Thrutch No.5 seizes the world unawares. Merry Chrimbol to all you cavers, or even Happy New Year if it isn't printed in time.
There is little else to say,except thanks to all who contributed to this edition, especially all new members. I hope more will write articles for the amazing Thrutch No.6, having seen what this literary gem is like. Thanks also to all who helped with the printing.
Congratulations to Harry for his incredible cover. we 're obviously not just cavers in this club. Many thanks to Dave for the typing, good work...
Note from the typist
Please excuse any spelling mistakes in this edition, the reason being I have get a poorly leg.
While I have got a little space may I make a small plea to the writers of all future articles—Please make sure that the whole article is ledgible. I can only type what I can read.
I thank you
Welcome, all newcomers and regulars (youve come back for more?) to this latest edition of superb literary achievement, Thrutch. Even now, magazines are being hidden before Mummy sets eyes on it.
Although we have lost some of our keenest members of last year (not literally, but we havent heard of Roger's whereabouts for some time), we have started this year full of enthusiasm and with some successful trips, (could we be ready for Pwll Swnd?) You can read about this years' and some of last years' episodes in the following pages.
Popularity of the club will mean you will not be able to attend all the trips but we will ensure everyone gets their fair share. If you do have anything to grouse about do it to a committee member who can perhaps help. Marjorie Proops bit over, but don't forget—we need your articles—anything on caving for the next issue (submit to the editor—Lil).
Hopefully this year will see more trips to be remembered and less of the Irish Stew-cum-dried bananas appreciation society and 'Buncing' techniques (in Terminal Velocity Society)—or perhaps the two groups could combine—with a little help.
- The British Caver. Vol. 78, 1980.
- South Wales Caving Club Newsletter. No. 92, 1980.
- Wessex Cave Club—Journal. Vol. 16. No.'s 181, 182, 1980.
- B.C.G.Newsletter. Vol. IX, No.'s 1+2, 1980.
- Cambrian Caving Club Newsheet. No.'s 1, 5, 11, 1979–1980. December 1979. Minutes of 2nd A.G.M. 1979–1980. No.'s 2, 9, 1980–1981.
- N.C.A. Constitution.
- N.C.A. Training Committee Annual Report for 1978.
- Council of Northern Caving Clubs—Minutes of Committee Meeting, April 1980.
- Mid-Wales Mine Rescue Team—Callout lists—Incident Procedure—1978–1979.
- Lamb Leer Cavern—Access Information.
- The Complete Caves of Mendip—1972. N. Barrington & W. Stanton.
- Cavern of the Dragon—M.E.A. Martel.
- Surveys:- Ease Gill Caverns, Yorkshire. O.F.D., South Wales.
- The Worlds Nastiest Sport—The Times Magazine August 1980. Article on Cave Diving.
- Peak District Mines Historical Soc. Ltd. Newsletter No. 14 (90), Dec. 1979. No. 15 (91), Mar. 1980.
- Northern Caves—Wharfedale and Nidderdale Vol. I. Penyghent and Malham Vol. 2.
- Mendip Underground—A caver's guide.
- Thrutch No. 5.
An Occasional series featuring well known soups for cavers
A tantalising little soup which comes under the Baxters brand label, available at Liptons for 41p. It was introduced by Mr. Bunce—despite the rather bland sound of the contents of leeks, potatoes and milk, and the fact that the initial spoonful may be insipid to the less cultured taste buds, this is definitely a soup for the connoisseur. Unfortunately a drunken Bunce failed to live up to the high demands of this masterpiece.
Under that distinctive little label of a poacher with lamp in hand stalking through the woods hides a delectable little can of gold which was by popular acclaim 'soup of the trip'. It comes under the Baxters brand label—41p at Liptons. Several members indulged in the delights of that 'real' game, vegetables, etc. All agreed that this soup should go far—as far out of the window as possible.
Mendips—Duck a l'Orange
Without doubt a soup for the experienced soup taster. This may taste like 'cheapo' oxtail with a few Fox's Orange Glacier fruits thrown in to the mere amateur—but to the expert like Lil who introduced it, this heavenly soup in the Frank Cooper range, 41p at Liptons, is all that has made British tinned soups what they are today—a bloody rip-off.
Where to buy your soup in Aberystwyth, and is there really a soup Dragon in the Lipton's basement?
Pwll Swnd usually provides amusement on this front—Pete and Stu. once swung round by about 70° too far South and ended up near Brynammon. 1979–80s record stands at an abysmal 2–0 to Pwll Swnd. The first weekend last year ended with 'H' and Colin bearing too far South and ending up on the wrong mountain, whilst the rest of the party, guided by Pete wandered in an immense semi-circle that never very near the cave. The second try fell apart thanks to a lack of transport. Was it the unpopularity of the trip or the deteriorating condition of the lights? Or just that Pete was the only Geography graduate in Britain who cannot use a compass.
