Thrutch Volume 2 Winter 1980

The magazine of the Aberystwyth Caving Club.
  1. Editorial
  2. President's Report
  3. Club Elections
  4. Derbyshire—30th November–2nd December 1979.
  5. Big Bang II
  6. Cave Rescue Cliques
  7. O.F.D. bites back
  8. Ireland—Over and Over Again—Part One
  9. South Wales—December 7–8th
  10. Bridge Cave
  11. University Challenge
  12. The Gentle Art of Caving—A Female View
  13. A New Grading System for Caves and Potholes
  14. Yorkshire 8th–10th February 1980
  15. Postscript


Christmas is gone and thoughts turn back to the summer again and dreams of those incredible caves in exotic parts of the world. Unfortunately reality is a bit more restricted, last year as most people know the club went to Co. Clare in Ireland, a report of which is at last being dragged from Steve's head (part one, of a hopefully indefinite series, occurs further on.) Next year we are going further afield to Switzerland. We hope to get a hut on the Sieben Hengste ridge to the north of Interlaken, further details will be announced later. It is hoped that with this issue Thrutch may spread out and start to be swapped with other caving magazines around the country. If enough material is forthcoming 2 issues of Thrutch can be produced per term, but it depends on you. Anyone interested in taking over as editor next year please see me.


President's Report

Well, firstly I must thank our new Editor, Colin for bringing out yet another edition of our first caving club magazine. And while I am delivering thanks, I must congratulate our equipment officer Roger Cross for performing wonders with those all important lights. Yet again the majority of the trip to South Wales was performed to perfect lighting.

With the purchase of a new club compass it looks as if Pwll Swnd is defeated at last. No more hill walking/orienteering over the Black Mountains. Also we have now, our own Bolt Kit so certain as yet untried shafts in mid-Wales are now within our realms.

Next term will not be one for the active caver, as no trips are planned yet. But if possible I will try to get a well known caving personality to come and give us a chat/lecture on a subject close to us all e.g. photography. Anyone with any suggestions please see me about it.

Steve S.

Club Elections

At the end of this term we are mandated to hold our club's elections. This is normally held before a meeting, so no excuse for non-attendance is accepted. The following posts will be decided by a straight forward nomination and voting system.

  1. President.
  2. Secretary.
  3. Transport officer.
  4. Equipment officer.
  5. Thrutch Editor.
  6. A.U. Liaison Officer.
  7. Publicity Officer.
  8. Treasurer.

If you would be interested in any of these positions please make yourself familiar with the association duties before the end of term, so a smooth take-over can be achieved.

Derbyshire—30th November–2nd December 1979.

Pete, Steve, Dave (L), Aitch, Lil, Wendy (L), Sue, Cara, Roger, Helen, Dave (Z), Dino, Colin, Chris, Wendy (B)

Undoubtedly the best trip of last term was the weekend in Derbyshire, thirteen people left Aber. on Friday evening in the minibus, and after several refreshment stops arrived at the Pegasus hut near Peak Forest. There was nobody in, the door waS locked and we didn't have a key. However, the back door opened when pushed (which seemed to upset the Pegasus members) ond we made ourselves at home. Chris and Wendy (B) joined us at the hut and when some of the Pegasus members arrived they seemed very surprised to see us. Apparently due to some administrative cock-up no-one had been told we were coming, but the problems were sorted out and we stayed there.

Next morning we all drove over to P8 and split into smaller groups. However, when we got to the cave the conditions were too wet for some of the beginners without wet suits and so they were taken down Gautries Hole instead. The remainder with wet suits went down the pitch to the final sump for a swim and had a good look round on the way out. We returned to the van met the others and made it to the pub for a lunchtime drink. Returning to the hut we start around wondering what to do till the pubs opened again.

After everybody had eaten we went out for a short walk, came back, sat around a bit more until the distant sound of opening doors was heard. As I remember it started with Robinsons, then Pollards and Winkles and ended with Wards.

Back at the hut again and Roger started singinq in his own unique style after which things start to get a bit vague, with people doing strange things with spray paint cans apd axes, till everybody finally collapsed. Later still the Pegasus members returned.

"I though you said there were only 7 of them"
"No, 7,000".

Then followed a discussion about pigs' trotters.

