Produced on 5 April 1988 on the Campus of UWIST Cardiff & Published on 17 Sept. 1988 by Aberystwyth Caving Club
Firstly the customary apologies for the late appearance of this volume of Thrutch; at least its gradually creeping back up to date (!). 1986-87 was a pretty successful year—our first trips down Otter Hole (beyond the sump that is), to Fermanagh, and to the mines of the Lake District. However the end of the year was marred by the close calls in Noon's Hole and Taylor's East Drivage at Cwmystwyth. Hopefully we learnt something. Under Tim's presidency 30 Bridge Street became the centre of the universe (navel of the universe?)—many thanks to Tim running the club more or less single handed, and especially for the continued improvements to the tackle store.
Numerically we declined somewhat, but it's gratifying to see how many trips we nevertheless managed to run, especially the summer expedition. Mining trips including three multiple-day digs were very numerous. The Cwmystwyth Mines were concentrated on and a great deal of surveying achieved. Highlight of the year (for me at any rate!) was the breakthrough into the labarynth of workings in Pugh's Mine, most notably as a result of Tim's and Grahame's digging feaver. By the end of the year we were begining to realise just how extensive Pugh's Mine "beyond the Crack" actually was.
Socially the club went from strength to strength—more or less in proportion to the decline in active cavers. Witness the good turn out on the expedition. The Lira/Fenton publishing team continued to pollute our postal service with PCN, best summed up by Mr. Oscar Fingal O'Flattery Wills Wilde:
The accurate description of what has never occurred.
Still, I suppose it filled the gap which Thrutch left to a small degree. The main thing to create concern is the steadily diminishing grasp on reality exhibited by the editors of PCN. Not even the attempts of the Gasworks Gang to smother the arch-fiend Fenton has prevented its continued noisome existence.
Please note that only the more momentous mining trips are recounted here—the summary of our labours will be presented seperately in due course.
Usual day of grabbing unspecting freshers and convincing them to join ACC—large display of photos, posters and tackle. Got about 45 members at UCW and, predictably, no one at CLW the following day. Tuesday evening saw us installed upstairs in the Coopers, boasting, telling lies and taking names for the fresher trips off an enthusiastic horde of potential cavers. Pleased to observe that most were drinking pints and that many came along to the Indian afterwards.
Lack of transport radically reduced the number of fresher trips to one, but Tim and Sara led one hazard-free expedition to good ol'Cwmystwyth.
Select gathering at Marshall's flat for a weekend of Appo, J.D., and drinking. Commenced with Christy Moore at St. David's Hall on the Thursday night and continued relentlessly until 7.30 a.m. on Sunday. Hywel's "new" car turned out to be older than his "old" car when he proudly arrived!
Drove up with Dino, Lira and E from London—quite eventful as first long drive for Dino. We all survived but I don't know about any others on the road.
Lower Long Churn, 18.10.86
Yet another beginners' trip into Lower Long Churn. Fine trip with no hassles except that Sara couldn't (or wouldn't) climb the ladder on the Dolly Tubs. She had to be virtually pulled up to the cost of my kidneys and back.
Saturday night was a typically drunken affair in the Marton Arms until two or so. Most folk went walking on Sunday, but a few stalwarts went caving.
Heron Pot, 19.10.86
A first time for us all at this cave. It's just over the valley from Yordas Cave and is an excellent through trip. In at the top, down two great waterfall pitches (20', 30') that you could stay dry on if you had the right technique (some didn't). After some fine stream passage the exist is through a quite restricted duck.
Small tourist trip to all the usual haunts of A.C.C. led by Dino and Marshall.
Socially it went very well—everyone turned out and lots of people worked hard at selling tickets. Many old hands came back for it—H, Dino, Lira, Alison, etc. Unfortunately I can't remember much about it because I was so drunk. Financially it was rather less of a success as we only made about £5!
Usual fresher trip into Lefel Fawr, enlivened by a poke-about in the higher parts of the east stopes. The mine was exceptionally crowded for once—as well as us there were three other parties, including two minibuses of boy scouts. The whole place echoed to the sound of falling rocks and (occasionally) shouts of "Below!". We only remained unscathed by going higher up the stopes than all the other parties! A highlight of the trip was Sara being very frightened of a cuddly, furry bat flying around her.
Ogof Agen Allwyd, 15.11.86
We went down this hole. It was long and knackering. Grav fell and dislocated his shoulder, but like a hero put it quickly back into place without a whimper and bravely continued. Nothing more of interest occurred. We turned back at Northwest Junction and came thankfully out, leaving behind Dino, Hywel and Rob who continued on to do the Inner Circle. They emerged even more knackered than the rest of the party after an eight hour trip—'The Return of the Jelly-Men'. Meanwhile, Ed, Spot, Helen had a more relaxed day:
'Drank tea and amused the dog by throwing things; 2.00 p.m.—set off towards Aggie entrance along the tramroad. 2.01—Dog craps on tramroad preceeded by loud farting (similar to E flat on trombone). 2.15—set off again, this time to discover lower entrance to Eglwys Faen. 2.16—Dog craps near entrance to Eglwys Faen. Farting noise increases in pitch to F. 2.17—set off again, this time to marvel at locked gate in entrance to Agen Allwyd. Pointed a couple of hikers in the wrong direction out of mischief. 2.18—Dog craps again. Preceeded by farting reminiscent of euphonium solo. 2.19—set off back towards Whitewalls stopping only to have a look into Eglwys Faen Main Chamber. Helen and Spot enter cave whilst Ed holds finger against dog's rectum. Ed enters cave whilst Spot and Helen hold fingers. passing local remarks upon unusual amount of faeces on tramroad. 2.20—Return to Whitewalls. Huge pile of faeces obscures the sun'.