Following the discovery of frogs in Ogof Broga Camddefnydd (see Thrutch No.4), I rediscovered the following article in an old copy of Pelobates, (Croydon Caving Club) from the amazing Mr. Jim Brooke:
In the great exhibition of London in 1862 the Eastern annexe contained a curious and controversial exhibit, a lump of coal with a clearly defined frog-shaped depression, together with the body of a frog which had been found within the cavity at a colliery in Newport. The Times carried an irate letter from a Captain Buckland, accusing the directors of the exhibition of gross imposture and calling the frog and the coal to be expelled. In 1825 the legendary ability of toads to live encased in rock was tested by a doctor Frank Buckland, author of Curiosities of Nature. He made 12 cells in two stone blocks, one of limestone the other of sandstone, placed a toad in each, sealed them firmly with a sheet of glass, putty and a slate covering, and buried them three feet down in his garden. A year later, the toads in sandstone were found to be long dead but most of the toads in limestone were found alive—two had even put on weight.
The Times, 23rd Sept. 1862 mentioned the work of M. Seguin in France who encased twenty toads in plaster of Paris and found after twelve years four were still alive. There are many more accounts of frogs, toads, etc. being found in rock and mud etc. Maybe a frog or toad in mud would metamorphose into rock. It has been proven that frogs can live encased in viscous mud for six months, why not six years? Or sixty thousand?
So just how long had these frogs been there? And if frogs why not people? It is a pity Roger's left, we could have done some interesting(?) experiments.
(Or, what one year's caving taught a once-sane(?) citizen)
- Avoid ammo boxes. If someone does give you one to carry, ask someone else to carry it for a minute, then avoid the carrier for the rest of the trip. Alternatively, turn up with both wrists heavily bandaged and complain of Simmmon's Syndrome.
- Never drink Meths.
- Never stand in front of Roger in bars.
- Never borrow wetsuit bottoms, at least if you hope, to bring offspring into the world at a later date. Damage to the wedding tackle may be irreparable, although only marginally more painful than a National Health Vascectomy.
- Never take the Log Book to pubs.
- Never take spades on trips.
- Refuse to enter caves the surveys of which contain the term 'sporting'.
- Never follow Si. Hughes anywhere, as you will certainly be crushed by tons of falling boulders.
- Never lend Simmons money.
- Always try to prevent anyone actually going underground by suggesting 'a quick pint at lunchtime' first. Once in the pub ensure that those present drink about four pints quickly thus destroying any chance of caving that day.
- Never go to Ystradfellte.
- Never write for Thrutch.
With all the successful speleological expeditions to exotic parts of the globe Aberystwyth University Caving Club thought it was time they got their share of the glory. Unfortunately we ran into a few problems. So here in easy to follow instructions is how not to do it.
- Choose an interesting caving,area—not close to home, but not so far away as to be out of the question, e.g. the edges of Europe. We thought about Greece, and finally settled for Switzerland.
- Get a provisional booking on the Union mini-bus and get enough people to fill it.
- Write lots of letters to sponsors begging for equipment. (Sounds good, doesn't it, but now the fun starts.)
- Get several people to drop out, and realise how much planning this trip may take combined with sudden panic over exams.
- Change venue to somewhere closer with less planning needed to get there, e.g. County Clare, Southern Ireland.
- A big step—you find out you cannot use the Union mini-bus after all.
- Manage, however, to find enough cars with drivers to hold expedition together with private cars.
- Never mind—a hard-core of cavers can always hitch there.
- The most important step of all—send some poor sod to some even more remote part of Britain than Aberystwyth, e.g. N.W. Scotland with his his caving gear so he can join the others afterwards in Ireland.
- Easy bit—get everybody else to decide they don't want to go caving after all, but they will go for a holiday.
- Meet the poor sod and tell him he has been carrying all his caving gear around the country on his back for four weeks for nothing.
Just a small newsletter to let you know of a dark black hole I stumbled across the other day. It seemed to beckon me ever deeper inside; it was a marvellous sensation feeling my way along that tunnel. The walls were dripping and slimy. The hole is easy to find but the entrance is a bit tight, and protective rubber wear is preferable. The same kind of tunnel can be found everywhere but most people go down them at night but personally I prefer the lunchtime descent; that way you are wide awake to appreciate the incredible experience. Most of the time is spent on your elbows but I found that I lay on my back for some of the time.
The cave is called Alice.
Its charms await you...
A Groper in the Dark
To aid in the decision of whether or not to go on a certain caving trip, Thrutch has decided that it may be useful to provide information concerning the accommodation we are to use, in addition to that provided on the caves themselves.
