Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk
The 2007 AGM was held in Elizabeth and Derek's house in Winchburgh on Saturday 20 January with 16 members attending. A range of interesting discussions took place, and full minutes are available from the Secretary. Here is a brief summary of what took place:
In relation to the Hon Recorder's report, there was some discussion over the role of the Hut Log Book. Some members describe their caving activities in the Hut Log but don't subsequently make an entry in the Club Log Book which is held in Edinburgh. It was agreed that even if a full description had been included in the Hut Log, a report should also be made into the Log Book or by email to Goon. This could be brief but should include at least the full names of those involved and dates. The Secretary reported that a new web-site was being designed. The same URL would continue to be used: www.gsg.org.uk The Treasurer presented the accounts which showed a healthy surplus. No increase in membership was needed this year as BCA subs had not changed. The Hut Warden highlighted the need for continued hut maintenance and asked for support from all members in the forthcoming year.
The Caving Secretary was standing down. There had been no nominations or volunteers for this post at the meeting. It was agreed to try and identify a suitable individual as soon as possible, but in the meantime the Committee would assemble a meets list and the Secretary would obtain the permits. The other committee members were willing to stand and were re-elected en masse: Chairman - Peter Dowswell, Recorder - Alan Jeffreys, Secretary - Elizabeth Ellis, Tacklemaster - Peter Ireson, Treasurer - Ivan Young, Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell, Caving Secretary - Vacant
Caves of Assynt still requires some surveys to be completed. Other publications discussed were Caves of Schiehallion, Caves of Raasay and Caves of Applecross and Kishorn.
Suggestions included Notts Pot, Rumbling, White Scar, North Wales, Mendip, Northern Ireland or County Claire. Any further suggestions to be sent to any member of the Committee.
Votes were as follows: Skye - 12 plus 7 postal votes; Assynt - 2 plus 2 postal votes; Yorkshire - 1; Derbyshire - 0; Abstentions - 2
Skye was the winner, with a suggestion to also look at accommodation and venues on the mainland eg Kyle, Kishorn and Applecross. Malcolm McConville volunteered to help organize.
The resolution to change the minimum age for GSG membership to 18 was passed unopposed.
A printed copy of the annual reports and accounts will be distributed included with the paper copy of this Newsletter to members. They will also be available on the GSG private web site as is the GSG Constitution
Of last year's 136 members 121 have renewed, four have claimed that their cheques are in the post, eight have been silent about their intentions and three have resigned. Together with a record nine new members the paid-up membership as I write this Newsletter stands at 130. The defaulters have until the end of March to renew. If they don't, their membership will be terminated on the 1st April. We are promised BCA membership cards for those members who paid their subscriptions before the end of February within a few days. If they arrive in time they will be posted out with this Newsletter. If not you will be informed by email when they have arrived and they'll be included with Newsletter 131. Any member who doesn't want to wait can ask for their card to be posted to them.
On Boxing Day J'Rat, Mark Brown and non-member Paul Brock arrived heavily laden to begin installing another section of flume, a deflection roller handcrafted by Norman Flux, and a cannibalized wheelie bin. On the 27th they were joined by Hugh Penney and new recruit Sebastien Rider with Goon paying a visit on the 28th. After the three days the installation was complete with buckets being hauled all the way from the bottom by a team of four. Rana novices Carly Payne and Ben Sellway (both BEC) then joined the team on the 29th. The rear bicycle saddle disintegrated and Ben adopted a lying on his back on the ground recumbent pedalling technique that actually worked.
Norman Flux arrived on the 30th after a combination of buses, hitchhiking, and a night in the roadside shrubbery south of Ullapool. He immediately set about repairing the bike while Ivan helped rig the tent over it. Just in time since it then started hailing. Sue Hartwell cycled her way into the Rana Hole Diggers list as Mark counted his 21st Rana day in 2006. That must be a record. On the 31st Martin Hayes, Derek Pettiglio and Jamie (Boab) Yuill reinforced the team for another productive day with J'Rat blowing up a large slab before visiting the Inch then bringing in the New Year in the hut.
