GSG Newsletter 134

30 March 2008

Rana Connected to Claonaite!

On December 30th Tony Jarratt became the first person to reach
Claonaite Seven without diving gear as he entered Belh Aven from Rana
Hole. A fitting climax to the 12 years and 12 weeks since we started
digging and almost 32 years since J'Rat had recorded finding Rana in
April 1976. Over the course of the next few days the New Year throng
more than doubled the number of cavers that have been in Claonaite Seven
and, very appropriately, most of the top ten Rana Hole diggers were
there to celebrate the connection. We even had Fraser Simpson on that
first trip with the club camcorder to record for posterity the team's
reactions on achieving the goal.

The slot at the far side of Two A's Chamber that had been
'Snappered' by Ivan on 16th December had, as hoped, proved to be the
secret. Chris Warwick and daughter Shona during a tourist trip on Xmas
Eve followed the bang wires. They found the charge had done its work and
after a bit of clearance slipped through into a series of bouldery
crawls and small chambers. The first had a waterfall - not the Rana
stream - that ran through to the next chamber where it sank in the
floor. Chris presciently called it Way On Chamber. In total they
explored about 70m of passage finding several groups of formations.
Shona named one set The Pig's Ears' because that is exactly what
they resemble.

A phone call to Roger Galloway's mobile found him in the Hunters
Lodge Inn on Mendip where the news was spread to J'Rat who with Paul
Brock (BEC) and Siss Balomatis (BEC) drove north for 9½ hours on
Christmas Day to Assynt. On Boxing Day they explored the new finds in
Rana. They dug for a bit where the stream sank then drilled some shot
holes to enlarge a passage heading west from that chamber.

On the 27th a mass tourist trip was partly repulsed by high water in
the dig. Baling gave enough airspace for the bolder members, and
clearing the previous day's bang debris won 20m of passage into what
was named Santa's Grotthole. Attention switched to the stream sink and
two shot holes were drilled above it before hypothermia set in

The water level in the dig had dropped to only welly deep on Friday
morning and the bang had worked well. After some clearance Tony managed
to descend a sloping rift (The Black Rift) with a final vertical section
into a chamber (Black Cuillin Chamber) with two ways on. The rift was
dangerously full of poised boulders so Saturday was devoted to making it
safe with Mark Brown, Anwen Burroughs, and Duncan Butler (BEC) tumbling
tons of loose stuff down the pitch. On Sunday 30th a strong team watched
Mark rig the Black Rift pitch. There are five anchors, the first three
short drops are free climbable in the narrow rift. The last drop has a
deviation near the top and is not - normally. Andy Peggie's enthusiasm
to descend saw him arriving with steaming gloves at the very bottom
having slid down the rope and calling back up the pitch for someone to
fetch his SRT kit!

From Black Cuillin Chamber Mark explored a 50m long phreatic rift
heading west into unknown territory. This led along muddy traverses over
deep(?) pools to a 10m diameter chamber with a blue/green sump pool
(Blue Chamber). Andy, Ivan and Kate descended, looked around, then, as
progress appeared to slow, climbed up the pitch to begin surveying the
extensions. Bad move!

Back underneath the pitch boulders were eventually encouraged to
move and the continuation of the phreatic rift, entered. A traverse
along a large flake (Flake Canyon), a climb up muddy boulders and a
crawl beneath doomed straws arrived at a short climb down into a massive
chamber - Belh Aven - confirmed by Fraser as the only one who'd
been there before. The breakthrough team of J'Rat, Siss, Paul, Mark,
and Duncan were guided by Fraser to the Great Northern Time Machine,
Twin Falls of Jabaroo, the bear bones and other sites before returning
to a bottle of fizz left in Two A's Chamber in anticipation of
success. A further bottle was consumed on the surface before all
staggered down the valley to continue celebrations first at the Inch
then back at the hut.

On the 31st Ivan, Julian, Roger, Annie and Malcolm McConville
descended to Black Cuillin Chamber. The first two squeezed through into
Flake Canyon and by undermining the boulders removed the squeeze. Some
care is needed as the boulders that are left may not be completely
stable yet. As an encore we improved the muddy climb after the flake by
tumbling boulders from above to form a 'staircase' under it. We all
explored Claonaite Seven and Julian sampled the oatcakes left by Sump 6
many years previously in an emergency food dump - inedible!

There were more tourist trips over the next few days and Mark bolted
his way to the top of Belh Aven. The roof was a mass of jammed boulders
with no way on or any prospect of one. He saw the green water from Rana
coming from between jammed boulders at the west end so we have a
positive dye test. The rope has been left in for the moment as Mark
wants to take some photos. Don't climb it if anyone is anywhere
underneath as there are plenty of boulders just waiting to be dislodged.

