Next meetings

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Next meetings:

  •  Monday 5th February 2018 – The Talisman
  •  Monday 5th March 2018 – The Talisman
  •  Monday 9th April 2018 – The Talisman

We meet on the first Monday of the month, except where that falls on a bank holiday, in which case we meet on the second Monday. New members are always welcome, experienced and inexperienced alike, just come along to The Talisman, Market Square, Brynmawr and make yourself known. We try to start at 8:00pm.

 

Evening Trip to Agen Allwedd Music Hall 02/01/2018

Thomas Williams
David Gledhill
Richard Gledhill

Trip report by Dave Gledhill

Fresh year and with fresh weight gained from turkey, beer and other festive goodies we decided a short trip in Aggy was in order to burn off a few calories on the walk to and from the cave itself. Plus Tom had a brand new yellow suit from St Nick’s sack to get dirty.

It was good to be back in Aggy after mine and Tom’s trip back in October when we did the Classic Inner circle trip. But this trip was one I’d wanted to do since 1998 which was the last time I had done it as a young gobby teenager refusing to get in the entrance when Richard had taken me for my first caving trip. Eventually he coaxed me in and the rest is history I suppose.

Storm Eleanor was looming as we met at 3pm so a nice coffee and chat was enjoyed first in Richards van before we braved the elements to get kitted up. Heading off along the tram road, it was clear that being underground was going to be a welcome relief from the weather.

Sliding through the gate and into the entrance series we went. Conversation was flowing as was the stream! The water levels were certainly up as were the bat roosts. There was hundreds of them so we carefully picked our way through the series and poor Tom got a family lesson from us both for which I’m sure he’s thankful…..

We slid and crawled our way through the first choke and emerged into Baron’s chamber. Being a nice relaxed evening trip we stopped here for 10 minutes and discussed renewable energy (you can’t beat caving chat!)

Heading off down Main Passage we could hear Main Stream passage thundering away in the distance as we passed the junction for it on the right, we headed off up to the left and entered Main Passage proper. This is the one part of the cave I always remembered from when I was a kid. The hard glacial deposited mud with its perfect cracks, I would have loved to been the first to stomp down there when it was pristine. More bats were found but hanging in some strange places, like very close to the floor on boulders? Scared of the higher roosts maybe.

Reaching Music Hall we admired the newer music stand which had been dragged in a few years ago and headed off to the Cliffs Of Dover to have poke around.

A few pictures were taken, a few drinks had, so we decided to head off and make our way back out stopping regularly to savour the Main Passage and for Tom to have a poke around in Southern Stream Passage. Not tonight Tom but next trip maybe 😉

We exited the cave to heavy heavy rain but I suppose that’s the kit cleaned down ready for the next trip!

Tom in Barons chamber

Tom in Barons chamber

Richard emerging from 1st Boulder Choke

Richard emerging from 1st Boulder Choke

 

The Gledhills pretending to be able to read music

The Gledhills pretending to be able to read music

Richard and Tom in Main Passage

Richard and Tom in Main Passage

High Vis Tom sliding into the 1st choke on exit

High Viz Tom sliding into the 1st choke on exit

 

Ogof Draenen Round Trip 3rd December 2017

Huw Jones
Thomas Williams
Richard Gledhill
David Gledhill

Report by Dave Gledhill.

All photos by Huw Jones.

As per normal drills for a Draenen trip, I turned up to Pwll Du at 0900 and funnily enough, the weather had changed from a lovely dry early winter’s day in the Usk valley floor, to a howling gale with threats of rain. I decided to lead the way by pointing my car into the wind for the inevitable chilly change in/out of kit. I was soon joined by Richard who has the luxury of a van to change and brew up in closely followed by Tom ‘McCrae’ in his Landy. Huw wasn’t far behind and we all convened before getting kitted up. Now it’s worth noting that the last time Huw and Richard had caved together was some 25 years previous and it just goes to show how small a fraternity the South Welsh caving is.

Kitted up within minutes we stomped off to the entrance like we were paid models for ‘Aventure Verticale’ but only better! Gate opened, local’s trees freshly watered and we were in. Forget my previous reports on Draenen, I actually love this entrance series! It’s fun…on the way in anyway.

We were soon at the climb down, but before we continued, Tom did some checks on the fixed aids as part of his checks for the Pwll Du Cave Management Committee. Log book signed, we stomped off from Cairn Junction towards Wonderbra Bypass and further onward towards Tea Junction where we stopped off for a quick water break and collect some rubbish and old kit we had spotted on previous trips. We piled it all up ready to take out on our exit in a few hours.

Conversation was flowing now as usual with mostly expletives from myself when finding those unwanted slippy edges of boulders for which Draenen has many! We boulder hopped our way through White Arch Passage and Lamb & Fox until we reached the Indiana Highway where the expletives swapped from me to Richard as he discovered his new wellies weren’t very grippy on muddy traverses!

We ‘’popped’’ out into Megadrive, I don’t know why but I really like this part of the cave and its always worth stopping to look up, around and behind to see what/how the water has done to create this cave. Heading off into The Nunnery and further onward turning right into Perseverance 2 which is a hands/knees crawl which every time I do it always ends up with my dragging bag getting stuck on something.  Forgot to mention, both The Nunnery and Perseverance are nicely decorated and well worth a very short stop to admire some of the formations.

Perseverance gets larger and we achieved walking status again only for it to suddenly stop at an 8m laddered pitch….and I mean it literally comes out of nowhere. You have two choices at the pitch, a rigid ladder which is getting old and has a few steps missing (so who knows when the others will fall off) or more conventional/safer caving ladder albeit more awkward. Being the brave souls we are we opted for the rigid ladder….purely so the fixed aids officer could do his ‘’checks’’…..obviously.

