Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 114, December 2002


GSG Annual Dinner - 2002

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (commonly mistaken for the Inchnadamph Hotel), was host, at the end of October, to an intergalactic cast of characters assembled from across the bounds of time and space to join together for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to attend the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy GSG Dinner. Whilst the Dinner may be an annual (and integral) part of the GSG calendar, I am willing to wager that never again will anyone walk into a room containing: a minor deity; a pan-dimensional mouse with a four foot 'tail'; a planet builder; a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, a pair of paranoid androids, and a suspiciously hairy blonde astro-physicist. At least not all at once.

The two diminutive Marvins (Mistresses Jamieson) in attendance were, unlike their costume character, delightfully cheerful. Also in high spirits was Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Peter Dennis, who came as the H2G2 legendary beverage. The 'olive' - a shiny green plastic football, cut open to fit snugly over his hair - was quite literally the crowning glory (although his children, faced with the massacre of their favourite ball, may disagree).

There was, unsurprisingly, no shortage of alarming headgear - from hideous alien masks to silver skulls atop furry hats. Even blonde wigs can become frightening in the wrong hands, or on the wrong head. Roger 'Goldilocks' Galloway proved that he was in touch with his feminine side, joining Fiona Flashy-Lashes and Spangly Dowswell to form a Tantalizing Trio of Trillians. Luckily the Maitre d'Milliways in his tux and the Roadie in black were on hand to lend some understated style to the H2G2 fancy dress brigade.

There was of course the traditional Golden Gnome Award, this year earned jointly by The Prophet Zarquon (Dan Harries) and the only Trillian who could claim to be a true blonde (Fiona Ware), for seeking out new life-forms where few troglodytes have gone before. Here follows the Gnome Ode, recited by awarding-winning fiord builder Slartibartfast at the presentation:

The Odd Couple and other residents continued the evening's fun (following the closure of the Bar at the End of the Universe) back at the Elphin Hut, consuming, amongst other things, a large amount of port. This led in some cases to the serious business of dancing lessons, ably instructed into the wee small hours by the tireless Jim Salvona.

Much hilarity seems to have been enjoyed by all, both underground and overground, during the entire weekend, and thanks must be extended to all those who attended, particularly those who travelled from far-off galaxies. Let us hope the Universe does not end before the next one.

Alice (Bob {Spangly}) Dowswell

Apologies for absence were received from Zaphod Beeblebrox (in duplicate) and Eccentricia Gallumbits (in triplicate).

Annual Dinner 2003

Now that this year's Annual Dinner is receding into the past, it is time to start thinking about where to hold next year's event. Please send in your nominations for the area, venue, organiser and theme for the 2003 Annual Dinner. These will be collected and published with the AGM notice for a vote at the AGM in early 2003. The only real requirement is that the dinner should be held in a caving area.

Tuesday Evening Meetings

The change announced in the last Newsletter for our Tuesday evening meetings has continued. We now meet in the Oxford Bar in Young Street, Edinburgh from about 8:30 pm onwards. The Cambridge at the other end of the street is still in darkness and probably looking for a new owner.

GSG Annual Subscription

Yes it is that time of year again when the GSG Treasurer invites you all to renew your membership for another twelve months. The annual subscription is due on the 1st January and should be paid in full and promptly if your membership is not to lapse. At present the rates are unchanged at 15 for full, 20 for joint, and 5 for junior (under 16 years) with reductions to 7.50 and 10 for full time students, the unemployed and those over 65. Make your cheque out now payable to 'G.S.G.' and send it to:- Ivan Young 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP

This is where I'd normally encourage members to pay by standing order if they are not already doing so. I am not this year as changes in the subscription may be necessary due to the rapidly increasing premiums for the BCRA public liability insurance scheme. The details are given later in this Newsletter and I hope decisions can be made at the AGM on February 1st. It is almost certain that there will be an additional amount to be paid by everyone wishing to take part in the scheme. I am also hoping that this will be voluntary and that I am able to divorce the premium from the annual subscription. In that case I expect to ask you to sign up and pay for it shortly before October 2003 when the next premium becomes due.


