At very long last Thrutch 9 seizes the unsuspecting world by the throat! Firstly, let me apologise for the long hiatus since Thrutch 8, but certain technical difficulties (how on earth to print it all) held production up; and secondly, apologies for the massive price rise—up from 30p to a whopping great 65p. The causes are obvious though—the increase in size from 13 pages to 53 pages, and an enforced change from the word processor to the photocopier. The latter is at least off-set by the ease of inclusion of plans and drawings though. The amount of "serious" caving in this issue might be taken to be encouraging—three surveys, and two papers representing another major technical breakthrough in the planning of caving trips, also there are five or six poems, proving we're not all from the faculty of science. All in all an encouraging year, so keep up the caving, and the accounts rolling in. Cheers speleobods.
Printed on 14th May 1984 on the Campus of U.C.W. Aberystwyth & Published on 16th May 1984 by Aberystwyth Caving Club
The end of this year marks something of a watershed in the club, for many of our experienced members are, sadly, departing. In fact, our numbers next year may only be just large enough to run trips. It is therefore vital that we attract as many freshers as possible to the club—to do this we consider it is vital that the style of freshers trips be modified. As things stand, freshers are first of all subjected to the mud and water of Cwmystwyth on their first weekend, and dumped back in Aber without a social of any sort immediately afterwards. It's therefore not surprising that only a very small handful persevere until the first real caving trip—the camping at Penwyllt, which usually kills off any remaining enthusiasm for caving.
This year we've only retained three freshers (Hazel, Richard Young, and Ruari) who went through the process described above. Next year, if the club is not to rapidly shrink out of sight, we need to retain many more than the three freshers.
We therefore propose that the time-honoured Cwmystwyth trips be discontinued, to be replaced by a weekend in a REAL caving hut (i.e. not camping), where the freshers will gain a somewhat rosier view of caving, especially its social side. To keep the cost down, the Mendips or South Wales would be the best areas, leaving the problem of selecting fairly straight-forward caves without too much water or mud, and preferably with pretties.
Such is the sort of fresher trip policy that the mountaineering club runs, and in a sport as potentially off-putting as caving they manage to retain a fair number of freshers.
The Mendips doesn't possess many caves adequate to these requirements (especially the "preferably dry" clause!), so we tender the following for evaluation—that the party stay at the Westminster hut at Penderyn and on the Saturday go for a leisurely stroll around the well decorated and straight-forward entrance series etc. Of O.F.D. II (only 35 minutes drive away). Saturday night can be spent in any of the many good hostelries in the areas. Sunday's trip could be made in a somewhat wetter cave if necessary, but at least everyone will have the luxury of starting the trip in dry gear.
Such an initial trip should go far to convince freshers that caving is a tolerably civilized and enjoyable sport(!).
It would also be satisfying to see more of those people who join in October and are never heard of again—to advertise (for free) the weekly socials, and also trips, in Pick Up might also pay dividends.
Whatever is ultimately decided though, we hope it is apparent to all how vital it is in the coming year to boost membership numbers if the club is to remain large enough to be truly active.
- Congratulations to Marshall on his success in his bid for President of National Union of Students, Wales. The following account is taken from 'Courier' (27.3.84):
At a recent conference in Llandrindod Wells, hacks from all over Wales enjoyed a weekend freebie to, as ever, vote in the Labour candidate as President of NUS Wales.
However, the meeting dissolved into chaos when delegates were told they would have to decide between two labour candidates—an unprecedented incursion into the tradition of this half-yearly bonk for Wales' ugliest people.
The final result was a massive sympathy vote (on the grounds that he didn't stand a chance) for Aberystwyth FE student Richard Marshall. He beat, by 52 votes to 16, Dennis Regan from Cardiff, who recently made himself unpopular by suggesting NUS Wales should advocate restricting licensing hours throughout the principality.
Thirty two year old Richard, who hails from Nigeria, is the union's first black President and has constantly been outspoken on Gay Rights, much to the consternation of his less radical predecessor. Relations between the two reached an all time low after Richard's much-publicised arrest for indecency in Carmarthen last summer—a fact not unconnected with his wife's departure leaving Richard with the custody of five-year old Tabitha.
- Congratulations are also due to H, that stalwart for so long of this club, on, at long last, a SUCESSFUL job application or two. Thrutch wishes you all the best up there in Aberdeen with the other Aber ex-patriates.
- Congratulations to Rob on his successful bid for the treasurer of the Geol. Soc., maintaining the caving club domination of that society.
- The TERMINAL VELOCITY CLUB records the passing from Aberystwyth of 50% of its members (in the shape of Chris Stayte). However, john is hoping to recruit a few members at the first practice jump from the Geog. Tower next term.
- SPECIAL OFFER—WHILE LIMITED STOCKS LAST!!!
A few back copies of Thrutch are still in the editorial office:
- Thrutch volume 3— a rare and early back number for only 10p!
- Thrutch volume 7— still at its original price of 30p!
- Thrutch volume 8— "a masterpiece of the English language" for a mere 30p!
The usual motley group assembled early in the Downies for a hard nights drinking. The brief formality of the Annual General Meeting was enacted in the usual ritualistic way—the previous A.G.M. minutes were not found and read; the outgoing president made has infamous utterance; the Switzerland trip was canceled, etc.. The only shock was the outcome of the elections:
|Outgoing committee||Incoming committee|
|President||David Carruthers||Paul Grainger (Lira)|
|Secretary||Dino Fenton||Chris Stayte|
|Treasurer||Hywel Davies||Sara Frears|
|Thrutch Editor||Dino Fenton||Rob Jones|
Such a surprise result could only be ascribed to a failure on the part of the Peoples' Committee. The cabal the adjourned to the Light of Asia for curries, followed by the usual speeches, presentations, etc. Before going to the Angel Inn. Much later, the majority went for a swim off Alex, before ending up at Glyngorse.
This invitation, formally offered by Mr. James Thorburn, Aberystwyth's resident castle archaeologist, of a weekend for two (inclusive of convenience foods and underground sporting facilities) in a "real Welsh cottage" in the Thorburn Holiday Village at Dyserth was accepted by Messrs. Abdul and Corbett on behalf of the Aberystwyth Mines Adventurers. However, one may ask, was this just a plot by our good man Thorburn to increase his mother's revenue in the holiday business? Or could it be a wise move on his behalf to hire two crawling desperados to conduct his researches below ground and thereby preserve body and limb to wage his forthcoming academic Achievement? Helmits off to our great mentor and his forthcoming monograph "Talargoch Mine" in the Northern Mines Research Society's "British Mining Series" publications. For this we humbly offered out services for just a mere mention in the acknowledgements (plus a share of the profits—please pay into Zurich No.11423621 Acc., Jamie).
And so it happened: one Friday night after exchanging cars (the old Corbettmobile became the new Abdulmobile, and the new Corbettmobile turned out to be even worse—breaking down three times on the way up) we set out for North Wales, arriving late at night for the rendezvous at a strange empty house guarded by a black and white TV and a strange smelly dog. It later appeared that this was some sort of vetting procedure, and so on the arrival of Jamie we were hustled down the road to an upmarket version of a Thorburn Holiday Home complete with a colour TV and a weekend's supply of Mothers' Pride.
The Saturday morning started with an exploration of the 'old mens' working on the limestone escarpment of Craig Fawr. Most of these were surface workings (now overgrown) and were worked on lodes similar to the Derbyshire Rakes (dating from Roman times to the eighteenth century). we had a look at a couple of early pick-out levels in the side of the China Rake—probably a seventeenth or eighteenth century working of the Quaker Company—after which we visited a maze of shallow workings where a number of cross cut veins were exposed in the cliff face above the Talargoch main workings. These included the celebrated "cole holes" (worked for zinc) depicted on an eighteenth century landscape painting, and which were highly cavernous. Here we introduced Mr.Thorburn to the delights of caving and turned him off for life.
Returning to the local hostelry for lunch we inebriated ourselves to the extent of making an attempt on the highlight of the weekend—a crawl up a brick lined eighteenth century drainage adit. Definately a wetsuit job, this was a shallow adit (3½' high along most of its length) driven for about half a mile through boulder clay to drain the Talargoch workings. The portal entered a stream below the council estate, right next to the sewage outlet, and since both smelt rather rank, it was a toss up which to enter first. The prospect of wearing my knees down to the bone however was rewarded by an amazing trip—perhaps one of the finest examples of eighteenth century mine engineering one could imagine—brick lined and solid along its entire length. In places stalactites hanging from the brick roof almost jammed the adit, and although forcing a passage through seemed like desecration, it at least served to emphasise that no one had been up it for at least a century.
After approximately an hour of crawling we entered the nineteenth century workings on Parton's Vein, unfortunately however only to find that the way on was soon blocked. One side passage led off to the flooded engine shaft—Walker's Shaft (sterted 1860) that was now capped with concrete on the surface. The air was pretty foul at this point and the whole place reeked of diesel oil. We returned along the drainage adit to find a worried Jamie, and thence to the local council estate, where curtains soon began to twitch as the news spread of two strange frogmen (and a foreman) who had just appeared from out of the council sewage pipe (mutation perhaps?).
Sunday was a bit of a non-starter, although we now made a further attempt to enter the main Talargoch working from the south western end via the much larger stone lined drainage ait of 1844. First built for an underground hydraulic engine, but which was later completed for a 100 inch pumping engine on the surface at Clives Shaft (housed in a particularly fine Cornish Engine House—the shell of which still survives).
We entered this adit at a point where a stream had broken through at the surface, and, not being able to see beyond until we were the other side of the waterfall, found ourselves in a level more or less silted up to the roof. Crawling on hands and knees through foul smelling water for about a hundred yards we were expecting to meet a rat at any moment, till at last Mr. Corbett lost his nerve after correctly identifying various biological samples floating past him as human faeces (Mr. Corbett took biology at school). After cross checking with me first to ascertain that these samples hadn't issued from the rent in the behind of my wetsuit, we agreed, hydraulic engine or no hydraulic engine, that the journey was in rather bad taste and that we should better head hastily for the exit before somebody else pulled the chain.
The journey over, we decontaminated, and fished our benefactor from out of the local inn and (after paying off Mrs. Thorburn and her rabid dog) headed home to the shit-free and civilized mines of mid Wales. (Though it may be remembered that the author is accustomed to burrowing through rotting carcasses of sheep in the cause of mine exploration—see "Attacked by a dead sheep at Grogwynion" in Thrutch volume 8.).
The following mining trips are also known to have taken place, but unfortunately, accounts are not available:
- "Black Mountain Prospecting Trip" on August 2nd 1983, and
- "Kehrad Watching Trip" on August 18th 1983
All mining remains within a few miles of Eryrys village were examined in the course of two weeks geological mapping. The finest remains by far are those of the Cornish Pumping Engine House of the Nant or New Westminster Mine, and its nearby stack. The only accessible workings are at SJ 2021/5916 where there is a small lead level supposedly developed from a cave. The level is some 35 metres long, branching into two at the end—one seems to be a unsuccessful trial, the other bears evidence of over hand stoping, but is blocked by fallen deads after a few metres.
The thousand year tradition of the annual Hibernean Summer 'Expedition' was continued last summer as ever. Fifteen intrepid souls assembled on July 16th at Aberystwyth, to be joined ultimately by a further five:
The debauchery started early and continued relentlessly—a new log book was emblazoned with the cry "more beer!" by only page two. The Fishguard—Rosslare crossing was calm, despite the nuclear holocaust raging on the Apocalypse board. The crossing of Ireland was even wetter than the St. Georges Channel crossing, but we had passed under the complete storm front by the time County Clare hove into sight. The campsite was suffering from mega-inflation and Boy Scouts so we camped behind Craggah Post Office instead (very handy for O'Donoghue's though!).
Caving commenced that very night and proceeded apace for the entire holiday, I mean expedition, with a total of eleven trips of various sizes as well as four days digging in the ten days: an excellent record for us. The Guinness also commenced early, but the pack slackened a little, due to finances. During our six days at Craggah, O'Donoghue's and Hyland's Hotel and Monks Bar at Ballyvaughn were favoured but thereafter Mc Gann's and occasionally Mc Dermott's at Doolin were patronised. After three days at Doolin we braved the Trans-Ireland Highway and spent a night at Howth, Dublin, Courtesy of Colm and Nicky, before returning via Holyhead.
The final assessment of the delights of the Burren must rightly belong to that renowned wordsmith, Colin Bunce:
...I must enthuse once more over the wholesome nature of County Clare. The majesty of the limestone—the strata of glory and mystery of the ocean, crashing relentlessly on this glorious shore. Proud homesteads, scattered as the seeds that bring these barren pastures to bloom. Epitomised as ever by the drink of this land—the Guinness—the creamy head swirly softly over the darkness of the body—full, rich, yielding a stamina unknown to all but that body of men who slaver and drivel in the corner of O'Donoghue's Bar.
Due to a communications fault, news of the impending departure of the first trip did not circulate fully until after its departure. However the six that did participate found it well worth it.
...Perhaps I should mention the six intrepid explorers who after the hours of driving, the lack of sleep, the day before at Carmarthen...actually went caving. Poll-an-Ionian was the destination and Bunce, Hywel, Underwood, Sara, Chris and Cathy descended into the bowels of the Earth. Half an hour of crawling down muddy passages lead us to the stalagtite chamber.
The mighty stalagtite was truly worth all the effort put into reaching it. The blue colour expected was difficult to perceive but the structure itself (the only thing of worth in this small muddy hole) overcame any shortcomings. Pictures of people pointing at it were taken at great length. What an introduction to County Clare caving!—although we are reliably informed that this cave is in no way typical, a weight off everyones mind.
...suitably wet and covered in mud we returned with Guinness foremost in our minds.
Cullaun Five 18.7.83
...Fenton, Marie, Sara, Marc, Rob and our oh-so-intrepid leader, Chris "white-stick" Stayte. Dropping with practised ease into Cullaun Five entrance, we encountered a low crawl; Stayte led. Stayte's leadership however left something to be desired. Having first reached the "other" entrance we went the wrong way, much trouble with lights followed leaving Rob "blind" and H a little dim. Eventually after much grovelling around in a wet crawl Stayte remembered the way. Having found the right way we eventually reached the alternative entrance and after a gasp of fresh air we entered a stretch of muddy passage. Several inches of liquid mud lubricated the crawling relentlessly sucked at our boots as we passed onto the rest of the cave. Apparently Stayte's brilliant leadership qualities have not been recognised; on this one trip alone he made great sacrafices to make the cave more interesting:
- At great personal discomfort he made a vast detour to show the rest of the party the magnificent formations.