The pitch drops down into Cardiff Arms Park, an impressive chamber and the way on is pretty much back underneath the pitch and leads into Player’s Tunnel where we encountered some good formations and we stopped for drinks/pictures. Soon after, some more boulder hopping the awe inspiring St. David’s Hall was reached and lunch was called whilst sitting in the marvel of this enormous chamber. It has to be seen to be believed!

Richard Gledhill on Balcony Pitch

Richard Gledhill on Balcony Pitch

Dave and Tom in Player's Tunnel

Dave and Tom in Player’s Tunnel

Tom in Player's Tunnel

Tom in Player’s Tunnel

After lunch the fun starts, being The Round Trip Connection. Now this is where we start to cut across with an end goal of getting into Beyond A Choke Stream to head back out of the cave. To start, we headed into Squirrel Rifts, a notorious part of the cave for navigating with its many choices of different rifts to take and all very much polished by wrong steps before! Thankfully every time I’ve done the Round Trip I’ve been with someone who knows (relatively) the way through and Huw was no exception so no hiccups were encountered. Carrying on through Wooden Spoon we squeezed through quite an awkward sideways rift just before Haggis Basher and I heard swear words a youngest nephew should not hear from his uncle! But I didn’t blame him whatsoever.

Some stunning stals and formations were found in Haggis Basher where we left the bags and headed off to the chokes at the end for a nosey. Tom sadly found a newer formation in the form of a pile of human poo…yeah nice one whoever did that. We had a poke around in the chokes then we went back to collect the bags to head off towards Far Agent Blorenge where pleasant stream walking was encountered and the conversation was back in full flow. Best way I can describe Agent Blorenge is sporting…lots of awkward traverses where Tom was heard to be having fun with his bag getting stuck at every opportunity, a couple of unofficial fixed aid climbs down and also the fun Sewer which is a short duck but with today’s water levels was just a soaking. Towards the end of Agent Blorenge the cascades were met with some interesting climbs down.

Dave admiring stals in Haggis Basher

Dave admiring stals in Haggis Basher

The Beyond A Choke stream way is reached at the end, we took a right, ending the connection, Round Trip and beginning the slog out of the cave. I love this stream way, it changes so much in its length and even has a few boulder chokes chucked in just for good measure and most importantly my favourite formation so far in this cave (I still have much more of this cave to visit) in the form of pure white stalagmite up on higher level of the stream way. It’s very photogenic!

We passed the entrance to Gilwern Passage and checking our watches decided it would have to wait for another day and collected the rubbish from Tea Junction. We exited the cave to more darkness but nice, still weather and the conversation soon changed to what was for tea and what beers were in the fridge.

Cars reached, kit stripped and final few words of the day were shared!

Heres for the next one 😉

A Trip ‘t’ Yorkshire Dales

Trigger – 16th-20th October 2017

16/10/17

Quite lucky to have this trip and it meant a week away from work just doing some caving….can’t moan really. The first day was spent in the SRT hanger just practicing some long forgotten SRT skills which I didn’t really have in the first place, but after a solid 5 hours of up/down a rope with all sorts of changeovers, passing rebelays, deviations and knot passing practiced we had a good solid base to work on the week. Especially for me as ‘The Rope Mong’ as I was soon to be known when I attempted a few rigging scenarios in the hanger…..yeah I wasn’t asked to rig again.
After the practice, we packed the van with enough rope to circumnavigate Jupiter and set off for Clapham Bunkhouse at the foot of Ingleborough. Our home for the week.

Loadsarope

Loadsarope

17/10/17 SELL GILL HOLES

After an epic slap up breakfast supplied by the owners of the bunkhouse we packed the van and set off for the first cave of the week Sell Gill, A perfect cave for people like myself who have done vertical before but not very much and a long time ago.

After a 20 min drive we arrived and trekked up to the 2 entrances, first half of the day was to be spent in the dry fossil entrance. The first pitch was quickly rigged but as I was last to enter I had the joy of standing in the howling wind of storm Ophelia as she blew up the fell.

First pitch was easily done and nothing much to worry about, pitch 2 was a bit more free hanging with a deviation to pass but still….I quite enjoyed it. It appears so far, that my fear of heights has finally left me!

Pitch 3 yet again was easy enough apart from one of the lads screaming up ‘’my STOP isn’t working…..’’ turns out he was still hanging off a cowstail he had forgotten to unclip!

On the floor of the 3rd pitch we had a quick bimble down the stream way to the sump, not much to see apart from the other pitches we were about to descend once we had left the dry entrance and took a trip into the wet entrance ‘’Wet Goblin’’

After a quick climb out of the dry side we repacked the ropes and entered the Wet Goblin, now this was more like it. Water gushing past whilst hanging off a traverse line on cows tails. Pitches met immediately with letterbox squeezes with drops either side. I really enjoyed this side as the water made things a lot more sporty and interesting. By the time we had reached the bottom again it was time for us to exit as we had been under a bit longer than planned so a quick turnaround and we were climbing our way out.

Now it certainly proved to myself by the end of the biggest pitch that I had to improve my prussiking technique as my arms were knackered and I was using them too much as opposed to my legs! The traverses were even more ‘’fun’’ on exit due to slightly rising water levels just from a small shower whilst we was underground!  Overall a good day caving.

On Traverse in Wet Entrance

On Traverse in Wet Entrance

Trig2

18/10/17 BAR POT TO GAPING GILL

Another day, another decent breakfast. Ropes packed but no minibus today as we could walk straight from our bunkhouse to the cave, albeit a long walk but scenic enough.