The grading system we are to apply to the huts is loosely based on that proposed for the caves:
|V.D.H.||Very difficult hut|
|S.S.H.||Super severe hut|
Factors involved in our assessment of the domiciles include the following:
- Lavatory (Presence/Absence)
- Showers (Presence/Absence)
- Cooking Facilities (Number available)
- Bedding Conditions
- Presence of any other facilities
To start off the guide we have chosen Pegasus Caving Club Hut, Caegynon Mine and Croydon Caving Club Hut and caravan.
Others to follow include Red Rose Hut, N.P.C. Cottage, Whitewalls, S.Wales C.C. Hut, Peak District Mines Historical, Wessex Cave Club Hut, Nant B.H., Cerberus Hut and many more.
Pegasus Caving Club Hut, Derbyshire
Grade: V.D.H. to S.S.H.
A hut for the connoisseur caver only, full of atmosphere. There are no showers, but the cooking facilities are good. Plenty of bunks and a settee to kip on, though large parties may find some of their number on the floor with the resident rodentia.
Difficult points include the complete absence of a lavatory in any form whatsoever. Depending on lighting conditions, i.e. day or night, and what the caver has in mind, either (a) the outside of the hut; (b) nearby stone wall; (c) chicken house half a field away; or (d) "wood", more precisely defined as a row of trees, 2 or 3 fields away on a hill-top must be used.
These factors lead us to give the hut a V.D.H. grade. However in some conditions it may fall to a S.S.H. grading, for example when visiting party finds itself 'leaning' on the door which proceeds to 'come away in their hands': the resident cavers then arrive and are not amused. Furthermore, it rapidly becomes apparent that they have not even the slightest intention of caving, but are only here for the beer, pigs trotters and butterbeans. If very unlucky the visitor may find him/herself sleeping next to a loud snoring local or one who grunts from under a maze of hair, actually kicking out the poor visitor to discover whether it is male or female.
This is Pegasus.
Caegynon Mine, Cwmrheidol, Wales
The nearest thing we have to a hut of our own. It belongs to the North Cards. Mining Club.
Yet again no toilet, no shower, not even a cold water tap. No lights, one gas stove and a fireplace you have to rebuild every time you stay there. The best tactics to take when staying here are to get so drunk that you don't know where you are anyway. Naturally the guide must not forget to mention the Caegynon Nadgers, they remind you of your visit for weeks after.
But Caegynon Mine does have its good points. The nearby woods provide excessive quantities of soft dew-covered moss, highly recommended by so many of our members, and which almost make up for the lack of a lavatory.
Caegynon Mine... a character-building hut.
The Hut—Croydon Caving Club, Ystradfellte, South Wales
Grade: M.H. to D.H.
The hut has plenty of cooking apparatus, a raeburn, lots of sleeping space and extra little features which allow the more intrepid caver to show off his skills. Bad points include the possibility of meeting up with Unit 74 here. Good points are the close proximity of the White Horse at Pont Nedd Fechan and, although the hut itself has no toilet, only one hundred yards down the road is an exquisite little lavatory with a beautiful wooden seat. For the male caver, the loft has a plastic gallon beer barrel, should he get caught short, but beware, take great care when emptying it...
The Caravan, Ystradfellte, South Wales
Grade: There is NO grade as yet devised to fit this object.
Lurking in a small forgotten corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park is a totally illegal caravan belonging to the infamous Mr. Smith. This 20' by 8' tardis-like object has enough room for dozens of eager cavers together with enough storage space for 3 bicycles, a boat, skis, enough clothes, boots, food and plates etc. for an army. How, you may ask, does this all fit into such a small space—indeed this problem has puzzled the great relativists of all time including Mr. Einstein himself. They all failed but I can now reveal the true answer—alcohol. The more alcohol is consumed, the more space appears.
From: Introduction to Geology by Robert Bakewell 1838 page 28.
The late Sir Thomas Blacket, of Britton Hall in Yorkshire, had a cellar which was only opened once a year, as it contained some particularly choice wine which he never brought to the table but on the annual celebration of his birthday, which was on the 21st of Dec., or St. Thomas's Day. The butler when taking out the wine observed a small toad crawling along the stone floor. He placed the toad under a wine bottle, and thought no more of it until till he went into the cellar the following year, when on removing the bottle he was much surprised to see the toad immediately crawl. This circumstance he mentioned to Sir Thomas, who descended with his visitor into the cellar to look at the toad, after which the bottle was replaced, and the poor animal was kept a close prisoner till the succeeding year, when he was again uncovered, and found alive as before. The same annual experiment was continued for more than 25 yrs., when the wine was exhausted, the cellar cleared, and the toad, who was still living, was thrown out of doors. Having heard of this from a person who had lived with the family part of the time
(cont.'d overleaf) <- no it's not
This annual event was held this year at Nottingham University in the middle of September and was, as usual, well attended by cavers from all over the country including Thrutch's own roving reporter. There was the usual club display stands, though fewer than last year, and several caving shop stands displaying all the latest gear although in a rather cramped space. There was also a photographic competition display with some really good entries and not forgetting the prusiking race—l00 feet in about 40 seconds.
