Thrutch Volume 3 Easter 1980

The magazine of the Aberystwyth Caving Club.
  1. Editorial
  2. An alternative view of the Mid-Wales Mine Rescue Situation
  3. What is a Cave?
  4. Women in Caving—A Rodent's View
  5. Ireland—Part 2
  6. Frontiers of Technique—Part I Abseiling
  7. Yorkshire February 8th-10th 1980
  8. Cave Rescue News
  9. If at First...
  10. South Wales 1st-2nd March
  11. Terminal Velocity Club—New Member
  12. The other side of Caving
  13. The County-Lancaster Saga
  14. A Short Note of Warning
  15. Advertisement


Shock! Horror! Yes the price of Thrutch has gone up already. What possible reason can I have for a 25% price increase I hear you ask. Has all this bouncing gone to his head?—Induced meglomania! Unfortunately not, just nearly 20 weeks of economics. The last issue cost 12.50 to produce 50 issues so a quick sum on your calculator: 50 x 20p. = 10.00, therefore you have a 2.50 loss before you start. I think a break-even price is quite justified. So far I have arranged magazine exchanges with Croydon and Westminster clubs, and I am waiting for a reply from several others. If anybody knows any other clubs that produce magazines please let me know. Finally I must thank Harry for this issue's excellent cover, and Gill Glover, Philosophy Secretary for doing our typing.


An alternative view of the Mid-Wales Mine Rescue Situation

A Reply to the article by Roger Cross
Dave Ely, Admin.Officer M.W.M.R.T.

With reference to Issue No. 2 of Thrutch, specifically Cave Rescue Cliques, I would like to put the facts right and add a few points of my own. As of yet, luckily, we have not had a call out, and I hope this state continues, not because of incompetence but it proves that the people who do venture into the old mine workings do so with a sense of responsibility.

A practice rescue was arranged last year, all the wardens were informed of the date and time. Out of a possible 30-40 cavers and miners, a total number of FOUR actually bothered to turn up, and I hasten to add not one of those came from the Aberystwyth C.C. After it was cancelled one member was found, slightly worse for wear at a nearby pub.

If the local members cannot be bothered to turn up when a practice is organised, how the hell do they expect to get any experience. Just as a mattercr interest how many of you have bothered to get even a basic knowledge of First Aid?

Numerous attempts have been made to get in touch with the B.C.M.S., all, I am sorry to say, to no avail. It seems to me that something has upset them or they are being plain ignorant.

There is no point in thinking of forming an independent Aber. M.R.O., obviously Roger has not bothered to find out exactly how the Rescue Team works, so, to get rid of any misconceptions or queries, I will try to explain it as simply as possible:

The Mid Wales Mine Rescue Team is written down in the Police Major Incident Book with four call-out wardens: two for the North of the county and two for South of the county.

In the event of an incident underground the Police would be contacted who would get in touch with one of the Wardens depending on the locality of the incident (i.e. North or South of the county). It would then be the responsibility of the Warden to get in touch with as many members as he thinks necessary as well as tackle that may be required. Transport could be provided by the Police for both tackle and personnel.

Once on the scene it is the responsibility of the Warden or somebody chosen by the same to decide whether assistance is needed by the Fire Service and, or, additional Rescue personnel.

It is of paramount importance that any members attending a rescue callout not only takes orders but carry them out as quick as possible no matter what their personal feelings may be. With the above in mind it is apparent that contact with S.C.M.C. is not necessary even if it is desired.

In the not too distant future there will be another practice rescue organised, the date, time and locality will be made known to as many as possible in plenty of time so that there can be no excuses.

I will now step down from the rostrum and end with a final plea, beg or grovel, whichever reaches you best. The Mid Wales Mine [The article as originally published ended here; it should have continued as follows—RLS] Rescue Team is desperately short of funds. If anyone cares to donate a little, or a lot, if you know how to get any addition to the meagre funds I will be very glad to hear from you.

What is a Cave?

Just in case you were wondering here are a few definitions:

  1. Just a vacant space underground for the provision of enjoyment, adventure, exploration and recreation—to the caver.
  2. A scarce natural underground amenity containing historic remains—to an archaeologist.
  3. An irreplaceable underground time-scale natural museum containing an exclusive eco-system of special biological interest—to the scientist.
  4. A convenient place to dump rubish out of sight—to the litterbug.
  5. A nuisance—to land owners, quarry-owners etc.
  6. A wondrous place to behold, or a damn stupid place to go to enjoy oneself—to the public.
  7. A commercial proposition—to the show-cave owner.

