Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 117, December 2003

Newsletter @

GSG Annual Dinner - 2003

About 50 members and others made it to the Inchree complex for the annual dinner, organized by Malcolm. The theme ('Country & Western') was interpreted by most to mean cowboys and Indians, with two ladies of the night. J'Rat however came as western country, complete with smock and genuine gallon jar of scrumpy.

This was an excellent choice of location for a dinner with a fine selection of real ales in the bar and the Appin caves just down the road. After almost exhausting the beer supply on the Friday night, steps were taken by the management and extra barrels obtained for the Saturday - and they were needed.

Saturday saw most members caving with visits to GPS and descend caves in the Coire Sheilach area, to bang at the end of Draught Caledonian, to dig further up the hillside, and descend Uamh an Claig-ionn all featuring on the day's agenda. In addition there was a small group investigating the coastline of Ardnamurchan and another group who visited a wild life centre/seal sanctuary.

All enjoyed a relaxing unhurried meal with Snab reciting an original composition as he toasted absent friends. These include Goon - away on a stage somewhere, and Peter Dowswell preparing his house for sale. Next came the presentation of the Golden Gnome. Peter Dennis composed a short ode on the spot and the recipients were introduced with a brief video clip of them digging at the bottom of Rana hole with accompanying sounds of dripping water and much hammering.

Fraser's very professional Meghalayan 2003 Expedition video was shown next. They get better every year and Fraser would have earned a round of applause if hadn't been on an expenses paid trip to Ireland at the time! He had appended a couple of minutes of Rana activity to the tape including the now famous (in the GSG) clip of Colin Coventry bouncing a boulder off his bum (see later). The evening then settled down to the serious business of emptying barrels, singing caving songs and catching up on the last year's news.

The boring old farts then retired either to the hostel next door or a variety of local B&Bs, while the 'youngsters' staggered 50 yards to the bunkhouse clutching half gallon jugs of ale and partied into the wee small hours accompanied by Snab and Anita with their squeeze boxes plus Roger and others with assorted stringed instruments. Despite this most were up and away caving again on the Sunday morning. All thoroughly enjoyed the event and the close proximity of plentiful and reasonably priced accommodation removed the usual problem of selecting a teetotaller for the apres dinner drive back.

Which brings us to selecting next year's dinner venue. We need suggestions from you NOW so we can all vote on it at the AGM early next year. So if you want to propose an area, or can recommend a venue send your proposal to any committee member and we'll add it to the ballot paper at the AGM. Suggestions should be to a UK caving area and proposers who also volunteer to organise are doubly welcome.

Estelle has placed her GSG Annual Dinner photos on the web. See them at:-

Appin Cave Guide - Supplement

Because the Appin Cave Guide is now incredibly out of date a supplement was produced for the 2003 Annual Dinner. This includes short descriptions of almost all the caves discovered since the Appin Cave Guide was published in 1977 along with surveys and some new area plans. The change over the last 26 years can be seen by comparing the Appin Cave Guide with its 30 A5 pages and 55 cave sites with the Supplement at 28 A4 pages listing 100 caves.

The Supplement is intended to be a short-lived publication en route to the Caves of Appin volume that is so obviously needed. There are still copies available and a cheque for 2.00 sent to Ivan will see one posted to you by return.

When you take the Supplement with you to Appin then please take note of what is written on page 1 and send details of missing and incorrect information to Ivan. We want the Caves of Appin when it arrives to be as comprehensive and error-free as possible.

Caving News




There have been trips into Marble Steps, Ireby Fell, Diccan, Long Churn, Notts 2, Dowbergill, Bull Pot, Heron Pot, Sunset and KMC over the summer and autumn. Also a series of trips to Aquamole Hole. The first was a quick look after descending Jingling. This set the tone for the next trips as each in turn got a bit deeper before running out of rope. A determined Peter Ireson took plenty of rope for the final successful descent. The bottom was reached with several tens of metres of excess rope piled up at the bottom of the final pitch.


