Author Topic: SRT and discoveries  (Read 1112 times)

Online Duck ditch

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SRT and discoveries
« on: April 19, 2020, 11:59:45 am »
I wonder which cave or pitch In the UK was the first to be originally explored using SRT instead of an electron ladder.  Is there any?
I think it must be around the late 90’s. 
Any takers?

Offline Ian Ball

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2020, 12:08:59 pm »
Late 90's? 80's  more likely?

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2020, 12:29:14 pm »
The Slanting Cave main exploration (West Kingsdale) by CPC members involved an 18 m pitch which was first descended on SRT. That was in 1972 and the account in that year's Journal states: "From here we could see the full splendour of a quite magnificent shaft not unlike some of the big classic pitches to be found in Kingsdale. As we only had the 130 ft rope left, abseil and prussik techniques had to be employed."

Online mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2020, 01:35:29 pm »
Explorers were lowered down shafts, & hauled back out, before the use of ladders.

The prusik knot was known by 1931 & used in European caves during the 1930s / US by 1952. Jumars were invented in late 1950s:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ODtqDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=first+use+if+prusik+in+cave&source=bl&ots=SJJHjIpOTE&sig=ACfU3U05e_WZs_Ag5Qv3xRx2im3Ge4y5jA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiBn4Ktv_ToAhWDiVwKHU3cAxIQ6AEwBHoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=first%20use%20if%20prusik%20in%20cave&f=false
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 01:47:45 pm by mikem »

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2020, 01:43:26 pm »
Mike makes a good point about folk being lowered down shafts on ropes, from early days. A good example would be William Birkbeck way back in the 19th Century at Gaping Gill. However, I suspect the OP was referring to static SRT, otherwise I might have mentioned the Peak District lead miners who explored natural systems by being lowered, or that poor bloke who allegedly got lowered down Eldon Hole (17th Century?) and was retrieved raving mad after entering the realm of Hell. Or so the story goes.

Online mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2020, 01:53:55 pm »
Yeah, I wasn't suggesting that that counted, just that even rope ladders were a relatively recent addition to cave exploration. I suspect the first UK use will have been pre 1970 (although jumars may not be).

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2020, 02:10:57 pm »
I think the first widely available prussiking device in the UK was the "Clogger" rather than the Jumar. Its main drawback was that it had to be unclipped completely to be removed from / attached to the rope. There was also the "Heibeler" device but that wasn't designed to be used in the same way and probably wouldn't have been efficient in a sit / stand type prussiking rig.

There was also that three pronged abseiling device available from at least the early 60s (well before my time); I'm struggling to remember its name but there's a photo of one in Jim Lovelock's book "Life and Death Underground". (The bloke on the left has one clipped to his waistlength in plate 14B, between pages 128 and 129.) I had a go with one of those once and found it fairly smooth but, when I started, the Clog Figure of 8 was more in favour.

Online mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2020, 02:15:19 pm »
Dave Judson & Arthur Champion wrote, in Caving and Potholing, as recently as 1981:
 
Quote
The nature of British caves and potholes is such that it is really most questionable whether it is worthwhile to use SRT, as it is known, in preference to the traditional ladder and lifeline method.

They refer you to Single Rope Techniques (1977), written by Neil R. Montgomery for Sydney Speleological Society.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2020, 02:23:40 pm »
Indeed - but that may be, in part, a reflection that they were both in a club which some members felt dragged its heels in accepting SRT for club use, preferring to recommend that SRT should only be individuals' choice. (Without checking dates, wasn't that not too long after the fatal accident at GG when a polypropylene rope severed at a rub point? That accident, the first British SRT fatality, put SRT back for quite a while, as I remember.) It's interesting that you picked up on that though as it reveals just how long it did take for SRT to become "mainstream". I suspect Whernside Manor staff should take a lot of the credit for helping that along.

Online mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2020, 02:26:48 pm »
It's just the only "how to" book I have from that period...

Offline paul

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2020, 03:36:04 pm »
(Without checking dates, wasn't that not too long after the fatal accident at GG when a polypropylene rope severed at a rub point? That accident, the first British SRT fatality, put SRT back for quite a while, as I remember.)

From "Britain's first SRT fatality". Descent (31): 4. May–June 1975.
Dec 1974   Gaping Gill, Yorkshire Dales.   David Huxtable killed when the rope broke. Considered to be the UK's first SRT fatality.

I remember in the mid 80's my club (now defunct) was totally anti-SRT "as it was dangerous". It was only when myself and some other active cavers managed to get on the committee to replace those who held this opinion and were no longer caving, that we managed to get SRT going in the club. I was particularly glad of this after a club trip down Notts Pot on ladder and lifeline. Ironically this meant carrying twice as much rope as it would do for SRT as each pitch need double the length of rope in order to lifeline from the bottom of the pitch for the last person down or first person up.
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Offline langcliffe

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2020, 03:42:37 pm »
The Slanting Cave main exploration (West Kingsdale) by CPC members involved an 18 m pitch which was first descended on SRT. That was in 1972 and the account in that year's Journal states: "From here we could see the full splendour of a quite magnificent shaft not unlike some of the big classic pitches to be found in Kingsdale. As we only had the 130 ft rope left, abseil and prussik techniques had to be employed."