We arrived at Bar Pot and re-hydrated, shoving a few sarnies down our necks. We split into 2 mini groups with 1 going to Bar Pot entrance and the other going through Small Mammal pot to meet up at the Bar Pot big pitch. Both pitches we done in reasonable time and after a bit of crawling and thrutching we all met up and headed to the pitch. This was rigged by someone who wasn’t a fan of heights so many a swearword was heard as he was hanging off his STOP on Cows tails looking down the 30+m pitch (not high in Yorkshire standards but enough for us!) a rebelay was rigged halfway down purely for speed on the exit so we could have 2 people on the rope.

After we had all descended we had another sandwich on the bottom, SRT kit ditched and headed off in the direction of Gaping Gill main chamber. A series of muddy crawls had to be passed, nothing major but just a bit of hands and knees kind of passage. Here is where I started swearing as I had left my kneepads back at home so this was the first part of the week where I had noticed how much I needed them sometimes.

It wasn’t hard to find the main chamber….the draught was strong, very strong. But nothing was to prepare me for what I was about to experience. It’s always been on my to-do list to enter that place one way or another. I was like a kid in a toy shop or a theme park,  I pretty much legged it in and headed towards to where the water was landing. Pictures were attempted but camera wasn’t up to much but to be fair I just wanted to sip my water and take it all in. I hope one day to return, even if it’s just on the winch.

Reverse route for the way out and we were all still buzzing on the surface and we decided to walk the to actual Gaping Gill entrance for a look. Back to the bunkhouse for food….and beer.

 

Rigging Bar Pot

Rigging Bar Pot

Gaping Gill Main Chamber

Gaping Gill Main Chamber

19/10/17 SWINSTO’S HOLE TO VALLEY ENTRANCE PULL THROUGH TRIP

Guess what I had for breakfast….you guessed it. I was looking forward to this trip after watching a clip on YouTube the night before and I was not going to be let down!

We entered in through a sink, nice wet and cold and are met pretty much immediately by a short pitch down a waterfall. Once again this is my kind of caving, crawling in water, noisy and cold. Without sounding too cliché, momentum has to be kept before hypothermia takes her hold.

Once past this pitch we started the ‘’Swinsto long crawl’’…barely a crawl and not that long to be honest but enough for me to swear a few times due to lack of knee pads and icy cold water.

The crawl ended and a series of further pitches were met, great fun. Can’t really explain that well how much I was enjoying this trip and it was going to get better as we approached Split Pitch. A rather large pitch and exceedingly wet but half down a ledge is met to walk across then carry on the descent down. Once at the bottom I looked up and thanked the ‘cave gods of pull through’ that I didn’t have to prussik back up that!

Now it was onto The Cascades, which I can only describe as very OFDish style stream way but just not as black if that makes any sense. Could this trip get any better….yes is the answer as I marvelled at the Great Aven!

We pushed on and entered Kingsdale Master Cave on our way to Valley Entrance, splashing about we happened to notice the flood marks on the walls at least 5 or 6 feet above heads. Slightly chilling to think as there have been fatalities in this end of the cave.

We climbed out of the stream just before the sump and exited through a dry winding passage literally popping out of a dustbin lid in the bottom of the valley. I’m guessing passing cars would be used to this! Yet again another trip I would like to repeat.

Sadly no pictures but please YouTube the trip as my poor English skills and memory will not do this trip justice.

20/10/17 ALUM POT EXCHANGE TRIP

Final day and options were limited due to the huge amount of rain which had been dumped the night before and the water level was high. Alum pot was decided for all the teams to do as an exchange trip.

Rooms were packed away and all kit chucked onto the vans. Setting off on a stunning day, it was hard to imagine the rain of the night before, but the water gushing off the fells was a reminder. Once at Alum Pot we kitted up and walked to the fenced off area around the pot itself

Rigging began with our small group starting off at the South East Route, whilst another route went in through Long Churn and rigged Window Pitch and the Greasy Slab. Now the fun, a few guys set off before us down South East as they intended to get to the bridge and rig fully down to the bottom which they did. The guy before me suddenly decided he was petrified of heights again and had a bit of mental gap at the first rebelay perched some 40-50m up bless him. A CiC was called to assist him but in the meantime it meant I was stuck on the rope for 20minutes wondering what #### was going on at the belay below me!

To be fair it was a god send, yes I wasn’t happy but managed a selfie and took in the sheer beauty of this pot especially with the amount of water crashing down. Look over towards Long Churn I could see the other teams rigging their way down towards The Bridge. Cavers everywhere!

Finally the ‘’Rope Free’’ was screamed to me and I carried on down to the Bridge to meet the other teams for a quick high five and continue our way back up and out into Long Churn. Greasy slab was fun, like it says on the tin! Slippy! And it’s not a free hang, more a shuffle and a scramble with jammers on whilst slipping around. I prusikked up Window Pitch and chilled out a bit by the Dolly Tubs pitch reflecting on a good week! Once everyone was back together we made our way via a very wet Long Churn and back to the vans for hand shaking and goodbyes!

What a week, I’m glad I did it as I was very sceptical about SRT, now feeling a bit more confident with it, but certainly need some practice at rigging before I return to Yorkshire once again.

Posing at South East

Posing at South East

Looking down

Looking down

Selfie whilst someone was hung up below me!

Selfie whilst someone was hung up below me!

Alum Pot in all her glory

Alum Pot in all her glory

Ogof Draenen – Fault Chambers Bolt Climb – 2nd Trip – Saturday 7th Oct 2017

Tom Williams, Dave Gledhill and Huw Jones

By Huw Jones
Photos – Tom Williams (Taken on his old phone!)