On the 1st January Norman Flux encouraged some volunteers to bale the
dig and later Bob Sommerville and Amanda Dickson to help him move spoil
behind the temporary dam he'd built below the main dam. On the 2nd he
and Roger filed kibbles while Martin, Derek, Annie and Ivan - later
joined by Chris Warwick after a tourist trip - extracted 51 kibble

On January 4th, Ross Davidson, Richard Blake and Derek Pettiglio
introduced Katie from the Alt to the wonders of Two A's Chamber. She
was still smiling (with relief?) when she emerged and is ready to go

A photographic trip into Claonaite on January 25th by Peter Ireson
and Mark Lonnen was aborted when they found the dam leaking and the dig
flooded. That was the Burns Supper weekend and it took us all Saturday
and Sunday to completely demolish then rebuild the dam. Even if the dam
had been undamaged it was too wet and the dig would have been sumped.
This was a big disappointment for many especially Peter Dennis who'd
travelled from Wales.

The dam had been undermined by water flowing over the top and washing
away the footings. Until the last (overenthusiastic) hauling session
after New Year, this area had been protected by bags of spoil and rocks.
With them removed the cascading water washed out the mud under the
bottom layer of sandbags and water pressure behind the dam flushed out
the dam's core and converted it into a sieve. When we finished on
Saturday we left the 4" purple ducting lying horizontal to keep the
dam drained. Despite this when we returned on Sunday the dam had again
been overflowing. This shows that increasing the present 32mm drain
through to the Skye-Way to 4" wouldn't be sufficient to keep the dig
'dry' at all times.

The next trip to Rana on February 16th was successful: water levels
were low in after a week of dry weather. Only the lower risings were
flowing and the Elephant Trap was dry. It was freezing overnight which
probably reduced the flow at the bottom of Rana even further. The water
in the dig was less than welly deep and the reconstructed dam had
obviously been working well. There were six of us so we split into
photographic and digging groups.

Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson and Irina Erchova staggered through to the
Great Northern Time Machine carrying cameras, flashguns, tripod and LED
floodlighting of various types with up to ten 4W LEDs each. The powerful
lighting, tripod and six second time exposures meant that for the first
time you can see the chamber almost in its entirety. I'd certainly never
noticed the stalactites on the roof before. Mark's results, after some
modest Photo-shopping, are on the GSG private web site.

Julian, Peter Reynolds and I were the digging team. We first baled
the dig into the Skye-Way using a bucket on a length of rope. This sent
quite a bit of mud along there as well, but it should get flushed away
during the next flood. The three of us were just enough to dig bucket
loads of spoil from the dig face and fill first a Jewson bag then
several large sandbags in front of the main dam. This filled in the
volume behind the temporary dam and provides more protection to the main
dam when it overflows.

The larger rocks we dug out were moved into the bottom of the passage
and covered with a grid to provide better footing. We also used a length
of cable tray as a slide to pull the full buckets along and up towards
the dams. The digging is easy, we just need a larger team next time so
we can dig and haul to the surface simultaneously.

The following Monday Julian returned with Carol, Peter R and Mary
Harrison (just back from South America) for a trip to Sump 7. They were
joined by Chris Warwick. Two short ladders were used on the Black Rift
pitch and Julian commented that it was "a much better experience on

There was a mass assault planned for the High Savoy theme meal
weekend in early March. Some of us travelled up on the Thursday to beat
the wet weather predicted for Saturday. On Friday the Elephant Trap and
other rising were active and water was flowing past the Bone Caves. As
expected the dam in Rana was overflowing so we turned our attention
elsewhere. We returned later that afternoon and lowered the 4" drain
to empty the dam. We then raised it and watched as the water level
slowly dropped. After allowing a few minutes for the overflow down the
Skye-Way to stop, we estimated that the water level drops about 25 to
35mm per hour as it percolates away through the sediments. Rana remained
too wet all weekend and frustrated in their attempts to survey the new
discoveries Goon, Andy and John surveyed the shaft down to the dam

We must continue digging with the aim of making Rana passable in all
weather conditions. It is very probable that under the small chamber at
the start of the Sky-Way is a choked pot and by emptying it we'll
either reveal a drain or at least improve the rate at which the dig
drains. That will also give us room to extend the 4" drain from the
dam into the Skye-Way and much reduce the number of times the dam


Routes to Rana

Several of us have grown into the habit of 'cutting a corner' by
taking a sheep track traverse below the Bone Caves to save ourselves a
few metres of ascent and descent. This has caused noticeable erosion and
has been noticed by SNH. They have asked us to stick to the paths.
Please do so.

