GSG Newsletter 144

October 2010

Hidden Earth 2010

This year's national caving conference was held in Leek High School: a good venue with plenty of space for camping on the rugby pitch for the majority and on various small patches of lawn among the buildings for those searching for a quieter spot. This was my first Hidden Earth for some time and I could see the change. The whole organisation was slicker and the delegates more numerous with about 1000 delegate days and, according to head organiser Les Williams at the closing ceremony, 33 barrels of beer consumed equating to around 2.5 pints per delegate per day.

Seven GSG members had headed south from Edinburgh, and between us Goon and I counted 21 members in all at the conference plus five former members. Or should that be eight since Butch has left us four times since the 80's?

The trade hall gave many opportunities and for buying shiny new gear and publications, taking part in the SRT and ladder races and testing yourself against the obstacle course. Entre-Prises ( a constructor of climbing walls and artificial caves - one even has a sump - had a challenging route (pictured) that could be thought of as a large diameter pipe with several bends and many severe dents leaving it a challenge to navigate. Both Annie Audsley and Ross Davidson managed the through trip, but at least one caver got stuck part-way through and had to be released by unbolting the sections.

I was there to give a presentation on the cave site condition monitoring work we are doing for SNH in Assynt (see later) and other cave conservation related topics. There were four presentations in all on site monitoring of caves and it was interesting to see the different approaches used across the UK. Natural England through CNCC supply monitoring forms to groups of recreational cavers to complete during planned caving trips. We are doing special trips to photograph chosen features. Northern Ireland are supplementing that with videos of selected areas. I'd have thought the English approach could give widely differing assessments of the same feature, but Natural English are satisfied with the work so far.

One thought provoking talk was by Faye Litherland on corrosion and failure of stainless steel anchors and bolts (see page 6). Very relevant since stainless steel eco-anchors are now installed all over the UK including Appin and Assynt. Her point is that just because stainless steel look shiny and undamaged doesn't mean something nasty isn't happening. A sudden failure isn't impossible and eco-anchors aren't a reason to abandon good rigging practice with back-ups and the use of multiple anchors.

There were many talks on foreign expeditions including Simon Brooks expounding on Meghalaya and introducing an on-site produced video spoof of Slumdog Millionaire. Ex-member Alys Mendus revealed all about a lightweight three-woman expedition to a sacred cave in Nepal which is reputed to add ten years onto visitors' lives and where you can be absolved from the sins of incest!

On Sunday there was a video tribute to Sid Perou who is retiring to Thailand. This featured many famous cavers reminiscing about filming with Sid and majoring on what went wrong: be it grit in the camera, a lens cap left on or 200 foot of tortuously shot film being dropped down a rift and having to be retaken!

At the closing ceremony (late - some things never change!) Les presented cheques for about £2300 to Pete Allwright of BCRC (British Cave Rescue Council) to help fund the next generation of cave radios for all UK cave rescue teams. Les explained that BCA now own most of the audiovisual equipment required for Hidden Earth so no longer have to pay hire fees and the event now makes a healthy surplus. A healthy thirst on the part of the delegates must have helped.

Two memories of the event were nothing to do with the conference itself. First was waking up in my tent on Saturday morning, thinking it somewhat chilly, and unzipping the flysheet to find it covered in frost. Second was Fraser planning ahead by booking a table at the best Indian restaurant in Leek (recommended by Simon) for the Saturday night, arriving to find it already stuffed full of cavers and waiting 2½ hours for our main courses to arrive!


Caving - Assynt

The Rana entrance shaft is gradually being cleared of digging equipment with some moving to Campbell's Cave and the rest back to the hut. It'll be next year before the proposed gate over the entrance will be started. The intention is not to restrict access, but to make the area safe and to restore airflow closer to pre-dig conditions. I wouldn't like to find a red deer at the bottom of the shaft! The fixed ladders are being left in place at present. They make access much easier and we still have a lot of work to do in the system.

Campbell's Cave is showing promise - of much more digging. In June one weekend revealed an enticing void. The next session a fortnight later erected shoring to allow entry into about 8m of descending crawl over breakdown with a low continuation at the bottom. This was enlarged over the next few days of digging before the site was tidied up and left until the stalking season is over.

