Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 119, July 2004


GSG Annual Dinner 2004

This year's Grampian Dinner will be held in the Inchnadamph Hotel on Saturday 30th October. This will be three courses plus coffee or tea, and as usual we ask you to select your main course when booking. The cost is £16 per person and if, as is likely, there are a swarm of kids we'll see about arranging an earlier meal for them. There is also the possibility of a child-minding service (£5 per kid) if parents are interested. If you want either or both, please let me know.

Richard and Jaimie, the new owners of the Inch, are offering a specially discounted B&B rate of £19 per person per night for GSG members, so do remember to ask for it when you book your room. The hut will be available and everybody attending the dinner, members and guests, can stay at members' rates for the duration of their stay. Hotel bookings to 01571 822202, web site:- http://www.inchnadamphhotel.co.uk/

The Mendip Migration was well down in numbers this year with several absentees planning a longer stay around the Annual Dinner. So there should be an excellent turnout and you'll all need to get your bookings in early. A booking form is included with this Newsletter. Please fill it in and sent it with your cheque made payable to "GSG" to:- 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston, West Lothian, EH29 9AP.

Accommodation is also available in Inchnadamph Lodge:- 01571 822218, web site:- http://www.assynt.co.uk/inchlodge/afcind.html.


GSG Membership Down

As prophesied in the last Newsletter, I have now removed from the membership list all those members who have not paid their membership subscriptions for 2004. Of last year's 141 members 123 did renew, and with seven new or returning members GSG membership now totals 130. Of the 18 defaulters there were five full and three life members who never responded to the reminders, five were the distaff side of joint memberships, two were members with a low present interest in caving, one had moved out of the area, and two were juniors when we cancelled their membership class under them.

The drop-out rate of wives and girl friends is perhaps understandable now the minimum difference between full and joint membership has increased from a fiver to £8. Please note that members' spouses and children can pay member's rates at Taigh nam Famh and not the higher guest rate.


Public Liability Insurance Up

Membership cards for the BCA and its insurance scheme are now here and are being distributed with this Newsletter. If you are already a caving member of another club, CDG or EUG you will be receiving a card from them and will not receive an additional non-caving card via the GSG. A few more statistics:- 73 members have signed up for caving level insurance and 57 for non-caving (many having the caving level with another club). Total premium paid so far this year is £1756. And I thought £655 last time was high enough!

Ivan


Caving News

ASSYNT

APPIN

Glen Duror - Particularly wet weather before we arrived at Albion Pot in early April proved ideal for a dye test. In flood conditions an over-liberal amount of fluorescein resurged spectacularly green from the deep shaft above Hibernian Hole. This is 285m away from Albion Pot and 70m lower in altitude. The main rising - Uamh Ord Mor - also ran green. This is 600m horizontally from Albion Pot and 155m lower indicating the potential for the system. Water levels were too high for much digging to be done. During another visit at the end of May, Roger, Martin and others extended Albion by a body length or two. It is still going, but not easily. Some dry warm weather would be appreciated by the diggers.

SKYE

High Pasture Cave - Ivan and Tim Lawson visited Steve Birch for a few days at the beginning of June to help his archaeological work in this cave. Over two days we thoroughly examined all areas including several I'd never seen before. This included a long white calcite column in the upper level below the waterfall. It's the only one like it in the cave, and from its shape appears to have formed around a dangling root. The entrance is now 'gated' to discourage dumping of rubbish and keep out kamikaze sheep. There is no access restriction, just keep clear of the side passage where Steve & co are digging. Steve during his wandering around Coille Gaireallach has accumulated a list of cave sites that demand a return visit with some assistance. He thinks there are several hundred feet of passage that could quite easily be entered if he had help. We intend organizing a visit there in the post-midge season later this year - September or October.

DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY

The trio of Jim Salvona, Peter Ireson and Ivan travelled to the coast south of Dalbeattie. Here we checked out some sea caves, the Caves of Barlocco, mentioned in Caves of Scotland as being quite lengthy - 256 and 252 feet. We couldn't get to them (boat required), but from a rocky promontory we could see into the large semicircular entrances and the maximum length is likely to be less than 20m (65 feet). We did have pleasant afternoon scrambling up and down the cliffs and Peter had an enlivening experience with an electric fence!

YORKSHIRE

A pre-BCRC AGM Saturday trip through Swinsto by Peter Dennis and Ivan found a very quiet Kingsdale. By the time we left we'd seen only two other small caving parties. The third and largest group was of CREG members testing a low frequency Heyphone and experimenting with aluminium foil instead of tent pegs for the ground contacts.