Next morning everybody got up with no apparent hangovers, breakfast over and we all went over to Giants Hole. Having paid an extortionate 45p and changed we got to the first pitch en masse and then split into smaller graups for the crabwalk (definite shades of Co. Clare). Bypassing the first sump we reached the traverses. Here some of the beginners needed a lifeline over the 30' deep hole to reach the passage over the second sump. This led to an awkward 8' drop to a pool near the second pitch, but as we had no tackle we had to return to the surface, passing another group on the way out. We quickly changed again and drove back to the hut. There everything back on to the minibus and set off back to Aber, on the way finishing of most of the food that was left—cold baked beans, spaghetti and meat balls and stopping for a jar in Machynlleth.

Big Bang II

New Years' Eve saw the unfortunate end of Mendip's newest caving hut. The Mendip Cave Group's hut which hadn't even been completed was demolished by a gas explosion. Fortunately all the members were in the pub at the time (who says drinking is bad for you?) The story goes that one of them returned to the hut early and found it wasn't there anymore, went back to tell the others who didn't believe him until they saw it for themselves. Fortunately for them it was insured.

Also on Mendip last year saw a cave digging competition between the B.E.C. (Bristol Exploration Club) and W.C.C (Wessex Caving Club). Passages had to be more than 50' to be included, the prize a barrel of beer. The competition was won by W.C.C with 700' to BEC with only 400'. Where else but Mendip!

Cave Rescue Cliques

Members of Aberystwyth C.C. comprise roughly half of the Mid-Wales Mine Rescue Organisation (and will people on last year's call-out list PLEASE let Steve have your present addresses) which is less than two years old and has yet to participate in a practice, let alone a genuine rescue. While there is much to be learned from some more experienced rescue teams others, such as the one shortly to be described, stand out mainly as Awful Warnings.

Our specimen Awful Warning is a Dudley-based team, composed chiefly of local firemen. They grew up in the area, explored the local mines as kids, and now know the mines intimately and are always willing to help any local kids who get into difficulties while exploring. This attitude does not extend to caves, or anyone else, from outside the immediate vicinity; their interest in such cases is confined to appearing in time for the newspaper reporters.

To complicate matters, this Dudley Narcissist Group is the area's official C.R.O. As a result, despite their 'closed shop' policy, they are the first to be notified of any incident. By the time the nearest active C.R.O has been informed and has arrived on the scene, over two hours has been lost, unnecessarily. At best, this is annoying, at worst it could be serious. Nobody's died yet because of it, but...

The Aberystwyth branch of Mid Wales M.R.O. has manpower, but little else. It is comprised almost totally of inexperienced cavers, and only a handful of those have more than a minimal knowledge of local mines. The other branch is made up of members of South Cards. Mining Group—and all that is known about them is that they are almost totally uncooperative (or if this is outdated, nobody's publicised the fact!) They are not interested in practices, only actual incidents. It is of course possible that they could handle a rescue competently, but in view of their lack of rescue experience, highly unlikely. The first rescue practice of the Midlands C.R.O. was inefficient and disorganised—and that was with experienced cavers. Aberystwyth, with or without South Cards., would make a disastrous rescue team.

Luckily, the Mid Wales M.R.O. is still in its infancy, and confined to locating casualties and calling South Wales C.R.O. or any other conveniently located rescue team. In view of the present South Cards. attitude, nothing better is likely to develop. One way to advance beyond this would be to set up an independent Aberyswyth M.R.O. It would be difficult, due to the rapid turnover of cavers and the low level of experience, but there are worse things. The Dudley situation, and the South Cards. attitude, should have made this obvious.

Alternatively, and best, South Cards. could join the human race. If they don't want to, they may just as well admit that they don't care a damn, any more than the Dudley-based team do, and stay out of our way.

Roger Cross

O.F.D. bites back

Unfortunately in December Ogof Ffynnon Ddu claimed its first two victims since it was discovered in 1946. The two, from Birmingham, were in a party of five attempted a through trip upstream when the accident happened. Details are somewhat vague, but it seems they had nearly qot to Maypole Inlet when they were hit by a flood pulse. Two managed to reach a ledge and caught one of the others, but the other two, who were not wearing wetsuits could not be reached.

