Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 134, March 2008

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Rana Connected to Claonaite!

On December 30th Tony Jarratt became the first person to reach Claonaite Seven without diving gear as he entered Belh Aven from Rana Hole. A fitting climax to the 12 years and 12 weeks since we started digging and almost 32 years since J'Rat had recorded finding Rana in April 1976. Over the course of the next few days the New Year throng more than doubled the number of cavers that have been in Claonaite Seven and, very appropriately, most of the top ten Rana Hole diggers were there to celebrate the connection. We even had Fraser Simpson on that first trip with the club camcorder to record for posterity the team's reactions on achieving the goal.

The slot at the far side of Two A's Chamber that had been 'Snappered' by Ivan on 16th December had, as hoped, proved to be the secret. Chris Warwick and daughter Shona during a tourist trip on Xmas Eve followed the bang wires. They found the charge had done its work and after a bit of clearance slipped through into a series of bouldery crawls and small chambers. The first had a waterfall - not the Rana stream - that ran through to the next chamber where it sank in the floor. Chris presciently called it Way On Chamber. In total they explored about 70m of passage finding several groups of formations. Shona named one set The Pig's Ears' because that is exactly what they resemble.

A phone call to Roger Galloway's mobile found him in the Hunters Lodge Inn on Mendip where the news was spread to J'Rat who with Paul Brock (BEC) and Siss Balomatis (BEC) drove north for 9½ hours on Christmas Day to Assynt. On Boxing Day they explored the new finds in Rana. They dug for a bit where the stream sank then drilled some shot holes to enlarge a passage heading west from that chamber.

On the 27th a mass tourist trip was partly repulsed by high water in the dig. Baling gave enough airspace for the bolder members, and clearing the previous day's bang debris won 20m of passage into what was named Santa's Grotthole. Attention switched to the stream sink and two shot holes were drilled above it before hypothermia set in

The water level in the dig had dropped to only welly deep on Friday morning and the bang had worked well. After some clearance Tony managed to descend a sloping rift (The Black Rift) with a final vertical section into a chamber (Black Cuillin Chamber) with two ways on. The rift was dangerously full of poised boulders so Saturday was devoted to making it safe with Mark Brown, Anwen Burroughs, and Duncan Butler (BEC) tumbling tons of loose stuff down the pitch. On Sunday 30th a strong team watched Mark rig the Black Rift pitch. There are five anchors, the first three short drops are free climbable in the narrow rift. The last drop has a deviation near the top and is not - normally. Andy Peggie's enthusiasm to descend saw him arriving with steaming gloves at the very bottom having slid down the rope and calling back up the pitch for someone to fetch his SRT kit!

From Black Cuillin Chamber Mark explored a 50m long phreatic rift heading west into unknown territory. This led along muddy traverses over deep(?) pools to a 10m diameter chamber with a blue/green sump pool (Blue Chamber). Andy, Ivan and Kate descended, looked around, then, as progress appeared to slow, climbed up the pitch to begin surveying the extensions. Bad move!

Back underneath the pitch boulders were eventually encouraged to move and the continuation of the phreatic rift, entered. A traverse along a large flake (Flake Canyon), a climb up muddy boulders and a crawl beneath doomed straws arrived at a short climb down into a massive chamber - Belh Aven - confirmed by Fraser as the only one who'd been there before. The breakthrough team of J'Rat, Siss, Paul, Mark, and Duncan were guided by Fraser to the Great Northern Time Machine, Twin Falls of Jabaroo, the bear bones and other sites before returning to a bottle of fizz left in Two A's Chamber in anticipation of success. A further bottle was consumed on the surface before all staggered down the valley to continue celebrations first at the Inch then back at the hut.

On the 31st Ivan, Julian, Roger, Annie and Malcolm McConville descended to Black Cuillin Chamber. The first two squeezed through into Flake Canyon and by undermining the boulders removed the squeeze. Some care is needed as the boulders that are left may not be completely stable yet. As an encore we improved the muddy climb after the flake by tumbling boulders from above to form a 'staircase' under it. We all explored Claonaite Seven and Julian sampled the oatcakes left by Sump 6 many years previously in an emergency food dump - inedible!

