Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk
A GSG team met ex-member George Kennedy in Appin on Saturday June 30th and found several entrances in a patch of limestone he'd investigated up the Allt Buidhe east of Druimvuic at the head of Loch Creran. They have been provisionally named as Rowan Tree Cave, Eton Hole, Bitchlicking Hole and Tight'un. George's Jack Russell is responsible for one of those names. The first three are short, but the last resulted in a fine 60m cave with a vertical range of 7m and several junctions. Tam Barton reported that it had "a stand up section and small cascade. Some nice flowstone on walls at one point and a wee bit of stal." From that you might deduce that there is a fair amount of crawl. The downstream end eventually becomes too tight and appears to sump. A return in drier weather and the removal of some cobbles is needed to confirm that. The team was Tamlin, Julie Hesketh, Toby Speight, George Antill, George Kennedy and non-member Amber MacLeod from Glasgow. On Sunday Julie, Tam and Toby returned and surveyed it to grade 5. Toby is now a convert to the GSG's DistoX even without a PDA to capture the results.
After their success in Coire Buidhe the team visited another of George Kennedy's discoveries in the glen south of Ballachulish - Dragon's Lair. George had pushed this sink cave for about 12m with several more metres still visible, but with digging required. He was apprehensive of loose boulders in the roof - and so were the others when they inspected it!
Tam writes:- "It was one of the most worrying caves I have ever been in. An uneven fissure descends gently downhill, the floor, ceiling and walls made up almost entirely from water-washed rubble cemented together with heaven knows what. The actual limestone is only visible in a few places and at one point the passage goes over a pile of rubble - collapse from the roof. A little further on there is a stand-up chamber where, if you look upwards, the full height of the fissure can be seen (perhaps 5m or more), and one realises that towering around you on all sides are many metres of loose water-washed debris. Toby and George A pushed onwards quite deep to where the passage got very scary indeed. I would estimate it to be at least 30m long. On the way out I noticed the amazing rock on the floor which looks like very coarse pumice, full of holes, so presumably volcanic."
A little research found that this was the cave described in Jim Salvona's report in the January 1980 GSG Bulletin (More Caves in Appin) where he describes the 5m high fissure as 1.5m high until he "flicked a rope at a particularly lethal latticework of suspended boulders, bringing down an estimated 5-7 cwts of rock". The team went on to look at two more caves. One ended after a few metres and the other rabbit hole of an entrance led to 10m of passage ending too tight.
Recent press reports called attention to several small earthquakes felt in Ballachulish and Duror. There were no reports of any damage being caused. The British Geological Survey web site has data on UK earthquakes over the last 50 days at http://www.earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/earthquakes/recent_uk_events.html
On 2nd July 2012 this listed 21 UK quakes of which six(!) were near Ballachulish. They ranged in magnitude from 0.8 to 1.5 and all were at a depth of four to five kilometres. Five were under Beinn a'Bheithir SW of Ballachulish and one between it and Glencoe village. This, for the UK, is quite a swarm. The BGS site has an interactive map for UK earthquakes since 1970. In the neighbourhood of Ballachulish the BGS lists zero quakes from 1970 to 1989 and six from 1990 to 2011. All have been minor with the strongest only of magnitude 2.0. That is classed as a very minor quake and equivalent to the explosion of 37kg of TNT. It is a logarithmic scale so a magnitude 1.5 quake is equivalent to about 7kg of TNT. The Ballachulish quakes are unlikely to have caused any changes in the area's caves. There are about 8000 quakes per day worldwide with magnitudes between 1 and 2.
Winter and spring storms in Assynt have resulted in changes in the Traligill glen upstream of Cnoc nan Uamh. On a recent walk Goon found the entrance passage of Storm Cave much altered. There is now a direct route to the main chamber, and a crawl has been revealed parallel to the surface flood channel and heading towards Cuil Dhubh. This must have added over 10m to the total passage length.
Downstream from Storm Cave Goon checked where the entrance to Cave of the Deep Depression used to be. This was revealed by one flood event in late 1992 and sealed by others within a few years. At the site of former Goon found a 2m deep crevice between the grass slope and the rock. Climbing down he could look through a small hole at the bottom and see the old passage still stretching off into the distance. It looked very diggable, but before starting we need to have plenty of shoring and some way of keeping it open otherwise it would just be resealed by the next flood.
In Snowdonia National Park plaques with national grid reference are being placed on gates and stiles on all paths up Snowdon. This is to help lost and confused walkers locate themselves - which assumes they have a map! If they don't they'll at least be able to give the local mountain rescue team a good location when they phone for help. Wonder if there could be applications for plaques to distinguish the many confusing entrances in Coille Gaireallach, Skye? On reflection I think not. Arguing afterwards with guide book in hand which caves you were really in is half the fun!
This year's week and a half of intensive Assynt caving, walking and diving wasn't blessed with the drought (and forest fires) of 2011. Instead the week started with rain, sleet and snow showers and high water conditions. It did improve and there were some fine sunny days as well though it ended with more wintry weather. Work continued on projects started in previous years while natural processes offered new opportunities eg at Three G's Cave.
