Ogof Draenen, Thursday 17th May 2018

Gareth Jones, Huw Jones and Dave Gledhill

By Gareth Jones
Photos Huw Jones

So the club have been reminding me of my lack of trip reports, having been on a few cave trips now, and after a gentle Thursday night stroll into Draenen, I feel obliged to write my first.

With my much publicised fear of heights, the plan was to see if I would cry and retreat from the first pitch (“that’s as big as a 4 storey building!”), not far from Cairn junction.

The evening began with Dave picking me up and driving to the car park opposite the Lamb and Fox pub. We started to kit up whilst waiting for Huw to arrive. Huw arrived promptly after us, and together we made our dangerous descent down the steep hill to the gated entrance. On the way Huw told us tales of the initial dig and discovery.

At the entrance, I was lucky to unlock the gate and open the hatch, to be blasted by the incredible draught that departed the unassuming crack in the rock that first drew cavers to dig there.

So, the climb down began. Through a series of flat out crawls, and descents through scaffolded vertical shafts. We emerged into the streamway with much cursing as I received a thorough soaking in the freezing waters. A slot through and under a waterfall brought us down to the initial breakthrough. More tales from Huw about the night the breakthrough occurred. In front of us the ‘Darling Rifts’ continued, while the easy way on was through a crawl in the floor to the right. Of course, Huw wanted us to have the original experience the first discoverers had, so we proceeded through the ‘Darling Rifts’. “Oh darling!”, I was very apprehensive and did not look down, the whole time wondering why we didn’t just go the easy way. At the end of a rift, we climbed down to the left and emerged in a big chamber with a boulder as big as Australia blocking the way on. A climb under the boulder brought us to a huge hole in the floor. The ‘Big Bang Pitch’, the original way on into the cave. After a few more tales, we headed into the Gyracanthus Loop and Psammodus Passage, to see amazing fossils of sharks and Jurassic sea life.

We headed back into the rifts, as I was not feeling the ‘Big Bang Pitch’ tonight (maybe next time…), to emerge back into the entrance series, and continue the ‘easy way’ into the cave. After some more cascades and crawls we emerged on to the top of the 4 storey pitch. To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement. It was a 4m climb down with a knotted hand line. So, I tightened my belt, and followed Dave down the climb, which was no where near as bad as I had scared myself into believing. Feeling like action man at the bottom, I tried not to think about the return climb.

We continued on and headed to the first major chamber, ‘Cairn Junction’, and I signed us into the log book. Job done. Or so I thought.

We decided to explore a bit more of the cave. Continuing downstream, through the ‘Wonderbra’, and ‘Tea Junction’, we headed up ‘Gilwern Passage’. I was struggling to stay on my feet for looking at the amazing passage and formations all around, and not at my feet and the path ahead. We stopped for pictures at the bigger formations and decided to turn back at an impressive inlet flowing in from an aven in the roof.
After we arrived back to the junction, we followed the ‘Beyond a Choke Streamway’ downstream. An impressive streamway, with deep pots, and traverses. After what felt like a few miles, Huw reminded me that we weren’t even a quarter of the way to the end of the streamway. With that, we decided to turn back, as it was getting late, and begin the ascent out the cave.

We arrived promptly back at the log book and signed out. We decided to take the easy way back out the cave, instead of ‘Darling Rifts’. At the foot of the 4m pitch, we climbed up with ease, and made our way back into the wet entrance series. I received another soaking at the slot in the waterfall, with the flow going down my neck into my oversuit. After ascending up the scaffolded shafts and through the flat out crawls, we popped out the hatch into the dark, pleasantly fresh, spring night.

We started the dangerous climb back up the steep mountainside, to get back to the cars and change.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip. Although I kept reminding myself that I had barely scratched the surface in Wales’ longest cave system. My lasting thought about Draenen is that it is like climbing a mountain in reverse. When you summit a mountain, the way home is downhill all the way. When you descend into Draenen, the way home is to climb a mountain.

