Ogof Clogwyn, Sunday 19th August 2018

Huw Durban, Huw Jones, Patricia Hughes, Barry Burn and Tom Williams

By Patricia Hughes
Photos Huw Jones

Evening taster trip to Ogof Clogwyn

What better way to end a wet bank holiday Sunday, than an evening caving trip in the Clydach Gorge?

We met up in Brynmawr at 5, me trying not to be tempted by the sight of the pub opposite the car park and the smell of freshly cooked takeaway food.

Then into 2 vehicles and drop down towards the gorge and out of the low hanging clouds.


Time to don my borrowed kit, try on the helmet, err Barry, how do I unclip It? Lamp check, then tried to figure out how to turn it off…sorted. Barry offered me a spare set of batteries but advised me not to keep them in the sleeve pockets as it may cause discomfort in a future crawl. Hmmm useful advice for sure…read on to find out why later.
My next dilemma; “So lads, is it suit over wellies or wellies over suit?”
“Well Patricia,” came the reply, “that depends if you want water to drain back up your trouser leg or if you want gravel in your boots.” The lesser of the two evils was chosen for me by the clothes that I was wearing, as I could not easily get the bulk of the over suit trouser legs into my wellies.


A short and pleasant stroll around to the Gellifelen Tunnel entrance before walking through the rather muddy western bore. The cloud was probably moving through the tunnel as the lower entrance seemed to be steaming like a witches’ cauldron was bubbling away inside. Time to leave Tom and Barry at the top of the hill and head down into the gorge. The three Huws were caving tonight, Huw, Huw and Hughes. I think that I passed the first test, not getting wobbly legs on the steeper parts of the path, above the gorge below.



Quick stop for a photo or two and instructions for me on cave photo modelling (which I am sorry to say I never fully got the hang of on this trip) before hopping up the resurgence cascade and into Ogof Clogwyn. I spent the first few metres after the short crawl-in gingerly avoiding the deep water in the stream. I was trying to cleverly keep dry wellies. Then I realised, there was little point and I should just accept the inevitable and fill yer boots, as it were. The water was not that cold and I was more comfortable walking normally and not worrying about trying to keep my socks dry. We stopped a few times for the Huws to point out speleological features and explain a little about the local geology. This trip even had a little amount of conservation as we recovered two lost items of clothing from inside the passage. We had a chat and brief sit down at the terminal sump before heading back out, via an upper section involving some crawling and dropping down a couple of slots in the floor. It was whilst crawling that I had an uncomfortable pain in my thigh. Time for me to remember Barry’s words of wisdom about things in pockets. Oh well just another pack of knackered Polos then Patricia, or so I thought.

Out of the cave and up the hill to rejoin Tom and Barry. On the way back we explored the culverts, walking down the “dry one” and back up the “wet one.” Wonderful feat of engineering, and rather fun with the sound and feeling of the water tumbling over the cascades. I did think that at one point I would tumble down the cascade myself as a perfect hand hold came off in my hand, as a football sized piece of rock decided to give up its grip on the rest of the rock just when I was relying on it. Up at the top end there was a narrow traverse step into the bramble bank before walking up to the railway path, avoiding the freshly deposited dog trail.


I then had the opportunity to try a tighter slide into a short cave just beyond the cars. But firstly removing the offending item from my pocket. Turned out to be a lipstick of all things. I asked Barry to look after it on the promise that I would reclaim it when I exited the cave, so as not to cause any domestic explaining on his account when he returned home with my lipstick. I experienced a very short but cold, muddy and low slide into the cave. Another experience that I wanted to try as it was on the potential list of things to put me off the sport. No problems with it though, but I felt a bit bad getting the borrowed and freshly culvert-cleaned oversuit covered in mud. Back to the cars to change. In my euphoria and slight confusion following my first caving trip I had a bit of a wardrobe issue. I could not find a couple of small yet important items of dry clothing. Apart from general embarrassment I was also worried that Tom would have a much harder job explaining to his wife the discovery of my smalls than Barry of my lipstick.

Back off into the clouds and to the car park in Brynmawr. Already signed up for my next taster trip and could not express my gratitude and delight about the evening enough. Wonderful company, a wonderful evening trip and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to my next trip to see if caving is for me.

I am sure that most of you have happy memories of your first trip, or you may not still be here right? Well my first trip was very memorable and I am glad that I went along. Thanks to my caving guides Huw Jones and Huw Durban as well as Barry and Tom, neither of whom went home with incriminating evidence as I found all of my dry kit in the dry kitbag where it had remained all the time.

“Commando” Patricia Hughes

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.