GSG Newsletter 137

10 December 2008

Annual Dinner 2008

After the great success of last year's dinner in Skye and given the circumstances of this year's dinner it was bound to be a very popular occasion. Unfortunately we were due to be out of the country from the end of August to the beginning of October so a quick email to Ivan elicited that we could pay up front and choose our menu when the information became available. Luckily we had booked in advance as by the time we returned to the UK the dinner was fully booked and alternatives had been arranged for the night.

We decided to drive north on the Thursday so that we could perhaps go for a walk and so we were up and on our way by 7.30 am. The weather was a bit wet and windy when we left Preston but that was nothing to what was to come! Despite the weather our run went fairly smoothly and we made good time so decided to stop for lunch at Ralia, just south of Newtonmore - a picnic site on the A9 with toilets and always hot water (even in midwinter) which has also variously had tourist information and now a café. Sitting in the van having our lunch we spotted Snab and Anita in their van and they came over for a chat. I have to say that this was the first of many chats over the coming weekend. Many reminiscences to come!

Despite the deteriorating weather we made the hut in good time by mid afternoon and settled into the conservatory to catch up with others who had made the journey to the far and frozen. The Mendip flyers had arrived shortly before us.

Ivan had arranged an "Eat as much as you want" curry evening on the Thursday at the Allt and so once the brave and/or foolish cavers had returned from the hill and Rana, we made our way there. Once the Inverness/Southport contingent had arrived, 21 of us sat down to delicious food and good ale and good company. Milche and I and Snab and Anita asked if we could park up outside the Allt rather than drive back to the Hut so that none of us had to drive, so once the others had gone back we settled in for a few drams before bed - I think we escaped sometime around 1.30 am!

Friday dawned - just. The weather was just as bad as on Thursday night with high winds and driving rain and hail so we retreated back to the Hut and I have to say stayed there for the rest of the day while new arrivals came and went. The weather did not improve at all during the day but the reminiscences and stories just kept on coming.

Saturday morning came - the weather had not improved much but we did have a short spell of dry and less windy weather in the morning when Pete Ireson's father and sister, Helen, had arranged a ceremony at the hut to plant two trees in Pete's memory. The trees chosen were Downy Birch (supplied by the Assynt Foundation) which are indigenous to the area and should survive in the ground. With all due ceremony Pete's ashes were interred below the trees and a plaque was placed between them to mark the occasion.

After a quick visit to Ullapool to restock with food we made our way to the Inch and settled into the residents' lounge for the afternoon, again with good company, good ale and many stories.

It was never going to be an easy dinner given that three club members had died since July, firstly Pete Ireson, then Tony Jarratt and thirdly George Alden who was one of the few remaining founder members of the club. Pete's father and sister joined us for the dinner and Tony was there in spirit (and some of his ashes in a box topped by his cap!) The Inch had been let down by the non-arrival of some of their staff but those who were there did a sterling job and the food arrived in good order. The formal part of the evening then got under way with Goon talking about the past year in the club and the great losses it had sustained. Then Peter Dowswell toasted other "Absent Friends". Following that the "Golden Gnome" presentation was made posthumously to Pete Ireson and the Ode was presented to his father.

The numbers attending this year were almost as high as those attending last year in Skye and because the Inch could only accommodate 60, those who booked too late were offered an alternative dinner at the Allt and then came to join us for the speeches and the rest of the evening.

Following the meal Fraser Simpson put on a series of short films of J.Rat in the residents' lounge along with slides of Pete Ireson, and there was a sale of bottles of "Old Rat's Piss" Ale brought up from Mendip (a relabelled Potholer by Cheddar Ales) and "Keep on Digging" T-shirts, with donations from the beer going to fund Mendip digs and from the T-shirts going to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

A minibus had been arranged to and from the Hut for the night and once everyone going back there had left we settled down for a couple of quiet drams before retreating to our mobile hut parked out the back of the hotel.

Sunday morning dawned not much better than the previous three days so after breakfast we decided to retreat to the south instead of staying until the Monday as we had planned.

All in all it wasn't an easy dinner: there was a lot of sadness, a lot of happy and funny memories, but a time to look back and reflect. Perhaps we are all getting older but there was none of the riotous behaviour I remember from dinners past (mind you I didn't go back to the Hut!). It has been a strange year for the club. The Rana breakthrough was almost immediately after the last dinner and great finds have been made; the bear bones were successfully removed from Claonaite and that work is ongoing, but at the end of the day the dinner will be remembered for those who were missing this year.