- At vast personal risk, he lept off the top of a fifteen foot pitch, both to check for obstructions to prevent the ladder becoming stuck and to provide great entertainment for the rest of the party (furthermore, think of the saving in wear and tear of ladder rungs).
After these brave attempts at enlivening the trip (receiving no gratitude at all, only complaints) Stayte bravely carried on (ignoring grievous personal injuries) and led the party bravely on through 20,000 more boring yards of serpentine rift, ultimately descending into a low wet bedding plane crawl.
After leaving Marc and Rob who were in dry gear to return, the rest of the intrepid explorers proceeded into the wet crawl. Various wonders of nature were observed: shrimps, shrimps fornicating disturbed by Stayte (the great zoologist), and Fenton saw an earthworm which was later correctly identified as a leech. Then the frog was found. It was rescued and carried out by Marie who gave up her sock, enabling Fenton to carry the little creture out in it (he had previously considered carrying it out in his armpit: a disadvantage to them both).
On his return to Craggah, Chris' novel method of descending pitches sans tackle of any kind was acclaimed, but few seemed inclined to follow his lead in this exciting new field of caving technique. As the evening and the Guinness wore on, it was gradually realised that he was now qualified to enter into the hallowed portals of the renowned Terminal Velocity Club. Mr. Colin Bunce, the only surviving member of this exclusive group, considered the merits of the descent, and having entered into exhaustive interviews with all the witnesses deemed Chris worthy of membership.
This trip was not exactly the best organised of the holiday, being undertaken on the spur of the moment by Chris, Rob, Claire and Marshall. The main difficulty was the shortage of cells: one between the four!
The superb luck of the Stayte struck again: having waited three-quarters of an hour searching futilely for belts and lamps we eventually settled for three smelly old carbides. About another three-quarters of an hour was spent trying to find the cave at the wrong junction on the Green Road during which time Chris all but melted his wetsuit in the relentless sun.
At the entrance our only cell expired, and we were reduced to the three carbides.
Chris can now truly say that Rob's piss is his guiding light (it being the only available water for the carbides). Marshall cunningly managed to stuff his foot into a boot shaped hole at the entrance, having to remove his boot to escape with his life.
Once underground Chris' unfailing sense of direction took us upstream instead of downstream for 200 yards until he realised his error. The cave it self was a fairly monotonous rift, enlivened only by quite good speleotherms.
Coolagh River Cave 20.7.83
Well, as I did one cave last year I thought I'd make a token effort this year, it being a Caving Club trip and all that. So off we went, Underwood deftly finding the entrance even though it had been heavily disguised by some type of hawthorn. After a short crawl we met the traverse—this is where it got dicey. Platt smuggling through trying to keep foot on rock in a pair of muddy wellies ended up backing along the damn thing. Then the pitch—hand over hand and into the water. The cave got nice and wet and interesting at this point, diving it and out of Balcombe's Pot and then onward. Terminal sump and the glorious mud passage. John desperately trying to find the crawl back to Polldonough stream and failing. At this point Cathy christened her new wetsuit with its first rip, great celebrations all round. Now its a real caver's wetsuit. So back up the pitch, being practically hauled up by Marc and John and then the damn traverse one more time—taken much more slowly this time but I didn't fall to my death once. Then the final crawl with daylight pouring through to reveal the pieces of broken glass around the enterance. A fine haul then out into the real world once again—well that's that over with for this year!
This trip wasintended to be a link-up of two groups, one of which descended Poulnagollum (Bunce, John, Nicky and Hywel), whilst the other went down St. Catherine's. Although the two groups probably came quite close to each other in the cave, a link up was not made and only one of the through trips completed.
Group Virtigo descended St. Catherine's with the aid of a rope—excellent decent, before grovelling aroud in a few holes which eventually led to the way on. The so called maze is a fairly simple affair from this end—a strong draught leading to the main stream in Poulnagollum. The stream is followed upstream and an ever increasing volume of water encountered. This is then left to go into another stream via a low arch on the left through deeper water. This is again Followed Upstream until after a second left turn into a crawl is made. This passage is then followed to the entrance.
Group Horizontal entered via Poulnagollum into a narrow meandering passageway which led into the streamway after two right hand turns past various pretties. Eventually reached the maze—choice of three directions; whilst investigating one, Group Virtigo passed by, not hearing our whistles. After looking around further, decided to return via Poulnagollum entrance—met others who had missed second left hand turn and came out together via waterfall where the brave washed their hair.
Doolin River Cave 24.7.83
The massed assault by Chris, Claire, Fenton, Marshall, Abdul, and Hywel on the cave system (which we calculate to lie beneath Mc.Dermott's and Mc.Gann's) was a largely straight forward trip—enhanced by Stayte's failed amputation attempt of his thumb, and Claire's failed light. As a sideshow to the main party was Fenton and Marshall's experiences with the amazing disintegrating carbide lamps. Fenton's lamp first showed problems when it exploded into pyrotechnic splendour on his helmit. Screams of "Abdul...quick blow the bastard out" were heard, punctuated only by the sound of other members of the party retreating as far as possible. Manfully, Fenton carried helmit and lamp at arms length. Meanwhile Marshall's carbide (and knackered flint) parted company from its bracket.
Thus handicapped, the intrepid couple chose to press on with only one faltering hand held carbide lamp in an attempt to catch up with the main party, abandoning Hywel and Abdul to take photographs.
The trip was ugly,,But we all survived, including Fenton who tried to throw himself off a dimly lit precipice.
Cullaun Two 25.7.83
An undistinguished very easy cave. Roomy enough to walk simply almost all the way in a nice rift, very few formations, and those no better than middling. Very dry cave (water no more than two feet deep at most). We climbed down the terminal pitch still carrying the recommended 25 foot ladder and 30 foot belay without realising it was the pitch until we reached the terminal sump. Rob's light went out yet again, making three out of four Irish caves with lamp failures.
Slieve Elva Pot 25.7.83
Bunce and Underwood. Bunce's seventh sense soon located the entrance to this, Clare's newest cave (or it was until the Aber bunch started digging) a small rift surrounded by a low wall leads to an awkward streamway—the gear taken off in the entrance can now be put back on for a while. The next 100 feet of streamway is a little frustrating as all the gear is dragged through a wetsuit ripping rift in which a crawl in the bottom is often easier. The first pitch was laddered initially, then free climbed. The passage from here to the next pitch increases in size slightly, allowing a good old fashioned crab walk by the pitch head. Here, a lack of ladders ment we were able to indulge in a bit of S.R.T. The pitch is nicely decorated with flowstone curtains in the non-active part. Another forty feet or so of horizontal and the final 75 foot pitch is reached. The first bit was laddered, but for the bottom half the ladder was abandoned and the latent friction device used—the wetsuit. There ain't a lot a lot of room to do much apart from stick boots in each others ears from here on. Bunce eventually decided he couldn't go any further, which means I ain't got a hope in hell. Retreat involves much grunting up the slot it was so easy to slide into. A Mars Bar and Twix to fortify us, then up the pitches and the misery of dragging all the tackle out again. To sum up, we decided it was bloody AWKWARD—good sporting trip though with excellent pitches: 160 feet vertical in Clare!
Abdul Goes Swimming 25.7.83
Well, well, to be sure wot's all dis about dis little ting of a hole in de ground? Dere's dis great big sea just over de brow of yer nose, sir. Dere's dese little leprauchauns, in truth Sir, dat I saw digging for water on God's very own hill, and dere was dis focking great big hole,(just dee bottom of dat hill) dat was full of dee fucking stuff. Well oi be a logical man, Sir an oi'd say "leave dese focking holes in der rock and der bones in the stone" All dis "dark whole ahead!" dis"tree foot more or bust!" and dis "loight at de end of der tunnel!" Sir. I'm sure tis a load of old baloney. Oi'd be saying dat if der good Lord wished ois to go scrambling about all over the place poking into all these tight fitting oles in der rock, der good Lord (oo as sure as crazy), would make us wid der Focking claws on der ends of der paws, loik de focking giant stoat, wot left dese bones loiying around in da rocks. Ain't dat right Mammy? Der good Lord, and Der good Lord's Fadder in Law, and de good Lord's mammy (dee Holy Mudder of Jeesus, Mary) knew best I tink. All de focking digging b'Jazus. Duw! Duw! Der way oi'd be looking at de matter Sir, is dat oi be going straight and jumping into da deep end. Dat great big hole fill'd wid water off Doolin Pier, Der way oi did it dis morning like,was to get doon on my very own knees on der beach, pray to der good Lord for me deliverance and good passage, and den to do tis roining jump into de worst goddam focking sea in God's own world, doing dis kamikaze 'ol trick 'od mine, and den........as soon as oi be in, shout loik de focking clappers for soime focker or udder to come on in and pull oise out, yer see? (de usual metod is to shout for der: "Help! Help!" and to wave der arms).
Dis morning was no exception to me normal routine needless to say, but dis toime no focker came joimping in an grab me, and dee ole "feet trick" of standing on dee bottom and walking out loik, failed, and dis ol focker ere got dis wobbly, and der good Lord saw fit to cast dee ol bugger out t'sea. Howedder, oi reckon in his good mercy dee Lord did'na fail me, and der good man choose fit to call out der good men in der Doolin lifeboat, by means der telepathic Arch-angel Gabriel wot i sure i saw shout out tad a sky "swim loik fock fer der rocks yer wanker". To what oi triod me very own best. An dere was dee Lord in shoining glory be, in front od me, wid der ol strawberries and cream and der dancing girls wid nuddin on, telling me to "get de focking move-on 'cos dere still serving coffee in der O'Connor's Bar!" so at dat point whoile I be swigging dee ol salt water, and bobbing oip and doon in der focking waves, oi passed dis massive wind, and pointingme head to de shore, shot de two miles to de coast in under four minutes, and den I sure tanked de good Lord as oi saw de Doolin lifeboat miss me by 200 yards and der eyespop out of de strangers on der shore as they saw dis English focker wid a name loik Abdul shot over dis focking great cliff wid a smile two miles wide, and land on der focking feet single-handed. In truth Sir, and day'd ad given de focker up for dead.
Twas a miracle for sure. In God's truth, Sir. I den did proceed to erect dis monument to dee focking Arch angel Gabriel, and dat tin of beans, an der Doolin loifboat and declared meself a tony dirty landlubber for loif.
God bless yer all, and yer very good sinners hearts. God bless yer tatty wetsuits, but most of all God bless yer demon alcohol which makes yer forgivess seem all de better when it comes (oi'd hereby leave all me slver and de worldly possessions to der Peoples' Commissioner Fenton and de Aberystwyth focking Caving Club for de purpose of digging focking holes and keeping them in der focking useful employment for der rest of dere natural born lives).
Signed Abdul X (his mark)
Poll Gorm 18.7.83 & 22.7.83
(The Descents of the Cavern known as Poll Gorm and the finding of the mutilated Human Remains responsible for the Cures which has lately Manifested itself in our Clubs: a True Account taken from a Survivor of those Expeditions).
The unplumbed depths of Poll Gorm have attracted legends and stories over the centuries as such places are wont to do. Of late there have been rumours of strange digging by unknown persons deep within the caverns, and thus four intrepid young blades chose to descend and investigate further. Having gained the position of the pit from old inhabitants of the region, and learnt of its depth and other particulars from the venerable writings in ancint books; they mounted a well equipped expedition there. The four who were to descend were Colin Bunce, Hywel Davies, Richard Marshall, and John Underwood. There was also a surface party, and an expectant crowd of the inhabitants of those parts, there to amaze at the explorers. The descent was made on long ropes with cunningly devised friction devices known (in such circles) as "figures of eights". The depth of the shaft is oft exaggerated, but I am credibly informed it approximated some twelve or thirteen fathoms.
The horrifying descent over, the intrepid party explored the huge caverns that lay before them—some say the cave connects with Hades itself but I have not had accurate account of this. From the initial bell shaped chamber (some twenty by fifty feet) at the foot of the shaft, a low way was found to a yet larger chamber. this second caverty presented a most singular sight, being thickly carpeted in bones of all descriptions. Being academic men well versed in matter scientific, they were able to identify the remains as being those of goats, sheep, cows, foxes, and the like. They pressed on to the upmost depths of that chamber and found the site of the aforementioned diggings was but a mere scraping, disappointing to behold. Who made it cannot be accurately ajudged, but they were not of great antiquity.
Having marvelled at these wonderous subterranean sights, the party began their return towards the surface. A sudden cry went up though, Hywel Davies had stumbled across a Horrific find—a Human Skull, yellowed and stained.
The party blanched, greatly shocked at the sight. Reason prevailed though, and it was decided to remove the object to the Constabulary. They toiled their way to the base of the entrance shaft and hailed the surface party. The ascent was made on ladders of steel rope, cunningly devised to be both light and durable. John Underwood however, intrepidly ascended the rope by a singular and most ingenious technique known, I am reliably informed, as "prussicking". I have not been able to receive accurate account of the precise mechanism, beyond that the practitioner is intricately bound up in diverse straps and ropes.
Haste was made to the Garda Barracks at Ballyvaughn, and ultimately the Sergeant found. The remains, having been generally most reverently handled, were given over for safe keeping. Questioning of thelocal inhabitants revealed that no memory was preserved of anyone ever having gone missing for at least the previous three-score years, particularly the disappearance of a young woman (for such was the considered opinion of the local Doctor of Medicine). As news of the sinister discovery travelled swiftly through the countryside, old tales were revived, or more likely, formulated on the spot. Within a very few days, we heard of a woman whose infant child had fallen down the great shaft of Poll Gorm, who prayed daily at the very lip of the abyss, until she too ultimately plummited to her death.
Four days later on the 22nd of July, a second epic descent was performed at the behest of the Constabulary, in attempt to seek out further human remains. Although a vast quantity of bones was discovered, this veritable charnel house contained but few if any human remains for all seemed to be of sheep, goat, cow, and the like kind. (In fact certain of the bodies were sufficiently recent to yet preserve much of the corruptable tissue).
Surveying the layout of the chamber, the probable course of events leading to the unfortunate young woman's death became tolerably evident. The accident was surmised to have occurred as follows: firstly she fell down the small shaft some thirty yards up the hill from Poll Gorm; a depth of some twenty or thirty feet. At the base of this shaft is situated a long ledge, which she then stumbled or crawled along, falling a second time, down into the main chamber of the cave—a distance of some thirty or forty feet. Probably severely injured, she then succeeded in dragging herself up the scree slope towards the light dimly glinting in fro, Poll Gorm. This unfortunate then expired towards the upper part of the slope. Such a scenario is the only one able to account for the skull being found in the position it was, for it could never have rolled UP the slight gradient between Poll Gorm and the main chamber; neither could that unfortunate person have survived the fifty-five foot fall down Poll Gorm and subsequently crawled off into the main chamber.