Ogof Agen Allwyd, 16.11.86
They got so far then had to come back due to light failure. E heaved a huge sight of relief and thanked fate for blessing her thus. Everyone else went for a walk to the pub.
Hywel and Rob went show mining at Big Pit coal mine at Blaenavon and found it to be rather better than expected.
Uninspiring but eventful survey trip down 40' winze in Pengeulan Top Level—this revealed a lot of nastly deads, and a squeeze down to a lower level with some possible stone stempling and ubiquitous long-dead sheep. Paul prussicked out and then I commenced upwards. Half way up I heard a rumble; seconds later a 3 lb rock ricochetted off my climbing helmit, badly crackling it and cutting my head. Fortunately I didn't blackout (but it was a close thing), and continued upwards very cautiously. As I passed the lip of the pitch more deads fell. Outside, the sunlight revealed loads of blood and a distinct hole that required 3 stitches later. Tremendous headache all evening.
Everyone crawled out of the woodwork to get their presents from Father Xmas Lira and drink their fill. Various faces not seen the rest of the year were, as ever, in attendance. Alex got a French dictionary to enable her to translate trout and tripe; Sara a dagger for her friends' backs; Rob had a foam brick and fake blood to practise heading rocks; Lira had some snunting shoes; certain people who have not been seen underground for a while had coathangers and water pistols to stimulate Daren Cilan. After the Indian the lock-in obliterated most of our memories of the event.
Arrived Friday night to find bottle/broomstick fighting in progress, this set the scene for the weekend. Very pedestrian day in Wells on Saturday and then the meal. ACC's table by far the noisiest and most ill mannered. Some things never change. All except the veggies enjoyed Chicken in cider or Beef in wine. In the Auction-to-help-the-cottage-building-fund Paine bought a mug with a frog in it for only £5 thanks to Marshall and Dino forcing the bids up from 10p or so. Robin Athill gave a talk on Old Mendip. Then drinking until the coach took us back to the cottage for more drinking and various sports. Highlight was the Marshall (in DJ)—Cleulo—Paine wrestling bout. Later Paine burnt his shoes, and Marshall lost his bowtie and braces into the fire as well. Sunday, understandably, was rather quiet.
Incredibly wet New Year's trip to Coniston, 17 of us squeezed into two caravans at Spoon Hall. More mining than walking due to the incessant rain (2½ inches on the 30th alone!). Tuesday was spent exploring the surface remains of the Conistone Copper Mines, and Wednesday was spent in Keswick. Having already become accepted at the Ship Inn, only ¼ mile from the caravans, we went to their fancy dress on New Year's Eve. This mainly involved inside-out furry suits, tails and whiskers. The Ship provided a free buffet, and a very memorable evening was spent. On Thursday and Friday some of us explored the many open levels at the copper mine with Eric Holland's guide book. This however is misleading for it confines itself to workings the author considers to be "safe"—mainly trials, and crosscuts which are collapsed at the lode. The true size of the place escaped us until we met some members of the local mines group, the Cumbria Amenity Trust who sold us some of their publications. Thus on our last day, Saturday, we at last did a worthwhile trip.
Paddy End Section, Coniston Copper Mines, 3.1.87
Slogged up hillside to shores of Levers Water. Entrance is in a crater-like opencut at SD 2800/9905 in the larger and easternmost of the two funnel shaped craters. A 12' knotted rope and short fixed ladder leads to a traverse on new stemples around an arete-like rock projecting out into. a large stope. Circling down under some low, dubious-looking deads leads to the first of the bolted pitches—95' then 75' leads to a horribly decayed false floor half way up a huge, wide stope. Tip-toeing along this leads back to solid rock floors and a strange green pool caused by copper rich mud. Slightly further on is a unique blue grotto (chalcanthite and azurite formations). There are frequent blue and green formations over much of the mine, but these are by far the best—stals, flows and gours ranging through every conceivable shade of blue from lightest eggshell to almost purple. Next comes a 35' pitch to the head of 100' of steep fixed handlines to the exposed head of the final 85' pitch.
This lands in the Hospital Level. This consists almost a mile of mainly trial levels, much of it with wrought iron and iron-plated wooden rails in situ. The walk to the exit leads past the Paddy End Engine Shaft (good formations) and the underground remains of a horse whim to a massive, cavernous stope. Beyond is the Hospital shaft, two traverses over collapsed floors above a deep stope (200' to water), and a short wade to the level entrance.
Superb accommodaition in Castleton Youth Hostel (closed for winter) thanks to Tim—so much better than a barn!
Giant's Hole, 31.1.87
Four hours to baptise my brand new, virignal wetsuit. £80 it cost, and after feeling the water it was worth every penny! Down the streamway, down the pitch, along the crab walk—a little tedious. Got lost trying to find Geology Pot; so just looked around and eventually toddled back out. Getting changed afterwards was 'interesting', other words would be 'cold', 'numbing', 'freezing', etc.
Peak Cavern, 1.2.87
Standard trip—walked into the streamway, up and down-stream to see both sumps, a general poke around and back out. Good trip though.
The Cwmystwyth survey progressing well in the other sections of the mine, we decided to begin exploring Pugh's Mine at last. Only open entrance is Rosa Level, so its all SRT to push down to Mitchel's, Gill's Upper and Gill's Lower Levels. Where Rosa hits the lode, there is a large winze to the east and a stope to the west. Info from Si Hughes sent us down the stope to a 25' pitch.
Immediately below was an acrojack at the head of a narrow winze. 120' deep, after 60' it emerged into a huge stope, 9' wide and extending off to each side as far as we could see, uninterupted by deads. The pitch landed on Mitchel's Level which is mainly false floored (frequently collapsed) in this part. We rigged a tranverse line for 100' to the east over the holes in the floor (150' to water) to reach Mitchel's crosscut. The drivage peters out after ...' to the east, but the crosscut is of very impressive dimensions and 950' long.