It might have been the 1st of January, but that didn't stop half a dozen slightly hung-over heroes removing 109 loads from the bottom of Rana. Five of us dug and hauled, while Mark continued Hilti-capping and tidied up the engineering. Afterwards we staggered down the glen in moonlight to a pint or two at the Inch and an invitation to partake of a superb free buffet. On the 2nd, Mark, Norman and Ivan started by finishing a traverse 'ledge' at the top of the fixed ladder on the first pitch, adjusting the headframe, and renovating some of the kibbles (they are not to be called skips or buckets any more but kibbles, a mining term). When another pair of Rana novices arrived, George Kennedy and Fiona McCartney, we introduced them to the joys of cycling and removed 40 loads for a total for the week of 456 kibbles. This is probably about 15 to 18 tons.
The next visit was by Ivan and Roger at the end of January. They installed some hand and foot holds on the traverse between the two pitches. These are large 'U' brackets formed from 12mm stainless steel rod and glued into the rock using the BCA approved resin (Though a month or so out of date hence the reason it wasn't being used to install P-hangers). It was very wet with a good stream flowing down the pitch by the time we finished. Despite this there was no backing up at the bottom with the water flowing away easily. In fact the bottom was about the driest place to be!
There was an attempted digging trip on the 10th February, but drifting snow had filled the shakehole and the platform and bicycle winch were buried. The spindrift made staying there more than unpleasant so despite having a strong team in place we abandoned the attempt. On Saturday 24th, a fortnight later, most of the snow had gone - except in the shakehole. We had gone prepared with snow shovels so quickly revealed the bikes to find that the weight of snow had caused one support rod to buckle and snap into three pieces, one handlebar to break and the front of the scaffold platform to bend. A subtle curve had also been imparted to the main vertical members of the headframe. It took about an hour to repair the damage. Norman and Roger then arrived having driven up that morning and digging commenced. While the skips flew up and down the shaft Ivan inserted more stainless steel 'U' bolts. After digging had stopped for the day he inserted a 'snapper' into a large boulder at the bottom and caused a satisfyingly loud bang. On Sunday the boulder was found to have been suitable shattered and another 50 loads were hauled to the surface.
The Moroccan meal weekend attracted plenty of folk to Assynt though competing activities meant that diggers arrived in batches throughout the day. Despite the lower deflection roller suffering terminal collapse, 117 loads were removed on Saturday. On Sunday a reduced team of seven hauled out another 50. Another 'snapper' was used on the large horizontal slab poised above the final ladder. A loud bang and much clanking of metalwork as fly rock bounced off ladders confirmed its destruction. The digging is still easy with the water flowing away down a narrow channel under the left-hand wall. The way on is downwards, but there is at least one more large boulder that needs to be reduced to kibble-sized chunks rather than left poised far above the work area.
Peter Ireson and Mark Lonnen continue to be the main supporters of GSG Yorkshire trips. There have been a couple of dangly visits to Ireby with variously Derek Pettiglio and returning member John Varty. Both Bubbles and Shadow route have been done. There have been visits to Lost John's Cave, Rift Pot and assorted small caves around Ribblehead. In early March with Chris Chapman and Simon Turner they joined Alison Fuller-Shapcott and the other EUG members on their Wretched Rabbit permit for a fine though confusing trip around the intricacies of that part of Ease Gill Caverns. On the Sunday a Valley Entrance visit led to much exploration around and beyond Toyland and a tackle sack of valuable ropes and hardware being left behind. When Peter realised this he recruited Ivan for a rapid recovery trip on the Monday. We were in the cave by 11am and at the Marton Arms by 12 to find it wasn't serving midday meals during the week till April! A short drive led to a couple of pints of Black Sheep and a good and reasonably priced pub lunch in the Whoop Hall Inn en route to the M6 and back home in time for evening appointments.
Steve Birch has had one set of about 15 C14 dates back from the laboratory. These range from about 250BC for the upper levels in Bone Passage back to c1500BC in a pit/scoop feature from a surface trench to c130BC for charcoal rich deposits containing small finds at the foot of the stairwell into Bone Passage. This is beginning to sort out the chronology of the site, and when the next set of dates arrives Steve should be able to piece together the history of the cave. One exciting find made last year was a set of seven bone pegs which have now been tentatively identified as tuning pegs from a seven string lyre. Steve is awaiting confirmation on this.
