Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk
This years GSG Annual Dinner, organised by Malcolm McConville, is being held in the Inchree Holiday Centre, Onich on Saturday 25th October and the meal will cost you 15.00. The Centre is just east of the A82 about three miles north of the Ballachulish Bridge and conveniently located for caving in Appin. (www.inchreecentre.co.uk) If approaching from the south drive through Onich and turn right at Inchree junction. The entrance is 200 metres along the lane.
Accommodation in the Centre comprises a bunkhouse and a hostel. We have booked the bunkhouse for the weekend, and it'll be first come first served for the 21 places there at 7.50 per night. Reserve your places using the enclosed dinner booking form. Priority will be given to those booking both nights. If there are still places left in September then we'll accept Saturday only bookings. The bunks have a two layer karrimat surface and you should bring your sleeping bag. There is a fully equipped kitchen with a common area, and the gable end has a rock climbing wall on it!
The hostel has six berth and eight berth en suite rooms available at 9.50 per person per night with all linen provided. There is a fully self-catering kitchen and a laundry plus drying room. To book these contact David Heron at Inchree on 01855 821 287. Only 100 metres away the Glendevon B&B has five or six rooms available. Contact Judy or Archie on 01855 821 330 (www.glendevon.com). The nearest campsites are Glencoe and Glen Nevis.
The menu is shown to the left so you can note what you ordered before you post your booking form to us. After the enthusiasm shown in recent years we are again setting a theme for the fancy dress - and it is 'Country & Western.'
The Four Seasons Bistro & Bar is licensed to 12:45am serving Scottish real ales, classic malt whiskies, draught/bottled beers and an extensive New World wine list etc. (to quote their leaflet). Food is available from 6 to 9:30 pm
This slim volume was produced for the Appin dinner in 1977 and while admittedly well out of date is still the handiest source of information on the caves. Photocopies are available to members at 1.50 (2.00 with p&p), and if you order one with your dinner I'll add some extra surveys and location maps into the package. Alternatively you can dig out your old GSG Bulletins. A good selection would be - November 1974, September 1977, December 1983, May 1985, December 1986, March 1989, October 1991, October 1998.
The move announced last August has been reversed. The renovated Cambridge Bar has opened and the GSG has returned there for its Tuesday evening sessions. The decor has changed, the toilets moved, the menu upgraded, and some soft seats installed. You can usually find us ensconced near the back door from 8:30pm onwards.
The timing couldn't have been better with the Mendip Migration starting the next weekend. During their stay the southern crew including J.Rat, Tony Boycott, Mad Phil, Peter Glanvill, Peter Mulholland, Nick Williams and Simon Brooks put a tremendous amount of work into making the shaft safe and digging down at the new end. With unstable boulders both above and beneath, this proved an exciting and adrenaline generating activity at times. By the end of the week the overall depth from the moor was approaching 20m with five of those gained since the collapse. The redundant shoring was removed and some shiny scaffolding appeared to replace it. (see behind Dave on photo). This needs to be extended downwards. At the bottom of the pitch an 'avalanche shelter' was constructed to protect diggers as they walk back under the ladder.
A descent of Rana involves a 12m ladder pitch into a comfortably sized rift - free-climbable if you forget the ladder but have a lifeline. I won't mention who discovered that! The foot of the ladder is a convenient place to dump spoil if there are not enough folk to haul it all the way to the surface. Walking down the rift behind the ladder leads to a set of steps then a drop down to where the rift pinches out. Turning around the dig site is now back underneath the steps and as material is removed threatens to destabilize them.
Recent visits have hauled out a lot of the spoil left at the bottom of the ladder. They are also enlarging the passage behind the ladder by removing the steps. There's a lot of stuff to remove and some large boulders to break up, but it's all necessary to make the dig safe.
Despite it being now a multi-pitch cave the minimum number of cavers required for digging hasn't increased. If there are not enough bodies to haul all the way from bottom to top then the spoil can be dumped at the foot of the ladder for later removal. To take it all the way five is probably the minimum and eight is not too many.
