Ogof Draenen – To The Reactor and Camping 20th-21st October 2023

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr

Gareth and I have spoken quite a bit about prospecting in Ogof Draenen, and cave camping, so we thought it about time we ticked them both off.
Friday afternoon arrived and we were running late, nothing new for us. We’d arranged a drop off and pick up, and ended up being dropped off for 4:30. Wasting no time we kitted up, swung our bags onto our backs and headed to the entrance. We kept repeating “we just need to take our time to make sure we don’t get soaked from sweat”, but in no time at all we were both sweating profusely from pushing and pulling the fully loaded bags. Just as we got to the end of perseverance II one of the straps broke on the club’s bag that I was using, possibly from the long dragging section. It wasn’t too bad to manage first of all, but it definitely put me off balance while trying to navigate the boulder floors.
It didn’t take long for us to get through elliptic passage once out of rift chamber, and when we got to the lucky thirteen series we had a break to rehydrate and have a quick snack. Refueled we headed down the sandy passage, but soon got back to the boulder floor of gone with the wind. It seems to be that the further into Ogof Draenen you get, the better the formations get, just so many pretty passages along the way here.
By now we were starting to tire, and our bags felt heavy, but we still had a good bit of distance to cover. Navigation was going well, and we were at the snowball and thinking of our next stop. We looked around a little for the way onto black run, and agreed on a route we both thought was the way. On a normal trip it’s not to bad going the wrong way, but having to carry the heavy bags as well, it really took a lot of effort turning around, or reversing out. Luckily we were right, and we were going through black run looking for the hole to take us to lost in space.
Once again the formations were just amazing, but that didn’t take away from the heavy loads which seemed to be getting heavier, especially through the crawl sections in lost in space, and the short constriction at the end of the passage. It was about this point that Gareth started getting severe cramps in a few different muscles, and at that point he had no idea they’d last right through until the next day.
Past the crawls we found ourselves at a choke looking for the way on, and after looking at the survey we realised it was a climb. I backtracked a couple of metres and found the way into Intergalactic Overdraught. I climbed up and into the passage, and crawled along for a few metres just to check it went on before calling Gareth. This passage takes a few turns before climbing down where it re meets the main passage.
Feeling like we could’ve just lay down there, we stopped for a drink just before the washing machine and the Camberwell carrots, and we’re ready for the last push.
It’s an impressive chamber that leads to a boulder slope into the reactor, but it’s immediately trumped by the reactor. A huge wall covered in blue green flow stone, and a chamber that just swallows the light in almost every direction, just huge!
From here we basically double backed on ourselves into a passage which runs parallel to the one we just left, we entered destiny inlet. Gareth’s cramps were beginning to get really bad, we just kept telling ourselves “we’ll be having a brew and grub in no time”. The route through, over, and around the huge boulders made me feel quite small and vulnerable, but I think that was partly fatigue as well. Almost along the entirety of this passage there are old stal tucked away in the walls, before coming to an area where the passage narrows, and there’s loads of old stal and columns, as well as some really pretty helictites.
This was our campsite for the night, some flat slabs that had dropped off the ceiling, quite a stretch from the idyllic flat sandy floor next to a little stream I stupidly had in my head. We didn’t hang around getting the brew kit and MREs out. To fill up water we had to go about 30 metres back down the passage to a small area that the stream is showing through the boulders. We filtered drinking water, but for cooking and cuppas we just boiled it.
Not long after eating I was hit with excruciating toothache, so I wasn’t the best company. Still we sat in our sleeping bags chatting for a while before calling it a day. Gareth went to sleep still with really bad muscle cramps.