There were more tourist trips over the next few days and Mark bolted his way to the top of Belh Aven. The roof was a mass of jammed boulders with no way on or any prospect of one. He saw the green water from Rana coming from between jammed boulders at the west end so we have a positive dye test. The rope has been left in for the moment as Mark wants to take some photos. Don't climb it if anyone is anywhere underneath as there are plenty of boulders just waiting to be dislodged.

On the 1st January Norman Flux encouraged some volunteers to bale the dig and later Bob Sommerville and Amanda Dickson to help him move spoil behind the temporary dam he'd built below the main dam. On the 2nd he and Roger filed kibbles while Martin, Derek, Annie and Ivan - later joined by Chris Warwick after a tourist trip - extracted 51 kibble loads.

On January 4th, Ross Davidson, Richard Blake and Derek Pettiglio introduced Katie from the Alt to the wonders of Two A's Chamber. She was still smiling (with relief?) when she emerged and is ready to go again.

A photographic trip into Claonaite on January 25th by Peter Ireson and Mark Lonnen was aborted when they found the dam leaking and the dig flooded. That was the Burns Supper weekend and it took us all Saturday and Sunday to completely demolish then rebuild the dam. Even if the dam had been undamaged it was too wet and the dig would have been sumped. This was a big disappointment for many especially Peter Dennis who'd travelled from Wales.

The dam had been undermined by water flowing over the top and washing away the footings. Until the last (overenthusiastic) hauling session after New Year, this area had been protected by bags of spoil and rocks. With them removed the cascading water washed out the mud under the bottom layer of sandbags and water pressure behind the dam flushed out the dam's core and converted it into a sieve. When we finished on Saturday we left the 4" purple ducting lying horizontal to keep the dam drained. Despite this when we returned on Sunday the dam had again been overflowing. This shows that increasing the present 32mm drain through to the Skye-Way to 4" wouldn't be sufficient to keep the dig 'dry' at all times.

The next trip to Rana on February 16th was successful: water levels were low in after a week of dry weather. Only the lower risings were flowing and the Elephant Trap was dry. It was freezing overnight which probably reduced the flow at the bottom of Rana even further. The water in the dig was less than welly deep and the reconstructed dam had obviously been working well. There were six of us so we split into photographic and digging groups.

Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson and Irina Erchova staggered through to the Great Northern Time Machine carrying cameras, flashguns, tripod and LED floodlighting of various types with up to ten 4W LEDs each. The powerful lighting, tripod and six second time exposures meant that for the first time you can see the chamber almost in its entirety. I'd certainly never noticed the stalactites on the roof before. Mark's results, after some modest Photo-shopping, are on the GSG private web site.

Julian, Peter Reynolds and I were the digging team. We first baled the dig into the Skye-Way using a bucket on a length of rope. This sent quite a bit of mud along there as well, but it should get flushed away during the next flood. The three of us were just enough to dig bucket loads of spoil from the dig face and fill first a Jewson bag then several large sandbags in front of the main dam. This filled in the volume behind the temporary dam and provides more protection to the main dam when it overflows.

The larger rocks we dug out were moved into the bottom of the passage and covered with a grid to provide better footing. We also used a length of cable tray as a slide to pull the full buckets along and up towards the dams. The digging is easy, we just need a larger team next time so we can dig and haul to the surface simultaneously.

The following Monday Julian returned with Carol, Peter R and Mary Harrison (just back from South America) for a trip to Sump 7. They were joined by Chris Warwick. Two short ladders were used on the Black Rift pitch and Julian commented that it was "a much better experience on ladder"

There was a mass assault planned for the High Savoy theme meal weekend in early March. Some of us travelled up on the Thursday to beat the wet weather predicted for Saturday. On Friday the Elephant Trap and other rising were active and water was flowing past the Bone Caves. As expected the dam in Rana was overflowing so we turned our attention elsewhere. We returned later that afternoon and lowered the 4" drain to empty the dam. We then raised it and watched as the water level slowly dropped. After allowing a few minutes for the overflow down the Skye-Way to stop, we estimated that the water level drops about 25 to 35mm per hour as it percolates away through the sediments. Rana remained too wet all weekend and frustrated in their attempts to survey the new discoveries Goon, Andy and John surveyed the shaft down to the dam instead.

