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Club meetings are held at The Talisman, Market Square, Brynmawr, NP23 4AJ

  • Monday 4th February 2019
  • Monday 4th March 2019
  • Monday 1st April 2019

We meet on the first Monday of the month. If the first Monday falls on a bank holiday, then it is best to double check here (or on the club Facebook group) to see if we have moved it to 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.

 

Fiddy’s Farm Cave – Wednesday 19th Decmber 2018

Huw J, Huw D, Harry D, Vernon A
By Vernon A
Photos Huw J


The four of us met on Wednesday morning to verify the rumours that new passages and chambers had been found at Fiddy’s Farm Cave. After seeking permission from the landowner we kitted up and headed off to find the cave. A piece of gating over the entrance and lots of dead leaves gave the initial impression that there hadn’t been any traffic lately, contrary to what the landowner had said.


Dropping down through the narrow entrance rift gave access to a low crawl, after a few meters and a couple of right angles we joined a larger passage with a small streamway. This gave way to a stooping/crawling section where after several more metres the mainstream joined from a narrow bedding plane on the right. Later Huw J crawled up the main streamway until it became too tight, but he could see it opened up again further on.


Following the stream again for a short distance we came to the first chamber, with a steep bank to our right, the stream disappearing on our left and a few Lesser Horseshoe bats. After an explore and a few photos we moved on to a short crawl which soon opened up into the larger second chamber. The breakdown chamber consisted of, a large dry flowstone bank and evidence of a dig in progress, which was apparent with barrels, trays, bangwire and other personal items placed on a large central boulder. Another explore, more photos, numerous bats and Huw J descending 7 or more metres in the far left corner to the terminal dig.


We made our way back out stopping for Huw D to drop down between some boulders in the first chamber to follow the stream for a short distance. With plans to find who was digging and if there is room for a joint operation, or a separate Brynmawr dig following the streamway we got changed and headed for Blaenafon and hot drinks.


    Huw J – Here is, what is I’m sure, a very inaccurate sketch survey I produced of the cave after the trip. It’s done from memory and without the use of a compass but it should give a general idea of the cave. The cave is supposedly about 200m long.

Ogof Cynnes – Saturday 27th October 2018

Dave Gledhill, Thomas Williams and Huw Jones
Words and photos – Huw/Dave

Dave – “Cynnes?”
Huw – “It’ll be fun!”
The cave description – Mostly horrid!

Not sure if the trip was fun or horrid (possibly a bit of both) but there were a couple of slightly worrying incidents!

I arrived at the car park near Blaen Onnue Quarry a few minutes early, to find Dave and Tom already there. Everyone was obviously keen! It was a very cold day and the other two wore jackets over their caving gear for some extra warmth. First we headed to the quarry, to check out the film set that’s been there for the last few months. They have been filming a big budget production of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to be shown on BBC1 sometime next year. Filming must be finished as it looked like the set was in the process of being dismantled.


It was a nice, if cold, walk to the cave, accompanied by a bighting wind. Ogof Cynnes translates as Warm Cave and the difference in temperature inside to out was very marked. We’d brought a ladder, mainly to get into the lower part of the Easter Series but first we used it just inside the entrance to take a look down the First Pot. I’d dug here in the early 90s with the Poly of Wales Caving Club. After we’d dug into the Easter Series, at the far end of the Right Hand Series, our survey showed a possible link with the First Pot, which would create a round trip. The bottom of the pot and the dig had become a horrendous quagmire with water lying on top of the liquid mud!