Of course you may be able to think of a few more, a free Radio-1 Thrutch biro for any ideas.

Taken from A strategy for caving—Cambrian Caving Council

Congratulations to Paul and Linda from Thrutch —
Many happy years.

Women in Caving—A Rodent's View

Due to the difficulties of getting enough material together to publish, Thrutch scores over the Guild hack-rag in that you can be as long as you like and (nearly) as offensive as you like, and it still gets in print. Which allows me to get this screed before you.

Interest in caving is spread between men and women—club membership this year breaks down to roughly 60% men and 40% women—even if most of the women do want to know "Do women do this?" This disparity between men and women increases when the numbers who have actually been caving are examined—roughly a third of the members who have been on one or more trips are women. This proportion has been retained in the hard-core—twelve cavers, including four women, have been on at least half of this year's meets. So why is caving still regarded as a man's sport?

The influence of other clubs' attitudes probably has something to do with it. The attitude of S.W.C.C., especially to cavers' wives, is extremely male chauvinistic—and contagious, marriages have been rocked by the influence of this attitude. There's Wendy's account of those two blokes who came in pissed at 4.00 in the morning.

There's also the bloke at S.W.C.C. December 7th (I won't say it was Bob Radcliffe in case he sees this) who offered to sign us in if Sue or Cara would sleep with him! So it was a joke, you can still see the attitude. And I went along with it, which tells you something about my attitude. In Yorkshire February 1Oth, Colin's explanation of why he wanted a ladder for Bull Pot of the Witches, to another group there, was 'We've got a girl with us.' That, apparently, said it all. (Anyone notice how the media refer to women in their late twenties as 'girls'?) Also...

But why go on? It could be something far more prosaic, such as the fact that there are no separate changing-rooms for men and women (apart from exceptions called S.W.C.C.) and often no changing rooms at all. (Anyone from the Students for Decent Everything should ignore the above sentence). Or possibly lack of self-confidence—this seems to affect women more than men, and require more experience to alleviate. There is one bright spot for women caving in Aber. While the hard-core is usually about a dozen, two years ago it was exclusively male. Last year, there were two women. This year there are four. Those of you who understand geometrical progressions will realise that next year, women will dominate the club (women will comprise half of the old hands once all us hoary old finalists have left). And so next year, 'Do men go caving?' A possibility, at least.

Roger Cross

Ireland—Part 2

Cullan 5 would to any average caver present few problems except the odd squeeze through mud, but, to an Aberystwyth caver a whole new world of total confusion may be fashioned from the material of this cave.

It was the first underground foray we were making in Ireland and we chose Cullan 5 for a easy introduction. Whether the chaos that ensued was avoidable, is a debatable point, but we made the most simple caving trip into a shambles. After an hour underground one party had accidentally entered Cullan 3 and were happily exploring this using the guide information for C5! The second party was actually in the right cave but were rapidly running into trouble with Roger Cross attempting an unlikely-looking, water-filled bedding plane that Bristol seemed to have given up at, and just thrown dye down. The proper route on was filled in with foul mud and we decided not to dig it but try this new route Roger was so happily descending. Moving down this passage was easy, as the water pressure behind you acted as a piledriver. I closely followed him to make sure he was not in trouble only to find that reversing was just impossible. Managing to turn round I was able to free myself. It took Rog much longer and much swearing in between writing a will before he was free from his self made prison.

Although we did not realise it yet, this trip was to form a starting block in a self entombment contest which the whole club entered.

By now on the trip, the cooking cycle was in full swing. Every ensuing pairs of mud covered cavers grovelled in knee deep grass searching for dropped food and tasty tit-bits. Luncheon meat, spam, and macaroni formed the basis of a good vom for Chris Cooke in Foxy's brilliant Macspan concordii. Stews abounded, as we only had large saucepans in which to perform these culinary epics. Pete's curry kept everybody guessing as to the effects of overdosing on curry powder. Fodd poisoning was kept at bay by generous application of medicinal Guinness at every opportunity conceivable. But we lost no one from direct intake of either the eats or booze.

Cards also crept slowly into our system along with the salmonella and alcohol. Vast sums of money were won and lost over ridiculous hands. 3 card Brag was the guilty criminal. Every evening it would creep through everyone's pockets for the odd fiver. I found it amazing that after 5 hours playing everyone would claim to be winning! Who was doing the losing?

The move to Doolin halfway through the first week was vaguely welcomed by most of us. This was where things really degenerated. The Rubber Dance in the nearby pub was a sign of things to come. But all about that in the next exciting episode.