The Dig at Poll Na Luchnacrua
The dig is in a small hollow on the far side of the limestone overlooking Galway Bay. It is reached by the Green Road. On arrival all agreed that the site was promising and a small amount of tools was gathered. Initial progress was slow, mainly due to the presence of a large slab in the floor. This was eventually removed and rotated to allow us to dig beyond it on the right. The chute down, about seven feet deep could not be entered because of a slab jutting out near the top. An open area was visible at the bottom of the chute, and a real optimist could reasonably anticipate open passage "just around the corner". Ominously no draught was discernable.
The digging then continued—another hour and we'll be through was the General cry; this went on for some hours. Eventually after much hard labour by all concerned, Hywel decided to "go for it" and at 5.25pm was through into the passage beyond.
Working from below as well allowed the few remaining boulders to be removed. So digging at the end of the cave could be commenced in earnest. However the presence of a large boulder in the chute ment it required all three people to get each bucket out. The man at the front was digging in relatively pleasant conditions through moon milk and dry clay. The man at the surface was sitting in the sun occasionally pulling the bucket out and emptying it.
The middle man though had an unpleasant time of it; lifting and manoeuvring the bucket over and past himself every few minutes:
...but the most important job was the MIDDLE MAN. Lying on an unusually comfortable rock he had to get up every few minutes to lie at full stretch down the chute and lift and lift the bucket up up over the rock; the bucket would then be pulled into his face, and often jam against the rock again, requiring another stretch and lift with the bucket pulled into his face again. Finally with the bucket free of the chute he could go and lie on his rock again and gaze up at the sun drenched surface man strolling freely across the surface to empty the bucket; which would then be hurled unceremoniously back to the middle man who had to put it back down the chute before returning to his rock for a few minutes musing on the inequalities of life.
By the endof the second day the dig was already being heralded as "a dig amongst digs". It was this day the dig was properly christened:
There is no room to swing a sledge hammer, or a cat, but one could swing a mouse, so BRING ON THE HARD MOUSE.
It was thus that the did came to be called "The Cave of the Hard Mouse", or "Poll na Luchna Crua" in Irish (courtesy of Colm).
Digging continued relentlessly, enlivened by the discovery of many bones, including a complete fox skeleton. A jaw bone of somewhat unusual form was also found; a Giant Cave Stoat was eventually decided upon:
- Diet oysters, foxes, bats, cows.
- Habitat moonmilk mud in caves.
- General features marginally enlarged jaws and overall body size.
- Potential for commercial exploitation if live specimens are found the Glyngorse Mafia will make a fortune from illicit stoat fights in dubious inns.
As the day wore on spirits gradually fell and enthusiasm waned until Nicky arrived. Simultaneously Cathy made a breakthrough which led on to the great discovery. Nothing will ever beat the expression on Hywels face when he emerged from the cave. Covered in dust, eyes shining madly, he announced "I felt a draught, It must go five hundred feet!".
A rock face that seems to go down forever, but how long can we continue. Then "H" has inspiration—to the left: he digs away and it seems that all there is is rocks to go through, but.....My hand seems to be getting somewhere, is this really true? I continue; my arm gets through. Using the lamp. I see a passage, but rocks prevent me continuing. I looked down the slit and the passage seemed to continue. "H" cleared some rock, then the master hit the roof and it collapsed revealing the passageway. Hywel stretched through. A right turn into a tight passage—bedding plane roof and sharp rock floor. The helmit was called for, then abandoned as ten feet were painfully gained. Rocks moved. An iron bar was sent to the face and after nervous movements the rock split. Six inches. Dark was seen ahead it the light of the lamp. Nerves strained—was the roof solid? Three feet. A way on straight ahead gives six feet if small boulders move. A tired explorer inches his way back, his stamina spent. He safely arrives in the main chamber and talk is of five hundred feet.
Estimates were made as to thelength of passage way that would be found up to the end of the following day (which was the last available for digging)—these varied from thirty to 150 feet, with a strong bias around the 130 foot mark. Digging however would fall a little short of this optimistic figure.
the final day—digging continued at a steady rate:
People covered in the shittiest clothing ever seen linger on the surface fearing the moment when the next turn arrives.
Work was directed towards removing boulders and mud to ease access into the previous days discoveries. In moving boulders Hywel got trapped the wrong side of one, and there were some anxious moments before he finally thought thin enough and squeezed back out:
Hywel, a man who has been buried alive today (not "stuck" but "couldn't get out!") is bagining once again to see the bright side and talk of further digging.
Digging finally ceased with approximately seventy feet of passageway, of which about three-quarters had been actually dug.
The good news is that the five days have produced a fair number of "Digging Fevers" or "Feverous Troglobuncus" victims in the club. It seems that many will be prepared to follow Fenton and Davies on the path to fame and glory in the coming year.
Only an incorrigible optimist would maintain that the cave will develop into the Clare Master System with further work, but if there's seventy feet, there's got to be more....
Design team Chris = knees and legs, part of head; H = hands; Fenton = nose and brain; Abdul = wet suit repairs and deoderisers; Rob = digging equipment; Hywel = torso; Bunce = beard; Alison = feet; other minor features by less prolific inventors.
After a somewhat chaotic start, the group assembled in deepest Yorkshire. The trip turned out to be quite a serious one with three days consectutive caving.
Long Kin West 27.8.83
(Bunce and Underwood try to reach the Centre of the Earth—Direct).
After hours of joyful walking around the splendid Yorkshire hills we found a hole in the ground. It looked very deep. Belayed to a nice big eye bolt and then set off down the blue water. Slowed down when everything started getting hot and had time to realise that this was the most impressive vertical feature type "A" that I'd seen. Sitting on the surface day dreaming away I heard this strange rumble; was it thunder, or the End of the World? No! It came from the ground, I heard this voice: "I'm down!" My big moment, grabbed the hardware and lept off. BLIMEY!! C'est un grand hole! At the bottom several sheep were present who had used a more traditional means of descent. Stepped over these to Thrutch down the twenty foot pitch, grovel along and reach the top of the next bottomless chasm.
Quite a surprise to find such a big hole down such a big hole. Bunce found a nice piece of roof to belay to. Off he went and found a ledge. "I'll join you" says I. A bit blasé by now, I absailed past Bunce—No hands!—and found the bleedin' knot in the rope, ten feet up. A bit of messing around with Clogs and I bottomed out—blimey!—I hope this lot gets me out.
Bunce decided that the dig was a waste of time and jumped on the rope. The pitch was used to check the rig—the three position foot loops covering every eventuality. No problems so we continued up past the rotting sheep to the daunting 300 foot pitch. A kit bag on the end of the rope, I set off before Bunce. Sixty feet up Bunce joined me on the rope for a tandem prussic. At this point my efforts were reduced by 20% as the rope adopted the properties of a steel rope, and as for poor old Colin, well, Harmonics—Disharmonics = BOINGG BOINGG BOINGG!!! So there was I oscillating over ten feet; John shouting at me to stop and wishing I could. Finally John disappeared out the top, and I was left crawling up the rope.
Eventually the surface was gained but the worst was yet to come: dragging 500 feet of rope out of the hole. Using a jumar and half the moor we eventually got it all out, staggered down the hill and went to the chippy, a quick pint at t'Craven Heifer, and then to the New Inn.
Bunce and John are accused of becoming rock climbers—the question is asked "When are you buying a chalk bag then?"
"Honest Guvenor, I never touched a rock!"."
Snool's Hole 27.8.83
"Here we go again then; compared to 1982 Snool's Hole is quite pleasant—the Pen-y-Ghent Gill is dried up to a mere trickle, most of which disappears down the cave. A narrow entrance dropped down into a barrel with a slot at the base, quick squeeze through this into the cave; short walk through to a bedding plane following the stream. Found a short groove in the roof, pushed through the water until the groove ended—the way on was to the left, known as the "Grim Bit". Hywel took over the lead and got through with his usual ease, feeding his helmit before him. I eventually spluttered through via the easiest route and then into a large passageway with long straws from the roof—pretty impressive. Carefully walked on, eventually leading to another bedding plane crawl which seemed to go on endlessly.
After passing a corner the bedding plane crawl seemed to go on endlessly, the plane became wetter and lower and rounded another corner to continue endlessly. Memories of the phrase "eventually further progress becomes ridiculous" fromthe guide book prevailed, and since we had already seen the notable "Omo Way" we went back out.
After a suitable pause we went upstream to another cave on the opposite side of the river. This was a resurgence and its cold stream contrasted unpleasantly with the sun warmed waters of Snools Hole.
This cave consists of a grovel for a hundred feet into an icy draught, a short fixed ladder pitch upwards then a pleasant meandering streamway to the final upward pitch. On our last visit this was a spectacular waterfall, but today it was a mere trickle. We then turned back and left the cave.
Simpsons Pot 28.8.83
After a wait at the entrance we entered the hole. A fairly pleasant passage leads to the first of many pitches: it went something like 25-25-40-15-25-80, or was it 25-30-35-15-15-25-80 ? Anyway we went along for some bits and down for others. The top of the eighty foot pitch proved interestingas we wern't sure if the rope was long enough to double. More amusementprovided by the tight slot and moving bolts. (Glad they didn't tell me about the moving bolt and "stretching" crab until I was at the bottom).
Anyway, way out interesting. A free climbable fifteen foot pitch into a wet grovel to a crawl, then after more passage, through a pleasantly warm duck and out into day light through the barrel exit. Definately a "good" cave; absailing is an ideal method of locomotion if you don't have to go back up.
The new Bunce Friction Method of Rope Descent was tried out on the fifteen foot pitch, and found a favourable reception despite the fact that some people expressed reservation at the degree of wear on the hands...
Yordas Pot & Cave 29.8.83
Main objective of the trip was to familiarise the damsels in the group with silly rope techniques. An expert demonstration was given by the two instructors who showed how not to reach the bottom on a climbing rope, having failed to rebelay 25 feet down the free hanging pitch! As for the rest let the ladies explain...
The rope being thrust into our hands, we quickly and efficiently rigged the pitch and waited while bondage gear was assembled. A beautiful free-hanging eighty foot absail,dampened at the bottom by a trickle of cold water down the back of the neck. Now a first hand description of the ascent by the firstup.....Cor! this SRT stuff's not that bad at all. Once John had explained the technique and modified Hywel's gear so that it wouldn't (a) render me infertile and (b) was suitable for a person of smaller stature, I was well away. Getting out of the pitch at the top was more difficult that the actual ascent I thought.
I was quite happy to sit around in the sun until it went down and the midges emerged. Forced into my wetsuit I thought i might as well go caving. Watched people going up and down repeatedly. We all eventually wound up at the bottom except Hywel.
Quickly down then up again, then down again for the through trip; don't need a wetsuit they all said (how come they had all changed whilst I was coming up ?). A flat out crawl through water and a walk to a climb down a waterfall which got progressively harder and wetter. After improvising with some slings we were quickly down and into a vast chamber—quite a surprise. The waterfall was pretty impressive too but I didn't linger.
Freshers Fayre, U.C.W. New Union 4.10.83
Arising at 8.00am, Trefor Road was complete chaos; ropes, ladders and pictures were hurled here and there in a mad desire to get a good display for those wonderful freshers. Walking out of the dood at 8.50 with holdalls full of gear and whisky. Lira was heard to mutter "I'm doomed, I'll have to resign". More chaos was inspired when the intrepid three arrived at the Union, but the arrival of the presidential campaigning Cathy sparked off a sense of order.
By 10.30 with our display rearranged we'd pulled five members: Lira, Chris, Carruthers, Cathy, Alison. Then Sara arrived, making six. But the gloom and chaos, despite other clubs being down in membership, and despite the first year intake being down overall on last year, the Caving Club eventually reached new heights of seventy members. The success of the club—conclusions:
- The bright and pretty display;
- The high proportion of new women members is accounted for by the presence of Alison, Sara and Cathy reassuring those innocent virgins that this was as sport for women;
- The freely passed around whisky and vodka, which not only attracted new members, but also sorted out the real cavers from those who joined every other club just to get the nice blue cards;
- The nice blue cards;
- The coat of arms and the motto "A World Without
DrinkingCaving is no World at all";
- the Lira's magnetic charisma.
Freshers Fayre, Llanbadarn 5.10.83
10a.m. Wednesday morning—the only survivors of the previous days debauchery (Chris & Carruthers) made their way to the Old Union to be met by Claire "there's been a cock-up; it doesn't start till twelve". Many cups of coffee later, the intrepid duo (and Paddy) arrived at Llanbadarn. A slow two hours followed, interrupted only by much drinking of Paddy and the recruitment of Lira's dark-haired-woman and three other delicious innocent "virgins".
A wet day coming back from North Wales prompted a root around the slate mines at Corris. The discovery of a big hole in the ground made a mid-week trip a must, so the following Wednesday afternoon brought me back again with a rope.
The amount of industrial activity around the lower adit was a bit ominous, but we headed for a high level. Once inside a short walk brought us to a huge shaft. The level Continued through this on wooden bridges around the edge. From the shaft we explored more levels to another huge open shaft. It was after this that the newness of the rails and freshly blasted rock made us a little uneasy. Chris noticed a thick orange wire in the gutter: "What's this?" he says, picking it up and following it down a tunnel. "Looks like a blasting cable to me!" "OH.....SHIT, lets get out of here!"
Back at the shaft, Smeg was prussicking up when there was a dinstant rumble. Expecting a big cloud of dust out of the passage, we all braced ourselves. However at the bottom of the shaft a train appeared, carrying big blocks of slate We both lept into the shadows, while Smeg just hung above the train on the rope. For some reason the miner didn't look up.
A quick retreat to the car was called for. After changing and a butty we went for a walk around the surface workings at the lower adit. We got all of fifty yards when a group of rather hefty, mean looking Welsh miners surrounded us. "You're trespassing. Set one foot on the mine and we'll prosecute you".
If only they knew!
The first trip of the term was conducted in the worst chaos, the sort that seems always to have typified Cwmystwyth fresher trips. After various changes of drivers and cars, a two and a quarter late start was made. Of course, it rained.
...on, on rode the nine intrepid explorers and soon reached the much-vaunted incline. The fearless Stayte bravely volunteered to climb the fearsome obstacle totally unprotected in order to provide the poor innocent freshers with the comfort provided by a good rope. Despite the fears expressed by certain members of the team that the Stayte was not attached to anything solid while belaying, no lives were lost (although there was much confusion as to whether there were nine or ten members in the party).