We must continue digging with the aim of making Rana passable in all weather conditions. It is very probable that under the small chamber at the start of the Sky-Way is a choked pot and by emptying it we'll either reveal a drain or at least improve the rate at which the dig drains. That will also give us room to extend the 4" drain from the dam into the Skye-Way and much reduce the number of times the dam overflows.


Routes to Rana

Several of us have grown into the habit of 'cutting a corner' by taking a sheep track traverse below the Bone Caves to save ourselves a few metres of ascent and descent. This has caused noticeable erosion and has been noticed by SNH. They have asked us to stick to the paths. Please do so.

On the same theme the last 100m or so of track to Rana has become a deep groove in the heather. An attempt was made at diverting diggers from it by placing wooden barriers across each end but that didn't work very well. Could we ask you to please vary your route to Rana and help reduce erosion. If you keep to the north side of the Allt nan Uamh you can:- 1) Follow the dry valley to the east of the Creag nan Uamh as if you were going to Claonaite then cut back to Rana. 2) Take the south path but cut up steeply to the west of Creag nan Uamh. 3) Take the normal route to the corner after the cliffs and vary your route once you reach the heather.

Whichever route you take please keep away from the worst of the erosion. If you have the skills you can even try patching the worst sections - something to do if you find the dig sumped perhaps?

Tidying the Rana Shakehole

We have accumulated a lot of material at Rana over the years, and a large amount is now surplus and very unlikely to be needed either there or at any other dig in the vicinity. We should start taking this back to the hut. Next time we're up there we'll segregate and label a pile for moving. Any time you are there please take something from the pile - however small - and carry it away with you.


ASSYNT - Campbell's Cave

When Rana is too full of water or diggers for you to contribute what do you do? You continue walking past Claonaite and pull a few boulders out of Campbell's Cave. Previously named Humps Hole (NL 131) this is a flood sink on the Breabag slopes beyond Uamh an Claonaite. On 1st January it became a 5m long cave. After J'Rat had broken up some boulders and with Annie, Carol Dickson and Roger had dug, Roger managed to crawl into a small two person chamber. Several more visits since then have hauled out more gravel and added a prop and grids, and rearranged the boulders.

YORKSHIRE - Mark Lonnen and Peter Ireson continued their series of photographic trips with a descent of Notts 2 in December and Gavel Pot in January. There were also introductory trips for newer members to Illusion pot in February and an SRT descent or Heron Pot in March.

LOTHIANS - Philpstoun no 6 shale mine was checked By Goon, Anna Ermakova and Ivan as part of our preparations for leading field trips for this year's NAMHO conference in July. We found the water level perhaps five metres higher than on previous visits and only the topmost level was navigable. Even that was partially flooded as we neared the winch at the south end, and we all ended up with full wellies and wet trousers. We'll need to check it again later in the year and hope that the water level has fallen otherwise we'll need to take it off the menu for the conference. An earlier visit to Leven Seat Limestone Mine by Jim Salvona, Martin Hayes and Goon didn't have any water problems.

SKYE - At the end of January Steve Birch reports that "I accompanied the Highland Council Rangers and a group of 14-15 year old pupils from Portree High School (difficult children!), to McCoiter's Cave near Portree. First time I have been to this fissure cave in basalt, perched at the top of large sea-cliffs/slopes. The fissure is quite long and sporting, and high in parts. At the far end a fixed rope allows you to climb over a boulder blockage, while there is a vertical drop (also complete with knotted rope) of around 3 metres at the other side, allowing access back to the main floor of the rift. Here, it turns into a crawl, so will have to go back and explore with the right gear. Interesting site worth a visit, which also has some folklore history. John Reid (formerly of Glenmore Lodge, but now Highland Council Outdoor Education Officer) also accompanied us to make sure that health and safety and risk-assessment issues had been addressed. A really interesting person with a wealth of experience mountain guiding, kayaking etc." (Possibly also the person involved in refusing permission for our yearly cave tours for Ullapool High School! - Ed)

OTHER - Peter I, Mark L, Anna Ermakova and Rachael took new member George Antill on a tour of the Tyndrum lead mines. A bolt was installed to descend and check out one of the levels we hadn't been able to reach during previous visits. Deep cold water and not much else was found.