Through the night my sleep was constantly broken, it was really uncomfortable, and each time I’d turn over it would hurt my hips and wake me. Gareth on the other hand woke around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for a while due to still having muscle cramps.
We both woke up quite late around 9ish. I was wrapped in my sleeping bag with my hat over my face, and couldn’t work out why I couldn’t see my watch for the time when I first woke up.
Confusion over, we once again got the brew kits out, and started making breakfast and a cuppa.
We both agreed, with the time set for callout, and how tiring the journey was, we should just start the journey back out around 11:30. By this point I’d remembered I had an isotonic drink sachet, so Gareth had that, and his muscle cramps finally started to ease. We sat in our sleeping bags and had breakfast, and some snacks to fuel up, and obviously a few cuppas before packing our kit up. While sitting chatting we heard some stones flaking off the ceiling, we both paused to question what it was, and again more flaked off. We didn’t talk about it much as there was nothing we could do, other than start packing. I’d mentioned how uneasy the ceiling made me feel when we first got to the camp, but dismissed it as me just being tired and irrational…obviously not though!
We were both dreading getting kitted up again, thinking it was going to be freezing and damp, but it was way less uncomfortable than we thought, so pretty quickly we were ready to start the journey out.
It was around 12 when we started walking, and once again we were amazed with the formations, and the imposing boulder covered passage. It didn’t take long to warm up, and start getting too hot again. The bags were lighter, but not much. Navigation went really well until the junction for mid winter chambers, we went straight on instead of right. We must’ve gone up there for about 30-50 metres before realising we’d gone the wrong way, but it wasn’t too bad of a crawl.
We did well on time, and didn’t have to stop anywhere near as much as the way in.
Exiting the cave felt amazing, just knowing that we didn’t need to push or pull the bags anymore…it was just that bloody steep hill to contend with now. We made contact to stand down the callout, and sort our lift, before taking a well earned lay down on some soft grass in the afternoon sun.
We were just shy of 24 hours underground when we exited the cave.
The main thing I took from this trip was, always bring a sleeping mat, and hydrate more.

Ap Robert – 12th February 2023

Trip: Ogof Ap Robert
Date: 12/02/2023
Cavers: Dai Macdonald, Gareth Farr.
Written by: Gareth Farr.

A caving trip had been planned earlier in the week for us to go on Sunday, every Sunday being our caving day and Ogof Ap Robert was our choice of cave for this week.
Sunday morning came around quickly enough, we were running a bit late as I had slept in, but eventually just after midday we got to Trefil Village. We parked up by the quarry gate and proceeded to get changed into our gear, while getting changed we were approached by a man who was curious as to where we were going today, he said he was keen to have a go at caving so we advised him to contact BCC and after he and Dai had exchanged details we left him to carry on with his day and made our way to the cave.
Just over an hour later and after looking at some interesting shakeholes along the way we arrived at the swallet in which Ogof Ap Robert is located. The swallet is situated up on the moorland between the disused Trefil quarry and Trefil village and proved to be quite a walk to get to, but we were here and eager to get in.