We appear to be digging down into a debris cone that has filled a large chamber then settled enough to allow us to crawl down where we have been digging. We can also see several metres to either side. From glimpses during digging in the main shaft there are similar voids in other directions as well. The question is which is most likely to give us access to the passages that lie beneath the moor. When digging restarts we should continue emptying the main shaft as well as pursuing the present dig at the lowest point reached.

Developments of the natural kind continue in Traligill. Martin Hayes, making one of his regular excursions round the area found a 4 x 2 m section of the then dry Allt a'Bhealaich streambed had dropped by a metre. With previous collapses revealing then concealing Cave of the Deep Depression, and a later collapse giving us Storm Cave it obviously pays to keep one's eyes open.



Uamh Sgeinne (Cave of Knives) has been extended by David Morrison and Ritchie Simpson. Non-member Rob Burrel assisted and his friend Craig would have as well except he couldn't get in! The extension adds 44m, draughts, and is heading for Waterslide Cave. More details and a survey appear in the October 2010 GSG Bulletin.

David while in the Kilchrist area dug into a low bedding chamber of about 2½ m in diameter filled with a few inches of water which needs someone to splash into it to see if it continues. He also asked for help identifying a skull he found there. The GSG skull expert - Dan - thinks it has to be a dog and is now in negotiations to add it to his collection. A short section of passage was also dug out near Streamside Cave and David thinks a confident push should see a through trip.

Ruarach Cave on the mainland near Morvich has seen interest from two local teenagers who have entered the chamber mentioned in David's GSG Bulletin article (Oct 2010 p43). It is approximately 4 x 2 x 2½ m and they're continuing to dig out more descending passage.


GSG Beginners' Meet

Despite an initially slow uptake, the GSG beginners' weekend turned out to be extremely popular, with 20 people participating. On Saturday a party of eight including four novice cavers went into Kingsdale Master Cave via Valley entrance, most making it to the bottom of Swinsto, stopping to have a look at Simpson's Great Aven, while some took the watery alternative and went to find the Rowten sump. Another group took a trip down Tatham Wife Hole. Derek Pettiglio and Pete Dennis accompanied Mark Stanford on his 'first proper SRT trip' into Little Hull Pot - returning jubilant to Helwith Bridge at nearly 10pm, to a closed kitchen and a liquid dinner! The evening wore on as did festivities - later, one of the potential new recruits was seen disappearing into the night with a flaxen-haired temptress, only to phone the next day to report that he was in Fleetwood, north of Blackpool!

A gloriously sunny Sunday again saw the group split into several trips - juniors Alexander Fuller-Shapcott and Eva Hesketh took their mums into Calf Holes along with Fraser Simpson and one of the novices. Another group went down Sell Gill dry route, and a third group descended a rather busy Lower Long Churn as far as the magnificent viewpoint out onto Alum Pot, giving potential new member Javier Ruiz his first try at SRT. All in all an extremely successful weekend - thanks to all who participated, and special thanks to those who helped out with lifts, picking up and returning kit, and taking novices underground.


PS: The novices must have enjoyed the experience as one of them emailed me on the Sunday night wanting to join the GSG, and another asked for a membership form at the pub on Tuesday. I did hear that as well as the caving a full set of activities was served over the weekend which turned into a late night on the Saturday lasting till 4am. A squeeze machine was found in the hut and photographic evidence exists of those who failed and of one (Ross) who slipped through even when it was at its tightest setting! Not surprisingly caving was reported to have started rather late on the Sunday.


Danger! Beware Wetsocks!

Martin Hayes discovered to his continuing cost that wetsocks can be hazardous to your health. One weekend he appeared at Campbell's cave with a finger splinted to a tent peg. He'd been perfectly okay earlier that morning. What could have happened?

The answer serves to show that underground hazards are not the only dangers waiting to waylay the incautious caver. Martin was tugging on his wetsock when the force he exerted exceeded the elastic limit of his tendon with an audible snap. This injury is called Hammer or Mallet Finger and the treatment is to splint it until the tendon reattaches itself. As Martin is finding out that is quite a long time!

Cave Dig offered on Free Transfer

Longer term than even Rana Hole, the GSG identified the site for the White Cave of Slains in 1995. Jim Salvona's ambition of discovering what had been famed in the 18th century didn't, however, see digging started until 2010. The next problem is that it is north of Aberdeen and we can't see ourselves doing that round trip often enough to make a breakthrough likely in the next decade or two. On the other hand half an hour with a spade might just succeed. We therefore offer this dig to any member who wants it, provided that they promise to lavish it with the care and attention it so richly deserves, and tell us of their progress. More details can be found in the October 2010 GSG Bulletin.

