Ogof Craig a Ffynnon – North West Inlet – 14th June 2018

James had shown himself to be more than capable with his first trips and so Gareth and I decided to show him something different with a trip into North West Inlet in Craig a Ffynnon.

We arrived at the layby and quickly changed, as the midges were out in force and caver was definitely a favoured treat for them, and made our way to the entrance. The lock gave some minor problems as the bar refused to come through the small hole it rests in but this was soon sorted and we were in.

 

James entering Craig a Fynnon

James entering Craig a Fynnon.

We were soon scrambling through the entrance series and James was suitably impressed. This was the first well decorated cave he’d visited and the formations that can be seen so soon after entering are had him in awe on several occasions. It’s easy to forget what these places are like when you first see them.

James in Straw Chamber

James in Straw Chamber

It is easy to become blasé and forget how special a lot of our caves are, it is only when you take someone who has not been exposed to what can be seen underground that you remember what it is that you are speeding past on your way to whatever objective you have for that trip. It is occasions like this that you get the opportunity to slow down and look around again and often it is with a renewed sense of wonder as you see things that you’ve missed before or re-see those things you always knew were there but for some reason have forgotten.

Philosophical musings aside, we made our way leisurely through the entrance series, up the ladder at the First Choke.

Gareth and James Explore Chamber above First Choke

Gareth and James Explore Chamber above First Choke

Here, in the first big chamber reached in the cave, James was keen to explore further so Gareth took him up the boulders to the further reaches of the chamber for a look.

It was then into the crawl in Gasoline Alley. Water levels were very low after the the recent dry spell and the pool at the end was passed with hardly a shudder.

Arriving at the entrance to NWI, the clear water looked very inviting but we first nipped up to show James the small attractive sump pool and the way on further into the cave with a promise that he’d be heading that way soon. It was then back to the blasted tunnel and into NWI.

James in NWI Deep Water

James in NWI

The water was as cold as ever, in fact I’m not sure that it really gets any warmer. Perhaps the perceived temperature is a relative thing. On a warm day, you will enter the cave already warmed up and will warm up more than usual if you enter on a cold day, and so, the water will feel colder than it really is. Whatever the temperature, I love this bit of passage. It always feels like this is more like the sort of caving that non-cavers think we experience all the time. Gareth was now enjoying himself even more and decided that the warm balmy waters were great for a swim so paddled up and down while I took a photo or two of James.

James in NWI Admiring Formation

James in NWI Admiring Formation, Gareth Doggy Paddling

All good things come to an end though and we were soon getting stuck in the short section of sticky mud. And then more wonderment from Gareth and James at the increasing passage dimensions and the formations. James had been asking (tongue in cheek) when we’d see the plastic dinosaurs so it was a great surprise when he clambered over the boulder to be confronted with the Dragon formation. This needed a photo.

 

 

James With Dragon

James With Dragon

Gareth in NWI

Gareth in NWI

Gareth in Deep Water

Gareth in Deep Water

Gareth Creature Impression

We’d soon seen all that NWI had to offer and, as we’d spent longer sightseeing than usual, we moved quite quickly back through the way we’d come and were soon back at the cars. Here the midges descended in great clouds on us, forcing us to change as quickly as possible, curtailing the usual chat about the trip.

 

 

 

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.

Selfie

Selfie

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

P5130066 P5130067

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.

P5130071

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.

Pwll Dwfn – 7th April 2018

Tom Williams
Huw Jones
Dave Gledhill

Report by Tom Williams

After booking a Yorkshire trip for later in the year, we decided it would be a good idea to brush up on our SRT and what better place to do it than Pwll Dwfn? You can practice on indoor training walls all you like, but you aren’t SRT proficient until you have used your skills in a real world cave.

The date was set – 7th April 2018. Morning broke with some heavy rain, and me thinking ‘Do I really want to trudge up the hill in this weather?’. Despite frantic pleas to my caving colleagues for a Daren Cilau trip, Pwll Dwfn was still on the cards for the day, regardless of the weather.

Meeting at the DYO car park, Huw and I had a quick coffee before Dave turned up around 1030. We were soon changed and on our way up the hill, stopping for the occasional photograph.