Mayday Hole - Tav and company returned to the small hole found last year near Earthquake Sink in Traligill. A little work allowed a 5m descent down a narrow thrust plane blocked by large cobbles. Named Mayday Hole this is another site that might repay a further session to see if it widens further down. The entrance was left covered with boulders.
Toll Radain - Inspection of this rift entrance near Damoclean found it more precarious than before. Previous years have made progress by moving boulders without forming spoil heaps. Some stabilisation work was done, but a real solution would require a lot of work and permission from SNH and the estate. A recent collapse was noted between there and Campbell's Cave. The nearby Titian Pot was inspected and all loose stuff extracted leaving solid rock exposed all round.
Three G's Cave - The area with the main Claonaite sinks has changed again. Just a couple of metres upstream of the crawl entrance that was Three G's Cave a hole has opened in the bank leading down through crumbling sediments to real cave. During the Mendip Migration Peter Glanvill borrowed a ladder from Campbell's Cave to descend to a 3m wide rock arch with phreatic roof pendants. This slopes down for 3m to a slot with a possible high level continuation to the left and the stream entering from the right. A little digging found a draughty crawl, but after a body length of progress slumping of the side composed of peat and cobbles encouraged a retreat. Further visits opened up the slot and reached a too tight phreatic tube meandering into the distance. Attention switched to the floor and much mud, peat, sand gravel and boulders removed to reveal a small heavily filled passage heading downstream. Perhaps a 'wait and see' policy will find the fill gradually flushed out?
Campbell's Cave - A fine effort during the Mendip Migration saw 726 loads extracted from the dig. One day they achieved a complete grid = 280 kibbles (the counting grid has 8 x 35 holes in it). The first 100 loads took about 2 hours. Excavation revealed four possible ways on. One was dug and a small chamber created - Mayday Chamber - with a few small stals. The continuing passage broke through into a short crawl which ended at another gravel 'sump'. A survey by Mark, Roger and Annie accumulated 50m of survey legs - including the shaft. They abandoned the idea of surface surveys between entrances when they emerged into a blizzard. Among the diggers were Mark Brown, Norman Flux, Matt & Mandy Voysey, Dave (Cookie) Cook, Stuart Lindsay, Tony Boycott, Julian, Bob Mehew, Tav, plus Matt & Liz Wire (SUSS)
A later digging trip in June by Julian, Bob Jones and Preston White found that a fair amount of spoil had been flushed into Mayday Chamber so they moved it back to the bottom of the flume. The continuation proved too tight to dig and is in solid rock so they switched attention to an alcove to the right and found another tube full of spoil. It has a small air gap and a draught and is very easy digging. A larger team is needed next time to get the spoil to the surface.
Glenbain Hole - Several recent trips into Glenbain Hole have failed to pass the squeeze down into No-Name Chamber and after the last visit in March comment was made that there appeared to be recent breakdown and movement compared to 2007.
Jamie Yuill held his stag weekend in Assynt. The Saturday included a Cnockers trip in the itinerary for most of the party including Badger - Jamie's collie. On Sunday he and Roger Galloway plus one other eventually found Malcolm's Myth behind the hut. The tree formerly marking the entrance had blown down making it that much harder to find. Roger descended on a wire ladder and confirmed the sound of a stream. Six buckets of sand and gravel were moved from the entrance.
At the end of April Julian Walford with help from Bob Mehew carefully enlarged the bottom of his excavated route from Claonaite Seven into the Treen Scene in Six and applied mortar to stabilise some of the looser boulders. An experiment with avalanche transceivers proved that they had more uses than finding skiers buried in snow. The next day the water level in Sump 5 has dropped leaving 50mm airspace and a wetsuited Julian took a transceiver through to a dig that had been started years ago below Sump 4. Back in Claonaite Seven with a second transceiver the lowest reading of 11 metres was found near the end of the passage to the east of the main part of Concretehead. This is less than Julian measured through his dig into the Treen Scene so it may be possible to bypass Sump 5 as well as Sump 6. Later an audible connection was proved by leaving an audio transmitter in the dig and hearing it in Claonaite Seven so we shouldn't need to bore through solid rock.
For a final test the transceiver was moved to the top of the phreatic rift in Elphin Despair just below Sump 3 - the nearest point (we think) to Claonaite Three.. This was detected on the surface as we walked down the dry valley but the distance was too great to give a reading (40 to 80m). A trip to the upstream end of Sump 3 by Julian and Bob did get a signal but the distance was at least 20m and through solid rock, so there's no easy bypass to Sump 3 via that route.