Kirsty Mills

GSG Annual Subscriptions for 2009

Annual subscriptions are due on the 1st January 2009. All GSG members are automatically enrolled in the British Caving Association and a major part of your annual fee is to pay the BCA's annual charge. This is unchanged at £16 for caving and £5 for non-caving members.

Caving membership of BCA includes public liability insurance while you are caving, and is required for access to many caves and mines. If you only ever cave by yourself in Scotland there isn't any advantage in having it except for the warm glow it will give you because you are helping to support UK caving's national body and the cover it gives if you are ever sued because your actions caused an accident. If you are a direct individual member of BCA (a DIM) or a member of BCA through another caving club you don't need to pay twice. You only pay the GSG part.

The GSG part of the subscription was increased at the last AGM to £15 for full members and £20 for joint membership. Members in full time education, who are unemployed or have retired and are over state retirement age qualify for a £5 reduction. Life members get a 100% discount on this part.



  • Rana / Claonaite - Roger Galloway and Annie Audsley investigating Santa's Grotthole in Black Rift Chamber dug their way into an extension. It's a tight rift about 3m long and 4m high with a good draught, but closes down to only a few inches wide at the end.

    More digging at the start of the Skye-Way has not found the hoped for hole to permanently drain the dig. Instead the rift closes down and it appears we'll need to keep the dam and its pipework in position permanently. Julian with his success in draining the ANUSC Static Sump with a self-starting siphon is thinking how one can be installed to keep the Rana dig clear. Most of the digging was in the week before the annual dinner culminating in hauling 101 loads out on the Friday. The 3-girl cycling team of Anne Vanderplank, Kate Janossy and Imogen Furlong earned top marks from Julian who "was most impressed with their chat-inspired cycling."

    We had intended to take J.Rat's ashes to Sump 7 in Claonaite on the Saturday of the Annual Dinner, but the weather was such that we decided to wait for December 30th, the anniversary of the breakthrough trip from Rana into Claonaite that he led. As it turned out Black Rift pitch was not quite impassable though only Peter Dennis descended it. He returned the next day to recover the wire ladder, found water levels much reduced, and finally managed a solo trip to the Great Northern Time Machine after several previous attempts during 2008 that had been aborted due to high water.

    Since the dinner there has been one visit to Rana in November when Julian found the dig completely sumped with no evidence of a draught.

  • Campbell's Cave - During the week before the annual dinner many lengths of scaffolding were carried up to the cave. This took several days. Under Norman's direction a scaffolding structure was erected and almost finished. It would have been ready for digging to start over the weekend, but the weather was such I don't think much caving was done anywhere. Sitting comfortably in the Inch we could look out the windows and see water spouts swirling their way along Loch Assynt.
  • Glen Errochty - The Trinafour caves have attracted the attention of David Morrison and Richard Simpson. They have been busy. Ossicular Hole - the particularly fetid cave found by Goon to be full of decomposing sheep and a thick layer of bones - ended in a too tight squeeze, but not for David. He managed to power through and dropped into a small chamber running down to a streamway heading back under the entrance passage. Upstream was definitely too tight, but downstream continues as a low crawl. There is also a crawl-sized passage leading down to here from just inside the entrance that, if cleared, would bypass the squeeze.

    Trinafour Upper Cave is now a through trip for David, though possibly not for many of the rest of us. In Trinafour Lower Cave a little work with a crowbar remodelled the formerly impassable oxbow and there is now a bypass to the low crawl in the stream. They also looked at the resurgence cave and to return and help to clear the blockage.

  • Appin - In mid-October Ivan and Mark Lonnen met Nigel Marsh and family, David Morrison and Richard Simpson in Glen Stockdale just as they set off for Broken Expectations. The river was a foaming torrent so instead of crossing at the normal point they crossed the ravine further upstream by traversing on a somewhat rickety fence. When they returned Nigel's wife and daughter settled into their mobile home while the rest of us set off for Long Drop Cave to install P-hangers.

    At Long Drop we found masses of water falling into the entrance with most of it flowing down the normally dry pitch. Mark drilled and installed two P-hangers for a straight hang down the pitch - under my supervision since I am now the only GSG member who has been on the BCA course. Only a few metres lower we swung onto a ledge looking down a parallel dry shaft and decided we should eco-anchor that as well to give an alternative all-weather route to the bottom. We fitted our third and last P-hanger there and now have to await the BCA sourcing new hangers for their eco-anchoring programme.