Having surmounted the incline despite Stayte's attempts to maim, kill and injure the party with a constant stream of falling rocks, the orange fixed rope to the left was examined but not found to go anywhere worthwhile. Moving to the right, only two promising ways on were located: one a six foot fixed rope into an egg-shaped level, the other into a huge cavernous stope with two cracks in the roof and a fixed rope leading temptingly both up and down. The "Old men's" level was explored, but not found to go; the "down" rope was said by Stayte not to go (on second hand information from Dino), so we went up the "up" rope. No way out to the surface was found though, so a retreat was made.
Then followed confusion at the bottom of the incline: "There's one More to come isn't there?" "No". "Shit, we've lost one". "I wonder if freshers float?"
Thence into the piranha filled watery passage and out to open air."
9.40 a.m.—the brave few return from the debauchery of Tanya's party. Many cups of coffee and much taking of asprins follows, in an attempt to prepare for the horrors to come:
- Horror No 1 the cold,
- Horror No 2 the wet,
- Horror No 3 the wind.
- Horror No 4 No change of clothes (Jean & Hazel).
- Horror No 5 No belay belts.
- Horror No 6 Jean's light going out halfway up the incline, saved by the fearless Lira.
- Horror No 7 attempted assassination of the Pres.—rock thrown by Jean narrowly misses his skull.
- Horror No 8 Broken shoulder resulting from horror no. 7.
- Horror No 9 Lira leading with no light(see horror no. 6).
- Horror No 10 Raif exploring, with a very dubious, rusty belay.
- Horror No 11 Lira, Jean and Hazel arriving at transit and spending 15 minutes searching for the keys.
- Horror No 12 The subsequent arrival of Marshall, who retrieved the keys from beneath a nearby rock.
- Horror No 13 The mere fact that we have reached the unlucky 13th horror.
- Horror No 14 Lira, with no fags.
- Horror No 15 Naked bodies in the transit.
- Horror No 16 It was three o'clock and the pubs wern't open.
- Horror No 17 All plans of hanging around a pub shattered when, while flicking through the collected volumes of "The Wisdom of The Wise Fenton" it was discovered that today eas a Sunday.
- Horror No 18 The possible loss of two new members after a rather off-putting trip.
- Horror No 19 Those two new members haven't paid for their petrol.
- Horror No 20 The shock of writing up the log book at Trefor Road while Chris sucks eggs.
Depart Side Street, Penparcau c.1.00p.m., drive to Cwmystwyth courtesy of Ieuan, weather superb, even warm. Walked up to Herbert's Stope, waterfall going down it was quite small fortunately. John absailed down to first ledge and prussicked back. Then Rob went down to ledge and photographed Ieuan on his way down to the bottom. Sara followed. Rob went down, and H joined them. The lowermost level has a floor and a roof of deads—not too confidence inspiring! H prussicked back up the whole way, and the rest of us exited via the level. John and Ieuan went off to do the Incline trip in the level Fawr. Rob and Sara then absailed down and pruissicked back, Sara having some fun with slipping ascenders. Pruissicking is certainly much easier than laddering over any appreciable distance. Having had our practice, we shot off towards Aber. in a superb sunset.
Or, "An Outsider's View of Caving"
What breed is this who go down holes
And wade through water, are their souls
Inspired by the caves and sheer
High sides of rock, or is it beer
That sends them out from Aberystwyth?
I could fill up immense lists with
Exploits I have heard narrated,
That surely shall not grow outdated—
Who would denigh it is a dunce:
The dreadful deeds of him called Bunce,
The woman, grey, the club whose glee
Is terminal velocity—
I have heard, and am nonplussed
By wondering; do livers rust?
What caves creep under Rhyl and Rhondda?
Does absail make the heart grow fonder?
And just what is the force that hurries
Hordes to rendezvous with curries?
There is no answer, only hope
Acquaintance will improve the scope
Of my dim view, will bring improvement,
Makethis, most underground of movements
Appear more clear to this poor feller,
A humble, timid, surface-dweller.
The first true caving trip of the year departed Aberystwyth in fairly good time and order. The 12 from Aber. were met by Tommo and Chris, two of John's Brummie friends, and also a Berkhampstead contingent at Penwyllt. Three pub stops on the way prepared us sufficiently for the rigours of a night under canvas, although the effects had worn off by the morning.
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu II 29.10.83
A superb day dawned, filled with the joys of a crisp autumn day; the intrepid party wandered up to OFD II. The customary pause at the entrance was ommitted, such was the enthusiasm of those present. Once inside, leader Underwood found a lack of a cell was not condusive to good route finding; Lira was bettered to the ground, whereupon he nobely offered to give up his cell.
A false start just inside, then the way on became clear and good progress was made to Gnome passage. Down the scramble to Salubrious then much thrutching and traversing for brummie Chris dertimined to stay dry. Marshallbegged for a piggy-back from the ever benevolent Rob. Across Cross-Roads, then the descent into Maypole Inlet stream. Yours truly climbed down then back up, trying to convince the other members of the party that it was "easy", then recrossed the traverse in wet boots only to make a rapid unplanned descent:
Oh shit—BANG—Blimey, I'm upside down—Crash—Wot! I'm still alive?
Report From Your Cameraman on the Spot
Here I was dragged down to South Wales to gain some experience. Huh you can say that again. A fine show inside a mountain.
There I was, minding my own business by this traverse, trying to find moths with my light as I had been ordered to stay there by the intrepid leader, Underwood.
Gee, it was quiet, but hark from the distance I could hear somebody coming. The one who cares little, jumping John flash was walking across the traverse with me looking admiringly on when oops! Newton's first law got to him.
All over in a split second; if that's the way to do a descent, count me out. Thirty five feet down in around a second; hey, was I impressed.
Then I thought, was that a totally unplanned descent? So my brain asked the immortal words to Underwood: "Are you allright?"
Quote from a voice below—"I think I've fallen".
Talk about understatements; this took the bun.
Well, what do you do?
I wasn't going to follow him down that way to give him a hand, cause I thought it was a bit dangerous, so I climbed towards the hole to seek him out with my light.
There he was, lying on a ledge below, crumpled up, and what did he say—"I think I'm bleeding, can you see where?" Not a hope with him wearing a red coat was there? So I said to him I couldn't see any blood. (Lie).
By this time Richard Marshall returned, seeking where the two explorers were.
So I said that John had fallen, but I think he's a bit slow as I had to repeat it three or four times. However it got through in the end. Perseverance certainly paid, so Underwood was again the centre of attention.
Just like Biggles he managed to crawl out of the hole himself and so we made for the entrance.
Hell, I had to cross this traverse again; it's only about ten feet long, but after seeing a death defying leap a few minutes ago, I took about five minutes to get across it, vibrating my way across with shock. Never will I pass that way again.
So, lets go for the entrance so we can work on rebuilding John again. No further than a hundred feet on, crash bang wallop, I heard the noise again. Was this a long echo in the cave? I decided to listen. No, somebody else had decided to fall.
Therefore in a matter of ten minutes I had seen one and heard another trying to dispose of the laws of gravity, or was this some ritual that everybody went through that I wasn't aware of?
Well count me out of that club, even though I'm a Welshman I wasn't going to make it three, so onward to the entrance.
A lady called Shena guided half of us out, while the others remained with the other victim—a Mr. Peter Harvey—President of South Wales C.C., and finder of OFD I—at least I was in good company.
The initial climb out happened almost automatically except that the right foot didn't work very well, my back hurt like hell and there was blood in my eyes— heroic stuff this—or maybe i couldn't face waiting to be rescued. The rest was okay, and daylight very welcome.
Jopo the South Wales rescue man ?????ed me up, then off to Singleton Hospital, Swansea.
Efficient— the male nurse came to the bog where I was pissing to find me. The doctor was about 23-35-23-35 and the sister managed even more sarcasm than Jopo. Loads of X-Rays (one cracked rib and one broken rib—whats the difference?). Six+ stitches and loads of lights in my eyes - no concussion! The pulse rate was about 100 and blood pressure 130-90 (technical stuff this). The "shock and concussion man" was amazed that I was in such good shape, so they let me out.
Fish and chips; smoother driving from Claire back to Penwyllt, then to the Ancient Briton.
The Ballad Of John Underwood, or The Hole Truth
Deep within the bowels of the cave called O.F.D.
Lurks a deadly animal whose cunning devilry
Alows it to disguise itself among the rocks and claw
At unwary caving folk, and whisk them through the floor.
What other explanation could be held as true and good
When relating the adventures of poor John Underwood?
On Saturday the twenty-ninth October 'eighty three,
John Underwood esquire led a band of bold and free
Aberyswyth caving clubbers, led them heart and soul—
Or did until he disappeared into a narrow hole.
This is a man whose temperament is normally quite placid,
But lying in a freezing stream with legs immersed in acid,
Two broken ribs and battered head is not the sort of state
In which he wished to sit around and calmly cogitate.
He sprang up like a cat therefore, whose tail is trodden on,
And took a quick inventory to see which bits were gone.
His sturdy fellows led him out into the light of day—
Through tricky tracts of risky rock they made their slow hard way,
Like mountaineers who clamber up a Himalayan summit—
(Meanwhile a chap called Harvey, P. was going for a plummet,
But all his efforts were in vain, the Aber crew he cursed,
For when it comes to having accidents they're first).
At Swansea in the Singleton they put the bits together,
And something looking like J.U. emerged, light as a feather,
Due to lack of locks of hair, but really in the pink,
He began his convalescence through the medium of drink.
And so our tale ends happily, or so you may well say,
But deep within the O.F.D. a fiend awaits the day
When in its black direction, in innocence, will tread
The feet of some poor caver with a somewhat softer head.
Cwm Dwr 29.10.83
"Quick trip down to the confluence and Piccadilly—didn't get lost Once—nothing eventful."
"Dawned the morning after.....cough, cough, hack, cough, hack, hack, cough, hack, cough, hack, cough wet the morning chorus as Lira (alias Nic O'Teen) derided the evils of tobacco.
Just like a hospital tent of consumptives during the Crimean War Fenton called it.
Ultimately after a prolonged breakfast the tented pavilions were taken down, the minibus packed and we went off to Little Neath River Cave. The wise Fenton decided (largely because of the precipitation) not to tackle it, and therefore we adjourned to the Tafarn Llew Goch at Penderyn. Later we went to Porth Y Ogof and "did" the first twenty yards.
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu II 30.10.83
Group "A" actually went caving! Hywel and Cathy bravely took the high level route from Cwm Dwr through to OFD II: lots and lots of traversing.....and they came out alive.
Drinking began early at Trefor Road as the Junta passed round the mild. Then to the Downies with frequent stops for button holes—including a bob-a-job: job for a cub scout to steal a well protected rose.
At the Downies dress was encouraging this year, despite a harness emulating a tie, hanging loosely around Paul's neck. The three women continued the tradition of wearing skirts.
After the Indians, the speeches were made....."Unaccustomed as I am, etc. etc. etc.":
- The insignificance of today—Rob.
- The Ballad of John Underwood—The Poet.
- The Economy of Britain.
- The Quaternary Geology of the North Sea—H.
- Presidential Address—"The Virgin Birth"
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from the Birmingham General Hospital that all pregnant women should give birth at this place. And all went to give birth, every one to their own beds.
And the virgin Beryl Margaret, carrying her second child went up from Smethwick to the Birmingham General Hospital, with her husband Sidney George.
And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that Beryl Margaret should be delivered. And she brought forth her second born— a boy, with glasses, and beared, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, for there was no room for this newest Grainger in the ward.
And there were, in the same country, students in the field, keeping watch over their mushrooms by night. And lo, the dark haired woman appeared to them and said: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be for all you people for unto you is born this day in the city of Birmingham, a President which is the Lira.
And it came to pass that the students came down from the mushroom field, and went to pay homage to the babe. The first, the wise Fenton gave unto the babe a helmit and cell. The second, the wise Alison, likewise offered a gift unto the Lira—a packet of fags; and, finally the wise H, in all his jobless wisdom came unto the manger and gave the babe a pint of mild and a picture of his arse."
(References—the Gospel according to St. Luke)
- Presentations by the secretary:
- The ode and a Terminal Velocity Club Certificate Club membership certificate to Underwood;
- Posthumous award of the flag of Grenada to the Beirut Lorry Driver
- The club anthem, the Buckland Hymn was sung.
The gathering then adjourned to the Marine Hotel.
Nine Barrows Swallet 12.11.83
"Small, miserable and totally pointless..."
Sludge Pit 12.11.83
Along a bit, down a bit, along a bit, down a big bit on a ladder, along a bit, through some crawly bits, down a bit, up a bit, down a bit, along some more, back a lot, down a crawl, up a bit, down quite a few bits, along some more bits, down, down, down a bit, back once again, along a bit, down two bits, along a bit, down a muddy bit, back all the way.
The Poet's first impressions of caving: HELP! The major prerequisites seem to be common sense and arm muscles, neither of which I posses!
St. Dunstans 12.11.83
"I'm stuck" is not an uncommon cry heard whilst caving—it's usually just whinging, and is ignored, especially if you are infront and admiring the truth and beauty in the terminal sump in St. Dunstans. It is more worrying when it is the last member of a party—would we have to eat our way to freedom? But no, H was stuck, and head first at an angle of sixty degrees. Fortunately we could by-pass him, but our attempts to dislodge him from both ends were to no avail. Thus the machinery of the M.R.O. was put into operation. Eventually, after some eight hours of captivity, H was freed by hammer and chisel, with fortunately minimal harm. St. Dunstans however did not come off so lightly; the "tight duck" of the guide book is no longer tight and other bits are wider also, thank primarily to Hywel and Dino.
The Mendips, or What "H" Did Next
Unsuspecting, in the evening
Lay the Mendips, innocent
Of Aberystwyth and its raving
Caving Club, on pleasure bent.
Did the Severn tremble slightly
As we sped across with ease,
Rendering Avon more unsightly
Maggots, Drilling into cheese.
Many dreadful deeds ensued there,
Some to terrible to tell—
One of us got rather glued there
In a cave called Dunstans Well.
Sitting in a pub, imbibing
Vast amounts of 6 X ale,
A horror past all our describing
Nearly caused our thirsts to fail.
Someone had been trapped down under,
(We'd assumed a Portsmouth nut
Had been the victim of this blunder,
And not a real person, but—)
It was H—all our enjoyment
Withered to a dreary null,
Someone muttered, "It's a judgement,
It's the shadow of the skull!"
H, oh H, what were you doing,
Stuck head first down there we said,
What seas of blood were there accruing
Into your inverted head?
Realising we would mearly
Hamper rescue, we drank on,
Forcing pints down, most severly,
Against our incli-nat-ion.