Tom Williams - The Entrance

Tom Williams – The Entrance

We were soon at the cave entrance, and kitted up. One last photo before we wave goodbye to daylight for a few hours. Huw was down first, to rig the first pitch, Dave and I followed with the rest of the rope bags. We found the cave already rigged with mostly 9mm static rope of a suspect vintage, we elected it would be best practice to shadow rig our own ropes alongside. The in-situ ropes were a nightmare when it came to rebelays and deviations, forever tangling around our fresh ropes. We had to be mindful we were clipping into the correct ropes at the various pitches and obstacles, although our nice clean ropes were easily contrasted against the muddy, worn, in-situ ropes.

We were making good time down to the bottom of the pot, gravity is a wonderful thing! My favourite was the 35m 4th pitch, with a deviation part way down.  It wasn’t far from my mind that for every metre we descended, we would have to climb back up. Gravity isn’t so wonderful after all.

While descending the last pitch, the rope below me got tangled in the in-situ rope, blocking my safe descent. Locking off my descender, I was held on the rope, under the waterfall which was apparently carrying more flow than normal. All while my caving chums were 15m below me, leisurely taking photos of my descent. No matter how loud I shouted, they couldn’t hear me over the roar of the waterfall. Eventually they heard my pleas and untangled the ropes to allow my final descent. By the time I got off the rope, and regained my sense of humour, I was soaked through to the skin.

From the base of the fifth pitch, it is a long walk to the final sump, all of about 5m. Some serious effort has gone into making the sump a diver’s paradise, which has apparently been dye traced to the washing machine in DYO. A quick natter and some photos, we were off back up the pitches and out of the cave. Huw J led the way, then I followed, with Dave bringing up the rear.

Many profanities and a vow to list my SRT on eBay as soon as I got home, we were nearing the top of the pot. On the second pitch I had just about got my prussiking technique efficient enough to not be aching all over by the time I got to the top of the pitch.

The hardest part of the pot was still to come, the 3m climb out of the entrance over an awkward, greasy and polished slab. Using some moves that would make a contortionist jealous, along with an ample amount of profanities and I was back to the daylight. Followed soon after by Dave, accompanied with some more profanities and three bags of tackle. Finally, Huw soon joined us in the late afternoon haze.

We were back to the cars and changed before we knew it. Ready to head our respective ways.

That night, I was unable to sleep. My whole body was still throbbing from the exertion. My mind was still racing with adrenaline, replaying every abseil, rebelay and deviation over and over all night.

I’d finally done it, a cave I had once sworn I would never, ever go into. I’d been to the bottom and out, and lived to tell the tale. I can’t wait to go back, and I certainly won’t be listing a ‘Full SRT kit, moderate usage’ on eBay. Not just yet, anyway…

Bridge Cave Photo Trip 18th February 2018

Barry Burn, Huw Durban and Nick de Gare-Pitt

By Barry Burn
Photos by Barry Burn

Wondering what to do, we decided to have a nice easy trip to Bridge Cave in the Nedd Fechan valley. This cave is a nice easy trip, frequented by outdoor pursuits groups and consists of a short section of passages before reaching a short choke and then dropping into a stream passage that opens up into a large impressive passage where following the stream past another inlet, under the bridge that gives the cave its name and will then to the end of the cave and the sump that was the original way into Little Neath River Cave. Despite apocryphal stories of scouts freediving this sump, the way on from here is only for the experienced cave divers.

We passed the entrance series quickly and entered the main passage and then had a look around and continued on to the end of the cave. I then got out the camera and we set up and shot a few pictures on the way back upstream.

Ogof Draenen Conservation Trip, 17th February 2018

David Gledhill
Huw Jones
Thomas Williams (Fixed aids officer)
Barry Hill (Hereford CC)
Josh White (Aberystwyth & PDCMG Conservation officer)
Ed (SWCC)

By David Gledhill
Photos by Barry Hill

There’s a massive push to re-tape Draenen in the coming future and 17th Feb was set as date for another re-taping session, this time in the northern passage of the cave through Gilwern and into Forever Changed.

Tom was relieved, as at first thought of doing some conservation trips, he presumed he would be picking up the human poo he discovered down in Haggis Basher a few weeks previously and he had been fretting about which pooper scooper would be sufficient and strong enough to survive a trip in and out whilst scooping up the smelly mars bars.

We all met up at Pwll Du and being a fairly mixed bunch; we introduced ourselves to new faces, got kitted up and packed meters plus meters of conservation tape with new pickets into our tackle sacks. Making good time through the entrance series and into Gilwern we stopped at Giles Shirt to marvel at the formations.