    If you do descend Long Drop start by using a thread belay in the roof a couple of metres before the pitch. The pitch has a Y-hang. Because it was so wet we couldn't check the hang of the rope and it's possible that we may need to add a deviation. The alternative dry route needs at least another couple of anchors to make it safe and hold the rope away from some quite sharp edges. Alternatively - take a couple of ladders.

  • Schiehallion - On the way to Appin, Mark and I stopped at the south eastern end of Dunalastair Water just north of Schiehallion. The map shows McGregor's Cave at NN715585 and there was no record of the GSG ever having been there. A walk of about a mile reached a man- made structure built under an overhanging cliff: so not a cave but a Victorian summer house. It has a fireplace and appeared quite dry inside despite having no doors in the doorways at either end. It would make a very good howff, but you should be prepared with something to block one of the doorways. With an easterly wind it would be extremely well ventilated.

The Claonaite Bear Bones

Cleaning, drying and conserving the bones has been a slow process taking over two months to produce plastic impregnated bones that can be handled carefully without danger of them falling apart. Some preliminary results became available while those processes were under way. It was a brown bear and not a polar bear. It was a large individual so probably a male, but not as old as Dr Andrew Kitchener first thought. That was based on the worn canines. "Equivalent", he wrote, "to some zoo bears that have chewed bars!" The museum also saw some evidence that rodents may have chewed the bones. Andrew had selected some bones for carbon dating and we eagerly await the result.

Claonaite Conducted Tours

As a result of the press release about the bear bones, a Daily Mail reporter, Andy Beaven, wanted a trip into Claonaite. He had done a little caving before - a trip to Alum Pot via Long Churn. We arranged to meet him on Saturday 23rd August. On the Friday, while supping our pints in the Alt, Julian casually asked Katie if she'd like to accompany us. The instant answer was an enthusiastic "Yes!!!"

On Saturday morning we kitted out Katie, Andy and his photographer, Tony Haresign, with oversuits, helmets, lamps and cows tails and had a surprisingly dry trip all the way to the Great Northern Time Machine and back. There was only a dribble going down Rana and the Black Rift pitch didn't have much more. Many photographs were taken along the way. While Andy and Tony were busy in the GNTM, Andy Peggie and I took Katie down to Sump 7 and back. Both Andy B and Tony managed the trip easily and claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I did see Andy looking a mite worried at one point when he became tail end Charlie on the way out and the others had disappeared into the distance. The end result was a well crafted two page article in the Daily Mail on Saturday 30th August. The GSG library has a copy of this as it does of the press articles on the bear bones.

On the Sunday, George Vestey - the landowner for the Traligill and Allt nan Uamh area - and his three sons repeated the trip to the GNTM taking about the same time - four and a quarter hours. We'd originally thought that we'd only take them as far as the Black Rift because of water, but it was so dry they had the full experience. Afterwards George thanked us and wrote "We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were fascinated by what we saw. In fact it was so stunning that it was hard to find appropriate adjectives at the time. Rachel and our daughter Ruby were convinced we were lost and gone for ever by the time we got back to Lochinver and the boys slept like logs on Sunday night. As for me, I have to admit I was a bit stiff on Monday morning!"

Photographs of these trips appear on the GSG private web server.

Talks in Assynt

During September Ivan gave a talk in Lochinver on the history of Uamh an Claonaite, the digging out of Rana Hole and the discovery and removal of the bear bones. Ex-GSG member and Assynt crofter leader Bill Ritchie was there and recounted his memories of Martyn Farr's diving trip when he was first to pass sump 1 and extended Claonaite to sump 6. The following day a group of about 15 walked up to the Bone Caves and then on to Rana led by Assynt Rangers talking about the flora and fauna with added geological titbits from Ivan.

In early October the Assynt Historical Society organised a one day seminar at Inchnadamph Lodge. Tim Lawson spoke about the geology and the history of digging in the Bone Cave, Alan Saville of the Scottish Museum spoke about the archeological evidence of human presence, Ivan spoke on the finding and removal of the bear bones and Alex Scott on the challenges of managing a site that is a SSSI, a GCR and also a SAM. As an example of the 'challenges' he'd just been handed a badger skull by a group who'd been there. A youngster had spotted the bone just poking out of the sediments in (we think) Badger Cave and had dug it out!

After soup and sandwiches two minibuses took all for a walk up to the Bone Caves where everyone descended a short ladder (brought by Alex) into the inner Reindeer Cave. Here Tim discoursed on the finds of the 1920s and the sediments, with the cavern well illuminated by a couple of Peter Ireson's Cave Sun LED floodlights.