This year's autumn expedition to the Dolomites did a mixture of well known and loved vie ferrate plus quite a few new (to us) ones. The main party flew into Munich and spent the night in Thomas Matthalm and Anya's flat. The next day Thomas took us to the nearby Angerlloch cave. A fine set of rift passages which have been very well used (and abused) provided two hours of vertical free-climbing fun en route to Italy. The first week was spent at our usual base in Campolongo, the second in a fine trio of apartments in Alleghe. The first week started with showers, deteriorated to a blizzard enlivened with thunder and lightning, and finished with blazing sunshine which lasted till the end of the fortnight.

The wartime tunnels in the Kleiner Lagazuoi and Paternkofel were all visited again. We also found a ferrata up down and through a limestone crag split with many deep interconnecting fissures. Some were pitch black and gave a short caving trip for those with lights. The crag is very popular with climbers who have a small bothy on the top. Inside it among the photographs pinned to the wall we spotted what appeared to be a familiar face. So does J'Rat have some Italian in his ancestry?

Public Liability Insurance

In early September the BCRA learnt that they would not be able to renew their public liability insurance policy. This is despite a claim free history and is another consequence of underwriters taking a much harder look at potential risks in the light of September 11th. This is the policy that has covered all GSG members for more than a decade. The BCRA were given an extension of another month then an extra week so an alternative supplier could be found. So far they have they have not found one to give the cover required on sensible terms. BCRA officials including Nick Williams, a GSG member as well as BCRA Chairman, have been working hard for many weeks to find a solution. They have now just about exhausted all UK-based possibilities for a national caving scheme. Cover under the scheme finally expired on the 7th November for the GSG in common with most of the UK caving community

This gives the GSG two problems. First, many underground sites do require visitors to have insurance. For some places such as Nenthead Mines and Peak Cavern it is obvious because cavers are made aware of the requirement before a booking is made or entry allowed. For other sites, such as those controlled by regional councils such as the CNCC, the visiting caver arranges access through the council and insurance is never mentioned but it is there. So there may be a lot of popular caves and mines that will be closed until insurance is one again available. In fact this doesn't apply to the CNCC as their insurance wasn't dependent on the BCRA scheme, but may do to other access arrangements.

The second issue is that the BCRA policy also provided protection for club (including BCRA) officers. Even if all GSG caving is to sites that don't require insurance, claims could theoretically still be made against the GSG and its officers. The BCRA/NCA are going to arrange the more restricted cover required by their officers in early December and provide advice to clubs. They are still trying to organise a national scheme by then, but if not they hope to distribute advice to clubs on minimizing their liabilities and obtaining individual cover.

So should we stop caving and take up knitting instead' No. There is no problem (yet) for the majority of sites we visit. Most of our caving trips are organised by individuals and not GSG events. I confess that I am unsure just how open we are to litigation if a claim arose as a result of an accident to a member or caused by a member to somebody else while on a GSG organised or promoted trip. I suspect that while the theoretical liability might be high, the claim-free record of the BCRA scheme over 20 years shows that in practice it is low. And that is despite all the accidents including deaths underground that have occurred during that time. However you may find that taking groups of novices underground suddenly becomes less popular.

As usual once there is anything substantive to report we will distribute details first by email then later by post with the next Newsletter.


Footnote:- Simon Brooks tells me that he and Jenni have PL insurance cover via their membership of the Orpheus Caving Club who are in the DCA scheme which is still running. I wonder if he is suggesting that one solution is for us all to join the OCC!

