Help is at Hand
There was a time when caving clubs provided a 'team' for the local rescue organisation to be called upon if help in assisting another caver was required. The Pegasus Club was given, by the Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation DCRO, the prefix J, and became known as team J, always known to get the rescuee out before closing time! Part of the commitment was a yearly mock rescue exercise, a sure way of respecting the cave and learning not to become a real victim.
Pegasus Caving Club Members Requiring Assistance 1957 to 2020
Sunday 24th February
Eldon Hole, Peak Forest, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 11612 80896
Raymond Russell (age 26) - Nottingham.
Birmingham Post & Gazette, Dudley edition, Monday February 25th 1957, front page, col 8.
TRAPPED 3 HOURS IN POTHOLE Police and firemen last night rescued Raymond Russell (26), of Raker Close, Aspley Estate, Nottingham, who had been trapped for three hours in the 180 foot deep Eldon Hill Pothole, near Castleton, Derbyshire. He suffered injuries to his face and his left leg, and was taken to the Buxton Hospital. At the hospital, where he was detained. a spokesman said: " Russell is a very lucky young man. He appears to have fallen about 150 feet, as far as he can estimate. He came in here wet through and very cold. Despite his immense fall, however, he seems to have escaped without fracturing any bones. He was with others, including his brother, but, he does not know what happened to them. Only Russell has been brought to hospital. "We shall detain Russell overnight to get a full idea of his injuries. So far it seems that they are mostly cuts and bruises, especially on the face."
The following information supplied by Peter Nicholson 2020.
I met Ray some years after the accident and he said that he had climbed up the ladders (rope and wooden rungs) and got to the change point where he was swapping to the last ladder pitch on the ledge at the northern end of the hole. He un-clipped his carabiner to get onto the other ladder to climb to the top and somehow did not get clipped on properly and started sliding down the slope, he yelled out BELOW! curled into a ball as he did not want to break his back, he landed on his side, fracturing his pelvis, leg and hurt his shoulder. Don't know anything about rescue, but know he was transported to Buxton hospital, where he was nursed back to health by Alice (his future wife) who was a critical care nurse.
After he was discharged and told he was not going to walk straight again, he proved them wrong by walking from Nottingham to Matlock. He got married to Alice and they bought a derelict cottage at Upperwood, Matlock Bath, which is where I got to know him, as a group of us boys helped him to restore the cottage to livable condition.
Aspley boys club was where I first met him. Tony Marshall was part of this group.
Cheg Chester was informed by Peter Watkinson that on impact, his calf muscles were re-positioned to the front of his legs and this is why it took nearly a year of physiotherapy before he could manage to walk unaided again.
Saturday 20th August
St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Mendip.
Grid Reference ST 5430 5050
Mendip Rescue Organisation (MRO)
Barry Parker ( Age 27) Nottingham.
Barrie Parker, caving with the Pegasus on a party led by Phil Kingston, fell about 4ft. in Illusion Chamber, was struck by a falling boulder and dislocated his right shoulder. At 2:45 p.m. M.R.O. was called out. Keith Franklin directed the rescue underground, while Luke Devenish made the necessary contacts above. He got Dr. Crook to get a medic, but while Dr. Patrick Thomas was on his way Dr. Oliver Lloyd turned up by chance. He was therefore sent down the cave at 4.15
p.m. Telephone communication was working well.
Meanwhile the subject had been proceeding under his own steam, with some help and considerable pain. Dr. Lloyd met him at Upper Mud Hall. Attempted reduction of the dislocation was not immediately successful, but as soon as Parker began to walk again the joint clicked back into place to his great relief. After that he was able to get himself out alright and climbed the entrance rift with a little assistance. All out of cave by 5:40 p.m. Patrick Thomas took Barrie by car to the Royal Infirmary at Bristol, but he was allowed to go back to Mendip the same evening.
The reasons why the rescue went so well were (a) because the B.E.C. have studied rescue from St. Cuthbert’s and (b) because the subject is one of the finest cavers in Derbyshire.
Source – Paul Allen’s Log Book Vol.4, page 44
I had intended to work on the new club cottage, and was about to leave the Hunters’ at 2:30 p.m. when the whole lot of us (Barry, Bob etc.) were called to a rescue in St. Cuthbert’s. A northern bloke (Barry ?, Pegasus) had dislocated his arm in September Series.