The GSG on TV

GSG members Tim Lawson and Ivan should be appearing with Cameron McNeish (see NL135 p7) in a documentary on Sutherland scheduled to be broadcast on Boxing Day, BBC 2 (Scotland) at 7pm: 'Sutherland - the Empty Lands'. Our part of it is a leisurely stroll up the Allt nan Uamh to Rana as we chatted about geology, caves, digging and bear bones. It may include some underground shots by Fraser and above ground video of the GSG ladies cycling team, but we'll have to wait for the 26th to see.

Scanning High Pasture Cave

The archeological investigation of High Pasture Cave, Skye has now seen Bone Passage and the stairway leading down to it scanned by laser. We have had the preliminary results back. Unfortunately, due to the steepness and narrowness of the stairwell, this feature isn't fully covered despite using multiple locations for the laser scanner. However, the sections (longitudinal and across Bone Passage) came out well as did the volumetric capacity of the passage and wire-frame 3D models. Graeme, who undertook the scanning work for AOC Archaeology Group in Edinburgh, has posted up a fly-through on You Tube that can be found at

It takes a few watches to get your head around, and the quality is obviously reduced somewhat, but worth a look.

Steve Birch

Caves In Egypt

One does not immediately think of caves when visiting Egypt - particularly the Nile valley where attention is subsumed by a vast proliferation of ancient monuments. However, the land is built on large exposures of pure Eocene limestones topped with marly conglomerates and flanked by Nubian Cretaceous sandstone. Any Saharan drainage dating from times when there were savannahs on the plateau has long since been obscured by sand and erosion, but during a month spent crawling about there, I managed to find one or two interesting features.

On the West Bank opposite Luxor, a colleague and I spent three days combing deserted wadis for an elusive tomb (never found!) behind the village of Dra Abu'l Naga. One site I spotted turned out to be a three metre shaft lying on a steep rubble slope. A treacherous descent led into a spacious chamber formed in conglomerate with flat out bedding plane voids leading off. I followed one for a couple of metres before damage to my 'street' clothes coupled with copious clouds of dust drove me off. Overall, a cave of some 10 metres which may have been enlarged by souvenir makers searching for alabaster.

Way out in the western desert between Dakhlah and Bahariya Oases, miles west of the 'Black' Desert, we visited a real cave! Lying at N 27 23 713, E. 27 45 614, Ain Dala Cave is formed at the foot of a dazzling white cliff and approached by a 'one step up, three back down' sand slope. The gaping entrance leads to two spacious caverns, separated by a two metre step. The whole thing looks phreatic, and resembles those voids often encountered in Claonaite and ANUSC. There was no continuation, but it did have some primitive rock art, now almost lost under modern 'Kilroy' features. Length about 8m.

Finally, when visiting tombs in the cliff bay overlooking the plain at Tell el Amarna, opposite Minya, I discovered an open cleft which led into a fascinating vadose rift. Three metres in it divided and each branch was penetrable. There were even faint scallops. Again, wearing decent clothes, I didn't force the issue but plainly this had once been an active stream cave. For purists, it lies just south of the Northern tomb group (tombs of Merya I and II, Pahesy and Huya).

There were plenty of other little holes, mostly wind-formed, but these were the most interesting.

A. Jeffreys

Meet Report - South Korea

13th International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology, Jeju Island, South Korea - 1st - 10th September 2008

This year we were lucky enough to be able to attend this, the 13th Symposium on Vulcanospeleology. Milche has long been interested in lava caves and had even co-written a paper for the 1st Symposium, held in 1972 in Washington State. On one of his many long journeys home up the M5/M6 he realised that another one was due this year and being retired we would be able to attend, so we looked it up on-line and duly registered an interest.

The Symposium was due to last five days, three days of lectures and two days of field trips, followed by another five days of field trips. We registered as one full delegate and with me as an accompanying member as we decided we didn't need two full sets of documentation but that the accompanying members could choose to attend all the field trips.

Given the distances involved (and the costs!) we decided to make this part of a much longer trip - but more of that elsewhere. (a fuller report of the 6 week trip has been submitted to the Bulletin for publication at a later date.)

Having spent a couple of nights in Seoul to acclimatise, we duly flew down to Jeju Island on Sunday morning 31st August 2008. On arrival at the airport we were pounced upon by orange T-shirt wearing members of the Korean contingent who took us to our free transfer to the hotel which was to be our base for the next ten days (we were the only non-Asians on the flight and were carrying large rucksacks so it was a clue!) Orange t-shirts were to be the "badge of office" of the organising team.