GSG Midsummer BBQ

For once this year's Midsummer BBQ at the hut saw good weather. We didn't need to shelter from the rain, but the midges were a different matter as can be seen in the photograph where the figure on the left isn't a visiting alien, but John Heathcote taking precautions.

After the BBQ Julian and Carol took away an enormous pile of towels and washed them. If any were yours please reclaim them as there are too many to store in the hut and they may find a different home if they haven't already.

Croatian cavers visit the UK

On 5 August, seven Croatians from Speleoloaki klub Samobor and the Velebit Caving Club arrived for a fortnight's visit to Britain, during which they were hosted by members of the GSG, GUPA, Red Rose, Cardiff University Caving Club and Brynmawr Caving Club.

Staying for a night in Glasgow allowed a brief respite for the minibus drivers on their 2774km drive from Samobor to Elphin. In Assynt the GSG showed them the delights of Rana, ANUS and the Alt. They were quite surprised at how sporting Scottish caves are, probably because we had been playing them down, and not wanting them to be disappointed after Croatia's great big caves. GSG members present were Ivan, Andy Peggie, Julian Walford, Laura and Hugh.

We left them for the week during which they used the hut as a base to explore most of the North of Scotland, reaching Smoo Cave and Loch Ness. The following Friday they travelled via Edinburgh to Annie and Roger's. On the Saturday they returned to the capital for more Festival fun and then joined GSG and GUPA members at Bullpot Farm in the Dales.

For Sunday we had managed to get access to Bar Pot, Stream Passage Pot and Wade's Entrance, courtesy of the Craven Pothole Club who were rigging their winch and let us rig other entrances. The Croatians were suitably impressed by GG's Main Chamber. Those present were Ross, Derek, Hugh, Annie and Roger (plus Fraser who was down for a Saturday trip and Julie who called in to say hello), Amy Swendener, Diarmid Roberts and David Wright from GUPA, and Carmel Ramwell from the Red Rose who had come to the Dales specially to help out.

On the Monday some of the Croatians came down Long Churn and to the bottom of Alum Pot. Two of them went for a walk in glorious weather and were later located outside the Marton Arms making their way through the real ales and looking very contented. On Tuesday Hugh followed them down to the SWCC hut. Hugh led a trip in OFD II and three Cardiff cavers, Chris Jones, Kate Humphries and Jamie Windsor took Tea* on a through-trip from Top Entrance to OFD I.

The next day we went over to Kate and Fraser's via a short detour to Porth-yr-Ogof where we all helped haul a stretcher containing a woman who had fallen quite hard onto her back near the entrance. In the afternoon Tea and Hugh were taken by Malcolm Reid of Brynmawr Caving Club into Craig-a-Ffynnon, which was drier than normal (despite terrible weather), allowing us to visit the North West Passage without getting wet up to our chests.

They left for Croatia the next day and have thanked us all for making them welcome, and introducing them to real ale and Laphraoig. A big thank you is due to all the people from different clubs who made the trip a great success by helping out or with offers of trips (Kate also had offers of trips down Draenen that we didn't have time for).

The Croatian Seven have said they hope we will visit - perhaps while the club is in Slovenia next year, or on a dedicated trip to Croatia. I'm sure we will.

Hugh Penney

* Tea is a Croatian girl's name, they didn't take a pot of tea or anything

GSG Distribution Lists

All members with an email address should receive text copies of the quarterly Newsletters as well as announcements about GSG meets, events and other news. If you are not receiving them and want to, just send an email to Ivan and he'll add you to the GSG's distribution list.

Caving in the Australian Outback

Just a note to record that Milche and Kirsty have attended the XIV International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology as the only British participants. Participants, including friends from the previous symposium from seven countries across the world, assembled in Melbourne on Friday 6th August and we arrived there from Hobart, Tasmania, where we had spent a week visiting caves and stopped the first and last nights of our visit with Greg Middleton, one of the Symposium organisers, which was very fortunate because our Fingal's Cave presentation needed some fine tuning and Milche came face to face for the first time with Chris Wood's presentation on 'The Lava Caves in China' which he had been asked to present in Chris's absence.

