Ogof Tarddiad Rhymney and other Trefil Quarry caves 7th August 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Chris Jones
Peter Lamb

The morning was fantastic, amazing weather, great company, getting into the great indoors, but all of this was abruptly forgotten as we got out of the car in Pontsticill and got to the hill we had to climb. There’s no easy way to Trefil, other than a long flat walk from Trefil village, but it takes us about double the time to walk from there, so we go straight up the mountain.


We had two objectives for the day, get Chris past the first boulder choke, and get some footage for a video.
We got kitted up at the cave entrance, for the first time we heard debris coming off of the cliff above the entrance, so stayed very cautious around the face.
The trip went really well, and we got some great footage of the cave. Chris got through the first boulder choke, and managed to make it part way through the “second choke” before becoming exhausted, and soon after Peter had reached his limit. Gareth and I pushed a little further, reaching the tight end series, but soon after stopped to save the others getting cold hanging around.


Back on the surface we made our way back out of the main quarry, had some lunch, and headed around towards Cwar Yr Hendre – Quarry cave 8. We have visited this cave before, but pushed for time, we had to leave. We spotted some red and white tape in there previously, so wanted to see what it was protecting. Unfortunately Gareth and I think a thin layer of roof may have peeled off and covered whatever was there. With everything looking very unstable we headed back out.
Last on the list is a cave which isn’t registered, as far as I could see, but I suspect it’ll fall into the Cwar Yr Hendre – sites 1-8, or 9+ if newer than the others, because it’s definitely been dug to join with another cave. High on the north face is where you come out, after entering through the opposite face to Cwar Yr Hendre – Quarry cave 8. Both caves were small, but still enjoyable.
After being cooked in my caving gear, or so it felt like anyway, I was happy to get it off and chill out in the last of the sunshine.

Will’s Hole 27th July 2022

Gareth Farr
Dai MacDonald

Will’s hole is a relatively small cave with not an awful lot to see in the way of formations, but what it does have is a very simple pitch. Gareth and I have been learning basic SRT for a few months now, and have been keen to try it out underground. We know it’s a very busy spot along that river, so we had two mates, James and Steve come along and make sure nobody tampered with our ropes.
We all met at Gareth’s house for 5:30pm, and made our way to Dinas Rock. Gareth and I kitted up, and we all headed up river to wills hole. There were loads of people out climbing and bouldering, and a few interested in what we were up to.
It was about 7pm by the time we arrived at the cave entrance, and we didn’t hang around, straight in, down the 2m free climb and at the first rigging point, a railway track across the rift passage. Rigging was straightforward, I used my hand jammer as a lanyard to rig at the pitch head, and it worked well.
Once ready we wasted no time, I couldn’t, I’m way to nervous with heights, so I loaded up my descender, and sat into my harness, I was really nervous, but confident in mine, and Gareth’s ability, and I started the descent of our first SRT trip. We were both soon at the bottom without a hitch. We got our SRT kit of and headed to the right side passage. There isn’t much in the way of formations on this section, but there’s plenty of mud! Thick, silty, sticky, glutinous, mud that you have to crawl through. We came to a choke and couldn’t see a way on, so headed back to the pitch to look at the other passages. The main passage is nicely decorated at the high levels, along with a lot of flood debris, giving a good idea how high the water gets in there.
Before long we were at the end again and headed back out. Gareth went first, and both ascending without a problem, and de-rigging going just as well.
In what felt like no time at all, but it was actually about 2 hours, we were back on the surface with James and Steve chatting to some climbers.

Agen Allwedd The Grand Circle – 22nd May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise Lucas

I arrived at Whitewalls first, then had the message I’d been waiting for, Gareth and Louise would be late, so I made a coffee, rolled a cigarette, and walked across the tram road a little and sat in the sun.

As I walked back to Whitewalls I could see Louise getting out of the car. We got kitted up, sent the call out, and made our way across to Aggy. Louise was excited to get into Aggy again, the last time she was in was on a newbies trip before joining the club.

