Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 112, March 2002


Annual General Meeting - 2002

Included with this Newsletter are copies of the office bearers reports and accounts for last year. Many thanks to Elizabeth and Derek for allowing us to hold it at their home yet again. Here is Elizabeth's report on the meeting:-

AGM report

This years AGM was held in Winchburgh, and was attended by 17 members. Below are the main points. Full minutes are available on request from the Secretary.

Finance - the clubs finances are healthy despite the fall in income from hut fees. Funds will be used to produce publications and for other new projects such as the Taigh nam Famh conservatory.

Caving - Foot and mouth seriously affected the number of trips made during 2001, and to add to the problems there is now a lack of caravans in Ingleton. Fraser and Goon are going to look into the possibility of buying a static caravan for the club to be located in Yorkshire. Anyone with knowledge, or suggestions please contact them.

Tackle - some new tackle has been bought and an inventory is being drawn up, along with a log-book, which will be used to assess rope usage.

Hut - Plans have been drawn up for the conservatory and some foundation work has been started, though planning permission and a building warrant are still required. Ivan presented beautifully-crafted scaled models of several multi-fuel stoves (with the help of Barbie!) as it is intended to replace the existing stove.

Office Bearers. - The existing committee were all willing to stand, and there were no other nominations, so they were all reelected: Chairman & Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell Treasurer - Ivan Young

Recorder - Alan Jeffreys Secretary - Elizabeth Ellis

Caving Secretary - Fraser Simpson Tackle Master - Colin Jamieson

Annual Dinner - First choice votes were counted, and included the 9 postal/e-mail votes:

Assynt - 11 Mendip - 5 Appin - 5 Campbeltown - 5

Assynt gained more than twice the votes of any other location, so was declared the winner. Peter Dowswell and Mike O'Driscoll will organize. We heard good reports of the Xmas buffet Assynt MRT had at the Inch, so it is a strong contender though we decided alternatives should be investigated.

Publications - The main priority for this year is the new edition of Caves of Assynt, which will now include Durness. Most is complete with a few additional illustrations still required. Caves of Appin, Schiehallion and Raasay are also being planned.

Meets & Expeditions - Expeditions to Meghalaya, France and Canada are planned for this year. Suggestions were put forward for Campbeltown, Vancouver Island, Raasay, Northern Ireland.

Hut Library- Pete Reynolds has volunteered to manage this collection. Everyone agreed that the main focus should be caving books, and clubs funds should not be spent on climbing and walking books.


Note:- The next committee meeting is June 25th. Please pass any items you wish to be discussed to any of the committee members.

Annual Subscription

A record number - 118 - have paid before the end of February - Well done! That easily beats the 87 that managed to do so by the same time last year. If you find ***SUB DUE*** printed on the address label of this Newsletter then either you have still to pay and should do so immediately, or my records are wrong (It does happen). In the first case send me your cheque now, in the second let me know so I correct my databases. Current subscriptions are 15 for full members, 20 for joint and 5 for junior (under 16 years of age). The rates halve for full time students, the unemployed and old age pensioners (ie over 65). Send your cheque made payable to "GSG" to the GSG Treasurer:- Ivan Young 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP

If you have questions phone me at 0131 333 3084 (home) or email:- ivan


Foot & Mouth - Latest

Despite a scare in February the UK is now a foot and mouth free zone again. Some residual restrictions may still be in force in former infected areas, but you won't find details from the NCA's web site - as it has not been updated since 23rd November 2001. The websites for Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders appear to have dropped their foot & mouth links so I assume that all restrictions there have now been dropped.

Caving News



Notts 2 - At short notice an invitation from Nigel Robertson resulted in ten members driving up to Leck Fell on Saturday January 19th for their first look at this superb stretch of streamway. While the passageway and inlets are fine and the formations especially along Curry Inlet are splendid, the really noteworthy feature is the entrance. Excavated vertically down for over one hundred feet and lined with thousands of feet of scaffolding tube it's an amazing feat, and a great example of what is possible and what might be necessary for the next phase of Rana Hole. Only at the bottom of this free-climbable shaft is bedrock reached, and short sections of crawling and walking passage with two short ladder pitches lead quickly to the main streamway.