Ogof Ap Robert Shakehole
Ogof Ap Robert
Ogof Ap Robert Entrance

The entrance used is located just up on the right hand side of the cliff face, we donned our helmets and made our way in. As soon as we were in the cave it became apparent that the cave passages go down quite steeply, and quickly, with several small climbs down some boulders and boulder fill we reached the first boulder choke. After coming out of the choke we made our way down a few more small climbs to reach the second choke, at the end of the choke there’s a climb which begins with an awkward little manoeuvre through a small hole in the righthand side of the passage wall and leads down into another rift. We had brought rope and hangers with us as there is a hanger in place at the top of the climb to secure a hand line to to help you down and back up, but a hand line was already in place and after checking to see if it was safe to use we made our way feet first through the small hole and down into the rift below. Shortly after we then came to the third choke and the fourth choke, the fourth choke contains a scaffolded shaft that goes down and comes out pretty much at the beginning of Toad Hall, which is the biggest chamber in the cave.
Just before you enter Toad Hall, there’s an Aven that we climbed up which leads you out onto a boulder balcony that overlooks the big chamber, after taking a minute to take in the view we moved on by taking the passage to the right of the balcony, this took us over a small traverse and onto a climb down through a hole and the end of the small passage, after a couple of more small crawls we emerged back into Toad Hall.
We took a short stop for a drink and change of batteries then entered a hole in the floor which is found just to the left around some boulders as you enter Toad Hall. The hole took us under the boulder floor of Toad Hall, we were pre-warned by Huw Jones of BCC that the boulders are known to move under there and if we do go through there then we were to proceed with caution! I took a quick look and decided that it looked ok to move on, after a short careful crawl under the floor we encountered a small squeeze which I tried to go down, but couldn’t get through, then after a few seconds it dawned on me that the way through the squeeze was only a few inches to the left of where I’d first tried squeezing through, eventually we made it through and into a nice little passage which we followed until we reached Burma Road.
As we made our way along Burma Road we quickly noticed how different this part of the cave was compared to what we’ve just gone through, with all the sediment banks and muddy floors it was a lot different. The mud, as with any cave that has mud in it, did provide a little bit of entertainment, with the slips, wellies getting stuck and just generally getting muddy! We made our way along this tidy sized, muddy passage until we came to a few muddy crawls and a squeeze, shortly after which we came to the end of Burma Road, we had a bit of a chuckle at ourselves covered in mud, then decided to call it a day and made our way back out.
As we had plenty of time left on our call-out we decided that on our way back along Burma Road we’d have a look in the ‘land of Arawn’, this was also a muddy passage which we were able to stoop along for a short while until we reached a few muddy crawls, at the end of the crawls we came to an Aven which is the end of the passage, at which point we turned back around and got ourselves even more muddy crawling back out.
On our way out we had a short stop in Toad Hall to take some videos, with the videos finished we made the rest of the way out. As we left Toad Hall and entered the fourth choke the draft from the entrance was very strong, which surprised me as we didn’t notice it on the way in. While coming back out we again found ourselves amazed at how steeply and quickly this cave ascends/descends.
After a short while we emerged from the cave to the usual smells of life above ground, we stopped for a quick drink then made our way back down off the mountain, while stopping to take a look at the shakeholes that were on our path back down.
About an hour after exiting the cave we arrived at the car, got changed and after a quick cuppa and a bite to eat we contentedly made our way back home.
The trip was only a short caving trip, but it was a really good trip into a cave that we’d not been to before. Ogof Ap Robert proved to be quite a sporting cave with the climbs, crawls and squeezes, and as for the mud? Well… that was the icing on the cake for me!!!! Now onto planning the next adventure underground!

Happy Caver!

Craig a Ffynnon A Journey to the Promised Land 8th January 2023

By Dave Trig Gledhill

It’s been a while since I’ve caved, nearly a year in fact due to work commitments but somewhat more committing than I wanted.
I called upon my good ole partner in caving crime, Tom Williams to assist me and mostly extract the urine out of my ability to move through a cave.
We decided CAF as we haven’t done it in a long time and it’s a relatively easy cave to move through (so I thought, maybe when was in our prime)
I’d forgotten how much the 2nd choke goes up (fun on the way out) how tight the initial squeeze is into Hurricane Highway hands and knees crawl (especially since I’ve been rather fond of takeaway vindaloo as of late) and how much a pig the oxbow is that comes out the stream towards the end of the cave.
Apart from that, a fantastic trip and great to catch up with Tom and many trips were planned.

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.

Ogof Draenen – Sunday 20th March 2022

David MacDonald, Gareth Farr, Louise Lucas

By David MacDonald

We met up on the not so bleak Pwll-du, the sun was beaming and the parking area was packed! Lou struggled to find us, but she got there in the end.

Gareth, Lou and myself kitted up and walked to the entrance. The entrance series was great and surprisingly easy to navigate, and before we knew it we were at the climb. None of us had a problem with it, well once Gareth and I transformed into human steps Lou didn’t have a problem. We signed the logbook at Cairn Junction and headed right towards Wonderbra. Once through Wonderbra we got to the “mud bank” and thought the left here was the left onto White Arch Passage, and carried on down the streamway.

Once we realised our mistake we turned around and headed back towards Tea Junction. We made good time through White Arch Passage, after a quick snack break at Tea Junction, and found our way into Lamb and Fox Chamber easily. We refilled our drinks at the cascade and then had another snack break at the cairn to Indiana Highway. Lou was feeling quite tired after the detour down and back up the streamway. Once we were ready to go again we were quite cold and tense. I don’t think this helped our nerves for the traverse. We climbed up the cairn and turned the corner into Indiana Highway, the mud bank was a challenge in itself! Once in the beginning of the passage we were all struck with its beauty, not that it’s decorated with formations, just the beautiful organic flow of the phreatic passage is enough! We quickly passed the side passages and round the tight corners to the start of the traverse.