The main feature as always was a wide range of lectures, slide shows and films, in three theatres this year, giving a greater choice and a chance to see nearly all the lectures over the weekend. These included reports on university club expeditions to Spain and Sardinia, and other reports on Mexico—a humerous account of the big pots—1,000ft plus by Jim Eyre. Japan, Morocco and Mulu—a very interesting lecture by Tony Waltham on how much we actually know about cave development and geomorphology, and the uncensored version of the B.B.C.'s '79 Mike Burke award winning film on Treviso. On subjects nearer home there was rather dissappointing slide show on the recently found King Pot, another slide show on recent descoveries in Assynt, and a talk on the 'caves' of Nottingham (more like overgrown cellars). There were also other talks on techniques for solo caving, karabiners and the latest in cave rescue equipment, and a slide show of Jerry Wooldridge's amazing 3-D slides—everybody had a pair of polaroid specs on to view them. Generally a very good weekend—interesting, informative and fun. Why weren't there more people from Aber there?
Remember Thrutch No.4? Our president created a caving fashion competition and believe it or not we had two entries, from Colin Bunce and Dino Fenton. I'll say no more, but leave you to see for yourself. Results will be announced at a later date.
The Mk IIb Fully Articulated Troglobuncus Crawlsuit
At last after much painstaking research and development the Triglobuncus suit can be revealed. Those aching knees are a thing of the past. Gone is the need for endless repairs to wetsuit knees and elbows. Prolonged research in some of the great crawls in the country—Rhyd Sych, Daren-y-Cilau, Cwm Dwr and more recently, aqueous modifications in Southerscales Pot.
The suit is constructed from 20 pieces of ¼inch aluminium, each individually hinged to the next to allow full flexibility in the base, every second piece having a pair of skateboard wheels. The top surface is made of rubber sections supported by a wire frame, which means the suit can be rolled up and easily carried under the arm between crawls. The drive unit is based on that of the bicycle, but using a hand operated chain drive to the front wheel. This means the suit is able to negotiate small upward inclines.
Overall suit design enables the enclosed caver to move easily through low undulating crawls, bends are negotiated by leaning on one side of the suit, thus redistributing the weight ratios on the two pair sets of wheels. By doing this first on the arm and then the leg on the appropriate side means a gradual turning of the suit can be achieved.
The Amphibian suit has been tested over millions of years and not once found wanting.
As our programme of development continues new suits will hecome available as follows:
- The Reptilian for the slimier caver
- The Tadpole for the smaller caver
- The Spawn for the limbless caver or novice cavers at an early stage of development
As tested at Cader Fawr. I am toad these suits will be all the rage this year. Can be shed if not satisfied.
Getting changed at the hut:
Dino (wearing only underpants and mud) "Can I run around Ystradfellte dressed like this?"
Roger "Of course not, take those bloody underpants off."
3 hours of sheer hell in nostril deep water which was bloody cold on the scrotum.
3 wetsuits suffered total annihilation in this suicidal shithole.
Set off at 1.10pm—past duck, lots of muddy grovels culminating in the bedding plane, impassable unless we took off helmets, lights, wetsuits...
Colin and Dino had tops come off lights—Colin took a photo of Dino with a flash and Fenton thought he'd been electricuted by the cell. More crawling ending in lots of pretty formations. Did a world-record return-out by 4.50pm.
Colin, Dino, Roger, Lil and Steve attempted the 'DIG' again—seemingly successful as a strong draught could be felt. As the day went on it became clear we would have to enlarge the working area, so back-treading we began the last bit again. The 2nd squeeze will be now less painful as it came away in my hands...
The Next Day
Digging score so far: Cave—3 broken wetsuit zips + 5 knackered cavers; Diggers—2 feet more of muddy passage.
Roger Cross "My wet suit jacket came apart in my hands"
Angela (at Pwll-y-Rhyd) "Some bugger made me walk under a waterfall in dry-kit"
Colin Bunce "And lo, all was revealed, and it was... VICHYSOISSE soup"
Dino Fenton "Kept Unit 69 up until at least 2.30am THEN woke the bastards up again at 5.30am—an excellent jape. Reeves had only 20 minutes sleep—enough for any man."Kevin Dale, Super-traverser, O.F.D. III "I only wanted to keep my feet dry"
Yorkshire 17–19th October
Got lost on moors, found the right hole to go down, went down it, then along a bit, down a bit, along a bit, down a bit, along a bit, down a bit then to a 130 feet long duck but we didnt go along that because it was full with water. So we went back up again and almost got lost again.
Observation by Cleverly: Funny how cavers always follow the same path down as water. All the pitches (that means going down a long bit on a ladder) seem to be waterfalls.