Westwards from the pitch led shortly to a very wide winze. We decided to push across this also; I drew the short straw, so Tim belayed me as I installed a tranverse line. It was infinitely more hairy than the east drivage, and rapidly became ridiculous. The footwall ledge diminished to nothing and the last 15' was a desperate run along grit stuck to the sheer footwall—the taut tranverse line was vital on the return over the 115' deep stope. Tim came over and we surveyed the west drivage—one branch was only a trial, and the other soon ended half way up a large stope.
We dismissed the lead as unviable for further exploraition and retreated—I belayed Tim whilst he undertook the hazardous task of removing the traverse line. (Although we vowed never to return there, we eventually did so in July, re-installed the traverse lines—the grit ledge was even smaller!—and abseiled down the stope only to find it emerged at the head of a stope we had already obtained access to).
This first pushing/surveying trip into Pugh's Mine convinced us of its size and of its potential. The North Cards Mining Club only ever pushed below Mitchel's Level on one occasion, and so there was potential for 'virgin' passage. Thus much of Tim's and my energies in 1987 were to be directed at this section of the mine, encouraged by the nineteenth centruy plans showing extensive workings.
All the makings of a great caving weekend—Lancaster/Easegill booked, and accommodation at Bull Pot Farm. Saturday was a bit of a washout, but Sunday made it all worthwhile.
Aygill Caverns, 14.2.87
Decided on a gentle day to save ourselves for the big trip on Sunday and foolishly let ourselves be pointed towards Aygill. Grovel from entrance to 30' pitch, then slightly larger passage to 35' free hang pitch to streamway. This was generally low—'caverns' there may have been but the best we found were a few walking bits between crawls. Went downstream through the Junction Complex to a sump and may—or may not—have got into the Middle, Waterfall, Lefthand and Red Rose series. Anyway it was all very low. Upstream to the inlet series was worse, being flat out bedding plane and shingle crawls. Gave up and went out.
Lancaster Hole-County Pot, 15.2.87
Brilliant through trip led by John Tesaman (Red Rose C&PC)—only got lost three times! 110' abseil down Lancaster Hole—diversion to view Colonade Chamber, and on into master cave via bottom of Fall Pot. Generally huge passages (mostly in streamway) as far as the Minarets. Then a rather more complex route to Eureka Junction and a greasy fixed ladder at Stop Pot. This is the boundary of Easegill, the series of upstream sinks—we exited via the bottornmost, County Pot. From Stop Pot the passages became more normal in size; after a 18' pitch upwards, a crawl led to a vertical letter box slot about 15' deep—free fall was the accepted technique. Upstream popped out on the banks of Easegill Beck. A superb cave, but either a guide or a survey are vital!
Generally a quiet drinking and walking weekend, but Grav led two trips down GB for about fifteen friends from London—some ACC personnell particpated in the Sunday trip, although most folk were recovering from the previous night. Beyond the duck in the ladder dig, a number of cells began to grow dim so we started out. Got to the ladder to find some bastards had nicked our rope. Hence no lifeline. By the time we got out three lights were near useless. Despite little problems everyone enjoyed themselves—so much so that at least one is joining Croydon CC.
Juniper Gulf, 14.3.87
Found entrance without too much difficulty. 1st pitch (60') in daylight then traverse to 2nd and 3rd pitches (25', 25'). Way on it traversing in rift—including a notable 'bad step' which seemed reasonable on way in but due to mud was horrible on way out. final two pitches are beauties (90', 175') but it was very cold at the bottom. When we all reached the surface it was snowing very heavily with zero visibility. Not thinking to take a compass bearing we strode off the Allotment in the wrong direction. Got hopelessly lost and it was more by luck than good judgement that we eventually reached Crummack.
Alun Pot & Lower Long Churn, 15.3.87
Grav, Dave and I did Alun via the main hang, and Tim and Spadge did Lower Long Churn. The main pitch is incredibly exposed in daylight! I rigged the pitch but overshot the rebelay on the way down and so had to change over to reach it. Crossing the rebelay was an experience to be missed!
Two day camping/mining trip declined to a day trip from Aber because of bad weather and low temperatures. Chose Parc Mine at Llanrwst—in through grill on Parc No. 3 Level and along massive haulage crosscut to even more massive 1950's stopes (over 500,000 tons extracted in 10 years). Rails are still in situ in most of level, as are dozens of ore chutes. Very much a feeling of trespassing in a working mine.
Despite the near-absence of water Rob succeeded in getting soaked from the neck down thanks to the 'Hywel Davies Patent Joke Boots'. An apparently normal pair of hiking boots "found in a skip" are given to the victim. Once in the shallow water their cunning inventor switches on the heel bellows via a remote control switch. After a few paces the unsuspecting victim wonders why his arse is getting wet, but being a hard caver, ignores such petty tribulations. Next he notices great gouts of water flying over his shoulders. He traces this intriguing phenomena to his boots- with each step half a pint of water squirts up his legs and back and over his shoulders. Being a hard caver he continues to ignore this strange phenomena. Three hours later he is shivering violently and is soaked to the skin. The diabolical inventor cannot reveal himself of course, but one day his cackling laughter will be cut short by one of his tormented victims as he is beaten to death with his own Patent Joke Boots.