The following morning we left Melbourne in a minibus for Hamilton in Western Victoria for three or four days of field trips including Mount Hamilton Lava Cave, the longest lava cave in Victoria, Mount Eccles and Byaduk Caves and then on the last day on our way back to Melbourne visited Mount Widderin or Skipton Cave which was notable for its mineralogy. As by this time the weather had broken and it was raining, lunch was taken in a sheep shearing shed where Marj Coggan from Canberra SS explained all the intricacies of sheep shearing and wool grading. On the first day Milche distinguished himself by slipping on the mud at the foot of the three meter rigid ladder into the first lava cave, gashing his shin and ending up with a sock full of blood!

On Wednesday 11th August those on the field trips flew from Melbourne to Cairns in Northern Queensland to meet up with the rest of those attending the symposium. The following morning a coach took us the scenic route via several volcanic features to Undara, about five or six hours distant, where we settled into our swag tents for the outback experience, which also included the Ringers' Camp for bush breakfasts where we sat around on tree trunks and breakfast was prepared over an open fire with tea and coffee brewed in billycans and toasting forks provided to make your own toast. Then followed three days of presentations in the mornings with lava tube trips in the afternoons (Misplaced Arch, Mikoshi Cave, Wind Tunnel, Arch Cave, Ewamin and Stephenson's Cave, Barkers Cave and Road Cave). Planned trips to Bayliss Cave, the longest single section of the Undara Caves, was not possible due to the high CO2 levels so was replaced with Pinwill Cave. There was also a whole day's excursion involving a hired train, the Savannahlander, for the day to take us to Einasleigh and Copperfield Gorge, including stops to look at The Wall, Tallaroo Hot Springs, and other volcanic features.

Although the numbers attending this Symposium were relatively modest we were privileged to have in the group Anne Atkinson, aged 85, who had done all the original exploration at Undara in the early 1960s and also Gerry Collins whose family operate the Undara facility. Amongst the presentations was one by Professor Stefan Kempe who insisted that lava caves and tubes were not the correct terms and insisted that they should be correctly described as pyroducts - somehow I don't think that this will catch on as it doesn't quite have the same ring!

At the closing session it was announced that the next Symposium, probably in the early months of 2012, is to be in Jordan/Syria.

Following departure of everybody from Cairns we stopped on for an extra week in Northern Queensland with friends from Canberra and visited the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree rainforest and the caves at Chillagoe, which are limestone caves in tower karst, and had the misfortune to encounter the only temperance caving club we have ever encountered&.

Although it was winter in the southern hemisphere and we had ice on the car a couple of times in Tasmania, the snow levels were fairly low, and there was flooding in Western Victoria/South Australia just after we left, the temperature in Queensland was 32 C.

Kirsty Mills

Stainless Steel does Corrode!

This short note is based on a talk by Faye Litherland at Hidden Earth 2010. Any inaccuracies in it will be mine and not Faye's.

Faye described four modes of corrosion for stainless steel. The first two are cosmetic, the third could be worrying and the last might be fatal. Number one is surface corrosion which can be wiped off using citric acid. Second is pitting corrosion which is visible, and while important for thin-walled pressure vessels, isn't going to be an issue for eco-anchors and other caving hardware since cavers will stop using them long before they are weakened enough to become dangerous – won't they?.

Much more insidious is stress corrosion cracking (SCC). stainless steel used for eco-anchors is susceptible to this. SCC is so called because microscopic cracks penetrate deep into stressed areas of the alloy under the influence of chloride ions. The stress may be the working load, but it can also be due to residual stress from the manufacturing process ie from cold deformation, welding, machining or heat treatment. So SCC can be progressing even when the item is completely unloaded. Failures in swimming pools and on sea cliffs show it isn't a theoretical problem, but they are not caves.

Do we have a problem? I'm not sure. The Stainless Steel Federation suggest a limit of 1000 ppm for chloride in 316 stainless steel water pipes, but don't mention SCC which could impose a lower limit. In the absence of analyses of cave water, Faye presented figures for bottled water all of which has some chloride with many 50 ppm or more. I've just looked at a bottle I have and it claims 155 mg/litre (equals 155ppm). However these are all for spring waters and the chloride content of water running into a pothole and spraying our anchors is likely to be different. This all sounds like a suitable project for some keen caver to sample and analyse cave water around the UK. Temperature also has a large effect and reactions will process far more slowly in a cool cave than an overheated swimming pool. However there is an unlimited supply of time, and perhaps there might be an outbreak of eco-anchor failures in a few centuries time. Certainly there has been no evidence of a problem in the 17 years since eco-anchors were first installed.