We made steady progress through the entrance to Baron’s Chamber, but as usual we were all sweating by the time we got into Baron’s Chamber. After a quick drink stop we were off, and heading for Main Stream. Louise had a slip on the hand-lined section in Keyhole Chamber, but got herself back up and across fine. A little longer than I remember we were at North West Junction, we were all on guard as this section is really slippery. There definitely seems to be a theme emerging, Louise falls into water. We made speedy progress towards Deep Water, which is Gareth’s and my furthest point from the last trip we did here. Without hesitation I waded in getting to waist deep, as described in journals and online, and then Gareth asked “is it getting any deeper”, and as I was replying “I don’t think so” I slipped down to shoulder depth and started struggling to catch my breath, so I headed back still trying to catch my breath. We had a quick talk about the best way to approach it, then Louise opted for swimming so far and trying to stand, and she couldn’t reach the bottom after swimming out a short distance, so turned around and I helped her back to shallower water. We talked a little more, but being completely unsure of how long we’d be swimming for, and how we’d feel swimming fully kitted up, we all agreed the best thing to do was head back the way we came. Just before heading back Louise stayed true to form and had a dunk again, while trying to help her, Gareth had a soaking as well. Heading back was fine, apart from us all being a bit miserable after another failed trip here, because of this we just headed straight out.

As I got out of the cave there was a guy asking, do I knew if the small phreatic tube outside connects into Aggy, I said it didn’t as far as I know, and asked “why’s that” he said his dog has gone into it, as I walked over to him, Louise and Gareth got out. We tried looking in with our lights, whistling, calling, and putting food down, but there was no sound at all. He said he’d called Cave Rescue, so they were on their way. We said we’d head back and ask some advice about it and maybe see if anybody else can head over to help. Once at Whitewalls the police and cave rescue arrived, so we left them to do their work, and we headed home. Once home we heard the news that the dog was safe and with his owner again.

Ogof Draenen – Sunday 8th May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Peter lamb

By Dai MacDonald

We started the day joking about Gareth’s forgetfulness, and it definitely set the tone for the day! As we’re pulling off the A465 at Brynmawr, to collect the key from Barry, Gareth says “I think I’ve forgotten my helmet”, which also means his torch as well. We collected the key, and then heading back to Merthyr Tydfil to collect Gareth’s helmet, we were on our way again, with Gareth reassuring us “I’ve got my batteries, because I charged them last night” he didn’t have his batteries, he’d forgotten them as well, but I’ve got spares so it was fine. After changing we like a cuppa and cigarette before getting going, Gareth had also forgotten his tobacco!

We quickly headed for the entrance as we were all starting to get quite hot in our caving gear. This was Peter’s first trip into a gated system and instantly he was shocked with how tight the entrance was. We made great progress through the entrance as we talked Peter through certain sections, and finally helped show the technique needed for the entrance pitch. Before we knew it we’d signed the log book at 12:30, and Gareth and I were trying to convince Peter he should try Beer Challenge, on his own, and we’ll meet him in White Arch Passage, he declined our challenge! We made it to Indiana Highway in a good time, and got straight into it after a drink stop. As we got to the end of the traverse, someone said they’d forgotten their phone and snacks at the start of the traverse….so Gareth headed back to the start of the traverse line to retrieve his stuff, fortunately this was the last time he forgot something….that day! We made our way to the junction for Megadrive and Megadrive North, and headed to Megadrive North, and then back down Canyon North to the guano pile at the start of Canyon West. After this we headed for Siambre Ddu passage, where we were all coming up with different pronunciations for Siambre. We got back to Megadrive and continued towards the Nunnery, where we detoured to Arms Park through Perseverance II, just to show Peter the way on to the other parts of the cave. Once done we headed back out in good time, and in time to enjoy the sun while changing. Overall it was a great trip, especially for Peter, who is keen to find out more about becoming a club member.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1, Round Trip 1st May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise Lucas

By Dai MacDonald

We all arrived at SWCC cottages for around 10am, and couldn’t believe how busy it was, there’d been an AGM meeting the day before, and it was the bank holiday weekend.

Key acquired and we headed for the entrance, a tall opening with a short ladder climb down to the gate, which was opened as there were a few guys going in to do some scaffold work, so I volunteered to carry a few short lengths down for them.

Soon we were in, and off with Gareth leading the way. We passed the concrete walkways fairly quickly and got into some lovely passages before dropping into the Main Streamway. A lot quicker than we all expected, we were passing the 1st pot, 2nd pot, and Maypole Chain. The streamway is really something special, with the white veins running through the black rock. We passed 3rd pot, 4th pot, and the sump, and carried on along the streamway for quite some time. Eventually we were through Boulder Chamber and out of the Main Streamway, we found ourselves scratching our heads and looking at the survey, following the description we’d gone too far and ended up in OFD 1 1/2, so doubled back to get on route again. After a few more survey stops we were back at the fixed rope and ladder to get into Lowes Passage, which has a huge boulder slope to climb, but not before Louise had a proper dunking in the Main Streamway. Then we were soon into Roundabout Chamber, this whole section of cave is stunning, all the way through to Rawl Series, and Pi chamber. Helter Skelter and Bolt Passage were fun, basically like a big slide, with vertical bits though! Soon we were traversing across Bolt Traverse and Maypole Wire, which definitely got my heart thumping, even with my cowstails clipped on. Before heading across Maypole Wire, Gareth suggested heading the other way, towards Rocky Holes Chamber, and in hindsight I should’ve turned around, but I was committed to the wire route, and we headed down Maypole Chain into the Main Streamway for Louise to have a good dunking again. The rest of the way out was great, and without fault. At the ladder to climb out I found a frog, so took it outside with me, and we posed for a few photos before heading back to the cars after another great trip!