Downstream is an easy walk in a deep vadose canyon with formations, inlets and the original phreatic passage high above. Upstream the floor climbs until the nick point is reached and you walk, or at times wade waist-deep, in the phreatic tube with inlets to either side, and avens soaring high above. Nigel pointed out some of the main digs he and the other diggers are concentrating on, though with so many leads they cannot possibly follow all of them simultaneously.


Gripps Level - First visited in October 2000, this was a return visit by Roger accompanied by Goon, Ivan and Martin to deal with unfinished business (GSG Newsletter 107, Oct 2000, p3). Pitons were inserted and the first 35m shaft descended from the scaffolding left after the last visit. The second shaft was also SRT'd using a length of ladder from the belay point to minimise rope stretch and damage over the edge. From there a short walk led to the undescended third pitch. About 17m of ladder was dangled and a wetsuit-clad Martin volunteered to descend. The ladder didn't quite reach the water visible at the bottom. Eventually Martin was hanging from the bottom rung waist-deep in water without seeing or feeling any passage either above or below water level. We also pushed all the passages at the bottom of the second pitch to conclusions.


Peter Thorn visited Malta last summer and has donated a booklet on Hasan's Cave to the GSG Library. Ghar Hasan though now perched in the cliffs on the SW coast of Malta has a joint controlled and phreatic origin. The three entrances are now about 60 to 100m above the Mediterranean and reached by steps and a walkway carved into the cliff. There is almost 400m of passage with Palaeolithic cave paintings and hand prints now suffering from the cave's easy access. To quote Peter:- "There is a lot of limestone in Malta but few caves. However there are a lot of interesting karst features including a couple of large dolines, 70m in diameter 30m deep. One of them even had a steep canyon like passage in which steps had been cut. The steps were probably very old and you could see where some sort of door had been fixed. The bottom had a lot of vegetation making it impossible, in the brief time available, to assess if any passages existed. I'm surprised, considering the length of time the British military were in Malta that more caves aren't known. The land is devoid of much soil and I suspect that much of this fills any potential caves. The famous archaeological cave of Ghar Dalem has a huge thickness of sediments in which tens of thousands of animal bones have been excavated."


Preliminary report from Dan on this year's expedition is that another 22.5km of new cave were surveyed. One major find was the 5km+ Liat Prah with 'aircraft hanger' sized passage and a misfit stream plus loads of potential. This is in the Sutnga area north of last year's discoveries. There is talk of basing the next expedition on the ridge to reduce travelling time. Dan and Fiona will now be busy analyzing their large collection of Meghalayan cave life. Dan mentioned that there were swiflets in one cave, but I don't believe they brought any of them back. As a later than planned return (+3.5 hours) from one exploration trip reached the surface they met the rescue party on their way. Less savoury discoveries were dead bodies at the foot of some 50m shafts. Of the various theories - accident, suicide or execution site for local criminals - the last seemed to be the most probable.

Altogether another successful month's exploration despite quite a few of the group going down with various ills. Yorkshire Dave reputedly deposited something unpleasant in an airport plant pot and Fiona almost had to be carried off the plane when they landed back in the UK.

Joys of the Jura

Following the success of the Vercors-2000 trip, a repeat multi-media (earth, fire, water, food, wine) trip is planned this summer to the Jura, which some of us have sampled before. Dates are 14 -28 September 2002. Last time we were there is was nice and warm, but if the wind's from the north again (like the Dolomites-2001) it will no doubt snow.

We have found accommodation close to the Lac de Chalain, a fine, clear glacial bathing lake in the middle of the Jurassic plateau, which is at about 600 m altitude. Martigny sur l'Ain 39300 is just 7 km from the lake and has a couple of good-sized places which should take 16 to 18 depending on layout and the ratio of couples/singles. There may still be a couple of places left by the time you read this, but no doubt something else close by can be found. Send Carol 100.00 now to secure your place (per person per fortnight). Non-refundable, but transferable. Anyone wanting more details before 'booking' can ring or e-mail us.