On the same theme the last 100m or so of track to Rana has become a
deep groove in the heather. An attempt was made at diverting diggers
from it by placing wooden barriers across each end but that didn't work
very well. Could we ask you to please vary your route to Rana and help
reduce erosion. If you keep to the north side of the Allt nan Uamh you

1) Follow the dry valley to the east of the Creag nan Uamh as if you
were going to Claonaite then cut back to Rana.
2) Take the south path but cut up steeply to the west of Creag nan Uamh.
3) Take the normal route to the corner after the cliffs and vary your
route once you reach the heather.

Whichever route you take please keep away from the worst of the
erosion. If you have the skills you can even try patching the worst
sections - something to do if you find the dig sumped perhaps?

Tidying the Rana Shakehole

We have accumulated a lot of material at Rana over the years, and a
large amount is now surplus and very unlikely to be needed either there
or at any other dig in the vicinity. We should start taking this back to
the hut. Next time we're up there we'll segregate and label a pile for
moving. Any time you are there please take something from the pile -
however small - and carry it away with you.


ASSYNT - Campbell's Cave

When Rana is too full of water or diggers for you to contribute what
do you do? You continue walking past Claonaite and pull a few boulders
out of Campbell's Cave. Previously named Humps Hole (NL 131) this is a
flood sink on the Breabag slopes beyond Uamh an Claonaite. On 1st
January it became a 5m long cave. After J'Rat had broken up some
boulders and with Annie, Carol Dickson and Roger had dug, Roger managed
to crawl into a small two person chamber. Several more visits since then
have hauled out more gravel and added a prop and grids, and rearranged
the boulders.

YORKSHIRE - Mark Lonnen and Peter Ireson continued their series of
photographic trips with a descent of Notts 2 in December and Gavel Pot
in January. There were also introductory trips for newer members to
Illusion pot in February and an SRT descent or Heron Pot in March.

LOTHIANS - Philpstoun no 6 shale mine was checked By Goon, Anna
Ermakova and Ivan as part of our preparations for leading field trips
for this year's NAMHO conference in July. We found the water level
perhaps five metres higher than on previous visits and only the topmost
level was navigable. Even that was partially flooded as we neared the
winch at the south end, and we all ended up with full wellies and wet
trousers. We'll need to check it again later in the year and hope that
the water level has fallen otherwise we'll need to take it off the
menu for the conference. An earlier visit to Leven Seat Limestone Mine
by Jim Salvona, Martin Hayes and Goon didn't have any water problems.

SKYE - At the end of January Steve Birch reports that "I
accompanied the Highland Council Rangers and a group of 14-15 year old
pupils from Portree High School (difficult children!), to McCoiter's
Cave near Portree. First time I have been to this fissure cave in
basalt, perched at the top of large sea-cliffs/slopes. The fissure is
quite long and sporting, and high in parts. At the far end a fixed rope
allows you to climb over a boulder blockage, while there is a vertical
drop (also complete with knotted rope) of around 3 metres at the other
side, allowing access back to the main floor of the rift. Here, it turns
into a crawl, so will have to go back and explore with the right gear.
Interesting site worth a visit, which also has some folklore history.
John Reid (formerly of Glenmore Lodge, but now Highland Council Outdoor
Education Officer) also accompanied us to make sure that health and
safety and risk-assessment issues had been addressed. A really
interesting person with a wealth of experience mountain guiding,
kayaking etc." (Possibly also the person involved in refusing
permission for our yearly cave tours for Ullapool High School! - Ed)

OTHER - Peter I, Mark L, Anna Ermakova and Rachael took new member
George Antill on a tour of the Tyndrum lead mines. A bolt was installed
to descend and check out one of the levels we hadn't been able to
reach during previous visits. Deep cold water and not much else was

Annual General Meeting 2008

The 2008 GSG AGM was held in Elizabeth and Derek's house in
Winchburgh on Saturday 19 January and was attended by 22.5 members.
Below is a summary of the main points:

Office Bearers Reports:

The Hon recorder reported that it had been a good year, especially
with the activity in Rana. Membership remained strong at 146 members.

The Treasurer reported that the bank balance was very healthy. In
order to cover the costs of bulletins and postage, it was proposed that
the membership fees should be raised. This was agreed as:
£15 for full members (an increase of £3), £10 for concessions,
£20 for joint members (an increase of £6), £15 for concessions.

Concessionary membership was agreed to include full time students,
those on state benefits, and those in receipt of a state pension.

The Tacklemaster reported that a ladder-building event was still
planned, and that some SRT kit had been acquired.

The Hut Warden urged members to contribute to the Hut maintenance

Election of Office Bearers

Existing office bearers were all willing to stand and were reelected:
Recorder - Alan Jeffreys ; Caving Secretary - Ross Davidson ;
Secretary - Elizabeth Ellis ; Treasurer - Ivan Young ;
Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell ; Chairman - Peter Dowswell ;
Tackle Master - Peter Ireson.