Ogof Draenen Round Trip 3rd December 2017

Huw Jones
Thomas Williams
Richard Gledhill
David Gledhill

Report by Dave Gledhill.

All photos by Huw Jones.

As per normal drills for a Draenen trip, I turned up to Pwll Du at 0900 and funnily enough, the weather had changed from a lovely dry early winter’s day in the Usk valley floor, to a howling gale with threats of rain. I decided to lead the way by pointing my car into the wind for the inevitable chilly change in/out of kit. I was soon joined by Richard who has the luxury of a van to change and brew up in closely followed by Tom ‘McCrae’ in his Landy. Huw wasn’t far behind and we all convened before getting kitted up. Now it’s worth noting that the last time Huw and Richard had caved together was some 25 years previous and it just goes to show how small a fraternity the South Welsh caving is.

Kitted up within minutes we stomped off to the entrance like we were paid models for ‘Aventure Verticale’ but only better! Gate opened, local’s trees freshly watered and we were in. Forget my previous reports on Draenen, I actually love this entrance series! It’s fun…on the way in anyway.

We were soon at the climb down, but before we continued, Tom did some checks on the fixed aids as part of his checks for the Pwll Du Cave Management Committee. Log book signed, we stomped off from Cairn Junction towards Wonderbra Bypass and further onward towards Tea Junction where we stopped off for a quick water break and collect some rubbish and old kit we had spotted on previous trips. We piled it all up ready to take out on our exit in a few hours.

Conversation was flowing now as usual with mostly expletives from myself when finding those unwanted slippy edges of boulders for which Draenen has many! We boulder hopped our way through White Arch Passage and Lamb & Fox until we reached the Indiana Highway where the expletives swapped from me to Richard as he discovered his new wellies weren’t very grippy on muddy traverses!

We ‘’popped’’ out into Megadrive, I don’t know why but I really like this part of the cave and its always worth stopping to look up, around and behind to see what/how the water has done to create this cave. Heading off into The Nunnery and further onward turning right into Perseverance 2 which is a hands/knees crawl which every time I do it always ends up with my dragging bag getting stuck on something.  Forgot to mention, both The Nunnery and Perseverance are nicely decorated and well worth a very short stop to admire some of the formations.

Perseverance gets larger and we achieved walking status again only for it to suddenly stop at an 8m laddered pitch….and I mean it literally comes out of nowhere. You have two choices at the pitch, a rigid ladder which is getting old and has a few steps missing (so who knows when the others will fall off) or more conventional/safer caving ladder albeit more awkward. Being the brave souls we are we opted for the rigid ladder….purely so the fixed aids officer could do his ‘’checks’’…..obviously.

The pitch drops down into Cardiff Arms Park, an impressive chamber and the way on is pretty much back underneath the pitch and leads into Player’s Tunnel where we encountered some good formations and we stopped for drinks/pictures. Soon after, some more boulder hopping the awe inspiring St. David’s Hall was reached and lunch was called whilst sitting in the marvel of this enormous chamber. It has to be seen to be believed!

Richard Gledhill on Balcony Pitch

Richard Gledhill on Balcony Pitch

Dave and Tom in Player's Tunnel

Dave and Tom in Player’s Tunnel

Tom in Player's Tunnel

Tom in Player’s Tunnel

After lunch the fun starts, being The Round Trip Connection. Now this is where we start to cut across with an end goal of getting into Beyond A Choke Stream to head back out of the cave. To start, we headed into Squirrel Rifts, a notorious part of the cave for navigating with its many choices of different rifts to take and all very much polished by wrong steps before! Thankfully every time I’ve done the Round Trip I’ve been with someone who knows (relatively) the way through and Huw was no exception so no hiccups were encountered. Carrying on through Wooden Spoon we squeezed through quite an awkward sideways rift just before Haggis Basher and I heard swear words a youngest nephew should not hear from his uncle! But I didn’t blame him whatsoever.