Steve Simmons

Frontiers of Technique—Part I Abseiling

In recent years with the development of cheap, strong and varied equipment, speleologists have now pioneered techniques to make caving not only quicker, but also safer and more exhilarating.

The use of abseiling aids was to caving what free fall was to the parachutist and what accidents are to hanq gliding. Rapid descent has made the abyss much shorter; the depth and formations on pitches can now be examined at close quarters using a conscientious descent at the speed of your choice.

An important aspect of the use of new equipment in abseiling has been to speed up the process of getting from the top to the bottom of cave systems. Gone are the days of being slowly lowered down Gaping Gill on a washing line with only a leaking luminous rod (?!—Ed.) to aid the caver's navigation. Now high speeds can be obtained using lubricated> nylon rope and polished descenders.

Early attempts in this field have been to lower the harness and attachments to the lower quarters of the body. This tends to make control of the descent speed increasingly difficult as the rope in the left hand disappears towards the lower leg. However, on leaning backwards, normally stretching the arms above the head, velocity is increased, friction reduced and moreover the descendent can see his destination as he illuminates the chasm. If properly secured the harness can then tighten around the descendent's ankles, making control of the line with the left hand virtually impossible. This aids descent remarkably, increasing the process by a factor of up to 10 as the descendent hurtles into the darkness.

Heading downwards at such speeds adds to the skill involved in the process of aiming at a tight section or trapdoor in a mine, which can become an art in itself.

As humanity proceeds to lower itself to new depths, perhaps the future holds even faster descent methods as technique passes the final frontier of uncontrolled descent.

(Taken from a chapter in Caving the beserk way by B. Bat)

Definitely not by Dave Whitaker

Yorkshire February 8th-10th 1980

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


The weekend commenced with us trying to drag innocent people off the pavement to go caving.


Breakfast after a freezing nights' lack of sleep. Drove to Ingleton, then back to Red Rose, where it rapidly became apparent that the keys to the place were in fact locked inside. So we drove back to Ingleton, borrowed the keys from the Brum poly lot and returned to Red Rose (again). This wasted the morning efficiently.

Eventually it was decided to do a Lancaster Hole-County Pot through trip, not necessarily in that order. Colin, Dave E and Martin opted for Lancaster to County, while the rest of us thought we'd try the County to Lancaster route (fools).

After a hideous walk over moors and through bogs we arrived at County Pot entrance, and soon reached the first pitch. Pity the ladder was a few feet too short, especially when you don't realise this until you're hanging off the end of it. Pete's shoulders suffered for this when Wendy and I used them for climbing on. They were to suffer again soon after at "the slit", quite an awkward little feature really. You get to the top of it itching for a decent sized passage to recover in, and all you find is a narrow bedding plane. At this point Roger was trampled over by Dave B. Beyond this was the second pitch, then we caught sight of the stream. A little turbulent you could say, and so we tried to avoid it by a traverse, somewhat tricky in places, and ended up dropping into the stream anyway. In Lower Pierce's passage we heard voices behind and waited half an hour for another group of cavers to catch up with us. This gave Wendy a great opportunity to do some more sampling; caving the scientific way?!

Next we launched into the stream at Eureka Junction battling against the current. It was freezing and f0r Dave B. rather unpleasant in his new-look 'ventilated' wetsuit. But we all made it and got into Stop Pot, meeting the others coming from Lancaster, us freezing to death, and them looking as if they'd been in a sauna.

The trip after this consisted mainly of clambering up and down boulders through huge chambers, with the odd crawl, climb, ladder and 'large' hole thrown in to make life more interesting. There was some excellent formations e.g. Painter's Palate, Angel's Wing. After some confusion we found the right route to Lancaster Hole and a lousy 110 feet ladder climb. After sitting at the bottom for up to 2 hours our turn to ascend came, by which time we didn't reaily feel like it. This resulted in some of us (particularly me) being hauled up the pitch. A whole new dimension to ladder ascents I thought, and so much faster too, even if it doesn't do your rubs too much good.

After 8 hours underground we got to the pub at 10.30 p.m. in time for a pint or 2, or 3... Back at Red Rose we had some grub, followed by a really rivetting lecture on "Caving, I did it my way", by some guy with a strange cough. Then it was off to a fluorescent and carcenagenic night in bed, interrupted by a lot of noise at about 4.30 a.m., which turned out to be a cave rescue. We slept peacefully on.


Caving—Bull Pot, or Walkies, with a drive back to Aber via chip shops and pubs.

An excellent novel all round. And what about the 'Little Nipper'!

P.S. Don't forget to face the left wall, and watch your water pressure and suction folks.