Dave, Tom and I, have been back to complete the climb in the tall but short rift passage, leading off from the southern end of Fault Chambers in Ogof Draenen, after our first trip there in June.

Tea Junction

Tea Junction

Just upstream of Tea Junction

Just upstream of Tea Junction

In the time between the trips, we had decided to start again and try to climb to the lower window in the hope that the rock here was better and that there was a passable way up into the higher window, that we had tried to reach last time.

The rock was mostly good and 7 bolts, plus 1 that seemed to go into some sort of pocket in the rock so wasn’t used, saw me gingerly pulling over the edge into the window, on a boulder that was lying on a slope of loose rock. The window was roughly 2 metres wide by 1 metre high but the rift behind it, that I was now standing in, was longer and about 4-5 metres high. To the South was a narrow rift that rose up and turned a corner so that I couldn’t see to a definite end. At the northern end, was a good sized but short rift, rising steeply up to the other window so there was a passable connection between the windows, after all.

I placed another bolt, nice and high in the back wall of the rift, opposite the window, to rig the ladder from so that the other two could join me. The ladder could then also be used to gain the rift rising to the upper window. This turned out to be the final bolt as the drill died as I was placing it! I rigged the lifeline from the bolt and a natural thread off to one side. The 10m ladder turned out to be too short when rigged directly from the bolt so I had to extend the belay with a long sling.

Dave joined me and waited in the narrow rift to the South, while Tom climbed up. I then suggested, that as he was already on the lifeline, he carry on up to the upper window. The ladder was re-rigged directly from the bolt and after a word of protest as he struggled slightly to leave the top of the ladder and establish himself in the rift, he was up in no time. The news from above wasn’t great. The window / ledge up there was larger than the lower one but there was only one small passage going off, which closed down completely after just 4 metres. Tom took a few photos on his phone(!) (I’d left my camera at the bottom of the climb) and then came back down to where Dave and I were waiting. While Tom had been exploring above, Dave had checked out the small rift to the South, which unfortunately went nowhere. I had a quick look at the upper window as well but where I thought I had seen a tube last time, heading upwards from the northern end, there was nothing! I was glad that we had decided to switch windows, as there was a huge amount of small, loose rock, lying at a precarious angle, that would have had to have been climbed over, to gain the upper window directly.

The ladder was re-rigged again from the sling and Tom climbed down. Dave decided he wanted to abseil so borrowed my Stop (to save weight, I was the only one who had brought an SRT kit) and used the lifeline rope. I pulled up the rope, which had my Stop clipped on the end, then carefully de-rigged everything, lowering it all back down on the lifeline rope, before doubling the rope through the ring hanger on the bolt. Only one bolt I know but it was bomber. I then abbed down, retrieving all the gear used on the climb as I went. When we tried to pull the rope down from the bottom, it snagged. Luckily Dave could still reach the other end and pulled it back a little, to try to release it. We tried this a couple of times before myself and Tom ended up sat on our arses, when the rope suddenly released with a stronger pull!

Derigging the rope from the previous climb

Derigging the rope from the previous climb

While Dave and Tom started packing stuff away, I prusiked up the rope we had left on the other climb last time, to de-rig it, leaving behind another hanger and bolt at our high point. Thankfully the rope was retrieved with no problem, this time. All that was left was to make our way out, carrying a very heavy bag each!

Battery change for Tom and Huw on way out

Battery change for Tom and Huw on way out

So no big discoveries! If you include the windows in the total of what we found at the top of the climb, then the passage amounts to about 15m. If you don’t include the windows, as they are open to the main, big rift passage, then you can halve that! Oh well, on to the next lead! We may take a look down a pitch next but there are also some avens and chokes to check out.

In Search of The Northern Lights, OFD2 – August 20th 2017

Barry Burn
Tom Williams
Vicky Blümel
Zeb Zerbino

We were getting close to our destination now, the Northern Lights in Ogof Fynnon Ddu2. We were three members of Brynmawr Caving Club, Myself, Rob and Mick, and had got to a point where there was a squeeze up through a dug out section over boulders and under a low section of roof. Mick and I had slithered into the comfortable standing space beyond and were watching as Rob tried to get through. Unfortunately Rob’s efforts were coming to nothing, “It’s my chest” he groaned as he tried a different contortion. “Try moving over a bit” we helpfully suggested, “Or on your back,” but, try as he might, Rob wasn’t going to be seeing the Northern Lights that day. I had visited there on a couple of occasions and Rob and Mick were yet to see this impressive part of the system. We made a quick decision that we’d stick together as a team and retreat as one. After all, Rob could lose a bit of weight and the next time we’d be sure to get through. Life has a habit of getting in the way and I ended working the other side of the country, Rob moved away and tragically, we lost Mick at far too young an age and so it was, that return to The Northern Lights with a slimmed-down Rob was never made.
It’s now August 2017 and after the passing of nearly twenty years, I have grown a bit older, a bit greyer and also a bit outwards, but am still enjoying trips into many of the South Wales caves. Tom, a young whippersnapper caver, and I were trying to decide where we would go at the weekend. I suggested OFD and thought that I detected him mumbling something about ‘showcaves.’ “How dare he?” I thought to myself and so suggested that we should visit somewhere a bit off of the usual tourist routes and head for The Northern Lights in OFD2. I quoted the description from ogof.org to him “That is accessed through a rather complicated and sporting route” and so it was settled. It was agreed that we would head for the Northern Lights but that bearing in mind that I had a hazy memory of it being a difficult place to find, that we’d be happy with just heading to that part of the cave with the intention of getting to know the area better.
On the day we were joined by Vicky and Zeb for the long walk up the track to the entrance. Luckily, we weren’t too far from the cottages when I asked who had the survey. Blank looks all round meant that they’d been left somewhere other than with us. “I gave them to you when we were filling in the ticket” said Vicky cheerfully as this meant that she could abrogate all responsibility and it was down to me to walk back and pick them up where she’d left them. So, I placed my Pelicase with containing the ‘F—ing camera’ as it was known to some and hurried back. At least now I could claim to have travelled further than even Young Whippersnapper Tom and have a reasonable excuse for being knackered later. So, I ambled back to where they were sitting with curious smirks on their faces, retrieved my Pelicase and we were off up the hill again.
The entrance was soon reached and as everyone was adjusting their kit, I produced my camera announcing that we had to do the obligatory selfie. I’d been sure to charge my camera as I love taking photographs of trips to record the experience. Many will inevitably turn out to be ‘crap’ but even these are valuable memories to be stored for later years. So, it was with a puzzled face that I looked at my camera as it failed to turn on. Repeated pressing of the power button gave nothing and I wondered if it had frozen so opened the battery compartment to remove the battery and reset it. The empty battery compartment induced a sense of shock, horror and bewilderment which gave way to comprehension as I connected the missing battery with the smirks seen early. “Okay give it back” and a few choice words resulted in my battery being sheepishly returned. I must admit to losing it slightly, there are some things people shouldn’t mess with, redheads, The Zohan, other people’s wives, and a photographer’s camera(I like to think I can call myself one). Now it was my turn to look sheepish as I got my way with the selfie and we opened the gate and entered the cool dark of the cave..

