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.

Agen Allwedd The Grand Circle – 22nd May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise Lucas

I arrived at Whitewalls first, then had the message I’d been waiting for, Gareth and Louise would be late, so I made a coffee, rolled a cigarette, and walked across the tram road a little and sat in the sun.

As I walked back to Whitewalls I could see Louise getting out of the car. We got kitted up, sent the call out, and made our way across to Aggy. Louise was excited to get into Aggy again, the last time she was in was on a newbies trip before joining the club.

We made steady progress through the entrance to Baron’s Chamber, but as usual we were all sweating by the time we got into Baron’s Chamber. After a quick drink stop we were off, and heading for Main Stream. Louise had a slip on the hand-lined section in Keyhole Chamber, but got herself back up and across fine. A little longer than I remember we were at North West Junction, we were all on guard as this section is really slippery. There definitely seems to be a theme emerging, Louise falls into water. We made speedy progress towards Deep Water, which is Gareth’s and my furthest point from the last trip we did here. Without hesitation I waded in getting to waist deep, as described in journals and online, and then Gareth asked “is it getting any deeper”, and as I was replying “I don’t think so” I slipped down to shoulder depth and started struggling to catch my breath, so I headed back still trying to catch my breath. We had a quick talk about the best way to approach it, then Louise opted for swimming so far and trying to stand, and she couldn’t reach the bottom after swimming out a short distance, so turned around and I helped her back to shallower water. We talked a little more, but being completely unsure of how long we’d be swimming for, and how we’d feel swimming fully kitted up, we all agreed the best thing to do was head back the way we came. Just before heading back Louise stayed true to form and had a dunk again, while trying to help her, Gareth had a soaking as well. Heading back was fine, apart from us all being a bit miserable after another failed trip here, because of this we just headed straight out.

As I got out of the cave there was a guy asking, do I knew if the small phreatic tube outside connects into Aggy, I said it didn’t as far as I know, and asked “why’s that” he said his dog has gone into it, as I walked over to him, Louise and Gareth got out. We tried looking in with our lights, whistling, calling, and putting food down, but there was no sound at all. He said he’d called Cave Rescue, so they were on their way. We said we’d head back and ask some advice about it and maybe see if anybody else can head over to help. Once at Whitewalls the police and cave rescue arrived, so we left them to do their work, and we headed home. Once home we heard the news that the dog was safe and with his owner again.

Ogof Draenen – Sunday 8th May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Peter lamb

By Dai MacDonald

We started the day joking about Gareth’s forgetfulness, and it definitely set the tone for the day! As we’re pulling off the A465 at Brynmawr, to collect the key from Barry, Gareth says “I think I’ve forgotten my helmet”, which also means his torch as well. We collected the key, and then heading back to Merthyr Tydfil to collect Gareth’s helmet, we were on our way again, with Gareth reassuring us “I’ve got my batteries, because I charged them last night” he didn’t have his batteries, he’d forgotten them as well, but I’ve got spares so it was fine. After changing we like a cuppa and cigarette before getting going, Gareth had also forgotten his tobacco!

We quickly headed for the entrance as we were all starting to get quite hot in our caving gear. This was Peter’s first trip into a gated system and instantly he was shocked with how tight the entrance was. We made great progress through the entrance as we talked Peter through certain sections, and finally helped show the technique needed for the entrance pitch. Before we knew it we’d signed the log book at 12:30, and Gareth and I were trying to convince Peter he should try Beer Challenge, on his own, and we’ll meet him in White Arch Passage, he declined our challenge! We made it to Indiana Highway in a good time, and got straight into it after a drink stop. As we got to the end of the traverse, someone said they’d forgotten their phone and snacks at the start of the traverse….so Gareth headed back to the start of the traverse line to retrieve his stuff, fortunately this was the last time he forgot something….that day! We made our way to the junction for Megadrive and Megadrive North, and headed to Megadrive North, and then back down Canyon North to the guano pile at the start of Canyon West. After this we headed for Siambre Ddu passage, where we were all coming up with different pronunciations for Siambre. We got back to Megadrive and continued towards the Nunnery, where we detoured to Arms Park through Perseverance II, just to show Peter the way on to the other parts of the cave. Once done we headed back out in good time, and in time to enjoy the sun while changing. Overall it was a great trip, especially for Peter, who is keen to find out more about becoming a club member.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1, Round Trip 1st May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise Lucas

By Dai MacDonald

We all arrived at SWCC cottages for around 10am, and couldn’t believe how busy it was, there’d been an AGM meeting the day before, and it was the bank holiday weekend.