Some stunning stals and formations were found in Haggis Basher where we left the bags and headed off to the chokes at the end for a nosey. Tom sadly found a newer formation in the form of a pile of human poo…yeah nice one whoever did that. We had a poke around in the chokes then we went back to collect the bags to head off towards Far Agent Blorenge where pleasant stream walking was encountered and the conversation was back in full flow. Best way I can describe Agent Blorenge is sporting…lots of awkward traverses where Tom was heard to be having fun with his bag getting stuck at every opportunity, a couple of unofficial fixed aid climbs down and also the fun Sewer which is a short duck but with today’s water levels was just a soaking. Towards the end of Agent Blorenge the cascades were met with some interesting climbs down.

Dave admiring stals in Haggis Basher

Dave admiring stals in Haggis Basher

The Beyond A Choke stream way is reached at the end, we took a right, ending the connection, Round Trip and beginning the slog out of the cave. I love this stream way, it changes so much in its length and even has a few boulder chokes chucked in just for good measure and most importantly my favourite formation so far in this cave (I still have much more of this cave to visit) in the form of pure white stalagmite up on higher level of the stream way. It’s very photogenic!

We passed the entrance to Gilwern Passage and checking our watches decided it would have to wait for another day and collected the rubbish from Tea Junction. We exited the cave to more darkness but nice, still weather and the conversation soon changed to what was for tea and what beers were in the fridge.

Cars reached, kit stripped and final few words of the day were shared!

Heres for the next one 😉

Daren Cilau – Price’s Dig to Busman’s Holiday, Sunday 27th October 2013 by Morgan Specht

Morgan Specht, Huw Durban, Huw Jones

I met up with Huw and Huw at the Chelsea cave club cottage, Whitewalls, overlooking Crickhowell and the Usk. It was a busy weekend at the cottage and I was met at the door by the lovely smell of fried breakfast cooked by the full house of Imperial College Cave Club members. The wind was up that weekend and the power was out as a result, so gone were my hopes for a warm shower and a cosy changing room to change in before and after the trip.
The planned trip was to go through Price’s Dig and explore Busman’s Holiday, which is a tiny part of the Darren Cilau cave system. This wasn’t the trip that I had originally planned. The first plan was to go into OFD 1, but it had rained too much so the streamway in OFD 1 was out, then the plan was to go into Ogof Draenen, but that changed to Price’s. A year before I did a trip from the entrance to Darren through the cave emerging out of Price’s. It was one of the hardest cave trips I have ever done and after emerging from the muddy crawl in Price’s and I vowed to never again go in there…….
We got geared up and offered to help carry some digging gear in for Tony Donovan who was attempting to push through a boulder choke in Price’s to hopefully find a way through to Craig A Ffynnon.
We made our way up the hill, through the locked gate and started our crawl through mud, scaffolding and a few very tight spaces. I have to say at this point that none of it was particularly difficult but being tall and long legged I find crawls tiring. I led the way down through a scaffolded shaft down to a sump! The way on used to be a sump but Tony, who we were carrying the gear for, managed to encourage the rock to move out of his way and produced an easy bypass. Shortly after this bypass you get to a long phreatic tube, which is impressive to see and cosy to slip through. We emerged in to the large chambers that are synonymous with Llangatock cave systems. I am always impressed by the size of these chambers and large rectangular passages. My light, a Petzl Duo struggles to reach the ceiling in most places. We turned left and headed down towards the newest extensions to the cave. We waited in one of the boulder chokes for Tony to join us and guide us to where he was attempting to open more passage. Tony is definitely at home underground and impressively can move his sizable frame quickly through difficult cave passages with large amounts of gear in tow. Rock seems to move out of his way and with good reason.
We carried on through a well decorated cavern. The “pretties” which are rare under Llangatock are really special, they are few and far between this high up on the mountain but the ones there are special. After a short break there we carried on to the newest extension to the cave where we dropped our gear, leaving Tony and his helper to move to the dig. We doubled back explored further down the gigantic passages of Busman’s which lead back into the main system of Darren. After a bit we made our way back out through Price’s. Soaked, muddy and exhausted we emerged from the cave and went back to Whitewalls, where we got changed in the dark changing room.
It was a good trip. Good experience, good company and some good stories. The trip did highlight that I need a better torch!