Whilst making our way through Gilwern Passage, Josh showed us the previous few trips’ efforts of re-taping. Reaching the choke into Forever Changed it was here that I discovered that I had probably enjoyed a bit too much steak in France a few weeks previously, as I found it to be tight! Once I had I popped out the other side like a popped champagne cork the taping was in full flow already.

The emphasis was getting the mini stakes and pickets to raise the tape out of the mud and to bring the walkway in slightly, before more people accidentally stepped over, ruining pristine passage. There’s not much more to say on this subject apart from a lot of tape was nicely laid and old tape removed. I’d have to confirm with Josh how much we laid and length of passage covered but I do know we stopped short of the junction leading off to the duck so another trip is needed to finish that off.

Once the tape had run out, an hour or so was spent exploring some of the northern passages in this part of the cave. Possible conservation work was found and most importantly…possible leads? Who knows? On exit from Gilwern Passage an old camp was spotted just before Tea Junction, so it was decided to pack this away but nobody fancied trying the out of date pot noodle!

Outside it was finally a little bit sunny and it wasn’t even raining! Very odd. Great to meet up with some other clubs to look after a special place.

Huw, Dave and Josh

Huw, Dave and Josh

Huw Jones

Huw Jones

Ed and Dave in the distance

Ed and Dave in the distance

Tom, Ed and Dave removing old tape

Tom, Ed and Dave removing old tape

Tom, Dave and Josh

Tom, Dave and Josh

Huw and Tom busy re-taping

Huw and Tom busy re-taping

Some of the finished product

Huw Jones

Huw Jones

Half a Path Re-taped

Half a Path Re-taped

Draenen170218#10

A Chilly Trip into North West Inlet – 7th January 2018

Barry Burn
Adam Knapp

Report and  photos by Barry Burn

Adam and I decided that we needed to burn off some of the Christmas period’s bacchanalian excesses and headed into Craig a Ffynnon for a visit to North West Inlet.

Adam picked me up and we hit our first obstacle, the A465 roadworks that caused a diversion to the bottom of The Rock and back up again where our next obstacle was encountered. The usual place where everyone parks these days was full of cars. We could just about fit in but a chap in a van told us that the layby was to be used for lorries turning around so we could get back to find the car gone. Down to the remains of the Rock and Fountain revealed a building site, but, we were still able to park. This turned out to be a good spot, the temperature was near zero with frost and could nip into the old pub to shelter from the keen wind to get changed.

We were soon changed into our finest cordura and neoprene and heading up he road to the cave. a bit later than planned, but not too bad all things considered.

Adam took care of the lock…

Adam Opening the Gate

Adam Opening the Gate

..and we were soon inside.

Adam Inside

Adam Inside

We warmed up a bit but were soon confronted with the rather wet way into NWI. This proved to be far colder than usual and caused some language that you wouldn’t use in front of your mother-in-law.

Things were getting numb and shriveled so we moved quickly, and Adam, who was on his first visit to NWI, was impressed as the passage roof lifted and the way on grew to impressive proportions with some very nice formations.

We were soon at the dig at the end of the passage for a mooch around the still in situ mini railway.  A couple of photos were taken and then we headed back stopping for a few more photographs on the way.

Grotto

Grotto

 

Evening Trip to Agen Allwedd Music Hall 02/01/2018

Thomas Williams
David Gledhill
Richard Gledhill

Trip report by Dave Gledhill

Fresh year and with fresh weight gained from turkey, beer and other festive goodies we decided a short trip in Aggy was in order to burn off a few calories on the walk to and from the cave itself. Plus Tom had a brand new yellow suit from St Nick’s sack to get dirty.

It was good to be back in Aggy after mine and Tom’s trip back in October when we did the Classic Inner circle trip. But this trip was one I’d wanted to do since 1998 which was the last time I had done it as a young gobby teenager refusing to get in the entrance when Richard had taken me for my first caving trip. Eventually he coaxed me in and the rest is history I suppose.

Storm Eleanor was looming as we met at 3pm so a nice coffee and chat was enjoyed first in Richards van before we braved the elements to get kitted up. Heading off along the tram road, it was clear that being underground was going to be a welcome relief from the weather.

