Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 142, March 2010

Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk


Annual General Meeting

A record-breaking turn-out at this year's AGM saw 28 members, old and new, congregating in Winchburgh on January 23rd. Here follows a brief summary of events:

Office Bearers Reports

Election of Office Bearers

Existing office bearers were all willing to stand and were re-elected:

Annual Dinner

Votes were counted as follows (including email and postal votes):

Yorkshire was declared the winner. The committee will investigate possible venues.

Publications

Caves of Assynt is still being prepared and a revised Caves of Schiehallion is being updated.

Meets list

The current meets list is being updated. Details on the members' server. Please let Ross know of any suggestions. A visit from a group of Croatian cavers is planned for the summer.

Expeditions

A 50th Anniversary expedition to Slovenia for 2011 was proposed and discussed. Details will be circulated.

Several members are going to Meghalaya this year.

50th Anniversary

This is planned for 2011, to include a dinner event in Edinburgh on June 18th, a reception and an exhibition and a publication. More details will be published in GSG Newsletters.

Any other business

Live streaming of AGM next year on the web was proposed for the members who couldn't attend - to be investigated.

Making a replica of the bear skull is being investigated.

The full AGM minutes are on the member's server

Elizabeth


GSG Annual Dinners 2010 & 2011

There has been a 'tendency' - not a rule - to hold every second annual dinner in Assynt, and so it was a strong candidate for the 2010 dinner. There was, however, a stronger feeling that as Scotland's premiere caving area it should be the location for the Annual Dinner in the GSG's Jubilee year. That resulted in Yorkshire being chosen for 2010 with Assynt firmly reserved for 2011.

Following the AGM Kirsty Mills volunteered to select a suitable dinner venue in Yorkshire. This will be announced in the next issue of this Newsletter. The likely date is Saturday 30th October when Summer Time ends.


GSG Membership for 2010

The GSG finished 2009 with 152 members of whom 142 have paid or declared their intention of paying for 2010, plus one resignation. That leaves nine whose silence must soon end otherwise their membership will be terminated on the 31st March.

Ivan


Portobello Bear gains almost 5000 years!

The date reported in Newsletter 140 of 21,700 BC for Scotland's first Pleistocene brown bear was incorrect. When the radiocarbon date of 23,650 BP was calibrated, SUERC used a calibration curve that was only valid to 21,341 BP. They didn't spot the problem, probably because they get very few samples that are so old. Within the last few months a new curve has been released that improves on the old curve and extends the date range back to 46,400 BP. When this is used the Portobello Promenade bear skeleton date becomes 26,450 BC which fits in better with what is known of the build-up of the Late Devensian ice sheet. The increased date range for the new curve allows the bear ulna from Legless Highway to be calibrated, but only just! It had a radiocarbon age of 45,000 BP which translates to about 46,250 BC.

Dr Andrew Kitchener (Principal Curator of Vertebrates, National Museums Scotland) has sent small samples from the three bears we found in Claonaite to Adelaide where they will attempt to extract DNA. It may be possible to identify to which brown bear mtDNA clade the bears belong.

John Crae is investigating the costs involved in making a 3D scan of the bear skull from Antler Chamber then making copies using 3D printing techniques. It would make a fine exhibit for Ullapool Museum, Lochinver Visitor Centre or Elphin Community Hall - also for the GSG's Jubilee exhibition.


Caving - Assynt

Allt nan Uamh/Traligill

The first recorded caving trip for 2010 on January 1st was a solo effort by Derek Pettiglio to Tibesti Chamber. He installed some tape and noted a possible dig site. At the end of January John Crae, Malcolm McConville and Anna Ermakova struggled through deep snow to Rana and noted that the scaffolding poles had suffered under the weight of snow. The entry was made more 'interesting' with snow overhanging the bicycle winch. While Malcolm explored the area above Black Rift, John and Anna visited the GNTM and Antler Chamber. They exited to find more fresh snow which made the walk back down the valley more difficult than it had been on the way up.

The next Day Kate Janossy and Fraser Stephen had a scenic walk to an icicle-adorned Cnockers, but had forgotten to take a camera! They visited Farr Passage, the static sump and the worms.