I was first and headed into it around the first awkward corner to where it straightens out. I heard Gareth call and he was saying Lou was unsure about carrying on. We had a quick chat and decided amongst us we should just head back. On the way back we had a quick look at the side passages close to the start of Indiana Highway, we saw the fossil in the roof of the one chamber and couldn’t work out if we saw a shark tooth in the roof where you climb in/out of the side passage. On the way out we had no problems whatsoever and had a look in some side passages. We signed out on the logbook and headed back to the climb. We all had no problems climbing and route finding, and quickly found ourselves being soaked again on the final stretch. We got out and it was still a really nice day, so changing wasn’t too bad. We warmed up with a cuppa and headed on our way.

Fiddy’s Farm Cave – Wednesday 19th Decmber 2018

Huw J, Huw D, Harry D, Vernon A
By Vernon A
Photos Huw J

The four of us met on Wednesday morning to verify the rumours that new passages and chambers had been found at Fiddy’s Farm Cave. After seeking permission from the landowner we kitted up and headed off to find the cave. A piece of gating over the entrance and lots of dead leaves gave the initial impression that there hadn’t been any traffic lately, contrary to what the landowner had said.

Dropping down through the narrow entrance rift gave access to a low crawl, after a few meters and a couple of right angles we joined a larger passage with a small streamway. This gave way to a stooping/crawling section where after several more metres the mainstream joined from a narrow bedding plane on the right. Later Huw J crawled up the main streamway until it became too tight, but he could see it opened up again further on.

Following the stream again for a short distance we came to the first chamber, with a steep bank to our right, the stream disappearing on our left and a few Lesser Horseshoe bats. After an explore and a few photos we moved on to a short crawl which soon opened up into the larger second chamber. The breakdown chamber consisted of, a large dry flowstone bank and evidence of a dig in progress, which was apparent with barrels, trays, bangwire and other personal items placed on a large central boulder. Another explore, more photos, numerous bats and Huw J descending 7 or more metres in the far left corner to the terminal dig.

We made our way back out stopping for Huw D to drop down between some boulders in the first chamber to follow the stream for a short distance. With plans to find who was digging and if there is room for a joint operation, or a separate Brynmawr dig following the streamway we got changed and headed for Blaenafon and hot drinks.

    Huw J – Here is, what is I’m sure, a very inaccurate sketch survey I produced of the cave after the trip. It’s done from memory and without the use of a compass but it should give a general idea of the cave. The cave is supposedly about 200m long.

Ogof Draenen – Gilwern Passage and The Streamway – Thursday 29th November 2018

Patricia Hughes, Huw Jones, Lloyd Rielly

By Patricia Hughes
Photos – Huw Jones

The three of us decided to take advantage of a day off in the week to take a trip into Ogof Draenen. It would be the first time into the system for Lloyd and myself, both of whom are new members, joining the club during 2018. I was looking forward to a different kind of trip to face different, new, challenges. It had been a busy November for me, as a newbie. Two trips into Ogof Craig y Ffynnon (OCAF), the first a short trip to the base of the pitch before the 2nd choke and a more strenuous evening trip to Hall of The Mountain King. I had carried out my usual research, reading about the cave in the guidebook, watching some vlogs on You-Tube, reading some reports around the web and of course the logs here on the Brynmawr Caving Club site. My expectations, or perhaps worries were that of a long climb back out and many boulders to work my way past in various chambers. However, and I don’t mean to sound cheesy, this is just what I was after, something to stretch my novice skills, building stamina and learning new techniques. Oh and enjoying the wonders of the cave in great company.