Forthcoming Meets and Events

Recently the club has been travelling to plenty of meets with only a few of them on our meets list. That does make it difficult for our more remote members to join in. It also makes it difficult for those who need plenty of notice. To help overcome this we have sketched in some unspecified Yorkshire meets to allow a bit of forward planning. There are also proposals for a fly/drive to Mendip in March and possibly a similar sortie to Ireland (RyanAir has starting a Glasgow to Shannon flight) in May or June. Fraser would like feedback on both suggestions. The dates can be firmed up once there is a list of interested parties. Fraser can be contacted by phone or email until the middle of December when he disappears to Patagonia for New Year. (Tel home:- 01383 860653, email:- Fraser @

Elphin Caving Centre

The summer and autumn have been fairly quiet at the hut. The good weather has continued and with regular Rana digging trips, conservatory building and other activities GSG members have been the main users. Other visitors have been the autumn influx of field mice helped by a large gap (now closed) under the external conservatory door. One evening traps were emptied, rebaited, reset and replaced only to collect their next corpses within ten minutes. At the last count we had caught two dozen in just over a month. Please check, empty and rebait the traps when you visit. They are in both lofts. Mice spread disease and cause damage, eg to wiring, that can be difficult and expensive to repair.

The next organised event at the hut is a Xmas meal in mid December. Peter Dowswell is organizing it and, as usual, please let us know if you intend to attend. The menu is printed below and if the cost follows the usual Dowswell tradition I expect it'll be extremely reasonable.

GSG Christmas Soiree & Swallee

Saturday 13th December 2003


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. Day fees 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).


Almost all external work on the new conservatory has been finished. It is weather tight and the kitchen window and the wall underneath have been removed to make a walkway that now needs to be lined. We'll have another door here to keep in the heat in winter. Most wiring is in place and the lights work. The other main jobs are to lay the floor and decide on what shade of magnolia to paint it!

The front door (2nd hand when we fitted it) is showing signs of rot and will be replaced. When we do we will fit a pushbutton lock. That'll get round all the hassle of distributing keys to visitors and collecting them (or not) afterwards. We'll change the code word at regular intervals. If this gives any problems to GSG members who regularly stay in the hut then we can distribute keys to the back door. We'll wait and see.

Membership News

New Members

Welcome to new members:- Duncan Allen, Richard Hathway, Suzie Ovenstone, John Heathcote, and welcome back to John (Tangent) Williams. (Personal details have been removed from the web version of the newsletter).

New Addresses

Gair Dunlop, Austin Harley, Madeleine (Maddy) Harris, Dave Hodgson, John Manchip, Suzanne Peggie, Hugh Penney, John (Tangent) Williams.

Other Changes

Work telephone numbers:- Peter Dowswell, Julian Walford

Email address:- Martin Hayes, David Warren

Simon and Jenni Brooks - announced the birth of son.

Assynt News

Sutherland Hut Log - Volume 4

This volume continues the policy of distributing information in the Sutherland field hut logs to a wider audience. It starts in October 1997 and continues to the end of 2000. Alan has made an effort to interpret bad handwriting, but 'illegible' is a much used word in some entries. Surveys and other drawings have been scanned across, and a short index of entries describing original cave exploration has been added. Entries include many for the digs in Rana Hole, Poll Damoclean and Drip Chamber, ANUSC, the discovery and exploration of St George's Cave, and the story of the October '98 GSG Annual Dinner Claonaite rescue.

Copies are available from Alan for the sum of 5.00. A4 booklet with card cover of 98 pages including many surveys, location maps, and cartoons. Back numbers of the GSG Bulletin and other publications may also be available if Alan still has any in stock. Contact him for details.

Anti-Spam measures

To cut down the daily spam count (over 150) I now automatically reject all messages directed to either newsletter or Both addresses appeared on our web site and I assume were gathered from it by the spam merchants. That also applies to ivan@g-s-g which is now mostly spam so I am shortly going to stop using that as well.

Please change the entry for me in your address book to use ivany @ As another anti-spam measure I automatically reject all messages whose titles imply they are advertising measures to enhance my anatomy or are drug related, so if your message appears to drop into a black hole first check which address you are using then the title. I hope that with the change to the address I can remove the pre-filtering and the possibility it is rejecting valid emails.


Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- The easy address for it is:-

As well as the spam mentioned on the previous page, making one's address known on our web page does lead to some interesting requests. I wasn't able to help in the following case. Even Jim Salvona was hesitant about suggesting a solution. Perhaps you could help the questioner? In message <>, C****** C****** l***** writes


I would appreciate any help you can give me on this cave. I have a general description of the outer part of this cave. The cave is located in South-western Scotland. The mouth of the cave is surrounded by stone and the opening is in the shape of a pyramid with a bump in the middle of the base. If you have any knowledge of this cave, it would be appreciated. I will be travelling to Scotland soon and would love to explore this cave. I don't even have the name of the cave but I am sure it is near the ocean in the Southern part of Scotland.


That wasn't very specific so I asked for more details of the cave and received the following:-


Well, I am not sure about the boulders. I know it is just a raised like bump at the entrance. As for length, I have no ideal. I know people explore it still today. It is an old to ancient cave. I don't know if it was ever inhabited. I am pretty sure it is close to the ocean. You may not think much of the way I know about it but I will tell you how I know of it. I am a pagan and in a past life I was there. I was with another person and we went into the cave to hide something from our enemies. They ambushed us in the cave and my friend was killed. I was killed later when I would not reveal what we hid. I have only remotely viewed the cave in a meditative trance. I really hope I can find this cave. It is very important.


So if you have any suggestions for L***** send them to me and I may forward them for you.

Journey To The Center Of The Earth "Sotano de Las Golondrinas"

Another email I received asked me to publicise this expedition in Mexico. For $2900 you buy a week in Mexico including one day of training, one visiting a castle, one canoeing and swimming, two at the cave and the rest travelling. Your air fare isn't included.

They have a mobile motorized winch to pull two people out of the cave in ten minutes, so you don't need to be capable of climbing the 350 meters under your own steam. If you want details then contact:- Randy Pacheco at, web site:-

Email for the GSG can be sent to:- ivany @

Email for the Bulletin should be sent to:- goon90 @

Are you on the GSG's email distribution list for Newsletters, announcements and news? If not 'why not' Just send us an email message (address above), ask to be included and get the latest news sent to your PC. You don't miss out on the paper copies and all messages are sent as text files with no pictures to minimize size and transmission time.

GSG Annual Subscription

The New Year is approaching and that will be the time for you to pay your membership subscription for 2004. The annual subscription is due on the 1st January and should be paid in full and promptly if your membership is not to lapse. The rates are unchanged at 15 for full, 20 for joint, and 5 for junior (under 16 years) membership with reductions to 7.50 and 10 for full time students, the unemployed and those over 65. Make a note in your diary to send me a cheque payable to 'G.S.G.' to arrive early in January. Please send it to:-

Ivan Young 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP

If you are one of the many members who pay by standing order then you can ignore this section. If you don't and want to do so just ask me and I'll mail or email you a form.

Note:- I don't object to early payment!

A Welly Good Read

I was amused when I bought my last pair of wellies to find that they came with a 28 page User's Manual in 13 languages. I suppose this is necessary because they are PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), are CE marked, and we need to be told to 'Inspect your Wellington boots every time before use'.


  1. Book now for the GSG Xmas Meal and New Year at the hut.
  2. Let Fraser know if you want to take part in the proposed Mendip or Ireland trips
  3. Make a note to pay your GSG Annual Subscription in early January
  4. Send address list changes and corrections to Ivan.

GSG publications (prices to non-members in brackets)

Caves of Skye          - 6.00 (8.50)  Caves of Assynt    -  6.00 (8.50)*
Caving Songs of Mendip - 3.00 (4.00)  Caves of Schichallion 3.00 (4.00)*
The Southern Highlands - 1.20 (1.50)  Appin Cave Guide    - 1.50 (2.00)*
Appin Cave Guide Supplement    2.00 (2.50)
Buddy reading (Caving in Couplets)  2.00 (2.50)
                  * out of print - photocopies available
          GSG Ties - 5.00, T-shirts 8.00 and sweat shirts 10.00
            Contact Alan to hear what colours are 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."

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