Sunday was registration day and in the evening there was an "Ice-breaker" after dinner to allow people to meet up with old friends and make new ones. In all there were 51 full delegates and 10 accompanying members from 22 countries and we were joined during the week by members of the UIS who held their meeting over the weekend.

The formal proceedings of the Symposium began with the opening ceremony on Monday morning with the Governor of the Special Self-governing Province of Jeju Island giving one of the congratulatory addresses. After that the accompanying members were taken off on one of their island tours while the full delegates settled down to a series of lectures. On the Monday evening we were treated to an open air banquet in the hotel grounds and there was a more informal closing banquet on the Friday evening in the hotel, followed by the karaoke evening in the bar.

Over the five days, Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning were lecture days and Tuesday and Thursday were field trip days. The subjects covered over the three days were many and varied, covering many countries including the Azores, Iceland, Galapagos Islands, Easter Island, Japan, Jeju itself, Jordan, Chile, Kenya, Syria, Mauritius, Argentina, Hawaii and New Mexico, and a copy of the Abstracts has been placed in the GSG Library for reference. Who said lava caves were just boring tunnels? I have to say that they are to be found in some marvellous places round the world.

For the field trips arrangements had been made to take us to some show caves and some "wild" caves, including Manjanggul, Waheul Cave, Hamdeul Cave, Susan Cave, Socheon Cave and the most fragile and spectacular of them all, Yongcheongdonggul Lave Tube. This cave is normally closed but was opened up especially for us. We were also taken to see other volcanic sites such as tuff cones, columnar basalt, trachyte domes and craters and a couple of stone parks and museums, and each day we were taken to a restaurant for lunch, including in Hallim Park which is home to a couple of show caves as well as water gardens, a bonsai garden aviary and a stone park, where the park authorities provided the lunch.

Everywhere we went we were accompanied by press and television and we regularly appeared on the early evening news along with the front page of the island newspaper. Fame at last - even if it was in Korean!

Every evening we repaired, of course, to the bar where the beer came in 3 litre jugs and many stories were told and many friends made. I have to say that the British contingent (who were the largest group attending) were always at the heart of the evening festivities.

The organisation of the symposium was hard to fault. Everywhere we went we were treated with the utmost courtesy and there were no major hiccups throughout the 10 days. It is no easy thing to organise 50+ very independent cavers of so many nationalities and have them all in the right place at the right time.

Grateful thanks must go to the organisers, the Jeju Island Cave Research Institute, Cave Research Institute of Korea, Korean Society of Cave Environmental Science and their many sponsors. Special mention should be made of Professor Woo Kyung Sik and his many helpers, particularly Kim Ryeon who was his right hand man.

Kirsty Mills

2009 Meets and Events

See the events page.

Pete Ireson's favourite caving trip

21st-22nd August '09

I'm sure you all remember Pete's great account of an eventful trip down Simpson's pot. We plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pete joining the GSG by going back en masse, seeing how many folk we can get through Simpsons, and enjoying a wee half of shandy or two at the Helwith Bridge afterwards. We have booked the YSS for the weekend of 21st of August, which is a very short stagger from the Helwith Bridge. There is also the option of camping in the field next to the pub. Please let me know if you plan to attend, how many in your party and if you want a bunk or would rather camp. Clearly this is some time away, but hopefully advance notice will allow you to reserve space in your diaries. Bunks will as usual be first come first served. Hope you can make it along


Scotland Street Tunnel to be Youth Club

An article in a recent Edinburgh Evening News revealed plans to construct a youth club in the first 10m of the 1842 railway tunnel that runs from Scotland Street under the New Town to Waverley Station. The GSG had a wander through this tunnel in 2001 (see NL 109) thanks to John Crae managing to borrow a key. When he tried again in 2004 he couldn't find anyone who would admit to having the key. The aim of the project is to give local youths somewhere to go. They have been sent a questionnaire looking for their ideas on how the tunnel should be used. Perhaps we should ask to fill one in: the tunnel has the best examples of straws and cave pearls I've seen in the Edinburgh area. The project is being promoted by the local police, and grant applications have been made with results expected by March 2009. It is expected to cost around £50,000.

Membership News

New Members

Greg Carter, Allan Sutherland

New Addresses

Simon Brooks, Irina Erchova, Anna Ermakova, Lisa Kamphausen, Nigel [& Anne-Louise] Robertson, Julian Warren.