Opposite the entrance to Antler Chamber and up the boulder slope is a descending crawl though sagging beds to enter an unstable chamber with holes down through the boulder floor. It has a strong draught at times and when I first entered it in 1995 I thought that it might lie above Claonaite Eight and the draught to come from Otter Hole via those lower passages. The survey showed that it didn't overlie Eight, but it wasn't visited again until the reindeer antler was found in 2009. A more precise location for Antler in three dimensions was a priority and I'd had thoughts on how to do it with a Heyphone without involving any calculations other that those used in normal surveying.
During the Mendip Migration we borrowed a couple of Heyphones from the SCRO equipment store in AMRT's Inchnadamph rescue post. One was taken into Antler Chamber in Claonaite Seven by Bob Mehew, John Crae and Matt Wire (SUSS) along with an untuned and collapsible loop antennae that I'd made. While waiting on the surface I inserted a stainless steel bolt as a permanent station outside the Bone Caves. It is between Reindeer and Bone Caves and if you need to know the location to link in with any surveys I'll send you a photo.
Once communications were established with the Antler Chamber Heyphone, I soon located it to lie under the path below Reindeer Cave. Another test with the underground loop now oriented vertically allowed a further null to be obtained part way down the talus slope. Together with a survey linking the two points this allowed the depth to Antler Chamber to be calculated and for it to be located relative to the other caves in three dimensions. In perfect weather and with better loops I'd have made several measurements from different locations and averaged the answers, but with semi-blizzard conditions I was happy to stop after one successful result.
This was a preliminary test to verify the method and needs to be repeated with better loop antennae. It showed that the survey marker in Antler Chamber is about 6m NNW from the entrance to Reindeer Cave and lies about 33m below it. This is 15 to 20m closer to the end of Otter Hole than shown on the 1997 Creag nan Uamh Survey. The dodgy draughting chamber beyond Antler must therefore be very near Helictite Way in Otter Hole and only a few metres above it. It wouldn't be a safe place to dig without a lot of scaffolding and/or glue.
A further observation is that surveying on the surface in bright daylight with a DistoX is challenging. For leg lengths of more than a few metres it isn't easy to see the laser spot and get it onto your chosen target especially if that target is only a few centimetres in size. Perhaps DistoX surveying on the surface should always be done at night.
Near the entrance David pushed the first crawl to the left and by moving a few boulders gained about 4m to where he could see daylight shining in through Flood Resurgence Number 3. At this point he found himself securely wedged and it took some time and a little assistance from Ritchie to get himself back out of what is now called 'The Mantrap'.
The first recorded trip by GSG members to Robinson's Pot was held in June. The entrance is under the kitchen window of Darnbrook Farm house and only three permits are issued each year on fixed dates for a maximum party size of ten. The GSG was one of the three lucky clubs whose names were drawn out of a hat in March. David Morrison journeyed south from Kyle of Lochalsh to join the party and possibly found some graffiti from a distant ancestor?
The following day was the Founder's Day meet which saw Goon joined by Roger and Annie, Martin Hayes and ex-member Alys Mendus for the rope ladder descent of Alum Pot. Simultaneously, Ross, Ian Holmes, and Matt & Mandy Voysey had a spray-lashed descent of Diccan Pot in highish water with a shortage of kit requiring some innovative rigging. The weekend also found David and Julian Warren plus girlfriend in Kingsdale Master Cave and on Sunday doing the Calf Holes to Browgill Cave through trip.
As announced in the last issue, this year's Annual Dinner will be held on Saturday 27th October in the Smoo Cave Hotel (http://www.smoocavehotel.co.uk/). The hotel only has a few bedrooms but there are more in the next door B&B run by the same folk. We have booked the entirety of Durness Youth Hostel for the weekend and expect most members will want to stay in its self-catering accommodation. It is about half a mile away by road from the hotel and the hotel are providing a free shuttle to take us to the dinner and return us afterwards. While their licence is till midnight, we qualify as a private party so drinking and partying can continue later.
A booking form is included for the meal and for the Youth Hostel. If you want to stay in the Hotel or the adjoining B&B contact them direct at Smoo Cave Hotel, Durness, Sutherland, IV27 4PZ telephone 01971511227, email:- info@smoo cavehotel.co.uk. They are offering a special rate of £35 pppn in the hotel and £30 pppn in the B&B for the weekend.
Colin Coventry is speaking to the hotel and arranging music probably for both Friday and Saturday nights. More details to follow. If there are tunes and songs you'd like to request, whether folk or pop, send us the list and we will pass it on to the musician(s).
Many members have possibly not ventured further north than Assynt and don't know of the subterranean wonders to be found near Durness. Some caves were mentioned in the last Newsletter and there follows some recent news from Colin Coventry. With few local cavers the area hasn't been as well searched or dug as other caving areas and Colin would welcome assistance.
Colin Coventry has finally obtained permission to dig in Smoo Cave. For many years he has wanted to investigate a flowstone filled rift in the back wall of the main chamber. Although well calcited, there is a crawl under the flowstone where a small stream issues. One problem was that because of a shell midden a large part of the chamber is a scheduled ancient monument. Historic Scotland has removed that obstacle by ruling that the rift is outside (just) the scheduled area. Colin also had to get an archaeologist's report on the dig site (okay as nothing of archaeological interest) and have adequate insurance (okay thanks to BCA increasing its public liability insurance from £2M to £5M). Latest report from Colin and brother Kevin is that they have enlarged the crawl and can now stand at the end all of three metres in. They found multiple flowstone ceilings and a very loose and unstable roof, so they retreated to the pub to discuss options.