A wet suit is really essential for anyone attempting the throuqh trip in any conditions as you are bound to get very wet and tired and the stream water is very cold.

Ireland—Over and Over Again—Part One

Attempt to recall events that happened last week is a major feat for me, now Colin wishes me to drag my memories of Ireland back into the little used brain cells and assemble them in readable form on paper. As anyone who knows me will no doubt realise, certain essential facts will become marginally distorted during this process.

The first incident that springs to mind was during our stay in Ballyvaughn. After sussing out all the local bars we decided the Lobster Pot was marginally better (i.e. possessed pool table). Here we proceeded to get totally smashed. The next morning was made lively by the conspicuous absence of Pete. Reconstructing the previous night it seems that he and Dave Blurt had been arguing with members of the I.R.A. about Northen Ireland. Pete had then accepted an offer of a bed for the night with one of the more normal Irish inhabitants who was in fact a Scotsman in disguise and working for the C.I.A. international terrorist team. He arrived later that morning still in one piece!

While still imprisoned at Ballyvaughn we decided to go for a swim during a mild hurricane. Roger was amonst the happy crew who discarded all clothing and with 600 m.p.h. winds leapt into the boiling sea. Well obviously he didn't drown completely as he is still with us apparently, but he had a very good try. Everyone else was slightly concerned by his disappearance and a quick conference decided that all we could do was make Stu Narris go for a two mile run to see if this helped matters. But, during his absence, while we were all making frantic gestures at the sea, Roger reappeared on the horizon and was obviously in grave trouble, so we all relaxed and left fate to rescue him. Fate came in the form of a rocky reef—when the two collided Rog came off worst; much lacerating to elbows and legs etc. Still, it's lucky we didn't have to call the coastguard, becase the nearest one was 30 miles away.

Rapidly running out of room, this will be continued in the next issue of Thrutch—out soon courtesy of Colin.

Steve Simmons

South Wales—December 7–8th

Steve, Sue, Cora, Stu, Roger and Colin

The original story was thut Stu's friend might be able to take some people down Dan-yr-Ogof (in December! Ha, Ha). The trip was supposed to be limited to f0ur people with Steve driving a new union car, but as he drove round picking people up it got more and more cramped in the car. Everybody managed to fit in finally with both Sue and Cora in the fr0nt seat. We managed to arrive safely at Penwyllt, but Stu's friend was not there so we couldn't all be signed in, and as the rescue (see elsewhere) had been the weekend before we couldn't go caving in that area. However, we eventually came to a compromise. In return for being allowed to stay there we would help them get out some of the rescue equipment that had been left in the cave.

So next morning we changed and went up to top entrance we met a bloke we had never seen before and he said he would take us down to see the columns. But first we went to the Rescue pitch to bring out the ladders and rope left there, we also picked up some cells which we gave to another group to take out. Returning to the entrance passage we turned towards Big Chamber Near the Entrance and quickly reached the 60' pitch into Column Hall. Roger remained at the top, to lifeline the return and the others descended without too many problems. The columns are really amazing formations and well worth trying to see. Stu and the stranger then went back up the pitch and let Roger come down. The two girls had some problems getting up the ladder and had to be eventually dragged up. Finally everybody returned to the top and we left, managing to get down to the Ancient for a lunchtime pint. Unfortunately, when we drove back up to S.W.C.C. a mist had come down and visibility in the quarry was down to a few feet, and SteVe slightly misjudged the level crossing by several feet. The car was brought to a very abrupt stp, and Sue's head was brought into sudden contact with the window frame. So with Sue sufferinq from mild concussion and little chance of caving tomorrow we decided to return to Aber.

Bridge Cave

Following an acccident in October last year the boulder choke in Bridge Cave is now very unsafe. The accident involved some children getting trapped on the wrong side of the choke after it moved. They were rescued safely but further movements have apparently made it very unsafe now.

University Challenge

Your chance for fame and fortune! Answers on the back of a used five-pound note to Colin before our grant gets frozen.