Key acquired and we headed for the entrance, a tall opening with a short ladder climb down to the gate, which was opened as there were a few guys going in to do some scaffold work, so I volunteered to carry a few short lengths down for them.

Soon we were in, and off with Gareth leading the way. We passed the concrete walkways fairly quickly and got into some lovely passages before dropping into the Main Streamway. A lot quicker than we all expected, we were passing the 1st pot, 2nd pot, and Maypole Chain. The streamway is really something special, with the white veins running through the black rock. We passed 3rd pot, 4th pot, and the sump, and carried on along the streamway for quite some time. Eventually we were through Boulder Chamber and out of the Main Streamway, we found ourselves scratching our heads and looking at the survey, following the description we’d gone too far and ended up in OFD 1 1/2, so doubled back to get on route again. After a few more survey stops we were back at the fixed rope and ladder to get into Lowes Passage, which has a huge boulder slope to climb, but not before Louise had a proper dunking in the Main Streamway. Then we were soon into Roundabout Chamber, this whole section of cave is stunning, all the way through to Rawl Series, and Pi chamber. Helter Skelter and Bolt Passage were fun, basically like a big slide, with vertical bits though! Soon we were traversing across Bolt Traverse and Maypole Wire, which definitely got my heart thumping, even with my cowstails clipped on. Before heading across Maypole Wire, Gareth suggested heading the other way, towards Rocky Holes Chamber, and in hindsight I should’ve turned around, but I was committed to the wire route, and we headed down Maypole Chain into the Main Streamway for Louise to have a good dunking again. The rest of the way out was great, and without fault. At the ladder to climb out I found a frog, so took it outside with me, and we posed for a few photos before heading back to the cars after another great trip!

Aggy, Inner Circle 17th April 2022

Aggy, Inner Circle 17/4/2022 by Dai MacDonald


Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Tom
Maxine

Gareth and I arrived at Whitewalls with a stubborn white fluffy dog laying in the middle of the road, even after Gareth got out to coax it out of the way, it just walked along the middle of the road. We parked up, eventually, and got changed, sent the call out message and were ready to leave when Tom and Maxine pulled up outside Whitewalls. We were both planning an Inner Circle trip, so decided to head in together. Tom and Maxine got ready quickly and we were on our way across the tram road.
Once in the cave we made quick progress through the entrance series into Baron’s Chamber, where we stopped momentarily to catch our breath and have a quick drink. In no time at all we were at the Second Choke, and into Keyhole Chamber. We each had turns in leading and all managed well, although I’m sure I suggested a wrong turn or two, but we were soon at North West Junction. From here we headed for Turkey Pool, but on the way through Turkey Streamway Maxine said she’d like to call it a day, she had been caving the day before and felt really tired. We parted ways, with Tom and Maxine saying they’d have a look at Beehive Chamber before they left, and Gareth and I heading for the Inner Circle. Soon we found ourselves at Turkey Pool, I managed to traverse it, only getting my legs wet, Gareth traversed it as well but got a bit wetter. The rest of the way was no problem, and soon we were at the rescue dump around the Inner Circle. We stopped here for a snack and a drink, then made our way around the inner circle clockwise…so we thought! Before we knew it we were in the Swiss Village, this threw us completely, and we both started looking at the survey and scratching our heads. We retraced our steps and made a few more wrong turns, then decided we would call it a day and start heading back out. For the best part we were okay, but we made a few wrong turns on the way out as well, mainly me I think, but soon we were in the entrance series, and then at the logbook. We checked for Tom and Maxine, they were both ticked out, so we signed ourselves out for 1805, and headed back to whitewalls to get changed just in time before the rain started. Overall a great trip, and worn out for a trip to OCAF the following day.

Dinas Silica Mines and Local Caves 10th April 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise
Peter lamb

We wanted an easy day, so thought we’d check out the mines and wills hole, to the pitch head anyway. We met for 10am and got ready, and headed off after a cuppa. The mines were really interesting, but nothing compared to a cave, strange! We all commented on the steepness of them, then found ourselves in a shaft that went straight from the bottom to the surface, so we stopped for a snack and made our way onto the other mines. While walking the river we were stopping, looking at other bits of interest, and finding violets and wild garlic, but aiming to find Will’s Hole. Soon we found ourselves past both bouldering areas, and down past the lower caves, Ogof Bwa Maen Lower Cave, so doubled back and found Will’s Hole, which we all found disappointing because we could only go a few meters down into it. Ogof Bwa Maen caves on the other hand were quite an interesting, once I’d got past the spiders. We finished off looking down the rest of the river until we got to Ogof Pont Sychryd which we all enjoyed, but my highlight was finding a Morel Mushroom at the entrance, I’ve been looking for a while. After this we headed back to the cars, got changed and headed to the top of the Dinas Rock to enjoy the sun.