We met up in Asda Brynmawr, resisting the temptation for a bacon roll and cup of tea. Popped up to town to collect the key and decided that, due to the recent heavy rain fall, that it would be interesting to take a trip down the main streamway, to see it in high water conditions. Of course, I had no idea of knowing what it looks like in low water conditions either, and so long as there was little chance of being swept away, or a flood to the roof, I thought, yeah sound like a great idea. The three of us headed up into the low clouds and parked up in the area, just before The Lamb and Fox. Maybe about this time I should expand on the weather. It was more than just heavy rain on that day, it was one of the named winter storms, Storm Diana. And up on the exposed mountain top parking area, she was giving us a good whipping with her wet, angry wind. Diana ensured that we did not dawdle over getting changed and checking our kit. A reasonably quick change was followed by an equally quick walk off the top and into the relative shelter of the cwm down to the treeline. The men took the opportunity to assist Diana in the watering of the surrounding vegetation before we headed in through the very drafty doorway. Very quickly into the cave, I encountered my first real challenge, something that even the second choke in OCAF did not provide, finding that my hips do not always fit where my legs do. A shuffle over to the left and I slid down easily. I think at this point the additional lubrication of the stream cascading down the entrance was more of a help than a hindrance. My memory of the ordering at this point is a little vague, but I clearly remember Huw pointing out some blocks in the passage where the bedding plane crawl is. This was to provide me with some comfort a few hours later. Down the scaffolding climb and we worked our way to the top of the pitch. Whilst many experienced cavers, or perhaps most will climb down using the fixed aids, we took the opportunity for some training. Huw rigged up a ladder and life line and demonstrated the caving technique for using ladders. I must say that it was a little weird compared to the loft ladder, I felt a bit robotic using my legs for doing the pushing and not pulling with my arms. But the efficiency of the technique really impressed me. If only I could get the hang of pushing myself away from the wall with more elegance, then I would be a happy lady. Ladder training done, we headed down to the Cairn Junction and signed into the logbook.

We then made our way through the crawl and slid down through the hole to the right, better known as Wonderbra Bypass. We initially headed for Gilwern Passage. Upon entering, Huw suggested that Lloyd and I waited where we were so that he could make his way swiftly to the end of the line of sight, where he turned around and waited for us to join him. Had we had the benefit of Barry’s Sun in a Stick Fenix handheld lamp we probably would have been able to appreciate the length of this part. But as we just had our regular lamps, Huw, quite rightly suggested that the best way to appreciate the scale is for him to head down and us to watch, in appreciation of the size of this relatively tiny part of the system. Passing some pretties on the way, we went as far as the elbow, where a cascade came down from the right hand ceiling. I don’t know if this is a wet weather only or a regular cascade. Good excuse to break out the camera allowing Lloyd and myself to position ourselves for pictures.

Back to Tea Junction and on towards the streamway. As I have mentioned we wanted to see the stream in heavy flow as a result of all the rain. We were not disappointed. My only other experience of significant and sustained stream passage was my taster trip into OFD1. I must say that on this occasion, for me, it was a much greater challenge. Far more concentration was required and there were some parts of wading that made the lads raise their voices due to the water depth making itself know to their bodyparts. Huw selected a suitably pretty or maybe a suitably deep pool after a small cascade for some pictures. Lloyd being a really good sport for standing in deep and fast water whilst Huw and myself carried out the necessities with camera and lamp respectively for some more pictures. We passed what I called to myself Blorenge Beach on the left, a pretty but small sandy cwtch in a bend. Progress was made relatively simply to the first boulder choke, which being our destination was the point of turning around. On the way back up, I was able to get a better appreciation of some of the impressive formations and the height of parts of this area of the streamway. A few more pictures were taken, for example of a chunky Stal apparently named, “The Sentinel” that stood impressively
on a raised step to the left. Moving back upstream had a feeling of going up the down escalator. Especially in the narrower parts where the current was faster and stream deeper. By this point, my caving stamina was being tested with each cascade climb seeming to become progressively more thigh burning. Thank heavens for my regular walks up onto the mountains as without it I think that I would have been wanting to keep resting. But on we went and progressed one boot in front of the other, back to Tea Junction.

