• Review of Blind Descent by James M Tabor


    We all know what a ‘super cave’ is, well wrong. A supercave is something else, a vast geological monster miles long and many thousands of feet deep. Their exploration requires huge, costly expeditions, multiple subterranean camps and weeks spent underground.

    ‘Blind Descent’ chronicles two teams both aiming for the deepest cave system in the world.  Bill Stone in Mexico with American money and Alexander Klimchouk with Russian. 20 years of exploration reach a finale (of sorts) in 2004. Bill Stone was looking at a Mexican cave called Cheve (limestone and massive chambers), Klimchouk at Krubera in Abkhazia, south eastern Georgia (vertical, tight and harsh). These were driven men and a few women, all of whom pulled their own weight.

    Tabor, a writer with National Geographic, describes the work of these two teams. They dig, they drill and bolt, they crawl, they live underground for weeks, they sump dive at 6,500 ft with out oxygen, they haul 40 lbs loads in batches of 16 (that what it says on the photo L). 99% of the work supports the 1 % at the sharp end. And they die. In one passage alone a team laid 120 explosive charges to clear a squeeze for a litter to pass through.

    The campsites are numbered upwards, so Camp 6 is the very deepest. At the end of a months exploration two people passed through a sump, using re-breathers, and did not exit that sump for 6 days. Then three days ascent to sunlight. There was no-one else in the cave system, for the whole of those nine days. They were over 5 miles from the entrance and nearly 5,000 feet down. Margin of error?

    Tabor is writing for the mass market and his technical descriptions are a little fuzzy. Some 40% of the book is taken with his references. But the stories are stunning and the descriptions are excellent, the writing carries you deeper. The power of obsession is very impressive.

    A must read book.


    Buy the Ebook from Amazon here

  • Poke, Rumble, and Run. Charlotte United, Chapel Porth.

    Once you’ve battled through the Gorse, up the hill, and over the barbed wire fence, the trips down here are always entertaining and involve our favourite pastime, ‘Poke, Rumble and Run’. 

    Recently this area has been our little project. Pat, Talan, EpicAl, Crazy Claire, Dar, and I have been dropping ‘Pokey Stick’ regularly for several months in a bid to excavate a potential exit shaft found by surprise.

    This discovery was made after Claire and I got our bums stuck during valiant attempts to squeeze through the continuation in the drive resulting in much embarrassment, and not much success. Apparently the phrase ‘Any Holes a Goal’ didn’t apply this time around! 

    any hole's a goal
    any hole’s a goal

    After rigging off of the huge cone at the top of the shaft, an initial 35m descent leads to a deviation and then the continuation of the descent is approximately 15m via a 30 deg incline. Once descended, you have two options; to the left of the drive a recent chunk of the ceiling can been identified at the very beginning of the route, as well as fractures in the rock face, therefore exploration in this area is best avoided as the fall has created an unstable shelf at the immediate start of the section.

    bridget jones
    bridget jones

    To the right, under a low duck and a section of crawling, the drive consists of some stooping, a section of squeezing/climbing, a mud slide, and the crossing of a water filled shaft (a short rope has been left there for rescue, but please try to avoid knocking the rock which it is anchored to) this crossing area of the drive is particularly unstable as the wooden planks have rotted and the ground under foot is loose.

    Somewhere along the way leads to the option of a flat out crawl (you can traverse above this section to the right if you’re above average build) the drive continues for approximately 100m until the obvious termination, this is where you will find the ‘Poking Stick’ and a Cornish Shovel or two. 

    doing some poking
    doing some poking

    The natural debris is being cleared (provoked) literally with a ‘Poking Stick’ – found in the depths of Pats man cave. After heavy rainfalls the natural material is gradually funneling through, but it’s getting a little bit impossible to shift so much mud and rock from the slide with such little manpower, and still nothing appearing on the surface, but keep a check on this space…or rather, where you’re walking. 

    Check out the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fns-MfcFHDY

    P.S. There’s a great café in the National Trust car park at Chapel Porth, we recommend the Bacon and Mushroom breakfast baguette and a Coffee before heading up the valley, but don’t forget £3 for the parking! 