The rest of the NW

For a change of scenery Ritchie Simpson and David Morrison abandoned Skye one weekend and tramped the mountainside south of Loch More southeast of Achfary. Despite deep snow they found several promising sites including one with 8m of visible passage. This trip is described in the March 2010 GSG Bulletin.

They also investigated the Rhue area and found the cave described by Alex Latta in GSG Newsletter 140 p3. This plus another nearby cave were GPS'd at NC 09xxx 97xxx. Both gave short through trips with estimated lengths of 10m and 15m.

A return to Loch More in March pushed the 8m cave to a conclusion at 10m. They found a choked pot in Strath na Caran, but some of the really obvious features found using Google Earth were not visible. There was even more snow than on their first visit and the shakeholes must have been filled to the brim. This time they also visited most of Cold Water Cave at Knockan and found it well named. Ritchie also commented that it reminded him of caving on Skye so he felt quite at home.

WARNING - Two members were stopped at Ullapool and given a warning about speeding.


Skye

Our Skye team of David Morrison and Ritchie Simpson, with help from Toby Speight (RRCPC) have turned Ivy Hole into a very difficult through trip. Comparison of underground and surface surveys by David showed that the hole thought to lie near the sump at the end of Ivy Hole (Newsletter 141) was very near it. A little digging found the way in blocked by a boulder. A return on 23rd January with Ritchie and Toby plus hand winch removed it and shortly afterwards the through trip was achieved though some hauling from the surface was needed to assist the exit. It is a very challenging through trip and when David says that I believe him! The sump level was dropped six inches by digging at the resurgence and revealed several more metres of very low airspace passage. David thinks it possible that more digging might give a complete through trip and add another 8 to 10m to the present 68m.

On the same day Ritchie found a tiny hole beside a tree near Slit Cave. This was opened enough to allow entry into a rift passage with a small stream in the floor. Upstream was pushed by Toby for about 25m to a sump. This trashed his new Meander oversuit and Ritchie who followed him suffered almost as badly. The cave was given the most appropriate name of Razor Rift. David by then had opened up the resurgence and a wet-suited Toby managed to crawl about 10m upstream to the point where he could see a small chamber. The next week, after thawing out, he returned to the main entrance and, heading downstream, managed to thread himself through a tight constriction and eventually reach his upstream limit.

Full reports with images of both explorations appear in the March 2010 Bulletin.

The latest news is that in early March Toby completed the first through trip in the upstream direction from the Razor Rift resurgence accompanied by a visiting ex-Cambridge caver.

In mid-March David on a couple of solo visits, dug into a previously noticed hole near Shelter Cave on Beinn na Caillich. He found 5m of fossil passage with another 4m visible, but hammer and chisel work is required to gain access.

Ivan

Swildon's Hole - Reopened

Swildons was reopened on Saturday 9th January with a warning from the landowner published on the CSCC website.

This reminds cavers that they enter at their own risk and recommends the area around Showerbath Chamber be avoided. From what is reported in the forum on ukCaving.com it is very much back to business as usual.

Later news is that in February a strong chemical smell was reported on the short round trip in the Blue Pencil / Troubles area. Opinions on the substance range from white spirit to diesel to creosote to insecticide.


Air Quality Tests - sunglasses required!

A recent trip through Bowden Hill Limestone Mine with the SCRO's GasAlertMicroClip gas detectors found it well ventilated and the oxygen level usually remained at the surface level of 20.9%. Analysing the data log afterwards there were 15 brief excursions during the two hour trip. The oxygen level dropped to 19.4 to 20.2% probably as the holder breathed out over the detector. Most were only a single sample in length - samples are recorded every 15 seconds. The longest period was of three and a half minutes with the level at 20.1%. This was in a low fairly constricted part of the passage while waiting for the folk in front to move on. The meter detected no HS, CO, or inflammables.

This trip was noteworthy for demonstrating the eye-burning capabilities of Mark Lonnen's latest cap lamp. He has squeezed three of the brightest available LEDs - the Seoul P7 - into an Oldham-sized headset with a Lithium battery mounted on the back of the helmet. This emits 2700 lumens when on full. That is more than 20 times the average caving light. It proved useful as a photoflood for photography. Duration at full output is about half an hour, but increases to a far more reasonable 16 hours on its lowest setting which is still brighter than most lamps as the efficiency increases at lower currents - see Dave Warren's article in the March 2010 Bulletin.