Colin was also mentioned in Durness Community Council minutes. He is going to receive funding to carbon date some lynx bones he found in another of his digs. The Council will also support Colin in his approach to SNH and Highland Council for permission to continue digging at Loch Borralie.
Although it has just achieved fifty years in the caving arena, the future of this club gives me cause for concern. None of us are getting any younger, and taking an objective view of activity, one or two matters require urgent redress, or so it seems to me.
There is only a small percentage of really active, capable cavers in the GSG right now, and our standard of attendance at Yorkshire meets, in particular at good grade 5 potholes, is poor. This vacuum of expertise is worrying. For example, due to this lack of practice, with the best will in the world we could not field a foreign expedition team of quality. I regret to point out that of itself, regular attendance at the pub on Tuesday evenings will never result in the ability to tackle hard caves. You need to get out there and do it. Any self-respecting caving club should at the least be able to tackle everything in their own country. We are quite good at furthering Scottish speleology but for the most part, this task does not demand technical caving techniques such as are required to bottom deep potholes. There is a critical need to overcome what I see as mental inertia affecting the present club vis a vis the Yorkshire Dales, where we should be working up through the various cave grades to gain experience and confidence to tackle the best Britain has to offer.
There is of course another solution to this. We need, as a matter of urgency, to recruit young, keen local members to form the next generation of 'fanatical' cavers. By young, I mean 18-25 year olds. This is not a new mantra of mine, I have been saying it for years, and in all honesty, I have achieved little in the way of resolution myself, but then, age tends to remove one from the active core anyway. It falls more on those who still want to undertake this harder level of trip. Perhaps we could build relationships with schools, scouts, students, outdoor activity centres, youth clubs, any concentration of the right age group. Recruit one or two, and the 'friend of a friend' system should come into play.
If we continue to do nothing about this problem, this club is slowly going to (literally) die on its feet. Our acquisition of new members is good, except that most of them are mature entrants and a large proportion sign up and are seldom seen again. We need proper CAVERS, in addition to people who muck about in local mines and little else - and we need them operating under the auspices of the GSG or we might lose members to other clubs. It's up to us all, so what are you going to do about it?
We cannot continue as we are for ever, otherwise, to parody Eric Bogle: ".But as year follows year, more old men disappear; some day no-one will cave any more".
I can understand Goon's concerns, but I am tempted to ask if much has really changed. I can remember when I joined the GSG in the middle 70's there were some Yorkshire meets supported by just three of us. Later during the first flush of SRT there were frequently just three or four partaking. I will admit that Yorkshire meets seemed more frequent then, and I think it was a rare month without one. However we didn't have our own self-built hut, and that siphons members away from caving into hut building and maintenance far more than the old Knockan Field Hut ever did. It has also resulted in more trips to Assynt which reduces the number to Yorkshire, certainly for me. The same applies to other Scottish caving areas. One of the main objectives of the GSG has to be the exploration of our own caves, and the more time spent on that the less time there is for tourist trips down Yorkshire pots.
As rebuttal to the last paragraph the club now has twice as many members as it did in the 70's so we should have the numbers to do everything we did then plus the hut work plus the exploration of Scottish caves. We have had very well attended Yorkshire meets when we've deliberately organised and advertised them as suitable for cavers of all abilities. Do we need more like that to encourage newer members to dip their toes in the water of Yorkshire caving? Folk need to get acquainted with caving in stages and not be faced with 100 foot spray-lashed pitches on their first meet. Why not schedule a regular series of trips to Grade 3 (or lesser) caves and actively encourage all those newer members who may feel that the present meets list offers them nothing. Harking back to my own introduction to caving I'd done many easier caving trips in Yorkshire before finding the GSG and bottoming Lost John's Cave (Grade 4) on my first trip with them.
So my proposal is that we organise more of the easier trips to Yorkshire. Get that right, get folk hooked and they'll naturally gravitate to harder trips. Do you agree or disagree? What's your solution? If you don't tell us what is needed don't be surprised if it doesn't happen.
Two researchers at John Hopkins University, Baltimore have been analysing seismic images of Earth's core and attempting to predict the consequences of what is interpreted as lop-sided growth. Since the earth's magnetic field originates in the core it is an obvious candidate for change. In a recent paper (P Olson & R Deguen, Nature Geoscience, 1 July 2012) the researchers make the tentative suggestion that the earth's magnetic field may be in the early stages of one of its irregular reversals. Quite apart from the effects that might have on life on the surface (loss of protection from high energy particles), how are we going to survey caves if we can't rely on compasses or DistoX?