The fourth and more immediate corrosion problem is galvanic or bimetallic corrosion. This happens when two dissimilar metals are in contact with each other and bathed in an electrolyte. This creates an electrical cell that erodes the less noble metal forming the anode of the cell. Stainless steel is nobler than mild steel and aluminium, both metals you'll find in caving hardware such as karabiners. In fact the cell produced between stainless steel and aluminium is stronger than that between mild steel and aluminium so leaving the two in contact as permanent rigging is not a good idea: much better to use a stainless steel maillon. An alternative is to insulate the metals from each other perhaps with a plastic thimble. Faye mentioned rapid corrosion and failure of an aluminium hanger secured with a stainless steel bolt. Anodising the aluminium doesn't help. When the coating wears through, the corrosion will be concentrated at the wear points and failure will be hastened not delayed.

The main message I took from Faye's talk isn't that eco-anchors are going to fail, but that even in a finite universe many things can happen and relying on anything to be perpetually bombproof is not a good survival strategy. There is no substitute for good rigging techniques, so use back-up belays and multiple anchors where they are provided. Then you'll only be surprised if one should fail! And I must check how that line hanging in Black Rift is attached to the eco-anchors.


PS:- John Heathcote tells me that most surface and groundwater contains more than 5 mg/l of Chlorine It arrives in the rain. At Dounreay it can go as high as 1000 ml/l! He also notes that a wire ladder with monel rungs and stainless steel wires lasted less than a year in Ogof Fynnon Dhu II before it corroded and broke into several pieces. The rigid mild steel ladder in the same place has lasted since John helped install it pre-1982.

GSG Wins SNH Monitoring Contract

The Allt nan Uamh and Traligill caves were listed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest in 1987. SNH have a duty to monitor their condition and, potentially, take action to remedy any deterioration. In 2002 they awarded a contract to the GSG to produce a report on the condition of the caves - a baseline survey since it set the start conditions for later monitoring. This selected some features in some of the caves, and by recording enough of them, allowed later surveys to draw conclusions about any change in the condition of the entire system. We completed the report in 2003 and it was printed by SNH in 2005. SNH want to monitor the caves on a six-yearly cycle and it is now 2010.

This year SNH invited the GSG to submit a bid for cycle 2 of site condition monitoring for the caves. With the experience of 2002 I quickly did so, except that this time the half dozen sentences covering topics such as Health and Safety Policy, Standard Operating Practices, Generic Risk Assessment and Public Liability Insurance had to expand to the same number of pages. We also needed a Sustainability statement which in our case amounted to a promise to minimise travel, maximise use of email and telephone, and to keep document electronically and not print them out. A few days after submitting our bid I heard that we had been awarded the contract. I'll have to ask SNH if anyone else put in a bid.

The contract involves visiting all the locations we chose and photographed in 2002, and checking if there has been any change. If there has we will record and re-photograph. We will probably take fresh photographs anyway for our own records. We may also take extra photographs if we think there is something else that should be included. As well as the four caves chosen in 2002 - Lower Traligill, Cnoc nan Uamh, ANUSC and Claonaite One to Three, we've added Rana Hole and Claonaite Seven to the list since these are new or freshly accessible passages and are popular. Features beyond sumps were excluded in 2002 and are excluded again this time.

Work started on Friday 8th October in Lower Traligill Cave. Most of the features were easily located again, but even Peter Dowswell who was there in 2002 couldn't relocate the specific areas we'd chosen to photograph on the ceiling of the first grotto. Of the identified areas no change to them was noticed while in the cave, but Bob Jones took photos of everything again so we can make a more leisurely comparison back home.

SNH want us to complete the field work and submit a draft report by mid-December. That should be possible provided bad weather doesn't coincide with the days available for us to do the work.

This cycle of work gives a push to a longer term project I started in 2003. I borrowed and scanned Trevor Ford's 1950's slides of Assynt caves with the intention of returning to exactly the same locations and trying to reproduce them. (see GSG NL 117, Dec 2003 p4). By chance one of the photographs taken by Peter in Lower Traligill is a close match for one of Trevor's 35mm slides. It shows just how damaged the formations are now compared to when Trevor was there.