Appin Access

The agreement with the Forestry Commission allowing us to drive along the Glen Duror and Glen Stockdale forest tracks has been renewed. I have a key for the gates and will place a copy of the agreement on the GSG members' private web server. It is probably best for us to contact the Forest Manager before any visit though there are unlikely to be any logging operations during our normal weekend visits.

Ivan


Ingleton Parkers Beware!

For many years we've used the Wheatsheaf car park in Ingleton when breakfasting or shopping at Inglesport and Bernies. Locals have used it when visiting the surgery opposite. The new landlord of the Wheatsheaf has decided that isn't on, and has erected signs restricting use to Wheatsheaf customers only and warning of fines. In February several cavers were 'fined' £40 though some debate whether those fines are enforceable. The villagers are evidently not pleased and it is reported that many are now boycotting the pub.


QRA Field Meet NW Scotland

The Quaternary Research Association is holding a field meeting based in Inchnadamph from April 28th to May 3rd. This coincides with the Mendip Migration and Tav has promised not to blow up any delegates during their tours of Traligill and Allt nan Uamh. Meeting details. It is possible that GSG members involved in the Claonaite bone project may become involved - if only to meet delegates during the evening drinking sessions!


White Nose Syndrome in Europe

(plagiarised from the Bat Conservation Trust web site)

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has been associated with the deaths of over 1 million bats in nine states across the northeastern United States. In some hibernation sites, numbers have declined by 80-100% since 2006 when the condition was first identified. All six resident bat species have been affected. Named after the distinctive white-fungal growth found on many of the affected bats, WNS has been named as a new species of soil fungus Geomyces destructans. WNS is still poorly understood.

There has been a confirmed diagnosis of the fungus associated with WNS on a bat found hibernating in France in March 2009. This bat was not underweight, unlike the infected bats in the US, and was released after examination. Bats with fungal growths on the muzzle have been reported in parts of Europe since the 1980s, but these have not been associated with mass mortalities. There is a possibility that the fungus was introduced into the US from Europe by human intervention, perhaps by a caver or batworker. However, the US strain of this fungus appears to be to be more virulent, hence there are concerns it may be carried back to Europe and/or that a soil fungus in caves in Europe might also mutate and become lethal to bats.

Human health implications are not known, but there is no information indicating that people have been affected after visiting sites where WNS has been found. As a precautionary measure, the Bat Conservation Trust has drawn up guidance for bat workers and cavers in the UK, which provides information on: what to look out for; how to contribute to the national surveillance programme; and how to minimise risk of spread.

This can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust's website

White-nose Syndrome surveillance in the UK

The BCT have received a small number of reports of dead bats with white fungus over the winter season. Where possible, bats were tested with negative results (the fungus was not geomyces). They have also had a few cases where white fungus has been found on specimens that were too decomposed to test. In expert opinion, these cases were very unlikely to have been associated with WNS. There have been no confirmed cases of WNS or the associated fungus in the UK.

If you find a suspected case of WNS then please notify the BCT immediately at 0845 1300 228.


Meghalaya 2010

Once again this February members of the GSG escaped the dark Scottish winter for some more exotic darkness in Meghalaya. This year ten GSG members joined the international team of forty-one cavers. The expedition began with a week-long recce in the Mawsynram / Nongjiri area and the exploration and survey of Krem Mawpun (1,659m) and Krem Lymbit (806m). Most of the team arrived for the second week when the expedition moved to a camp at the village of Umkyrpong near the Kopili River which forms Meghalaya's eastern border with Assam.

As usual the camp was up to its five-star standard and all of our needs were catered for so that all we had to do was go caving, eat, drink and be merry. However due to our location in slightly less verdant environs than in previous years we did find ourselves, tents, laptops and everything around coated in a fine layer of dust for the entire two and a half weeks.

At the beginning of the trip three caves in the area, Krem Tyngheng, Krem Diengjem and Krem Labit Kseh, all large river caves, were ongoing from previous trips and these continued to yield more meters throughout the expedition. Tyngheng and Diengjem were linked, producing a system of 21,103m, the third longest cave in the Indian Sub-continent. Labit Kseh was extended from 1652m to 4746m. Both caves are still ongoing.