Accommodation will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

EMAIL Carol jdwalford or PHONE 01847 890658 (eve)

Geneva lies to the south east, some 100 km by road if you avoid Swiss toll motorways. It's probably the best place to fly to, or go into by train, then hire a car. Easyjet flights look like 100 return Edinburgh - Luton Geneva. It then takes a good hour and a half as the road goes over the 'crete' which forms the south-east edge of the plateau, and which overlooks the city. Geneva is close enough for a day trip and a very interesting city. And the crete provides good alpine walking at around 1,500 m. But Zurich is almost as close, too.

There are other interesting gorge walks around, including the Ain river itself close by and the Source de la Loue to the north. It appears to be good cycling and horse country too.

To the west some 25 km lies Lons-le-Saunier the local market town, so we won't starve. That western edge of the plateau is the wine-growing area, but the Jura wine is a bit of an acquired taste, and I don't have it! The western edge has some interesting cliffs incised into the plateau - 'reculees', some of which have resurgence caves. Again good walking round the cliffs.

As regards caving, there are some several classic horizontal trips, including 'Borne aux Cassots' which we hope to get a key for - strong lights needed for the 10m by 20m passage, and possibly the most beautiful ankle-deep stream passage anywhere. The area boasts some good shafts for the SRT enthusiast, but the jewel in the crown is the Vernau - a series of stream pots which drop into a serious main drain, with an old dry resurgence at the bottom - a strong team needed for a through-trip. The system is 30km long (1985) and has nearly 400 m vertical range, but you don't have to do it all at once. A wet-suit is needed for Chauveroche, plus flotation devices. Lots of swimming we think.

So it's the usual mixture of short and long, along or down caves and the surface.

One way or another we will try to ensure that a modicum of tackle gets out, including a rope washer this time. I have more details on caves and area. is good.

Julian Walford

Dolomitic Appetizer

A few of us will be travelling early, and overshooting the Jura. We are returning to the Italian Dolomites for a week of climbing vie ferrate and visiting tunnels and other military reminders of the Austrian and Italian front lines during the 1914/18 war. Contact Julian, Ivan or Peter Dowswell for more details if you are interested.

Forthcoming Meets and Events

See the GSG events page.

I want to arrange a trip to Mendip during May or June. Would all those interested please let me know and also give me a choice of possible dates. I'll then attempt the impossible and select a weekend to please everyone. (Tel home:- 01383 860653, email:- Fraser

Ewan Duncan (0131 447 7085) is very interested in anybody planning mid-week caving trips. His shift working stops him caving most weekends and he's keen to get underground again.

Contact us at the Cambridge Bar (0131 225 4266) on a Tuesday evening to learn of what else is planned especially local trips not included in the published list.

Fraser Simpson


At last year's Annual Dinner at the Goat Gap Inn a black Zantos fleece (L) was left behind by the table on the upper floor of the dining area. All the likely culprits have disowned it, so if you were there and are now missing a fleece, just tell me what it has in its pockets and it's yours!


Elphin Caving Centre

Those who arrived early for New Year suffered a week of snow, snow and more snow, had to dig the drive twice, and left as the Edinburgh contingent arrived at the weekend. Their restraint in the presence of a full barrel of Red Cuillin was most commendable if not amazing, especially from J.Rat. We had a fine time toasting the missing southern wimps with the beer and many bottles of port.

The snow restricted our activities as we had to dig out a parking place any time we wanted to go caving or walking. It did provide some amusement as we watched Roger attempting to drive up to the hut with bald front tires spinning ferociously.

Theme evenings were held during January and February. The latter was just after Chinese New Year and Dowswell Enterprises (Peter + three daughters) and helpers produced a superb Chinese banquet in multitudinous instalments. Thanks to Daragh O'Hare for supplying chopsticks, fortune cookies and props, and to Jackie for the Chinese lanterns. In early March Dave Warren supplied another barrel of Red Cuillin for his 50th birthday bash. Pete yet again did the catering in his usual exuberant style ie there was enough for double the number attending! Moderately embarrassing enlargements of Dave caving in the 70's and 80's adorned the walls, and young Julian was suitably aghast at his resemblance to the pre-beard period dad.

With snow descending horizontally we left early on Sunday finding blizzards blocking the A9 and forcing diversions via Aberdeen. Roger in T1SOS - the Graham Tiso delivery truck - waited 40 minutes at Dalwhinnie for the road to reopen and was home at about the same time as the rest of us!