Prospects are good with the water draining away easily, the digging easy and the depth approaching that where many of the phreatic passages in the valley are found - eg Capital Series, Bone Caves, East Block. There's still a lot of work to do and we'll be scheduling regular digging trips throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
Peter and Richard also started relining the downstream sump at the foot of the Waterslide, after removing several lengths of old string.
Simon Brooks attempted the Static Sump last dived in 1975. He found it to be 10cm of black water over liquid mud grading quickly to the solid variety. Despite this he forced his way feet-first for a maximum distance of 6m before progress became impossible and the return become almost as difficult. This has obviously silted up over the years and Simon suggests that we should start digging it out. A wet-suited caver with a skip plus a hauling party could soon dig a hole at the entrance to the sump. Hopefully the mud in the sump would then slowly flow into this. Repeating this several/many/lots of* times would lower the mud level all the way through the sump and allow it to be dived once more. Any volunteers? (* - select description appropriate to your degree of optimism.)
On the same day in April Ivan met the couple responsible for maintaining Glenbain Cottage - John and Erica and eventually their AWOL Jack Russell - Bernie. During conversation John mentioned a cave I hadn't seen and took me to it. It's by a tree just above the river downstream of Firehose. A body length or so of low passage carrying a small stream can be seen ending at a vertical step. This is worth a look when in caving gear and was named Bernie's Bolt Hole (NC 26322 21633).
The Doolin area is very popular with spelunkers. The British seem very fond of this sport and use Doolin as a base, spending their days crawling blindly through dirty holes and their nights crawling blindly though Doolin's pubs.
Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland
Bob and Rosemary Jones were in County Clare for the second week of the annual UBSS trip, but have no idea as to the possible origin of the above quotation. The week included some gentle caving, cycle rides and Sheela-na-gig inspections (the divine hag of the Christian Celts).
Caves visited included Upper Poulnagollum, Cullaun 4, Vigo Cave, Polldubh and Maze Holes. Of these Vigo Cave and Cullaun 4 merit comment.
Vigo Cave is the site of a dig being undertaken by local cavers (all three of them). Currently they are digging out a horizontal passage of about a metre diameter which is full almost, but not quite, to the roof with sand. Unlike some other digs the fill material is dry and easily removed, and you can see where the passage is going.
Cullaun 4 is described in Caves of County Clare as being 60 metres long. An initial walk in the woods looking at entrances raised suspicions that this length was incorrect and a revisit and survey by Tony Boycott and Graham Mullan revealed that the cave length is actually 378 metres.
Bob & Rosemary
It is all change as the Yorkshire venue for this year's conference fell through. It will now be held in Hanley Castle High School, Upton upon Severn on the 3rd to 5th October. See www.hidden-earth.org.uk for more details. Despite Alan's plea in Newsletter 114 there have been no offers of ideas or assistance for a GSG stand this year so we are very unlikely to have one.
Latest news from BCRA and DCA is to confirm that insurance will be sold to individuals rather than clubs. It will be up to you to buy insurance direct from the new national scheme. Depending on the level of bureaucracy involved the GSG might still buy insurance for those members who want it. We shall wait and see. There will also be a club premium to cover liabilities arising out of events, projects, training, publications et cetera. It'll also cover taking non-members underground on club trips. The individual premium is likely to be about 10.00. No mention yet on what the club premium might be. We have returned a questionnaire to BCRA with our membership list so that they can get a better estimate of how many cavers there are in the UK.
Scottish Natural Heritage is co-ordinating the organisation of a Scotland-wide festival of events, to bring geology to the people of Scotland. This biennial event is called Rock On - Scottish Geology Festival 2003 and runs from 13th to 28th September. It includes visits to mines, quarries and museums and the majority of events are free. The full programme is available on the web at
Just click on 'Events' then the large 'Rock On' then the four bubbles on the map of Scotland to see what is on offer in each area. A few selected items are:-
Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th
Doors Open Days is a celebration of Dumfries and Galloway's diverse built environment, when a selection of the region's most beautiful, historic and unusual places open their doors to the public for free. The theme for 2003 is stone and highlights include an underground tour of Harelaw Hill Limestone Quarry, plus many more special events such as a drystane dyking workshop.
Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st
Learn to pan for silver in the Ochil Hills. If you can pan for silver, gold will be a doddle. Everyone should find a small piece of fern-leaf shaped silver in their pan. Venue: Ochils Woodland Park, Alva
A rare opportunity to tour a unique geological setting, underground. Follow the processing of the purest silica sand in the UK from the face to the pier. Look for the fossils in the sandstone.
Venue: Lochaline mine car park
Sunday 14th "There's Gold in them Hills?!" Visit the site of an old gold mine and try panning for gold! This event includes a guided walk, minibus ride and hands on activities. Venue: Dalrigh: 2 miles south of Tyndrum (signposted from A82), NN 343 292
and a well known GSG member is also involved:-
Take this gentle walk up to the top of Canisp (840m) to see a range of glacial and periglacial features, including active solifluction and evidence of past ice ages.
Venue: Loch Awe car park on A837 to Lochinver (NC 250 160).
This year the weather (and midges) have been kinder than usual, and several fine BBQs have been held. On the Saturday when we installed the polycarbonate sheeting on the conservatory roof the weather was particularly kind to us. Just as well when you are trying to manoeuvre 12.6 sq metre sheets of polycarbonate with only two people. When they were fitted Peter D produced a celebratory bottle of fizz which was drunk on the roof as we watched the sun set behind Suilven.
After several weekends of work on the conservatory by the Grampian builders (mostly Ivan, Peter and Andy) we almost have a weather tight structure - we just need to hang the door. Even without it you can feel the temperature soar as you walk inside. Last Saturday Bob, Rosemary and Catherine Jones arrived from Inverness and painted the exterior woodwork of the conservatory, and Carol and Mary have also helped paint it and the walls of the main building.
Unfortunately our new glasshouse has had a negative effect on the local bird population. With only the first two windows fitted one broke its neck by flying into them. That one was scooped up by Dan Harries and whisked away to Edinburgh where its intestinal parasites were investigated and recorded. Last weekend two more birds managed to fly inside and knock themselves out when they tried to escape. Both did recover and eventually fly away.
The remaining tasks are to fit a custom gutter between the old and new roofs, hang the door, complete the external and internal woodwork, and then break through into the existing building. We've then got some second-hand maple flooring to strip and sand for the floor. Fitting the electrics and deciding on the colour scheme will then complete the job and we can hold on opening ceremony. Peter was planning on August but I suspect it'll be later. We should still comfortably beat the new Scottish Parliament building.
Fraser has now bought a waterproof sports housing for the GSG's Sony camcorder. With a maximum specified depth of 2m it is adequate for videoing in wet conditions but not to go diving in or through sumps.
The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:-
The easy address for it is:- http://www.caves.org.uk/gsg/
Gilmerton Cove - This series of excavated tunnels and rooms is being opened to the public this summer. For an appetizer look at:- www.gilmertoncove.org.uk
It includes a virtual tour provided you have the time to let it load. Thanks to Barry Burn for pointing it out. He also recommends www.ogof.net for another good virtual tour.