    Lady Roo

    stealing hearts again
    stealing hearts again

  • Do Not Resuscitate




    At the end of June Paul Bonney and myself set out for France via Roscoff in order to bag a few wet caves off Frenchy.
    The ferry crossing was excellent and the drive down to the Dordorgne was long but uneventful.
    As can be expected for our diving trips the weather wasn’t what it should have been and upon meeting some cave diving legends we were told that we had probably wasted our time and might as well turn round and head home.
    We decided to ignore the advice and promptly went cave diving, firstly with Marchpeid, which boasts a cylinder grating entrance which we swam on for 120m then turned tail and fled. The experience was repeated another two times in which off passages were explored.
    The next day we hit Cregols sump 1 and cave beyond which allowed us to do a little “dry” caving as well. Sump 1 although not long in length has some excellent areas of snugness. Later on in the week we returned to investigate sump 2 ,a shaft dropping to 25m , which we only partially descended due to our lack of buoyancy gadgets .
    Trou Madame was next on the list and we penetrated for 220m then had an explore.
    Finally Oeil De La Doue was paid a visit and found to be of poor visibility and was dived for 120m without meeting the next dry section. We took the opportunity to practice line drills and underwater fighting James Bond style.
    The area offers a lot of fun for the Cornish and we hope to revisit next year with CCRs DPVs SMBs DUIs GUEs DIRs and bronze swimming badges.







  • Trip to underground section of Charlestown Leat


    A small group of St Austell Bay Mine Exploring Club members (which mainly comprises CBC members) were given permission to explore a section of the Charlestown Leat which in some areas runs underground.

    The Charlestown leat was used and maintained by Charlestown harbour for the purposes of filling the lakes above Charlestown. These lakes provide water which can be fed in to the harbour itself. These lakes can clearly be seen on aerial photographs to the north west of the harbour.

    Ventilation shafts were sunk in to the leat in various locations as it had multiple underground sections, these allowed estate workers conducting routine maintenance to lower equipment down in to the leat using a head frame and kibble. I was fortunate enough to have known an ‘Old boy’ who worked for Charlestown estate and told me about the twice a year leat clearance. His opinion of the underground was if humans were intended to go underground they would look like moles so he worked the kibble amongst other terra firma tasks.

    One section of the Leat I am keen to enter is Knightor iron mine, the leat enters here through a metal grille behind the Armco barrier on the eden entrance road. It exits the other side of the hill in Garker. I have read a previous trip report on this section, it involves a thick wetsuit, lots of crawling and cold cold Cornish water.

    Back to the main site….

    Half of the group crawled in to the leat and the other half removed the cap and descended via the air shaft (approximately 30 meters deep).

    ventilation shaft
    ventilation shaft

    One of the conditions of the trip was that in exchange for access we conducted a survey of the timbers and platform in the shaft- the timbers around the edges were sound but the platform was showing signs of rot – a fact reinforced by Jamie nudging it with his bum on a descent during a return trip resulting in a section peeling off.

    Jamie's bum hole
    Jamie’s bum hole

    At the bottom of the site the leat enters a small brick lined portal which runs for some distance before emerging in to a slashed out underground tunnel which can mostly be walked in the standing up or hunched position. At the other end of the tunnel the roof gradually slopes before returning to a brick lined portal;

    brick arch
    brick arch

    Richard who is 6ft plus gave up his stoop walk before reaching the far end as it was becoming painful. None of us were feeling adventurous enough on this occasion to hand and knees crawl it to termination as the landowner advised us it eventually gets to a silted up section that cannot be passed. Multiple capped shafts can be seen above complete with metallic streak marks on the walls beneath. There was not a huge amount to see, although an old candle holder was present in one area – an artefact we left behind in the hope that future explores may also enjoy seeing it.


    a candle
    a candle
    The team
    The team
    Tom Cruise
    Tom Cruise

    This was a short but interesting trip.

    Thomas Hewitt

  • Swildons Hole Tuesday 18th June 2013

    After a desperate plea for some cave action by Mr Pat on facebook. Pat, Claire and myself (Tobs) decided to take advantage of Pat having some work in Cheddar and my new job at Hinkley Point to get a cheeky evening session in Mendip. Messages were exchanged; date and location set – changed – and then due to work commitments meaning Claire couldn’t make it changed again. In the end Pat and I decided on a quick trip down Swildons because: 1) I’d not been before and 2) we actually knew where it was.