This is a very rich site for finds. While I was giving the electrical installation its annual health check Steve noticed something revealed in the wall of the dig by the winter's rains. It was a fragment of a large soapstone bowl perhaps 40cm in diameter and 2.5cm thick. I wonder if he'll find the rest?
Not a caving trip but a fine opportunity to do a significantly long dangle down Scotland's tallest building. Peter Ireson and Mark Lonnen by mentioning the SCRO somehow wangled an invitation to join a group abseil off the 127m high tower at the Glasgow Science Centre.
The BCA's AGM is being held in the Baptist Church Hall, Alvechurch Worcestershire, on Saturday 24th March from 10:30am. All GSG members are entitled to attend and vote as they are either Direct Individual Members (DIMs) or Club Individual Members (CIMs) of BCA. You are required to present your BCA membership card at the meeting which will pose some challenges to the BCA to issue them and for me to distribute them in time. There will be a list of paid-up members at the meeting so cards won't be essential. CIMs do need evidence that they a member of a paid-up club. Any GSG members wanting this should contact Ivan. AGM documents can be seen on the BCA web site - www.british-caving.org.uk
Six people died in early February in 200 year old tunnels on the Spanish island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. The complex of tunnels was originally dug to find water and the fatalities were being blamed on a build up of carbon dioxide. A group of 30 went into the Los Silos tunnel system on Saturday 10th Feb without a guide, took a wrong turn and became lost. One of the group escaped, possibly aided by a stray dog. The authorities in a 17 hour long operation rescued the other 23 survivors many of whom were unconscious when found.
The Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange is looking for more money. The buildings are in urgent need of remedial work if they are not to collapse and the museum close within ten years. They hope funding from the lottery will help raise the L2.5M needed plus another L1M for improvements.
An International Team of up to 33 Cavers (comprising of 1 Austrian, 17 from the UK, 4 Irish, 1 Swiss, 1 American, 1 Canadian, 4 Germans and 3 Indian (Megahalaya) Cavers) spent three and a half weeks (5th to 28th Feb) exploring caves in the Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya. Exploration focused on the caving areas of the Shnongrim Ridge near to Shnongrim Village in the Nongkhlieh Elaka, the Lukha valley to the south of the ridge and the Semasi Area to the North East.
During this time a total of 24 caves were explored, mapped and photographed to yielding almost 16 kilometres of new cave passage, of which 11.8km was on the Shnongrim ridge. Of the 24 caves mapped 16 of these were entirely new caves. Key aspects of this year's exploration include.
To date the whereabouts of over 1100 caves are known, of which 653 have been explored to yield in excess of 310 kilometres of surveyed cave passage, with much more still waiting to be discovered. Much of the cave that has been found to date is impressive river cave mixed with huge fossil passage that creates cave systems equal in size and beauty to any found elsewhere in the world, putting Meghalaya firmly on the world-caving map as a significant caving region.
In the latter part of 2006, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by the Meghalayan Adventurers Association to the Indian Supreme court, in a bid to protect the Shnongrim ridge area from excessive and potentially unregulated limestone quarrying and coal extraction. This action had lead to some concerns being raised by the coal mining community that surrounds the ridge. To address these concerns a meeting was held between the expedition leaders and the heads of the mining fraternity with the subsequent dialogue serving to reassure the latter that the court action would not threaten their livelihoods. The expedition was thus able to proceed with the full support of the local people and mining companies.
In the achievement of the above the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project is indebted to the help and support it has received from; the Meghalaya Adventurers Association, particularly Brian Kharpran Daly, the Government of India Tourist Office (East and North East India) Kolkata; the Meghalaya State Tourism Department; Officials and Government Departments within Meghalaya; and, very importantly, the People of Meghalaya.