Annual Dinner

Votes were counted as follows (including email and postal votes):
Assynt 16, Derbyshire 2, Yorkshire 1, Argyll 1, Abstentions 2

Assynt was declared the winner. Peter Dowswell volunteered to
investigate venues.


Caves of Assynt and Caves of Raasay are in preparation and will
hopefully be published soon. Caves of Applecross and Kishorn was
published in time for the Annual Dinner and is now in its third printing
- of 50 copies a time.

Meets list

A Yorkshire meet is planned, and several permits have been applied
for. Members are urged to contact Ross Davidson for details and to make


Several members are going to Meghalaya, and there is an expedition
planned to the Vercours in September.

50th Anniversary

This is planned for 2011, to include a dinner event in Edinburgh, and
a publication.

Any other business

Several issues were discussed, including adopting a policy for
managing the entrance to Rana, which will be further discussed. The
issue of smoking inside the hut was discussed and it was agreed that
smokers need to take other hut-users into consideration before lighting

The NAMHO conference is going ahead, and guides are needed for July
to take visitors round local mines.

If anyone would like to see a full copy of the minutes, just email me
and I can email them out to you. If you have Internet access you can
read them on the GSG pr1vate web server (see page 14).


GSG Annual Subscriptions for 2008

At the AGM the membership approved increases in the annual
subscription effective 1st April 2008. Full membership from then will be
£15 and joint membership £20. There will be a reduction of £5 for
full time students, the unemployed and those over state retirement age.
While the history has been complicated by BCA membership fees this is
first real increase since 2000 in the GSG part of the annual
subscription. Over the same period second class postage for a letter
will, on the 7th April, have increased by 42% from 19p to 27p.


Smugglers' Cave, Aberlady

Aberlady Conservation Society has been awarded a £50,000 grant by
the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is for a comprehensive three month
archaeological survey starting in April of several historic sites in and
around Aberlady starting in April including the Smugglers' Cave
mentioned in NL 132. ACS now have a letter from a Mr Gilbert - now 85
years old - who explored about 20 yards of this souterrain in the
1940's. He also drew a map of Jophie's Neuk Iron Mine on the coast
nearby at Gullane.

It All Went Swimmingly

On New Year's Day, Irina Erchova, her partner David and Goon joined
in the 'Loony Dook' at South Queensferry. Basically, this entails
dressing up in a silly costume (or nothing at all if you're really
brave!) and going for a brief swim in the sea at South Queensferry.
There were a fair share of Santa Clauses, Spider and Super-men, and a
lot of curvaceous beauties in bikinis. Irina was dressed as a Scottish
girl (although in the photo she reduced this to a lycra body suit),
David as a pirate, and Goon in his customary electric blue lycra suit
and green wig

After suitably thrashing about in a sea by then reduced to a
grey/brown soup, and having demonstrated the back and breast stroke, all
retired to The Moorings Bar for hot soup and other potent liquids. A
larger club turn-out is recommended for 2008!


Gift Aid to CASCs and Charities

As a registered CASC (Community Amateur Sports Club) the GSG can
benefits from reclaiming tax on donations made under Gift Aid. The
standard rate of income tax is reducing to 20% from 1st April 2008. This
would have reduced the value of each £1.00 of Gift Aid to £1.25
instead of £1.282. In his budget Alistair Darling announced that for
the next three years Gift Aid will continue to be paid at a transitional
rate of 22 per cent. Higher rate taxpayers can continue to claim the
difference between basic and higher rate tax back in their tax return.

An Autumn Family Caving Weekend in Appin by Nigel Marsh

Arriving in Glen Creran I asked a fellow who was building his own
house the best spot to park, and mentioned caving. He was very helpful,
saying he had had an enjoyable short trip into Uamh Coire Sheileach
with no light. He then slipped the warning ' watch out for a green dog '
into the conversation and carried on talking. 'What do you mean a green
dog' said I. He said legend has it that the green dog guards the
entrance to the cave and if you see it and it barks you will die. Two
people have seen it recently but it didn't bark! A short way up we [my
wife Kass and I, and kids Roger and Fiona] indeed met a green dog,
but fortunately it turned out to be only green moss on a dog-shaped tree

We first came to Allt Coire Sheileach Cave 2, at the foot of the big
waterfall, and gave it a good crawl. My new Garmin gave its position as
GPS NN 03103 49586, which agrees with the map better than the listed NN
032 497. Next we went to Uamh Coire Sheileach, which all of us enjoyed
thoroughly. Not realising that 'the Web' referred to the too tight rear
entrance, we tried to find it on the surface afterwards without GPS
assistance, and failed. I am curious to know if it was located by
surveying, or by shouting, sticking a flag out, smoke signals, etc. (A
long stick if I remember right - Ed) Next to Dundiggin, which even by
GPS wasn't easy to find as it's on such a steep slope. Only Roger and I
ventured in and didn't push it to the end as time was getting short and
Chamber Pot was beckoning.