At the hut, we waited, worried,
Rob and I made cups of tea,
Drinking which, the rescue squad said
Made their work seem luxery.
Rumors flew, some said that ropes could
Tow H out, and save his soul,
Making me wonder, if they did would
He become toed in the hole?
This the truth, hammer and chisel
Sculpted his release from rock—
A slow process, like chewing gristle
Put an end to our H-block.
Waiting, we observed a stranger
Stumble in, and all the poise
We had possessed was in danger
When he spoke with H's voice!
It was he, despite his face all
Puffed up like a pink balloon,
Appearing somewhat oriental,
Or like a creature from the moon.
He told us, with words that pained him,
Of the terrible, sad truth,
Of what he'd lost, but we restrained him
From going back down for his tooth.
It fininshes so, and let us
Learn from this lesson of pain—
The moral that Dunstans has set us,
And not drop our H's again
The usual pilgrimage to Glastonbury was made, this time accompanied by that most feared of implements, the frisbee, which Fenton as a result of many long hard years of training, used to its fullest and most lethal potential...
A Tribute to Fenton, or Glastonbury Tor-ture
Beware, beware of Fenton,
His path should not cross yours—
Whenever he is bent on
Chaos, snaps his jaws
and stalks the street at midnight
Make sure that you're indoors.
Black horrors, past all telling
Infest this reprobate,
A tendancy for smelling
Like something out of date,
A constant inclination
To drink and masturbate—
Espicially there is one thing
This demon does which sets
The teeth of brave men chattering
Like drastic castinets,
A deed that even elephants
Would hasten to forget.
No threat of Cruise or Pershing
Made all the Russians sore
And leave the table cursing
Refusing to say more,
Twas FENTON and his FRISBEE
That caused them to withdraw.
Its deadlier than arsnic,
No shelter can be found—
Far better if atomic
Bombs should hit the ground
On which you're standing—
(Their impacts less profound).
In Glastonbury's crannies
Just like a swarm of bats,
It flew, dispersing grannies,
And thudding into children
With several kinds of splats.
Property values plummet
When FENTON hits a town—
He is the very summit
Of horror, puts a frown
On the face of every person—
His smile makes babies drown.
So shun the FENTON, cower
When you perceive his scowl,
If all at once the flowers
Die and mad dogs howl,
Beware, he is approaching—
Beware the fiend most foul.
The Eventful Trip Up 25.11.83
The caving club's tradition of disasters was maintained; the demon autotester brutally savaging the transit's rear tyre within forty miles. More entertainment followed as we destroyed the wheel base before calling on the Ambulance service for assistance—"Left hand threads on the left hand side Guvenor". More adventures of the transit happened on the outskirts of Queensferry when the nearside mirror was lynched by Ieuan without a scratch on the side of the transit. Talk about taking the skin off the custard, that really beats the lot. ("Well, I found out exactly how wide the transit was anyway".).
The caravans were reached without further trouble—only a brief break at Charnock Richard to sample the delights of the highly recommended "Granery" in which tea was taken in tasteful surroundings. Minor problems finding the right caravan and then just as we were settling down, hairy things drove up in a knackered old Ford.
Hywel and Bunce also had an eventfull trip; after a few miles a windscreen wiper just fell off! But it was fixed with a big hammer. Then we got stuck in a giant traffic jam, several hours later the engine spluttered to a halt, but was traced without much difficulty to a faulty carburettor.
Alum Pot Main Shaft 26.11.83
Rigged the pitch. Re-rigged the pitch and went down twelve feet. Re-ree-rigged the pitch and went down four feet. Gave up.
Lower Long Churn 26.11.83
Took shelter from the rain underground only to find it was even wetter there. Got swept down the stream and were only saved by the thousands of other people in the cave. The two pots caused mild amusement before we reached Dollytubs Pitch. We tried to rig it dry but were advised that it was still likely to get very wet. Well that seemed a pretty good excuse.....
It was still wet and miserable out so we all stayed in the pub. In the afternoon the GREAT CRISP EATING CONTEST was held:
- Quarter Finals
- John v. Paul
- Hywel v. Abdul
- Bunce v. Ieuan
- Cathy v. Sara
- Semi finals
- John (Plain) v. Hywel (Salt & Vinegar)
- Cathy(Natural) v. Bunce (Cheese & Onion)
- In the Yellow Corner—CATHY on "Natural" flavour; versus
- In the Disco Gear—JOHN on "Natural" flavour.
And the WINNER— CATHY in 01.09.39 (by Casio Alarm Chronograph)
Cathy—the new crisp eating champion of Aberystwyth Caving Club: Fenton beware! Gaping Ghyll eat your heart out.
What follows is the culmination of months of research by my team of scientists, historians and archaeologists.
In the begining was the void, but then some supreme diety said: "Let there be light" and there was, and the Universe was thus created. But it was a Universe in perfect balance between good and evil, law and chaos. And each of these elements had their own artifacts scattered here and there to maintain this balance.
The subject of this study was the chaotic evil artifact—that of a human skeleton.
In 1298 a common soldier found a finger bone. The following day at the battle of Falkirk, William Wallace was defeated.
In 1398 a common rat unearthed a hip bone and for the next three years, hundreds of thousands died in the black death.
The finding of a toe bone in 1665 resulted in the Great Plague of London, and the Great Fire of London in the following year.
For almost three centuries we have little evidence for further parts of the skeleton being found, however in 1948 a rib was found in the Sinai by a nomadic Jew and the next month saw the state of Israel established.
There is nothing then for over thirty years, but the 1980's saw a spate of discoveries of parts of the skeleton, and the resultant terror and death they caused. The most prolific of which was the discovery this summer by the Aberystwyth Caving Club of the skull. At the instant the skull was touched, the secretary fell fifteen feet while leading a trip underground.
In October, John Underwood fell approximately half a mile in O.F.D., horrendously mutilating his body. The following month, in St. Dunstans in the Mendips, the wise H missed out on a nights drinking by being stuck upside down for six days. But the following day saw the vengeance of the skull at its worst—two members who should never actually have been in the Mendips suffered a head to head collision on the streets of Glastonbury. Claire suffered concussion and brain damage while I needed twelve stitches and hours of surgery to remove glass shrapnel from my eyeball.
The Yorkshire trip however passed without event and we can say that the terror is now over and we can look forward to peaceful lives, or can we?
One of my best scientists, a third year geologist from Smethwick has suggested another theory— that the skull was not the supposed artefact of ancient evil and that our recent misfortunes have a more sinister cause and are not over yet. One person amongst us has been On only three caving trips—to Ireland, South Wales and the Mendips, and on each occasion and accident has occurred. More significantly this person actually caused one of these so-called accidents. I therefore propose that after the meal we take Claire to a suitable place of execution and there burn her as a witch.
We planned on doing the usual route up the incline but the fixed ropes were missing. So we went down the incline. A 130 foot rope and a ladder saw us to the water. From there we rooted around the levels with impressive deads and stoped floors, complete with holes through them to add to the fun.
Chris and Sara arrived at Cerberus via Sara's house to find the hut deserted. After serious high level discussions a note was left on the door, and we retired to Wells for tea. The town was scoured for signs of life (e.g. Hywel's car) and a pleasant half hour spent in a phone box—to no avail, no one was located. Disheartened, we returned to the hut, expecting a brief journey back to Bath, so concludind the shortest caving trip in the annals of Aberystwyth Caving Club—a whole one and a half hours spent in the Mendips (including three quarters of an hour spent in Wells), with not one minute spent persuing the noble persuit of caving. Unfortunately the door to the hut was open, lights were on—we would have to stay after all.
The following morning saw no further contingents of Aber cavers arrive. After sitting by the fire and drinking numerous cups of tea, the Cerberus contingent departed for Wells, so we read the guide books, took a look at the entrance to Fairy Cave—gated—and eventually decided on Stoke Lane Slocker. Following the map in the guide book we found the longest possible route to Stoke Lane (one setting off in the opposite direction and doing a complete circumnavigation). Tired and footsore, we reached the entrance only to meet rubber-clad beings, looking very wet: "The pebble-crawl has sumped".
So in our eagerness to be underground we found the entrance to
Browne's Hole 28.12.83
After much procrastination (big word huh?) we eventually managed to change into our caving gear, looking forward to an exciting venture into the underworld. Browne's Hole seemed to have a large impressive once gated entrance, obviously concealing untold wonders for our incredulous eyes to perceive you might think?—once again this caving trip lived up to its previous standards and we found ourselves in a veritable maze of slimy, mud filled passages leading to nowhere in particular. The only regret was in not finding the stream passage—four hundred feet of crawling in water and glutinous mud. After exhausting all possible routes in the cave we emerged and after cleaning our muddy, oderous bodies in the stream at the entrance to Stoke Lane, returned to Cerberus.
And so after cups of tea and various foods, the two sole representatives of Aber CC repaired to the pub once again.
The following morning 50% of the Aberystwyth contingent (i.e. Sara) left at an unearthly hour in the morning, being whisked away by some unknown rogue in a Volkswagon. Obviously the pace of life on this exciting all-action caving trip had proved too much for her—hence the flight to Bath.
For the remaining 50% an uneventful day was planned: a brief early afternoon stroll around the quarry, then a couple of pints in the Duke. Caving was a vague possibility, but the Cerberuc crew decided on digging in Fairy, so I reluctantly declined (although on return to the hut later it seemed that they had gone elsewhere—never mind, I needed a quiet day after all the excitement of the previous two days).
On the final day of the trip I arose early (12.30) and proceeded to wait, with the aid of much tea, for the arrival of Sara's sister and friends in the hope of going caving:
Eastwater Cavern 30.12.83
No detailed description can be given as the route still remains a mystery, even after consultation with "Mendip Underground".
After trudging along the road from Priddy for what seemed like hours (but was in fact only ten minutes) we located Eastwater Farm. Avoiding attack by vicious guard dogs, we paid our 10p's to the woman in the farm, and then set out for the cave itself. The entrance was located, and we descended into the bowells of Eastwater Cavern, under torrents of cold water. We then set out to find the first vertical. The boulder choke was easy (we followed the rope) and soon we found what looked like (but might not have been) the upper traverse. After much wandering about we located what we thought was the first vertical (but probably wasn't). After pausing to eat a Mars bar provided by Sara, we continued our exploration. We saw numerous muddy holes, crawly passages, impressive boulder filled chambers, and even heard raging torrents of water. Eventually we decided to make our way to the exit (accompanied by cries of "This seems vaguely familiar" and "I don't remember this"). In what seemed no time atall we emerged into the crisp clear frosty air for the walk to Priddy.
From there we went, once again, to the pub; so ends the traditional Yuletide Mendip Trip. And the caving for 1983.
The prospect of a good weekends caving was shattered by the open challenge thrown down by Fenton (in one of his less wise moments) to drink thirty units on the Saturday. Of course, hordes took up this rash challenge, to the detrement of the caving. And so it came to pass that Wells was the scene of drunken mayhem throughout the Saturday, with scenes beyond description occurring. The tragic mistake of leaving a logbook with but eleven sides remaining in it was made: the reprobates rose to the challenge and swiftly filled it, primarily with genitillia. This later led to an administrative schism as to who should be slowed to draw what. It was ultimately resolved by the wise Lira who inserted (as his his right) the following clause into the Constitution:
"On the drawing of genitals—men may only draw those of men; women only those of women."
It is to be hoped that this will prevent repetition of the heated scenes that occurred in the Duke later that evening, with the ultimate crime of CENSORING of the LOGBOOK occuring (mainly by Alison).
Cave Creatures No.1. The "Log Book Penis" (Common Variety)
This beastie, best classified as a "serpent" was once a very common sight in its natural habitat between the pages of the club log book. Unfortunately with the exhaustion on paper supplies in volume three it was feared extinct. Recently however, some small ones were spotted in volume four (all drawn by the Master of the Lore). Alas, however, due to a total ban on genitilia of the opposite gender, it seems unlikely that these will breed in captivity.
NOTE KIDDIES! If you want to go "penis spotting", take mummy or daddy with you and remember the "log book Penis" is a nocturnal animal appearing (usually) between 8.00pm and 11.00pm on Saturday nights, in close proximity to alcohol.
The main areas to look are:
- South Wales
Whilst everybody else was getting pissed in Wells, a few brave adventurers went caving. A quick pint in the King Charles Hotel, Wells was followed by a death defying drive to Charterhouse. An uneventful, if interesting trip down to the end of Main Chamber and up into the Ladder Dig Extension. All except Rob and Chris made the foolhardy climb up into Great Chamber. All then did a trip to the end of Bat Passage (after great amusement at the attempts of Hywel to climb down From Great Chamber head first) to admire the pretties. We then drove back to Wells to join up with the other group (the real, dedicated piss-artists) to begin a valiant attempt to make up a few units.
Some were more successful than others in making up a few units; the "winners" were as follows:
Things got worse through the night at the Duke of Cumberland though, but all returned more or less intact to Cerberus. A search party consisting of H and Marie was despatched for Dino (who was actually asleep upstairs), without success. On the way back, only two hundred yards from the hut, Marie collapsed and knocked herself out, badly cutting her head. We carried her to Cerberus and summoned an ambulance, which took her, Alison and H to Bath Royal Infirmary.
Frantic telephoning by Lira and Chris from Stoke St. Micheal, and by H from the hospital secured accommodation for H and Alison at Sara's in Bath."
The following morning we rose early (11.00am), had a hearty breakfast and adjourned to visit the injured, now ensconced at Sara's, and to drink tea in expensive tea shops. A walk around the cemetery (where Cathy stumbled— literally—across one of her ancestors graves) was followed by the return to Aber. for the traditional Indians.
A sucessful trip—15 man hours spent caving; 126 man hours spent drinking!
Despite an alcoholic journey in a knackered Cortina (Tax? Insurance? M.O.T.?), the Brummies and the remains of Aber CC made it to Cwmystwyth. Trudged up to Herbert's Stope where we induldged in the usual uping and downing through about three times the usual quantity of water. Everyone soaked so we went home.
Another entertaining trip in the knackered Cortina—the exhaust was repaired after yesterday, but it required a 25mph to bump start. Eight trudged up to Adit 6; three collapsed at the entrance. Walked into the fall where rubble has raised water to chest deep—ugh. The Brummies Freaked out at the point, leaving only the two intrepid troglodytes. We made it to the ladders, despite worries about the effects of the bright orange "water" on our balls. Up on the fourth ladder we both chickened out. John started back and tried a demolition job on the shafts wooden cladding, claiming he just touched it with his elbow. Continued along Adit 6 to the pretty formation, the gave up. Raif then swam in the Rheidol—no nerve endings in his skin obviously. Aber CC to be prosecuted under the Act passed to stop the draining disturbance of standing water in old mine workings—the Rheidol turned orange. More entertainment in the knackered Cortina on the return journey.