As we had to scrape some gear together we didn’t get underground for one hour, and met the rescue party at Pillar Chamber (the patient had virtually walked out). Brian Prewer had a very efficient telephone link-up with Alan Surrell on the surface. OCL arrived as the patient was moved to Lower Mud Hall, and there performed a “relocation” ceremony –the air turning blue with the patients screams! Fortunately his arm relocated as he started to climb the ladder into
Wire Rift, and no further trouble was encountered. Got lost by attempting to find the route from Lower Mud Hall into the new streamway, and so removed the Pulpit Ladder by the route from Arete Chamber. 3½ hours.
The above entry is from "A HISTORY OF MENDIP CAVE RESCUES & INCIDENTS" by Alan Gray and reproduced here with his kind permission. A copy of the above book can be seen at
Sunday 12th November
Giants Hole, Castleton, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 11942 82685
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 73
Charles Henry Barnaby (Age 22) Nottingham.
Flooding and exhaustion in Giants Hole
A party of comparative novices descended the cave at approx. 14:45 and when two members were 1½hrs overdue on a trip to the Lower Syphon Complex, the third member contacted the Pegasus C.C. members for assistance. At 20:15 the Police were requested to put DCRO on standby while a P.C.C. team descended to see what they could do. The system was in a state of flood, and the water was still rising. Someway down the Crabwalk the subject's companion was encountered on his way out, and the subject himself was found lying in the stream just below the Vice. Word was sent to the surface and DCRO was called out at 21:15.
D.Draper one of the first members of team C on the scene went down the cave with a hot drink, followed at approx. 23:00 by D.G.Allsop (Cont.), H.Kidd (Doctor) and two others. Word was left on the surface with D.Heath (Equip. Off.) that other team C members were to follow as they arrived, bringing additional equipment, including the telephone.
D.G.A's party found Garlands Pot to be almost impassable and the Crabwalk was so bad that at times a lifeline had to be used. Only D.G.A. and H.K. reached the Vice which was in extreme spate. The subject was on the far side with 2 P.C.C. members and D.D. A.Jarratt came through the Vice and informed D.G.A. of the state of the subject who was very cold and tired. By now H.K. was feeling the effects of the water, and A.J. was very cold, having had his wetsuit trousers torn off by the water. Therefore having floated the exposure bag through the Vice, D.G.A. and the others withdrew leaving D.D. with the subject. After a few yards G.W.Cooper and P.R.Deakin were met on their way in and were told to join D.D. and either put the subject in an exposure bag and wait for the water to subside, or move him when possible, up into the Upper Series from the Eating House. P.R.D. and G.W.C. reached the subject at approx.00:40
The subject was wearing an exposure suit with attached bootees, and the legs were full of water to above the knee, so that he could only move with difficulty, and was also very cold. As a removal to the Upper Series was under the circumstances, quite out of the question, the subject was moved a little way downstream to a dry oxbow (or drier anyway). Here P.R.D. bit through the bootees and allowed the water to drain out of the suit, before putting the subject partially into the exposure bag and feeding him with biscuits and a hot drink.
At 01:10 D.W.Gill and R.Martin arrived and the subject was given proper boots and then fully installed in the exposure bag. R.M was then sent out again (01:20) to get an exposure suit, dry clothes and more people, and also to see if anything could be done about the water. The subject was insulated from the water and draught by the bodies of the team members, and although he began to recover, he was clearly very anxious and depressed as nothing seemed to be done to get him out.
Between 03:30 and 04:30 the water began to drop due to the cessation of the rain and the activities of the Fire Brigade. At approx, 04:30 G.Kitchen and 5 members of team A arrived with dry clothes and more food. P.R.D., G.W.C., D.D, and D.W.G. then left the cave (the water in the Crabwalk was now about calf deep and had dropped a good three feet from the worst) reaching the surface at approx 05:00. Meanwhile team A fed the subject more coffee and chocolate, provided him with a complete change of clothes (including goonsuit), and then helped him to the surface, where he arrived in not too bad a condition at 06:30, and was removed to hospital.
From Tony Jarratt's Log Book. Vol 1, Page 136.