Back up the hill we came on a rectangular shakehole at NN 02913
49398, then a very large one with a tree and taking a stream, at NN
02920 49470. Sink choked, also a 3m dry choked pot. Nearby, at NN 02901
49495 there is a 1.5m cliff 6m long with a few small holes at the base.
The right hand one was entered and 9m of uncomfortable crawl explored.
>From the entrance it turns right after less than a metre, 2m parallel
to cliff, then left turn and another 6m plus. Wasn't brave enough to go
further! (This is the 18m AHS Cave - Ed)

Then on to find Chamber Pot. It was getting dark, and the girls
decided to head back to the comforts of the valley, ie our camper van.
They later reported that on reaching the 'green dog' again, barking was
heard, but it luckily turned out to be by a real black dog! First Rog
and I came to a pot at NN 02944 49668. This was free-climbable, about
10m deep, 3-4m across inside, all clean-washed nice pale blue
limestone, with a blind aven beside the real way out (Fly Plague Hole -
Ed). Chamber Pot was easily found, and proved well up to expectations.
One odd feature was spotted - 8cm straws forming at 45
degrees continuing in line with the strata of the boulder they were
hanging from, suggesting a recent rock movement. But the boulder didn't
look as if it could have moved. Sadly no photo as I had left the camera
before a wet thrutch. Therefore I also failed to photograph the nice
formations beside the ramp near the lower stream passage. Good excuse
for another trip with an ammo can for the camera. A 3D model of this
cave would be nice so we could work out where we had been.

Several days later we parked at Kinlochlaich farm and cycled up Glen
Stockdale, setting off at a silly 4pm, after a visit to introduce
ourselves to George Kennedy and family. They would have liked to join
us but George had hurt his back. The folk at the farm were very friendly
- they used to play in some of the caves as kids. Halfway along the
track we met Alastair from the farm, and during a chat he pointed across
the valley and said there was a cave up there. No time to investigate,
but I estimate NM 938 479 (near Champagne Hole - Ed). On to Heifer's
where Rog and I did the sink entrance and streamway, but didn't fancy
the tight looking crawl, a pity as we found out later reading the guide
- that's where you have to go. Now dark outside and no-one could find
the dry entrance, so on to Glenstockdale Cave - nice den for the kids,
shame the crawly passage doesn't go very far. Next day we climbed the
Cobbler [again, why not, it's so good] on the way home. Have to do Skye
and the north another time.

Ed - Thanks for the GPS co-ordinates Nigel. Would others caving in
Appin - or indeed anywhere in Scotland - please send me any GPS
measurements you take. We don't have any at all for some caves, and
the more independent readings we can average together the more
confidence we can have in the result.

NAMHO 2008

The list of local mines suggested for filed trips during and after
that NAMHO conference are slowly being checked for suitability and
permissions from landowners sought. While some members have volunteered
their help, more would be welcome. You don't need to be an expert on
mining, just know where the entrance is, be familiar with what is there
and be able to quote (from a handout if necessary) some facts, dates and
figures. Contact Goon if you can help.

2008 Meets and Events

See the events page for details.

The Caving Secretary, Ross Davidson, wants your help to create the
meets list, especially for caves that need to be booked. Contact him
with your suggestions.

A Period Descent

Goon has been busy making ladders of the oak and rope variety. He
intends to celebrate his half century of caving on 21st June with a rope
ladder descent to the bottom of Alum via the Dolly Tubs route. An early
start is proposed to avoid crowds and to bag all the best natural belay
positions. All are welcome to join in, provided they don period dress
(early 60's) and use appropriately antique illumination. So no LEDs,
yellow oversuits, or wellies! This will be followed by a more
traditional celebration in a pub to be decided. We'll possibly stay in
the YSS at Helwith Bridge. More details will be available nearer the

British Caving Association

The BCA's 2008 AGM is being held on Saturday 5th April in the
Baptist Hall, Alvechurch, Worcs. starting at 10:30am. All individual
members of BCA are entitled to attend and vote at the AGM and that
includes all paid-up GSG members. There should be a list of paid-up BCA
members there so members who haven't received their membership card
yet can be verified. An agenda for the meeting and minutes from the 2007
AGM should have been posted on the BCA web site in February, but they
are not there yet with less than a week to go.

BCA Membership Cards

Almost all GSG members should either have been handed their BCA card
by me or have received it with this Newsletter. Only those who have paid
within the last month will still be waiting.