Having surveyed the No. 3 Level, climbed up an ore chute to the intermediate level and then up an eight-flight ladder road to Parc No. 2 Level. Even more ore chutes, and a floor made of 2" concrete apparently reinforced with chicken wire! Through the holes in it you could see 100' down the wide, vertical stopes to the No. 3 Level. Worse still, in some places the whole unpleasant mess is suspended on transverse girders hanging from bolts at waist level in the passage. Survived unscathed and returned to Aber for an Indian. Later we gatecrashed a pretty poor student party and pretended to be undergraduates as we chatted up the first years. Dave was soon rumbled however and changed his tactics—he was last heard asking "Do you want a 'First', little girl?" Hywel meanwhile was talking grandly of having been at Aber "many years ago" (i.e. more than two!) whilst poisoning people with a whisky and soldering-flux brew from his new hip-flask.
Encouraged by our discoveries on Mitchel's Level in February we decided to push on down to Gill's Upper. Descended the large winze (just west of the bottom of "1st pitch" from Rosa to Mitchel's) on Mitchel's 150' to water via some horrible deads, but no way on. Prussicked back up to first sub-level and found a rather rotten manway going up 50' to a huge crosscut—Gill's Upper Level North Crosscut. This led to a lot of small stopes on minor branches, and huge falls on the Cornet Lode. Whilst surveying these, Tim at the head of one stope heard running water, and after 5 minutes digging broke through into some rubbely stopes. These proved to be both extensive and very old. Following the water upwards we reached a small drivage and a blasted coffin level crosscut which terminated at a fall from surface. Some rapid calculations and I realised it was William Waller's Nantrefach Level of the 1690's. Raif had an exploratory poke at the Fall, and encouraged by a distinct draught and moss and grass in the fall, we began feverishly digging. After three hours we concluded we couldn't dig a short cut out (any thing but all that prussicking!) and so had to start our way back—an 11 hour trip in all.
The following morning we examined the surface scree at the site of the Nantrefach Level and found that our dig had resulted in a 2' deep crater 6' in diameter. Lacking shoring, we were unable to do much in the way of digging as the scree was 12-15' thick. However, as a long term prospect this dig is well worth considering as it would provide a short cut to the depths of Pugh's Mine.
Went down to S. Wales over the bank holiday—drove down with a friend and arranged to meet a couple of others at Abergavenny Railway Station at 12.30 a.m. They didn't believe how slow my car went and so gave up and left. We arrived at 1.00 and spent a comfortable night on a building site. Did Little Neath on Friday—superb trip, especially the entrance series which is getting steadily more sporting as more and more of the river sinks there. Later we went 'open air caving' in the Mellte Gorge—fantastic fun. Our missing friends turned up and we camped at Crickhowell for the rest of the weekend.
On Saturday we went into Daren Cilau and got as far as Time Machine before exhaustion set in. Although two of us had done Cilau before, we still got lost numerous times. Three of us were using carbide, one of the blokes in front snapped the gas tube on his generator. He changed over to electric and put the generator in the tackle sack. One of the other lads, also on carbide, was pushing the sack through the crawls when there was a loud bang followed by a cloud of black smoke—the generator had exploded! Fortunately the only damage was singed eyebrows. Got out to discover that the car window had been smashed and all our clothes pinched. No joke after 10 hours underground. Retrieved our clothes from some sheep pens, minus wallets and money. Llangattock is rapidly becoming a no-go area for cavers because of these thieves. The police believe that they have a lookout up on the Escarpment with a radio to watch cavers going underground.
On Sunday the damaged car returned to Cambridge whilst the rest of us went over to the Mendips where we pottered around Goatchurch. We stayed at the Wessex Hut and, as strangers, got the worse of the evening's 'games'. Spent Monday in Swildons—a lovely cave—and later climbed a couple of routes in the Avon Gorge before driving back overnight to Cambridge.
Otter Hole, 9.5.87
Our second attempt at Otter. Met our three guides from Hades/Royal Forest of Dean and trouped down through the rainforest to the entrance. In through the all-pervading mud in the crawls to the tidal sump which fortunately opened this time. A 30' steel ladder leads up into a boulder choke. Beyond is a large rift streamway, a boulder pile, more streamway and then the second choke and pitch for which we carried two ladders. We left the active section, and after a fairly grovelly bit with much climbing around emerged into big, beautifully decoated passages which went on and on, continually improving until we reached the famous Hall of Thirty. Shortly beyond at the Camp we decided to turn back as time was pressing if we were to get through the tidal sump on the next low tide. Sara and Mike found the return trip heavy going, due to wearyness in the first case, and due to Sara having fallen 8' onto Mike in the entrance series in the second case. We made good time back to the sump and had to wait briefly for it to open. A couple of us swam through the eyehole, but everyone else waited until they could duck through the lower hole. Mike, and especially Sara, found the entrance series an exhausting slog—fear of drowning when the tide came in appeared to be the only thing that got her out!
Porth yr Ogof, 10.5.87
After the exertions of Saturday we were content to stroll from the Croyden cottage at Ystradfellte to Porth yr Ogof and back. However the cave was too tempting, so Tim, Alex and I decided to try the through trip. We tranversed the first deep section of streamway and just about avoided having to swim. After a bit of hands and knees crawling in a very wide bedding plane section we passed the half-way exit and reached the edge of the deep, green exit pool.
I'd taken a BDH container as a buoyancy aid, but still needed some help (mainly psychological) from Tim and Alex. Highlight was Tim loosing one of his steel toe cap wellies in the pool, but beng unable to dive deep enough to retrieve it. The sum out through the exit pool into glorious sunshine was really brilliant. A fine Sunday trip.
Gathered as ancient tradition demands in the Downies Vaults for 'cocktails' before going across the road for various curries (£128—our highest total yet). Then back to the Downies for the business of the evening:
Minutes of Annual General Meeting held 15 May 1987 in the Downies Vaults
- President's Speech
It leaves me in the time honoured tradition of the club,
as I pass on from president to immortal,
to summarise the years caving on one word.