Annual General Meeting 2008

The 2008 GSG AGM was held in Elizabeth and Derek's house in Winchburgh on Saturday 19 January and was attended by 22.5 members. Below is a summary of the main points:

Office Bearers Reports:

The Hon recorder reported that it had been a good year, especially with the activity in Rana. Membership remained strong at 146 members.

The Treasurer reported that the bank balance was very healthy. In order to cover the costs of bulletins and postage, it was proposed that the membership fees should be raised. This was agreed as: £15 for full members (an increase of £3), £10 for concessions, £20 for joint members (an increase of £6), £15 for concessions.

Concessionary membership was agreed to include full time students, those on state benefits, and those in receipt of a state pension.

The Tacklemaster reported that a ladder-building event was still planned, and that some SRT kit had been acquired.

The Hut Warden urged members to contribute to the Hut maintenance programme.

Election of Office Bearers

Existing office bearers were all willing to stand and were reelected: Recorder - Alan Jeffreys ; Caving Secretary - Ross Davidson ; Secretary - Elizabeth Ellis ; Treasurer - Ivan Young ; Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell ; Chairman - Peter Dowswell ; Tackle Master - Peter Ireson.

Annual Dinner

Votes were counted as follows (including email and postal votes): Assynt 16, Derbyshire 2, Yorkshire 1, Argyll 1, Abstentions 2

Assynt was declared the winner. Peter Dowswell volunteered to investigate venues.


Caves of Assynt and Caves of Raasay are in preparation and will hopefully be published soon. Caves of Applecross and Kishorn was published in time for the Annual Dinner and is now in its third printing - of 50 copies a time.

Meets list

A Yorkshire meet is planned, and several permits have been applied for. Members are urged to contact Ross Davidson for details and to make suggestions


Several members are going to Meghalaya, and there is an expedition planned to the Vercours in September.

50th Anniversary

This is planned for 2011, to include a dinner event in Edinburgh, and a publication.

Any other business

Several issues were discussed, including adopting a policy for managing the entrance to Rana, which will be further discussed. The issue of smoking inside the hut was discussed and it was agreed that smokers need to take other hut-users into consideration before lighting up.

The NAMHO conference is going ahead, and guides are needed for July to take visitors round local mines.

If anyone would like to see a full copy of the minutes, just email me and I can email them out to you. If you have Internet access you can read them on the GSG pr1vate web server (see page 14).


GSG Annual Subscriptions for 2008

At the AGM the membership approved increases in the annual subscription effective 1st April 2008. Full membership from then will be £15 and joint membership £20. There will be a reduction of £5 for full time students, the unemployed and those over state retirement age. While the history has been complicated by BCA membership fees this is first real increase since 2000 in the GSG part of the annual subscription. Over the same period second class postage for a letter will, on the 7th April, have increased by 42% from 19p to 27p.


Smugglers' Cave, Aberlady

Aberlady Conservation Society has been awarded a £50,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is for a comprehensive three month archaeological survey starting in April of several historic sites in and around Aberlady starting in April including the Smugglers' Cave mentioned in NL 132. ACS now have a letter from a Mr Gilbert - now 85 years old - who explored about 20 yards of this souterrain in the 1940's. He also drew a map of Jophie's Neuk Iron Mine on the coast nearby at Gullane.

It All Went Swimmingly

On New Year's Day, Irina Erchova, her partner David and Goon joined in the 'Loony Dook' at South Queensferry. Basically, this entails dressing up in a silly costume (or nothing at all if you're really brave!) and going for a brief swim in the sea at South Queensferry. There were a fair share of Santa Clauses, Spider and Super-men, and a lot of curvaceous beauties in bikinis. Irina was dressed as a Scottish girl (although in the photo she reduced this to a lycra body suit), David as a pirate, and Goon in his customary electric blue lycra suit and green wig .

After suitably thrashing about in a sea by then reduced to a grey/brown soup, and having demonstrated the back and breast stroke, all retired to The Moorings Bar for hot soup and other potent liquids. A larger club turn-out is recommended for 2008!