Obligatory Selfie

The plan was to head through The Brickyard to Gnome Passage and then The Wedding Cake. From here we’d head down Salubrious and a quick viewing of The Trident and The Judge before on to The Crossroads and the beautiful Selenite Tunnel, Shatter Pillar and then sort of find our way from there relying on the surveys and my memory.
It was soon apparent that someone was having oversuit trouble as it had obviously ‘shrunk’ causing some trouble when needing to climb in the Brickyard. No worries though, we carried on and were soon out and in Gnome Passage and turning into the passage that leads to the Wedding Cake. A short stop to admire this formation and, as usual, wondering who would want a cake like this for their wedding. It would be more accurate to call it the Wedding Splat. Young Whippersnapper Tom was eager to get going and led off down Salubrious and I followed. The odd little tearing sound as we clambered over boulders seemed to indicate that the oversuit situation was gradually resolving itself and we turned off for another short stop at The Trident. I was getting twitchy at this point as I hadn’t taken any photographs, this wasn’t normal. The camera was in the Pelicase instead of my inner oversuit pocket so it couldn’t be whipped out so easily. I had taken some pictures of the Judge and Trident last time I was here but was not happy with them and want to have another go with a bit more thought to the lighting. This wasn’t going to be the time though as we were off again to The Crossroads, across President’s Leap with me again telling myself that I shall have to find out why it is called that one day. In Selenite Tunnel I was allowed to take a photo and shot a couple of Vicky looking down the passage.
Selenite Tunnel
After this, we headed to Shatter Pillar and headed down where we had a choice of passages on the survey, the ‘straight way’ and the ‘wiggly way’ as we called them. We chose the ‘straight way’ which we followed to Cross Rift where more boulder clambering brought us to Mignight Passage and then into the top of Midnight Chamber.
We were running late by this point, we’d dawdled a bit and along with getting into the cave an hour late we loitered in Midnight Chamber and pondered where to go now. Someone did mention something about a nice pint of ale in the Briton but we weren’t going to head out yet. It was decided that the elite team of Young Whippersnapper Tom and Zeb The Snake would head off toward the Northern Lights with the survey and some vague recollections from me. These amounted to the squeeze where Rob got stuck, a longish ascending squeeze into the start of the Northern Lights and an ascending tube to be climbed. “Nothing too bad though” I said.
As the others headed off, Vicky and I went for a look down Midnight Passage. It’s not an unpleasant passage and you can soon hear the streamway up ahead. Pausing to take photos, we soon had used up half our alloted time and retraced our steps back to Midnight Chamber to find our intrepid explorers moaning about squalid crawls and water, “I really don’t remember any of that” I said. “Anyway, I want to try out my bulb firer” and produced a strange contraption that I’d made up from an old bulb firer and some spare wire. Vicky was placed at the end out of sight and Tom was told to stand in an ‘epic’ sort of way. “3, 2, 1 fire!” And there was light, lots of light, it worked!
Midnight Chamber
By now, the pub was calling and we headed off. Tom and I had a quick look up the passage that goes off below Frozen River and then we returned back via ‘Wiggly Way’ where we were surprised by some nice helectites and crystals on the walls along with a band of some fine fossils.
Wiggly Way HelectitesWiggly Way Fossils

The rest of the way was uneventful and was pretty much the inward trip in reverse until we emerged back into the outside again and back down the hill to change and a welcome pint in the Ancient Briton.

I don’t think I will ever tire of Ogof Fynnon Ddu, there are always places to go and new things to see in there. It just needs you to head off of the tourist routes and have a look down the small passages on the survey that you’d never bother with usually.
Young Whippersnapper Tom is keen for a visit to the end of OFD3, somewhere I’ve never been to yet. I think I should add it to the list.