Caving News



Six members descended Lancaster Hole in August and emerged from Wretched Rabbit five hours later thanks to Nigel Robertson's navigation. Fraser was surprised that there was nobody else in the cave and no other cars at Bull Pot Farm and wondered just what had happened to caving: everybody taking cheap flights to continental caves perhaps?

The following weekend Peter Ireson and Dave Robinson roamed around parts of Ireby Fell Caverns, Low Douk, and Browgill/Calf Holes.


Our first experiment in flydrive caving found ten members taking the late (one and a half hours late) Thursday evening Edinburgh / Bristol GO flight. Once there, a combination of one hire car and Kate's car (delayed by a puncture on the M5) ferried us eventually to the BEC's Belfry. We were so late that we missed last orders at the Hunters by a long way.

On Friday we all splashed across a very wet field to descend GB in mild flood. On Saturday the rain had abated somewhat and there were trips into St Cuthberts where Peter Glanvill attempted to educate us into its intricacies, into Withy Hill Cave where Martin Grass led Peters D and I and Davie Robinson through the profusion of formations, into Rhino Rift where Fraser and Lloyd ran out of rope just before the bottom, and into a wet Swildons and also Upper Flood.

On Sunday several members were introduced to Hunters Lodge Inn Sink in the Hunters Lodge Inn car park, and some even started to help with the dig. Others contented themselves with the food and drink. The return flight was on time and the trip voted a great success. The return flight was about 60 each and could have been cheaper if we'd booked earlier. The car hire was inflated by a 30 fee because we were arriving after 10 pm.

Aberdeen University CC

At one time we bumped into the Aberdeen University Caving Club almost every time we caved in Yorkshire. However with the passing of the years and graduations, the club lost all its enthusiasts and finally closed down. This year GSG member and third year medical student Julian Warren has resurrected it, elected himself President, and recruited a team of mostly novices. For their first meet a party of nine travelled to Assynt, and as well as partying both nights away in the hut, took a tour of most parts of ANUSC on the Saturday. Their next trip this December is to Yorkshire and County Pot.

Jura 2002

This September over a score of GSG members and friends spent a fortnight in the Jura area of France. Carol Walford had organised the accommodation and did it splendidly once again. It was well located in the middle of the caving area and it even had a 400 m cave just a short walk away. During the fortnight there were about three dozen caving trips, quite a few walks up hills and along gorges, and some cultural acquisition in the citadel at Besancon, in Louis Pasteurs home in Arbois, and a roam around the wine museum there which ended in a regional food and wine display and tasting session. We left it with enough sausage for an evening meal! They were not so generous with the wine.

There were several trips into the various entrances of the Verneau system though Julian didn't achieve his ambition of doing the complete 9 km traverse. The upstream trip into Grotte Baudin found a striking example of why fixed aids should always be inspected before trusting them with your life (see later).

Another popular cave was Borne aux Cassots where a flood prone initial section eventually leads to an enormous passage where the path leads up and down over mountains of boulder scree. After long sections of river passage we stopped in a particularly well decorated area for lunch and photographs before returning. It was warm by UK standards and Pete D was possibly the coolest dude attired in shorts and T-shirt having shed his oversuit after the initial tighter and windier entrance section.

The full story will be published in the spring 2003 GSG Bulletin.

Fixed Aids Warning

It was the first day of caving in the Jura and one party was reminded that fixed aids cannot always be trusted. Forty-eight hours later that message was reinforced.

Lesson one was at the bottom of Baume Ste Ann; a tremendous daylight shaft just 20m from the road. The guide suggested a single 85m free hang but after five rebelays the final drop was only about 35m. At the bottom a path led to a Tyrolean traverse. Clive Owen started off along this to hear a loud 'twang' as the sheath of one of the two ropes parted as well as part of the core. The other rope looked very similar so a retreat was called.