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 – Round Trip, Sunday 8th December 2013 by Morgan Specht

Morgan Specht, Huw Jones, Lee Garbett

Early on a Sunday morning at the beginning of December I drove from Abergavenny about 50 minutes through the beautiful countryside around Brecon en route to Penwyllt in the Swansea Valley. Penwyllt is the headquarters of the South Wales Caving Club who are the gate keepers for the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave systems. There I met up with Huw and a new man to the club named Lee. Lee’s other half Carolyn had meant to come but after doing her first BCC trip into Aggy earlier that week she was still a bit stiff and decided to give this trip a miss.
We changed into our gear and Huw grabbed the key and signed us out on SWCC’s caving board. Cavers on the whole are very enterprising with their approach to gear, producing bespoke and homemade/altered gear and Lee was no exception. He came to South Wales from the peak district and a climbing background, having done some caving, where he claims that he didn’t have much use for a helmet. The helmet he pulled out of his gear bag was an impressive creation. He had adapted a helmet with black duct tape to hold several head torches.
We walked down the hill to the cave entrance, about a 20 minute walk. This was a new way of approaching the cave for Huw, who said that years ago you had to drive down the hill, park and use someone’s drive, but recently the right of access and land had been secured by the club allowing us to walk down from the club.
We approached the entrance, descended the ladder and opened the gate to enter OFD 1. The plan was to do the round trip. Huw had printed out the surveys and route descriptions and highlighted our route. He gave me the opportunity to lead the trip and do the route finding. We got our bearings and set off through the lower section which had been set up to be a show cave with concrete floors and railings, now gone. We made our way to the Toast Rack which is a junction, either going straight on through Pluto’s bath or up the fixed step ladder that takes you up over a six foot smooth flowstone step. We went up and came shortly to another junction, where we took a right under some fine curtains and headed to the Step, which was a nice series of steps down into the main Stream Way. The Stream Way was brilliant, a long winding passage with rushing water carving great shapes and scallops into the rock. Crossing the pots is the main hazard at this water level and is fun because you have to balance on a rolling scaffolding bar which is attached on the upstream end. None of us swam, but we did fill our wellies! We made our way along to Lowe’s Chain which is a smooth 4 meter high wall with two fixed ropes hanging down it. We passed this and went on up the stream to a waterfall and the end of the passage, where I climbed up over a natural stone bridge to have a look at the entrance to the Waterfall series. It was a precarious climb and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a fear of heights or a priority on self-preservation. I carefully climbed down and we made our way back to Lowe’s Chain where we climbed out of the Stream way. The climb wasn’t too tough, but this could prove to be the most difficult part of the trip for some cavers.
This took us up into the Rawl Series, a dry blocky series of passages, chambers, and chokes where Lee discovered the value of wearing a helmet. The cave here is similar in character to OFD 2 further up the hill. The route took us up and back around on ourselves until we arrived at Pi Chamber where we went left, and I found the way on behind a boulder which dropped us steeply down a small phreatic tube (a long way down surprisingly) to the beginning of the bolted traverse 50 feet above the Stream Way. If you don’t like traverses, cow’s tails are advised to attach yourself to the cable, but it is a wide and flat ledge that can be done without them. The start is the scariest bit because you have to slither over a polished bolder and carefully get your foot on the ledge beside the drop! I managed without attaching myself to the cable, tucking my elbow over the cable and slithered along the wall when the ledge narrowed!! Exciting!!!
After the traverse the passage meanders until you pop your head out of a dig and then crawl back to a recognizable junction where we saw the hanging curtains earlier. We had finished the round trip and done if fairly quickly so we headed back down past the curtains and scrambled up a smooth flowstone climb on the left and made our way to along Column Passage to The Column, which is well worth the visit. We then went back down to the stream to a fork which lead us back up to the Toast Rack, this time crossing Pluto’s Bath. I successfully crossed it without getting soaked due to my long legs. Lee got a bit wet!
We made our way out and back up the hill, to the showers and changing facilities at Penwyllt. It was a great trip and you can see why it’s a classic caving must do for any aspiring caver. It takes less 4 hours, its good practice for navigating, it has every variety of cave challenges, none of which are too extreme or unpleasant and it’s stunning. It’s a lot of fun and having a warm shower and a roaring fire to follow it up makes a perfect day.

Morgan Specht

Next Meetings

Featured

Club meetings are held at The Hobby Horse, Greenland Road, Brynmawr, NP23 4DT.

Our next three meetings will be as follows:

  • Wednesday 3rd November 2021
  • Wednesday 1st December 2021
  • Wednesday 5th January 2021

We meet on the first Wednesday of the month.

 

 

New members are always welcome, experienced and inexperienced alike, just come along to The Hobby Horse and make yourself known. We try to start at 8:00pm.