Shakespear’s Cave, Wednesday 11th April 2018

“What else could we be doing on a Wednesday eve?”

A short trip into Shakespeare’s Cave – Wed 11th April 2018

Dave Gledhill and Huw Jones

By Dave Gledhill

After conducting a bit of *ahem* husbandry in the local caving area it was decided beforehand that a trip into Shakespeare’s was needed afterwards to make the drive out on a Weds eve worthwhile. It had been a few years since Huw had been in and a first for me, although I had heard of the place to be ‘sporty’ and wet.

We decided the quickest way down into Cwm Pica would be down the old water culverts which proved to be hilarious due to slippy moss and a nice amount of water flowing. The Cwm had an eerie feel with a low cloud base and fog setting in at last light as we made our way down to the cave entrance, slipping and falling into thorn bushes made this trip even more fun!!!…..’’FUN’’ Sarcasm aside, it was a nice walk down in the early spring air and fog and felt more expeditious. We entered the valley floor and jumped into the stream which flows past the entrance. Yet again a few more slips before we arrived at the cave entrance.

Huw posed for a quick photo on my camera which didn’t really come out that well. Camera stowed and in we went, stowing our kit on a mud bank in an old swirl pool to the left as we went .
‘’You lead Dave….can’t get lost’’ Huw said. He was right! There’s no option of where to go really but never mind. Small sharp scallops on the wall indicating some fast flow of water and you could see why, water levels definitely seemed slightly up but not as high as what it had been as when we got to the first duck the foam level from the previous flood was well above the duck level which in turn would have sumped. It was now I started to regret never having a caving wetsuit in my whole caving career. The duck was cold but easily passed but with some heavy panting and a fair amount of expletives from the pair of us which would have made Roy Chubby himself proud.
The going eased off slightly again with a mix of sideways crawling in water to sideways standing but thrutching (why not…it’s Wednesday) until another duck was met, kind of like an ‘S’ bend but with obstructions on the floor which leaves the onlooker to view a hilarious helmet sticking out of the water with lips pouting acting as a snorkel whilst you try a navigate a way through!
Duck passed and back to some more fun stuff. At least the cave is clean hey.

Another duck was met, this time with what can only be described as a tooth of rock sticking down in the water meaning a full submersion is required. Rising out of the water on the other side like a hippo going after a crocodile (albeit colder) I was glad I had stocked up on Clogwyn Gold previously that evening. Further on we found a mud bank to the left which had paw prints…confusing! (Huw managed to find a video later on that night where a family had taken their dog into the cave suitably equipped with protection and buoyancy).

We met a junction, to the left is a tight passage leading to the sump and on the right is a muddy tube bypassing the sump. We chose left initially and I decided to get down and dirty again and thrutched along sideways on my side think to myself with glee ‘’woohoo it’s just like Daren Cilau’’ only to turn round and see Huw walk through the constriction to which he added ‘’I just walked through that one Dave’’…..

The sump was met and the hand line was still in place but I opted out….and I mean opted not chickened *ahem* purely because I didn’t have any neoprene on……I promise. We wriggled back to the junction and took the muddy tube of fun. It really was a bit muddy and crawly with and awkward boulder climb upward which both me and Huw past with the style and grace of drunk giraffes and it was here that Huw decided that he would be going through a nasty duck and out via the sump instead of coming out this way again! And which he did, I waited for him to lip snorkel his way through an awful looking duck until he reached the sump at which point I shuffled round and reversed back through the bypass which was just as lovely as I had remembered 3 minutes previous. Good times.

We established a vocal connection before I heard a deep breath and the splashing/booming noise of Huw swimming the sump. We convened at the junction and made our way out of the cave with all the fun of the previous 25 minutes but in reverse!

We made it out the cave in just over 10 minutes funnily enough and I posed for a few photos by the entrance before we headed off back up to the old train line to get dry and changed. Opting for a more fun scramble option up an old scree slope (next week Crib Goch)

It sounds like I’ve slagged the place off but for only 35 or so minutes it’s a really fun little cave! I’d probably do it next time in summer after a full trip in the gorge.