Two days later a party of five entered the Grotte Baudin, the lowest entrance to the Verneau system (see Descent 167 for an account of the traverse). All 3 pitches were found to be rigged with anchorages and ropes looking fine. The rope on the second pitch, however, was crunchy due to calcite depositing in it! Low water meant the classic route was possible. The final pitch landed at the lake where a traverse line along an easy ledge led to a 3 m climb. From there another traverse line led on, but lesson two awaited in the form of the krab to the backup anchor. It looked suspicious and promptly broke in two when Roger Galloway tried to remove it. It snapped at the point where the hanger had worn a deep notch almost completely through it. At the other end the rope had worn a wider though shallower groove. If that wasn't enough, corrosion had eaten away a large chunk of the gate. It was replaced by the oldest krab in the party (thanks Dan) and the trip continued uneventfully with a fine stomp up the Collecteur.

Dolomites - Kleiner Lagazuoi

During the pre-Jura week of via ferratering in the Dolomites we again visited the world war one tunnels in the Little Lagazuoi. Since I was last in them in 1999, an enormous amount of work has been done in the tunnels to add signage, restore rooms, buildings and tunnels, and add exhibits. The Martini ledge has been opened up much further and the end of the improved route must now be within a couple of hundred metres of the Austrian tunnels. I expect the intention is to join the routes together so that a very large zigzag route will lead from the top of the mountain through all the tunnels and back to the car park without any need to retrace steps.

A Silver Lining

Insurance concerns stopped local schools taking their kids down nearby mines some years ago. This has now led to a big thank you to Ian Brown. A teacher at Craigmount School in Edinburgh he caved with the GSG way back in the early (very) 80s and took his pupils down Ninelums Mine. An imminent move meant that all outdoor gear had to go, so he thought of us and donated the school's stock of caving equipment to the GSG. We now have eight Oldham lamps a charger and two krabs. The Oldham batteries were probably last charged about six years ago and are knackered. However the headset and other bits are fine and they could be renovated with a new Oldham battery or fitted with NiCads or be used for spares. And the krabs are in much better condition than the French example!

Vercors News

A recent item on reported that the bottom entrance to Trou de l'Aygue had been closed with a grill - probably by the EDF - and that the top entrances are also going to be closed. This is a real blow to cavers as this is a superb cave and gave a great pull-through trip down to a superb stream passage. The club had two trips into this cave during September 2000. The EDF have also been blocking traditional parking spots for other caves such as Bournillion with boulders. This is apparently after some fatalities, but I have no further information.

DRT Practice

You may know what SRT is, but commercial rope access work has now moved to DRT (Double Rope Technique) to meet European Health and Safety requirements. Chris Chapman of Tweed Valley MRT and of Hi-Rope Edinburgh has been inviting SCRO members along to the Hi-Rope barn in Granton on Tuesday evenings. This allows us to try out rescue techniques in the dry and new members to acquire and polish SRT skills. However, house rules require that we are attached to two ropes while aloft and must use DRT with a Petzyl Zyper plus Shunt attached to the second rope.

The extra ropes, especially when transferring from one set to another, require some forward planning if you want to avoid mid-air knitting as ropes, SRT gear, cows tails and other dangly bits wind around each other. The sessions will no doubt start up again in the New Year. Start time is 6 pm in the Hi-Rope shed found by driving up the lane by the lighthouse at 24 West Harbour Road, Granton. Contact Ivan or Roger Galloway for more details and to find out when it restarts.

Do YOU have photographs of Lower Traligill Cave?

It does seem hard to believe, but nobody has admitted to having any photographs of the formations inside Lower Traligill Cave. Is that because there really are none, or did members miss the request in the last Newsletter? We really want to see what the formations looked like before the vandalism that smashed and removed a large number of stalagmites. Let Ivan know if you can help.