Gift Aid to CASCs and Charities

As a registered CASC (Community Amateur Sports Club) the GSG can benefits from reclaiming tax on donations made under Gift Aid. The standard rate of income tax is reducing to 20% from 1st April 2008. This would have reduced the value of each £1.00 of Gift Aid to £1.25 instead of £1.282. In his budget Alistair Darling announced that for the next three years Gift Aid will continue to be paid at a transitional rate of 22 per cent. Higher rate taxpayers can continue to claim the difference between basic and higher rate tax back in their tax return.

An Autumn Family Caving Weekend in Appin by Nigel Marsh

Arriving in Glen Creran I asked a fellow who was building his own house the best spot to park, and mentioned caving. He was very helpful, saying he had had an enjoyable short trip into Uamh Coire Sheileach with no light. He then slipped the warning ' watch out for a green dog ' into the conversation and carried on talking. 'What do you mean a green dog' said I. He said legend has it that the green dog guards the entrance to the cave and if you see it and it barks you will die. Two people have seen it recently but it didn't bark! A short way up we [my wife Kass and I, and kids Roger and Fiona] indeed met a green dog, but fortunately it turned out to be only green moss on a dog-shaped tree stump!

We first came to Allt Coire Sheileach Cave 2, at the foot of the big waterfall, and gave it a good crawl. My new Garmin gave its position as GPS NN 03103 49586, which agrees with the map better than the listed NN 032 497. Next we went to Uamh Coire Sheileach, which all of us enjoyed thoroughly. Not realising that 'the Web' referred to the too tight rear entrance, we tried to find it on the surface afterwards without GPS assistance, and failed. I am curious to know if it was located by surveying, or by shouting, sticking a flag out, smoke signals, etc. (A long stick if I remember right - Ed) Next to Dundiggin, which even by GPS wasn't easy to find as it's on such a steep slope. Only Roger and I ventured in and didn't push it to the end as time was getting short and Chamber Pot was beckoning.

Back up the hill we came on a rectangular shakehole at NN 02913 49398, then a very large one with a tree and taking a stream, at NN 02920 49470. Sink choked, also a 3m dry choked pot. Nearby, at NN 02901 49495 there is a 1.5m cliff 6m long with a few small holes at the base. The right hand one was entered and 9m of uncomfortable crawl explored. >From the entrance it turns right after less than a metre, 2m parallel to cliff, then left turn and another 6m plus. Wasn't brave enough to go further! (This is the 18m AHS Cave - Ed)

Then on to find Chamber Pot. It was getting dark, and the girls decided to head back to the comforts of the valley, ie our camper van. They later reported that on reaching the 'green dog' again, barking was heard, but it luckily turned out to be by a real black dog! First Rog and I came to a pot at NN 02944 49668. This was free-climbable, about 10m deep, 3-4m across inside, all clean-washed nice pale blue limestone, with a blind aven beside the real way out (Fly Plague Hole - Ed). Chamber Pot was easily found, and proved well up to expectations. One odd feature was spotted - 8cm straws forming at 45 degrees continuing in line with the strata of the boulder they were hanging from, suggesting a recent rock movement. But the boulder didn't look as if it could have moved. Sadly no photo as I had left the camera before a wet thrutch. Therefore I also failed to photograph the nice formations beside the ramp near the lower stream passage. Good excuse for another trip with an ammo can for the camera. A 3D model of this cave would be nice so we could work out where we had been.

Several days later we parked at Kinlochlaich farm and cycled up Glen Stockdale, setting off at a silly 4pm, after a visit to introduce ourselves to George Kennedy and family. They would have liked to join us but George had hurt his back. The folk at the farm were very friendly - they used to play in some of the caves as kids. Halfway along the track we met Alastair from the farm, and during a chat he pointed across the valley and said there was a cave up there. No time to investigate, but I estimate NM 938 479 (near Champagne Hole - Ed). On to Heifer's where Rog and I did the sink entrance and streamway, but didn't fancy the tight looking crawl, a pity as we found out later reading the guide - that's where you have to go. Now dark outside and no-one could find the dry entrance, so on to Glenstockdale Cave - nice den for the kids, shame the crawly passage doesn't go very far. Next day we climbed the Cobbler [again, why not, it's so good] on the way home. Have to do Skye and the north another time. Ed - Thanks for the GPS co-ordinates Nigel. Would others caving in Appin - or indeed anywhere in Scotland - please send me any GPS measurements you take. We don't have any at all for some caves, and the more independent readings we can average together the more confidence we can have in the result.

