Author Topic: SRT and discoveries  (Read 1089 times)

Offline 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."

Offline 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.

Offline 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.

Offline 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.

Offline 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 . . .

Offline 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"
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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
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Offline 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.

Offline 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.

Offline 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.

Offline 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

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2020, 10:15:29 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.

Gulp!

The original (YRC) descent of Meregill was done on a single rope - a length of thick tarred hemp if I remember rightly. There's an excellent account of this in an early Ramblers Journal. (I think it's called "The Seige of Meregill".) But there were no descenders or jammers of course; it was all done hand over hand!

Offline Ian Ball

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #26 on: April 20, 2020, 11:11:54 am »
I read these reports and think either everyone must have weighed about half my body weight or been three times as strong.

Offline crickleymal

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #27 on: April 20, 2020, 12:09:01 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.
I believe he used a nylon rope which melted due to the heat of the descender.
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Offline paul

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2020, 12:20:51 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.
I believe he used a nylon rope which melted due to the heat of the descender.

Nope - it was a hemp rope:

Quote
Attaching himself to the heavy hemp rope he launched himself into the shaft and 60 ft down disaster struck ! The rope parted
and Rex plunged down the remaining 240 ft to his death,
[snip]
The rope was found to be in a very bad way, Rex had had it for some time and it was discovered that he had kept it in the rear of his Mini at the same time as he was missing the top off his battery, the battery being also in the rear. For descending he used a small crab through which he twisted the rope, this caused the lay of the rope to open and at the first weak spot the rope parted.

From: http://www.zen159313.zen.co.uk/rfdcc/resources/newsletters/Newsletter_035.pdf (THE ROYAL FOREST OF DEAN
CAVING CLUB SEPTEMBER 1971 NEWS LETTER No 35)
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #29 on: April 20, 2020, 12:31:38 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

Bob Thrun was a US caver. His book is very thorough given the existing gear at the time. NSS recently published a book on Bill Cuddington who was doing srt in the early 60s, maybe even 50s. If I remember correctly, Bill and some of his gang were body rappelling into some deep pits and getting pulled out with a winch around the time that he started to convince them to try prusiks.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2020, 12:42:22 pm »
Thanks Kenilworth; I remember when Bob Thrun's book appeared in the UK and I would say it was very influential in the development of SRT here.

Offline Fulk

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2020, 12:56:03 pm »
I remember meeting Bob and his girlfriend when they came to the International Congress held at Sheffield many years ago; he was a very amiable, knowledgable guy.

Offline mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #32 on: April 20, 2020, 02:07:16 pm »
The original (YRC) descent of Meregill was done on a single rope - a length of thick tarred hemp if I remember rightly. There's an excellent account of this in an early Ramblers Journal. (I think it's called "The Seige of Meregill".) But there were no descenders or jammers of course; it was all done hand over hand!
http://www.yrc.org.uk/yrcweb/index.php/journal/vols1-5/volume4/55-no12/204-v4n12p30

Offline Fulk

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #33 on: April 20, 2020, 02:38:00 pm »
Hi mikem, what an amazing story; I loved this bit:
Quote
I was the first man to be lowered, and by a marvellous fluke managed to keep a candle alight through the splash and spray of the 90 ft. descent.

Interesting that they refer to Alum Pot as Helln Pot.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #34 on: April 20, 2020, 03:04:52 pm »
Isn't that due to the Scandinavian origin? Hel was the goddess of the underworld in Norse mythology. Early settlers would have considered a deep pothole like that to be an entrance to hell. I think the original Scandinavian word is thought to have been corrupted (over the >12 Centuries since the Viking invasions began) via "Helln" to "Alun" and / or "Alum".

Hell Hole near Appletreewick was probably also considered as an entry point to the underworld. There's also a Hell Hole in the Bowland caving area.

Offline Fulk

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #35 on: April 20, 2020, 03:15:25 pm »
Thanks, John. I was more thinking that as late as 1912 it was being refered to as Helln Pot.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #36 on: April 20, 2020, 03:17:26 pm »
Yes, that's interesting. Maybe they got the name from what the farmer referred to it as, rather than what was printed on (late Victorian era) Ordnance Survey maps?

Offline langcliffe

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #37 on: April 20, 2020, 03:33:26 pm »
In Cave Hunter (1874) Dawkins says: "The very name 'Helln Pot,' = 'Aellan Pot', or Mouth of Hell, testifies to the awe with which the Angles looked down into its recesses. " There is then a footnote which states 'On the Ordnance Maps it is wrongly printed as Alum Pot.'"

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #38 on: April 20, 2020, 03:38:34 pm »
Well done Langcliffe.  :thumbsup:

Offline Duck ditch

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #39 on: April 20, 2020, 09:41:37 pm »
Thanks Mikem.  Posting the YRC report on the first exploration of Meregill. A superb read. God they were hard in them days.

Offline mikem

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Re: SRT and discoveries
« Reply #40 on: April 20, 2020, 09:57:29 pm »
There are still some hard nuts out there, they just have to push the envelope further these days...

Life was altogether harder back then, which meant more people were used to it.

 

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