Andrew, Paul, DCRO personnel, Al Steans, Chuck (Victim)
Tokyo Paul arrived at the hut to say that Al Steans and Chuck Barnaby were 1½ hrs overdue. The three of us went down, Paul stayed at the head of Garlands Pot - which looked like Niagara Falls due to extremely high water. Andy and I continued and met Al halfway down the Crabwalk. He shouted " Leave me & get to Chuck" We carried on and found him wedged in "The Vice" with only his head above rising water. As we tried to get him out the water backed up behind us and flowed over his head. I pushed him and he was swept back down the passage where he stopped at the head of an 8' pitch. Andy and I managed to drag him back into an alcove where he was to stay for several hours. Andy went back to call the rescue team while I stayed with Chuck and vainly attempted to cut his exposure suit to release the water inside. He was too exhausted to move. After about 1½ hrs Dave Draper appeared with a flask of coffee. Another bloke was behind but soon went! I then left Dave and Chuck and pushed back upstream - "my" (Ratarse!) wet suit trousers being torn off by the water in the process! Allsop couldn't get through the Vice so I returned to Dave with the exposure suit and then carried on out of the cave amongst a horde of INCOMPETENTS. Luckily the Eldon lads were coming in. Without these blokes the victim would probably be dead. He was eventually brought out at 6.30 am on Monday - luckily alive.
Saturday 29th September
Eldon Hole, Peak Forest, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 11612 80896
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 79
Sulo Sulonen aka Paul Wynne (Age 35) Nottingham.
During the morning a party of the Pegasus Caving Club of Nottingham went up to the hole to abseil down the 120' pitch from the sloping ledge. The subject was first to descend (without a line), and he slipped and fell down fifeteen feet onto the ledge unconscious, he remained there for several seconds without moving, but then, before anybody could reach him, he rolled off the ledge and fell to the foot of the pitch.
The alarm was raised and subsequently team C with elements of teams J and A set about recovering the body after Dr. Kidd had descended and pronounced the subject dead. The recovery was executed with some difficulty, and the body was removed to Buxton.
Sunday 28th July
Merlins Mine, Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 21771 75907
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 84
John (Shag) Smith (Age circa 25) Nottingham.
On Sunday 28 July 1974 Shag and a couple of others went into Merlins Mine near Eyam with the intention of building a dam and then draining a sump by bailing to hopefully try and get through to unexplored passage above water level beyond. Shag decided to try a dive into the sump before dam building started. He dived in and about 10 to 12 feet of line was paid out before there were three tugs on the line which was the pre-arranged signal that he had got through to an airspace. When he had not returned or made any signal after some time his companions became worried and one left the cave to raise the alarm. DCRO were called out and late in the evening a member of the sump rescue team found Shag's body 12 feet into the sump at a point where the flooded passage was wide but very tight. He had not in fact reached airspace as the tugs on his line had suggested.
There was an inquest on 15 September at which the coroner concluded that the cause of death was drowning, possibly following stunning. The verdict given was accidental death.
Bill Whitehouse M.B.E.
Shag Smith was a good swimmer and an experienced caver but had done little diving. On a solo dive he had decided to push an unexplored static sump downstream of the main sumps of the streamway, now known as "Shag's Sump'. It was a tight sump and he had accordingly shed his weight belt before entering it feet first. He was using a single 560 1. bottle of the 'fire extinguisher' type and a Kingfisher valve. He was using base fed line tied on to his wrist. After using 4.5m. of line he gave three tugs, which was supposed to mean that he was through, but he did not return.
About five hours later Tom Brown dived with hand-held bottle and found the body some 4.5m. into the sump. The line was still tied to his wrist. The mask was missing and the gag was not in his mouth. He was lying on his back with his eyes and mouth closed and there were traces of blood coming from his nose. His bottle was empty. It is certain that he did not get through the sump, which has since been passed at 9m. to a large cross-rift air bell (Whatley 1977). It is not known why he was unable to return. He may have lost his light as well as his mask and he used up all his air. A ruptured diaphragm is said to have been found in his valve, but it is not certain how this contributed.
Jarratt 1974 and Whatley 1977. CDG Report.
April 19th 1975 Saturday 19th April
Bar Pot, Yorkshire Dales.
Grid Reference SD 7518 7234
Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) incident No. 374
Bill McGuinness (Age ?) Nottingham.
Fell on the first pitch sustaining a fractured ankle. After the rescue caving was aborted and was replaced by drinking..
From Tony Jarratt's Log Book Vol 2, Page 19.
Got as far as bottom of 1st pitch (Disappointment Pot) when Vic appeared; to shout "Bill had fallen down Bar Pot!". With thoughts of a paper bag job we rushed out and over to Bar (Myself pausing to get lost in thick mist for 15 minutes or so) It then transpired that Bill had fallen some 30' down the Bar 1st pitch (50') and had a compound fracture of the ankle. In a very short time the Clapham CRO arrived laden down with gear, telephones etc and rescued him in a couple of hours. We had a brief look at G.G. then headed down for an alcoholic tour of Craven.