MENDIP

The May fly/drive/cave trip to Mendip was a great success. Six members flew down on the Friday morning to first meet J.Rat in Bat Products for retail therapy. After lunching in the City Arms, Vern Freeman led us through the caves of Fairy Cave Quarry where cavers now have their own combination padlock protected car park. We started with Shatter Cave and then split the party for Withyhill and Fairy Caves. Another two members arrived on the evening EasyJet flight from Edinburgh - hours late as usual. With several other members arriving by car and including those Grampian who are resident in Mendip we must have been the best represented club in the Hunters on Saturday night! Other caves visited over the weekend were St Cuthberts (led by Pete Glanvill), Swildons, Rhino Rift, Hunters Lodge Inn Sink and Templeton Pot (twice) where we were appropriately awed by the technology being employed to excavate this surface shaft (now reported to be 85 feet deep).

Caving in the Iron Age on Skye?

Steve Birch has been working since 2002 on archaeological deposits in a side passage of High Pasture Cave (see GSG Bulletin October 2002). The importance of the whole area has heightened with recent discoveries both above and below ground. With funding from Historic Scotland and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, he and his fellow archaeologist, Martin Wildgoose, have surveyed the area, fitted a trapdoor to the cave entrance and installed a small shed nearby - very handy for sheltering from thunderstorms and midges.

Above the cave there are the remains of what appear to be a round house, a 'U' shaped walled area and several other smaller cell-like buildings. In the cave as well as the bones (predominantly pig), Steve has found pottery, metal slag, an iron axe or adze, hammer stones and an antler pick (see photo below). There are also many pot boilers (stones heated in a fire for boiling water), shells of periwinkle, oyster, limpet and mussel, and other bone and antler artefacts.

Tim Lawson and Ivan visited Steve and the cave in early June. Tim took samples of the various sediment layers to help him produce a history of the cave's development. At the end of the dig passage there appears to be an old entrance shaft that is now filled in with no trace visible above. Since this is probably the entry point for the Iron Age cavers, finding and excavating it is going to be a priority. Ivan used the SCRO's Heyphones with a couple of simple loop aerials to radio locate the end of the dig passage on the surface. This, incidentally, confirmed the accuracy of the 1973 Moldywarp's survey.

At the dig Steve showed us where he and Martin had dug down through about a metre of floor deposits to the passage floor finding more artefacts as they went and what appears to be a layer of flat granite slabs - the passage had evidently been paved! A radiocarbon date for some of the bones from the upper levels above the paving gave a date of about 100BC to 300BC. It'll be interesting to see how much earlier the remains in the lowest levels are.

High Pasture Cave took pride of place as the main and centrefold article in the Spring 2004 issue of Teachd an T?r - the local SNH/Dualchas news sheet. There is also a strong possibility that Time Team may get involved and could be there later this year.


AUSTRIA - Eisriesenwelt, Salzburg, 6th June '04

"Eisriesenwelt" ice caves are in the Tennengebirge mountain range above the town of Wefen and are, according to the guide book; "The greatest Ice Caves in the world". We went to see for ourselves. The system extends 40 km into the mountains, but the tourist trip only covers the first kilometre - 30000 m2 of ground ice, 20 m thick in places. Eisriesenwelt was officially discovered in 1879 by Anton Posselt but more fully explored by Alexander von Mörk in the 1920s.

The cave entrance is at 1000m above the Salzach valley and either a good hike or a very steep cable car will get you there. A one hour guided tour costs 15 to club members and shows the most scenic part of the cave. The formations are spectacular. In the first chamber, "Posselt Hall", there is a huge mountain of ice 20m high and ornate stalactites 9m long. In the next chamber there's an ice-castle and later an ice 1/2 elephant, (you need to use your imagination as it's a dynamic cave and the formations are constantly changing to due to the effects of seasonal air temperature).

Most of the way through the tour you can see the layers of ice. The oldest layer visible is probably about 1000 years old. These are best displayed at the "M?rk Glacier" - 8m of wind polished ice where you see layers of aerated white, brown dust and clear blue ice.

It's a lovely tour and the guides are happy to speak English and German throughout. There are over 700 steep, uneven stairs to the top at the "Ice Palace" and the same to return, so we don't recommend taking your granny or your dog, but the cave is well worth a visit if you're in the area.

