide           10.00(12.00)
The Southern Highlands  1.20 (1.50)  Caves of Schichallion  3.00*(4.00)
Appin Cave Guide        1.50*(2.00)  Buddy reading
                                     (Caving in Couplets)   2.00 (2.50)
                        * out of print - photocopies available
Postage extra - order from:-  Alan Jeffreys, 8 Scone Gardens,
                              Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ (0131 661 1123)
                        or:-  Ivan Young, 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston,
                              West Lothian, EH29 9AP (0131 333 3084)

Please make cheques payable to "G.S.G."

Credits:- Photos - Ivan Young, Elizabeth Ellis & Paint Shop Pro

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