I am pretty sure that will be the answer to the original question, assuming that one is discounting people being hauled up and down pitches on a rope.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2020, 04:15:02 pm »
I suspect the reason they were confident enough to do that is that some members of that CPC team were involved with (or close to those who were part of) the big Gar Parau expedition that year, so they were very much in tune with the advantages of SRT for cave exploration.

Offline Fulk

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2020, 06:17:51 pm »
Pitlamp:
Quote
There was also that three pronged abseiling device available from at least the early 60s (well before my time)

I remember using one of these on the gritstone crags at Ilkley in the 60s; it worked well enough, but it struck me that unless it was kept under constant tension the rope could flip over the top of the prongs (it was like a toasting fork with bent prongs, in my memeroy). I never used one underground.

Wasn't there some poor soul who died abseiling down a deep mine shaft many years ago in the Forest of Dean when his rope broke? I've a feeling that the (hemp?) rope used had been just chucked in the back of someone's car, where it got contaminated with battery acid . . .

Online Roger W

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2020, 06:51:34 pm »
I tried googling "three pronged abseiling device" and found the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection with some pictures of something called a Brevete Pierre Allain abseil device.

Try googling "Brevete Pierre Allain"
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves:  you don't know how far they go back, sometimes... or what is waiting for you inside."   JRR Tolkein: "The Hobbit"

Offline paul

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2020, 06:52:01 pm »
Pitlamp:
Quote
There was also that three pronged abseiling device available from at least the early 60s (well before my time)

I remember using one of these on the gritstone crags at Ilkley in the 60s; it worked well enough, but it struck me that unless it was kept under constant tension the rope could flip over the top of the prongs (it was like a toasting fork with bent prongs, in my memeroy). I never used one underground.

Was that on of the devices on this page: http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/RappelDevices.shtml
I'm not a complete idiot: some parts are missing!

Online Roger W

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2020, 06:57:29 pm »
Pitlamp:
Quote
There was also that three pronged abseiling device available from at least the early 60s (well before my time)

I remember using one of these on the gritstone crags at Ilkley in the 60s; it worked well enough, but it struck me that unless it was kept under constant tension the rope could flip over the top of the prongs (it was like a toasting fork with bent prongs, in my memeroy). I never used one underground.

Was that on of the devices on this page: http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/RappelDevices.shtml

Under "hooks" and scroll down to "Pierre Allain"
"That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves:  you don't know how far they go back, sometimes... or what is waiting for you inside."   JRR Tolkein: "The Hobbit"

Offline langcliffe

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2020, 07:09:48 pm »
Pitlamp:
Quote
There was also that three pronged abseiling device available from at least the early 60s (well before my time)
Wasn't there some poor soul who died abseiling down a deep mine shaft many years ago in the Forest of Dean when his rope broke? I've a feeling that the (hemp?) rope used had been just chucked in the back of someone's car, where it got contaminated with battery acid . . .

That was Rex Keane in 1967, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't during an original exploration.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2020, 07:19:57 pm »
That was it - the "Pierre Alain descender".

Yes, Fulk's right; it wasn't exactly fail safe.

Online Duck ditch

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2020, 07:25:29 pm »
Yes I think Slanting Cave fits my criteria.  The Ghar Parau expedition is a good explanation too.  I’m very surprised. 
So I wonder which cave was the last to be explored using ladders? Perhaps can we see th3 pitch needs to be  longer than 10 metres.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2020, 07:31:07 pm »
Yes I think Slanting Cave fits my criteria.  The Ghar Parau expedition is a good explanation too.  I’m very surprised. 
So I wonder which cave was the last to be explored using ladders? Perhaps can we see th3 pitch needs to be  longer than 10 metres.

I think that most surface digs start off as ladder pitches - relatively (from the point of view of someone of a very advanced age) recent examples I have been involved with include Shuttleworth, Cup Cake and Bloat Pot.

Online Duck ditch

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #21 on: April 19, 2020, 07:58:23 pm »
Yer it doesn’t work the other way round does it.  Never mind. 
Slanting certainly cut out any debate.

Online mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2020, 11:30:25 pm »
Seems to have been popular down under, even before Slanting: https://www.wildplaces.co.uk/descent-21

Apparently Red Rose have a book on it from 1971: B228 - THRUN, Robert - Prusiking

& BCRA had published an article not long after:
Eavis A.J.   1974   The Rope in Single Rope Technique Caving   Vol 1 (4) pp 181 - 198

Offline Groundhog

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2020, 09:57:44 am »
Not a discovery descent but I think probably an early use of srt. In February 1970 Alan Gamble, Glynn Edwards and I did Meregill on 4 150ft 9mm climbing ropes with 2 cloggers and figure of eights. No rebelays, just tied off at the top chucked down. It was dry of course! we had to slide the cloggers back down on each pitch having only one pair. The stretch on a 9mm rope is quite entertaining.

Offline Groundhog

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2020, 10:00:36 am »
I tried googling "three pronged abseiling device" and found the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection with some pictures of something called a Brevete Pierre Allain abseil device.

Try googling "Brevete Pierre Allain"

I had one of those. Very bulky and I think a bit dangerous. The rope could come off easily. Quickly swapped it for a figure of eight

 

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