Back up the ladder and quickly derigging it, we carried on just a little way along the entrance rift to Talk Back, which is a very narrow tube/rift and one of the two possible routes on. Tom shimmied through with no problem and the bags were passed to him. Then I tried but I didn’t fit! This was our preferred route all those years ago with the POWCC and the way I took when I did a solo trip to remove some of our digging gear so I was a bit gutted (no pun intended!) that I was too big now. Dave decided that if I didn’t fit, then he wouldn’t either and so our only option was to take the Second Pot route and meet Tom further into the cave. Now the Second Pot has a dodgy chain ladder hanging down it, that probably dates from the 1970s! When we were digging in the cave in the early 90s, we rigged our own ladder on the pitch, if taking this route. Of course, we had a ladder with us but we’d passed it through Talk Back to Tom and so rather than taking up more time, I decided to risk the chain ladder. There had been an aborted BCC/MCC trip to Cynnes a while back and at least a couple of people had climbed the ladder then, before turning around and heading out. It was in poor condition, with the chains loose from the ends of the rungs and slid together in the middle! I slid down the tube to the pitchhead and once on the ladder, pushed the chains apart with my feet. I was nearly at the bottom when a little shock ran through the ladder and looking up, I saw that a chain link on the left, that one of the rungs passed through, had snapped! The rungs below this slopped a bit but I was able to gently climb to the bottom without anything else breaking. Obviously it wasn’t a good idea for Dave to follow me and I didn’t fancy climbing back up the partly broken ladder. By this time, Tom had almost made his way around to where I was. I shouted to him to get our ladder to Dave so that he could rig it on the pitch. That all took a little while of course but eventually we were all in the ridiculously muddy chamber before the choke leading to the Main Chamber, having slid down the infamous Muddy Slot. After all that we hoped the rest of the trip would run more smoothly!

Through the choke and we were into the impressively tall Main Chamber and from there headed into the Left Hand Series. The Left Hand Series isn’t particularly extensive but does contain probably the second largest chamber in the cave, Hope and Glory Chamber. One area I was keen to find, as I hadn’t visited it before, was the Black Hole Series. The way into this turned out to be a very obvious hole through boulders in the base of the chamber. We explored the upper part of the small series and found various places that probably drop into the lower part but as we didn’t now have a ladder, we couldn’t descend. Tom was keen to go back with gear, to take a look at what must be a very little visited area of the cave.


We headed back to the Main Chamber and then made our way through the Right Hand Series, exploring a couple of side passages along the way. We had to leave some other parts, like the Boulder Chambers area, for another day as getting though the entrance series hadn’t been straight forward and had taken some time and we wanted to get on to the Easter Series. We climbed up to and then crawled along a high ledge into Roof Passage, at the end of which are the series of three POWCC digs which lead into the Easter Series. The second dig, a U bend had developed a lovely pool of water to crawl through! We made our way to the end of the series, which is mostly in Millstone Grit, before heading out. We weren’t able to drop into the lower part of the series as we’d had to leave our ladder on the Second Pot, of course.




After our problems on the Second Pot on the way in, we were looking forward to a straight forward trip out. We got that until we arrived back at Talk Back! I’ll leave it to Dave to describe what happened next!

    Dave – After being fairly certain earlier on in the trip that I wouldn’t fit through Talkback, I for some reason decided on the exit that I’d give it a shot anyway as opposed to going up the horrible slippery muddy slot by the 2nd pot. My choice seemed the right one as I saw Tom fly up with my no dramas whatsoever, so I chucked the bags up and luckily (as will become apparent) I chucked him my belt which had my HMS crab and sling attached. I climbed up easy enough and “inserted” myself into the squeeze. It soon became apparent that square blocks don’t fit into Talkback let alone circular holes as I managed to get wedged….really wedged. Then panic hit, which didn’t help as then my body slipped into the rift below and my lungs compressed. “Don’t panic butt” I heard Tom shout with a hint of a giggle in his voice whilst he unravelled my sling. Meanwhile I’m making noises which could probably be likened to a moose who’s been smoking 20 woodbines a day. Moments later as my face turned blue (I’m guessing….couldn’t say really after all the mud that actually caked my face) the sling appeared and after several choice words and some tugging I emerged at the top with the same relief I experienced after somehow getting wedged in the entrance pitch of Bar Pot in Gaping Gill a few months previous. I think I’ll just be using the 2nd Pot and muddy climb from now on. If I remember rightly I think poor Huw was underneath all this palaver!