Other Changes

Chris Chapman, email; Ross Davidson, Tel mobile; Carol Dickson, email; Alison Fuller-Shapcott, Tel mobile; Andrew Ogilvie, email; Derek Pettiglio, email; Mark Tringham, email.

  • Andrew Brooks - has been diving in Mexico. He writes that "The caves there are amazing. We went snorkelling through one of the systems (cenotes) which was beautiful. And full of cave divers - I must learn to do this soon."
  • Irina Erchova - had a baby girl, Sasha, on August 6th. She moved soon afterwards to Cardiff with her partner David Mcgonigle. By the end of October baby Irina reported that "Sasha has tripled her birth weight and is a good chunky girl now with a great pair of lungs"
  • Gair Dunlop - emailed on the 9th September to tell us that his partner Susanne had a baby, Sine, on the 6th September: 5lb 5oz or 1400g and both were then home and very happy.
  • Dan Harries & Fiona Ware - were driving north to the Annual Dinner when their car was struck from the rear by a white van that braked far too late as traffic slowed due to earlier accidents. Other crumps followed as multi-vehicle mayhem ensued, fortunately with nobody injured. Rosie even slept through the whole thing. The consequence was that Dan and Fiona missed the annual dinner and the road chaos delayed other GSG dinner-goers by an extra hour on their journey north.
  • Thomas & Anya Matthalm - have returned earlier than expected to Germany. Anya had an offer of a job that she just couldn't refuse. They are now back in Bavaria somewhere 50 miles east of Nurnberg.
  • Rachael Huggins & Gregg Nicolson - were married in Milnathort on 13 September and haven't been seen by us since the wedding reception!
  • Roger Galloway & Annie Audsley - recently announced their engagement and are getting married in early September 2009 in Cheddar/Priddy. Annie tells us that they are thinking of placing their wedding list with Bernies.
  • Lisa Kamphausen - is back in the UK and living in Southampton for the next three years. She can't explain why she chose to live so far away from Edinburgh.
  • Nigel & Anne Robertson - have, at last, sold their house in Ingleton and now bought one in New Zealand. They move on December 12th which is coincidentally when Nigel's brother Blair arrives there for a 'holiday'! You can read their blog at They have managed some caving recently with Anne going with an Outdoor Education group in September to Gardeners Gut, Waitomo. It is mostly walking size streamway except for the Organ Grinder and has some well-decorated sections. In October the whole family descended Shangri La also in Waitomo. Other news is that Lachlan suffered a broken wrist (rugby) and Nigel has shaved half his beard off. No photo of him on the blog yet so no idea whether it was the left or right hand side that went.

The Rat Fest

Tony Jarratt died from lung cancer on August 31st. His funeral in Bath on September 12th was attended by several hundred friends and cavers, but many more had wanted to be there. So that they too could celebrate Tony's life the Rat Fest was organized for Saturday November 15rh in Priddy Village Hall. Events started in the morning with trips into many of Tony's digs then in early afternoon some of his ashes were sent down Hunters Lodge Inn Sink as a large crowd, well supplied with beer from the bar, looked on. Jane Clark said a few words and Snab played a tune (or was it a dirge?) on his Northumberland pipes. A large group then travelled via the Belfry and another of J.Rat's digs in the Mineries to the top of a cloud-covered North Hill. Here more of his ashes were scattered into the chill wind with Snab supplying the musical accompaniment. Another portion of Tony's ashes were taken down Wigmore Swallett that day and the final 1/4 will be taken through Rana to Sump 7 in Claonaite on the 30th December.

The Rat Fest proper started with videos showing J'Rat at home and abroad. This included his starring role in 'Harry Potholer and the Speleologist's Stone' shot on location in Meghalaya this year by Fraser Simpson. There were many others spanning his caving career. This was followed by my musical PowerPoint of pictures and movie clips I had of Tony starting from the trip to the Holloch in 1978 and ending with his discovery of Two B's Chamber in Rana. Then there was some excellent music from a string quartet and songs from Snab including his special composition about J.Rat.

After more music and an auction of Tony's Landrover, the Mendip singers took the stage belting out all the old caving songs. A certain James Cobbet, just flown in from Mexico, was there with his party piece - Cathusalem. The evening ended - at the hall at least - with DJ Paul Brock playing all the old 45s. I believe it continued until well into the morning back at the Belfry. I decamped for a quieter night in the MCG hut since I was driving back to Scotland on Sunday morning.