  1. How much does the club owe the Athletic Union?
  2. Who is Aber's Des O'Connor?
  3. Who keeps the club accounts?
  4. Who perfected the 'dancing minibus' trick?
  5. What is the maximum jail sentence for embezzlement?
  6. Who stole Pwll Swnd?
  7. Who was the 'rubberised burglar of Padarn'?
  8. What is the average life-span of a Whittaker wet-suit?
  9. When did Stu emigrate to South America?
  10. How many Mars Bars does the average caver need?
  11. What are the current laws concerning extradition?
  12. Where is the Penwyllt level crossing?
  13. When will Dai Rudge's patience run out?
  14. How much is a pint at the Devonshire Arms, Peak Forest?
  15. How viable is the club without a grant?
  16. Who sang 'We left our Sec. down Maypole Inlet'?
  17. Will we be able to use Guild transits with a frozen grant?
  18. When did you last see the rag bus?
  19. How many people will fit into Pete's land-rover?
  20. Why isn't Steve Simmons in this quiz?

The Gentle Art of Caving—A Female View

Speaking as a woman (for verification attend Maes-Mor after the hour of 11 p.m.—weekdays only) I believe that the underground sport of caving has been looked on as a man's domain for too long. Today, in this age of freedom of speech and liberation with Mars Bars at 13p, we females must make a stand and fight for the right to be recognised. (Hasn't someone said this before?) We must do this now, before we have to pay even more for a shrinking Mars Bar. After all—what qualifications do we lack, other than the ability to p--- into a carbide?

Being one of the fortunate few I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of this delightful sport. The gentle breeze and low rumblings of Torchy's snore; the serene spectacle of little Whiticker wrapped up in his sleeping bag after leaving Steve out cold on the wood pile; our little mascot, Rodge the rodent, delighting all with his traditional tales of other cavers in other times; and of ------ telling ------ (those two blokes who came in pissed at 4.00 in the morning—I can't remember their names) how he screwed the arse off this girl. Not forgetting little Andy—the angelic little brat.

But there's another side to this intriguing story of the hidden world: the physical demands of crawling on hands and knees through thick, slimy mud; of climbing a rock face, freezing cold water crashing down on you with a force even the Incredible Hulk could not equal; of wading thigh deep (just a mention of the word sends me wild)... er of wading through very deep water, that leaves clothes clinging to the body, revealing an interesting point about all the male cavers; they've all got enormous... resistance to such adverse conditions. Is there any reason why women should not be as successful at conquering these dark lands?

The conditions today are better and safer than before: reliable, water-proofed lights that never fail to give enough light to put the Blackpool illuminations to shame (well, they're brighter than a match—just); sturdy helmets guaranteed to give that distinguished mark of a caver—a 'bruise ring' (and a headache worthy of a mention in the Guinness Book of Records). Finally, and most importantly, the (rubber) wet suit and the (rubber) wellies. I regard these as the most essential caving equipment. What would caving be without the reassuring smooth, yet tough, touch of rubber against flesh?

What more could a woman of today require? As a colleague said, 'It's cold, wet, dark, miserable and the only warmth available is that emanating from Steve's legs'. There's an incentive, at least. Or is it?

Wendy Thorne

A New Grading System for Caves and Potholes

The existing cave grading schemes are basically just assessments made by either the author of a local guide book or the original discoverers. This of course allows much room for inaccuracies and misleading information. The two main mehods of categorization are

To replace these a new grading system is proposed based on a cumulative addition of hazards in a cave being weighted against the experience of the team. Instead of an absolute grade being given, a flexible system of weighting coefficients would be indicated which could be used to allow cavers to assess the cave before the a trip.

A system giving a final expected death toll for each trip as a percentage of those on the trip has been devised. It is based on an ordered category list as follows:

Average time for the trip, T
0–1 hours0
1–3 hours1
3–6 hours2
6–10 hours3
10–15 hours4
Season, C.
Total pitch length, P.
Wetness, W.
Hazards (e.g. traverses), H.
Above average3

This is all added to give an environmental coefficient for the cave.

X = T + C + P + W + H

E.g., for Giants to the top of Geology Pot:

X = 2 + 3 + 2 + 2 + 3
X = 12
Average party experience, E.
State of equipment, S.
Flood conditions, F.
Dry cave0
Totally flooded5

DT is the average % death toll.