Sliding through the gate and into the entrance series we went. Conversation was flowing as was the stream! The water levels were certainly up as were the bat roosts. There was hundreds of them so we carefully picked our way through the series and poor Tom got a family lesson from us both for which I’m sure he’s thankful…..

We slid and crawled our way through the first choke and emerged into Baron’s chamber. Being a nice relaxed evening trip we stopped here for 10 minutes and discussed renewable energy (you can’t beat caving chat!)

Heading off down Main Passage we could hear Main Stream passage thundering away in the distance as we passed the junction for it on the right, we headed off up to the left and entered Main Passage proper. This is the one part of the cave I always remembered from when I was a kid. The hard glacial deposited mud with its perfect cracks, I would have loved to been the first to stomp down there when it was pristine. More bats were found but hanging in some strange places, like very close to the floor on boulders? Scared of the higher roosts maybe.

Reaching Music Hall we admired the newer music stand which had been dragged in a few years ago and headed off to the Cliffs Of Dover to have poke around.

A few pictures were taken, a few drinks had, so we decided to head off and make our way back out stopping regularly to savour the Main Passage and for Tom to have a poke around in Southern Stream Passage. Not tonight Tom but next trip maybe 😉

We exited the cave to heavy heavy rain but I suppose that’s the kit cleaned down ready for the next trip!

Tom in Barons chamber

Tom in Barons chamber

Richard emerging from 1st Boulder Choke

Richard emerging from 1st Boulder Choke

 

The Gledhills pretending to be able to read music

The Gledhills pretending to be able to read music

Richard and Tom in Main Passage

Richard and Tom in Main Passage

High Vis Tom sliding into the 1st choke on exit

High Viz Tom sliding into the 1st choke on exit

 

A Trip ‘t’ Yorkshire Dales

Trigger – 16th-20th October 2017

16/10/17

Quite lucky to have this trip and it meant a week away from work just doing some caving….can’t moan really. The first day was spent in the SRT hanger just practicing some long forgotten SRT skills which I didn’t really have in the first place, but after a solid 5 hours of up/down a rope with all sorts of changeovers, passing rebelays, deviations and knot passing practiced we had a good solid base to work on the week. Especially for me as ‘The Rope Mong’ as I was soon to be known when I attempted a few rigging scenarios in the hanger…..yeah I wasn’t asked to rig again.
After the practice, we packed the van with enough rope to circumnavigate Jupiter and set off for Clapham Bunkhouse at the foot of Ingleborough. Our home for the week.

Loadsarope

Loadsarope

17/10/17 SELL GILL HOLES

After an epic slap up breakfast supplied by the owners of the bunkhouse we packed the van and set off for the first cave of the week Sell Gill, A perfect cave for people like myself who have done vertical before but not very much and a long time ago.

After a 20 min drive we arrived and trekked up to the 2 entrances, first half of the day was to be spent in the dry fossil entrance. The first pitch was quickly rigged but as I was last to enter I had the joy of standing in the howling wind of storm Ophelia as she blew up the fell.

First pitch was easily done and nothing much to worry about, pitch 2 was a bit more free hanging with a deviation to pass but still….I quite enjoyed it. It appears so far, that my fear of heights has finally left me!

Pitch 3 yet again was easy enough apart from one of the lads screaming up ‘’my STOP isn’t working…..’’ turns out he was still hanging off a cowstail he had forgotten to unclip!

On the floor of the 3rd pitch we had a quick bimble down the stream way to the sump, not much to see apart from the other pitches we were about to descend once we had left the dry entrance and took a trip into the wet entrance ‘’Wet Goblin’’

After a quick climb out of the dry side we repacked the ropes and entered the Wet Goblin, now this was more like it. Water gushing past whilst hanging off a traverse line on cows tails. Pitches met immediately with letterbox squeezes with drops either side. I really enjoyed this side as the water made things a lot more sporty and interesting. By the time we had reached the bottom again it was time for us to exit as we had been under a bit longer than planned so a quick turnaround and we were climbing our way out.

Now it certainly proved to myself by the end of the biggest pitch that I had to improve my prussiking technique as my arms were knackered and I was using them too much as opposed to my legs! The traverses were even more ‘’fun’’ on exit due to slightly rising water levels just from a small shower whilst we was underground!  Overall a good day caving.