"At t'bottom of sewer t'west a place called sump—twest bloody brass monkeys doon there"
"Dark as pit doon there, and twert full of mud an' water. Me balls nearly t'froze in t'claggy rubber parts and so did me mates"
Mendips 8–9th November
Colin "The bastards drove over me bollard"
This recently published book is the first picture book devoted entirely to the strange sport of cave diving. I found it very readable although some other people did not like the style of writing. It is not only meant for cave divers, but also for cavers and anybody interested in the more dangerous 'strange' sports.
The book is basically a history of the development of diving techniques and the present position of the sport. The earliest cave diving was in Wookey Hole on the Mendips by bottom walking in Standard Diving Equipment (i.e. brass helmet, lead boots) using a hand pump and a length of hose pipe. From these very primitive and limited beginnings the divers progressed to closed circuit rebreathing on oxygen which gave the divers more freedom but was poisonous below 30ft. This lead to more exploration in Wookey Hole as well as Peak Cavern and attempts in Keld Head. After this came the use of oxygen and nitrogen mixtures and compressed air aqualungs with more discoveries in Swildons and O.F.D. and the gradual transition to everyone using compressed air. At one stage it was even thought that all cavers would dive, thinking of sumps as just another hazard like pitches. However a series of accidents ended that idea and cave divers remained as a small elite group. At the present Britain's deepest sump is Wookey Hole with Keld Head as the world's longest sump, although some American and Australian caves will probably be longer when fully explored.
The book points out that the few accidents there have been, only 10 in 40 years, have been due to human miscalculation, and having only a small number of dives, safety standards can be maintained. It provides a fascinating insight into the sport with many good atmospheric photos, some in colour. Well worth a read if you see a copy anywhere.
5.45, Friday 7th of November. The place: Glyngorse. A strange figure approaches, clad in silly scarf and Dr.Who hat—'tis I, as I set out on my first caving trip with the infamous Aber C.C.
After picking everybody up and loading the roof-rack we set off into the dark wilderness of Welsh Wales—the journey being cold and not at all interesting except on occasion when called a halt to answer the call of nature. Having done my duty, Mel sets off again only to find that Kevin is on the roof-rack.
Arriving at the Wessex C.C. Hut—via the Severn Bridge, the Cheddar Gorge and the local pub—we turned in for the night; awaiting the morn and wondering what subterranean delights it would hold for us.
Saturday, and after a hearty brecky, we hit Wells and the Rocksport shop.
Lil, about to purchase several interesting curios, was asked to join the Rocksport Discount Club; upon asking whether Aber C.C. were not already members, the shop assistant had multiple cardiac arrests, and began to apologise frantically, immediately deducting 50p from the books, £1 from the cost of a cell and 10p from Cara's sweets.
So to the caves. We split up into three small groups and decided to explore the caves separately. I was put in a group with Colin, Pam and Steve. Colin immediately gave me the map and said "you're in charge". A wave of sheer panic swept through my body as I gazed at the map in complete bewilderment (I wish I had brought my Boy Scout compass with me). Deciding to go to Reads Cavern we set off into the Mendip countryside completely lost. Unfortunately we never got to Reads Cavern. After a few attempts at what looked like promising holes, we found Rod's Pot.
Clambering down the tight chocked entrance, I was surprised at the size of the place—being used to large passages, with the occasional squeeze and vast chambers. We proceeded down one of two parallel passages closely missing the two 60ft. shafts. After stopping to have a quick viddy at the old map we went on, down some more small but pleasantly dry passages into the main chamber, large by Mendip standards—we could stand up in it. Not knowing where to go next I sat down and told the others to look down some of the holes in the chamber floor to see if they could find anywhere interesting to go next a classic example of leading from the back. A joint effort by Pam and Steve found something. We all followed this for about nine yards, coming to a drop which led nowhere. At this point I learned the meaning of the word thrutch the hard way—spending five minutes trying to escape from the aforementioned drop.
Next was Drunkards Hole, the cave with the two and a half minute record (according to Bunce). We decided it was called "Drunkards" because one had to be drunk to go down it. Anyway we gave it a chance. According to the map, there should have been two chambers but we never found them, emerging from the hole in what must have been record time.
Thence to Sidcot Swallet, described as a most popular cave in the Mendip system for novice parties—an insult? Looking at the map I found the discoverer of this cave had been reading Italian Medieval lit., calling the three sections Hell, Heaven and Purgatory, reminiscent of Dante in the Divine Comedy—the rest of the group were not impressed with this bit of useless imformation so I shut up and got on with the proper business. Proceeding down the now familiar small passage, decked with helictites and certain formations, we arrived at a chamber, we might have passed another on the way but I'm not sure. Now came a short pitch of 20ft with aid of a ladder. Simple you may think, but the opening was very, very, ever so small and we had a bit of trouble getting down. Once down we crawled along a tunnel for a while and found it to be a dead end. Now comes the exciting bit: we thought descending was a bit difficult, but getting up that confounded pitch was murder. Steve being a malenky bit tired (cross-ply) got stuck and couldn't get up and still could not after removing helmet and cell, we spent a happy time pulling and pushing until he finally worked free.