Membership News

Four new members in 2008:-

  • Alex Latta - has limestone in his family history. Both his father and
    grandfather worked at Middleton Limestone Mine where he spent a lot time
    when his father was a manager there. He's been to quite a few show
    caves and mines, is interested in photography and geology with a small
    collection of fossils and can't wait to get into some real caves.
  • Anwen Burrows - has joined us as a joint member with Mark Brown. As well
    as her caving exploits she runs a shop in Manchester - Airy Fairy. This
    sells handmade arts and crafts by local artists, and fair trade goods
    from around the world. Also things of a new age nature, crystals, books,
    aromatherapy, and herbs. There is also an organic-fair trade-vegetarian
    cafe and coffee garden.
  • Greg Nicolson - was introduced to the underground by fiancée Rachael
    Huggins in Middleton Limestone mine. Since then he's been to Assynt
    and visited Otter Hole and Cnockers.
  • George Antill - has fulfilled a long held desire by joining a caving
    club. When he lived in Campbeltown he found and explored caves around
    there. He has now enjoyed baling in Illusion Pot, the lead mines at
    Tyndrum and got acquainted with SRT in Heron Pot. He is a keen
    home-brewer, but we can't report on that yet.

New Members

George Antill,
Anwen Burrows,
Alex Latta,
Gregg Nicolson.

New Addresses

Bob Batty,
Jerry Ingram,
Nigel & Anne-Louise Robertson.

Other Changes

Edwin Mason email

  • Nigel and Anne Robertson - Their pre-emigration party in Ingleton
    Community Centre in January was well attended by the GSG and a host of
    their other friends. In an early email Nigel reported: "We're just under
    an hour from the caves at Waitomo in case you need that darkness fix.
    Hamilton's biggest selling point apparently is that it's only ever an
    hour from somewhere better!! (That does include caves, mountains,
    skiing, surfing, both coasts, geysers, fishing, etc) We've been keeping
    a blog of our move to NZ at if anyone is
    interested at all and there are some photos from our leaving do at
    (If anyone has any other digital photos we would appreciate copies)."

    A scan of recent entries in their blog revels that their furniture
    arrived safely, they've bought a car with electric curtains, Lachlan
    and Aonghas have started school, Anne has started teaching, has enrolled
    in a Maori class to learn about the local language and culture, and
    their rented house has an orange tree. Caving so far has been a few
    short grottos in Waitomo and some sea caves of the two to three body
    length variety.

  • Jim Salvona - commented one Tuesday evening in February that the
    Cumberland Bar seemed very busy and we'd be lucky to find seats. He
    then found that the crowd in the back room was 100% GSG members and
    ex-members come to wish him a happy 80th birthday. Kirsty Mills had
    travelled from Preston for the occasion, Julian and Carol Walford had
    arranged to be there for the evening and ex-members Chick Calder and
    Donald McLaren made surprise appearances. With balloons, a cake and
    walls plastered with photographs of Jim caving over the years we gave
    him an evening to remember. Goon had composed an ode and presented Jim
    with a framed memento. Rachael had baked some chocolate brownies for the
    occasion as she was away having an occasion of her own. Others supplied
    more liquid gifts and he needed assistance to carry himself and his
    gifts up the stairs into his home afterwards.
  • Rachael Huggins - on a short holiday to Budapest arranged by
    boyfriend Gregg was suitably surprised when, on top of Gellert Hill,
    Gregg bent his knee and proposed. Rachael said "Yes!" and the wedding is
    planned for summer '09. That's what comes of taking out joint

Elphin Caving Centre

The Burns Supper in January was a select gathering of a baker's
dozen. In contrast the High Savoy meal in March attracted an
ever-increasing number as the weekend approached and ended up with 29
split between the conservatory and the main room. This caused more than
a little trepidation on the part of the cooks. Peter Dowswell had
discovered a higher priority engagement for the evening so though he had
part prepared some of the food Carol and Rosemary were feeling the
strain. They need not have been concerned as all the courses were
declared eminently edible and the cooks and their helpers were accorded
a round of applause, or if not they should have been!

Jackie Yuill thought she'd escaped any celebration of her birthday
(a significant one - bus pass time!) as the High Savoy meal ran to its
conclusion. She hadn't!! Invited through to the main room she found a
suitably embarrassing photo-montage of her hill-walking and caving
exploits on the wall, balloons, a birthday card signed by all, and a
cake baked by Peter Dowswell and iced (in secret) by Carol Walford while
hiding from Jackie in the top bunk of the large bunkroom. Goon recited
an ode and presented Jackie a framed picture of Yorkshire clints and

Surprise birthday parties do appear to have been popular of late.
Something to do with the demographics of GSG membership. A recent
enquiry led me to calculate the average age of the GSG. For the 76% of
members whose age I do know the average is 47.6 years and there are
another half dozen significant birthdays due this year in the GSG.