After days spent in deep masturbation
and with due consideration of the runes
I have chosen that word.
This year has been a RETROSPECTIVE year.
The word has been uttered many times
in excuse of the following incidents:
- Richard and Li,sa drive overland 3000 miles to Spots party
on finding they are not suitable attired
as true etiquette demands they retire from the proceedings.
In retrospect they would remember white handbag and Gallini sweater.
- On finding no caves in Norfolk the Club headed south a short way for a pub lunch.
In retrospect they would've found a pub before reaching Tring on the South coast.
- The Club dine out on hearty bowls of tripe.
In retrospect they would ahve perhaps tried the local Golden Trout perhaps next time.
- Al goes on his 1st caving trip
...an SRT trip into the Gouffre Bois d'Ully a mere 300 ft freehang. In retrospect he'd have won plastic gruds.
- Lira agrees to carry camera gear a short way into the Grotte de Chavaroche ends up drowning in quicksand,
However this trip did launch his carrer as photographic model.
In retrospect he wouldn't have listened to Jones.
- A lunchtime trip into the Grotte de Lanans
to escape the scorching Jura sun
ends in a 3 day death struggle.
In retrospect we wouldn't have listened to Jones.
- The president makes an uncharacteristic mistake
and allows Pinder into his tent.
In retrospect he would ahve urged her to sychophentisise elsewhere.
- Members of The British Peak Caverns Expedition
tried free diving Lake Sump in the wake of a Ms. Clancy
(Moby to her acquaintances).
In retrospect they would have harpooned her and made Oil of Whaley.
- In Yorkshire we heeded the profeered advice "Ayghyll's a good trip".
In retrospect we wouldn't have.
- Lancaster to County trip guided by Red Rose local hero
John (have thee sin tut 60 ft passage) Tesaman.
In retrospect we'd have told him where to go... if he could find the way.
- Grav that great exponent of abseiling invents
freefall classic abseiling in GB,
and Horizontal Terminal Velocity Pendulum Abseiling in Alum Pot.
In retrospect he'd have informed Noel Edmunds and
whurly wheel camera crew.
- Waggy on exiting through the entrance series of Ciliau recently,
was following a companion from Cambridge who had extinguished
the flame of his Petzl and switched to electric.
Unfortunately the generator was still doing what it was good at—
producing explosive gas. Waggy's flame ignited the gas in the
confined passage there ensued a large explosion, generator shrapnel
and a confused tanned Waggy.
In retrospect he would not have uttered the phrase
'theres no fucking about with carbides'.
- On reaching the surface poor poor poor Waggy found clothes, car,
the Chelse Hut and Aggy had been stolen.
Police suspect impoverised Northern Cavers.
In retrospect Waggy would have realised like the rest of us
that one trip into Ciliau is enough, twice is pushing your luck.
- Otterhole... no more need be said.
A truly retrospective cave... ask Mike.
- Myself and Alex give Jones swimming less ions in Porth yr Ogof
I have to shed my leaded boots as using
'bottom walking technique' am still unable to support Jones
the fat bastard... but not as fat as the Lira.
Once on the continent:
- Richard and Li,sa drive overland 3000 miles to Spots party
- Awards & Presentations
- Golden Toenail Award for fuckup of the year—to Sara for falling 20' onto Mike (he's the one with the limp).
- To Ieuan a street map of Aber to show him the Cups and 30 Bridge Street.
- To Rob a buoyancy aid if he ever goes drowning with me again.
- Life Memberships were granted as follows:
- Any Other Business
- Elaine proposed that the venue of the Annual Dinner be moved from the Indian—defeated by 15 to 5.
- Marshall proposed that the Hierarchy be reinstated with Tories at the very bottom—carried by 14 to 6.
|Sara||16 (+1 postal)|
Uneventful tourist trip to show Dave the deep level headgear.
A visit by Paul and two friends from Cambridge helped greatly on a long weekend's pushing at Cwmystwyth. On Saturday Paul succeeded in climbing the east rise from Top Level near Taylor's Shaft 50' to a sub level. Grav and I had tried and failed to climb both this rise and the west rise, and had resorted to stempling our way up the west rise. We'd left it just 10' from the top and were a little peeved that Paul succeeded in climbing it so easily! He installed a rope and returned babbling of miles of passages and yet more rises and winzes.
Highlight of the weekend was Sunday when we descended a 40' winze in the Nantrefach Level. This was one of the very last open prospects in Pugh's Mine, and looked rather unpromising. It led immediately to a second winze (20') into a very flat lying rocky stope. We pushed this westwards to various collapses, and were starting our way back when Grahame decided to push a crack in the floor. He climbed down 20', called out that there were 3 passages at the bottom, and disappeared. After 5 minutes we began enlarging the crack until we could all follow. Below was the westward continuation of Gills Upper, beyond the falls off the main crosscut. We spent about three quarters of an hour running along a labarynth of 'virgin' passage, the floor covered in clog and hobnaill boot prints. There were umpteen side passages, winzes and rises, and some ladderroads and ore chutes. We met back at 'the crack' and poured out our reports of caverns (well, mines) measureless to man, etc. I remember I was almost incoherent with delight—at last we had access to the vast quantity of nineteenth century workings which make up Pugh's Mine. The extent of these workings probably equals the rest of the mine—and no one had been into them since abandonment.
Eventually though we had to go out—we were now 8 pitches from home in a maze of unexplored workings—a rather odd feeling!
On Monday we looked at the levels above Top Adit that Paul had climbed to—from the sub level a 25' stope gave access to 600' of very small (almost coffin level) passages including three fallen crosscuts to surface. These appeared to be very early gunpowder levels, and probably pre-dated Wailer's Nantrefach Level, being smaller and more primitive. Their most likely author was Thomas Bushell who was active at the mine 1631–1649. They were therefore christened Bushell's Level. Five leads were identified for future investigation.
