A joint Brynmawr CC / Morgannwg CC trip
BCC – Tom Williams, Andrew Zerbino, Huw Durban
MCC – Helen Stewart, Malcolm Stewart, Dave Glover
BCC & MCC – Huw Jones
All photos- Huw Durban
After talking to people in both my clubs, there seemed to be interest in doing some joint caving trips and so I arranged this day trip to the Trefil area. There’s plenty of caving to do at Trefil but the area has become quite remote since the quarry road was closed just beyond the village. That means a long walk up the road to the caves so I thought it would be a good idea to spend the day there and do a couple of caves, with lunch in between.
I had hoped it would be a fine and hot summers day so that we could walk up in shorts and t-shirts, carrying all our caving gear on our backs. On the day, the morning was coolish, windy and there was even some light rain! With the forecast for things to improve (apart from the wind) people were dressed in various ways, from wearing full caving kit, wearing furries and carrying the rest to me carrying everything (including wellies) and wearing walking clothes. We met plenty of other people on the road, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, as we walked. By the time we were near the quarry, the wind was getting very strong but soon we were outside Tarddiad Rhymney, where it was a little more sheltered.
A quick bite to eat, then we got changed and all headed into the cave. It soon transpired that myself and Dave were the only one’s who had been here before. The cave is mainly a single large passage, with plenty of boulders but there’s also enough calcite formations to look at and even some very nice mud deposits! The cave is well over a kilometre long and even the main passage, on it’s own, is a good few hundred metres. Following the small stream, we made our way down through the cave, with Zeb, Huw D and Dave chatting away non stop at the back. We passed a junction where a crawl on the right leads into a side series of passages. We didn’t go that way this time but carried on to the boulder choke, where there’s only a fairly short crawl through the boulders. On the other side, a short section of large passage leads to the final bit of streamway, which is much smaller than the rest of the cave. Most of us only went a short way down this, to where it reduced to a crawl in the water but Zeb and Tom pushed on a bit further as the rest started out. We’d all remarked on how hot the cave was, something we noticed even more as we made our way out, as we were now going uphill. Zeb and Tom soon caught us up and we carried on out as one group. Everyone said they enjoyed the cave and were surprised at how big the passage is.
A quick change for some and we made our way out of the quarry and up onto the hillside above, heading for Ogof Garn Y Bica. Finding a comfortable, grassy spot near the entrance, we settled down for lunch. The sun was out and we were even fairly sheltered from the wind. The sandwiches came out, the pasta salad was passed around, the stinky cheese offended nostrils, everyone had a nibble on my polish sausage and a couple of (very small) glasses of wine were downed by all except Tom, who didn’t want to fall asleep.
We had various caves to choose from for the afternoon. Ogof Ap Robert is the other big cave in the area, also over a kilometre long. I wanted to have a look in a small cave called The Rifts, as it seems to be the highest cave Wales – the cave with it’s entrance at the highest elevation recorded on the Cambrian Cave Registry anyway and I’d carried up a ladder for the small entrance pitch. There are lots of other interesting sites as well, including an old dig of mine and Barry’s. Tom is learning SRT at the moment so a couple of days before had said he wanted to do Garn Y Bica, which has two 20m pitches (and not much else!) and we’d carried up two 25m ropes, plus the rigging gear, between us. Tom, myself, Helen and Malcolm were doing Garn Y Bica but Zeb and Huw D had other things on later in the afternoon, so had to get back. Dave didn’t want to do any SRT because of a dodgy knee and so the three stayed on the surface chatting, before heading back to Trefil, across the mountain instead of down the road.
The four of us got kitted up and I headed into the low and slightly awkward (with an SRT kit on and dragging a bag) entrance, to start rigging. The cave is rigged with spits and there were already hangers so I didn’t have to use any of the one’s we’d carried up. God knows how old the hangers are mind and one, near the top, was obviously steel as it was very rusty! There was a lot of loose rock on the first pitch, which is a bit narrow and scrappy and has two rebelays. I did a quick garden of the loose stuff as I went, just brushing down the most easily disturbed stuff. I should have made a more thorough job of it as plenty of missiles still came down during the trip, dropping close to people below. The second pitch is better and once passed a short narrow section, is a nice 20m free hang. Once we were all at the bottom, there was nothing else to do but make our way out, with Malcolm bringing up the rear, derigging.
Back on the surface, there was no sign of Dave so we surmised that he must have headed back to Trefil with Huw D and Zeb. We got changed and started back ourselves, taking in a short tour of some of the interesting features on the hill, en route to Trefil. We started with the Trig Point on top of the hill (just over 2000ft) and then across to the large Bronze Age burial cairns, where there was also a memorial to the crew of a Wellington bomber, that crashed here in bad weather in 1940. An information sheet at the small cairn memorial, states that the crew thought they were flying over East Anglia, after returning from a successful mission! There are a few small pieces of aluminium wreckage to see. From here we found the entrance to The Rifts and then Pwll Chwedliath, the old dig of mine and Barry’s, which is very difficult to spot until you’re right by it. Next it was on to Ogof Ap Robert and then Pwll Pirs, which is a large chamber, formed just below the surface of the moor, where the roof has collapsed, leaving a gaping hole. We made a be-line back to the road, over some pretty rough ground and found Dave at the cars, who had been waiting for a couple of hours as was giving me a lift.
It was a pretty hard day, with lots of walking over rough ground carrying heavy packs but with the pleasant company, a couple of good caves and a nice lunch with a great view, everyone said they’d enjoyed it and would do something similar again. Next time we are thinking of doing Ap Robert and The Rifts.