Confirmed Taigh nam Famh Bookings

(contact Hut Warden for latest information)

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 at any time please contact the Hut
Warden - Peter Dowswell - to check if there will be space (01463 229250, There will usually be a few bunks spare if
large groups are staying.

See page 15 of this Newsletter for information on the shed extension
and a list of hut maintenance tasks that we'd like to get done this


  • In the grass in front of the bunkrooms - a remote control for a
    Canon camera. If it belongs to you and you can describe it to Ivan
    he'll send it to you.
  • Five 'new' chairs for the hut. Donated by Jackie Yuill these
    proved very useful at the recent more than fully subscribed High Savoy

Internet Caving

For those interested in the application of technology to digging I
can recommend a
video clip.

This is titled 'Alvin in Arnika Cave', a Czech cave dig now 10
years old. Comparable to Rana the diggers have extracted over 100 m3 of
sediments, are down 36m with a passage length of 50m. Unlike Rana, after
an initial vertical section the passage slopes steeply downwards and
spirals round by over 4500. The kibble guiding and hauling system looks
to work well and seems to be powered by an electric winch.

I found several other video clips of interest to cavers listed there.
One was a spoof video in the Milwr Tunnel, S. Wales, and one a conduced
tour of an enormous set of storm drains build in the Chicago area. All
worth a look.

LEDs play with lights

Some of you may have noticed a bit of an obsession with LED lighting
amongst a few people - Mark Lonnen and Pete Ireson in particular. It all
started last year following a Simpsons pull through in Yorkshire. Upon
exiting from Valley Entrance, Mark and Pete encountered a couple of
members of the Cave Electronics Group. They were evaluating LED upgrades
for caving lamps. After a brief chat they offered to let us go back into
the cave and have a play with the one they rated best - an LED
conversion from known as the RETRO 2.

Mark was the first to place an order - virtually within minutes of
getting home. The new insert arrived within days and was easily fitted
in time for the next trip to Yorkshire where its performance impressed
all who saw it.

The next consideration was battery life. Although the RETRO 2 is very
efficient, when run on its highest setting (there are four) it will
deplete a Speleotechnics Headlite cell in about 4 hours, though it will
run on a lower setting for considerably longer. Loosely following the
design for a Kirby kidney pack, a mould was manufactured from MDF. After
some experimentation with different resins and release agents (including
some disasters that had to be chiseled out of the mould) a 3 cell, 10
amp hour kidney pack was manufactured which weighs in at about half the
weight of an FX5 cell.

Pete was quick to catch up after borrowing the mould and making his
own version of the kidney pack and also upgrading to a RETRO 2.

The fascination with LED lights was born. At this point Pete became
the more obsessive of our two LED anoraks and started manufacturing
single LED torches which although not specifically designed for caving
are very handy things to have about the house. Most of Pete's torches
are powered by recycled mobile phone batteries (Lithium Ion).

Having convinced Derek Pettiglio to upgrade to a RETRO 2 before a
trip to Spain, Pete was disappointed to find that Derek had a brighter
light than he did! A quick look at the specifications showed why. The
RETRO 2 was now being manufactured with a more efficient LED (the Seoul
P4). Some wheeling and dealing later resulted in the club lamps being
upgraded from filament bulbs to LEDs, and Mark and Pete upgrading to the
newer model of RETRO 2.

Whilst Pete was still experimenting with ever brighter single LED
torches, Mark had found a magazine article describing how to build a
driver circuit for multiple LEDs and a crazy idea was born. How bright
would TEN P4 LEDs be in comparison to the mere two in our lamps? Only
one way to find out!

A driver board was manufactured and 10 rather expensive LEDs were
mounted on heatsinks. The whole thing was fitted into a Peli case and
powered by 14 AA NiMh cells. The results were - putting it bluntly -
bloody bright! Sadly a loose connection on a test meter resulted in a
power spike and 10 LEDs bit the dust. Ouch! The piggy bank was emptied
and 10 replacement LEDs were purchased. Connections were checked and
double checked, power was applied and the 'cave sun' was born. A
photographic trip into Notts II proved the value of a constant light
source in preference to a flash when photographing formations up close.

Pete then takes up the story when he decided to build a 'cave
comet'. Instead of putting all the lights in one place, why not string
them out? Using the same driver circuit and another 10 of those
expensive LEDs the 'cave comet' was born. Sadly Pete didn't learn
from Mark's mistake and...