Another cave, Krem Man Krem had been recce'd previously but not explored. This cave absorbed Ross Davidson for the entire expedition, and although his report from the first day made it sound decidedly uninviting ("swimming in pooh") it turned out to be an absolutely awesome caving trip with swims (not, for the most part, in sewage), gours, climbs, stunning formations and The Shredder: a most entertaining crawl.

A few of us spent some time in the first week recce-ing and mapping surface streams as we were in a new area. Initially this was not very productive and we kept finding caves with other expedition members already in them, who told us in no uncertain terms to bugger off and find our own cave to survey. One recce day was quite entertaining when we found the local drinking den and hired the least pissed of its inhabitants as our guide. He showed us four promising entrances. Other recces involved hiring dugout canoes to travel up the Kopili river, yielding not very much in terms of caves but coming high on the list of good experiences.

About halfway through the trip Brian Kharpran-Daly, Roman Hapka and Jean-Pierre Bartholeyns were shown two canyons, apparently leading to more large river caves and the next day Mark Brown and Alys Mendus were shown Krem Shalong: a vast and inspiring entrance. From then on our luck seemed to turn and we went from treading on each others toes to not having enough people to push all the leads that were going. Krem Shalong was surveyed to 2,671m and was left wide open. Several other caves were found in the vicinity of the two canyons including Krem Lymoh and Krem Lymoh Pot which were surveyed to 620m and 874m respectively.

In total the expedition surveyed 25,134m of cave, some of it large and impressive, some of it slightly more squalid. The area was left with many promising leads for future years' explorations.

Finally after the hard work was all over we left the dusty hills behind for a river beach party in the lush green valley of the Dawki river, close to the Bangladesh border. This was in honour of Simon Brooks' 50th birthday and provided a welcome opportunity to wash off 2.5 weeks of grime, before heading back to the UK.

Annie Audsley


Snow Sunday at Jeanie Barrie's Cave

Having read most articles about trips made to Jeanie Barrie's Cave in the past, from GSG Bulletins and Newsletters, I couldn't remember many photos taken of the cave (apart from those taken in the sixties) with snow on the ground. Having just had heavier snow conditions than we had experienced for many years in Edinburgh, on Sunday 10 January 2010 I set about putting the situation right.

With parking spaces in great demand I parked outside the pub in Carlops and being a wimp kitted up with my light PVC waders with yellow nylon trousers over the top. I reckoned that would just about beat the snowy conditions along with having the potential for having a paddle in Jeanie Barrie's canal and still be comfortable on the return journey back to the car. Loaded up with my rucksack full of caving (and survival) essentials I headed off up the small road that leads to Carlop Hill Farm and cut left into the field, passing through the gate where the walkers path would normally be that leads up the valley to the cave. Nothing to be seen, of course, but a bumpy brilliant sheet of white stuff not unlike icing on a cake.

I headed off down the hill stepping out into snow that was about knee deep, not easy walking, but was bearable on a bright sunny day like today. I was doing fine until a number of steps later I stepped up to the waist in snow. I had found the deep trench that normally carries a small stream from that hill down to the Carlops burn. This wasn't going to be near as easy as I had first thought. After climbing out of my snow trap, it seemed sensible to head down to the burn rather than try to cross the dip in the hill, this worked well and so I proceeded to walk up the bed of the burn to the electric fence. This I crossed and proceeded with some difficulty through drifts of snow that varied between shin and thigh depth as I climbed up one of the small hills to enable me to get a photo of the valley ahead looking up towards Jeanie Barrie's cave.

The walking was easier on the ridge of the hill as most of it had been blown off the higher ground - unfortunately onto the part of the hill I had to go back down at the other side which again was in drifts up to thigh depth. It didn't make for an easy journey. By now I could see the side of the hill where the cave is and I headed straight for it at low level, but after only a few more steps found myself up to my armpits in snow yet again. This time it took more effort to extract myself. It was in the area marked as a 'well' on the map and so I think it was that dip I stepped into. This whole lower area was in fact one very deep flat snow drift. The only way I could make headway was by heading up the slope on the right, slipping under the electric fence into the cow field and then made good progress to the end of the field on the cow trampled snow. It was then a short decent in thigh deep snow down the side of a fence to the mouth of Jeanie Barrie's Cave.