NAMHO 2008

The list of local mines suggested for filed trips during and after that NAMHO conference are slowly being checked for suitability and permissions from landowners sought. While some members have volunteered their help, more would be welcome. You don't need to be an expert on mining, just know where the entrance is, be familiar with what is there and be able to quote (from a handout if necessary) some facts, dates and figures. Contact Goon if you can help.

2008 Meets and Events

See the events page for details.

The Caving Secretary, Ross Davidson, wants your help to create the meets list, especially for caves that need to be booked. Contact him with your suggestions.

A Period Descent

Goon has been busy making ladders of the oak and rope variety. He intends to celebrate his half century of caving on 21st June with a rope ladder descent to the bottom of Alum via the Dolly Tubs route. An early start is proposed to avoid crowds and to bag all the best natural belay positions. All are welcome to join in, provided they don period dress (early 60's) and use appropriately antique illumination. So no LEDs, yellow oversuits, or wellies! This will be followed by a more traditional celebration in a pub to be decided. We'll possibly stay in the YSS at Helwith Bridge. More details will be available nearer the date.

British Caving Association

The BCA's 2008 AGM is being held on Saturday 5th April in the Baptist Hall, Alvechurch, Worcs. starting at 10:30am. All individual members of BCA are entitled to attend and vote at the AGM and that includes all paid-up GSG members. There should be a list of paid-up BCA members there so members who haven't received their membership card yet can be verified. An agenda for the meeting and minutes from the 2007 AGM should have been posted on the BCA web site in February, but they are not there yet with less than a week to go.

BCA Membership Cards

Almost all GSG members should either have been handed their BCA card by me or have received it with this Newsletter. Only those who have paid within the last month will still be waiting.

Membership News

Four new members in 2008:-

New Members

George Antill, Anwen Burrows, Alex Latta, Gregg Nicolson.

New Addresses

Bob Batty, Jerry Ingram, Nigel & Anne-Louise Robertson.

Other Changes

Edwin Mason email

Elphin Caving Centre

The Burns Supper in January was a select gathering of a baker's dozen. In contrast the High Savoy meal in March attracted an ever-increasing number as the weekend approached and ended up with 29 split between the conservatory and the main room. This caused more than a little trepidation on the part of the cooks. Peter Dowswell had discovered a higher priority engagement for the evening so though he had part prepared some of the food Carol and Rosemary were feeling the strain. They need not have been concerned as all the courses were declared eminently edible and the cooks and their helpers were accorded a round of applause, or if not they should have been!

Jackie Yuill thought she'd escaped any celebration of her birthday (a significant one - bus pass time!) as the High Savoy meal ran to its conclusion. She hadn't!! Invited through to the main room she found a suitably embarrassing photo-montage of her hill-walking and caving exploits on the wall, balloons, a birthday card signed by all, and a cake baked by Peter Dowswell and iced (in secret) by Carol Walford while hiding from Jackie in the top bunk of the large bunkroom. Goon recited an ode and presented Jackie a framed picture of Yorkshire clints and grykes.

Surprise birthday parties do appear to have been popular of late. Something to do with the demographics of GSG membership. A recent enquiry led me to calculate the average age of the GSG. For the 76% of members whose age I do know the average is 47.6 years and there are another half dozen significant birthdays due this year in the GSG.

Confirmed Taigh nam Famh Bookings

(contact Hut Warden for latest information)

Hut fees are £5.00 per night for non-members and £2.50 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 (01463 229250, There will usually be a few bunks spare if large groups are staying.

See page 15 of this Newsletter for information on the shed extension and a list of hut maintenance tasks that we'd like to get done this year.


Internet Caving

For those interested in the application of technology to digging I can recommend a video clip.

This is titled 'Alvin in Arnika Cave', a Czech cave dig now 10 years old. Comparable to Rana the diggers have extracted over 100 m3 of sediments, are down 36m with a passage length of 50m. Unlike Rana, after an initial vertical section the passage slopes steeply downwards and spirals round by over 4500. The kibble guiding and hauling system looks to work well and seems to be powered by an electric winch.