Simon Brooks/Mark Brown
Both ends of the 134m connection between Krem Umthloo and Krem Synrang Labbit were wide open but unpushed - another classic case of check ALL passages! Armed coppers briefly at camp to deter threatening coal mine owners. All later sorted vaguely democratically! Weather cold and damp (global cooling). X-ray proved J.Rat's brain exists!
On the 2nd June 2007, Photographer Glenn Jones from the BCA will be presenting his award winning audio visual (AV) presentation on Le Vercors National Park in South East France. The presentation uses 6 synchronised projectors and took several years to construct. It shows the beauty of Le Vercors region both above and below ground. Le Vercors has been shown at successive Hidden Earth Conferences and in 2002, won Glenn the Giles Barker award for excellence in cave photography.
The Le Vercors presentation will be followed by another of Glenn's AV presentations, 'DSS The Movie', which is a light-hearted and entertaining record of the Devon Speleological Society's expedition to the Gouffre Berger in 1998.
The event is to be held in Ednam Village Hall (post code:- TD5 7QQ) in the Scottish Borders starting at 7.30pm. Tickets will be L4 each, with all proceeds from the tickets going to the RNLI. Tickets will be available in May from Alison Fuller-Shapcott.
Ednam is about 2 miles north of Kelso on the B6461 and more information on Glenn and his AV presentations can be found at www.andromeda-park.demon.co.uk
There is at long last an independent (licensed even!) bunkhouse in the centre of Clapham. It has accommodation for 17 people - 1 x 5 (family room) and 1 x 12. Prices start from L10 per person per night and they cater for group bookings. Facilities include basic cooking facilities, bathroom, showers, toilets and drying room plus a licensed lounge. There is parking for 2 mini buses. Accommodation available from Easter 2007
Telephone Anne on 07768 277730 or on 015242 51144 daytimes, 015242 51522 (evenings), web site:- www.claphambunk.com
Vale: Dave 'Whig' Irwin
Cavers come and cavers go, but some stay forever - or almost. In the world of bibliography and cave history, Dave Irwin of the Bristol Exploration Club was undoubtedly a leading figure. His tireless search for references and the depth of detail he went into tracking down obscure facts is plainly obvious from his magisterial work: 'The Mendip Cave Bibliography', a two volume work published in 2005. Containing over 25,000 references amounting to 1.1 million words, this work surveys information dating back to 883 AD and, even at 530 pages, is merely the bibliography for the Mendip Cave Registers for which Whig was central co-ordinator. His endless collecting and examination of cave postcards also was pursued to its logical limit by tracing information on the subjects in the state they were photographed, and using this to locate lost or altered systems, or to straighten out misreported elements of speleological and social history.
Whig always held a lively interest in Scottish cave affairs (cf Bull 4th Series 2(2) pp.34-35) and was a close personal friend of several members. At my last meeting with him in October 2006 typically he took delight in showing me a collection of early BEC photographs he had just recovered from abroad, and talked enthusiastically of the many projects he was moving forward, some alas, now to remain unfinished.
His home was always filled with a warm welcome accompanied by classical music and his life filled with matters speleological and historical. This was someone we, particularly the Mendip community, could ill afford to lose. He died at home on 26th March having left an astonishing mark on British cave research.
Alan L. Jeffreys
See the events page.
Could all members with GSG equipment in their possession please tell Peter Ireson (GSG Tackle Master) as soon as possible. There are several items whose location is now unknown. In particular Peter is looking for a blue helmet and attached light that was last used at the SCRO exercise in October and was later seen in the hut. It isn't there now.
Most photographs used in GSG Newsletters can be viewed in colour on the GSG private web site. This now has 60 albums containing over 1600 photographs. See Newsletter 125 for access details.
This year's new members are:- Rebecca Carter, Norman Flux, Annie Audsley, Fiona McCartney, Sebastien Rider, Robert Sommerville & Carol Dickson, John Varty, Jamie (Boab) Yuill.
Wall paintings found inside the caves date from the Palaeolithic and post-Palaeolithic periods while skeletal remains and artefacts show that they were inhabited from about 25,000 BC until the Bronze Age. Part of the cave has been made into a theatre for staging concerts and ballets during the summer. This year they are planning the 38th International Cave Festival.