BCRA Conference 2003

Next year the BCRA annual conference will be in the North of England, rumoured in fact to be in the Dales. If this is correct is means the conference will be as near to us as it ever will.

Bearing this in mind, this is an appeal for members to set aside a weekend in late September and help provide a really good Grampian presence. Of late the club stalls have not been of particularly high quality and although it would be good to win the prize for this, the principal purpose is to advertise the club's work and achievements. Preparation for this can start now.

Although in recent years, specific GSG members have been active behind the scenes - I helped co-ordinate the Sheffield conference and have served as session chairman on many occasions, and Fraser Simpson has become an indispensable member of the technical team- by and large the Grampian has been an invisible club, with individual members sidling about in cognito.

Let's make 2003 a vintage year for Scottish cave representation at the conference and show the general speleological population that we are alive and kicking.

Alan Jeffreys

Public Liability Insurance

The GSG has taken part in the BCRA public liability insurance scheme since 1989. When we started the premium per member was 0.65 and ten years later had risen to 1.00. However in the last few years it has started to rise exponentially from 1.60 to 1.90 and this October to 5. At present a club in the scheme must pay a premium for every single member. A clause on the application form which seemed to allow us to exclude members who didn't want insurance proved, after discussions with BCRA, to be badly worded. So this October I dispatched a cheque for 655 to BCRA. That was after collecting data from GSG members on email that showed a large number were effectively insured two or three times under the scheme. They were either individual members of BCRA and therefore already in the scheme, members of another club also in the scheme, or both.

The prognosis is for the insurance premium to continue to climb and it could well double or even quadruple next year. It would become the major part of the annual membership subscription and a burden on those members who don't need it. We don't know yet how the scheme (scheduled to move from BCRA to NCA administration) is going to change. Nick WiIliams (BCRA Chairman and GSG member) wrote in Descent 169 that clubs may want to consider creating a different membership category for those 'active' members who wanted to be covered by the scheme. He thought that they might also want to avoid paying out significant amounts of money for Life and Honorary members. He is right!

The GSG is now drafting changes to its constitution following Nick's suggestions. They will limit the benefits that Life and Honorary members receive and possibly create a new class of member. The AGM is scheduled for 1st February 2003 and we need to mail out the notice, agenda and resolutions three weeks earlier. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments please send them to me well before the meeting, and ideally within the next two weeks so that they can be considered during the drafting of the proposed changes.

Forthcoming Meets and Events

See the events listing for details.

As always please tell me of the caves you want to visit so any necessary permits can be obtained. (Tel home:- 01383 860653, email:- Fraser Most local and Scottish trips are not listed here. Come along to the Oxford Bar on Tuesday evenings to learn of what is planned.

Fraser Simpson

GSG AGM 2003

The GSG's Annual General Meeting will be held at the earlier than usual time of 10:30 am in Derek and Elizabeth's home in Winchburgh on Saturday 1st February 2003. That will allow those who so choose to go down a nearby mine or stroll around the local shale bings after a light lunch.

The formal notice will be mailed out to you in early January. If you wish to add items to the agenda, submit a resolution, or volunteer for one of the office bearers positions contact Elizabeth as soon as possible.

The vote for the annual dinner venue will also be held at the AGM. If you want to propose a place, hotel and organiser just send details to Elizabeth.

All correspondence to Elizabeth Ellis, Tel:- 01506 890052 email:- AGM @

Elphin Caving Centre

The hut continues to be well used by the club for their eating excesses. In October Carol and Rosemary held a joint delayed (very!) 50th birthday party. Mary Harrison baked them a cake modelled after a Jura resurgence with blue and white icing cascading down from a cave. In November the Tyrolean theme evening saw chef Peter Dowswell feeding a record number including Simon Brooks who'd travelled from Derbyshire for the weekend and Jake and Rebecca who were on the last evening of their two week holiday up north. In December the bottle banks saw another influx as Peter succeeded in lighting the brandy on the Xmas pud without covering himself or the table in flames. The food continues to be of such a consistently high standard that it cant be long before the Michelin Guide and Egon Ronay feature Taigh nam Famh. This time Julie Hesketh and Tim did a flydrive from London to Inverness for a long weekend in Assynt to sample the cuisine (both) and the mud in Rana (Tim).