I counted 24 GSG members at the Rat Fest - 8 from Scotland - among what must have been over 300 in the crowded hall. It was difficult to say how many folk were there as many had overflowed into the two large marquees erected just outside where the pig roast was served. During the evening many barrels of beer were emptied - final count 18 beer barrels plus two of cider which being larger meant the alcohol consumption just exceeded that at the wake after Tony's funeral. It was a truly great evening and Tony will be sorry to have missed it


Tony Jarratt's Log Books

Before Tony Jarratt left us he kindly gave the MCRA permission to photograph and make freely available the contents of all 15 volumes of his personal caving log books, dating from 1964 to 2008 and detailing in meticulous detail all of the caving and digging trips he has been involved in. They make for a fascinating and often entertaining read.

Alan Gray has painstakingly photographed every page and insert within these books for the archive, and these images are now being made available to the general caving community via the MCRA website. All fifteen volumes are available online now at in the form of a picture gallery.

The website allows comments to be added to the pictures; please feel free to add your personal notes and observations on the entries, especially if you were there at the time!

Matt Voysey, Mendip Cave Registry and Archive

Note:- The GSG Library has a CD of the log books. The images total about 710 MB.

Equipment Reviews

Tesco LED torch

The ukCaving forum regularly has discussions on caving lights. One that has been running since July is about LED torches available from Tesco. The one of most interest has a 3W Cree LED powered by two AA cells for £8. There are others available powered by C size (£9) and D size cells. I saw them on sale in the local Tesco and bought the AA size. It has sturdy 4-part aluminium body 155mm long with a maximum diameter of 30mm. Its sections are screwed together and weatherproofed with O rings. A weak point is the pushbutton switch at the end. Several cavers recommend covering it with a finger cut off a rubber glove. The window at the other end is plastic rather than glass therefore prone to scratching.

It is a simple on/off device unlike more expensive units that can step down the lumens to gain more duration. Light output is good and with fresh alkaline batteries beats my FX-5 with a 6W incandescent bulb. Actual power consumption is about 1.7W (700mA at 2.5V). The latest NiMH AA rechargeable cells should give over 3 hours of good light. The driver electronics for the LED must be pretty basic as it appears to make no attempts at stabilising the output. This could be held to be bad since the light output drops significantly as the cells discharge, or good as the lowering light level gives warning that your cells are on their way out.

Verdict is that it is a cheap and cheerful light provided you take precautions - and spare batteries.

SatMap Active 10 GPS Receiver

I attended the UK Mountain and Cave Rescue conference in September. At the equipment fair Satmap were offering their GPS receiver for evaluation to all rescue teams. If a team liked it they could keep if for free provided they gave permission for SatMap to use the team's name. Roger Galloway signed the agreement and we soon had a shiny new SatMap Active 10 with all its accessories including added 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps for the north of Scotland - north and west of the Great Glen. After Roger looked at it he passed it to me for more detailed tests.

First impressions were that it was a well put together package with the basic unit powered by three AA cells, or a rechargeable Li-ion battery with chargers for either mains electricity or a car's cigarette lighter socket. A nice touch was a pack of three extra screen covers to protect the large screen. It uses an up-to-date chip set the SiRF Star 3 so I was expecting much better performance and sensitivity than my 20th century Garmin GPS 12. I really wanted it to perform superbly, but I was disappointed.

It was more sensitive than my Garmin, but it usually took over four times as long to lock on and display its first position - typically six minutes versus about one and a half. Once it had locked on it was more sensitive, but not by as much as I expected. I used it extensively over several long road journeys and while it had a lot that I liked I felt it was a work in progress rather than a finished unit. My main complaints were:-

  1. As mentioned above my old Garmin locked onto satellites much faster than the Active 10. I had the opportunity at a recent Mountain Rescue symposium to compare it with a modern Garmin unit - the 60CSx. In comparison to it the Active 10 was positively lethargic in locking on and its sensitivity was well down. When the Active 10 wasn't even showing one satellite the Garmin was showing seven or eight, had locked on and was happily displaying an accurate grid reference.
  2. National grid co-ordinates are only given with 8 digits i.e. 10m resolution. When measuring sites I always use 10digits to give 1m resolution and by measuring repeatedly that last digit does gain some meaning. For that reason alone I'd reject it for my purposes.
  3. Several times for reasons unknown the unit froze. Its operating system (Windows CE) was probably busy doing some housekeeping. By the time you realised it wasn't responding to key presses you had pressed several times. Eventually when it finished whatever it was doing it would find a series of key strokes stacked up in memory and quickly run through them all including all the implied menu changes. Since keys had been pressed several times, this could lead to unwanted consequences such as erasing data or reconfiguring the display.
  4. I just couldn't get my head around the menu structure. I'd search for a way to do a certain function, find it, then have forgotten how to find it next time I wanted to repeat it. Now it could be that I'm too familiar with my Garmin and I hadn't given myself enough time, but I felt that the menu structure needed some work done on it. It isn't a unit you could hand to someone, give them a five minute introduction and send them away to fend for themselves.