Daren Cilau to Ogof Cnwc Through Trip – 13th August 2017 by Trig

Dave Trig Gledhill
Tom Williams

Early start for this one as we had wanted leave a lot of time for route finding, with a belly full of bacon sarnies I set off for , The weather being a bit too nice for the 500m plus of crawling about to ensue. As I get to Abergavenny Tom texts to say his car key is in the washing machine so there will be a slight delay!
We meet in the car park and discuss whether maybe getting a key to OFD would be a more sensible option or even a wander in Dan Yr Ogof showcave. But after a nice cup of “Man Up” we find ourselves at the start of the entrance crawl.

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Slithering into the icy waters the swear words could have probably be heard in Aggy but once we both negotiated The Vice the going eased off and normal conversation was had and pictures taken and plenty of “not as bad as I remember” remarks were said. We cleared the entrance in about an hour, stopping only for a drink and a couple of snaps.

Trig in The Vice

Tom in the entrance series

Tom in the Entrance Series

Trig in the Calcite Squeezes
One thing that annoys me about Daren is how the entrance just stops and you are suddenly in walking passage! God send really. We didn’t hang about and pressed on, Tom hadn’t seen the crystal pool before so we decided to go and have a quick look in there before Jigsaw, as its pretty much en route. Worth noting this part of the cave is quite easy for navigating as there are handy reflectors pointing you in the direction of Jigsaw Passage and vice versa for the Entrance/Exit. After a picture of the dried up Crystal Pool we pushed on into Jigsaw Passage and through The Wriggle.

Crystal Pool

Crystal Pool

Arriving at the logbook in ‘Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance’ we signed the log book and consulted the survey. We both had been in the cave both and Tom had done the route before, but in reverse and we all know how different caves look in the opposite direction so this was going to be a good old fashioned survey and description following kind of trip. We carried on as per description but took several attempts and a compass reading! to find ‘Epocalypse Way’

Now this is when I started to realise what an amazing place this is, as after only a few minutes in the easy going walking chamber on the left hand side in the far distance something catches your eye…..a pure white glow. The pace increases to reach the famous formation of ‘White Company’. Can easily say it was breath taking and well worth the few hours of caving to reach such an epic. We stayed here for a short while taking pictures and having a rest and generally taking in such a sight for sore eyes.

Tom and White Company

Tom and White Company

White Company

White Company

Continuing on still impressed with White Company we are rewarded once again with a short climb into a very very very well decorated oxbow, ‘Urchin Oxbow’ to be exact with its deposits and crystal lined roof and yet again another reason to side-track from the planned route. Just round the corner from Urchin the aptly named ‘Kitchen’ is found, where we stopped for lunch and refilled water bottles with some of Llangatwgs finest council pop.

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Now turning left and then left again we appeared in ‘Antler Passage’ and yet again the cave reveals another one of its secrets in the form of a gorgeous set of Helictites named ‘The Antlers’ (for obvious reasons). Now here comes (in my opinion!) the hardest part of the trip. Antler Passage is long….really long and its 99.8% boulder hopping up and down boulder slopes of which this mountain and its systems are famous for with the remaining 0.2% being awkward small pitches with ladders and lines in situ with one being rather tight at the top where I managed to sub humanly bend my knee in un-godly directions. Its easily to navigate funnily enough as its one long passage with ‘Man in the Roof’ dropping back into the passage at one point. But it does eventually end in the form of a lovely wet boulder choke and another climb……..decent.

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

Popping out into ‘Busman’s Holiday’ here our survey improved somewhat and route finding was relatively easy until we reached ‘Prices Prophecy’ which is an amazing, well decorated chamber where the way on looks to the right ( I have previously read about some guys a few years previous who took this route and never found the connection with Cnwc and had to turn back and travel the full 4-5hours back through Daren!) but is actually off to the left into a further decorated chamber and low behold a helpful sign reading “Cwnc exit this way!” too easy!
What else can I say about Cnwc…it’s a dig, it’s not hard but it certainly isn’t pleasant but certainly beats having to go all the way back. We exit covered in mud but high, very high spirits into the warm summers day. Back in the car park we entertain some holiday makers with our tales of crawls and endless passages much to their amusement.
Definitely one of my favourite caves and trips of all times and I think Tom would agree!
5ish hours.

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

Bridge Cave – 4th July 2017

Barry Burn
Tom Williams
Huw Jones
Vyvyan and Bevita

Two of Tom’s work colleagues had expressed an interest in seeing what this caving lark is all about and so we agreed to take them to Bridge Cave for an evening trip.

Bridge Cave is relatively short but has a large and impressive stream passage as well as some formations. It is part of the larger Little Neath River Cave system that was originally discovered by divers when they passed the sump at the end of the cave.

We all met up at the car park near Blan Nedd Isaf farm and paid our parking fee before changing and heading off to the cave. Another nice feature of this cave is the very short walk, a hop over the style and it’s just around the corner.

The cave starts out a ‘bit crawly’ and leads to the small boulder choke where it isn’t a good idea to stop and ponder how long the bit of wood has been there holding it up before dropping down and through a narrow bit into the stream where you then shortly pop out into the large stream passage.

None of this fazed Vyvyan or Bevita and they were soon admiring what Bridge Cave has to offer. I’m not sure what they expected, maybe a lot of crawling and mud but were very pleasantly surprised at just how nice this caving thing could be.

We spent a good while exploring the stream passage, heading down the side passage where Tom explained where the water comes from and then down to the end and under the bridge, the span of rock that has been left from the cave formation and which gives the cave its name. The sump was visited and the formations admired while Tom crawled off to have a closer look at the sump whilst Huw and I explained where the sump leads and how caves and formations are formed.

After Tom rejoined us we climbed up by the bridge to view the grotto that can be found there before heading back upstream and out of the cave.

Vyvyan and Brevita definitely enjoyed the trip and I hope that they will join us again sometime soon.