    We met at Priddy at 5.30, me stuffing down a quick sandwich after work Pat after completing a grueling bolting job and drinking lashings of ginger beer. As we set off we decided that the aim would be a quick trip down to sump 1 and back as neither of us would be particularly cave fit.

    After a brief stroll across the fields we got to the entrance popped on the lights and went underground. We followed the stream way down getting quite damp and it was at this point I found the hole in the crotch of my wetsuit, pleasantly cooling on a warm summers day. After sitting in several more puddles and we made it to pitch 1. (A short drop we decided to do with very basic SRT gear as it’s lighter than a ladder). Stopping for photos half way down the pitch and getting a free shower at the same time.


    We continued on bridging over a long section as we continued down, I tried a couple of methods here, but could not beat the classic back on one side and wedge your feet against the other. We reached “sump” 1 to find the water levels so low that there was actually a 2 inch air gap through, nether the less just to say we had and to ensure my wetsuit really did leak we ducked through took the obligatory tourist photos at the sump and sign post before heading back.


    The journey back was fairly uneventful until after pitch 1 when we came across a local caver who couldn’t stop as he was racing the clock and hoped to set a new time to sump 2 and back (45min), then a little way further back we met 2 more cavers off for a trip. These two were able to stop and we compared notes and wiled away a few minutes before them heading off into the darkness and Pat and myself heading back to the entrance. We emerged back into the sun and marveled at how clean we still were. No ochre, no mud, kit wet but not being concerned about the acid levels in the water was a delight. A good quick evening out and hopefully more to come, all finished off with a trip to the Chinese Restaurant in Cheddar as are the rules.

  • Hallenbeagle Developments threaten Bat Habitats

    Information and a picture has been sent our way that the developers currently turning the Hallenbeagle Mine site into commercial units are forcing the Bats that live in some of the old shafts on the site out of their home by covering up the shafts and turning them into man traps, this was tried in the past and action was taken to prevent this, it seems they are up to the same tricks and we are calling on all mine explorers to keep an eye on the site and prevent damage occurring, preventative measure have already been taken again and the relevant authorities have been informed, we may investigate to see if any bats have already been caught out by this trap and if any are found then those responsible will be held to account


  • Book review, Ocean Gladiator

    Book review by Debbie.
    Ocean Gladiator by Mark Ellyatt
    I would just like to draw people’s attention to this book for these reasons.
    1. The author doesn’t have a beard.
    2. The author has lived Cornwall and is known to some of the CBC.
    3. The book has a chapter covering a spine tingling descent, many hundreds of feet, down a flooded mine shaft. The mine in question is Coniston Copper Mine and the description of the deep technical diving combined with passing decks and timbering truly astonishing.
    4. The book has an alarming but whimsical look at diver training which can be a little off putting to would be divers!
    5. The authors ability to cut through the crap of organisations and controlling bodies is truly refreshing.
    6. The descriptions of endurance and sheer commitment required during some of his adventures are very humbling.

  • Killifreth bolting mission

    Killifreth ,West Shaft; Darrren G. And Debbie in response to worries about the flexing cap during ascent and descent, have set a pair of chemical bolts at -20m in the shaft.
    The cap is often rigged off either fully or load sharing but in both cases a degree of movement is felt in the cap which often dislodges rocks and earth at surface level.
    Unfortunately the first rock suitable for bolting was -20m down the -72m so the problem hasn’t entirely been eliminated but it does mean most of the journey it the shaft doesn’t require loading the cap.
    The bolts could be rigged either as a rebelay or a rope to rope transfer.
    The bolts used are Raumer 10mm glue in Ps.

    killifreth2 killifreth1

  • Big Thankyou…….

    To Starless riving from bringing down lots of shiney cavey things for us nutty people to browse and buyWP_20130605_002

    Having the ability to get hands on with kit is excellent and everyone pretty much came away with somthing, some with alot more than they planned on, and being able to try on the kit for sizing and seeing whats new helps alot


    Cheers to Starless River and hope to see you for some proper underground time next time your down


  • Cavers of Cornwall – Starless River are coming..

    So anyone requiring sensibly priced caving equipment get your orders in to

    They will be down in Looe on the 5th June at the Jubilee Inn

    So get your orders in, if you oder something but can’t make it up to Looe get in touch as we have people going up and they can collect and return to mid/west cornwall