My conclusion is that for what I need the niceties of a large full colour screen with on board OS maps do not compensate in any way for the long acquisition time, poor sensitivity and low resolution. My recommendation to the SCRO is that we return the SatMap Active 10. I will go and buy myself a Garmin 60CSx instead. You can read more about the Active 10 at


Elphin Caving Centre

Thanks to some welcome help from non-members Ian Catleugh and Joan Whitfield the front bunk room and the area outside the toilets were redecorated in October. Alex Latta shared the work While paint was being spread the toilets and showers were steam cleaned by Joan who had wanted to go on a Rana trip, but cracked ribs stopped that (another proof that caving is safer than riding horses) and gave her even more time for cleaning windows and bunks. We were joined on Sunday by Mary Hamilton who took over the steam cleaner and transformed the gas range, but found three igniters on the right hand set of rings broken: something to be sorted during the next annual safety inspection. The Hut Warden is now thinking of buying a steam cleaner.

At the end of September with Peter Hardyman and Peter and Virginia Dowswell the bunks in the back bunk room were unbolted and moved into the centre of the room. This was then cleaned and the walls and ceiling repainted. The floor throughout the hut needs repainting or, perhaps, we should do something better. Andy Peggie has proposed laying laminate flooring over insulation in the bunk rooms and is now investigating the practicality and costs.

The excavation for the shed extension is now possibly complete. Ivan invested two Snappers one weekend in quarrying out bedrock with Peters Dowswell and Hardyman excavating the result. In November another three Snappers broke up the remaining bulge. It should now be ready for the next stage of laying the foundations some time in the New Year.

Assynt News

The Alt recently hosted a get together for the local community with folk bringing food to share. Unfortunately nobody from the GSG was in residence at the time otherwise we'd have certainly attended. Our neighbour, Bridie Pursey, seems to be the main protagonist and has emailed local news around the community. A couple of snippets are that BT have been persuaded to retain the phone box opposite the hut, and the old school has been offered to the Assynt Foundation. They have said it would be available for meetings. Bridie believes that the Church of Scotland hold a service there once a month.

When we took George Vestey and sons caving he mentioned that discussions were under way about possibly moving the Allt nan Uamh car park a short distance further north where there would be better visibility of oncoming traffic.

Internet Caving

The GSG private web site is now hosted on a commercial server at Login names and passwords remain unchanged. Thanks to Mark Lonnen for arranging and implementing the transfer from Peter Ireson's home machine. Mark is the new webmaster and you should contact him if you have any problems with the operation of the site.

The photo gallery continues to expand. There are about 4300 images there now, 100 more than there were in March. You can find photographs of many of the activities recorded in this Newsletter there. Just added is Ivan's PowerPoint featuring J.Rat shown at the Rat Fest. It's in the Audio/Video Clips section and is a 91MB ZIP file so you may want to think carefully before downloading it if you only have a dial-up connection. Once downloaded, unzip it to find an EXE file. Run that and it'll unpack itself and run its own PowerPoint viewer (it may ask you to accept a license agreement). It can take up to a minute before the opening screen appears. Once it does use the left mouse button to start it running. It is for private viewing only as several pieces of music will still be in copyright.

If you are having trouble remembering how to tie knots then Animated Knots by Grog could be the solution. This, as its title suggests, has animated sequences of images showing how to tie common - and uncommon - knots. Split into sections from boating to decorative, I expect everyone can learn something so look at all the sections not just caving and rescue.

GSG Email List

Do you have an email address? Have you told the GSG and asked to be included on its email distribution list? If not, why not? Get all the news about GSG meets and events before they happen rather than read about them in the GSG Newsletter after they've finished. There have been 66 email messages sent out so far this year. At present there are very few of you who are missing out, though that does increase every time someone changes their email address without telling us. So if you're wondering why you haven't heard from us for some time, John, better tell me your new email address.


← Back to Newsletters