We stopped for a break here and much-needed energy replenishment to prepare us for the climb back out. We ate our sandwiches/nuts/chocolate with efficiency but did make time for reflective discussion about the trip so far. We did however continue before the cold had a chance to set in, we were all very wet from the streamway and did not want to become uncomfortable or end up having the cold have an impact on our performance. The return poke up through Wonderbra bypass was quite a challenge, with a well lubricated, steep floor assisting gravity and the cave not wanting to let go of its grip of us. Draenen wanted us to stay for supper. An inelegant thrust was made by me and perhaps my companions to get to the top of the constriction. Perhaps they managed with grace and elegance, but I did not. All out and into the crawl before a last bit of boulder hopping through cairn junction. By the way the log book pencil needs sharpening. The climb up the ladder was with the reassuring lifeline provided by Huw. To be honest I was so grateful for that lifeline as my confidence was a little dented due to the challenge of the trip. Ladder, rope and all the tackle neatly stuffed away oxymoronically into the backpack and I led the way to the climb out. I managed to take a wrong turn and unbeknownst to me, Lloyd, who was following did not see me fork to the right. I headed off to a dead end, I realised when I was in a gravel-bottomed crawl that I knew I did not pass on the way in. I called out but no reply. I could neither see nor hear my companions. I called out a couple more times, as loud as I could manage, having to consciously fight my creeping sense of fear. I had made two mistakes, taking the wrong turning and not noticing that Lloyd was not behind me. And then my novice caving imagination was trying its best to overrule my rational self. With no space to turn, I shuffled myself backwards until I managed to turn myself around and head back to the junction where I had gone wrong. It was only about 5 metres and I looked to the right to see the waterfall coming down from what appeared at distance, to be from nowhere. I approached the waterfall and looked up and could see the correct route out. I shouted once more, but the noise of the water prevented me from hearing any reply. I realised what had happened and made my way up the climb and when I reached the bedding plane crawl, I had the reassuring sight of the blocks that I had remembered noticing on the way in. My mind was still trying its best to scare me, I had visions of my fellow cavers leaving the cave, shutting the gate and heading back to the car, assuming that I had not waited. Of course, I knew that there is no way that this would have happened and in no time, I could see the soles of Huw’s boots and gave a shout out to him, who I think was surprised to see me coming up from behind. Once out my adrenaline rush subsided and then I started to get wobbly legs. Relief at being reunited and laughing at myself. This whole episode probably only lasted about 5-10 minutes, but my sense of timings were greatly slowed down by my mind working overtime.

A quick walk uphill followed and back to the cars. Getting the engine started to warm the car up and breaking into the flask of coffee that was waiting for me in the car boot. It was cold up on the exposed parking area, but more settled than when we got changed before the trip. Family priorities for each of us meant that we did not call into the Talisman for a post trip drink, instead all heading directly home, just beating the rush hour. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip into Draenen. It was a very different cave and one that I look forward visiting many times in my new caving career.

Ogof Cynnes – Saturday 27th October 2018

Dave Gledhill, Thomas Williams and Huw Jones
Words and photos – Huw/Dave

Dave – “Cynnes?”
Huw – “It’ll be fun!”
The cave description – Mostly horrid!

Not sure if the trip was fun or horrid (possibly a bit of both) but there were a couple of slightly worrying incidents!

I arrived at the car park near Blaen Onnue Quarry a few minutes early, to find Dave and Tom already there. Everyone was obviously keen! It was a very cold day and the other two wore jackets over their caving gear for some extra warmth. First we headed to the quarry, to check out the film set that’s been there for the last few months. They have been filming a big budget production of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to be shown on BBC1 sometime next year. Filming must be finished as it looked like the set was in the process of being dismantled.

It was a nice, if cold, walk to the cave, accompanied by a bighting wind. Ogof Cynnes translates as Warm Cave and the difference in temperature inside to out was very marked. We’d brought a ladder, mainly to get into the lower part of the Easter Series but first we used it just inside the entrance to take a look down the First Pot. I’d dug here in the early 90s with the Poly of Wales Caving Club. After we’d dug into the Easter Series, at the far end of the Right Hand Series, our survey showed a possible link with the First Pot, which would create a round trip. The bottom of the pot and the dig had become a horrendous quagmire with water lying on top of the liquid mud!