Deer Collisions - if you have met any deer recently in your car then there is a research project under way throughout Great Britain. The number of road accidents involving deer is rising, but the full extent is unknown as many incidents are not reported. This two year study aims to gather the data and you can help by visiting their web site and registering your deer related incidents at:-
Last week Tony Jarratt reported a major extension in this cave beneath the Hunters' Lodge Inn. The main effort had progressed about 10m past a 'sumpy bit', when attention switched to a draughting corner just before it. This soon gained 10m to a vertical boulder choke passed after 6m of upwards blasting. It entered a large passage with plenty of stal which ascended almost to the surface. Tony knows it must be near the surface because it ended in a slope with large animal bones. Too large for domesticated cattle they could be from some form of ancient ox. What is even more exciting is a hole through the boulder floor part of the way along the passage. Rocks dropped here bounce down for a long time and land with an echoing boom. Tony estimates at least a 30m pitch into what must be a large chamber. It appears to be about 30cm by 9m at the top widening out as it descends. There is a really good draught coming from it so the prospects are excellent. A little light blasting should allow the pitch to be descended, so more discoveries are likely within days - or may even have happened over the weekend!
There were 13 cavers in the cave at the last visit with Tony attempting to orchestrate their activities. These included photography (Estelle has placed pictures on her web site and you can view them at:- http://www.cavesncorals.34sp.com/) and surveying. So far the extension has added about 85m to the cave bringing the total length to over 215m and its total depth to the foot of the undescended pitch is estimated to be over 60m.
A slightly alcoholic Tony Jarrett was summoned from a well-earned kip by a ringing telephone this afternoon. My apologies Tony. The state of play after today's 9:30 to 13:30 digging trip (and post- digging bar trip), is that after some 'gardening' the pitch was descended into a large sloping rift type chamber with walls covered in flowstone. The bottom of the chamber is about 9m x 2.5m with a strong draught issuing from between boulders. The pitch measured 17m deep which is less than last week's estimate. Tony suspects that the boulders dropped down the pitch are now blocking its continuation and the way on.
Saturday 28th June 2003 Dan Harries and myself dived to Claonaite 8 where I dived Sump 8 to inspect the outcome of the 'Rock Breaking Activities' of the dive Fraser and I made there in June 2002. At the end of the line the offending slab was found to be largely turned to gravel allowing me to penetrate another meter to reach yet more breakdown. An inspection revealed no way on with the only prospect being to systematically remove rock one by one, with a 'hit it hard approach' likely to make the whole area totally unstable. This being the case the logistics of diving to Claonaite 8 would suggest that we will be better to wait until Rana goes and affords easier access to this part of the system.
The dives were uneventful apart from two valve failures. The end fell off Dan's Manta at the start of sump 6B (fortunately not part way through) and served to remind the divers that even though a valve has just been serviced it is worth giving it a good check yourself prior to diving. Later on as I emerged from sump 8, Dan noticed that the end of my Poseidon had dropped off rendering it little more than an ornament. Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps into Sump 8 to find the missing end thereby restoring the valve to 'working' and more importantly saving myself a few quid in the process. (Have you seen the cost of Poseidon parts!). Moral to this story is "Whether the valve of your choice is a Manta or a Poseidon, it's always worth a tug on the end before you start diving"
A trio of Joneses, a duet of Walfords plus Roger, Derek, Martin and Andy hauled out 175 bucket loads on Saturday 2nd August and a reduced team managed another 85 on Sunday. All this effort is gradually removing the steps (as seen on page 2 of Newsletter 116 which is almost ready for posting, and in colour in the latest Descent - no 173)
Last Friday evening saw a large aluminium 'wing' flying up the A9 on top of Andy Peggie's car. It was in fact the 4.3m long gutter that had been custom designed by Andy to fit between the conservatory and existing roofs. On Saturday it was slid into place, and to a mixture of astonishment (Ivan) and relief (Andy) it fitted first time.
Over the weekend several more pieces of exterior woodwork were fitted by Ivan, the external door was hung by Andy, and the GSG digging team of Julian (with angle grinder), Roger (chisel), Martin (sledgehammer) and Bob (bare hands) dug their way through the hut wall under the window. There are still a few stones to come out, but the vast majority is now lying by the car park.
There was a special appearance by Kirsty, Milche and family who were staying at the hut for a couple of days. Milche started with spot of gentle supervision, but by Sunday afternoon he was carrying boulders, and Kirsty and son were painting the door.
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