2010/11 Meets and Events

See the events page for details.

Request a Cave Trip

If there is a particular cave you'd like to visit please let me know - preferably with one or two dates when you might be able to make it. Contact Ross Davidson

News from the Islands

Recent news items reported on a Bolton couple marrying in Church Cave on Rona just north of Raasay (NG 7270 5696). The Highland Historic Environment Record ( gives it dimensions of 45 x 57m, but from the photographs I suspect it is really 45 x 57 feet! Also reported was a 6m deep and up to 3m wide fissure cave at Leitir Fura, Isle of Skye (NG 73752 15851) which when visited this year was found to have a new hearth with stacked kindling and firewood.

Membership News

Two new members and one who has returned after a long absence:-

  • Ian Holmes - recently moved to Edinburgh. He's caved regularly with Cardiff University where he was president in 2004 and he has also been the chairman of CHECC (Council of Higher education Caving Clubs) a new organisation to me - He's been a regular member of summer Dachstein expeditions since 2003 and was assistant leader for the last two. He studied geology to degree level and is thinking about taking up diving soon. He was a committee member of West Brecon Cave Rescue Team and could be seen at Hidden Earth 2010 manning the Beast stand in the trade hall selling oversuits and tackle sacks -
  • Thomas Arbenz - will be a familiar name for anyone following the Meghalaya expedition reports. He has 40 years experience of Alpine caving and 10 years of expeditions. He owns a caving shop in Switzerland and is a supplier of Zebra lights to GSG members.
  • Stuart Ogston - was a member in the late 70's when he was a lad, and after finding his mother living opposite Dave Warren got roped into some landscaping this year and thence back into the GSG. He's worked as a scaffolder and attained the giddy heights of IRATA 3 in rope access. A quick thrash through Cnoc nan Uamh trying to keep up with Goon convinced him of what he's been missing and he couldn't wait to rejoin.

New Members

Thomas Arbenz, Ian Holmes, Stuart Ogston

New Addresses

Simon Brooks & Sharareh Ghazy; Rebecca & Greg Carter; Jackie Sutherland,

Other Changes

Robert Sommerville, email; Peter Dowswell, mobile; Gair Dunlop, email; Alison Fuller-Shapcott, email; Nigel Marsh, email; Bob Mehew, email

  • Andrew Brooks - while on a business trip to Tahiti in June - it's a tough life - visited the world renowned Mara'a Grotto Caves and found they'd been fenced off with 'No Entry' signs and a rather substantial padlocked gate.
  • Walter Fairnie - at the end of July emailed that Susana and he were very happy to announce the birth of their baby boy 'Victor'. He was born on the 18th July weighing in at 3.3kg (7lbs 5 ounces). Both mother and child were in good health. Dad was still in a state of shock, but enjoying every minute.
  • Peter Dennis - with family in Oban on a short break spotted something at Lock Latrine that made him wonder if the income from the club hut was sufficient to allow the GSG to diversify into other enterprises.

    He also identified for us a caterpillar I spotted crossing the Allt nan Uamh path in August not far above the fish farm. It was bright green with dark brown transverse stripes with pink spots. According to Peter The caterpillar is characteristic of Scotland's only silk moth, the Emperor Moth. It is a heathland species with impressive sized adult brandishing owl eyes on forewings for predator deterrence. The caterpillar feeds on heather into winter and builds a cocoon shelter until spring, probably almost summer this year. It emerges, continues feeding until critical weight is reached and pupates May to emerge as adult in June.

  • Brian Kharpran Daly's - daughter Shelly Alexandra had a son - Liam - on the 8th August. Brian has also been in the Indian news. His PIL (Public Interest Litigation) that was seeking to protect the Meghalayan caves from mining has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. This was on the grounds that the State Government has already formed a committee for protection of the caves. Brian intends to carry on with his campaign.

