Dai MacDonald – Author
The day started as a crisp morning, with the four of us meeting in a carpark in Dowlais. Pete was driving so we loaded his car up and headed for Penwyllt. It was only on the way to Penwyllt that Gareth realised how wet this trip was going to be. He’s not the biggest fan of cold water, and his excitement soon turned to dread. Arriving at SWCC Huw sorted the key, so we got changed and got going pretty quickly.
Cwm Dwr entrance is really close to SWCC, so we were slipping down the concrete pipe in no time, and I can see why Huw kept calling it the toilet. I was quite shocked at how steeply the entrance dropped after the entrance pipes.
There’s a short bit of walking passage before stooping, then crawling, and finally squeezing, and surprisingly, in Dim Dwr there was dwr!
Emerging out into a big passage once again, a lofty and long section of passage, I had to remind myself to stop and look up every so often as we clambered over the boulders.
Before long we met a stream, and then the choke. A notorious section for call outs after people getting lost in it, and it’s easy to see why. Within no time though Huw had led us through, and we made our way to the confluence.
The first section of streamway is pretty rocky before quickly turning to a fast moving streamway. This continues until you meet the Marble Showers. This really does show off the beauty of the rock in this cave. The dark limestone with the crisp white veins cutting through it, words, pictures, or even video just can’t do it justice.
Soon after this we were making our way up the main streamway, lots of high pitched noises were made by all of us initially. It starts similarly as a fast flowing stream, the difference is the pots! Some pots you can walk around the edges, some you can traverse over, but some you’re just getting wet! Still, it’s a treat, and privilege to be able to experience these places, and it’s a great laugh trying to navigate the pots.
Going into the great oxbow is where I noticed the stunning shapes carved out by water in the roof, twisting and turning in such a soft flowing shape.
Once again we were back into the streamway after climbing down from the great oxbow. The streamway definitely changes after this point, with sharper rocks, and more phreatic shelving, but soon it’s back to more phreatic passage. This is where we started looking for maypole inlet. It starts as a relatively easy climb out of the stream using a fixed steel foot plate, and this leads up a tall fixed ladder. At the top we were into a tight rift passage. As we made our way through this tight passage we were looking for a climb up through boulders.
Eventually we found ourselves up in the rift among huge boulders, Huw was sure it was the wrong spot, and after trying to traverse further he was positive. As time went on I started thinking the worst, that we’d have to turn around and head back out Cwm Dwr. While we were all saying we were looking for the way on, in reality we were just following Huw asking “are we going up, or down” repeatedly, while Huw was the only one looking.
Finally I heard unfamiliar voices and made my way back towards them, and asked “where have you guys just come from” and they pointed exactly where we had just come from among the huge boulders. I made my way back after telling the other it was back the way we’d just come from, and the head scratching began again.
Soon we realised we’d started too early and had to just go a little further along the passage, then the real heart pounding climb began!
I’m really not the most confident when it comes to heights, and this climb was definitely a real challenge for me, mentally more so than physically.
It started not too bad with some nice easy steps, more or less, to get you a few metres up in the rift before making a step around a corner onto a small rock wedged in the rift, which felt really exposed. This leads to a body height climb, roughly about 8-9 metres high in the rift, so once again it feels really exposed, especially as there’s not a lot of hand holds. Luckily Huw was first up and had a strap to hand, which he quickly attached to the rope already there, and I pulled myself up and out of maypole inlet using the strap. Gareth and Pete were quick behind me, and we emerged into a T junction. This was the point where Huw said, you should all know where you are now, so lead the way. I was absolutely clueless, but luckily after a bit of talking we were on our way to top entrance through salubrious, and the brickyard.
Emerging onto the hillside was nowhere near as bleak as we thought it would be, and it was actually quite a pleasant walk back down to the club house.
I really enjoyed this trip, and it got me pushing myself further than I thought I could again, as caving always seems to do. This also doubled up as a reconnaissance trip as Gareth and I would like to do the full through trip this year.