After that ‘excitement’ and with the horrible sound of Dave’s constricted breathing still in my head, I made my way around the other way, while Tom and Dave waited above. It was a real struggle getting up the Muddy Slot and the small tube/rift above the Second Pot and I climbed our ladder very gingerly as the bolts and hangers it was attached to, are probably of the same vintage as the old chain ladder!

It was still very cold outside and so, after a quick ‘after’ group shot, we made our way back to the cars, admiring the fantastic views along the way. An interesting trip and I think Dave and Tom were impressed with the muddiness at least!


Carreg Yr Ogof – Friday 19th October 2018

Huw Jones & Pete Jeffery
Words and photos – Huw

The original plan was for a trip into Craig A Ffynnon with Vernon but when Vernon had to drop out, I suggested a visit to the remote but interesting hill of Carreg Yr Ogof, on the Black Mountain. I’d wanted to explore the place for donkey’s years but had never quite got around to it. Pete runs the YHA at Llanddeusant, situated below the hill so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The drive through the Beacons and around the Northern end of the Black Mountain is one of my favourites and I couldn’t help but stop to take the odd photo of the views up to the hills.


I arrived at the YHA at the appointed time to find no one around. Pete had had to sort a few unexpected things out and was currently at the tip! No problem as the weather was great and it’s a lovely place to just hang out. Pete turned up and quickly throwing his kit into a backpack we set off, in our wellies, on the hour’s walk up to Carreg Yr Ogof. There is plenty of height to gain in a relatively short distance but gallingly, the route actually starts off with a steep descent down a farm lane to the river! Starting up the other side, we climbed a bank to allow a herd of sheep to be driven passed, then soon turned off the lane to the farm and carried on upwards on a rough stoney track, that turned grassy before reaching the open hillside. The views are fantastic, with the Towi Valley spread out below us and the high peaks of the Black Mountain to the North, hiding the picturesque lake of Llyn y Fan Fach.


The gradient started to ease and Carreg Yr Ogof came into view, dotted with lots of old, small quarries. We carried on to the top on the hill (585m/1920ft) to get our bearings, where a large group of off road motorcyclists disturbed the peace somewhat. There are quite a few small caves spread around the hill, with lengths in the range of 20m-40m, plus a longer cave at 160m. We had planned to visit as many as possible but with the delayed start we decided to just check out the two best known caves of Ogof Carreg Yr Ogof and Ogof y Garimpeiros.



First we headed for Ogof Carreg Yr Ogof, the cave that the hill is named for. It’s all of 37m long but worth visiting. I’d loaded the co-ordinates into my GPS so we had no problem finding the entrance, where we got kitted up and headed in, Pete leading the way. The entrance chamber is rocky and bare. A short crawl then leads into the Main Chamber, where the floor is covered in many, many small stalagmites, a couple of inches to a couple of feet in height. They are unusual in that they are mostly white but each one has an orange top. The Main Chamber ends in a heavily calcited choke. A constricted route has been dug through on the right, leading to a very unexpected sight. Popping out of the choke, in front of you is a beautiful deep, green pool of water, looking not unlike a mini Dan yr Ogof Green Canal. There is plenty of pretty calcite on the walls and ceiling too. The passage carries on underwater but only for another 10m apparently.








Next, we made our way to Ogof Y Garimpeiros, the longest cave in the area at 160m. We’d noticed the location of the entrance as an interesting spot, on our way up to the top. The entrance is situated just above a sink and is covered with a green wheelie bin lid! Considering how loose the whole entrance area is, the shoring is pretty minimal, with just some thin metal bars and a few bits of rotten timber. Squeezing feet first through the entrance, it’s surprising how large the passage is so close to the surface. The extremely bouldery view before us set the scene for the whole cave. There is hardly an original, water-worn surface anywhere, with the walls and ceiling all angular facets, where the boulders have peeled off. Perhaps because it’s close below the surface, the walls and ceiling are almost completely covered in brown calcite. We joked that if it wasn’t for the calcite cementing everything together, the whole place would have fallen in!