Upon exiting we decided to go back to the mini-bus. A good leader looks after his team and we managed to get in two pints before everybody else was ready to go.
A hasty tea and to the pub we went. The local brew being good we managed to consume vast quantities of it. The Wessex bunch were there singing Mendip songs, with a gloopy old wreck tickling real horrorshow on the eighty-eight. Not to be outdone by these Southerners, I proceeded to give my now notorious rendition of the last verse of 'She was on the bridge at midnight' at least five times. Staggering back to the hut, poor Bunce had a nasty experience when someone drove over his beloved bollard, he recovered it only to have it half inched at the bonfire. The party was raging, the beer was awful, the cavers were drunk and the curry was disgusting. And so to bed.
Catastrophe struck Bunce once again. He was attacked by scme of the Wessex cavers after he accused them of stealing his cheese. Half-strangled by a chest-expander, he was forced to drink gallons of hot water and eat D.C.M. with bread (its Oooh K). A hard man Bunce, the first up even after his late night ordeal.
Sunday and Steve, Bunce, Pam, Angus and I went down G.B. Cavern, accompanied by P. Bradley (nuff said). Entrance was through a steel door and down a long series of waterfalls to a vast chamber called the Gorge—the longest road under Mendip. The climb came next, up 20-odd feet to another part of the cave, somewhat smaller than the previous one. Formations were small but abundant, a pleasant, but tight, series of tunnels with a liberal sprinkling of chambers. But my light was going out rapidly and we had to make a premature exit; descending the ladder and climb back up the waterfalls in nearly complete darkness, we emerged wet and cold in the Mendip drizzle.
Utterly tired out we returned to Aber via Pontypool (twice).
Llanymynech Hill Visit &mdash August 3rd 1980
After nearly two hours of wandering over green and fairway, through fern and gorse, patience was wearing thin. We found the small mine trial known as the Winze series. We tried to send Dino down what looked like a rabbit hole. He refused, but I'm still sure it 'went'. Finally Pete decided on a ladder pitch down a shaft which logic(?) told us must go somewhere. Dino followed and after ten minutes both re-emerged having at last found the entrance to Ogof. The entrance chamber is large despite the fact that it is well hidden. What often looks like a cave but is in fact an early copper mine is very interesting, but consists of very low, agonising crawls over sharply-edged mine refuse and deads. One passage is aptly called Agony Crawl. There are several passages leading off. The most interesting chamber is the Shaft Chamber with a square shaft cut down into its centre. The trip was eventually fairly short but anyone planning to do 'Ogof' should allow plenty of time for searching for the entrance in the first place. Wwe're giving away no secrets...
Quote of the trip—"Excuse me... have you seen a cave?"
Corris Trip &mdash Sunday 10th 1980
Dave's bike needed repair work (who said again?), Si was sick of mining. This left a smaller than might have been trip. We tried not to look as if we were going down the slate mine, but I doubt if we succeeded. Given the intelligence of the average grackle passing through Corris, it would have been quite interesting to know what they thought we were doing. We entered at a lower level and wandered through several chambers. H became attached to a Nilson toilet as photos will prove. We all fancied the many winding engines etc. scattered around and the blue pool lived up to its name. We scrambled up the incline to the next level and then came out again just up the hill from where we entered. Stopped at Mach. for biscuits and then returned to Si's for tea etc.
Thanks to Pete for transport and Si for tea.
Cwmystwyth Trip &mdash Sunday August 17th 1980
During the summer someone was heard to say that what we needed was a good trip down Cwmystwyth Mine, so Dave kindly offered to lead us and show us some of the parts that we'd never seen before. An early start was intended—as usual we didn't quite make it. We changed at the mine in full view of a car load of grockles—again. One, as Dino observed, was a 'rather toothless old crone'. The route Dave chose was an interesting one, starting at the incline entrance level and then up the incline into a series of chambers—some very spectacular, followed by a quick glance into some of the coffin-shaped Roman levels.
A good energetic trip with a variety of climbs using woodwork of an incline, fixed ropes and fixed ladders and a thrutch up a chimney. We now believe Si that the entire mountain is like a sponge. This was a very good trip enjoyed by everyone and rounded off with an excellent meal at Nikki's—albeit nearly cremated...
Thanks to Dave for leading, Nikki for cooking and Nick and Nikki for transport.