Ogof Draenen – Fault Chambers Bolt Climb – 1st Trip – Sunday 25th June 2017

Dave Gledhill, Tom Williams and Huw Jones

By Huw Jones
Photos – Huw and Tom

As we headed out from our trip when we finally dropped the Boulder Rodeo pitch in Fault Rifts, back in March 2016, I spotted a window, high up in the Eastern wall of the tall rift passage, at the southern end of Fault Chambers. It was above the top of a large boulder pile and I remembered that we’d spotted a window high up on this wall, when I’d first visited Fault Chambers back in 1994, on the day we first climbed up into and explored Fault Rifts. For some reason, the window wasn’t exactly as I’d remembered it from back then. I thought we’d finished with this area of the cave but now we were going to have to return, to see if the window led anywhere.

I returned with the two new tigers of the club, Tom and Dave. We’d decided to make an early start as Dave and myself both needed to be home by early evening. We’d arranged to meet at Pwll Du at 8am but a message from Tom said that neither his alarm clock nor his young son had managed to wake him and he was going to be late! When Tom arrived, we quickly got underground and headed to the climb, which took about two hours. We had a quick look around and Tom spotted a second window, in the same wall. This window was lower down but as it was above the base of a steep slope and the higher one above the top of the slope, the height of the climb to either was similar. A tube, visible in the roof of the lower window, looked to be heading towards the upper window so it was decided to try to reach the upper one as there was no way of knowing if the tube was passable. Also there was a ledge below the upper window, which looked like it could be reached by free climbing, to hopefully save time and bolts. I recognised the lower window as the one I’d seen back in 1994.

Tom at the start of the traverse to the ledge

Tom at the start of the traverse to the ledge –
Photo Huw

Being short on time, we got the kit sorted straight away and made a start. A bolt was placed for protection on the rising traverse to the ledge and Tom started the climb, with Dave life-lining. Unfortunately, when Tom got there, the rock above and around the ledge turned out to be so poor that it was almost funny! Tom came back down and we discussed options, whether to try for the lower window and hope there was a passable connection to the upper or to persevere where we were. It was decided to carry on above the first bolt, placed originally for protection, as the rock seemed to be more sound here. That could mean having to traverse across slightly, at a higher level though.

Huw on the climb

Huw on the climb – Photo Tom

I took over climbing duties, with Dave again life-lining and placed a few more bolts, gaining a view into the window. Unfortunately it wasn’t the start of a large passage going off but part of a small tube, which seems to be running diagonally down and parallel to the wall. The windows seem to be where the chamber has intersected the winding tube. There looked to be a part of the tube heading down towards the lower window and another part of it heading upwards. There are no windows visible higher up the wall so it needs checking out but unfortunately we had run out of time. I put a second stainless steel bolt in at the high point and rigged a length of rope directly to a couple of stainless ring hangers. Unfortunately we’d reached poor rock again so we’ll have to think carefully on how to proceed from here.

Dave with the rope left hanging from our high point

Dave with the rope left hanging from our high point – Photo Huw

OFD1 – Main Streamway – 2nd April 2017 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Rob Johnston
Ruby Johnston
Dione Ball
Dave Gledhill

A somewhat poignant trip for me as this was to be Rob’s last caving trip before leaving South Wales for a life of retirement sailing the ocean’s and visiting far-off shores.

Rob and Myself along with Mark Wedlock were a regular team that explored a lot of the underground world of South Wales back in the 90s and early 2000s, but sadly, events transpired so that we gradually stopped caving together. Rob has now retired and is planning to whisk Paulyne, his wife, off on a life of mad adventure sailing the globe. But, before that, he wanted one last caving trip and especially one into OFD1 that he hadn’t visited for quite a few years.

Young Rob at LNRC

Young Rob at LNRC

A fine spring morning saw us meeting up at Penwyllt. Rob’s daughter Ruby joined us for her first taste of OFD and along with Dione and Trig we made our way to the layby where we changed and headed off to the entrance.There had been a fair bit of rain recently so the streamway promised to be sporting but we decided to carry on and to see how things looked when we reached The Step.

We had soon all descended the ladder and re-grouped in the small chamber at the bottom and then headed off into the cave. Ruby’s experience up until then had been much smaller caves with Porth yr Ogof being the biggest and so this was a suitably impressive step-up for her and she was obviously enjoying herself as the cave passage got progressively larger and better decorated. Rob, went into some sort of dreamlike state reminiscing about previous through-trips and we swapped tales about trips into the far reaches of OFD2 and other caves as well as fun times such as when nearly all of GCRT (us included) became trapped on the wrong side of a collapse.

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Ruby Goes Up The Toastrack Ladder

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Rob at The Toastrack

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Admiring Formations

A few photos on the way and we were soon at the calcite climb up into Column Passage and Trig kindly obliged to climb up first to rig a hand line. All were soon up and then along the passage to the small chamber that contains The Column where a fair bit of time was spent admiring it and trying to get Ruby and Dione to lead the way on to Eagle’s Nest through the duck. After is was clear that there was a sad lack of gullibility on this trip, we headed back and down the climb with varying amounts of grace.A few photos on the way and we were soon at the calcite climb up into Column Passage and Trig kindly obliged to climb up first to rig a hand line. All were soon up and then along the passage to the small chamber that contains The Column where a fair bit of time was spent admiring it and trying to get Ruby and Dione to lead the way on to Eagle’s Nest through the duck. After is was clear that there was a sad lack of gullibility on this trip, we headed back and down the climb with varying amounts of grace.