...a loose connection on a test meter resulted in a loud pop, lots of
swearing and some searching of the piggy bank as another 10 LEDs bit the

The 'cave comet' was soon resurrected and demonstrated at the
pub. The number of visually impaired persons in Edinburgh doubled
overnight as Pete's creation burnt the retinas of many unsuspecting
souls. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown (but possibly due to the long
lengths of wire involved), the 'cave comet' starting blowing LEDs,
first just one and then all ten. Ouch! With the piggy bank looking
decidedly empty Pete took a different approach. Using commercially
available constant current generators known as Buckpucks the LEDs were
divided up into 3 strings of 4 LEDs each. The commercial drivers are
unable to deliver enough voltage to drive 10 LEDs at once. The
resulting 'cave star' has resisted all attempts to blow up any more
LEDs and awaits its maiden voyage into the underworld. Watch this


Leaking Peli Cases

Peter and I have had problems with our watertight Pelicases leaking.
Pete did some research and found that they should be stored with the lid
open so that the seals don't get compressed. I buy my replacement seals
from DBS London their prices are reasonable
and the service is excellent. Pete found somewhere even cheaper.


We'll take Mark's advice and leave the Pelicases for the SCRO's
Little Dragon, Heyphones and other equipment open in the store in


World's Brightest LED Lights

Mark and Pete's LED floodlights would be outshone by LED lights now
on the market. The brightest so far is the Lamina TitanTurbo that can
deliver more then 2000 lumens in daylight white to outshine a 100W
incandescent. Power consumption is 5A at 11.3V so it is roughly twice as
efficient as an incandescent bulb. At lower currents a LED's
efficiency improves, but, unlike incandescent, the colour temperature
stays the same and they don't dim to an orange glow.

Email Distribution of GSG News and Announcements

If you have email, but are not on the GSG's distribution list then
you will be missing a lot. While the quarterly Newsletters can tell you
what has happened and attempt to warn you about what is planned, they
cannot hope to predict the many meets and events that are organised or
reorganised at short notice. Emails also allow the membership to hear of
significant events such as the breakthroughs in Rana within hours of
them happening.

Use of email has steadily climbed over the last decade and with all
the activity in Rana last year about 60 messages were sent compared to
only 37 in 2006 and 20 in 2004. This year 22 have been sent in the first
three months. Not all messages are sent to the whole membership. For
example subscription reminders are eventually send to only the
defaulters and Annual Dinner information can be directly only to those
who are attending.

Emails are normally sent as plain ASCII text with no attachments,
photos, files or HTML code to overfill your mailboxes. The longest are
GSG Newsletters, but even they are only about 50kb maximum.

If you are not on the GSG distribution list just send me an email
from the address you want us to use and I'll add you in.

GSG Private Web Server

From the number of enquiries I get it is obviously worth repeating
information on how to access the GSG private web server run by Peter
Ireson and what you can find there.

The web site is for GSG specific data. It's not for general use and
is password protected to restrict access to GSG members. It contains the
GSG address list (please check your entry), the equipment list, an event
calendar and a hut booking calendar. A section for GSG documents holds
PDF versions of recent GSG Bulletins, Newsletters, and committee meeting
minutes plus membership, expense and other forms. There is a section
reserved for trip reports at some future date and the SCRO contact list.
Also there is a large collection of photographs, plus sections for
rigging guides, surveys and cave guides. The latest count shows over
3300 photographs in over 110 albums.

To access it:

21 LED Headlights and Steel Krabs

Julian Walford still has 21-LED headlights available at £10 each
including 2 AA cells. With 2000mAhr NiMH rechargeable cells Julian
reported 2.5 hours of light. Good AA alkaline cells will give perhaps 4

Also available are steel screw-gate crabs - brand new and CE marked.
They are better than light-weight alloy crabs for strength with much
better abrasion resistance. They are on offer at only £3 each. Similar
items could cost you £8 or more from a store or on-line.

For more details and to check availability contact Julian Walford.
Ivan has a small stock of both in Edinburgh.


SCRO Equipment Store - The SCRO's rescue equipment store has been
a bulging cupboard in Derek and Elizabeth's garage in Winchburgh. At
the end of 2007 we bought a small metal shed, erected it inside the
garage, added lighting and some sockets for chargers and fitted it out
with shelves. All the equipment that can be used on rescues has been
moved inside it while old gear, spare parts and consumables have been
left in the cupboard. The shed is fitted with two combination padlocks
and the garage secured with a third. That gives three numbers for
members to remember to open the store. These will be given to members -
but not in a widely available Newsletter!

Digging Equipment - Roger (SCRO Equipment Officer) has been buying
gear to allow us to do a modest amount of excavation if it becomes
necessary during a rescue. We now have crowbars, chisels and lump
hammer. Pride of place is a SDS hammer drill powered by Li-ion
batteries. This comes with bits and bolts so anchors can be installed in
a minimum of time. Roger is now thinking of adding a Tirfor winch to the

First Aid - There is a BASP First Aid course in South Queensferry
on the 26/27th April. It is an objective that all SCRO members hold a
valid First Aid certificate. If you don't you should contact Annie for
a place on either this course or, if it is full, the next.

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