Despite overwhelming difficulties a highly secretive Yorkshire trip did take place this term, due to some A.U. cockup we couldnt get a mini-bus but eventually 11 people went in 3 cars. Nick went with Lil and Mel. Abdul went with Nikki, H and Sue and Cleverly took Dino, Wendy and Colin.
After innumerable stops at various chippies we all arrived at some obscure pub in Yorkshire almost together. Then moved onto the hut, broke in through the window, and then spent five minutes trying to find the mains switch. A few minutes later a couple of members turned up and everybody moved into the library, got a fire going and finished off various bottles and cans of mixed alcohol, amid much general abuse.
Fenton being unusually quiet that night everybody got a good night's sleep and a cold morning saw everybody up, breakfasted and headed for Inglesport. Half an hour later several hundred pounds had changed hands in a complex deal. We left the bloke to recover and headed for Chapel-le-Dale.
Changed beside the main road and headed uphill, the hand book description didn't seem to fit, so we kept on walking. A mile later we reached a cave, the wrong one. Asking an old bloke if he knew where Tatham Wife Pot was—he said "Aye, I know t'fells like back o'hand, it's just over that ridge in t'next valley", pointing over the next ridge. Another mile later on top of the ridge there was no other valley. We decided to head back again and fortunately met somebody who really did know where the cave was.
Minutes later we were there and ready to descend. Down the steeply sloping entrance series to the first pitch followed rapidly by the second. The passage from here on is largely guided by a fault, but drops to a crawl past some small formations to the third pitch, this is immediately followed by the Ramp, an awkward slope down the fault plane to more crawling and a short duck, followed by a short traverse to walking size passage to the last pitch. Below this a short walk leads to a crawl down to the final duck and pool before the inevitable sump. We exited relatively quickly but were still a couple of hours overdue. Everybody drove straight into Ingleton and changed in various places in the village—Cleverly and Co. outside the chippie AFTER getting the food in, and then down to the Craven Hefier in time to get several quick pints in before time. Due partly to lack of alcohol and partly general exhaustion, another quiet night was had by all.
Sunday unfortunately dawned bright and early and very cold and we were soon back in Chapel-le-Dale, outside the very tempting Hill Inn. We managed to avoid its inviting door and made it up to the large depression containing Great Douk Cave. Nick, Lil and Mel investigated this, and managed to get out in time for a pint in the pub. The others went on to do Southerscales Pot. After more location problems we eventually found the right entrance, a small hole into a bedding plane which leads to the first pitch, followed by Millipede Crawl—thousands of feet of flat out grovelling and hands and knees crawling through icy cold water, past a few broken formations leading directly to the second pitch. This looked very wet and extremely cold so we chickened out and crawled all the way back down the passage and got up the pitch, and I was bringing up the rear behind Fenton in the entrance bedding plane, within sight of daylight when Fenton lets rip the worst fart I have ever smelt... I thought my number was up, my head was reeling, my eyes were watering—I crawled forward in desperation towards the light and fresh air. Fenton was laughing like a maniac, I'm glad nobody was smoking. With what could have been my last gasp I managed to pull myself out of the entrance and to safety. However half an hour later the suspected cause of Fenton's gut (see below), the mixed Irish Stew/baked beans and sausage consumed for breakfast had a similar effect on me in a long series of slightly odourless farts all the way back to Aber. Wendy, however, who had also shared in the same breakfast somehow managed to avoid any of its side effects.
Belcho the Master of Cordon Bleu presents IRISH STEW VIETNAMESE, only to be eaten before 10.00am.
- 1 Tin Bangers and Beans
- 1 Tin Newforge Irish Stew
- 2 Old Sausages (Spar)
- 2 Slices Toast (Heron Flavour)
- 1 Tin Napalm
- Mix the bloody lot, then eat.
- Cork arse until in narrow crawl
- Surreptitiously remove cork
- Laug as hear choking from man behind
I've been asked by the Editor in Chief to write up the South Wales trip. Hell, I've nearly forgotten the entire thing... but then again trying to think back I have haunting visions of waiting for an hour at the Union for Tim Kilsby to turn up with the bus keys, of that strange band of super-heroes known as Unit 23, of wallowing in liquid mud in O.F.D. III and of Cod and Chips at the Vulcan on the way back. It's funny what caving trips are reduced to after a few weeks.
Anyway we left on Saturday morning—much later than planned owing to that now recurring problem of El Presidente Del C.A.B. Stopped at Brecon for breakfast-lunch at the Smithfield cafe and got to Ystradfellte in reasonable time. On Saturday we tried to show the freshers what caving was like and did a bit of Bridge Cave, Pwll-y-Rhyd, White Lady and Town Drain. We introduced them to the entrance of Little Neath Cave which raised the usual degree of disbelief. Later we introduced them to that more important haven, the Old White Horse, which helped to calm frayed nerves, restore reality, etc.