The club made a donation to CRO of £10.
Thursday 22nd June
Glenbain Hole, Traligill, Sutherland.
Grid Reference NC 26500 21690
Assynt Mountain Rescue (AMR)
Tony Jarratt (Age 29) Priddy, Somerset.
It is very fitting for this article to appear as publication of the Grampian Beginners Manual is in the offing. The Reader may consider it as a companion publication on how NOT to go caving!
The trip:- the writer was just leaving the Inch. [Inchnadamph Hotel] after a quiet, early pint on the evening of 21st June when he was confronted by the new member Mike Phemister who had driven down from Tain to indulge in his new found passion of caving (and his already well established one of drinking). We left the pub after a couple of pints at 8.30pm in order to do a quick trip and be out for another beer. Jim Mackie, a local stalker had heard us talking of the trip, but: 1st mistake, I left no definite destination or ETR with anyone.
We drove up the track and parked about a hundred metres beyond Glenbain Cottage, to decide what to do (2nd mistake). I had been down Glenbain only once before, two years previously, and only remembered it as an interesting short trip, so we decided to do it and possibly one of the lower Traligill caves if we had time. Being short on carbide I made the 3rd mistake of only half filling our lamps and the 4th one of leaving the spare carbide in the entrance. The 5th mistake was in our not taking a spare lamp.
Mistake No. 6 was in my allowing Mike to lead the cave and following him, I paid little attention to the route through the collapsing entrance passages. We had an easy, though damp, trip to the sump and returned as far as the top of Innominate Ramp when Mike’s lamp failed due to over opening of the water dripper, flooding his carbide (as a ‘new boy’ he wasn’t familiar with such things). We continued on one light to the top of the four metre cascade where my lamp died from the same disease. (I should have been familiar with them). Unfortunately we were now at a junction of several passages and I couldn’t remember which one was the way out. Cigarette ends and Mike’s lighter were found useless for seeing anything and we decided to blindly grope round for a time and save the lighter for our last two fags. We spent about two hours feeling the walls (disgusting! – ED) and roof etc., and climbing into several areas of loose boulders. Although a draught could be felt it appeared to go into the flooded bedding plane which I was positive we hadn’t come in by. I think I must have missed the tight squeeze out by climbing up on the boulders below it.
We eventually decided to give up for a while and try to get some sleep in No-name Chamber. Negotiating the cascade in the dark we later found to be much easier than with a lamp! Thinking the chamber sloped fairly steeply down we hugged the left-hand wall and found a level area, exceedingly knobbly, and here we squatted down. Mike lay down and I adopted a ‘foetus’ position and we both managed to sleep fitfully for an hour or so.
Feeling the cold after waking from one of these dozes, I decided to have another bash at getting out and left Mike in the chamber while I followed another route up through loose rocks back above the cascade. Emerging into a wider bit I thought we had made it but the only way on led back until by the brief flash from my carbide flint I suddenly found I was standing on a heap of large unstable boulders literally hanging some seven metres above Mike’s unsuspecting, snoring head! I decided that to get back down would be very dodgy and I was worried about the pretties which I had noticed whilst ‘flashing’. I gave Mike a shout and sat it out on the ledge until 11am. Mike had begun shivering quite badly by then so I decided to try and get back to him for moral support (for both of us). This task was easier than expected, apart from bloody sore fingers from flicking the flint continuously.
Back in the chamber we attempted a duet of ‘Cats on the Rooftops’, deciding not to continue lest it should scare off any rescuers. We were getting pretty cold and fed up by then, despite our both wearing Polar Suit type jackets (which incidentally must be the best thing in these conditions) and the gradually increasing noise of the stream didn’t help matters.
We worked out that I would be missed at work Thursday morning and if all went well someone should arrive between 1pm and 5pm. If not then it would be the same time Friday and we would have to sit it out for another 24 hours. My colleagues may have decided, if there was heavy rain, that we wouldn’t work that day and I just hadn’t bothered to turn up! We had plenty of time to dwell on all the nasty possibilities.
We awoke from a doze at 3pm when a light suddenly flashed into the chamber, followed by a muffled shout. Unlike other lights and voices all through the night, these were owned by Bill Ritchie (complete with harp and wings), backed up by four other members of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team – PC Adcock, George Morrison, Jim Mackie and Fraser McKenzie. We were helped out by the lads in about ten minutes and I am grateful to Bill for not kicking my arse all the way to the entrance. The scramble out was not helped by bits of recent collapse trying to bite us all as we bid the cave a fond farewell. Another few hours and we would have experienced the onset of exposure.