Eisriesenwelt is owned by the National Austrian Forestry Commission but has been leased to The Salzberg Association of Cave Exploration since 1928. There are many more caves in the surrounding hillside for those who can reach them along the steep, narrow ledges around each cliff face. Present: S. Peggie, D. Robinson & friends. Suzie


Forthcoming Meets and Events

See the events page for details.

Our Caving Secretary Fiona Ware can be contacted at f.ware <at> nms.ac.uk.

An Unwelcome Import from Mexico

Shortly after returning from a Mexican holiday GSG Caving secretary Fiona Ware went down with a slight fever and chest pains. Concerned lest it be malaria or some other tropical disease Dan encouraged her to visit her local doc. A chest X-ray resulted in immediate hospitalization as shadows on the lung caused more than a little interest. After a week during which Fiona discovered hospital food shipped from Wales tasted as though it had, she was released. It wasn't anything horribly infectious like TB, and suspicions amongst us centred on histoplasmosis.

Fiona finally learnt that it isn't histoplasmosis, but the much rarer coccidioidomycosis. Like histo this is a fungal infection of the lungs, and it is caused by inhalation of the spores of the fungus, coccidioides immitis, which is often found in desert regions. About 60% of infections cause no symptoms and are only discovered later by a positive coccidioidin skin test.

This has been a long winded explanation of why the meets list for the rest of this year is a bit late arriving. Until Fiona recovered from her periodic bouts of fever and chest pains she was off work and couldn't access her files with the meets details. The latest X-ray shows continued improvement and the normal GSG meets service should now be restored.

Swaledale Meet

Dave Hodgson (Yorkshire Dave) is organizing a Swaledale meet for the weekend of 16th to 18th July. Accommodation will be chez Dave in Reeth. There is limited bed and floor space which might take up to ten, but there are acres of field so come prepared to camp unless you know Dave has reserved you some floor. There will be a BBQ so bring along the appropriate items to incinerate.

Dave has a long list of possibles for the underground activities. These include:- Thackthwaite Beck Cave and the 'Spiral Mine' next door, Scrafton Pot and its neighbours, Hard Level to Brandy Bottle Incline, Devis Hole Mine Caves (if Dave can get a key), and old favourites Cliff Force Cave, Crackpot Cave, Windegg Mine Caverns, and St Francis Level (bring a wetsuit!). Nearby areas offer God's Bridge River Cave and Goyden Pot etc. A little preplanning on the previous Tuesday at the Cambridge would seem to be in order.

Vacancies for Volunteer Meet Organisers

The low air fares that have encouraged us to fly to Mendip apply to other destinations as well. We just need members with the vision, drive and time to get them organised. Possible destinations are Fermanagh, S Wales, Belgium and even Munich. If you want to cave in far flung places here is your opportunity to help.


Elphin Caving Centre

A quieter than usual Mendip Migration was followed by a succession of large parties including one that stayed for an entire week. At the end of June the opening ceremony for the conservatory saw Goon cutting the tartan ribbon watched by over a score of members. Afterwards there was a rooftop protest when the SCRO committee monopolized the conservatory for a meeting.

Peter's house move has been delayed by legal difficulties - the sellers found they didn't own all the ground they were selling and had to buy it from the council! He is ensconced for the next couple of months in a cottage near Drumnadrochit and has his home PC up and running again. His temporary home phone number is 01456 450158. The next events in the hut will be after the holiday season and the Annual Dinner when we expect to have a full gastronomic programme over the winter months. One that we can announce is the date of the Xmas party - Saturday 18th December. We also expect a good turnout over the New Year period. Book your places early if you want a bunk. Camping probably isn't a viable option!

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, the 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 the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible to check if there will be space (01456 450158, hutbookings <at> gsg.org.uk).

Hut-building

The conservatory floor was noisily sanded with a hired floor sander at the end of March by Andy Peggie and Ivan. A slight hiccup was overcome when the sander threatened to break down. A quick scrape of one of its motor's brushes cured that and it ran sweetly(?) for the rest of the time. Several more weekends saw all the skirting fitted, the internal door hung and everything painted. Only a few finishing touches are required such as harling, and it is now in regular use. Even on a cloudy day it soon warms up, and when the sun shines brightly the temperature soars. CJ reported that it reached 400C and the high thirties are not unusual.

Dave Warren arrived early for the opening ceremony and by staying longer painted most of the walls and ceiling in the kitchen and seating area. There is still plenty to do and there are several tins of floor paint also waiting to be used. We've also got some etch to use on the area by the toilets. That should make the floor paint stick better than it did last time. If you'd like to help let the Hut Warden know. Remember that hut fees are cancelled for members working all day on the hut.