Huw at the entrance before going in - Photo-Dave

Huw at the entrance before going in – Photo-Dave

Looking from Cwm Pica into the gorge - Photo-Dave

Looking from Cwm Pica into the gorge – Photo-Dave

Dave looking back into the entrance after the trip - Photo-Huw

Dave looking back into the entrance after the trip – Photo-Huw

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…

Cave Rescue Practice in the Mellte and Nedd Valleys – Saturday 17th March 2018

Nick De-Gare Pit and Huw Jones

By Huw Jones
Photos – Huw Jones unless otherwise stated, in which case – Tarquin Wilton-Jones

This was to be a search and evacuation exercise, based in the Mellte and Nedd Valleys, with the secondary aim of familiarisation with lesser known sites in the two valleys. On the day, the search and evacuation part was dropped and three groups split up from the Porth yr Ogof car park and visited different areas to look for entrances, checking the accuracy of route description cards and grid references.

Me and Nick joined a group exploring the upper Nedd Valley. Our first cave to find was Pwll-y-Coeden Gnau, somewhere I’d visited many, many years ago with Barry Burn. This took some searching of the rough woodland as the grid reference was a little out but it wasn’t too long before we located the entrance and a more accurate reference was obtained using GPS. A few of us were in caving gear and so had a quick look in the Northern limb of the cave, while the others produced notes to update the route card.



Next we dropped down to the dry riverbed and found the entrance to Ogof Cadno, somewhere else me and Barry had explored all those years ago. I remember Barry as not being particularly impressed with either cave, although there are a few formations and one section of larger passage in this cave. Again three of us had a look inside, while the others had a look at the entrance to Ogof Cas, a diver’s cave with hardly any dry passage.


We then climbed up from the riverbed and headed a long way upstream, first to the enormous collapse feature of Cwm Hew Bwb, which to me looks very much like a fossil resurgence but where four waterfalls now pour over the cliff to sink amongst boulders. Then we dropped back down to river level to visit Ogof Igam Ogam (Zig Zag Cave). This time only two of us had a look in the cave, getting wet in the process as there was a shower bath to crawl under, at one point.


That was the final cave of the day and all that was left, was to walk up to the Bridge Cave car park, where we could cross the river, then walk down the road to where we’d left the cars, before heading back to the Porth yr Ogof car park for the debrief.

All in all, an enjoyable and useful day.

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

Porth yr Ogof, Sunday 4th February 2018

Chris Brady, Barry Burn, Gareth Jones, Huw Jones

By Huw Jones
Photos – Barry Burn and Huw Jones

It was a very cold day (2-3 degs) but that didn’t keep us out of the water. Barry even went for a swim in the White Horse Pool!

The river was up a bit and flowing into the Main Entrance. We checked out the White Horse Pool first. Barry spontaneously decided to take a dip, something he regretted going by the look on his face when he came back out!

Then we headed into the Right Hand Series, where Gareth went through the Letterbox – you can’t really go to Porth for the first time and not do the Letterbox! We made our way to the Great Bedding Cave and admired the deep, clear water in the main canal. Heading downstream, we stopped to admire a seriously large tree trunk that had been washed in and wedged on the right. Then it was through the low (but very wide) bit, which was interesting due to the high water conditions, to the twin large entrances, which are the normal recommended downstream exit points. We were now close to the resurgence pool and me and Gareth tried to reach it for a look but the next section was even lower and after a low crawl on our hands and knees in the river, we could see that the water was up to the roof ahead and so turned back to the others.

We went out of one of the nearby entrances and walked down to the resurgence to have a look from outside. On the bench overlooking the resurgence is an entrance that none of us had been in before so we checked it out. A very short hands and knees crawl leads to a decorated walking passage that, in one direction, connects into the main cave via a very low, muddy and wet section. No one was going through there in today’s high water conditions so we made our way overland back to the Main Entrance, checking out the various other entrances on the way.