The team were great. Bill had no information to go on and had decided to check on Glenbain before doing the complete round of Traligill caves and the other horrible possibility – Uamh Ard. The lads had little or no experience of caving and one had sworn never to go underground again (after a practice rescue in Cnoc nan Uamh) except for a rescue.
By four pm we were settled in the Inch., with warm clothes, warm soup and warm whisky and having nice little phone conversations with practically every newspaper man in Scotland. They obviously know more about the hydrology of Traligill than is generally realized. Did you know the Glenbain is some 420 feet deeper than Uamh nan Claig-ionn, and that the sump is 600 feet long? We hope the publicity helps in the recognition of the Assynt team by the Scottish Mountain Rescue Council. They deserve it, especially since they spent all of Friday night engaged in a hill search in stinking weather.
Our very grateful thanks and apologies to all concerned (think nothing of it, I had never been in a helicopter before – Ed.)
To quote Goon (GSG Bull 5(4) Cave Accident Statistics:
“All the accidents….would have been avoided by employing common sense and discretion”.
It is perhaps a lesson to be taught.
"Have you got a light boy?" (Goon)
AN INCIDENT AT INCHNADAMPH – WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
By Bill Ritchie
Bullshit and whisky being the staple diet in the North-West, I presumed I got a large measure of the first and poured a large measure of the second when I answered the ‘phone at 12.35 on Thursday 22nd June, 1978. “Somebody missing in the caves at Inchnadamph” said the voice at the other end. I guffawed between sips. “Who?” I asked. “Don’t tell me – Idi Amin!” “No”, said the voice, “Tony Jarratt”. Louder guffaws. I was about to hang up when the voice said “straight up”. I hesitated. Not because the expression had the ring of truth it was meant to convey. It just seemed a strange thing to say when somebody has gone missing underground.
Now not all the members of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team are happy about going underground. In fact few of them are happy at any time. So I had to choose my team carefully. First choice was Andy. The gravedigger. Not that we had the worst fears for the two missing men, just that Andy has experience working underground. Not caves – just holes. Unfortunately we couldn’t find him either. Frazer, G.P.O. linesman, ideal for maypoling. Hugh, 6’4” and 18 stone who could sit at the cave entrance and hold back the water. In the event he penetrated the cave and nearly blocked us all in. George, who has the key to the medicine chest – the bar at the Inch. Essential if it was Tony who was missing. Jimmy, driver of the argocat (why walk?) who was conned into coming in the belief that it was a nymphomaniac we were looking for (well….) And myself, who for reasons that must fast be coming obvious will remain anonymous.
This crack(ed) team screeched up to the Inch for a working lunch. Grouse. Bottled. Within an hour we were convinced that we could do it. But were unsure what it was we were to do. The two missing men were reported to have:
a. Gone for a walk (just good friends)
b. Gone climbing (cloud level 50ft)
c. Gone caving (back in two hours for a last pint)
d. Gone for a piss and missed the bar on their return.
We eliminated a and b because it was Tony. d is nigh impossible at the Inch. Which left us c and e. e was too much to hope for. c it had to be.
Armed with stretcher, ropes, first aid, soup and sandwiches (for them) and Grouse (bottled – for us) we headed for the caves. Caves, not cave. Caves. Which one? Drowned in Firehose? Trapped in High Dig? Suffering from DTs in Cnockers The logic behind the process of elimination we adopted was staggering (Grouse lunch?)
Firehose was out. Hugh the water stopper would have stopped the water – but on the inside. The High Dig was out. Being a Mountain Rescue Team we doubted we could ever get that far, and if we did we would probably fail to find it. Cnockers was out. We had all been there before and once is enough. We were fast running out of caves – metaphorically that is. U.C.P.? Headlines in Sunday Post:
“A.M.R.O. find G.S.G members in U.C.P. suffering from DTs.”
No that would never do. They were bound to get it all wrong. The draught coming out of Glenbain Hole was uncomfortable as we went through this process of elimination.
Glenbain Hole? Surely not? Nobody could get lost…. But of course, it was the obvious choice. Three minutes’ walk from the argocat, well within the scope of the rescue team. Not too far from the Inch and the medicine. A fine stream for Hugh the water stopper to stop. In fact a rare site for the ‘Dramatic Pot Hole Rescue’ as it was later headlined.