Membership News

Welcome to new members:- Paul Craddy - who has been caving for over five years with over 200 trips under his belt and a member of the West Brecon CRO. Vern and Rosie Freeman - reinforce our Somerset membership with extensive experience of Mendip, Yorkshire and Welsh caves. Vern is a member of MRO and a leader for the caves in Fairy Cave Quarry with caving experience in France, Thailand, Spain and the USA. and welcome back (again) to:- Alan and Aileen Butcher - who are in the competition for - most rejoined member' status. However that title is held by Snab - four times since 1976 according to my records. We have 'lost' several members who didn't respond to the repeated warnings in the last Newsletters. In previous years we have been very tolerant of late payers, but this year there wasn't the same flexibility. One of the conditions of the GSG joining the BCA and its insurance scheme is that all GSG members must be paid-up members of BCA. The 'lost' members will be restored if they pay their subscriptions.

New Members

Alan & Aileen Butcher, Paul Craddy, Vern & Rosie Freeman,

New Addresses

Bob Batty, Steven Birch, Austin Harley, David Robinson,

Other Changes

Derek Pettiglio, George Kennedy, Martyn Elwell, John Glover, Ewen Macniven,


Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- http://www.sat.dundee.ac.uk/~arb/speleo.html The easy address for it is:- http://www.gsg.org.uk/

On-Line Publishing

You can now read Al Warild's book entitled "Vertical" on the web. It covers the usual subjects for SRT ranging from personal gear through rigging and knots to chapters on organization and rescue techniques with a bonus chapter on surveying. I've only had a quick glance at it, but what I've read makes me want to find the time to read more. You can find it at:- http://www.cavediggers.com/Intro.pdf (PDF)

It is in pdf format and though you can read all 10 chapters on line you cannot print it even if you download it into your PC. There is an order page if you want a downloadable print version or a CD directly from Speleobooks.

Hidden Earth 2004

The web site for Hidden Earth 2004 (1st-3rd October at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal) now includes some information about the planned field trips for the two days preceding the conference. See:- http://www.hidden-earth.org.uk/info.fieldtrip.html

The conference co-incides with the China Caves Week. See:- http://www.hidden-earth.org.uk/news.china.html and http://www.andyeavis.com/

Assynt Geology Sites

Julian Walford has been investigating web sites covering Assynt geology. He found one apparently constructed by the Univ. of Leeds and the BGS:- http://earth.leeds.ac.uk/assyntgeology/index.htm which takes you to the GSG site from one of its pages. It also takes you to one done by Leeds:- http://earth.leeds.ac.uk/mtb/ and

http://earth.leeds.ac.uk/assynt/index.htm both about the Moine Thrust Belt. There is also a 360 degree panorama taken from near the road between Inchnadamph and Kylesku. Julian thinks we should do some for the caving areas:- http://earth.leeds.ac.uk/assynt/panorama.htm

There are links to other geological sites. e.g. http://www.scottishgeology.com/

BGS have their Earthwise magazine on-line and issue 20 has an article on the Moine Thrust Project (pages 18, 19). This is an eight to ten year project to remap the geology of the whole Moine Thrust area. To download the magazine go to:-

http://www.bgs.ac.uk/magazine/magazines/download.html


Equipment Notes

The lamp charger in the hut has been rebuilt by Peter Ireson. Some of the casing was suffering from acid attack and he took the opportunity to replace the noisy 1kW supply with a smaller (though adequate) fan-less module. It is a fixed voltage charger designed to recharge up to three Oldham batteries simultaneously through the headsets. A choice of series resistor sets the maximum charging current for each battery and allows it to be used for charging 2 and 3 cell NiCd and NiFe batteries though not the FX series which have different contact arrangements. It does run from the 13A ring circuit so make sure that there is money in the meter if you are leaving it to charge unattended.

There are five Oldham lamps in the hut and they are individually labelled with the results of their last discharge test. They are available for use by visitors but please do recharge them after use. Being Oldham cells they also suffer from filling with water through the vent holes if taken underwater. This dilutes the electrolyte and leads to pools of acid in the hut when they are recharged. Please take the precaution of covering the vent holes with a strip or two of duct tape before using them. If there isn't any next to the lamps there should be some in the shed. If you still can't find any then please don't use them if they are likely to get immersed.


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 or Ivan Young Please make cheques payable to "G.S.G."


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