I found several other video clips of interest to cavers listed there. One was a spoof video in the Milwr Tunnel, S. Wales, and one a conduced tour of an enormous set of storm drains build in the Chicago area. All worth a look.

LEDs play with lights

Some of you may have noticed a bit of an obsession with LED lighting amongst a few people - Mark Lonnen and Pete Ireson in particular. It all started last year following a Simpsons pull through in Yorkshire. Upon exiting from Valley Entrance, Mark and Pete encountered a couple of members of the Cave Electronics Group. They were evaluating LED upgrades for caving lamps. After a brief chat they offered to let us go back into the cave and have a play with the one they rated best - an LED conversion from known as the RETRO 2.

Mark was the first to place an order - virtually within minutes of getting home. The new insert arrived within days and was easily fitted in time for the next trip to Yorkshire where its performance impressed all who saw it.

The next consideration was battery life. Although the RETRO 2 is very efficient, when run on its highest setting (there are four) it will deplete a Speleotechnics Headlite cell in about 4 hours, though it will run on a lower setting for considerably longer. Loosely following the design for a Kirby kidney pack, a mould was manufactured from MDF. After some experimentation with different resins and release agents (including some disasters that had to be chiseled out of the mould) a 3 cell, 10 amp hour kidney pack was manufactured which weighs in at about half the weight of an FX5 cell.

Pete was quick to catch up after borrowing the mould and making his own version of the kidney pack and also upgrading to a RETRO 2.

The fascination with LED lights was born. At this point Pete became the more obsessive of our two LED anoraks and started manufacturing single LED torches which although not specifically designed for caving are very handy things to have about the house. Most of Pete's torches are powered by recycled mobile phone batteries (Lithium Ion).

Having convinced Derek Pettiglio to upgrade to a RETRO 2 before a trip to Spain, Pete was disappointed to find that Derek had a brighter light than he did! A quick look at the specifications showed why. The RETRO 2 was now being manufactured with a more efficient LED (the Seoul P4). Some wheeling and dealing later resulted in the club lamps being upgraded from filament bulbs to LEDs, and Mark and Pete upgrading to the newer model of RETRO 2.

Whilst Pete was still experimenting with ever brighter single LED torches, Mark had found a magazine article describing how to build a driver circuit for multiple LEDs and a crazy idea was born. How bright would TEN P4 LEDs be in comparison to the mere two in our lamps? Only one way to find out!

A driver board was manufactured and 10 rather expensive LEDs were mounted on heatsinks. The whole thing was fitted into a Peli case and powered by 14 AA NiMh cells. The results were - putting it bluntly - bloody bright! Sadly a loose connection on a test meter resulted in a power spike and 10 LEDs bit the dust. Ouch! The piggy bank was emptied and 10 replacement LEDs were purchased. Connections were checked and double checked, power was applied and the 'cave sun' was born. A photographic trip into Notts II proved the value of a constant light source in preference to a flash when photographing formations up close.

Pete then takes up the story when he decided to build a 'cave comet'. Instead of putting all the lights in one place, why not string them out? Using the same driver circuit and another 10 of those expensive LEDs the 'cave comet' was born. Sadly Pete didn't learn from Mark's mistake and...
...a loose connection on a test meter resulted in a loud pop, lots of swearing and some searching of the piggy bank as another 10 LEDs bit the dust.

The 'cave comet' was soon resurrected and demonstrated at the pub. The number of visually impaired persons in Edinburgh doubled overnight as Pete's creation burnt the retinas of many unsuspecting souls. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown (but possibly due to the long lengths of wire involved), the 'cave comet' starting blowing LEDs, first just one and then all ten. Ouch! With the piggy bank looking decidedly empty Pete took a different approach. Using commercially available constant current generators known as Buckpucks the LEDs were divided up into 3 strings of 4 LEDs each. The commercial drivers are unable to deliver enough voltage to drive 10 LEDs at once. The resulting 'cave star' has resisted all attempts to blow up any more LEDs and awaits its maiden voyage into the underworld. Watch this space.....