The next Group event will be over the New Year with Peter D supplying a barrel to celebrate his 30 years of caving. Please come along and help us empty it! Remember to tell us you are coming.

Next on the list will be a Burns night in January and a BYOF (bring your own food) evening at the end of February. With Peter away in Meghalaya this will be an opportunity for everyone else to demonstrate their lack of culinary prowess and revert to the original theme evening plan. To show solidarity with our distant expedition we'll make it an Indian evening.

There will also be some work weekends from April onwards to complete the conservatory. We also expect the annual Mendip Migration, but will someone down there please let us know who is coming and when. That is a popular time and if Peter doesn't hear other clubs will be allowed to book the hut.

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. Day fees with use of all facilities (except bunks!) are 1.00 for members and 2.00 for non-members.

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

Hut-building - and maintenance

The block work for the conservatory has been completed with the window sills in place and angle iron posts at each corner. The next step is to erect the superstructure which will include removing a couple of tile courses from the existing roof above the kitchen. We have decided to wait until spring to order the material and will do the work once longer days and better weather arrives. In the meantime there are still plenty of wee jobs to keep hut engineers and wardens occupied and away from the caves!

Derrick using his professional skills as a green-keeper (at Dalmahoy golf course) was persuaded to install the UK's only caving club golf 'course.' With flags (by Goon) the three pitch and putt holes are spread over the grass in front of the BBQ area with two golf tees on top of the mound behind the BBQ. Perhaps this'll persuade members to cut the grass more often? Please replace the flags inside the hut after use otherwise they'll flap themselves to ribbons within weeks.


The 2002 saga of equipment failure and replacement continues. The dehumidifier in the drying room failed and the internal/external thermometer died. Both have been replaced.

The old wood-burning stove (a gift from Mr and Mrs Laing) served us well, but some internal lugs have burnt off and it required some serious attention. The replacement multi-fuel stove, a Morso Squirrel, is now working well. It will burn wood, smokeless fuel, anthracite and coal. Note that if you bring wood, the maximum length is now only 9"/24 cm. The old stove is heading south to Nick Williams who intends to repair and use it.

The local Corgi has fitted the new gas fire in the front bunk room taking several expensive visits due to 1) soaked plasterboard from water seeping in along the flue of the old fire, and 2) wrong parts supplied by the manufacturer. The new heater has a thermostat and full instructions have been pinned to the wall beside it. Because it has a balanced flue, when switched off in cold weather the outside air circulates through it. The heat exchanger then cools the inside air and causes condensation which drips off it. So you may notice a damp patch on the floor directly under it.

A new dehumidifier now sits in the drying room. It includes a 1600W heater which heats up the room far faster than before, so the old oil-filled radiator has been removed. Clothes hung to its right get blow dried (at waist height and above) very quickly. Lower down and elsewhere in the room it's a bit slower. As you might expect the higher power consumption does demand more coins fed into the meter if you leave it running for lengthy periods.

Thanks to Martin Hayes a twin tub washing machine now sits inside the back door. This can be used to spin-dry clothing before it is hung in the drying room. Ivan has installed a socket for power and will be adding a water supply and threading a drain through the wall for it. The plan is to use it till it fails then replace it with an automatic machine.

If you notice anything that isn't working as it should or is broken or is missing please tell the hut warden Peter Dowswell so we can fix it quickly.

