OCAF – North West Inlet 13th Sept 2016 by Barry Burn

Huw Durban
Dione Ball
Barry Burn

A short evening trip into North West Inlet (NWI) was decided upon although I wasn’t sure if I would be home from work in time for it. There was to be the full compliment but various childcare issues meant that the ones lucky enough to have children old enough to look after themselves were the only ones able to make it.

Meeting at the layby by UB40 and jumping out of the car made me pause. There was something odd and strange, something was different, then it struck me, tarmac! The layby had been given a very nice new surface that replaced the horrible mud and discarded rubbish.

We were quickly changed and off up the path to the OCAF entrance. Dione, our newest member hadn’t been into OCAF before and was keen to see what we had been waxing so lyrical about.

At The Log Book

At the log book. Huw and I seem to look worried, whilst Dione shows she knows how this selfie thing works.

Dione Ball

The North West Inlet trip is (or was) an often overlooked trip that takes you through a very wet approach passage just before the pitches up to the Second Choke. This passage, although never taking you out of your depth (unless very short) will get you very wet as you wade neck deep in places. It soon, however, rises up and leads to a short muddy section and then gets bigger and higher as you follow the streamway. Formations abound, with one of the best being “The Dragon” but also plenty of flowstone and stalctites are to be seen.

Flowstone Formations

Flowstone Formations

There is a bit where you have to drop through boulders to continue and here it was sad to see that people had tried to go past the tapes and the obvious marks in the mud the other side of the route through the boulder bore witness to this. It does make me wonder how stupid people can be to not be able to follow an obvious taped path.

Continuing on brings you to the end of the passage and the dig that John Parker and Jeff Hill pushed for a long time, installing a railway with miniature wagons for the removal of spoil. The dig itself is rather unstable now with some collapses within but I often wonder what the indefatigable OCAF diggers would have found if they’d continued.

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A look at the railway and the formations at the end of the passage and we were soon on our way back out and at the cars getting changed.


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Judging by Dione’s mad grin that seemed to now be a permanent fixture, I think she enjoyed herself and is now ready for a foray beyond the Second Choke and having already been into Nant Rhin, I have no doubt she will find it a piece of cake.

Pant Mawr Pot – Sunday 25th August 2016 by Tom Williams

Tom Williams, Huw Jones, Helen Stewart and Malcolm Stewart

After a long but pleasant walk from Penwllyt, we were finally at the entrance to Pant Mawr Pot. Huw went down to rig while myself, Malcolm and Helen kitted up and I had one last bite to eat.

Abseiling down in a daylight shaft for a first time made me a bit nervous. All my other abseils have been into darkness, meaning I couldn’t see how far I could potentially fall and lulling myself into a false sense of security. This one was different, being able to clearly see the bottom, seeing how far down Huw and Helen were, really put into perspective how deep I was about to go. What followed was a period of swearing, panicking and holding onto the rope for dear life before I was onto the boulders at the rebelay. Helen made it look so easy, I made a right mess of it. The actual abseil was rather fun, albeit short lived. And before I knew it, I was at the bottom.

It felt like we had left 2016 behind and had stepped back into Jurassic Park. The sound of a waterfall in the distance, ferns high above us and a shaft of bright light piercing the darkness. This is what caving is about! Many a frog had somehow managed the journey from the surface without injury, there seemed to be a thriving colony in the underworld. A newt(?) was a pleasant surprise, I think it’s the first one I’ve ever seen in the wild. After a bit of photography, we started to move downstream, passing the first and second chokes with relative ease. Stopping off at Straw Chamber and the stunningly decorated Chaple, the helictites growing from the walls were a highlight. Travelling down through the oxbow, we arrived at Sabre Junction with the very impressive Sabre shaped formation from which the section is named. There is a rope hanging down from a climb just to the left of the Sabre, but due to the apparent age of the rope we decided against it. Later examination of the original 1959 survey doesn’t make reference to a high level passage there. Onwards through the third choke and a well earned pit stop. A number of small cairns in the area, some very impressively balanced, were the topic of conversation. But we couldn’t decide why they had been built. Next was The Graveyard, which links with The Vestry and The Organ Loft. Huw, Helen and I went off to investigate but shortly returned without seeing them. Next was The Great Hall and The Fire Hydrant, the force and volume of water from which was very impressive. A junction was then met, on the left was The Dead End and to the right the passage continued onwards towards The Sump. Malcolm went to look at the digs and abandoned digging materials, while Huw, Helen and I went to the sump and back. Much fun was had in the slippy mud en route. The fresh looking foam on the roof of the passages gave an indication of the heigh of the recent flooding in the passages. After taking stock of the digging debris left at The Dead End digs, we made quick progress back upstream and to the waterfall upstream of the entrance pitch. Huw made an impressive climb to then appear at the top of the waterfall. We washed our kit in the waterfall and decided to head home. I was looking forward to climbing back up the pitch, only to realise that I’d set my footloop a few inches too short. This made for difficult, tiring and slow progress back to the pitch head. I did get out…..eventually.

