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.