On returning to Croydon Club Hut we met the infamous Unit 34—half of whom were in bed, a couple had been for a quick half. They tried to drag us into some boring clean-dirty songs—but failed and went to bed. Various members of the club tried to climb through the Croydon bunks, traverse the hut walls and get through the notorious Croydon chair. Then it was soups all round ranging from the Irish Stew, that old favourite, to Bunce's memorable Vichysoiusie. Finally everybody went to bed—but not without further abuse of Unit 42. The heroes had planned an early start—with 7.00 rumoured. Aber club, needless to say, beat them to it, despite the hangovers. Breakfasts were half-consumed by the time the Unit were up with expressions of disbelief on the brow.
We left them preparing to do the 'big trip down Porth-yr-Ogof' and headed off to do O.F.D. II and Cwm Dwr. Both trips went off without any great problems—one fresher couldn't cope, and the now usual number of cells failed. We headed back to the Vulcan for food and drink. Further abuse of Unit 56 was inevitable; who was it who suggested we call ourselves 'Societe Soixante-Neuf' in a gesture of defiance?
Having evaded the dreadful cave on the last two trips I at last thought I ought to do it. So down the entrance pipe the 5 mad cavers went, 2 at least discovering that it helps to board the ladder on the right side to start with. We clambered down bits of wood then found the crawl. Over pebbles, mud, water, sharp gritty nasty stones and anything else you can imagine, we grovelled. Cruel it was. At the end, 1½ lights less, we found a nasty little boulder choke, a group of photographic cavers, a chamber, a traverse, climb or two, chamber etc. Lights fading fast we were forced to return, Angela horrified to find it was the same way out as in. Back to S.W.C.C. for a mass purchase of surveys/posters and anything else that was going.
All summer long we kept putting it off, but eventually we couldn't escape it, we had to do Pwll Swnd. Setting out from Aber on Saturday morning it seemed at least ½ of the members were worse for wear. A stop at Lampeter helped revive spirits and relieve tension, especially for Mr. Fenton.
On to the mountains. Was that mist we could see? Why was H muttering and sulking to himself? We arrived at the quarry—visibility about enough to get changed. Regardless, Mr. Bunce and Mr. Davies strode out on a bearing of 112°. An hour or so later, stuck in the middle of a bog, in thick mist, frantically searching the map and taking bearings on anything that came into sight, we stumbled upon the cairns on the mountaintop. Some major confusion followed, then Bunce + H found the entrance. Only two hours to find it. Could this be a record?
In we went, soon reaching the first pitch. Down this goes H, then another. But why was H screeching with laughter? Each person was soon to find out. The way on from the second pitch was about 7 feet up from the bottom of the ladder, so the intrepid caver had to Tarzan his/her way into a minuscule passage then on to the trap door—an unpleasant steel contraption with a two second fall down to the second pitch. More crawling through beautiful sand including an amazing S-bend involving indescribable contortions of the human body, then a clamber across a big hole which we should have abseiled down instead. Crawling, grovelling, stumbling, etc. onto the last pitch. I went down, but after a ¾ hour wait the 5 left at the top feeling cold decided to start back hoping to speed up the eventual return to the surface. The trap door proved a bit more tricky on the way out, especially for Mel, the first man out, who forced it open with that Ayatollah head. The succeeding pitch was sporting too, particularly for those carrying ropes.
Back on the surface absolute madness took over, but Colin Bunce, the human compass, found the bus. Anything he lacks in finding caves he definitely makes up in finding minibuses/cars.
What makes someone go down a hole in the ground? Because you meet less people you don't like down one.
Do you get cold? Someone might say—yes.
There must be another reason for crawling through dark, dirty, smelly and dangerous, cold, jagged rock caves not much better than a sewer drain. I enjoy a bit of adventure, a bit of beer (a lot really) and a bit of madness.
You must be mad, people say in that unadventurous, very civilised and mundane way. Well that's a caver's essential virtue, and most cavers I've met are. It's a chance of getting out of Aber for the weekend. Caving can be really
The first time I went caving I was really impressed by this bunch of real cavers called Unit 2. They did the most adventurous and dangerous caves only professionals could handle, perhaps that's why they didn't speak to me. They were in bed by 9.30 'sucking thumbs', up at 7.00 a.m., took 3 hours to have breakfast, 2 hours farting about, 5 minutes down a rabbit hole and the rest of the time taking about their next big trip. But Aber cavers are O.K., and they are pretty adventurous—even the girls get stuck in. If you fancy abseiling, Simon will put the colly wobbles up you down a mine. So don't put it off until too late all you 70 people who joined the club, have a great weekend, go caving.
- First published December 1980. Originally edited by Alayne Henry.
- This digital edition published on the World Wide Web June 2010. This volume was scanned and edited by Rich Smith.
© 1980, 2010 Aberystwyth Caving Club