Wanted - caver for small oversuit

Laura Michell has an oversuit that is just a mite short for her. If any of our less lanky members would like a bright yellow, brand new, size small, only worn once, oversuit just ask Laura. Price is negotiable. Tel home:- 0131 554 6778, mobile:- 07980 551130

Ghillie & Fidra

Farewell to two of the best loved characters who followed the adventures of the GSG. They never paid for a night at the hut, always made sure that everyone's dinner was finished, and did a fine job of fertilising the lawn. Usually seen sitting outside Rana Hole rain or shine, or dozing off on someone's sleeping bag or harassing the local population of rabbits and being generally constant tripping hazards.

Ghillie and Fidra both passed away this summer within a couple of months of each other. Many thanks to all looked after them and put up with them and I hope they gave you as much joy as they gave us.

Roger, Annie and Lizzi

Gilmerton Cove

Following a visit made to this intriguing underground complex by Jim Salvona and Mark Stanford, Jim arranged evening visits for the GSG for the 16th October. Nineteen turned up, and in two groups were given a full guided tour. Current thoughts are that it was excavated long before James Paterson, a local blacksmith, lived in it in the 1720's, but when and by whom and why remains a mystery. It is the result of considerably work and some skill with a miner's pick judging by the tool marks left in the sandstone. The several blocked tunnels leading off it were tempting, but the prospect of starting a dig under the main road and being joined by a corporation bus wasn't. It lies only a few feet below the surface and there are many openings, now blocked, in the roof for, we assume, light and ventilation. More details can be found at

Bookings have to be made in advance and you should take a torch. Though there is lighting, a little extra to shine into dark corners doesn't go amiss and the ones available there are weak. Helmets are supplied if you want one to cope with the low ceilings.


Due to the ever-increasing demands on shelf space in the club library, I am proposing to sell off all the books held in the Climbing Section (which is not relevant to caving and the books are never used by members anyway). The list of volumes is shown below. They are almost all hardback and in good condition. No reasonable offer refused, and proceeds will go toward the GSG Library Binding Fund.


Ayasse, H. & F. Essier (1989) Les 30 Plus Beaux Canyons des Alpes du Sud
Barford, EJ.E.Q. (1947) Climbing in Britain
Birtles, G. (1988) Alan Rouse: A Mountaineer's Life
Chapman, E.S. (1945) Memoirs of a Mountaineer
Corbett, E.V. [Ed] (1958) Great True Mountain Stories
Disley, J. (1959) Tackle Climbing This Way
Dixon, C.M. (1958) Know the Game: Rock Climbing
Evans, C. (1956) On Climbing
Francis, G. (1958) Teach Yourself Mountain Climbing
Greenbank, A. (1967) [proof copy] Instructions in Mountaineering
Herzog, M. (1954) Annapurna
Hillary, E. (1955) High Adventure
Hillary, E. & P. (1984) Two Generations
Kolb, F. (1959) Himalaya Venture
Lovat, L.S. (1959) SMC Climber's Guide: Glencoe and Ardgour Vol.1
Buachaille Etive Mor
Lowe, G. (1959) Because It's There
McCarthy, R. [Ed] (1960) The Outdoor Guide
McManners, H. (1989) Crowning the Dragon
Marshall, H. (1954) Men Against Everest
Mountaineering. Journal of the British Mountaineering Council, Vol.IV
No.5 (1964)
Newby, E. (1958) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
Noyce, W. (1962) To The Unknown Mountain
Peacocke, T.A.H. (1941) Mountaineering
Read, P.P. (1974) Alive
Sutton, G. (1962) Artificial Aids in Mountaineering
Whilland, D. & A. Ormerod (1971) Don Whillans. Portrait of a Mountaineer
Whiteside, J. [Ed] Call Out Mountain Rescue. A Pocket Guide to Safety on
the Hills
Wright, J.E.B. (1958) Rock Climbing in Britain
Wright, J.E.B. (1958) The Technique of Mountaineer.
Younghusband, F. (1927) The Epic of Mount Everest

Elphin Caving Centre

Hut fees are £5.00 per night for non-members and £2.50 for GSG, Bradford and BEC members. Reduced to £3.00 and £2.00 for children, students, the unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of £2.00 only when the hut is full. Day fees are £1.00 for members and £2.00 for non-members.

If you want to stay in the hut please contact the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell - to check if there will be space (Tel home:- 01463 229250, email:- hutbookings at It is never too soon to book and can be too late if another group has already booked and the hut is full. There are usually a few bunks left unfilled to allow members to turn up unexpectedly, but that doesn't always apply.