All in all a totally exceptional weekend—the feeling that breaking through into kilometres of 'virgin' passage gives can only be experienced to be appreciated! Not surprisingly Tim and I were prey to mining fever for some months as we surveyed Pugh's Mine.
Pleasant roam around OFD II on Saturday clutching part of the survey—down to Maypole Inlet via Salubrious and Selenite. Then headed west (off edge of survey) and got close to Moonlight Chamber. Eventually found our way back onto the survey and exited past Frozen River to Edwards' shortcut. Took a wrong turning half way up Edwards' and ended up doing some nasty traversing and climbing only to reach a blind end. Re-examined survey, backtracked, and eventually found our way out. Stayed at Caerllwyn (WSG) and poked around the Craig y Dinas Silica Mines on Sunday.
Met at Richard's on Thursday night to watch the Election, then drove over to the Forest of Dean for a spot of mining. Fenton and Rob poked around Old Ham Ironstone Mine whilst Haz and Richard sneaked into Puzzle Wood (show mine /Roman opencast). Got totally disorientated within a few minutes and found ourselves following a draught—back to the entrance! Eventually found our way down to the lower levels and followed the tramrails circle trip. Mine is mostly an excavated natural cave, although the deep workings are a little more regular.
Spent three hours walking/grovelling/crawling around without having much of a clue where we were. Whole place is utterly disorientating—possibly enhanced by the iron content? (Magnetite—loadstone in places?) Too wet to camp out so returned to Cardiff for night. Following day drove to Gower in brilliant sunshine and went walking at Worm's Head. Consulted CAMRA guidebook and visited the Welcome to Town Inn at Llanrhidian n evening, camping on the marshes in the marquee. This is now reaching the end of its life due to mildew and smells abominally of stale vomit and beer.
Weather still brilliant on Sunday so went walking a few miles southeast of Worms Head—'did' Deborah's Hole, Ogof Wyntog (200' through trip), resurgence near Ogof Wyntog, Paviland Cave, and some small sea caves: total length 300 m or so! Then over to Llanelli to see a coal mine—Stradey Level. Two lights between four, and about enough clothing to put one kit together between us all! In level, up inlcine and into workings. Ten minutes was enough—the all-pervading atmosphere of gloom and decay drove us out. Tea and welshcakes at Rob's and then home. Very fine weekend.
Small dig on hillside near Rosa Level at East Nantygwaith Level. Slow progress on first day—Tim making tea at first but he gradually went down with the 'Fever'. Second day introduced bread basket for spoil—increased progress. Watched by a curious American! Last day—introduced barrel—doubled progress. Encouraged by an apparent 'hole' at back of dig, but turned out to be solid rock. Abdondoned after excavating full depth (15' or so).
Cerberus Barbeque—predictable mega-drinking weekend. Took Stayte and Toastie back to their tent in the strawberry fields on Sunday—tea and (suprise, surprise) strawberries. Quote from the Lira, lounging in deck chair with a bucket of strawberries at his side: "This is fairly salubrious!"
First surveying trip beyond 'the crack'—aided greatly by finding a by-pass to the '6th and 7th' pitches. Surveyed about ¾ km in 10 hours, as it slowly began to dawn on us just how extensive the workings were. 75' rises on the Comet Lode from Gill's Upper gave access to the Middle Level—halfway between Gill's Upper and Raw's Levels.
The lack of accessible rises from the Middle Level to Raw's led Tim and Dino to try poking around in Raw's—but although a winze was found in Raw's east drivage, the appaling condition of the fractured rock and subsiding deads lead to the abandonment of this lead.
This survey trip and the next few which rapidly followed were tremendous—each time we'd survey 500 m or 750 m without examining side passsages, and turn back leaving dry, walking size 'virgin' passages going. After 9 or 10 hours we'd turn back, slog our way up all those pitches—the exit time from the crack to the car gradually fell from 2½ hours to 1 hour thanks to by-passes and better rigging—and reel back to Bridge Street for food and a preliminary plot of the survey data. Halceyon days!
Midday start from Aber burdened with two canoes and a windsurfer, pause at Chester to pick up Mike and Lira, and on to Crossmichael, Dumfrieshire, for a night on the whisky (choice of 160 in the village inn!). Crashed out in Lant and Wendy's garage—considerable hilarity watching Dave struggling to get into his new hammock. Morning dip in Lough then onto Stranraer for the Ferry to Larne. Through Belfast, across the length of Ulster in the rain, over the border to County Cavan and we arrived at the SUI's Thornhill House. Very much like Cerberus but bigger.
It rained for most of the week, but despite this we spent most days caving. Evenings saw us ensconced in the Bush Bar at Black Lion where we met up with a number of local cavers. The nicer days were spent windsurfing on Lower Lough Macnean, and half way through the week we walked over the Culcagh Gap (610 m) and over the border from Skreen Hill in Fermanagh to Glengevlin in Cavan.
The main caving area of Skreen Hill was only 5 miles east of the cottage. The caves are centered on the resurgence system of Marble Arch and comprise an arc of tributary caves on higher ground 1 to 2 km to the north, notably Polnagollum and Cradle Cave. We also made an excursion 10 miles northwards to Noons Hole, a particularly impressive pothole.
Marble Arch, 27.7.87
Changed at the Reyfadeers' Hut and walked across the valley to the show cave entrance where we were made unbelievably welcome. Not only that but Benzi was lent a wetsuit by the cave manager! Whilst sitting around at the entrance we were threatened by some Irish juveniles but narrowly escaped being beaten up when one of them burnt himself on Grav's carbide.