On Traverse in Wet Entrance

On Traverse in Wet Entrance

Trig2

18/10/17 BAR POT TO GAPING GILL

Another day, another decent breakfast. Ropes packed but no minibus today as we could walk straight from our bunkhouse to the cave, albeit a long walk but scenic enough.

We arrived at Bar Pot and re-hydrated, shoving a few sarnies down our necks. We split into 2 mini groups with 1 going to Bar Pot entrance and the other going through Small Mammal pot to meet up at the Bar Pot big pitch. Both pitches we done in reasonable time and after a bit of crawling and thrutching we all met up and headed to the pitch. This was rigged by someone who wasn’t a fan of heights so many a swearword was heard as he was hanging off his STOP on Cows tails looking down the 30+m pitch (not high in Yorkshire standards but enough for us!) a rebelay was rigged halfway down purely for speed on the exit so we could have 2 people on the rope.

After we had all descended we had another sandwich on the bottom, SRT kit ditched and headed off in the direction of Gaping Gill main chamber. A series of muddy crawls had to be passed, nothing major but just a bit of hands and knees kind of passage. Here is where I started swearing as I had left my kneepads back at home so this was the first part of the week where I had noticed how much I needed them sometimes.

It wasn’t hard to find the main chamber….the draught was strong, very strong. But nothing was to prepare me for what I was about to experience. It’s always been on my to-do list to enter that place one way or another. I was like a kid in a toy shop or a theme park,  I pretty much legged it in and headed towards to where the water was landing. Pictures were attempted but camera wasn’t up to much but to be fair I just wanted to sip my water and take it all in. I hope one day to return, even if it’s just on the winch.

Reverse route for the way out and we were all still buzzing on the surface and we decided to walk the to actual Gaping Gill entrance for a look. Back to the bunkhouse for food….and beer.

 

Rigging Bar Pot

Rigging Bar Pot

Gaping Gill Main Chamber

Gaping Gill Main Chamber

19/10/17 SWINSTO’S HOLE TO VALLEY ENTRANCE PULL THROUGH TRIP

Guess what I had for breakfast….you guessed it. I was looking forward to this trip after watching a clip on YouTube the night before and I was not going to be let down!

We entered in through a sink, nice wet and cold and are met pretty much immediately by a short pitch down a waterfall. Once again this is my kind of caving, crawling in water, noisy and cold. Without sounding too cliché, momentum has to be kept before hypothermia takes her hold.

Once past this pitch we started the ‘’Swinsto long crawl’’…barely a crawl and not that long to be honest but enough for me to swear a few times due to lack of knee pads and icy cold water.

The crawl ended and a series of further pitches were met, great fun. Can’t really explain that well how much I was enjoying this trip and it was going to get better as we approached Split Pitch. A rather large pitch and exceedingly wet but half down a ledge is met to walk across then carry on the descent down. Once at the bottom I looked up and thanked the ‘cave gods of pull through’ that I didn’t have to prussik back up that!

Now it was onto The Cascades, which I can only describe as very OFDish style stream way but just not as black if that makes any sense. Could this trip get any better….yes is the answer as I marvelled at the Great Aven!

We pushed on and entered Kingsdale Master Cave on our way to Valley Entrance, splashing about we happened to notice the flood marks on the walls at least 5 or 6 feet above heads. Slightly chilling to think as there have been fatalities in this end of the cave.

We climbed out of the stream just before the sump and exited through a dry winding passage literally popping out of a dustbin lid in the bottom of the valley. I’m guessing passing cars would be used to this! Yet again another trip I would like to repeat.

Sadly no pictures but please YouTube the trip as my poor English skills and memory will not do this trip justice.

20/10/17 ALUM POT EXCHANGE TRIP

Final day and options were limited due to the huge amount of rain which had been dumped the night before and the water level was high. Alum pot was decided for all the teams to do as an exchange trip.

Rooms were packed away and all kit chucked onto the vans. Setting off on a stunning day, it was hard to imagine the rain of the night before, but the water gushing off the fells was a reminder. Once at Alum Pot we kitted up and walked to the fenced off area around the pot itself

Rigging began with our small group starting off at the South East Route, whilst another route went in through Long Churn and rigged Window Pitch and the Greasy Slab. Now the fun, a few guys set off before us down South East as they intended to get to the bridge and rig fully down to the bottom which they did. The guy before me suddenly decided he was petrified of heights again and had a bit of mental gap at the first rebelay perched some 40-50m up bless him. A CiC was called to assist him but in the meantime it meant I was stuck on the rope for 20minutes wondering what #### was going on at the belay below me!