P.P.S. December's Derbyshire trip must not go unmentioned. With 13 Aberites—Pete, Roger, Steve, H.H., Colin, Dave E, Dino, Dave W, Sue, Cara, Wendy, Lil, Helen, plus the two Brummies—Chris and Wend, the trip was a success. Much alcohol was consumed, Roger sang, Dave W slept, there was an axe, a can of spray paint (pink), underwear (ask pete) and even a cave or 2—Gautries, p8 (Jackpot) and Giants. Not forgetting the cold spaghetti and meat balls...

Roqer quote concerning Lancaster pitch—Roger denies being hauled up it. We observed that he was going up at a fair rate. "That's 'cos I was trying to keep up with the f-----g rope!"

Pete quote "Excuse me, are you wanting to go caving?"

'Lil' Henry

Cave Rescue News

OFD strikes again! On Saturday Feb. 23rd, one of a party going via Edward's Shortcut to Salubrious slipped on the traverses and fell seventy feet, cracking his skull, ribs, and a few other minor bones and things. Since the rescue team happened to be at Penwyllt for a rescue meeting, he was hauled out rapidly and without publicity, and spent five days in hospital.

A date for your diary folks! On Saturday April 26th, there is a cave rescue practice at Porth-yr-Ogof, near Ystradfellte. More information as soon as Roger can get it, but will probably stand in the region of 10-11.00 a.m. Hoping to see all the keen Mid Wales Mine Rescue members there!

If at First...

Steve's political career suffered a minor setback at the Guild Elections, when the voters failed to ratify his appointment to the post of A.U. president. Thrutch intends to campaign for another election as soon as possible, to give the voters a chance to get it right!

However, in the meantime, Steve has ventured into big business with a dubious deal over a quantity of carbide larger than the mind can comfortably imagine. So if anybody wants to a pound or two (or two hundred) of carbide see Steve soon before the top of the back wing of Carp. is destroyed in a mysterious explosion.

South Wales 1st-2nd March

Pete, Dino, Lil, Nick, Wendy, Martin, Roger, Mel, Aitch and Colin

We left Aber on Saturday morning, several people looking "morning-after-the-night-beforeish" (not mentioning any names—next year's President), and after several false alarms reached Brecon for an early lunch. Then continued on to check the caravan and try to find some boots for Dino. This done we drove down to Bridge Cave, changed and started the long walk over to Pant Mawr after looking at the entrance to Little Neath (you could have got a nostril into the crack in the roof!)

Eventually everybody arrived at the impressive, desolate shake hole entrance to Pant Mawr, and after waiting for another party to come out we rigged the pitch and abseiled down, causing some minor heart attacks for some people. Once down the pitch the cave produced few problems even for U.C.W.A.C.C. Wendy took some samples. I took some photographs, everybody was impressed by the formations, and we finally reached the disappointing final sump. We returned to the entrance quickly and even the pitch caused no problems (Please note well.) It was a pity we still had the long, cold walk across the pitch dark moor to face. However the thought of food and drink drew us on like some strange magnetic force.

Back at the bus we changed quickly, except for Dino, who had borrowed Steve's wet suit trousers and seemed to be having a bit of a problem getting them off again. He eventually managed to free himself and we set off for the chippy. It was only in the light here we realized just how muddy we all were but they didn't seem to mind. After that we went into "The White Horse" at Pont-Nedd-Fechan for a few jars, the state of the log book reveals how many. Everybody taking it in turns for a wash whilst sampling the delights of Brains, Felinfoel and Old Peculiar. Needless to say everybody was quite happy when we got back to the caravan and sorted out the sleeping arrangements. There was another cooking session sometime early in the morning. Dino doing the honours—Irish stew in the name of the law!

Next morning, people got up, slowly cooked breakfast and milled about deciding what to do. Eventually everybody settled on pottering about in the Neath Valley. So we took a rope and walked up to Pwll-y-Rhyd but whilst walking innocently along the side of the valley, this tree leapt maliciously out of the ground and pushed me over the side. "What's that in the air, is it a brick, is it a rock?, No it's Bunce!" After falling thousands of feet, bouncing off several rocks I eventually came to a stop lying in a pile of rope. Courageously I didn't let on to the others I had broken both my legs in six places and carried on as normal. After doing a bit of abseiling Wendy managed to get herself stuck for five minutes. We had a quick look in Bridge cave—not too good and some people went in the other very, very muddy passages in the depression (not on the survey), and in Town drain—water still backed up at the end, and White Lady—to wash off before leaving. Stopped at the Vulcan Inn again on the way back, but didn't get another free bottle of wine.