Entrance was a 30' handline climb into a rather confusing bouldery section which soon leads into the streamway showcave. Have to admit it was very impressive, well decorated and lit, and with boats. Like a bigger Llygad Llwchwr. Quarter of an hour walking got us to the upper end of the show cave, crossed the last bridge, and waded up the stream. Fairly standard, mainly large, but a near duck at one point. About 1½ hours each way. Not so well decorated as showcave section. On our return walked to lower end of show cave but couldn't swim out as the entrance was sumped due to extra-high water.
After two false alarms we found the entrance in a deep, steep sided roadside depression. So green and vegetated it could have been in Mulu. No doubt helped by the dead sheep oozing about. Down through two boulder chokes—some route finding problems in first one—to streamway. Swam upstream to sump through four canals, walking in between. Very cold water, but some nice calcite flows, and the streamway was very large. Tim insisted on swimming all the way back out, no matter how shallow the water. Very sporting and enjoyable trip.
Marble Arch, 28.7.87
After telling the show cave management we were going caving in their cave (nice change that!) we were hassled on the way to the entrance by a group of young delinquents. One of them asked of Alex "Is that a boy or a girl?"!
After fucking about in the entrance series for half an hour we finally found the way on into the show cave. Couldn't stop giggling as we patiently waited behind one of the tourist groups.
The show cave part of the cave was very impressive. My fears of a ruined cave were reduced by the reasonably low impact design of the walkways, and the large size of the streamway. But it's still not as good as the untouched cave would have been. Beyond the showcave the passages were large and fun. Eventually got tired of endless passages and turned back. Swam out through the resurgence—fun swimming past boatloads of tourists. A great way to clean wetsuits after the glutinously muddy further raches of the cave.
Fenton's sister upheld family honour by declining to go further than the tightest bit of the lower-boulder ruckle. On into the first canal—superb "power swimming" by pulling on the rope. Then on via two more canals to the clLmb up to the last canal. Lisa and Rob decided to exit slowly; Mike and Eyre pressed on to the end, catching others up on way back. Excellent aqueous trip.
Upper and Lower Cradel Caves, 29.7.87
Upper Cradle—in about 150 yds in a massive passage to the start of deep pools which in dry conditions connect to Marble Arch. A few photos by Hywel and back out.
Lower Cradle—an opposite of the huge shake hole is the upstream continuation—waist deep streamway in a large passage for 400 yds to sump. Paused on way out to climb up on left to see what is repudidly the largest gour pool in Ireland.
Noon's Hole, 30.7.87 & 1.8.87
Changed in drizzle and strolled over to the lip of the pothole—about 25' ??????????? but bells out considerably in its 300' depth. Stream was normal level according to Jalla and Liam (the locals). So as it had been drizzling for three days it seemed unlikely to rise—how were we to know we'd have a thunderstorm? From north side of pot a 50° tyrolean went through the waterfall to a dry side-shaft, and then down via a number of rebelays (70', 30', 40', 60', 40'), all superbaly positioned. At bottom is a low, narrow, wet rift for a few hundred feet—frequent akward bends. Then follows a few hundred yards of grovels and crawls gradually changing from sand to mud until you pop out into a decent walking size streamway. Followed this a few hundred yards to terminal sump, then backtracked to a superb calcite cascade. After much washing of boots we climbed this to a muddy canal leading to the boulder choke which leads to Arch Cave. Couldn't find our way through so eventually turned back as most of us were pretty cold by this time. Started back, and at the dry crawls had a moment's excitement when a few small boulders collapsed onto Tim, necessitating some help from the rest of us to free him. Arrived back at the low rifts to find the water level had decidedly risen in the last 4 hours. The dry side shaft was still dry, so we started up.
As we all prussicked up it became obvious that the stream had risen greatly and was still rising—more and more spray, and later streamlets were entering our shaft. Once in the upper part of the shaft we could see the waterfall—it was now very many times larger than when we entered (x10 ? x 20 ?) and almost obliterated the sky. Not a nice sight.
Grav was leading so he had the dubious experience of being first to attempt the tyrolean prussick—not knowing if it could be done or not. He made it, and the rest of followed, having abandoned the tackle. The waterfall got heavier and denser towards its edge the further up the tyrolean you prussicked. In the last few yards before breaking through it, it was difficult to breath, and the volume of water totally obliterated your light. The worst fucking experience of my life.
Breaking through the edge of the fall was amazing—you were left panting and reeling in daylight and comparative silence for a minute until completing the last 40' or so of prussicking.
We returned two days later to detackle the shaft when water conditions had returned to normal—it took some forcing to get ourselves back down to collect it!
After a week we moved down to County Clare and camped at Ballyvaughn. The weather was generally better and so more lounging about and less caving got done. A number of people contracted "The Lurgey" and spend a very unpleasant few days, especially the Lira and Dave for who it lasted a week or so.
Coolagh River Cave, 5.8.87
A sad day, the moment when my faithful wetsuit began to finally fall apart. Huge holes in the arse by the end of the trip, leading to increased flatulence. Otherwise a trip which was enjoyable once we got going, having spend ¾ hour searching for the Polldonough North entrance, and eventually entering via the main Pollodnough entrance (the Coolagh River sink). Much stooping and some crawling in water, and we eventually got to the passage above Balcombe's Pot. Then dosnwstream for ½ hour or so to sump where Rob photographed Fenton and Grav getting cold. A quick diversion into the muddy, peat filled passages of the Pollclabber tributary, then out via a number of photo stops with Mike being photographed in the deepest part of the steam passage. At Balcombe's Fenton was possessed by 'poser frenzy' and jumped three times into the pot to be photographed ascending from under water. Then Grav, not to be outdone, climbed high into the roof and jumped down into the pot from the top twice. Then up handline (with difficulty) and out through Polldonough South. Farmer has put broken glass down entrance but it's still okay. Some nice muddy tranversing on the way out.