We went in. It was dark. No vampires, no bears. Just dark. And wet. I suppose we should have tackled the task like the seven dwarves. Picks and shovels shouldered. Lamps swinging, dwarves singing as we marched down the hole. But no. We just crawled, scraped, grubbed and cursed our way down the wee hole like everybody else before us. The way on down a tight chute was cluttered with boulders. Being skinny and daft I was put down to clear the way. Somebody lit a fag and nearly asphyxiated us all. The way clear I expected a flood of volunteers. Instead I got a flood of water. High had moved. And so on down. At the bottom of a short cascade we set up our communication system. A relay of incomprehensible screams, which was made even more so by the addition of a scream from me as something clutched my ankle. With hair on end I thought of the laundry bill and then of what had grabbed my ankle. Tony.
The following conversation ensued:
Rescued to rescuer: “Thank F… you are here.”
Rescuer to Rescued: “What the hell are you doing down here?”
A stupid question to which there was, and probably never will be, an answer.
During the several hours that it took to revive the rescued men in the medicine chest at the Inch., Glenbain Hole underwent dramatic changes. Roof falls altered the entrance. The swollen stream nearly cut off the trapped men. The depth went down to 600 feet, the length to 1,000 feet and more. So beware cavers. If Glenbain Hole can change so dramatically in a few hours, imagine what we have done to it since!
The above entry is an extract from the Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin, 2nd Series Vol.2 No.3, (1978) and is re-produced here with their kind permission. Many thanks to Alan (Goon) Jeffreys.
Saturday 28th September
Cow Pot, Casterton Fell, Yorkshire Dales.
Grid Reference SD 6643 8085
Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) incident No. 670
Dave Brooks (Age ?) Nottingham?
Slipped and fell whilst negotiating the top part of the entrance pitch. The pitch is in the open, luckily an accumulation of debris softened the fall, but he did bounce according to the man waiting to climb (John Addison). Removed to Lancaster Hospital. retired from caving shortly afterwards.
Saturday 27th October
Heron Pot, Yorkshire Dales
Grid Reference SD 7144 7876
Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) incident No. 868
John Hayes (Age circa 36) Nottingham.
Got into difficulty on second pitch. Assistance given by other cavers but CRO required to remove casualty. Taken out via bedding plane streamway after some enlargement. Suffered bruised ribs but released from hospital in time to enjoy evening drinking session.
From The Pegasus Caving Club Logs
Phil, John Hayes
This turned out to be a memorable trip for the wrong reasons. John fell about 30' after getting into difficulty climbing up the second pitch. Assistance was given by nearby cavers but it proved necessary to call out the CRO. The 'cave doctor' confirmed John had rib injuries and a stretcher was sent in. Sadly the bottom entrance was too tight for an injured man and a hammer and chisel was called for. John was brought out about 4 hours after falling and everybody was very pleased. X rays showed bad bruising only and we made it back to Ingleton before last orders, all thanks to CRO. For future reference the tricky bottom entrance is no longer tricky. Also would anybody finding a pair of glasses at the bottom of the second pitch please return to John!
Saturday 11th February
Out Sleets Beck, Yorkshire Dales.
Grid Reference SD 86800 73710
Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) incident No. 461
Martin Butterfield, Jim Reynolds & Rick ?
Trapped by Floodwater.
A foul weekend when some of the clubs members needed to go underground! They left Ingleton and set off for Pasture Gill (known to flood). On reaching the cave the possibility of a trip didn't look good. A change of plan took them to Out Sleets Beck, another cave that was prone to flood but all looked OK when they entered the underworld. During the return the water levels were rising but enough air space was present for one of the party to exit and raise the alarm.
The rest of the club members in Yorkshire that weekend had gone to the Crown Inn at Clapham for an evening rendezvous but there was no sign of our explorers by closing time. Back at Ingleton the caravan was deserted and no evidence that the others had been back. We made some phone calls to friends in the area to find they had turned up at Settle having been rescued. Had we reported them overdue the location that would have been given would have been the wrong one because we knew nothing of the change of location. 3 lucky members of the club survived to cave another day due to help from UWFRA.
Sunday 13th April
Nettle Pot, Castleton, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 12526 81996
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 259
Larry Blanchard (Age circa 28) Nottingham.