To be fair it was a god send, yes I wasn’t happy but managed a selfie and took in the sheer beauty of this pot especially with the amount of water crashing down. Look over towards Long Churn I could see the other teams rigging their way down towards The Bridge. Cavers everywhere!

Finally the ‘’Rope Free’’ was screamed to me and I carried on down to the Bridge to meet the other teams for a quick high five and continue our way back up and out into Long Churn. Greasy slab was fun, like it says on the tin! Slippy! And it’s not a free hang, more a shuffle and a scramble with jammers on whilst slipping around. I prusikked up Window Pitch and chilled out a bit by the Dolly Tubs pitch reflecting on a good week! Once everyone was back together we made our way via a very wet Long Churn and back to the vans for hand shaking and goodbyes!

What a week, I’m glad I did it as I was very sceptical about SRT, now feeling a bit more confident with it, but certainly need some practice at rigging before I return to Yorkshire once again.

Posing at South East

Posing at South East

Looking down

Looking down

Selfie whilst someone was hung up below me!

Selfie whilst someone was hung up below me!

Alum Pot in all her glory

Alum Pot in all her glory

In Search of The Northern Lights, OFD2 – August 20th 2017

Barry Burn
Tom Williams
Vicky Blümel
Zeb Zerbino

We were getting close to our destination now, the Northern Lights in Ogof Fynnon Ddu2. We were three members of Brynmawr Caving Club, Myself, Rob and Mick, and had got to a point where there was a squeeze up through a dug out section over boulders and under a low section of roof. Mick and I had slithered into the comfortable standing space beyond and were watching as Rob tried to get through. Unfortunately Rob’s efforts were coming to nothing, “It’s my chest” he groaned as he tried a different contortion. “Try moving over a bit” we helpfully suggested, “Or on your back,” but, try as he might, Rob wasn’t going to be seeing the Northern Lights that day. I had visited there on a couple of occasions and Rob and Mick were yet to see this impressive part of the system. We made a quick decision that we’d stick together as a team and retreat as one. After all, Rob could lose a bit of weight and the next time we’d be sure to get through. Life has a habit of getting in the way and I ended working the other side of the country, Rob moved away and tragically, we lost Mick at far too young an age and so it was, that return to The Northern Lights with a slimmed-down Rob was never made.
It’s now August 2017 and after the passing of nearly twenty years, I have grown a bit older, a bit greyer and also a bit outwards, but am still enjoying trips into many of the South Wales caves. Tom, a young whippersnapper caver, and I were trying to decide where we would go at the weekend. I suggested OFD and thought that I detected him mumbling something about ‘showcaves.’ “How dare he?” I thought to myself and so suggested that we should visit somewhere a bit off of the usual tourist routes and head for The Northern Lights in OFD2. I quoted the description from ogof.org to him “That is accessed through a rather complicated and sporting route” and so it was settled. It was agreed that we would head for the Northern Lights but that bearing in mind that I had a hazy memory of it being a difficult place to find, that we’d be happy with just heading to that part of the cave with the intention of getting to know the area better.
On the day we were joined by Vicky and Zeb for the long walk up the track to the entrance. Luckily, we weren’t too far from the cottages when I asked who had the survey. Blank looks all round meant that they’d been left somewhere other than with us. “I gave them to you when we were filling in the ticket” said Vicky cheerfully as this meant that she could abrogate all responsibility and it was down to me to walk back and pick them up where she’d left them. So, I placed my Pelicase with containing the ‘F—ing camera’ as it was known to some and hurried back. At least now I could claim to have travelled further than even Young Whippersnapper Tom and have a reasonable excuse for being knackered later. So, I ambled back to where they were sitting with curious smirks on their faces, retrieved my Pelicase and we were off up the hill again.
The entrance was soon reached and as everyone was adjusting their kit, I produced my camera announcing that we had to do the obligatory selfie. I’d been sure to charge my camera as I love taking photographs of trips to record the experience. Many will inevitably turn out to be ‘crap’ but even these are valuable memories to be stored for later years. So, it was with a puzzled face that I looked at my camera as it failed to turn on. Repeated pressing of the power button gave nothing and I wondered if it had frozen so opened the battery compartment to remove the battery and reset it. The empty battery compartment induced a sense of shock, horror and bewilderment which gave way to comprehension as I connected the missing battery with the smirks seen early. “Okay give it back” and a few choice words resulted in my battery being sheepishly returned. I must admit to losing it slightly, there are some things people shouldn’t mess with, redheads, The Zohan, other people’s wives, and a photographer’s camera(I like to think I can call myself one). Now it was my turn to look sheepish as I got my way with the selfie and we opened the gate and entered the cool dark of the cave..