If the earth's magnetic field may be about to throw a wobbly, you can't rely on GPS all the time either. Further to the note in the last GSG Newsletter (GSG NL 150 p12) another military GPS jamming exercise is planned west of Kirkwall between 1 and 11 October 2012. The predicted area of influence for civilian GPS receivers covers most of northern Scotland. Because of the high frequencies used by the GPS the interference will only affect receivers with a direct line of sight to the interference emitter - an aircraft at 10,000 feet. So it is probably not a problem unless you are near the north coast or on the peak or northern slopes of mountains in NW Scotland.
Following my comments over the time it had been in, Ivan found a length of rope to replace that which had been on the 1st pitch in Rana for over 5 years (and had seen use prior to that). The new rope had only been used out in Slovenia in July 2011 so its usage and age are clearly a vast improvement. Ivan replaced the rope on the first pitch on 24 March and found to his surprise some badly eroded steel krabs which had lost some 30% of thickness, as reported in the March 2012 Newsletter (GSG NL 150 p4). As he had enough rope, he continued downward and replaced the rope across to the head of the 2nd pitch and part-way down the second ladder. (So the old rope still hangs down the bottom section of the 2nd pitch ladder.) The ropes were duly handed over to me for testing in late April and I promptly remained on holiday for some 3 weeks.
In all, Ivan handed me some 28m of rope with knots from which I extracted seven samples to test dynamically on the instrumented Bradford Pothole Club's rope test rig. The output of testing one sample is shown in the attached graph where one can see two plots. The first drop of a 149cm overall sample length resulted in a peak force of around 8kN and shows a complete rise and fall taking some 250 milliseconds. (I have not shown the further six peaks as the test mass bounced up and down before coming to a rest.) The second drop had reached a peak of around 11kN when it broke. This peak value is lower than that seen for brand new rope, up between 15 and 18kN. Mark you, it has to be said that you won't be walking away after suffering a fall with that peak load. The best you could hope for is serious injury or possibly death. Hence my advice to all - "If you fall on your cows tails, then as soon as it is safe to do so, retie the knots". It will reduce peak loads by a substantial amount and could well be the difference between walking away or being carried away or worse. A second sample of 100cm overall sample length was also tested on this rig and gave peak forces of 7kN for the first drop and 9kN when it broke on the second drop.
I went on to drop test the other five samples on the BCA rope test rig at home which can only take sample lengths of around 80cm. These samples survived 2, 1, 1, 1 and 1 drop each. Contrary to experience with testing used rope, three of the seven samples broke between the knots rather than in a knot. This included the sample taken from the section of rope at the entrance. So on average the rope from Rana's first pitch survived only 1 drop.
In dynamic testing of samples including knots, what is of importance is the overall sample length. In another piece of work using samples terminated with knots, we found when testing a used rope, a sample of length 40cm survived ten drops whilst a sample of 100cm length survived two drops and a sample of 150cm length only survived one drop. Although I have yet to extend this work, what is clear is that for sample lengths of under several metres, the key parameter is energy from the drop rather than Fall Factor. So the fact that all bar one sample from Rana only survived one drop, suggests that a much longer sample than 150cm would not survive even one drop.
The normal set up for using the rope on Rana's first pitch is to clip one's cowstail onto the rope. In the event of a fall, the cowstail will slip down to the location of the lower knot, continue down taking up the slack and then extend the rope. However, the force of the falling body will be taken by both ends of the rope. The extent to which the force will be shared between the two ends is unclear but at best would be equal. The potential drop height varies but can be over 300cm plus cowstail length, so it is an open question as to whether the removed rope would have held a falling person. Should we have been using self-lifelining devices as a safer alternative? Or should we be replacing the rope more frequently? Or should we just shift to proper lifelining so the rope can be kept in a more benign environment?
PS - the jaggedness in the force time graph is caused by the knot jerkily tightening up as has been seen from high speed camera work on breaking knots.
The original rope was donated by Mark Brown and was old SRT rope that had already been used for a couple of years, but appeared in good condition with no fraying or other signs of abuse. The new rope is a 32m length of 10.5 mm SRT rope bought in July 2011. It now hangs from new steel krabs.
In 2008 at the 13th International Symposium on Volcanospeleology we met a couple of Icelandic cavers, Arni Stefánsson and his wife Gunnhildur. When we met them again at the 14th Symposium in Australia in 2010 they invited us to visit. Earlier this year the opportunity came to take up their offer, especially as it included "We have a flat in our basement you can use and you can borrow Gunnhildur's car"! Flights were booked from Manchester with Icelandair and off we set on Monday 11th June 2012. The first day we drove north to Stefanshellir/Surtshellir as we were anxious to revisit this and Arní wanted to show us the damage that has been done to the formations in these caves.
The next day he was working, but we borrowed his car and went to have a look at Raufarhölshellir. Last time we had been here (2006) we were very disappointed to see how much rubbish there was in the cave (it had been used as a film set but not yet cleared) and how depleted the ice formations were (but it was August so we couldn't expect too much!) However we were pleased to see the cave now in good order with lots of ice formations.