A party of three experienced cavers descended at about 14.45 and went to Derbyshire Hall beyond the Far Flats. On the way back two descended the pitch into Firbeck Hall on a ladder they had taken in themselves. The last party member derigged the ladder and climbed down unlined on an old electron ladder that had been left rigged on the pitch for a considerable time. When he was about halfway down, the ladder snapped and he fell ten to fifteen feet breaking his left upper arm, sustaining a fracture to his pelvis (a minor one it later turned out) and suffering severe bruising. One of the party returned to the surface to raise the alarm and DCRO was alerted at 19:05. Members of Central and North Staffs teams were called and Derbyshire's longest rescue for many years was under way. At 20:15 the first team member went underground and he was followed in due course by a total of 25 others. The cave was rerigged by some team members whilst others made their way to Firbeck Hall to attend to the casualty and his companions. The casualty's companion was escorted back to the entrance (emerging at 00:45) The casualty was examined, given pain killing drugs, splinted, put into a stretcher and moved to the foot of the entrance pitch. Here he was taken out of the stretcher (it would not have fitted in the narrow shaft), put into a lifting harness and hauled to the surface where he arrived at 04:50. All in all some 65 DCRO members were involved.
P.C.N. Comment: Following this incident, the victim was not satisfied about the trouble some 65 personnel had gone to to execute the rescue, and kept harping on about all the tackle he had lost or had not been returned by DCRO. Eventually, in the Vat & Fiddle one Thursday night, enough was enough and he was told to go and sling his hook. Surprisingly he did.
Tuesday 27th July
Stock’s House Shaft, Mendip.
Grid Reference ST 5486 5137
Mendip Rescue Organisation (MRO)
Tony Jarratt (Age 50) Priddy, Somerset.
It is M.R.O. policy not to name victims in this report, we make no exception on this occasion. The name of the local caving shop owner involved in this incident is not mentioned to maintain confidentiality.
This incident was the most serious of the year and had the potential to be one of the worst scenarios that has presented to the M.R.O.
Roger Dors took a call for assistance at 21:00. A digger was reported trapped by a rock fall in his dig at Stockhill. Wardens and helpers were immediately stood by and equipment collected from the depot. Molefones, Blackhawk, telephones, lights etc. were transported to the site. Nigel Taylor attended with various rock drilling kit from his personal collection and also set up floodlights using a portable generator. The police attended and controlled traffic. The digger had managed to free himself from the collapse but was still trapped beyond it. Assisted by Vince Simmonds he dug out and walled up the choke and was able to escape without injury at 22:45.
Some of the others involved were: J Williams, J Walsh, M Duck, S McManus, D Bradshaw, M Grass, N Mitchell, L Williams, B Prewer, A Sparrow, P Hendy, B Pitman, A Newton, S House, B Holden, and several more.
Source – Tony Jarratt’s Log Books Vol 8, pages 121 to 124.
In the evening, the four of us descended the shaft to push the downstream dig and assess the exploration possibilities, (if any) ready for Wednesday night. After about half an hours digging I was able to enter the about 10 feet of passage turning at right angles to the left and with a solid left hand wall but a boulder choke above and to the right.
I gradually moved forwards into the choke, chocking up loose rocks on the right-hand side as I went, for about six feet to where I could see forwards into a large, open passage. Stones thrown ahead rolled down into the void. With the short bar, it was possible to push larger rocks ahead but to do this properly I had to bring both legs around the right-angled bend. Once in I found that I couldn't reverse (a dose of “dancers’ knee” didn't help). Upon turning on my back I could see up into a large void with just a few rocks in the way. I shouted back to John not to worry about rumbling noises and shifted these before gently squeezing upwards. Suddenly and silently the fridge size boulder at my side dropped onto my left hip, quickly followed by a foot cubed boulder which landed on my right ankle.
There was no physical damage but the great weight of a large boulder was gradually increasing and pushing me down into the floor, constricted my movements more and more. Even worse, on looking up above me I was horrified to see a tottery pile of even bigger boulder's stretching vertically upwards for at least 20 feet - probably the results of a collapsed shaft or stope. At this point I shouted back to John “to worry”(!) and to call out the M.R.O. with lengths of scaffold, tools etc. As small bits of rock and mud began to fall on me from above I was convinced that I’d had it. It was only a matter of time before I was either crushed by the lowest boulder or completely buried by those above. As I tried to hide my upper body I contemplated the prospects of rescuers digging in behind me and was not optimistic. Having no choice at all but to keep calm I managed to wedge a few rocks between the still descending bolder and the once solid rock wall to try and stop it exerting any more pressure. At the same time, I noticed that there was one large boulder below me which gave me one chance of a “shit or bust” escape attempt better than being slowly squashed!
