Ogof Draenen, Thursday 17th May 2018

Gareth Jones, Huw Jones and Dave Gledhill

By Gareth Jones
Photos Huw Jones

So the club have been reminding me of my lack of trip reports, having been on a few cave trips now, and after a gentle Thursday night stroll into Draenen, I feel obliged to write my first.

With my much publicised fear of heights, the plan was to see if I would cry and retreat from the first pitch (“that’s as big as a 4 storey building!”), not far from Cairn junction.

The evening began with Dave picking me up and driving to the car park opposite the Lamb and Fox pub. We started to kit up whilst waiting for Huw to arrive. Huw arrived promptly after us, and together we made our dangerous descent down the steep hill to the gated entrance. On the way Huw told us tales of the initial dig and discovery.

At the entrance, I was lucky to unlock the gate and open the hatch, to be blasted by the incredible draught that departed the unassuming crack in the rock that first drew cavers to dig there.

So, the climb down began. Through a series of flat out crawls, and descents through scaffolded vertical shafts. We emerged into the streamway with much cursing as I received a thorough soaking in the freezing waters. A slot through and under a waterfall brought us down to the initial breakthrough. More tales from Huw about the night the breakthrough occurred. In front of us the ‘Darling Rifts’ continued, while the easy way on was through a crawl in the floor to the right. Of course, Huw wanted us to have the original experience the first discoverers had, so we proceeded through the ‘Darling Rifts’. “Oh darling!”, I was very apprehensive and did not look down, the whole time wondering why we didn’t just go the easy way. At the end of a rift, we climbed down to the left and emerged in a big chamber with a boulder as big as Australia blocking the way on. A climb under the boulder brought us to a huge hole in the floor. The ‘Big Bang Pitch’, the original way on into the cave. After a few more tales, we headed into the Gyracanthus Loop and Psammodus Passage, to see amazing fossils of sharks and Jurassic sea life.

We headed back into the rifts, as I was not feeling the ‘Big Bang Pitch’ tonight (maybe next time…), to emerge back into the entrance series, and continue the ‘easy way’ into the cave. After some more cascades and crawls we emerged on to the top of the 4 storey pitch. To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement. It was a 4m climb down with a knotted hand line. So, I tightened my belt, and followed Dave down the climb, which was no where near as bad as I had scared myself into believing. Feeling like action man at the bottom, I tried not to think about the return climb.

We continued on and headed to the first major chamber, ‘Cairn Junction’, and I signed us into the log book. Job done. Or so I thought.

We decided to explore a bit more of the cave. Continuing downstream, through the ‘Wonderbra’, and ‘Tea Junction’, we headed up ‘Gilwern Passage’. I was struggling to stay on my feet for looking at the amazing passage and formations all around, and not at my feet and the path ahead. We stopped for pictures at the bigger formations and decided to turn back at an impressive inlet flowing in from an aven in the roof.
After we arrived back to the junction, we followed the ‘Beyond a Choke Streamway’ downstream. An impressive streamway, with deep pots, and traverses. After what felt like a few miles, Huw reminded me that we weren’t even a quarter of the way to the end of the streamway. With that, we decided to turn back, as it was getting late, and begin the ascent out the cave.

We arrived promptly back at the log book and signed out. We decided to take the easy way back out the cave, instead of ‘Darling Rifts’. At the foot of the 4m pitch, we climbed up with ease, and made our way back into the wet entrance series. I received another soaking at the slot in the waterfall, with the flow going down my neck into my oversuit. After ascending up the scaffolded shafts and through the flat out crawls, we popped out the hatch into the dark, pleasantly fresh, spring night.

We started the dangerous climb back up the steep mountainside, to get back to the cars and change.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip. Although I kept reminding myself that I had barely scratched the surface in Wales’ longest cave system. My lasting thought about Draenen is that it is like climbing a mountain in reverse. When you summit a mountain, the way home is downhill all the way. When you descend into Draenen, the way home is to climb a mountain.

OFD1 Round Trip – 13th May 2018

Barry Burn, Gareth Jones, Huw Durban, Freya Durban, Dave Gledhill

By: Barry Burn
Photos: Barry Burn

Gareth and Freya had not so far visited OFD and so a trip to do a roundtrip in OFD1 was planned as an introduction for them and the Sunday saw us meeting up nice and early to pick up a key and fill in our trip card before parking up in the layby to change and the short walk to the cave.

The plan was to do the classic round trip, up Main Streamway to Low’s Chain and Low’s Passage then the climb up to Roundabout Chamber and the Shale Crawl into the Rawl Series. Then along to Pi Chamber and down via Bolt Passage to the Bolt Traverse. We decided against continuing to Airy Fairy or finishing the loop via the Dugout but to drop down back into the Main Streamway via the Maypole Chain.

We were soon changed and ready to set off and a quick selfie was taken that show’s Gareth’s very basic mistake if you look close enough. We were then soon walking through brilliant sunshine up to the entrance. where we quickly sorted ourselves out and climbed down the ladder into the cave.



We headed off towards The Cathedral, pausing at the start of Pearl Passage for a quick tale about the skeleton in Skeleton Chamber and then along the trade route to the start of column passage.

The Toast Rack

The Toast Rack

At Column Passage we pushed dave up the climb to rig a handline before we all followed him up. The column is a very impressive formation that I always like to see and Gareth and Freya were suitable awed. Dave and Gareth nipped through the duck to visit the Eagle’s Nest whilst we more sensible three stayed dry and took a couple of photos.

It was then back along Column Passage and back down the handline.


Climbing Down from Cloumn Passage

Before climbing down at The Step and heading upstream.

We passed Low’s Chain on the right and continued to Boulder Chamber to show Freya and Gareth the way on through the mountain and stopped for a pasty before heading back to Low’s Chain. Here, the awkward climb is now considerably easier as a short section of ladder has appeared. This made the climb up a breeze and we were all soon up and we headed off up the lofty Low’s Passage. I explained as we went how the early explorers thought that they could see high level passages here and spent some time scaling the passage with maypoles only to be dissapointed as each lead turned out to be shadows or alcoves. At the end, the passage closes down and you climb up through boulders until a choice of left or right is found. We had a quick look left to see what was there (more boulders) before continuing the steep climb up to reach Roundabout Chamber and it’s fine grotto, The Bee’s Knees.

Some photos using some very overused poses were taken before heading off and then to the Shale Crawl. A short section of flat out crawling that soon opens up again.

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The passage now assumes very large proportions as you enter the Rawl Series. For me, one of the most imppressive passages in the OFD system with a few fine formations.


The Rawl Series

The Rawl Series

At the end of the Rawl Sereis, Pi Chamber is found and the entrance to Helter Skelter is found that leads via Boulder Passage and a fun little slide down a tube to the start of the Bolt Traverse.

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

We were all quickly along the traverse and into the small passage at the end.

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

And then the short section to the Maypole Chain and back into the Main Streamway.

We ambled back downstream, past The Step and a quick look into Loopways before getting back to the Toastrack via Pluto’s Bath. Here Gareth either forgot about the big hole in the floor of the pool that we showed him on the way in or some Gollum-like creature tried to drag him down to its watery lair.

Beware ye who pass by here

Beware ye who pass by here

From here, we were soon back out in the sunshine. We’d taken longer than usual on this trip but we were taking our time and enjoying the sights as well as taking a few deviations to explore off the route. All in all a really good trip that we all enjoyed.