Obligatory Selfie

The plan was to head through The Brickyard to Gnome Passage and then The Wedding Cake. From here we’d head down Salubrious and a quick viewing of The Trident and The Judge before on to The Crossroads and the beautiful Selenite Tunnel, Shatter Pillar and then sort of find our way from there relying on the surveys and my memory.
It was soon apparent that someone was having oversuit trouble as it had obviously ‘shrunk’ causing some trouble when needing to climb in the Brickyard. No worries though, we carried on and were soon out and in Gnome Passage and turning into the passage that leads to the Wedding Cake. A short stop to admire this formation and, as usual, wondering who would want a cake like this for their wedding. It would be more accurate to call it the Wedding Splat. Young Whippersnapper Tom was eager to get going and led off down Salubrious and I followed. The odd little tearing sound as we clambered over boulders seemed to indicate that the oversuit situation was gradually resolving itself and we turned off for another short stop at The Trident. I was getting twitchy at this point as I hadn’t taken any photographs, this wasn’t normal. The camera was in the Pelicase instead of my inner oversuit pocket so it couldn’t be whipped out so easily. I had taken some pictures of the Judge and Trident last time I was here but was not happy with them and want to have another go with a bit more thought to the lighting. This wasn’t going to be the time though as we were off again to The Crossroads, across President’s Leap with me again telling myself that I shall have to find out why it is called that one day. In Selenite Tunnel I was allowed to take a photo and shot a couple of Vicky looking down the passage.
Selenite Tunnel
After this, we headed to Shatter Pillar and headed down where we had a choice of passages on the survey, the ‘straight way’ and the ‘wiggly way’ as we called them. We chose the ‘straight way’ which we followed to Cross Rift where more boulder clambering brought us to Mignight Passage and then into the top of Midnight Chamber.
We were running late by this point, we’d dawdled a bit and along with getting into the cave an hour late we loitered in Midnight Chamber and pondered where to go now. Someone did mention something about a nice pint of ale in the Briton but we weren’t going to head out yet. It was decided that the elite team of Young Whippersnapper Tom and Zeb The Snake would head off toward the Northern Lights with the survey and some vague recollections from me. These amounted to the squeeze where Rob got stuck, a longish ascending squeeze into the start of the Northern Lights and an ascending tube to be climbed. “Nothing too bad though” I said.
As the others headed off, Vicky and I went for a look down Midnight Passage. It’s not an unpleasant passage and you can soon hear the streamway up ahead. Pausing to take photos, we soon had used up half our alloted time and retraced our steps back to Midnight Chamber to find our intrepid explorers moaning about squalid crawls and water, “I really don’t remember any of that” I said. “Anyway, I want to try out my bulb firer” and produced a strange contraption that I’d made up from an old bulb firer and some spare wire. Vicky was placed at the end out of sight and Tom was told to stand in an ‘epic’ sort of way. “3, 2, 1 fire!” And there was light, lots of light, it worked!
Midnight Chamber
By now, the pub was calling and we headed off. Tom and I had a quick look up the passage that goes off below Frozen River and then we returned back via ‘Wiggly Way’ where we were surprised by some nice helectites and crystals on the walls along with a band of some fine fossils.
Wiggly Way HelectitesWiggly Way Fossils

The rest of the way was uneventful and was pretty much the inward trip in reverse until we emerged back into the outside again and back down the hill to change and a welcome pint in the Ancient Briton.

I don’t think I will ever tire of Ogof Fynnon Ddu, there are always places to go and new things to see in there. It just needs you to head off of the tourist routes and have a look down the small passages on the survey that you’d never bother with usually.
Young Whippersnapper Tom is keen for a visit to the end of OFD3, somewhere I’ve never been to yet. I think I should add it to the list.