Colin Bunce

Terminal Velocity Club—New Member

Mr. Colin Bounce, of Newuadd Ceredigion, Aberystwyth, has been accepted as an associate member of the Club, as a result of the following achievement:

On Sunday, February 24th 1980, Mr. Baunce was on the west bank of the Nedd Fechan, downstream fram Cwm Pwll Y Rhyd, when he entrusted his weight to a dead tree. The tree came away in his hand, and Mr. Bounce fell a total of about twenty feet, breaking his fall by bouncing off rocks en route. Mr. Bounce sustained no serious injury, and was able to rise within fifteen minutes, as laid down in the Club's rules. Furthermore, Mr. Bounce subsequently went caving in Town Drain and other minor systems.

Mr. Bounce will be accorded full membership of the Club upon demonstration of his technique underground, before witnesses.

The other side of Caving

That artful pose, Colin Bunce, dedided to further his career in sky-diving on a recent trip to South Wales. On this particular occasion he couldn't wait to get underground and consequently flung himself off a 30 ft drop in full view of the other members of the party who witnessed a limp object bouncing (Buncing) from a rock ledge with sufficient velocity to drop neatly down a hole between a large boulder and the rock face. For some reason he selfishly forgot to shout "Below?" but fortunately nobody was standing at his preselected landing site. He was found lying amid a mass of tangled rope apparently contemplating the meaning of life.

It seems a shame that he should bring these despicable mountaineering club habits to the caving club but fair play to the lad it was a top class "bone"!

Wendy, of course, not wishing to be outdone, went off by herself and got wedged in a gruesome-looking constricted crawl from which she couldn't reverse or turn around. She was eventually found when a pair of neoprene clad legs were seen thrashing in mid air and muffled cries were heard describing her present predicament. But while other cavers were being brought to her aid she had managed to get out, possibly by dislocating her famous knees. Alternatively she may have waited until the air pressure, building up from other cavers breaking wind after the previous nights' "Old Pec." session, was sufficiently high to force her out (This theory would be supported by an anonymous Yorkshire caver.)

Well done comrades you certainly made the weekend

Martin Oates

The County-Lancaster Saga

(Tune: traditional—The Shearing)

Once we went to County Pot, my bonny cavers-o,
It had really got the lot, my bonny cavers-o,
Once we went to County Pot.
It had really got the lot.
The discover'ner should be shot, my bonny cavers-o.

We walked two miles or more,
Across a bleak and boggy moor.
On the gorse we had been tore.

Oh, the streamway was built wrong.
'Twas too narrow and too long
As it wound its' way along.

At the first pitch we were caught.
'Neath a waterfall we fought.
With a ladder five feet short.

Up a slit we had to go
And we climbed a foot or so,
Before sliding back below.

To get up the Slit, you see,
Everybody stood on me
And they broke my ribs in three.

To Eureka then we came,
With a stream so far, 'twas plain
That we all must be insane.

Oh, the stream was fast and deep
Against the current we did creep,
For what seemed to us a week.

To Stock Pot we were then led,
And collapsed like we were dead
Wished we'd gone to pub instead.

We continued like men blind
For a mile, there to find
That we'd left one man behind.

When we noticed our sad luck
With all speed, we doubled back,
For the Mars Bars in his pack.

These retrieved, away we shot,
Past deep chasms, over rocks,
'Til we reached Lancaster Pot.

Up the last pitch we did go,
From a hundred feet below
Very awkwardly and slow.

Home we trudged across the moor
we were tired, stiff and sore
We'd been gone eight hours or more. [The final verse included here was lost on the cutting room floor in the original published version—RLS]

Roger Cross

A Short Note of Warning

Owing to increasing underworld surveillance nobody is now free from big brother looking closely over your shoulder or tapping your telephone. Here at the Aberystwyth "Clwb Ogofau" we must strive to maintain our independence and liberty to do as we please.

Firstly there was that mysterious character Big H. Did he simply join the club to go caving or was there a more sinister reason—a double agent under a disguise as the most wanted man in Britain whilst really an underground member of the special branch. Now it appears a second mole was dug into our camp—none other than that dual personality Col B. Then there was that other traitor A. Blunt. Isn't it about time we dug the thornes out of our sides and rid ourselves of this Mel-aise once and for all.


It's new! It's sensational!

A whole new method of descent!


No ropes, no ladders, no descenders, forget that S.R.T.


A must for cavers everywhere!

(At least 0.5% of all descents are not fatal)

For details contact: c. BUNCE c/o U.C.W.A.C.C. (terminal velocity section)

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