Taigh nam Famh Bookings

Hut fees are 5.00 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).


Planning permission has been granted for the conservatory and Andy will soon send the detailed plans away for a building warrant. We laid a few more blocks during February, but faulty calculations mean we'll need to buy quite a lot more to finish the walls. Some have been used building up the back wall of what is to become an external wood store, but not enough to account for the shortfall. The current weather hasn't been conducive to building, so that is delaying us and not lack of materials.

During the New Year period the hut became the local larder for the surrounding rabbit population. They came from miles around to munch on our trees despite the protection we'd wrapped around them. The snow gave the bunnies a quadruple leg up and their nibbles extended up to three feet from the ground. They've probably killed most of the smaller trees, but we have purchased and fitted some tree protectors to prevent the same happening in future.

Membership News

Welcome to new members:-

Alice Dowswell - has now returned from the far south to work and a flat in Edinburgh. She's been caving in Assynt and had her first SRT experience down Bar Pot at last year's Annual Dinner.

Mary Harrison - used to cave in Yorkshire when she was a student and has done some easy trips with her daughter more recently. She's already sampled some Assynt delights including a decent of Elphin Hole clad in the GSG's transparent boiler suit! Her dog, Molly, gets on wonderfully well with Roger's Gillie. It was hate at first sight. When both are in the hut everyone has to plan ahead when opening doors otherwise the fur begins to fly as each asserts her claim to be top bitch.

Paul Kefford - hails from near Mendip and has just moved to work in Aberdeen. His caving experience has been mostly Mendip but he has visited Derbyshire, South Wales and Yorkshire. He claims some 'rusty' SRT and dives in a few sumps and flooded mines.

New Members

Alice Dowswell, Mary Harrison, Paul Kefford,

New Addresses

Freddie Brandon & Sheila Bedet, Roger Brandon, Gair Dunlop, Austin Harley, Martin Hayes

Assynt News

The Inch is alive and well and open for business on a reduced schedule. They have been renovating some rooms and refurbishing the kitchens which should be back in action by the 15th March. Reports from the Assynt MRT are that their pre-Xmas buffet there was superb. That gave us confidence to go forward and choose the Inch for this year's GSG Annual Dinner on the 26th October. Make a note in your diary now.

Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:-

The Meteorological Office now has webcams at several of its automated weather stations. There is one at the north end of Loch Glascarnoch. It'll prove useful to view just what the weather is like up there before you leave home. You can check whether it's snow, sun or rain, and take the appropriate gear. A complete hemisphere can be viewed and downloaded. There are seven views making up a panorama of the surrounding scenery, another seven looking upwards at 45 degrees and a final view looking straight up. For the Loch Glascarnoch webcam point your browser at:-

Assynt MRT now have their own web site at:-

Life on a Line - Anybody wanting to improve their knowledge of ropework should download the first 80 pages of a new cave rescue ropework manual 'Life on a line'. This is available as a free download from:-

The author, Dave Merchant, would be grateful for any comments. He is still working on Section 2 expected in a month or so. The online version is being updated regularly to reflect changes in kit, methods, errors found by readers and new thoughts on how to play with string...

Email for the GSG can be sent to:- ivan
Email for the Bulletin should be sent to:- goon90

If you change your email address please let us know. Without it your supply of caving news from the GSG will stop. You'll miss out on early copies of the paper Newsletters, and also of intermediate email only Newsletters and announcements of caving meets and events.

Members with dead email addresses are Austin Harley, Richard Smith and Keith Lawrie. If you are reading this guys, please tell me what your new email address is.


  1. Please pay your annual subscription now. See page 2 for details.
  2. Give Fraser a list of the caves and mines you'd like to see on the 2002 GSG Meets List.
  3. A new address list is being mailed out with the paper version of this Newsletter. Please ensure I have up-to-data data for you.
  4. Mark 26th October in your diaries for the GSG 2002 Annual Dinner
  5. And give Ewan a call if you plan any mid-week caving.

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,
                                West Lothian, EH29 9AP (0131 333 3084)

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

Credits:- Photos - Ivan Young & Paint Shop Pro

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