Back up the ladder and quickly derigging it, we carried on just a little way along the entrance rift to Talk Back, which is a very narrow tube/rift and one of the two possible routes on. Tom shimmied through with no problem and the bags were passed to him. Then I tried but I didn’t fit! This was our preferred route all those years ago with the POWCC and the way I took when I did a solo trip to remove some of our digging gear so I was a bit gutted (no pun intended!) that I was too big now. Dave decided that if I didn’t fit, then he wouldn’t either and so our only option was to take the Second Pot route and meet Tom further into the cave. Now the Second Pot has a dodgy chain ladder hanging down it, that probably dates from the 1970s! When we were digging in the cave in the early 90s, we rigged our own ladder on the pitch, if taking this route. Of course, we had a ladder with us but we’d passed it through Talk Back to Tom and so rather than taking up more time, I decided to risk the chain ladder. There had been an aborted BCC/MCC trip to Cynnes a while back and at least a couple of people had climbed the ladder then, before turning around and heading out. It was in poor condition, with the chains loose from the ends of the rungs and slid together in the middle! I slid down the tube to the pitchhead and once on the ladder, pushed the chains apart with my feet. I was nearly at the bottom when a little shock ran through the ladder and looking up, I saw that a chain link on the left, that one of the rungs passed through, had snapped! The rungs below this slopped a bit but I was able to gently climb to the bottom without anything else breaking. Obviously it wasn’t a good idea for Dave to follow me and I didn’t fancy climbing back up the partly broken ladder. By this time, Tom had almost made his way around to where I was. I shouted to him to get our ladder to Dave so that he could rig it on the pitch. That all took a little while of course but eventually we were all in the ridiculously muddy chamber before the choke leading to the Main Chamber, having slid down the infamous Muddy Slot. After all that we hoped the rest of the trip would run more smoothly!

Through the choke and we were into the impressively tall Main Chamber and from there headed into the Left Hand Series. The Left Hand Series isn’t particularly extensive but does contain probably the second largest chamber in the cave, Hope and Glory Chamber. One area I was keen to find, as I hadn’t visited it before, was the Black Hole Series. The way into this turned out to be a very obvious hole through boulders in the base of the chamber. We explored the upper part of the small series and found various places that probably drop into the lower part but as we didn’t now have a ladder, we couldn’t descend. Tom was keen to go back with gear, to take a look at what must be a very little visited area of the cave.

We headed back to the Main Chamber and then made our way through the Right Hand Series, exploring a couple of side passages along the way. We had to leave some other parts, like the Boulder Chambers area, for another day as getting though the entrance series hadn’t been straight forward and had taken some time and we wanted to get on to the Easter Series. We climbed up to and then crawled along a high ledge into Roof Passage, at the end of which are the series of three POWCC digs which lead into the Easter Series. The second dig, a U bend had developed a lovely pool of water to crawl through! We made our way to the end of the series, which is mostly in Millstone Grit, before heading out. We weren’t able to drop into the lower part of the series as we’d had to leave our ladder on the Second Pot, of course.

After our problems on the Second Pot on the way in, we were looking forward to a straight forward trip out. We got that until we arrived back at Talk Back! I’ll leave it to Dave to describe what happened next!

    Dave – After being fairly certain earlier on in the trip that I wouldn’t fit through Talkback, I for some reason decided on the exit that I’d give it a shot anyway as opposed to going up the horrible slippery muddy slot by the 2nd pot. My choice seemed the right one as I saw Tom fly up with my no dramas whatsoever, so I chucked the bags up and luckily (as will become apparent) I chucked him my belt which had my HMS crab and sling attached. I climbed up easy enough and “inserted” myself into the squeeze. It soon became apparent that square blocks don’t fit into Talkback let alone circular holes as I managed to get wedged….really wedged. Then panic hit, which didn’t help as then my body slipped into the rift below and my lungs compressed. “Don’t panic butt” I heard Tom shout with a hint of a giggle in his voice whilst he unravelled my sling. Meanwhile I’m making noises which could probably be likened to a moose who’s been smoking 20 woodbines a day. Moments later as my face turned blue (I’m guessing….couldn’t say really after all the mud that actually caked my face) the sling appeared and after several choice words and some tugging I emerged at the top with the same relief I experienced after somehow getting wedged in the entrance pitch of Bar Pot in Gaping Gill a few months previous. I think I’ll just be using the 2nd Pot and muddy climb from now on. If I remember rightly I think poor Huw was underneath all this palaver!

After that ‘excitement’ and with the horrible sound of Dave’s constricted breathing still in my head, I made my way around the other way, while Tom and Dave waited above. It was a real struggle getting up the Muddy Slot and the small tube/rift above the Second Pot and I climbed our ladder very gingerly as the bolts and hangers it was attached to, are probably of the same vintage as the old chain ladder!