Arni was keen to show us a couple of projects he has been involved in and we had seen his lectures on these, so the next day we set out for Snaefellsness to visit Vatnshellir which last year was opened as a show cave (Iceland's first?) www.visiticeland.com/SearchResults/Attraction/vatnshellir-cave. This is a very interesting cave and its development has involved the construction of a couple of spiral staircases, one to take visitors into the cave from the surface and another down to the lower level. This cave is in a National Park and the four visits per day are guided by Park Wardens - cost this year is 2000 ISK per person (approximately £10.00). After camping wild overnight we returned to Reykjavik the following day, Friday 15th June.
On the Saturday the highlight of our visit was when Arní took us to his other project Thrihnukagigur This is a huge magma chamber accessible from the top. It is 120 m deep (Gaping Gill is 102m). The tourist visit involves (as with most tourist excursions in Iceland) being collected from your hotel, hostel or guest house in Reykjavik and driven 30 km to park in what in winter is a skiing area. There follows a 2.5 km guided walk across the lava field to the entrance. Earlier in the year, while there was still snow on the ground various pieces of infrastructure were taken out across the lava, including a porta-cabin and portable toilets. This was to minimise any damage to the surface.
At the entrance visitors are provided with helmets and lights and there is a marked path up to the entrance shaft. Visitors are lowered into the chamber in what looks rather like a window-cleaners' cradle for a high rise building. Parties of five plus the guide are lowered gently to the floor - this can take up to 10 minutes. The chamber is lit (generators are located out of sight on the surface) and the colours are amazing. Once out of the cradle one can explore round the base of the chamber and by the time everyone in the party has been lowered in you can have approximately an hour to look round. On returning to the surface, the traditional dish of lamb soup is offered before walking back the 2.5km to the vehicles. The trip is expensive at 37,000 ISK per person, but all excursions in Iceland are, and it is a five to six hour trip. The visit is only available for six weeks this summer and the long-term objective is to drive a tunnel into the side of the mountain to facilitate improved access. For further details see www.insidethevolcano.com.
As there was little we could do to top this visit, the following morning we went off on our own for a couple of days to look at the outflow from the Vatnajökull and visit the Westmann Islands, Gulfoss, Geysirand and the parliament site at Thingvellir, leaving Arni to talk to journalists from Der Zeit, The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, the BBC - oh and we nearly got to go caving with Tom Cruise!
The latest transcription, volume 9, covering the period January 2010 to December 2011, is now in print and available from Alan Jeffreys at £3 plus £1 postage. Cheques should be made out to him, NOT to the GSG (to cover printing costs).
These reprinted logs are made available for those who wish to consult the original in Assynt, but are perhaps too far away for regular visits. Full details of trips, explorations and digs make them an invaluable reference tool.
The National Bat Monitoring Programme Annual Report for 2011 has just been published and is available online at www.bats.org.uk/pages/nbmp_annual_report.html. The report presents the latest bat species population trends from this long running programme, which is a partnership between BCT, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Countryside Council for Wales and Defra. At present sufficient data are collected by the programme to produce population trends for 11 of the UK's 17 resident bat species. In the report you will find a results page for each species which includes:
You can also find pages giving background information on survey coverage and analysis methods, and information on additional species for which data has been collected in recent years. (extracted from press release by Philip Briggs, Projects Manager. National Bat Monitoring Programme, Bat Conservation Trust)
In early May Simon Brooks felt very grateful to George Vestey because his building project in the lower part of the Traligill Valley has resulted in the track leading up to Glenbain Cottage being open. This allowed Simon to drive there and considerably reduce his walk to the rising with a pair of 4 Ltr cylinders. Simon quickly dived Sump 1 with the line laid the previous year still in good condition with belays intact. He de-kitted and made a solo sherpa of kit along the 42m of very awkward Scottish 'Thrust Plane' Passage of Traligill Two to reach Sump 2.
Simon entered sump 2 expecting a relatively simple and shallow dive to the downstream sump in nearby Disappointment Cave. However he laid 28m of line to a depth of -6.5m in a thrust plane passage up to 1.2m high and 4m wide. It continued for at least another 5m to a depth of -8m with no end in sight. With not enough line left and no suitable belay he retreated removing the line as he went.
Simon is planning a return with more line, fuller cylinders and most essentially an assistant to help carry the gear between the sumps.
Trinafour Lower Cave and its Rising are some 200m apart with their ends some 75m apart. Whilst visiting the cave in June 2011 Simon had noted that the tight sump in Lower Cave was in fact diveable. En route from Assynt to Edinburgh Simon diverted for a solo attempt on the sump. He found the carry with a 2.5 Ltr cylinder and a single valve while wearing a diving wetsuit quite a struggle and left all excess equipment at the first squeeze. Kitting up was also a challenge and as he entered the sump feet first, its compact dimensions made it impossible to use the line reel so that too was abandoned. With no line Simon penetrated about 6m to where he could feel the floor dropping and the passage getting larger. Feeling the need for a second cylinder and valve plus a base fed line and an assistant he exited the sump and cave having proved that it was diveable. A return visit is a definite possibility.