This was a truly memorable trip: nine out of nine caving on the Saturday (that was enough to make it memorable, if nothing else), and six plus the three Brummies—who joined the Aber lot there—underground on the Sunday (!).
Alum Pot 25.2.84
Abdul Some may remember the first expedition to descend Alum Pot, in which the explorers were met with white water on the pitch at the rate of 20,000 gallons per second at pressures of 300 lbs per square inch, but this time there was not a trickle. The outside temperature though was 10°C lower, and snow lay on the ground. Pity it was the day that everybody had converged on this godforsaken hole; ropes hung from all sides of this glorious shakehole, disappearing into the depths. Rigged the pitch from the overhanging tree, with Mr. Underwood's climbing rope lifeline in addition, and then the advance party proceeded over fields to find the entrance to Lower Long Churn. Of course, we got then wrong one and found ourselves at the top of the pitch in Diccam Pot. Backed out, found Lower Long Churn, and went down the fairly inactive streamway to Dollytubs Pitch where we bungled into the first obstacle, a party descending. Tried out a few "aerobic" exercises, all dancing wildly at the top of the pitch to keep warm. Absailed down for top speed, and went along the edge of the rift (after much waiting for the previous party) into Alum Pot. Met with a glorious view of "Ye Ancient Alum Workings"—ropes dangling everywhere, looked up to daylight to see hordes of helmitted nutters jiggling around on the ropes. The whole scene resembled nothing more than Pennant's painting of the Great Opencast at Parys Mountain Copper Mines in the early eighteenth century. Meanwhile I went down the rock face on a fifteen foot bolted ladder to a ledge on the side of the pot to admire the view. I waited on the bridge (a block of rock jammed across the chasm) for the others. Sent a message via the others to discover their whereabouts. By this time I was getting very cold and cold sense the element of catastrophe in the air. Nothing much seemed to be happening. Nothing, nothing and still nothing. Draught building up; can't wait to get up that rope! Eventually we were all there, but because of the low temperature and the reduction in morale, lack of communication with the surface party at the top of the pot, Hywel turned back up Lower Long Churn, with Lira the only member of the party daring to venture the main pot absail. Just three now to go up: Abdul, Cathy and Sara. Muggings goes first. Took ten minutes to get off the ground in a makeshift prussicking harness (Krolls); approximately 180 feet to go. Took twenty minutes to ascend but the view was great, especially the cavers shivering below. Fucking awful time at top under overhang of belay tree. Had to change over beyond knot. It got all jammed and the thing ended up not wanting to move. Fingers too frozen to do anything, and by this time it was beginning to get dark. It took my last stretch of energy to haul myself over the edge, but I felt successful in some perverse way. Left the pot to Sara and Cathy. It all took a long time. A few flakes of snow began to fall. Meanwhile another party at the top were waiting for us to finish so they could absail down. It was totally dark by the time Sara made it to the top. Tried to pull the rope and tackle up. After about a hundred feet I noticed the rope slipping out of my hands—suddenly it dawned on me that the whole fucking thing is covered with ice! This was a two man job. Half an hour later i was still trying to undo the belay knot. Pure pain was being suffered by everybody by this time. Never was a steamy transit so welcome to a poor impoverished caver before in the course of human endeavour.
John What's all this waiting about? The ever courteous Underwood prussicked out after butting into the other party, then went and got changed—Oh Joy! Lifelined Lira, and have the rope burns to prove it. Okay, so lifelining absails isn't usually done, but with our recent accident record..... perhaps the information sheets given with ropes should include handling when frozen—good, impossible, etc. Solo lifelining is is okay if you can avoid tangles.
Lira The 160 foot leap: we waited and waited; circumnavigated the pot the waited some more. Another reverse circumnavigation and more waiting. Then, joy, infinite bliss: John appeared. Chris rigged himself up and looked down. One or two things came to mind—not his mind, but he decided waiting was better. The blue handed Lira thenrigged up, with a little communication problem in the shape of a figure of eight. I looked down, prayed a lot and thought the better of it. But with a whispered "Fuck It", I jumped, and like the shuttle Columbia, I gracefully glided down to earth. I was so engrossed with the miracle of unpowered flight that I hardly noticed the strange burning smell coming from my left hand.
Sara On prussicking out of Alum Pot: Abdul disappeared towards the sky, negotiated the tree, and after various incoherent shouts which were t presumed to be "all clear", Cathy began the ascent, and with apparnt ease disappeared upwards. And so, alone with the roar of the water (not so much of a roar as last time) and with darkness falling (as well as snow) I sang loudly to keep my spirits up. Then Cathy was off the rope and it was my turn. Prussicking on the spot was needed to take up the stretch in the rope. The first twenty feet were pure hell, with no weight on the rope to pull it through the chest ascender, and no efficient system worked out to combat this. An attempt attatch a ladder to give the rope extra weight proved fruitless, and to change to a figure of eight and go back down seemed equally hopeless and so the only way was upwards. And as Cathy had said (although I didn't hear her at the time) it got easier. Very strange sensation spinning gently on a single rope in a dark void with nothing but the sound of falling water (and the occasional worried shout from above). Never have I been so glad to see the glint of Abdul's glasses in the lamplight as I crawled over the lip. "The most fucking horrible experience of my life". Well, looking back on it, perhaps it wasn't so bad after all.
Southerscales Pot 26.2.84
It was a choice between Sunset Hole and Great Rouk, until I happened to see an attractive name in the guige book—Southerscales Pot. "Why don't some people go down there?" I said, showing the book to Hywel. "Have you read the description?" asked Hywel with an evil glint in his eye that I unfortunately didn't notice at the time.
Before I knew where I was I had been persuaded to take the three Brummies down this wonderful sounding hole. After the horror of changing into wet wetsuits in icy winds and snow, the trip could only get better, or so I thought. After half an hour searching the bleak hillside we settled in an unlikely looking slot in the bottom of a rocky hole. This led immediately to a flat out crawl in three inches of stagnant snow-melt water (temperature = 0°C). Then pitch one—a nice little twenty footer. Only one problem—no belay point. Eventually I found myself leaning out over the pitch belaying the ladder to a rock overhead. This resulted in a "bold step" out onto the ladder (infinitely worse on the way back). Next was the crawl—a thousand foot of crawling flat out on hands and knees in water up to a foot deep. It could only get better I thought.
Unfortunately I was wrong once again! Zoology Pot which sounded so nice in the book, had a bloody great waterfall going down it! After lifelining the three Brummies down, I climbed down myself, thinking "only thirty feet, that'll be no problem on the way back; no need for a lifeline". After a quick look at the sump to Great Rouk and a trip to the end of the West Inlet, we made our way back. Wet waterfall pitches are more interesting on the way back up, especially with no lifeline! The first pitch, with the bold step from the ladder to saftey deserves a drawing:
The rest of the trip was horrible—the long crawl, and out into the freezing night air. Trudging across fields we said "It's dark, it must be at least 7.00 o'clock". We got back to the us to find it was 9.00 o'clock and everyone had been waiting, drinking beer and eating cooked meals in front of the fire for two hours.
Sunset Hole 26.2.84
Some of us read the guide book more carefully—Sunset Hole might bea mile and a half walk through the snow, but with John's encouragement we decided to brave it. Not even the icicles at the entrance deterred us. It was a good cave. Of course the temperature inside caves doesn't change.......but the surface water coming in certainly does. Despite it being described as "a popular pot" we hardly had to compete with the crowds. It was very easy, with a fifty foot ladder pitch. We didn't get much further than the knotted rope hanging down from an iron bar. Beyond this the squeezing starts, and even Abdul and Hywel didn't continue past the infamous corkscrew. The rest of us couldn't be bothered. So it was out to the Hill Inn to wait for the others.
A multitudinous horde of twenty six assembled for "cocktails" at the Downies. It was by far the largest Caving Club dinner in living memory. It's size prompted the running of a sweepstake on the size of the bill at the Indian: it came to £64.55 and was won by Kathleen. The speeches etc were as follows:
- An introduction by Stayte the Secretary.
- A reading from "Private Eye" by H, the Master of the Lore.
- THE BORTH LAMENT, being an ode composed rapidly and under the burden of many distractions in a public hostelry.
To the west of civilisation,
Where few have dared set forth,
There's a place of desolation
That sulks in the name of—BORTH.
It's more remote than No-where,
Unvisited by Scott—
You'll know, if you should go there,
It's the land that FUN forgot.
A strange thing happens nightly
In a street called CAE GWYLAN—
The most black and unsightly
Ritual known to man;
??? ????, ??? piteous shadows,
Two wailing bags of bones
Wring both their hands and elbows,
Crying: "Please come back, Rob Jones!"
Their words go all unheeded
As if they were in code,
The man to whom they plead is
Ensconced in TREFOR ROAD.
Why do these brave men quiver,
Like jellied eels on plates?
Why do their thin limbs shiver
In such a ghastly state?
Is it his handsome features
That make them feel so sore?
No—far more pleasant creatures
Crawl past along the shore.
Do they miss his generosity
As they wail into the night?
It's doubtful, for each day they see
Clams that are less tight.
One single thing explains their
Piteous cries giving vent—
With two instead of three there
They have to pay more rent.
And so they cry most meekly
As the waves go back and forth,
And the tide comes in twice weekly
Into the town of BORTH.
- Rob's speech, on attaining his twenty first year.
My name, as you know, is Rob Jones, and this is the story of my heart. I will not bore you with the details of my past twenty one years, which would serve no purpose. I will not even submit to you a warm felt rendering of this land to which I was born, other than to say:
Of fear, rage red, man alive,
Molten and mountainous to stream,
Over the wound asleep
Sheep, white, hollow farms
To Wales in my arms.
For neither of these would be of any worth to the deeper presence of your wonderful Thrutch editor.
In the beginning was the three pointed star
One smile of light across the empty face.
And there was nothing; a void of darkness hung all about, moving so slow; and I was alone, subdued by the darkness. Nothing stirred; no whisper of things familiar, and I thought to myself: there is no beer; there are no caves; and should there not be the smell of curries cooking below? All gone? "Not so" said my heart, "for they are still to come".
I was confused; I was alone; I didn't know where this speech was taking me.
So yet again I thought, hoping the answer was near, the answer that would free me from this darkened fear; I reasoned and I pondered until it was right, and slowly I said "Let there be light".
Day one— "Let there be limestone, and streams of water to cut deep caverns into it". And on the second day I said "Let there be funny accents". And on the third day, due to the effects of day two, the void had a little difficulty understanding me. I asked for microchip high level technology, motorways and steelworks; but instead there were curries. Day four—well, the products of day had burnt my mouth, so I used some of day one and then said "Let there be account books, so that I can record every half pence of expenditure on the curries of day three". On day five I said "Let there be silly speeches to follow on from the meals of day three". And on the sixth day I said "Let there be hops", and there were, but on the seventh day, a splitting head told me day six was a mistake, so I rested.
But now I grow old and tired, and the void is once more biting at my heels, but "I offer this advice before I leave to create another universe:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at the close of the day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
But I'm not wise, just an out of work creator,
And so I do not go gentle into that goodnight.
By this speech I am the creator of the Earth; and yet what greator creator created this speech in just ten minutes? None other than the president's speech writer—the President, with a little help from Dylan Thomas and Genesis.
- Telegram of fraternal greetings from the Moscow Caving Club: (by Marshall)
Comrades! in my capacity as speech writer to the late and reverend leader of the Soviet Caving Club—Lirapov—I deliver the fraternal greetings to Aber's caving club.
In our latest five year plan we have over-achieved our target of 100% of our members going caving on both Saturdays and Sundays. This is far better than the capitalist Aber club. This proves the superiority of the comunist caving system whereby all members have to cave or are forced to listen to one of the Lira's recorded speeches. (read by Sara)
- Sara, the Treasurer's speech (read unseen):
- Lira, our President's speech:
- ?? ??? then proposed the ??????:
- The Queen
- "The rout of the U.S. Marines at Beirut"
- The Club Anthem (The Buckland Hymn) was sung:
Lord Buckland is my leader
Friend to everyone,
Peacock of the universe,
Ruler of the sun.
My name is Frears, Sara Frears, and I make a point of missing lectures and making a fool of myself making silly speeches. I am an American by birth and as the joke goes: What do you call an American with an I.Q. of 150?—A city. Or even; Do you know how to save an American from drowning?—No? So much the better.
Before I begin, a couple of things need to be cleared up first. At the Mendips this term, apparently there was an accident; an accident which occur while Claire was snugly tucked up in bed in Aberystwyth. It therefore seems to certain rebel factions of the club that the charges I made before Christmas cannot now be substantiated, and they consider an apology necessary. So I suppose I'd better apologise for the slanderous remarks I made at the last meal and I hope they haven't caused any inconveniences as a result.
Secondly, about two weeks ago several upset women were pounding at the door of Trefor Road with stories of strange Valentines cards they had received. I have duely investigated this, but understandably, nothing has turned up; other than to say:
She clicks her nose
And wiggles her ears
The one that I love
Is Sara Frears
Roses are red
Violets are flat
The one that I love
Is Alison Platt.
Presidential Address: "FOR THOSE ABOUT TO DIE"
Each year, prolific members of the Caving Club leave our midst, and leave without a formal farewell and dissappear into the obscurity of the past. So, tonight, epitaphs and words for those about to die.
Begining with Alison—the President's Favourite; not renowned for her caving abilities, or her rice pudiing cooking abilities, and yet a vital constituent to the social fabric of the Caving Club. But should she be the President's Favourite I hear you ask. She told me she was, and she sent me a Valentine's card; which I still haven't had. Always bouncy, full of life and blind drunk, but a romantic at heart—she came to Trefor Road one day and asked for Paul, Dave, or Chris. "Which one of them do you want?" asked Mrs. Jones. "Oh, any of them!" she replied.But at my back I always hear
Times winged chariot hurrying near
And yonder, all before us
Deserts of vast eternity
The graves a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
David Carruthers—the ex-Pres. once removed, maintainer of the Queen's English, and the Bible, although in ecstasy when the Messiah is crucified in the crucifixion game. To refer to the Old Platt Almanac: "Dave was the shining character of the first years in 1981, and of course, what a socialiser he is—an obvious correlation with his £400 overdraft—or was it spent on something more sinister than beer? But when goes he must remember the old motto:Dulcie et decorum est propatria mori.