DT = (E + S + F) X ÷ 2

For Giants:

(2 + 1 + 3) × 12 ÷ 2 = 36%

So in future, if at the end of a trip the expected death toll has not been reached, the figure must be made up by volunteer or volunteered cavers. This should allow a more predictable outcome to trips to be planned for and should avoid emergencies and unplanned deaths. I hope for your fullest cooperation in implementing this new idea in future.

Steve Simmons

Yorkshire 8th–10th February 1980

Pete, Roger, Martin, Wendy, Lil, Dave E., Dave B., Colin

Arrived at the Red Rose hut—Bull Pot Farm, about 1 a.m., after food and drink stops, a few R.R. members were also there. First night passed very quietly. Next morning after breakfast we drove to Ingleton to get some surveys and when we got back Pete found he had left his key in the hut and the members had gone so we were locked out. Pete drove back to Ingleton to catch up with the members and finally returned with a key. We had decided to a Lancaster-County exchange, but were worried about route finding when some members of the Northern Pennine Club turned up. They knew their way around the cave but had no tackle, so we made a deal with them: our tackle for their knowledge.

Dave E., Martin and I went down Lancaster with three members of N.P.C. and the rest went down County Pot. The route consists of large high level passage with large boulders, occasional big black holes in the floor and some very good formations, hot and very dry. The last (or first) chamber, Coates Chamber, is the largest, and this leads via some passage to a fixed ladder down to the boulder slope at Stop Pot in the main stream where we met the other group. After a short chat we split up again.

We then spent a long time trying to get through the boulder choke as the water was very high, half the people finally going through a bedding plane bypass. The water in the main stream passage was quite powerful and tiring. Reaching Eureka Junction, we looked at the foam on the roof and quickly moved on. The stream in the next section was also very powerful and we had to go upstream, the easiest way being to traverse above the water. We got to the last pitch with no problems, but here Dave had a lot of trouble, by rerigging the pitch he got up this, but found the next section of passage too tight. After about 20 mins trying to traverse over it he finally managed to force his way through it, leaving us with only a long walk back over the moor to face.

Back at the hut we changed and had our dinner and waited for the others while talking (?) to one of the R.R. members, and waited, and waited. Eventually at about 9.30 p.m. they started coming out. When they had all changed we quickly drove into Kirby Lonsdale for a short drink. Returning we had another talk (?) with the R.R. bloke (this time with arm movements) before retiring. After about half an hour the door opened and a strange and luminous green object flew across the room. It was an emergency light stick and was thrown around a bit before we got bored. Pete managed to cut it open so now when it was thrown around everything got sprayed a luminous green. The walles looked like a plan of the galaxy. Eventually it was thrown back into the members' room. They were a bit upset that their toy was broken, especially when their sleeping bags turned luminous green. There was a lot of noise that night with people moving around and next morning found there had been another rescue from Pippikin.

Only Wendy, Martin, Roger and Colin went caving on Sunday, the rest went for a walk. We went down Bull Pot of the Witches, abseiling down the entrance shaft to make it a bit more interesting. A very good Sunday trip, except I forgot there was a pitch in the cave and had to go back out and get a ladder. Managed to find the stream in various places but we had to exit due to lack of time. The others were back when we got out so we changed and packed.


A young student from equatorial Africa joined the University potholing club. On one of his first trips the team leader paused for a rest and produced a vacuum flask of tea. Coming from a country where the problems of keeping liquids hot did not arise, the student was most impressed and said he would like to have one too. "Please, what are they called?" One joker said that they were called contraceptives and could be obtained from any chemist. Upon his return to the surface he went to the chemist and asked for one. The chemist asked what size he would like. "Oh!" said the student, recollecting the one he had seen, "about so long and so thick". The chemist was staggered, and the student added hastily, "Don't be surprised, after all once I'm in the hole I often stay there for up to 8 hours at a time".

Yes, and they could get worse if YOU don't write something for YOUR club magazine. While there was sufficient material for this magazine it has come from only a small section of the club, so why not get your name down in print for the generations of Aber cavers to come.

Finally, a word of advice. With the current interest in The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy, I was recently perusing my copy for hints for cavers. Unfortunately this was all I was able to come up with, so whould you ever get trapped underground:

What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can't move, with no hope of rescue: consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won't be troubling you much longer.

Document history:

  • First published 1980. Originally edited by Colin Bunce.
  • 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