Hut Update

It has been quite a busy summer at the hut with various groups visiting and a good number of members involved in various activities in Rana and beyond. There has been progress with some of the hut maintenance activities and with disposing of some of our accumulated junk. There has been some progress with the shed extension with most of the foundations having been laid. Problems were experienced with the rock levels at the back left hand corner which entailed a lot of extra work and the slope at the back will also require some work to stabilise it.

A number of other points are worthy of note:

Recycling Bins: Although they have been well used there seems to be a marked reluctance on the part of most people to empty them. This means that until they are full nobody does very much about them. Consequently we will be encouraging people to take their recycle stuff to the local recycle point in Ullapool on a more regular basis and will provide details of where they are located. If this does not work then we will replace the current large bins with smaller ones.

Range Cooker and Hob: we are in the process of purchasing a new range cooker and hob to replace the existing ones. They are getting a bit old and various problems with igniters and oven thermostats have occurred. Both are in excess of ten years old so we have had a reasonable life out of them. Delivery and installation will coincide with the regular safety check of the gas installation.

Dymo Labeller: you may have noticed that many labels in the hut have recently been renewed. A new labelling machine has been purchased and may be used for any reasonable purpose. It is located at the hut.

Pressure Washer: very latest acquisition is a pressure washer. This too will be located at the hut probably in the shed so you'll need to remember the shed combination to use it.

Please let me know if anything is faulty or running out, or if you think there are any additional items that we need.

Peter Dowswell

GSG Christmas Meal

The GSG Xmas meal and party will be held in the hut on Saturday 11th December. Head chef will be Peter Dowswell and his outline menu is given above. I say outline as there will no doubt be a vegetarian option for those that want it. Price will be £10. Book your meal and your bunk now.

Assynt News

  • Elphin School - There was a successful fun walk from Elphin Tearoom to the Alt at the end of June that extorted several hundred pounds from passing motorists. I imagine plans are now being laid on what to do with it. I did see a photograph circulating in an email from thereabouts. Does it show how their thoughts are going I wonder?

    Perhaps it does not, as it is of the Irish Elphin, a small village some thirty miles south of Sligo. Elphin, Scotland sent two people to Elphin, Ireland about 20 years ago for a festival. They took a plate with them as a gift from one Elphin to the other. It appears to be from Highland Stoneware with a view of Cul Mor and Suilven and with wording "Failte bho Ailfhionn, Alba gu Ailfhionn, Eireann"

  • Alt Activities - For northern members not attending the GSG Annual Dinner in Malham the Alt are holding an Oriental Food Night the same evening. Saturday 30th October, 7pm - £15 per person - bookings only. A choice of Oriental as much as you like! Book now at:- 01854 666260

Internet Caving

Came across the Open Library and there are quite a number of caving books there. Nearly all stuff is out of print. It has copies of early Balch and Baker for example. Not everything has a 'read' link so you do have to search about if you are just browsing. 'Cave' seems to be different from 'caves' for instance.

Nigel Robertson

Several GSG members get mentioned in an article in Open Magazine. The reporter was taken on a tour of a Meghalayan cave by Fraser Simpson and in the article named a passage after him.

Peter Glanvill placed a short video of the Rana dig in 2006 on Youtube. He thought he might as well make use of his clips. He even used one twice!

Thomas Arbenz sends what he thinks is a very interesting link - it's considerably contributing to the discussions about "which caving light is best".

Training Questionnaire

With quite a few members starting on their caving career and a recent flurry of prospective members Rebecca Carter is trying to organise basic training in caving techniques. Her questionnaire has been distributed by email, but, since that doesn't reach everyone, it is being repeated here.

Thanks to everyone who has replied to the GSG Training Questionnaire! But we've only got 14 responses so far. If you haven't replied yet, but you are interested in a training session or if you would be willing to help lead a training session, please fill out the questionnaire and send it to me. And if you think a training programme is a big waste of time, please let me know that as well!



We have been underwhelmed by the response to the Design a beer label for the GSG Jubilee beer' competition announced in the last Newsletter. Surely there are more than two of you inventive enough to produce a design? A finished design isn't necessary - an outline sketch will be sufficient..

GSG member George Antill had a selection of his home brews at the hut recently. They were much appreciated and he has talked about creating a special brew for the GSG Jubilee. So perhaps we'll need more than one label???

← Back to Newsletters