Hilti Drill - The connectors on the Hilti 30V drill we keep in Elphin were giving up. They were too small and delicate for the abuse we gave them. However we couldn't fit larger beefier connectors and still shut the Peli cases holding the batteries. We have therefore bought larger Peli cases and fitted chunkier easily sourced IEC mains connectors with one pin exchanged so no harm will come if anyone is silly enough to try mating them with a 240 volt mains lead.

The GSG is now a CASC

The Sports Club Unit of the Inland Revenue has approved the GSG's application and we are now registered as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) with effect from 1st April 2002. This means that unless our income increases greatly we are not liable to pay Corporation Tax. With a starting rate of 0% that doesn't have any effect on us, but the good news is that donations to the GSG can now be made under Gift Aid. That means the GSG can reclaim 22 from the Inland Revenue for every 78 of donations, and higher rate tax payers can reclaim higher rate tax by declaring donations on their self-assessment form. This is not for annual subscriptions or other payments such as hut fees and publications, and there must be an audit trail. This only applies to gifts of money: gifts of equipment don't count.

I have created a Gift Aid form and if you are already making donations to the GSG or intend to do so in the future please ask me for one. All you have to do is fill in your details, sign it and return it to me. Unlike a Deed of Covenant this doesn't require you to make several years of payments. In fact it doesn't tie you down at all. You can make as many donations as you choose whenever you choose. For more details on CASCs and Gift Aid see the Inland Revenue web site.

Ivan (GSG Hon. Treasurer)

Membership News

Welcome to new members:-

Thomas Gundacker - is an Austrian working in Aberdeen for BP until they send him elsewhere. He has several years of cave exploration experience in Austria. Madeleine Harris - has just moved to Scotland after several years of South Wales caving experience with visits to other English and Irish areas, the Vercors and New Zealand plus one cave in Assynt. An ex-outdoor instructor she's interested in geology, surveying and exploring abroad. Jonathan Dee - joined us after the Tyrolean feed, a trip around ANUSC, and an initiation into digging at Rana Hole. He's interested in mining history and industrial archaeology and his prior experience was a Long Churn to Alum trip with an Isle of Man Civil Defence group, explaining his email address.

New Members

Jonathan Dee, Thomas Gundacker, Madeleine (Maddy) Harris

New Addresses

Tony Boycott & Jayne Stead, Dave Hodgson, David Robinson & Hilary, Alice Dowswell, Ewan Duncan Paul Archibald - has been looking for and exploring the lead mines in north-east England. He spent several hours in Devis Hole Mine Caves which breaks into an incredibly complex natural phreatic maze. A complaint about the slate mines in Coverdale is that the workings are only about 4 foot high making them hard work. He has met up with a local mining historian who is in a group excavating and shoring up old mines. They are searching for the through route from Wensleydale to Swaledale which is strongly believed to exist. The latest news from Paul is that he thinks they have succeeded. He has plenty of floor space for club members who are passing by, and perhaps want to visit the local caves and mines. Gair Dunlop - if you want to see what Gair has been doing recently he invites us to visit his web site

Assynt News

The 'New' Caves of Assynt

Well not quite edition 3 yet. Because of demand for the out of print second edition I have produced some photocopies of it, added a few notes on recent developments, and inserted nine pages of new surveys at the end. It still lacks a lot of data on the discoveries since 1988, but it is a lot better than not having anything and is more robust and the quality has lost little in the photocopying. It is spiral bound, comes with card and protective plastic covers and is available now to club members for 6.00, or 7.00 including postage.

Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:-

All cave diggers should have a look at the site. There is a Cavediggers magazine of which issue 4 is being published in May 2003. Subscriptions are $30 for four issues. Only issue 1 is on the website, but makes good reading. There is an article there on a USA equivalent to Rana Hole. Here the caving club sunk a shaft through solid rock to hit a large chamber. To read about later events go to where the club digging log can be read.

A database of UK cave information created by GSG member Barry Burns including data from Dick Grindley's Scottish database can be found at

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.

Ivan Young G R A M P I A N S P E L E O L O G I C A L G R O U P

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