The landscape here was very different from normal with deep snow drifts all around the cave entrance and I took some time to take some photographs for the GSG archive. With tripod now attached to camera I proceeded into the cave and reached the end of the canal before returning and taking a few photos on the way back out again. Not wanting to repeat the epic inward journey, I struggled back up the hill beside the fence behind Jeanie Barrie's, along the top of the hill and, crossing several fences, passed Carlop Hill Farm and headed down the farm road passing more than a few cross country skiers and completing what was anything but a 'normal' trip to Jeanie Barrie's Cave.

Alex Latta


Snow, Titan and a Birthday Meal - 16 January 2010

I enjoyed the weekend on the White Peak to attend Simon's 50th birthday celebration on the 16th January. There were tremendous walls of snow along the main roads through mid-Wales and around Buxton on the Friday night drive across from Aberystwyth. This included the A54 Congleton to Buxton road being closed requiring a long detour south via Leek to reach the Orpheus Cottage. Various GSG cavers arranged to meet Simon and Shary at the Duke of York pub. Kate and Fraser were already there when I arrived around 22:00h and Derek and Ross arrived an hour later. We followed Simon in convoy fashion to the Orpheus Cottage. The neighbouring farmer had earlier skimmed the snow off the approach track, but it remained very slippery and we were forced to stop and park up on the field when faced with a large snow drift. The top bar of the gate leading to the Orpheus was showing slightly proud of the snow, over which we walked everything down to the cottage. Earlier, Simon had to physically negotiate a full cask of local ale through the same deep snow (without a sledge)!

By Saturday morning a rapid thaw ensued, opening up B and single track roads for us to travel around the Peak, but with consequences for access to caves. Hence, Derek, Ross and I were able to drive to Castleton easily enough, but Titan required snow clearance to enter and the descent was impossible below Event Horizon due to the volume of water flowing from the inlet passage.

Due to various delays (Ed:- I hear Ross had to return to his car to get the key!), I made my apologies to Derek and Ross and climbed out the excavated access shaft after enjoying the view down the magnificent Titan shaft. This was because it was already 16:30h and I did not want to miss the Iranian themed meal prepared for Simon's 50th birthday. Also, I did not really want to experience a partial descent and opted to return to complete the whole descent and Peak Cavern exit another day. Once back at the Orpheus, I was able to advise everyone that Derek and Ross would be greatly delayed and sat down to enjoy a fine meal of mutton stew (Ab Ghosht), grilled liver and ox heart! Derek and Ross arrived shortly after 22:00h having descended part-way down Titan. They did benefit from the copious leftovers from the meal.

Peter Dennis


Lost Johns Cave - 6th March 2010 "A finger of fudge"

Mark Lonnen (GSG/EUG), George Antill (GSG/EUG), David Fuller-Shapcott (EUG), Robin Keith (EUG), James O'Rourke (EUG) Alison Fuller-Shapcott (EUG/GSG), Alexander Fuller-Shapcott (EUG hopeful)

A convivial breakfast gathering at Inglesport ensured sufficient calories consumed by all (and a few extra calories in one or two cases). The sun shone down on Leck Fell as our intrepid team got changed and made the short walk to the entrance, going underground at about 11.30.

The party divided in two with Alison and Alexander exploring anything that didn't require a rope, whilst the rest of the party began the descent. The first pitch was rigged by George and the descent began. Mark rigged the following pitches including the entertaining Battleaxe Traverse - not designed for those with short legs. David added a deviation on the Valhalla pitch to eliminate a bit of rub and also rigged the final pitch. With everyone safely below the last pitch we proceeded to explore the Leck Fell Master Cave with much singing of an old advert for a Cadbury's Chocolate bar. Initially looking upstream to the boulder choke and noting several side passages - at least two of which had been rigged for exploration.

Robin poked his head into some of these side passages - was he looking for the elusive finger of fudge? The team then proceeded downstream until the water got too deep for most - except George who seemed to need a bath and continued until the water was well above waist height.