Morel Mushroom
Winch in Upper Dinas Silica Mine

Ogof Draenen Sunday 3rd April 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr

We started our day full of beans ready for the round trip, and had decided we’d try some alternative routes to the usual ones.

We got in for around 11:05 and made steady progress through the entrance while getting good footage. We made it to Cairn Junction and headed for a bad decision, Beer Challenge! We just wanted to see for ourselves what it’s like, and I’m happy to take Wonderbra any other time now. After this the trip went great all the way through Lamb and Fox Chamber, Indiana Highway, Megadrive to St David’s hall, then the survey came out for Squirrel Rifts. This was another route we wanted to try, rather than Agent Blorenge II. Once at the two climbs, at the end of Squirrel Rifts, we got a little confused where the way on was, but soon found the climbs and made our way down them. The squeeze to get into Haggis Basher is surprisingly demanding and I struggled with my bag and bottle through there. We had a look along the passage, to the choke and then back on ourselves to head for far Agent Blorenge and Chocolate Blorenge, by this point the both of us were feeling quite fatigued after the crawling. We carried on towards the sewers, thinking we’d done the hardest bits, but soon found ourselves at a hole dropping down in a rift that I tried to pass through but felt it was too tight, we looked for an “eyehole” that’s shown on the map, but not even knowing what an eyehole is, and both being on our last battery, we decided to head back the way we’d come. Instantly I was filled with dread just thinking of the two climbs we faced to get out of Haggis Basher, as I’m not the most confident with heights. When we got to the squeeze out of Haggis Basher, we searched the survey for an alternative route to no avail, so pushed through to the climbs. I went first, both no problems with the first, but on the second the exposure got to me, and when I climbed it the first time I didn’t go high enough to climb out and convinced myself I couldn’t do it, but spotted a climb in the opposite end of the small rift, which I could then traverse across the top. I climbed up confidently and found myself on a small solid ledge so stopped to look where to go, panic set in rapidly and I felt extremely exposed, so I climbed to the top of the passage where there was a small dead end tube I could sit in. I shouted down to Gareth “I’m stuck, I can’t down climb from here and I can’t make that traverse”, he could see nothing from the bottom, so he decided to try the climb where I tried first. He climbed up, passed the opening confidently and easily into squirrel rifts, while I’d quietly been having a panic attack, thinking to myself “what’ve you done Dai, you idiot! This is cave rescue now”. Gareth started suggesting things while I told him “I’m stuck bro, I can’t go anywhere”, then I’m the next breath, “just let me calm down and I’ll get across the traverse now”, and continually switching between the two for about two minutes. I asked Gareth to turn his light down because it was blinding me, and by the time he looked back I was across the traverse. Once I’d calmed myself the traverse out was actually really easy. From here we headed for Agent Blorenge II to save on time as we were running out of it. The rest of the trip went fine and we were out before we knew it, making the long walk back to the car.

Ogof Y Ci – Thursday 9th December 2021

Dai MacDonald and Gareth Farr

By Dai MacDonald

We hadn’t been caving in a while, a couple of weekends is a while for us, I’d been quite busy and been ill, but with a trip planned for Ogof Draenen on the coming Sunday we both thought a short midweek trip as a warm up would work well. I’ve also got a new camera so we wanted a play about with that.

We got to Llwyn Cil Sanws Farm for around 1830, we’d got permission from the owners to park and access the cave prior to turning up, we kitted up and headed down to the entrance. We got in for around 1900 and made good speed to the gun barrel while filming. It’s beyond the gun barrel that this cave starts to show it’s more intricate formations, mainly tucked in side passages, too tight for people, or in the walls of the cave at separate beds. We got to the dig at the end and headed back, but explored the side passages and oxbows on the way. The largest of the side passages, branching off from the main chamber, and has a nice calcite flow stone formation at the entrance. Once up on the calcite flow you can follow the passage for about 30m before a calcified boulder choke with a stream emerging from it is met. It’s a tight wet squeeze, but leads to a small passage with a lot more flow stone, but it quickly closes down again.