There are some opportunities awaiting members wishing to help in the running of the GSG. First Ivan needs a volunteer for an independent examination of the annual accounts - not an audit as that word now implies that a professional is required. We just need a reasonably competent individual. Second there is the unfilled post of Caving Secretary awaiting a keen young caver, but we've already mentioned that. The third is for cave guides to help with the Ullapool High School trips in Assynt after the Midsummer BBQ weekend. Contact Ivan if you can help and remember - ask not what the GSG can do for you but ...
The social side of the GSG has been well satisfied over the last few months. The Xmas party in December was attended by 18 members plus special guests Janet and Raymond Hoy, Christine Robertson and neighbours Russell and Bridie Pursey. All managed to squeeze into the conservatory for another great meal by Peter Dowswell - though it was a tight fit.
Starting on Christmas Day there was a strong Mendip and Sheffield attendance reinforced from Scotland to do justice to two barrels of beer from the Black Isle Brewery. All rose to the challenge and they were returned empty in the New Year after much dancing and falling about.
The GSG Burns Supper in January was the next culinary experience with chef Peter Dowswell addressing the haggis and Goon giving a superbly animated rendition of Tam o'Shanter. There were fewer members attending than expected and several had to consume an entire haggis each.
In March the flavour was Moroccan and 28 sat down to another magnificent Dowswell meal. The numbers were such that while half dined in the conservatory the rest sat at another table in the main room. Several members took the theme to heart and dressed accordingly. A valiant attempt was made at emptying another barrel of Red Kite from the Black Isle Brewery, but there were still a couple of gallons remaining when we took it back to Inverness for Peter to return to the brewery - eventually!
The next GSG events in the hut will be the Mendip Migration at the end of April and the Midsummer BBQ in June. More information on both will be circulated via email nearer the events.
Hut fees are £5.00 per night for non-members and L2.50 for GSG, Bradford 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 at any time please contact the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell - to check if there will be space. There will usually be a few bunks spare if large groups are staying. Even if all bunks are occupied the bed-settees by the fire are recommended and spare mattresses in the front bunk room can be used in the conservatory.
The next part of the GSG's master plan to cover our piece of Assynt in concrete is an extension to the existing shed. This has always been a bit cramped and the plan is to build a mirror image at its rear. The size will depend on how easy it is to excavate the banking behind it. Mike O'Driscoll has made a fine start to this and in the process moved two of rowan trees to the front where we shall see if they survive. Peter has created a list of hut maintenance tasks and it is included in the bundle of annual reports distributed with this Newsletter to members. Have a look, see where you can contribute and volunteer. Don't leave it to the same few members all the time.
The old hut is in the process of being returned to Dick whose croft it lies on. Most things of any value or use have already been removed. Goon and Dave Warren spent some of the Moroccan weekend removing internal fittings, bunks and mattresses and building a large bonfire in the car park. A scrap metal dealer who happened to be in the vicinity was happy to take away all the old metal - bedsprings, sinks et cetera.
Also in the minutes is a note that Elphin School will be taken over by the Assynt Foundation once the Minister of Education gives his consent and its state of repair has been checked.
The second edition of 'Life On A Line' by Dr. Dave Merchant is now available as an eBook. This is subtitled 'The Underground Rope Rescue Manual', but is not just for cave rescuers. It should be read by every caver who relies on ropes, slings, harnesses, anchors, abseiling and ascending hardware for their continued existence - in other words just about everybody. We should all know the limitations of our chosen gear and have some knowledge of how to rescue a companion - and how not to! This isn't a SRT manual but fills in a lot of gaps they don't cover. Its advice is based on a lot of testing and trashed much expensive gear in doing so. For this reason it isn't a free download. If you go to the web site you'll be asked to pay $14.95 or about L8 for the 39Mbyte download of the PDF file. The GSG has a copy in the library and several members have downloaded their own copies. You can either view it on-screen or print it out - all 221 pages! A colour printer is recommended. More details and sample pages at:- www.lifeonaline.com
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