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Dione Admires The Column

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Ruby Is Not Convinced

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Formation on The Column

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Trig In The Column Pool

 

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Ruby Descending The Calcite Climb

At The Step the streamway was indeed slightly sporting, but just enough to make it more fun than the usual sploshing upstream, and so entered the water and progressed upstream. Everyone was more than eager to head off as some caring soul had decided that the passage just before The Step was a great place to relieve oneself and the stink of stale urine was overpowering here.

Heading upstream with more photos and a short diversion up to the start of the Maypole Wire and then a stop for a short break in Boulder Chamber before heading back downstream. Climbing out at The Step, we sent a few helmet-fulls of water onto the rock in a hope of cleaning it up a bit.

An obligatory visit to the passage beyond Pluto’s Bath and then back to the entrance. Trig and I went for a quick look at Gothic Sump before we headed back into the open air.

A shortish trip, but thoroughly enjoyable. It was great to be caving again and hopefully Rob’s travels will bring him back to Wales in the not too distant future and maybe then we can drag Mark back underground again. Ruby professed to having enjoyed the cave and was keen to see more so I hope she’ll continue the way she’s started and join us on some more trips.

Ogof Draenen – Rifleman’s Chamber, 18th March 2017 by Dave ‘Trig’ Gledhill

Huw Jones, Dave ‘Trig’ Gledhill, Adrian Burton & Julian Carter (SWCC/MCC)

Streamway photos & Huw in dig – Julian Carter
Rifleman’s Chamber photos – Huw Jones

So there I was, kicked out the front door by the wife with a darren drum full of sarnies and assorted snacks ready once again for a trip into Draenen. This cave really does fascinate me, the sheer size of it is overwhelming and the feeling of being rather insignificant is certainly a feeling I love with caving in the larger systems.

Pulling up at Pwll Du I realised we are not the only ones going under today as a mixed crowd of MCC and SWCC were already kitting up and assessing wind direction in the car park for the chilly change out of kit in a few hours! Giving a friendly nod and a quick conversation, I bade them farewell for the day as Huw, Adrian and Jules turned up.

Fully kitted up and armed with a crowbar, we headed down to the cave. Worth noting is that with any Draenen trip, this is the most dangerous part as soon most of us had already gone head over heels on the slippery, muddy slope to the entrance. This doesn’t matter because soon the ‘sporting’ entrance series will wash our suits off.

Trigger on a traverse in the streamway.

Trigger on a traverse in the streamway.

Adrian in the streamway below Agent Blorenge.

Adrian in the streamway below Agent Blorenge.

Entering the cave is a flat out crawl through a dig with an interesting tight ‘slit’ to slide down, which larger cavers will discover they will get momentarily lodged in, whilst a torrent of water from a diverted drain pipe, enters the rear of your suit! It’s quite arduous but you have gravity in your favour (bare in mind for way out!) and it usually only takes 20 minutes to enter the cave. We are in luck today as we have Huw who played a massive part in digging and breaking through in this caves so it was epic to have a commentary on how it all happened.

After a small pitch with rope in situ, the logbook was reached at Cairn Junction and I signed us all in with my finest hand writing…… Turning right here we continued boulder to boulder (common theme for Draenen) until we arrived at Wonder Bra Bypass, which is a nice (well I think it’s nice) slippery, muddy crawl and easily passed. Turning left and popping out underneath an interesting, wedged slab and made our way to Tea Junction, where Huw reminded us it’s Tea, as in beverage, not T in shape. Bit more boulder hopping and then Jules dropped off his sample pot for groundwater crustacea in the stream, which he was going to collect on exit. We admired the turning for Gilwern Passage but turned left, downstream.

Adrian & Trigger in the streamway.

Adrian & Trigger in the streamway.

Trigger in a deep bit!

Trigger in a deep bit!

Now this is the meat of the trip and it’s worth noting that this stream is long…very long but far from mundane as it tends to change underfoot from ankle twisting worn away limestone to easy going sand and has many a formation, precariously perched rocks and a boulder choke or two. Halfway down we passed the left turn for Agent Blorenge, which is where you pop out after the classic round trip. After this turning Huw pointed up to the left, to Fallout Passage, named because he literally fell out of it and woke up (a slight exageration on Trig’s part!) in the streamway! Now from here on, I remember it getting deep, (See pics!) before it literally felt like it just ended and a muddy slope, with rope out of the stream, is encountered to land you in Rifleman’s Chamber. Moving further up the muddy slope, two muddy climbs, with ladders in place, took us up into Upper Rifleman’s Chamber and the dig.

It’s been a while since it’s been actively dug but the dig itself is still very much established, even with a bottle of red wine ready and waiting. With sarnies guzzled down, Huw and Jules descended the scaffolding to inspect the dig and also release some canned smoke. Then we swapped over so I could have a look in the dig. Very impressive and it seems a fair few hours have been put into this place and let’s hope a fair few more to come….how big can this place actually be or has it only had its surface scratched, with more activity underneath or beyond.

Couple of photos and we were off on our way out, back the way we came, to get wet again and Jules positioned to get the best shots at the wet or sporting sections (see pics). Whilst Jules retrieved his samples from the steam, myself, Huw and Adrian had a quick poke around in Gilwern Passage, a lovely decorated passage.

It was after here and even with strict instructions to follow upstream, that I decided to lead us down the wrong passage momentarily (obviously just checking how well Huw knew the cave….honest). Then we began the exit through the ‘sporting’ entrance series, which is always pleasant but was over fairly quickly in 30 minutes and onwards to tackle the muddy slope back to the cars, with me going via a thorn bush.

Apologies if this is a bit of an essay but I’m definitely looking forward to returning to this cave as it’s truly spectacular.
Time underground 6-7 hours.

‘Trig’