We always use the main entrance, but there are three, a resurgence, a small dry entrance just above that and the main one further up the gorge that joins the cave half way through. We’ve never used the lower dry entrance an it looks blocked to be honest. Ogof Y Ci is a great introduction cave, with dry and wet options for most routes, there’s a good bit of crawling once you reach the calcite cascade, and lots of squeezing, but nothing extremely tight.

This was the first time Gareth and I had been to this cave in extremely wet weather, there’s no warnings of flooding in this cave, and the water was definitely a lot deeper throughout the cave, but still not deeper than the top of my wellies, but outside the river was in full flow, which we don’t usually see. The river bed is usually bone dry, but tonight it was a fast flowing river. We got out of the cave for about 2120 and headed back to the farm yard to get changed and head home.

OFD1 Round Trip – 13th May 2018

Barry Burn, Gareth Jones, Huw Durban, Freya Durban, Dave Gledhill

By: Barry Burn
Photos: Barry Burn

Gareth and Freya had not so far visited OFD and so a trip to do a roundtrip in OFD1 was planned as an introduction for them and the Sunday saw us meeting up nice and early to pick up a key and fill in our trip card before parking up in the layby to change and the short walk to the cave.

The plan was to do the classic round trip, up Main Streamway to Low’s Chain and Low’s Passage then the climb up to Roundabout Chamber and the Shale Crawl into the Rawl Series. Then along to Pi Chamber and down via Bolt Passage to the Bolt Traverse. We decided against continuing to Airy Fairy or finishing the loop via the Dugout but to drop down back into the Main Streamway via the Maypole Chain.

We were soon changed and ready to set off and a quick selfie was taken that show’s Gareth’s very basic mistake if you look close enough. We were then soon walking through brilliant sunshine up to the entrance. where we quickly sorted ourselves out and climbed down the ladder into the cave.

Selfie

Selfie

We headed off towards The Cathedral, pausing at the start of Pearl Passage for a quick tale about the skeleton in Skeleton Chamber and then along the trade route to the start of column passage.

The Toast Rack

The Toast Rack

At Column Passage we pushed dave up the climb to rig a handline before we all followed him up. The column is a very impressive formation that I always like to see and Gareth and Freya were suitable awed. Dave and Gareth nipped through the duck to visit the Eagle’s Nest whilst we more sensible three stayed dry and took a couple of photos.

It was then back along Column Passage and back down the handline.

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Climbing Down from Cloumn Passage

Before climbing down at The Step and heading upstream.

We passed Low’s Chain on the right and continued to Boulder Chamber to show Freya and Gareth the way on through the mountain and stopped for a pasty before heading back to Low’s Chain. Here, the awkward climb is now considerably easier as a short section of ladder has appeared. This made the climb up a breeze and we were all soon up and we headed off up the lofty Low’s Passage. I explained as we went how the early explorers thought that they could see high level passages here and spent some time scaling the passage with maypoles only to be dissapointed as each lead turned out to be shadows or alcoves. At the end, the passage closes down and you climb up through boulders until a choice of left or right is found. We had a quick look left to see what was there (more boulders) before continuing the steep climb up to reach Roundabout Chamber and it’s fine grotto, The Bee’s Knees.

Some photos using some very overused poses were taken before heading off and then to the Shale Crawl. A short section of flat out crawling that soon opens up again.

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The passage now assumes very large proportions as you enter the Rawl Series. For me, one of the most imppressive passages in the OFD system with a few fine formations.

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The Rawl Series

The Rawl Series

At the end of the Rawl Sereis, Pi Chamber is found and the entrance to Helter Skelter is found that leads via Boulder Passage and a fun little slide down a tube to the start of the Bolt Traverse.

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

We were all quickly along the traverse and into the small passage at the end.

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

And then the short section to the Maypole Chain and back into the Main Streamway.

We ambled back downstream, past The Step and a quick look into Loopways before getting back to the Toastrack via Pluto’s Bath. Here Gareth either forgot about the big hole in the floor of the pool that we showed him on the way in or some Gollum-like creature tried to drag him down to its watery lair.

Beware ye who pass by here

Beware ye who pass by here

From here, we were soon back out in the sunshine. We’d taken longer than usual on this trip but we were taking our time and enjoying the sights as well as taking a few deviations to explore off the route. All in all a really good trip that we all enjoyed.