At about 15.00 the team began the ascent with Mark and David de-rigging and passing tackle sacks forward to be carried out of the cave. We arrived back on the surface at 18.30 to dry weather with a cold wind.

A fine day of speleological intent with about 7 hours spent underground. This was a first SRT trip for James who made it look like he'd been doing it for years!

Mark Lonnen


2010 Meets and Events

See the events page

Credit Crunch Expedition to The Peak District

You can join Ross on a low-cost expedition to the distant and exotic wilds of Derbyshire in June. Running from the 12th until the 27th full details can be found at hucklow along with an application form. To quote the web site:-

Expedition fees are only £30 plus £5 per day.

We provide free breakfast, free evening meal, free camping, free showers, free charging facilities, free advice, free diggers, free workshops and as many crowbars, shovels, buckets and as much rope as you require for you to pursue your own Peak District dig; or you could help people on other digs.

You provide drink, underground food, transport to caves, a tent, buckets of enthusiasm, and buckets, and other digging equipment.

If you have a dig that needs digging, or you want to dig and need a dig to do, if you want advice on how to dig. Come along.


GSG Jubilee Activities

The Jubilee sub-committee has ruled out the Caley Hotel for the Jubilee dinner because of cost. They also wanted £700 just to reserve a separate bar for us for the evening. Other venues are being researched and, being a Scottish club, we're thinking of running a ceilidh after the meal. Since one main activity will be talking to folk not seen for possibly decades, a separate seating area away from the band is high on the priority list.

Goon is busy with the Jubilee publication and is up to the 1980s. To repeat his plea from 2009:- "Please read this carefully and act upon it. What I am looking for are writings by members of any length (but larger than one paragraph please!), giving their personal 'tale' on their involvement with the club. Anyone wishing to do a larger piece on a specific subject - say on Rana Hole, owning the club lorry, on either of the Elphin huts - you get the picture - would be made most welcome. The point is, variety is everything and I will accept more or less anything you have to offer. Photographs, particularly old photographs, are urgently required but must be of club meets and/or members. Caving before joining the GSG is not really relevant."


Membership News

Four new members have joined so far in 2010. Three have enrolled as joint members - Shary with Simon Brooks, Fraser Stephens with Kate Janossy and Jane Wilde with Graham Marshall. The fourth is Sebastien Rider who very briefly joined us a couple of years ago, but never consumated the relationship. He's now left Plymouth and moved to Scotland so we'll expect him to join us underground real soon now.

New Members

Simon Brooks & Sharareh (Shary) Ghazy; Kate Janossy & Fraser Stephens; Graham Marshall & Jane Wilde; Sebastien Rider.

New Addresses

Dennis Douglas, Euan Maxwell.

Other Changes

Norman Flux, email; Mary Harrison, mobile; Brian Kharpran Daly, email; Graham Mullan, email; Alistair Simpson, email.


Elphin Caving Centre

The winter's deeper than normal snows gave the local bunny population a leg up and they've seriously chewed many of the trees - mostly rowan - round the hut. We'll have to see how many survive the ringbarking and think about extending the protection much higher up the trunks before next winter.


Assynt News

Ivan


Internet Caving

A US military programme known as 'Sferics-Based Underground Geolocation', or S-BUG is aimed at providing positional data with GPS accuracy underground. Just what we need for cave surveying! It would use the low frequency radio signals generated by lighting strikes. Read more

One other interesting fact is that there is another project - NIMBUS - aimed at triggering artificial lightning!!

Google streetview has reached Assynt. If you go to Google Maps and home in on Elphin you can see both the old and new huts. Further north the Alt can be visited and you can roam around the streets of Ullapool and Lochinver.

Thanks are due to Davie Robinson for telling us about those items.

Ritchie Simpson has been uploading vidoes to You Tube. There are now three. The first is of David Morrison in Breakish Cave

That was by way of a trial, with camera failure stopping the filming. If you find it you'll see another couple listed. One shot by David is of Ritchie traversing part of Beinn an Dubhaich Cave in a somewhat tattered oversuit.

The third by Ritchie shows David and Toby Speight digging their way into the downstream entrances of Ivy Hole and Razor Rift. It also shows Toby attempting then finally succeeding in extricating himself from downstream Razor Rift. Having watched the video that's one cave I think I'll avoid!


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