Daren Cilau to Ogof Cnwc Through Trip – 13th August 2017 by Trig

Dave Trig Gledhill
Tom Williams

Early start for this one as we had wanted leave a lot of time for route finding, with a belly full of bacon sarnies I set off for , The weather being a bit too nice for the 500m plus of crawling about to ensue. As I get to Abergavenny Tom texts to say his car key is in the washing machine so there will be a slight delay!
We meet in the car park and discuss whether maybe getting a key to OFD would be a more sensible option or even a wander in Dan Yr Ogof showcave. But after a nice cup of “Man Up” we find ourselves at the start of the entrance crawl.

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Slithering into the icy waters the swear words could have probably be heard in Aggy but once we both negotiated The Vice the going eased off and normal conversation was had and pictures taken and plenty of “not as bad as I remember” remarks were said. We cleared the entrance in about an hour, stopping only for a drink and a couple of snaps.

Trig in The Vice

Tom in the entrance series

Tom in the Entrance Series

Trig in the Calcite Squeezes
One thing that annoys me about Daren is how the entrance just stops and you are suddenly in walking passage! God send really. We didn’t hang about and pressed on, Tom hadn’t seen the crystal pool before so we decided to go and have a quick look in there before Jigsaw, as its pretty much en route. Worth noting this part of the cave is quite easy for navigating as there are handy reflectors pointing you in the direction of Jigsaw Passage and vice versa for the Entrance/Exit. After a picture of the dried up Crystal Pool we pushed on into Jigsaw Passage and through The Wriggle.

Crystal Pool

Crystal Pool

Arriving at the logbook in ‘Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance’ we signed the log book and consulted the survey. We both had been in the cave both and Tom had done the route before, but in reverse and we all know how different caves look in the opposite direction so this was going to be a good old fashioned survey and description following kind of trip. We carried on as per description but took several attempts and a compass reading! to find ‘Epocalypse Way’

Now this is when I started to realise what an amazing place this is, as after only a few minutes in the easy going walking chamber on the left hand side in the far distance something catches your eye…..a pure white glow. The pace increases to reach the famous formation of ‘White Company’. Can easily say it was breath taking and well worth the few hours of caving to reach such an epic. We stayed here for a short while taking pictures and having a rest and generally taking in such a sight for sore eyes.

Tom and White Company

Tom and White Company

White Company

White Company

Continuing on still impressed with White Company we are rewarded once again with a short climb into a very very very well decorated oxbow, ‘Urchin Oxbow’ to be exact with its deposits and crystal lined roof and yet again another reason to side-track from the planned route. Just round the corner from Urchin the aptly named ‘Kitchen’ is found, where we stopped for lunch and refilled water bottles with some of Llangatwgs finest council pop.

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Now turning left and then left again we appeared in ‘Antler Passage’ and yet again the cave reveals another one of its secrets in the form of a gorgeous set of Helictites named ‘The Antlers’ (for obvious reasons). Now here comes (in my opinion!) the hardest part of the trip. Antler Passage is long….really long and its 99.8% boulder hopping up and down boulder slopes of which this mountain and its systems are famous for with the remaining 0.2% being awkward small pitches with ladders and lines in situ with one being rather tight at the top where I managed to sub humanly bend my knee in un-godly directions. Its easily to navigate funnily enough as its one long passage with ‘Man in the Roof’ dropping back into the passage at one point. But it does eventually end in the form of a lovely wet boulder choke and another climb……..decent.

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

Popping out into ‘Busman’s Holiday’ here our survey improved somewhat and route finding was relatively easy until we reached ‘Prices Prophecy’ which is an amazing, well decorated chamber where the way on looks to the right ( I have previously read about some guys a few years previous who took this route and never found the connection with Cnwc and had to turn back and travel the full 4-5hours back through Daren!) but is actually off to the left into a further decorated chamber and low behold a helpful sign reading “Cwnc exit this way!” too easy!
What else can I say about Cnwc…it’s a dig, it’s not hard but it certainly isn’t pleasant but certainly beats having to go all the way back. We exit covered in mud but high, very high spirits into the warm summers day. Back in the car park we entertain some holiday makers with our tales of crawls and endless passages much to their amusement.
Definitely one of my favourite caves and trips of all times and I think Tom would agree!
5ish hours.

The Pagoda

The Pagoda