The 2nd Newton Cottage SRT Training event carried on the tradition established at the first event, namely of raining heartily on the riggers and clearing up just in time for the trainees to arrive. Undeterred, Mark and Ivan rigged a simple beginners' tree with a single straight rope, plus an advanced tree with four ropes having assorted rebelays and deviations.
Seventeen people were on hand for dangling or watching, in between stuffing our faces with delicious barbecued foods cooked by George. In the background, an SCRO tent was painstakingly erected and then immediately disassembled. A halt was called at about 8pm and the trees derigged.
At the end of the day the trainees reported feeling much more confident about their SRT skills, and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to instructors Mark, Ivan and Nathan, and to tree-owners and BBQ-providers Jackie and George.
If anyone is willing to organise a club caving trip, tell me and I can send off for any permits required. Also let me know of any caves you'd like to visit. Contact me with your suggestions.
Two more new members have joined in the last quarter, but there are others that have been caving with the Group and may join or renew their membership:-
Jason Fox has been caving since 2009 in Yorkshire and David McKenzie had been on a couple of trips to Appin and Bowden Hill before filling in the GSG membership application form.
The landlord has had to sell our Tuesday evening venue and in early August he will instead be running Leslie's bar in the Newington area. It was a real surprise when we heard this, and our immediate fears are that the new owner won't leave well alone and instead import wide screen TVs and make all sorts of other 'improvements'. If he does we'll be very tempted to move to Leslie's bar as well.
Pete (Snab) MacNab, has now achieved the biblical age of 70! It was learned that caving cartoonist Robin Gray (also of Cheddar) had arrived at the same milestone so both wives contrived to arrange a secret birthday bash at the Hunter's Lodge Inn for Saturday 12th May 2012.
Attending from Scotland - and in the company of fellow members Milche and Kirsty - Goon joined the celebrations which consisted of a Mexican meal, superb cakes (decorated with the agéd protagonist's portraits), much drink in the form of several free barrels, a lot of noise, some good singing from the folk singing fraternity present, and a couple of 'orations', one for Robin, the other for Snab. Rather too many 'old sweats' seemed to have come out of hibernation for the event, including Zot, Trevor Hughes, Rog Stenner, Nigel Taylor and Phil Romford.
The good session at the pub was extended into a riotous après event at the Belfry, which culminated in a passed-out Tangent having all available furniture, a huge wad of National Geographics and the contents of the ash bucket piled on top of him without waking him up from his drunken stupor. When morning dawned the place looked like a bomb site!
Snab's active time with the GSG was, of course, in the 1960s hence the references in my laudatory poem which appears below.
Lines in Praise of a Magnetic Dining Fork
Found in a Metal Logarithm on Boxing Day 1925
By Goon (With apologies - but not many - to William McGonagall)
T'was in the month of September, and in the year 1965 that a monster caver came to arrive. Resolved for a few years to sport and play And devour all the caves in Scotland without delay. When it became known in the GSG that a monster caver was out on the spree, some members began to talk and declare: "We must catch this monster caver at our lair." It was discovered this monster was called Pete MacNab but more generally addressed as Snab. He threw himself into potholes with the utmost glee - a good fellow to have around, we all agree. Then all the members together in crowds did run down to Yorkshire to have some fun. Even though his left hand was not fit to raise a glass, he still had another with which to scratch his ..... Whilst wearing an Edison caplamp down Bull Pot this monster received an alkali burn on his bot; which all could plainly see in the pub that night as Oliver Lloyd treated the scar and made it right. Then this caver began to puff and to blow: "Up to Sutherland we all must go." Whilst there they passed the whisky bottle round and a grand hut for the GSG they found. And when to Mendip he planned to return for the BSA conference in old Bristol town, he bought a motorbike, Matchless by name, a passenger combination, which he failed to tame. Not far from West Linton into the ditch he crashed them both, hurling Eric Glen into the undergrowth. But he laughed and grinned just like a wild baboon, and hitch-hiked to Mendip carrying a cork map, just to please Goon. Oh! It was a most fearful and beautiful sight to see him sloshing through passages with all his might. Racing round Swildons with the speed of light, startling all the weegies and giving them a fright. Then hurrah! for the mighty monster caver, which will write songs of 87 verses from starting quaver. Which can be seen at the Hunters if his tankard you're filling; and who will sing, that is to say, if the people are willing
For the second year in a row the Midsummer BBQ was rain free and with enough breeze to keep the midges away from the score of members, friends and off-spring attending. Members brought their own booze and protein for incineration while Peter and Ginny with assistance from Carol, Rosemary and others provided salads and desserts at £2 per head.
There has been good progress on hut maintenance and the shed extension recently.