The Secratary of Stayte—due to leave also in 1984. To refer to the old Platt Almanac again; "Chris was a shy and very introvert lad, and probably hadn't spoken to anyone in his life before he came here". But he's certainly entertained us in the last three years, preferring things a lighter shade of grey. Even now when he see's Claire, he grabs her by the head, looking for those silver sighs of maturity. He should have a good time in heaven; that's if he doesn't trip and impale himself on the Golden Gates before hand. But of course he'll be remembered in his own words:Behold the mighty raven,
The forerunner of doom,
I saw one just the other day.
In my living room.
Sara—our rabbit loving, money spending, cider drinking, CND woman from Bath—Baathh, leaving in 1985. A good treasurer; I phoned her up on Christmas Day to wish her the seasons greetings, in return, the first thing she said to me on my return here was "We're £30 overdrawn". Renowned throughout Aber, Borth, and the backwaters of Mid Wales for her performances at various parties, and for this she'll be sadly missed. She has proven to be the Jotn Travolta of the club—certainly whenever I'm pissed, I always find myself dancing with her and a traffic cone; and so she might find the angelic choirs and plucking harps quite hard to accustom to.What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monsterous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle,
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
There have been many philosophical arguments in our times—is there a God, and if not, to what social use could we put churches; will the President's speech ever end, and if so, does anything exist beyond it, and of course, will H ever leave Aberystwyth? Apparantly he's been applying for jobs, but comes back with the old excuse—I'm over qualified, or they didn't like the way I pronounced "bowk". Garbage. Can you ever imagine him leaving Aber to go to the bottom rung of a multi national company when he's spent so long getting to the top, if by false means, of the Caving Club heirachy. Not a hope. He's never applied for a job in his life.Have you forgotten yet?
Look up and swear by the green of spring
That you'll never forget.
And now, the gem of the Caving Club—the President. The man gifted with modesty, charming, witty, well spoken, well mannered, and well educated. Always caring for others and concerned with his own health and appearance. Not one for over indulgence—particularily in caving; a person who will be sadly missed and absolutely impossible to replace.But, if I should die, think only this ofme,
That there is some corner of an Aberystwyth field
That is forever Smethwick.
But to end on, and for everyone I haven't mentioned, a few words of comfort for those about to die. For chaps of a religious disposition tells us That there is life after death. But alas this is impossible, looking at it scientifically , and I think someone should point this out to Ripper, Bunce, Hywel, Marie, and of course, Fenton who constantly returns to haunts us in vague apparition until our dying days.
The club then retired to the Talbot Hotel, and later to the Kings Hall.
We were changed and ready for action at 8.00am—it must surely be a record in the clubs history. Anyway, we got up the ladders into the stope above Adit 6, which has a well preserved ore shoot. Back in the Adit a rather large ocre dam was found blocking a level with a lot of water behind it. The thought of disturbing the dam and swimming along the level and/ or being flushed out into the Rheidol had an unhealthy feel to it so we didn't touch it. A retreat to the hostelry in Capel Bangor was then called for.
This shambles of a trip began originally at the reasonable figure of eleven people, but declined disastrously to a mere three, who ultimately travelled down in Cathy's car to be met by Hywel. We failed to meet Abdul as planned at the Chelsea hut at Llangattock, but he managed to get underground in Aggie all the same, and left the following entry in the log before disappearing as mysteriously as he had come:
Ogof Agen Allwyd 10.3.84
Where 'oir you fuckers 'den? Already down de blinkin hole and 'tis not yet noon. Well, no time like de present for a bit of exploration. Here with de friend Lindsay for an introduction to the underground world.
Got lost in the first boulder choke following yellow paper arrows that somebody had turned round the wrong way. Thought I was making good progress though discovering a whole new cave system. After much exercise (better than aerobics) enter Baron's Chamber and then a sight seeing tour down through Main Passage looking at selenite crystals, beef calcite, and Lesser Horseshoe Bats alongside an itinerant retired bat keeper from Llandudno Zoo. Did you know that bats mate a hundred times a minute in mid air once every ten years? They also return to exactly the same flake of rock every year to hibernate, and can detect temperature changes of less than 0.1°C? True or false?
However, much amusement had grovelling around (the two of us) in Music Hall, and had a look down into Ace of Spades Streamway, and woke up a sleeping Petzl Suit lying on the ground in pitch darkness outside a dig approximately half way between South Stream Passage turnoff and Trident Series. Got lost in First Boulder Choke on the way out (this time decided NOT to follow the arrows, only to discover that someone had put them right, and the whole thing was easier than you thought). Remember! If you get lost in First Boulder Choke ask the way from the three little bats hanging upside down above the stream passage just before you climb down to the stream bottom. They are very obliging and just dying for a bit of gossip! By the way one of them speaks fluent Hindustani while the other two are from Merthyr Tydfil and are presently learning Welsh.
Arrived at the entrance at 5.00pm approximately to see the clouds driving up the valley and an etheral light emanating from the direction of Crickhowell. Noticed a dead horse at the bottom of the hill below the tramway.
Ogof Agen Allwyd 10.3.84
The Outer Circle or "Unadulterated Misery" (according to Rob).
We were all up at the crack of dawn and dashed off to go caving and got in the gate at 12.00 noon. Hywel assured us that he knew the way in the Entrance Series and so.....it wasn't long before we got lost. Pointed in the right direction, we quickly got down to the Second Boulder Choke and then on to North West Junction. We were all blinded by sweat due to our incredible speed. Another mad dash up Turkey, then we entered the Rob Jones Agony Series i.e. Coal Cellar Passage. This was where the fun started! the tight never-ending rift didn't seem to agree with Rob's beer gut (Blimey! I don't remember this bit—Ed.), but we forced him through with promises of massive chambers "just around the corner". However they never materialised of course. At one point we all squeezed past a big flake, once past, I touched it and it collapsed with a massive bang. On and on and on and on the tight rift wound until we emerged into a small "blind" chamber. The way on proved to be an interesting passage, which resulted in the quote at the begining. A tight climb up a horizontal squeeze allowed Rob to enter, then the hole suddenly shrunk. Hywel's head was used as a portable foothold, while I pulled from the other side, with a fat Welshman in the middle.
When the cork finally emerged from the bottle, he immediately lay down to die. While we waited for life to return we sat on a mud bank and tried to throw mud/rocks at Rob in the dark. After about ten minutes the directs hits caused a response so we decided to carry on along big passages back to the Turkey Streamway. After a few yards it was back to the endless boulder chokes, but we made it to the mud formations where the Outer Circle route starts. Starting back, more squeezes, crawls, climbs up and slippery descents brought us to this big passage. Great!...Oh shit!—that arrow and "Way Out" looks familiar. Half an hour later back near the formations we found the right passage—a sod of a thing, neither crawling nor stooping height. After rejoining Turkey, we felt the trip was just about over, off we staggered. Two old members thought it would be fun to swim the Turkey Pool whilst the ever wise geologists decided it was a little cold.
The rest of Turkey flashed by, North West Junction signalled the home straight; and our intrepid Entrance Series Guide took over. We immediately got lost in the Second Boulder Choke. The Welsh bats put us right, but the Hindustani one was trying to send us up to the Erotic Dig. The long plod to the entrance was livened up by the sudden gurgling cries from Rob. He told us it was the effects of cramp, but I think it was the changing air pressure as we ascended to the surface. At the entrance gate book we found that Abdul had arrived with a mystery girl friend then promptly dissappeared into thin air.
All in all a good long eight hour and ten minute round trip.
Shakesperes Cave 11.5.84
Rob decided against caving after yesterdays experience, so Cathy, Hywel and Raif went over to the Clydach Gorge for a quick trip down Shakesperes Cave. Rob came along with us for the ride and to walk back along the tramroad to the hut. Wetsuit certainly essential and unless you want to sound like a walrus and cause great amusement to the others don't do the duck face down.....beyond this the cave narrows to a slot half full of water which eventually we decided was too narrow for further progress so we just missed seeing the end. The piece of string in the sump didn't look very inviting so we did the bypass instead. A good cave (original comment).
It was a beautiful day, howling winds and fierce snow storms, just the weather for absailing and prussicking we thought, and so it was up to Herbert's Stope for a few hours of fun.
Many was the night that I'd sat in the pub listening to H, Underwood and Chris retelling their tales of horrific accidents with mortal injuries, suffered through the various parts of Britain and Ireland. But there I sat alone, and jealous, not having a single mark on my caving experiences; Iwas tormented and ridiculed for my career underground of absolute success. People refused to talk to me, they laughed behind my back; they made anonymous telephone calls to me and sent me strange letters, and told my friends and family of my total inability to go wrong.
So as I slogged up the hillside with Sara and Jaz to Herbert's Stope I decided enough was enough; no longer would I be persecuted or rejected; I would impress them all, and become one of the lads; one of the brave few, a hero and a martyr, a demi-god: I would have virgins or women pregnant with first child sacrificed to me at every full moon. I would hold orgies and parties, and proudly tell of my fatefull experiences, and show off my iron-hard scars.
So there I was on the ledge, fixing the rope protector into place; I pulled slack through my figure of eight, shouted "legs over the side, head up. Go!" I slipped of the egge and went plummeting down. "One thousand, two thousand" I shouted and still falling at near terminal velocity I bounced off the wall. "Three thousand, four thousand, right hand down." With a sudden jar I stopped and again bounced into the wall severely mutilating my left knee and grazing the skin on my little finger I sighed a breath of relief—I'd done it. I'd falled ten or fifteen feet, ruined part of the rope and frightened Sara.
??????????? head appeared over the edge: "I thought you were dead" she bellowed. God! I must have made it impressive. ? then absailed down but we decided against prussicking back out because of the lack of rope protectors, and I had no desire to risk my life once again—the first time was okay, but a second time would be over the top though. Meanwhile, that great hulk of a person, Jaz, had gone to meet us at the bottom, but by going in the wrong entrance he got muddy, wet, and a cut finger (no doubt so that he could be one of the lads—not a hope! Bloody social climbers!)
Whilst the above excitements were occuring, H, Marshall, Ripper and Hillary did yet another usual trip up the Level Fawr incline.
The third year geologists, led by Dai, did a standard Level Fawr incline trip, and also went up to Herbert's Stope for a spot of upping and downing.
A massive digging expedition on Copper Hill resulted in blisters and the like, but no underground workings. We also had a look at the Bonsall's, Herbert's and the Comet levels to the Copper Hill lodes.
The plan was to climb the hundred foot rise shaft from Bonsall's Level on Copper Hill up into Abraham's Level and thus get into the old Copper Hill workings. Sy Hughes had been up in the dim and distant past, leaving rope and ladders in the shaft. The ladders are now a heap of rust at the bottom of the shaft, but the rope hangs there yet. However, having at least one brain cell left, I rejected the thought of prussicking up it, and even Abdul wasn't prepared to try it. So I went up the hard way: throw a rope over the timber stageings which are about ten or twelve feet apart, and climb up it while Abdul holds the other end. After an hour, and a lot of nasty moments, I'd reached the better part of fifty feet up. Climbing up onto the fifth set of stageing I could feel the whole rotten lot beginning to sag ominously... I gave up and climbed back down.
The only way it seems is to get a rigid ladder into the place, unless there is someone out there who revels in both prussicking and raw fear?
A quick trip into Herbert's Stope was suggested to round off the day. Absailing a thirty food pitch further along the hillside from the usual place landed us on a stoped floor. One end opened onto the main stope, while the other finished in a huge black void heading towards Copper Hill. Unfortunately the lack of belays put paid to a descent into the centre of the earth.
The trip had deminished from fifteen to only ten. Drove direct to Berko, arriving at 1.10am to find Bunce and Marie already ensconsed in Hywel's and Fenton's. The following morning a group departed to sample the delights of the capital (Virgin Megastore, Forbidden Planet, British Museum). On the evening pub crawl we were most impressed with Marshall's casual and unexpected arrival. The party itself went on and on and on until close on to 6.00am, when the last die-hards passed out. We were rudely awakened at 8.30am (actually 7.30am—the clocks had gone forward) by the arrival of Lant Fenton. Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!! our heads! After lunch we nipped off to Oxford and had a nice walk around in the pouring rain, before beginning on the long hard journey back to Aber. John passed a most horrible day, dying of dysentry or one of its close relatives, not that anyone else was on top form either. A good weekend?
Cave christened "Lira's Peril" or "The Throat of Doom", 8.4.84
Sea cave explored in the limestones of the Pointe De L'Armorique. Equipment was scanty, if non-existent, but as the Lira said as he disapeared into the darkness: "Dangers my name and deaths my game". On and on went the Lira, with shouts of encouragement Dai and Ian behind. Wop's lighter was passed forward and another ten metres was explored. Having measured the cave for an initial survey, the brave four retreated into the sunlight, content after a hard days crawl.
From our own correspondent Ian Dawes:
The peril was high, the tide was low and the crowds marvelled at the bravery of Lira. No cells, no ropes, not even a lurex jockstrap between us, we defeated the best that Brittany could throw at us. Emerging from the Throat of Doom, Lira was heard to mutter "fuck the French".
From our own correspondent Dai Williams:
It was so perilious that I soiled my trousers.
Description: Wide mouth on beach, rapidly narrowing to a near flat crawl with a sandy floor.
Aillwee Cave (Entrance Foyer Series)
The quest for adventure caused us to abandon the delights of Ballyvaughn and a pint of Guinness in order to drive the long dusty road to Aillwee Show Cave. From a distance sight of a strange structure, almost obscured by pictures of bears. "Was it a megalithic tomb?" we asked, or was it the drunken cavortings of an insane Irishman, mad with the combined effects of Guinness and cheap milk? As we approached, the truth was revealed: "Aillwee Cave Entrance Building, Award for Architecture, 1981". Slipping past the French tourists we entered this strange structure to explore its delights: postcards, cheap souvenirs and books (including books on caving). Due to the extreme danger involved (cost of entry = £1.90), we did not explore beyond the Entrance Foyer Series. To the right of the main chamber (see plan) is the Extension Chamber, containing mainy curious formations each consisting of a flat surface a few feet square supported by four vertical columns, each about three feet high. Ontop of each square were a number of small crystal pools containing a curious brown fluid. Sat around each square were a number of fossilised Guinnisian Period Irishmen.
Description: Entrance to main chamber is hazardous—a sporting traverse past French Tourists is usually required. The Ladies Chamber and the Gents Grotto to the left are the active parts of the cave system, and wellies are necessary. NOTE: in times of extremely heavy conditions (e.g. coach load of Frenchmen having recently disposed of part of wine lake), both chambers have been known to flood.
Tackle Required: handline useful to ascend ramp on into the as yet unexplored parts of the cave.
WARNING: under no circumstances should money or a cheque book be taken into this system.