By pushing with my shoulder, I toppled the rock into the passage below and tugged desperately at my pinned foot. Luckily the inside of my welly was well lubricated with mud and I just managed to get my foot out and throw myself forwards - fully expecting a major collapse before I reached the sanctuary ahead. Luckily most of the choke stayed in place and, having found myself in a comfortable, standing height mine level I shouted back for the message to be passed out that I was safe and an uninjured - the only casualty being my pinned welly. I considered that a call out was still needed as I had somehow to get back or survive for some time in the level. John went to the Hunters’ to raise a team while Ben and Simon continued clearing the approaches.
From Tony Jarratts Log Book
After exploring 60 feet of new passage I started work on delicately re arranging the boulder choke while first Quackers, and then later Vince, worked from the other side while everyone else moved full bags back to the shaft and continued clearing the passage. This is obviously the best way to get a strong digging team who also provide lots of it shoring, in the way of timber and scaffold poles - delivered to the shaft bottom!
After building a dry-stone wall to support the offending boulder I was able to get to the smaller rock and bar it up to free my welly. By now the pub was almost closed, though the Landlord was on the surface, and I decided to “go for it”. I tentatively crawled out, got temporary stuck in the claggy mud beyond, then was strongly life-lined (hauled!) to the surface and the crowds of rescuers and onlookers - much relieved. Roger kindly let us all get a couple of pints down to relieve the stress. My thanks to all those concerned in what could so easily have been a major epic!
Mendip Underground is published tomorrow but seems that I have already made it out of date!
The above entry is from "A HISTORY OF MENDIP CAVE RESCUES & INCIDENTS" by Alan Gray and reproduced here with his kind permission. A copy of the above book can be seen at
Saturday 25th March
Astonhill Swallet, aka Figg's Dig, Pikehall, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 213 586
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 316
Dave (Figg) Briggs (Age 37) Ripley, Derbyshire.
An experienced caver and digger was hit and trapped by a falling boulder in a dig a short way from the bottom of the entrance shaft. His companions telephoned the police from the nearby farm requesting assistance. First on the scene were the fire brigade and caving paramedics. The paramedics descended and were able to confirm that the man had died. DCRO team members then started work on recovering the man from underground. As the accident had occurred only a few feet below the surface in soft ground and as the cave in the region of the accident site was not stable it was decided to dig down from the surface using a JCB. The operation took around seven hours with DCRO being supported throughout by the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Police. Photo A Walchester.
Sunday 4th December
Water Icicle Close Mine, Derbyshire.
Grid Reference SK 1610 6460
Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation ( DCRO) incident No. 352
Paul Wheeldon (Age ?) Nottingham.
Unable to climb.
An experienced caver was unable to prusik up the entrance shaft due to problems experienced with an old injury. A team attended, checked him out, rigged the Multipod over the shaft and then hauled him safely to the surface in a harness.
Saturday 4th January
Lancaster Hole, Casterton Fell, Cumbria.
Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) incident No. 1/2020
Simon Halliday (Age 49) Clitheroe, Lancashire.
The team were called by Cumbria Police to reports of an overdue cave diver at Lancaster Hole on Casterton Fell, Cumbria. 40 CRO team members and members of the Northern section of the Cave Diving Group (CDG) responded. As well as searching from the point where the cave diver entered Lancaster Hole downstream passage, other entrances and possible exits were also searched by team members and a cave diver, in case the diver had emerged from the system elsewhere.
The initial search from the access point was led by another member of the Cave Diving Group, who planned to search the first section of the downstream passage. Other CDG members were preparing to conduct an extended search if this initial search did not locate the casualty.
Unfortunately, whilst conducting his underwater search the rescue diver discovered the missing diver, approximately 60 metres into the sump. The casualty was immediately brought back to the sump pool chamber and removed from the water, where it was apparent that he was deceased.
All team members were then instrumental in conducting a lengthy and difficult extraction back to the surface of the fell. The casualty was then conveyed to Bull Pot Farm and handed over to the care of Cumbria Police.
Details of the casualty will be made available by Cumbria Police in due course, but we would like to stress that although the casualty was known to team members, he was not a member of any rescue team or the Cave Diving (rescue) Group. Investigations into the cause of the incident are currently underway on behalf of the Coroner by Cumbria Police. FATAL.
Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association supplied additional dive support equipment to our Depot, as well as placing their cavers on standby in the event that the incident became more protracted.
540 volunteer hours.
List compiled by Dave Gough & Cheg Chester