During the last month, the foundations for the shed extension have been completed. The banking at the back of the excavation has not been as stable as expected and this has entailed the removal of a lot of additional spoil. Materials have been delivered for phase one (up to the finished walls) and work has started on building a retaining wall.
The back room has been cleared out again and Martin's old twin tub has been withdrawn from service. We are currently looking at getting an 'industrial quality' spin dryer to replace it. Around ten pairs of abandoned walking boots have been earmarked for disposal and may be viewed on the club website. If any belong to you and you wish to save them then send me an email. Please do not abandon gear at the hut, or if you do, put it somewhere sensible and let me know that it has been left there intentionally. Otherwise, it may be removed permanently. Apart from cluttering the place up, it has been encouraging dampness in the back room. Carol and Mike Todd have painted most of it.
There is a fair amount of other maintenance required, the most pressing of which is the external repainting of many of the windows. If you would like to help with any of this work then please let me know. Thanks to everyone who has helped so far.
Elphin has now got a new water supply, replacing the old basic spring supply at Knockan Crag. Scottish Water has invested £1.9 million in connecting Elphin to the Ullapool supply via a new 10-kilometre pipeline. Two pumping stations have also been constructed - one at Drumrunie and one at Strathcanaird where the Ullapool supply used to end, and a new storage tank has been installed at Elphin. The improvements were largely as a result of pressure from the Scottish Government to reduce the risk of Cryptosporiosis which is present in the unfiltered spring supply.
Recycling has also arrived at Elphin and we have moved to a two-bin operation. A large poster has been placed adjacent to the kitchen window to advise you what may be recycled. Perversely, the one material we cannot put in the recycle bin is glass, so we will have to maintain our present system. All of this has necessitated to construction of a new bin stance at the bottom of the drive, expertly designed by Ivan and allowing for a move to a three bin operation, should that ever happen.
In the week before the BBQ Peter travelled to the hut to take delivery of 12.5 tonnes of assorted building material for the shed extension. On the Friday he and Julian Walford did some work on the extension foundations by removing the step that had been cast in the concrete and subsequently thought to be a mistake. More bedrock was instead broken up, removed and replaced with concrete. Also removed with assistance from Mike Todd, Bob Jones, Martin Hayes, Iain Greig and John Crae to name but five was a pile of rock that had collapsed from the cliff behind the site. Latest news is after a fine job of clearance by Mike O'Dricoll and his brother, Peter, Julian and John have built most of a very necessary retaining wall to stop the cliff crumbling any more.
With help from Iain Greig, Ivan and Peter excavated a hole at the bottom of the drive for the plinth for the wheelie bin store. On a midge-ridden Saturday morning the store, prefabricated in Ivan's garage, was erected and six inches of concrete poured around it to stop it blowing away. It will hold three bins though only two are required at present. Experience in other council areas is that the number tends to increase over time so we are already prepared for the next increase.
The wheelie bin store is needed for two reasons. First, the existing post plus handle clamp failed over last winter to stop our bin from blowing away and fracturing. The store should stop that happening - provided, of course, that the bins are parked in it. Second, the council is now collecting recyclable material and refuse on alternate weeks so we now have two bins; one black and one blue. With the reduced collection frequency we will find the black refuse bin overflowing during busy times. In fact it has already been doing that with weekly collections. We could have increased the size of our bin to cope, but because charges are based on bin size we'd end up paying perhaps £120 per year more just for the few occasions a larger bin is needed without getting any credit for the more numerous occasions it'll be empty. We have stuck with the 240 litre size and will ask members and guests to take away any excess refuse.
The blue bin is for unbagged paper, cardboard (no drink cartons), plastic bottles, food tins and drink cans only. We should continue taking glass to the bins in the car park next to the Ullapool Tesco where we can also dump excess refuse. Posters from Highland Council explaining this are in the hut.
Our neighbour Russell Pursey brought a recent Press and Journal article to our attention. It seems that the 'No Overnight Camping' signs in many Highland laybys have no legal status. They were installed in the 90's and it has taken a campaign by Yorkshireman, Andy Strangeway to get them removed. He was the first person to land and sleep on all 162 Scottish islands in 2007.
Work will shortly start on bringing the Centre up to the standard required for an entertainments licence using funding granted by LEADER. LEADER is part of the new Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), aimed at promoting economic and community development within rural areas. Until the ELKs get the licence no charge can be made for any of the events being held.
Their last event was the Elphin Music Fest on 14th July featuring several groups and musicians from the north of Scotland. This was very successful, raising just over £1000 and is likely to be repeated in 2013. The GSG exhibition is on display in the Centre and will remain there for a while until we are asked to remove it or we want to exhibit it elsewhere.
According to Stuart Charlton the ELK's chairman, the local plan mentions giving more prominence to the caves and one possibility is to waymark a path up to Uamh an Tartair (Knockan). A track does go most of the way so it wouldn't take that much effort to extend it. We need to keep in touch and see if we can help with any plans that are made. ELK = Elphin Ledmore and Knockan Community Association Ltd
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