Fergus River, Cave, 7.8.87
Despite the horrors of the previous night, all were present and correct for a 11 a.m. start, more than could be said for Messrs. Farr, Judd, Bunce et al. Hoped they wouldn't turn up but they did so we loaded up and rushed enthusiastically into the cave. After about 10 yards it became clear that we were in for a dose of unadultarated misery. Lewis crushed his hand, half of us got lost and the ceiling got lower. Later the ceiling got very low. The bottle was something of a liability but got beter as I got the dragging technique off pat. Pushing the bottle ahead in crawls was misery since you couldn't see the route ahead. The first 400 m was crawls/squeezes and stooping pasages—a real bastard. The second 400 m in complete contrast was a series of low bedding plane chambers (up to 30 m wide with cairns to mark the route) linked by bedding plane crawls. The whole cave is dry—no Fergus river to be seen—but muddy, and the misery can only be imagined.
Took 2½ hours in, then watched Farr and Judd kit up and plunge into a very clear sump. No way I would ever do it that's for sure. Then a 4½ hour miserable wait. The time dragged on and on and our wetsuits got colder. Endless hours of I-spy, cold, 'Little Dinners', cold, hot chocolate (limited supply), cold, and chemical chicken soup (main ingredient = salt). The 3 in wetsuits had decided that at seven we would exit. Unfortunately bang on seven Farr surfaced. This met we could all exit (hooray) but carrying all the gear out (boo!). On the way in I was carrying a line reel which as not too bad. On the way out I was dragging a bottle. Bloody hard work. Especially when they go off and scare you shitless! The way out was a sweaty purgatory, and the exit bliss.
Dig to re-open Freeman's 26 Fm. level which was blocked by a fall at rock head about 15' in. Did some 'tidying up' before needing to begin timbering. Rob, with armchair carpentry experience began by using the timber suplied by Fenton's landlandy. Then to mine yard to dismantle hippy shelter—carried loads up the hill. Not much smaller than railway sleepers. Second day began with a number of cock-ups as the strain of previous day began to tell—Lewis's car keys taken by Rob, Fenton and Rob forget food, and Fenton forgets meths therefore no tea. However a successful day—used almost all the timber and by 5.00 we could see through into echoing passage beyond. Back on Tuesday night for 'the break through' into 'thousands of feet' and to 'join it to Lefel Fawr'. After 10 minutes we were able to squeeze through—WONDER! immediately a fair size junction appeared. Boldly we set off into the hill... only to find 400' of trial crosscut (and dynamite boxes, a homburg hat and clay pipe bowls). But no levels 'measureless to man'. Jones has since admitted that this was all the survey showed.
The other big digging project of the autumn—to de-sump Taylor's east drivage on the Comet Lode and gain access to Blue Level workings. Hywel, Abdul and I had tried digging at the fall which sumps the passage in April but had to abandon it due to a lack of heavy tools and timber to prop some big slabs up. This time we were better equipped and in six hours reduced the water level by 3½ feet. The last foot went quickly, with a roar, scouring the fall away. Desumping began to the accompanyment of much rumbling, booming and other nasty sump noises. We got the heebie-jeebies and left. Exited in water 6" deeper than usual to find the river had turned brown.
Returned next day to deepen trench through fall and lowered water by a further 3' in 3 hours. Tim 'went for it', closely followed by the rest of us. After 200' of wading was a roof fall necessitating a crawl, into which Fenton went. Whilst commenting on the large stopes ahead he lapsed into gibberish, and then a convulsing silence. Tim (closest to the Fall) was too apathetic to do anything, I found myself getting drowsy. It eventually sunk in that something was wrong, so I shouted something about bad air and Hywel and I dragged Fenton back out. He was vaguely mumbling for us to leave him be. We legged it bloody fast but Fenton didn't come round until we were back at the dig and had no memory of the whole affair from the time he entered the crawl to when he got out of Taylor's Level completely.
Bacterial action on the iron and organic materials had used up all the available oxygen in the workings beyond the sump. The resultant carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, leaving only nitrogen behind. The 24 hours between desumping and our entry allowed for atmospheric mixing as far as the constriction cuased by the roof fall. When Fenton lay in the crawl he was breathing the atmosphere beyond the fall which consisted mainly of nitrogen. Carbon dioxide provides the body's stimulus to breath, but because he was inhaling almost pure nitrogen, his body was unable to produce any carbon dioxide. Thus he breathed at a normal rate and lapsed into unconsciousness in less than two minutes. It is likely that he would have died in a matter of minutes.
Forget the Terminal Velocity Club—now's your chance to get in with the Gasworks Gang and become a V.C. (Vacuum Caver). To qualify for membership one must be unconscious and/or gibbering for at least 60 seconds. Apply to D.M. Fenton, V.C., S.U.C.E.R., 5 George Street.
Surprisingly the arrangements made 3 months previously to meet 'in the pub between UMIST and the multistorey' actually worked, and we all arrived at 10.00 a.m. A quick beer and an Indian before bedding down in the afore mentioned multistorey. Conference commenced with the now obligatory Cilau update and then continued with the usual lecutres and films on expeditions and discoveries at home. Of especial interest were Judd & Bunce's talk on discoveries in Clare, and "The Disappearance of Alex Pitcher". More beer and the celidh/stomp on Saturday night. Bleary-eyed to Sunday's lectures, culminating in the slide contest and photographic prize giving. A good conference as ever.
- First published April 1988. Originally edited by Robert Protheroe Jones.
- This digital edition published on the World Wide Web June 2010. This volume was scanned and edited by Rich Smith. Hard copy supplied by Robert Protheroe Jones.
© 1988, 2010 Aberystwyth Caving Club