"Ogof Darreg", quarry east of Suckthumb Quarry, Isle of Portland, Dorset
This connection to the Dorset Master System was entered by messers. Rob and Raif at great personal risk in a selfless spirit of exploration. It consists of a rift approximately 120 feet long and in excess of 40 feet deep. Both walls are covered in flowstone and stalactites up to twenty inches in length, all very ferigunious. Lack of tackle prevented further exploration on to the "Weymouth Through Trip".
Wheal Prosper, Rinsey Cove, nr. Helston, Cornwall. 11.4.84
The sealevel drainage adit of this copper and tin mine was examined to a depth of about a hundred feet, but the lack of a wetsuit prevented further exploration. The level measures three by two feet in cross section and is twenty inches deep in water; it probably dates from the earliest working of the mine in the 1830's. History:
|1836–7||Worked as Wheal Rinsey.|
|1842–7||Worked as Wheal Rinsey.|
|1855–7||Worked as Rinsey United.|
|1859–7||Worked as Wheal Prosper; the large engine house dominating the cove was built in 1860.|
|1970||Engine house restored by the National Trust.|
Wheal Cotes (Townroath Shaft), St. Agnes, Cornwall. 12.4.84
Raif examined a cavernous stope connected to the sea (all the other geologists refused to follow him). It measures some 100 feet high, up to 40 feet wide, and more than 150 feet long and gives access to the full size Atlantic breakers (which were breaking as Raif clung to a small ledge above). The pumping engine house for a 36 inch engine above the stope was built in 1872; the mine closed in c.1885. The engine house was restored by the National Trust in 1973.
Cligga Head Mines, nr. St. Agnes, Cornwall. 12.4.84
A great many levels and stopes connecting to the sea were examined during the course of the morning by many of the geol. group. They vary greatly in age, although the majority date from pre-1750 and are typical of "old mens workings". Raif did his best despite the lack of a light, even burning his handouts.....
Bollantack Mine, nr. St. Just, Cornwall. 13.4.84
The site of Allen's Shaft which is now being refurbished by Geevor Tin Mines Ltd. was examined and also the pre-1700 "tin floors" workings. The engine houses of the Crown section of the mine, perched precariously at the foot of the cliffs were also examined. (It was this part of the mine that Queen Victoria and the future Edward VII descended in 1865 to the 205 fthm. level.) This copper and tin mine which was established pre-1800 closed in the early 1870's.
The social consumption of alcahol, principally in the form of beer, forms an important part of caving trips in terms of time, money, and the proportion of pleasure gained from a trip1. Despite its forming such a large and important part of caving trips it is the least planned aspect of any trip. It is obvious that an accurate prediction of the likely alcahol consumption would be of value in planning a trip, and this paper proposes a method of quantitative prediction developed especially with Aberystwyth Caving Club in mind.
The first two major factors of alcahol consumption are firstly, the length of the trip, and secondly, the number of persons present. These form the two primary degrees of freedom when calculating maximum possible alcahol consumption, hence
ACm = Lt . P
where ACm is maximum alcahol consumption, and Lt and P are the length of the trip in hours and the number of people participating, respectively. This is expressed as man hours of alcahol consumption.
However, a prolonged programme of observation of rates of alcahol ingestion has lead me to the conclusion that the above calculation must be modified by the following factors, which form secondary degrees of freedom in the overall calculation.
- Number of weeks into term it is a commonly appreciated fact that alcahol consumption varies proportionately to the amount of grant money still in hand; thus the later in the term the trip occurs, the less alcahol is likely to be bought2 i.e.
M∝Wtwhere M is money, and Wt is the number of weeks remaining in the term. Observations of the Aberystwyth club though3 principally over the last term, has indicated that people will disregard their financial situation until a threshold point is reached, beyond which caving will be forced to temporarily completely cease until their financial situation is once again alleviated. Thus this factor may generally be disregarded.
People present on that trip consumption of alcahol has an essentially trinodal distribution, there being three grades of drinker4, which can be expressed on an ordered category list:
Rating Consumption (pts/evening) D value Heavy 6 0.4 Moderate 3–5 0.25 Light 2 0.1
Amount of caving achieved it is known that a moderate amount of caving inspires an impressive thirst5, but that beyond a certain point the majority of cavers rate sleep more highly than alcahol. Fortunately this latter inversion point be safely ignored in the case of Aberystwyth Caving Club, for lengthy trips are sufficiently uncommon not to warrant its inclusion in the calculations. Amount of caving is also expressed as an ordered category list:
Caving achieved C value under 2 hrs average per person 0.30 2 to 4 hrs average per person 0.35 4 to 4 hrs average per person 0.40 6 to 8 hrs average per person 0.45 8+ hrs average per person 0.50
Classification of caving club hut there is a direct correlation between available hut facilities and the contrasting attractions of the nearest hostelry6. It is therefore proposed that existing hut guides and classifications7 be additionaly consulted to calculate this factor, the derived hut rating being expressed on a standard ordered category list:
Hut Rating Hr value Super Severe 1.30 Severe 1.25 Very Difficult 1.20 Difficult 1.15 Moderate 1.10 Easy 1.05
Example of working
Twelve people depart at 7.30pm on a Friday night to the Mendips, returning at 9.30pm on the Sunday night. Whilst in the Mendips they stay at Cerberus Hut (Difficult grade hut) and achieve an average of four to six hours caving each. The party's alcahol consumption is assumed to have a standard non-skewed distribution, with three people each forming the upper and lowermost quartiles, the remainder falling within one standard deviation of the mean:
Thus in this example the total alcahol consumption for the party would be 172 pints, or a mean of 14½ pints a head.
- Aberystwyth Caving Club Log Books volumes 1 to 4.
- Personal Account Book volume 2 (1.1.83 to date).
- "The Naughty Boys' Diary" courtesy of C.P.Stayte esq..
- Observations made by Mr. S.Hudson, Talbot Hotel, Aberystwyth.
- H.C.Davies, 1983 "personal communication".
- Aberystwyth Caving Club Log Books volumes 1 to 4.
- Thrutch Guide to Caving Club Huts, Part 1: Thrutch Volume 5, 1980, pp5–6, Part 2: Thrutch Volume 7, 1982, pp2–3.
As the number of people involved in caving seems to grow daily, unfortunately so has the accident rate. Yet, as such, there has been no analytical initiatives taken towards the problem of predicting probable accident frequencies within a defined range of accident parameters. Such systems have been used in industrial planning for many years and now a scheme is proposed to bring quantitative assessment into the field of caving.
This paper examines and describes methods of deriving the fundamental accident frequency by analysing observed patterns of stream flow and related meteorological events, and suggests methods of utilising these deduced factors in computing hypothetical interactions with environmental conditions within any cave system at differing levels of complexity and hierarchical rank.
One of the major contributing factors in caving accidents has been shown to be the water regime status of the cave1. Water has proved its self to be a powerful agent against cavers if prolonged exposure to a flow is involved or if a flood event occurs. The length of exposure to water (Te) depends on the total length of the cave (L) and the length of active water within this length (LW). An exposure factor may be calculated
Te = LW ÷ L
If a flood event was to occur during the Te phase, then an accident situation (Appendix 1) could occur. An analysis of a flood hydrograph would allow some assessment of a cavers behaviour in such situations2,3. Assuming no stream flow records were available then Snyder's Synthetic unit hydrograph relation3,4 would be used to predict run-off characteristics of the drainage area.
Qp = qp Ac
Where Qp is the peak rate of discharge in cubic feet/second. qp is the peak rate of discharge of unit hydrograph for unit rainfall duration. A is the drainage area and c is the potential sumping coefficient of the cave. To derive this, a probability function of rainfall events would be needed. To avoid overcomplication this is proposed as a ranked series of values which are subjectively selected (f).
|100||Rain event imminent or in progress|
|75||Rain event likely|
|50||Moderate probability of rain event|
A probability function for the flood event (Qpf) and the probability of exposure to the flood event (Te) are two fundamental factors.
The caves 'severity' is judged again on a ranking (Sc)
This Sc value is combined with the experience of the party (Ep) and the number of cavers in the party (N) to give an experience coefficient, E+. The members experience is assessed by what standard they cave to comfortably again assessed on the above ranking. The experience factor, Ep is therefore
Ep = ep1 + ep2 + ep3 ... + epN
∴ it follows E+ = Ep ÷ N
To relate this to the severity of the cave, an environmental experience factor is obtained (Ex)
Ex = Sc ÷ E+
If the value Ex is greater than 1 then a low accident probability is expected.
Equipment condition is usually important and again this is assessed using a condition ranking (C).
And the time (T) out of the total trip that major pieces of equipment are used eg ladders, ropes and hardware (Tp) is the factor Tu.
Tu = T ÷ TpNow by combining various elements of these formulae, a cave trip grading relating to accident probability may be gained, (G).
The values of G obtained may be then used to assess the trip, as yet no tables of the range of G have been ordered so a club must arrange these themselves. High G values mean there is a high accident risk.
The procedure of numerical assessment is basically a quantitative parameter based on mainly subjective data inputs. This must be remembered when examining the G values. But it does put a value on the risks of an accident occurring. One limitation in its use is that certain quantities must be known prior to the decent, but these may be found in any good guide and prediction of prevailing meteorological assessment is now highly advanced5,6.
The range of accidents covered here is small, being only to cover minor events. More care must be taken in assessing risks involved in cave diving or situations listed in Appendix 1 may occur.
It seems likely that now a quantitative grading value is available, guidebooks may be compiled on a system more descriptive than the subjective assessments formally used (F). The traditional grades E, M, D, S and SS or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 5a etc. will now be out of date and cavers will be able to assess the trip by completing the G value from listed parameters given by the guide book.
- Hughes, S.J.S. 1980 'Personal Communication'.
- Bailey, S.M. and Schneider, G.B. 1939 'The Maximum probable flood and its relation to spillway capacity', Civil Engineering, Vol. 109, No. 1, pp 32–35.
- Snyder, F.J. 1938 'Synthetic unit graphs'. Trans, Am. Geoghy, Union, Part IV, pp 725–738.
- Benson, M.A. 1960 'Characteristics of frequency curves based on a theoretical 1000 year record', In flood Frequency Analyses by T. Dalrymple. U.S.G.S., Water Supply Paper, 1580–8
- Barrett, E.C. 1973 'Forecasting daily rainfall from satellite data'. Monthly Weather Review, 101 (3) pp 215–222.
- Bilhem, E.G. 1935 'Classification of heavy falls in short periods'. British Rainfall, pp 262–280.
- Simmons, S.A. 1979. 'An analysis of the existing cave grading system' Thrutch, 2 pp 10–11.
Accidents caused by water in mid-wales area.
- Exposure case 1978
- Septic foot from infected water 1976
- Near drowning after roof fall 1975
- Two near drownings after sinking of boat in mine 1978
- Exposure and near drowning 1980
- There shall be no editing or censoring of the log book.
- The principal hierarchy of the club shall apply at all times:
- Longest Serving Member/Master of the Lore.a
- Ex President.
- Life Members in order of their past seniority.
- Minister without Portfolio.
- Driver of the Day.
- People with tackle in their houses.
- Thrutch Editor.
- Publicity Officer.
- President's Favourite of the Day.
- Others (Freshers, etc.).
- Switzerland Trip Organiser.
- Pete Berlin (old jew).
- Non members.
- Free loaders, Fellow travellers, and Blacks.
- The code of conduct while speaking to members of the committee (see clause 2, positions 2,4,5,7,10,11,12,14) will be followed:
- To all, but the President, must be answered courteously and ending with "Sergeant Major".
- To the President, as 1. but ending with "Sir".
- To Life Members, as 1. but ending with "On Wise One".
- The meeting place of the Caving Club shall be the Coopers Arms on a Tuesday at 8.30pm.
- There will be at least one official Caving Club Dinner each term.
- There will be at least six unnoficial Caving Club Dinners each term.
- An annual masturbation contest will be encouraged to be held each year during the summer expedition.
- The Annual General Meeting will be held on Saint Dunstans Day, 19th, May, at which the Buckland Hymn will be sung to the tune of "Onward Christian Soldiers":
Lord Buckland is my leader,
Friend of everyone,
Peacock of the Universe,
Ruler of the sun.
- New members will be encouraged to learn the Seven Parts of a Button and when they enter their second year in the club, will be let into the mysteries of the eigth part.
- There shall be no copying in any form of the log book.b
- The constitution may only be changed at the Annual General Meeting.
- Voting may only proceed at the Annual General Meeting if a quorum consisting of twelve established members is present.
- There will be no thirteenth clause because of its superstitious nature.
- The constitution may only occupy three pages of the current log book.
- The Switzerland Trip will be cancled at every Annual General Meeting.
- Life Membership will be conferred on all members who have completed a degree course at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and may be awarded to those persons who have given long service to the club, or those elected by a majority at the Annual General Meeting.
- The log book must be taken on every trip.
- There shall be a "Terminal Velocity Club", membership to be awarded at the descretion of existing members of that club.
- The Peoples' Committee will henceforth be regarded officially as an illegal and deplorable elitist group worthy of nothing but scorn.c
- The annual summer scientific expedition shall be held in Ireland each year.
- On the drawing of genitals—men only may draw those of men; women only may draw those of women.
Those belonging to positions 1,2,4,5,7,10,11,12,14 will confer with all others as subordinates and treat them accordingly.
- Defined as longest serving member living in Dyfed and attendant at the Coopers Arms at least one week in two.
- Except under the supervision of the Committee.
- See special file available to committee members only. File name: "Geheinestaatzpolizei 1983.IX.18."
We will abide by this constitution, and sign for all members. This constitution is considered inviolate for all time.
- Oldest Serving Member H.C.Davies, BSc, MSc, Dip.Mpal, PhD(pending).
- President 1983–4 P.C.Grainger, KC.
- Ex President (1982–3) D.Carruthers.
- Secretary C.P.Stayte, KC, TVC.
- Treasurer S.L.Frears.
- Life Member A.Platt, BSc.
- Minister without Portfolio C.Howarth, BSc.
- Thrutch Editor R.Protheroe Jones.
- Publicity Officer C.Lowe.
- Switzerland Trip Organiser D.A.Chamberlain, BSc.
List of Ex Presidents
|1978–79||H (Howard Davies)|
|1983–84||Paul Grainger (Lira)|
|1980 to date||Coopers Arms|
- First published May 1984. Originally edited by Robert Protheroe Jones.
- This digital edition published on the World Wide Web June 2010. This volume was scanned/typed by Matilda Poole and edited with additional scanning by Rich Smith. Hard copy courtesy of South Wales Caving Club.
© 1984, 2010 Aberystwyth Caving Club