All in all a good trip, I wouldn’t mind a return trip to have a look at the higher level parts of the cave, above Sabre junction and into Dilly’s Despair.

OFD1 – The Fault Series – by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Tristan Burn
Adam Knappe (Morgannwg)

4th September 2016

A short trip into OFD1 for a bit of a bimble up to the Fault Series and a poke around some of the other passages that are generally ignored by the majority of visitors.

There was supposed to be six of us but that had become three by the time we set off in the morning and it was only Tris and me from Brynmawr that met up with Adam from Morgannwg at Penwyllt bright and early.

There had been torrential rain the night before and we had to fend off a number of advisories to keep out of the streamway. I explained that we weren’t that daft and were only planning on a trip to The Fault Series. I did want to have a look at the Main Streamway though so intended to get close to it and see what state it was in.

We did our usual thing of driving the cars down to the layby to change where I discovered that instead of just forgetting my towel or clean undies, I’d managed to forget everything bar my oversuit, hat and lamp. “Ah well” I said, “It’s a dry trip, we’re going to be keeping out of the water” and so off we went with me less cosy than usual. We were soon into the cave and made our way to the start of The Fault Series that is a high level passage reached by climbing up a steep flowstone ramp. It was here that I remembered the unwritten rule of caving that every dry trip will always have a spot where you get wet. There was a lot of water flowing down the calcite ramp and at the top, there is a climb up through boulders where there was enough water cascading into it to give me a good wetting down.

Start of Fault Series

Start of the climb up into The Fault Series

Calcite Ramp

Calcite Ramp up into The Fault Series


Squeeze through boulders at top of Calcite Ramp

The Fault Series itself is short but well worth the visit. There are some nice formations as well as some unusual mud formations. The whole area is well taped to protect these and they must be observed or the area would soon be trashed.

The passage after the mud deposits becomes larger until progress is halted at a large choke that hasn’t yet been passed. As we had plenty of time, we lingered awhile taking photos before returning back down the calcite ramp.


Getting a good soaking coming back through the boulder squeeze.

We decided to have a look at the streamway at The Step so headed off there to be impressed with the torrent that was flowing. It would be definitely sporting to have tried to go upstream that day. Some foam flecks far above the current stream level showed that it had been considerably higher quite recently.p9040631

Instead of climbing back up The Step, there is a short section of passage, marked on the survey as Loopways so we had a quick look down there. This ends at a drop to the streamway but it is worth the quick look. In Traverse Passage, there is a window that looks down onto this short passage.


A look up the start of the Escape Route and then coming back down the Toastrack, Tris and Adam decided to go through Pluto’s Bath and down to the streamway again. I was feeling the cold by now and didn’t fancy a dunking so elected to stay put. I soon heard calls that I really should come on down and see something. I was able to avoid the water by traversing across Pluto’s Bath and headed down the passage. The lower end of the passage was covered, walls and ceiling in foam and was a stark testament to just how high the Streamway can rise in flood. It must have risen to somewhere around six to eight feet above the current level. At this point is was possible to sit right by the water’s edge without getting swept away and this we did for a while before heading back out stopping briefly for Tris to perform his ‘ablutions.’

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Of course, it is almost obligatory to visit the Ancient Briton after a good trip into OFD and so we called in for a swift half on the way home.

p9040672 This was a good fun trip. It was something different, a good easy trip looking into some places in OFD1 that see few visitors. This can be immensely enjoyable and almost therapeutic that allows you to really see the cave and enjoy it rather than rushing headlong to a remote destination for a quick look around and then rushing back. For me, caving is more about exploration and discovery than scoring ticks in the manner of Munro baggers and I always say that more people should slow down and look around them as there is a lot to be seen that is often missed.

Note to self: get your kit ready the day before then you won’t forget anything.