Leaking Peli Cases

Peter and I have had problems with our watertight Pelicases leaking. Pete did some research and found that they should be stored with the lid open so that the seals don't get compressed. I buy my replacement seals from DBS London their prices are reasonable and the service is excellent. Pete found somewhere even cheaper.


We'll take Mark's advice and leave the Pelicases for the SCRO's Little Dragon, Heyphones and other equipment open in the store in future.


World's Brightest LED Lights

Mark and Pete's LED floodlights would be outshone by LED lights now on the market. The brightest so far is the Lamina TitanTurbo that can deliver more then 2000 lumens in daylight white to outshine a 100W incandescent. Power consumption is 5A at 11.3V so it is roughly twice as efficient as an incandescent bulb. At lower currents a LED's efficiency improves, but, unlike incandescent, the colour temperature stays the same and they don't dim to an orange glow.

Email Distribution of GSG News and Announcements

If you have email, but are not on the GSG's distribution list then you will be missing a lot. While the quarterly Newsletters can tell you what has happened and attempt to warn you about what is planned, they cannot hope to predict the many meets and events that are organised or reorganised at short notice. Emails also allow the membership to hear of significant events such as the breakthroughs in Rana within hours of them happening.

Use of email has steadily climbed over the last decade and with all the activity in Rana last year about 60 messages were sent compared to only 37 in 2006 and 20 in 2004. This year 22 have been sent in the first three months. Not all messages are sent to the whole membership. For example subscription reminders are eventually send to only the defaulters and Annual Dinner information can be directly only to those who are attending.

Emails are normally sent as plain ASCII text with no attachments, photos, files or HTML code to overfill your mailboxes. The longest are GSG Newsletters, but even they are only about 50kb maximum.

If you are not on the GSG distribution list just send me an email from the address you want us to use and I'll add you in.

GSG Private Web Server

From the number of enquiries I get it is obviously worth repeating information on how to access the GSG private web server run by Peter Ireson and what you can find there.

The web site is for GSG specific data. It's not for general use and is password protected to restrict access to GSG members. It contains the GSG address list (please check your entry), the equipment list, an event calendar and a hut booking calendar. A section for GSG documents holds PDF versions of recent GSG Bulletins, Newsletters, and committee meeting minutes plus membership, expense and other forms. There is a section reserved for trip reports at some future date and the SCRO contact list. Also there is a large collection of photographs, plus sections for rigging guides, surveys and cave guides. The latest count shows over 3300 photographs in over 110 albums.

To access it:

21 LED Headlights and Steel Krabs

Julian Walford still has 21-LED headlights available at £10 each including 2 AA cells. With 2000mAhr NiMH rechargeable cells Julian reported 2.5 hours of light. Good AA alkaline cells will give perhaps 4 hours.

Also available are steel screw-gate crabs - brand new and CE marked. They are better than light-weight alloy crabs for strength with much better abrasion resistance. They are on offer at only £3 each. Similar items could cost you £8 or more from a store or on-line.

For more details and to check availability contact Julian Walford. Ivan has a small stock of both in Edinburgh.


SCRO Equipment Store - The SCRO's rescue equipment store has been a bulging cupboard in Derek and Elizabeth's garage in Winchburgh. At the end of 2007 we bought a small metal shed, erected it inside the garage, added lighting and some sockets for chargers and fitted it out with shelves. All the equipment that can be used on rescues has been moved inside it while old gear, spare parts and consumables have been left in the cupboard. The shed is fitted with two combination padlocks and the garage secured with a third. That gives three numbers for members to remember to open the store. These will be given to members - but not in a widely available Newsletter!

Digging Equipment - Roger (SCRO Equipment Officer) has been buying gear to allow us to do a modest amount of excavation if it becomes necessary during a rescue. We now have crowbars, chisels and lump hammer. Pride of place is a SDS hammer drill powered by Li-ion batteries. This comes with bits and bolts so anchors can be installed in a minimum of time. Roger is now thinking of adding a Tirfor winch to the set.

First Aid - There is a BASP First Aid course in South Queensferry on the 26/27th April. It is an objective that all SCRO members hold a valid First Aid certificate. If you don't you should contact Annie for a place on either this course or, if it is full, the next.

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