In the Main Entrance again and back into the Right Hand Series, we took a different passage into the Great Bedding Cave and then turned up The Creak, where we took a detour to check out Hewyl’s Grotto, where we encountered more refreshingly freezing cold water to crawl through! Returning, we made our way further along The Creak and after a quick look in The Maze, made our way back to the Main Entrance. We crossed over and took the longest of the passages that connect to the Upper Stream Passage. Somehow, one of Chris’ elbow pads fell off here and must have been washed away before any of us spotted it as we could find no sign of it after a good search! Chris and Barry returned to the Main Entrance, while me and Gareth went a little way downstream and then made our way back upstream via the oxbow, which had a very strong flow of water, and then out of the Tradesmans’ Entrance.

By this time the car park was very busy so we took advantage of the screens to get changed behind. A pint was decided on and we drove to Ystradfellte and went to the New Inn, which we’d heard had been taken over and was better than it used to be. It was obvious as soon as we entered that it was now very much a food pub and we were there at Sunday lunchtime! There are only a few tables and we ended up sitting around a tiny table by the door. Everytime someone opened the door, an icy blast froze Chris and Barry, who were sitting on that side!

An enjoyable trip, Gareth did really well on only his second caving trip, not seeming to mind the cold water or crawling around with no knee pads! Thanks to Chris for driving.

Agen Allwedd, Thursday 25th January 2018

A joint trip with Bristol and District Caving Club

Thomas Williams, Huw Jones, Dave, Nigel and Tich (BDCC), Jennie (CSS)

An evening trip along Main Passage with Bristol and District C C and Jennie from Chelsea S S. We met up at Whitewalls and it was nice to get changed inside as it was very, very cold! It was Nigel’s first trip in Aggy and Tich’s first caving trip of any kind as he normally sticks to exploring mines!

We had a steady trip in through the entrance series, where there were lots and lots of bats. After a break in Baron’s Chamber for photos, we carried on along Main Passage, where Jennie and Dave checked out a small side passage on the left. We split up here and Nigel, Tich and myself carried on along the impressive passage, admiring the mudbanks and selenite crystals. We passed the entrances to Southern Stream Passage and Trident Passage and carried on to the Music Room. There were more bats, all along the passage. Returning, we met the others at the Southern Stream junction and all started out as a group. Further along, another small side passage was spotted and this was checked out by Jennie and Tom, while the rest of us waited in the Main Passage. When they returned a short time later we carried on out, where it was now even colder!

We were all very grateful to Jennie for the hot tea back at Whitewalls and didn’t say no when she offered around some Tennessee Honey (of the Jack Daniel’s variety!)

It was a great trip and it’s always nice to cave with people from other clubs. Many thanks go to Jennie for her hospitality! Hopefully there’ll be more joint trips to come.

In Whitewalls before the trip

In Whitewalls before the trip

Ogof Clogwyn, Saturday 13th January 2018

Huw Durban, Dave Gledhil, Gareth Jones, Huw Jones, Nick De-Gare Pitt, Thomas WIlliams, Andrew Zerbino, Xavier Zerbino

By Huw Jones

This was Gareth’s first trip with the club and his second ever, after doing a small outdoor pursuits trip whilst at school. We met up at the car park by Llanelly Quarry as that’s where Dave and Tom were supposed to be going but they decided that wasn’t extreme enough and came to Clogwyn with the rest of us instead! We walked up the railway line, through the tunnel and then dropped down the path to the cave. In to the sump then we back tracked to climb up into the high level, where we were joined by Zeb and Xavier. Gareth coped with the crawl and wet bits fine. Most of us made our way out of the main entrance but Tom, Xavier and Zeb decided to take the hard way and go through one of the other, really tight entrances instead! A group photo at the entrance then it was back up the steep path to the railway line and through the tunnel again to the cars.

It was an enjoyable trip and Gareth did great.

Everyone at the entrance

Everyone at the entrance

Checking out the roadworks

Checking out the roadworks

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