Huw Jones and Steve Atkins
Photos – Steve Atkins
My first trip to OFD started well. After driving to the quarry at the top of the hill that leads to the South Wales Caving Club, the fog was that thick, I promptly turned around and went looking for the club elsewhere. Fifteen minutes later a phone call confirmed I was now a couple of miles from the club. If I’d driven 30 metres further in the fog, I would have arrived on time as planned.
When I arrived at the club, I was surprised to find two cavers of screen and still photograph fame – Brendan Marris and Mark Burkey. It was nice to meet these two after watching all their videos and admiring the fantastic photographs they’ve produced over the last year or so that I’ve been caving.
The entrance to OFD 2 is something to behold for an amateur caver like me. Alice in wonderland springs to mind, with the door being just over knee high. Once inside, the cave opens up and for the next 4 hours I’m sure Huw wished he had brought ear plugs with him, as all you could hear was me saying wow, that’s awesome, amazing and other such things, as with each step you take, more of the caves formations were revealed to us.
The first thing to see was Gnome Passage with its small calcite formations and the trickle of water in the background that makes them talk. This set the tone for the rest of the trip, as I do like to take a photograph or two hundred and Huw set off with his Japanese tourists in tow, complete with multiple cameras strung around neck.
Having not caved for just over four months, I found some of the clambering hard going and Huw had said there were a few high sections that I was not looking forward to, due to me not being a fan of anything over stepladder height.
Off we went to the next formation, the Wedding Cake. Pause for photos and a few ooohs and aaahs, then we carried on to the start of Chasm Passage and down through the Corkscrew. This is a little exposed at one point and I was trying not to look down at Huw who seemed to be 30ft below. Then it was on to Salubrious Passage, with its fine formations and the climb and traverse. We rounded a bend and there before us was the magnificent Trident. Pause for photos. I was drooling at this point. Huw then asked me to lead the next stretch. After assurances that the water was not to deep, off I went and there was the Judge. Awesome was the only word that I could mutter before I started snapping away and admiring the wonderful colours. There then followed a small streamway to Swamp Creek and more formations and you guessed it more photos.
We then headed back to Salubrious and Huw showed me the way to Maypole Inlet, which is the route to the Streamway. Then we backtracked to President’s Leap traverse and into Selenite Passage and it was time for another photo shoot. We then went onto Cross Rift, along to Midnight passage, to the bottom of Skyhook Pitch. I couldn’t remember much of this part of the trip as Huw had promised another traverse which was playing on my mind.
So we went back to Cross Rift and up to Shatter Pillar, were we stopped and refiled the batteries in the cameras and had a quick chocolate bar to replace some energy. We then moved onto Edward’s Shortcut via the crystal pool and the ladder and then I’m sure we got a little lost (only a little Huw). We then faced the dreaded traverse which Huw flew across and I followed with the grace and speed of a 70 year old tortoise. I was glad to pass this without falling down the hole and with great relief it was onto the next obstacle, which Huw called the Slippery Climb which, after studying Huw’s struggle to the top, I decided to try a different approach and got to the top with the minimum of trouble and was quite pleased with the achievement.
We were then coming to the end of our trip and headed through the Brickyard with its slippery rocks and onto the Big Chamber Near the Entrance, where we paused for a few more photos. We then headed out, passing a group of students on their way in.
Thanks to Huw for guiding me on my first, but not my last, visit to this awesome system.