It was still very cold outside and so, after a quick ‘after’ group shot, we made our way back to the cars, admiring the fantastic views along the way. An interesting trip and I think Dave and Tom were impressed with the muddiness at least!

Carreg Yr Ogof – Friday 19th October 2018

Huw Jones & Pete Jeffery
Words and photos – Huw

The original plan was for a trip into Craig A Ffynnon with Vernon but when Vernon had to drop out, I suggested a visit to the remote but interesting hill of Carreg Yr Ogof, on the Black Mountain. I’d wanted to explore the place for donkey’s years but had never quite got around to it. Pete runs the YHA at Llanddeusant, situated below the hill so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The drive through the Beacons and around the Northern end of the Black Mountain is one of my favourites and I couldn’t help but stop to take the odd photo of the views up to the hills.

I arrived at the YHA at the appointed time to find no one around. Pete had had to sort a few unexpected things out and was currently at the tip! No problem as the weather was great and it’s a lovely place to just hang out. Pete turned up and quickly throwing his kit into a backpack we set off, in our wellies, on the hour’s walk up to Carreg Yr Ogof. There is plenty of height to gain in a relatively short distance but gallingly, the route actually starts off with a steep descent down a farm lane to the river! Starting up the other side, we climbed a bank to allow a herd of sheep to be driven passed, then soon turned off the lane to the farm and carried on upwards on a rough stoney track, that turned grassy before reaching the open hillside. The views are fantastic, with the Towi Valley spread out below us and the high peaks of the Black Mountain to the North, hiding the picturesque lake of Llyn y Fan Fach.

The gradient started to ease and Carreg Yr Ogof came into view, dotted with lots of old, small quarries. We carried on to the top on the hill (585m/1920ft) to get our bearings, where a large group of off road motorcyclists disturbed the peace somewhat. There are quite a few small caves spread around the hill, with lengths in the range of 20m-40m, plus a longer cave at 160m. We had planned to visit as many as possible but with the delayed start we decided to just check out the two best known caves of Ogof Carreg Yr Ogof and Ogof y Garimpeiros.

First we headed for Ogof Carreg Yr Ogof, the cave that the hill is named for. It’s all of 37m long but worth visiting. I’d loaded the co-ordinates into my GPS so we had no problem finding the entrance, where we got kitted up and headed in, Pete leading the way. The entrance chamber is rocky and bare. A short crawl then leads into the Main Chamber, where the floor is covered in many, many small stalagmites, a couple of inches to a couple of feet in height. They are unusual in that they are mostly white but each one has an orange top. The Main Chamber ends in a heavily calcited choke. A constricted route has been dug through on the right, leading to a very unexpected sight. Popping out of the choke, in front of you is a beautiful deep, green pool of water, looking not unlike a mini Dan yr Ogof Green Canal. There is plenty of pretty calcite on the walls and ceiling too. The passage carries on underwater but only for another 10m apparently.

Next, we made our way to Ogof Y Garimpeiros, the longest cave in the area at 160m. We’d noticed the location of the entrance as an interesting spot, on our way up to the top. The entrance is situated just above a sink and is covered with a green wheelie bin lid! Considering how loose the whole entrance area is, the shoring is pretty minimal, with just some thin metal bars and a few bits of rotten timber. Squeezing feet first through the entrance, it’s surprising how large the passage is so close to the surface. The extremely bouldery view before us set the scene for the whole cave. There is hardly an original, water-worn surface anywhere, with the walls and ceiling all angular facets, where the boulders have peeled off. Perhaps because it’s close below the surface, the walls and ceiling are almost completely covered in brown calcite. We joked that if it wasn’t for the calcite cementing everything together, the whole place would have fallen in!

Progress is made up and down boulder piles and includes a crawl through a choke half way along, before reaching the terminal choke. The stream is met at the base of the boulder piles and is a good size, considering it’s not far below the summit of the hill. The water has been traced to the Ffrwd Las resurgence on the Avon Twrch, right in the middle of the Black Mountain, a distance of 5.5km and 250m lower! That’s huge potential considering the equivalent figures for OFD are roughly 3.2km and 290m!

A really enjoyable day and somewhere I definitely want to return to, to check out the rest of the small caves. Best on a sunny day when it’s not too hot!