Progress is made up and down boulder piles and includes a crawl through a choke half way along, before reaching the terminal choke. The stream is met at the base of the boulder piles and is a good size, considering it’s not far below the summit of the hill. The water has been traced to the Ffrwd Las resurgence on the Avon Twrch, right in the middle of the Black Mountain, a distance of 5.5km and 250m lower! That’s huge potential considering the equivalent figures for OFD are roughly 3.2km and 290m!

A really enjoyable day and somewhere I definitely want to return to, to check out the rest of the small caves. Best on a sunny day when it’s not too hot!

Ogof Cnwc – Tuesday 16th October 2018

Huw Jones & Pete Jeffery
Words and photos – Huw

Pete had been in touch with the club about doing some caving with us and with a week off work I was happy to oblige so we arranged a trip to Busman’s Holiday via the Ogof Cnwc entrance to Daren Cilau.

We met up in the Daren car park but Pete soon realised that he’d grabbed the wrong helmet as the one in his boot was tiny and didn’t come close to fitting him. I tried it and thought I could just about get away with it but then there didn’t seem to be any way of attaching a lamp so we were still a little stuffed. The only thing for it was to drive to mine to pick up my spare lamp/helmet and back, which was going to take the best part of an hour and a half. We jumped in Pete’s car and pulled out of the car park onto the Hafod road but had to immediately reverse up for a minibus full of kids in oversuits, which turned up into the car park.

“I wonder if they’ve got a spare helmet?” I joked.
“Might be worth a try.” replied Pete.
“Isn’t that Vaisey driving?” I asked.
“Do you know him?” asked Pete back and so we drove back into the car park.

Yes, it was Vaisey Bramley, leading a group from the Gilwern Outdoor Education Centre, yes they did have one spare helmet and lamp with them and yes we could borrow it! Thanks again Vaisey, you are a life saver!

We arranged how we were going to return the helmet and headed up to cave, which Pete hadn’t been in before. The first part of the cave was muddy as usual but with all the recent rain, it was wetter than I’d seen it before, with more lovely puddles to crawl through. The first 15 minutes or so of the trip aren’t the most pleasant, with the muddy and gravelly crawls but suddenly popping out into the huge and well decorated Price’s Prophecy chamber is a great experience.

First we headed North, through another decorated chamber with a noisy inlet stream and then into larger, bouldery passage, with not much in the way of formations but a bat or two here and there. At the end of the big passage is a longish but easy crawl, that leads into the most Northerly section of Busman’s. We soon arrived at the original breakthrough point, up from Antler Passage, where we stopped for a quick bite to eat.

On the way back I took a few photos and pointed out some of this newfangled Cryogenic Stal on the floor of the big passage. A check of the watch back at Price’s Prophecy showed we still had time to have a look at the southerly section of Busman’s. We wanted to time it so we’d get back to the car park a little bit before the group from the Gilwern Centre were due. The passage to the South is smaller than to the North and we soon reached a corkscrew dig up through boulders, quickly followed by another crawl through a dig. We then entered another large section of the passage at Stal Boss Chamber. There is a smaller rift passage to the right here, which we had a look down as it’s a bit of a change from the large, bouldery passages we’d been in so far. After taking photo’s in the decorated chamber, we started out. While crawling out I realised I’d only taken photos in the big passages. Looking ahead, Pete was in a nice small section so I called out about taking a photo there and asked if he was in a dry spot. Getting a very resounding NO! in reply, I didn’t push it further and we carried on out!


Roughly three hours underground in all, an enjoyable shortish trip into some impressive passage, rounded off with a nice pint in Llangattock.

Ogof Draenen entrance series – Monday 10th Sept 2018

Huw Durban, Harry Durban, Tom Williams and Huw Jones

By Huw Jones

A quick trip to grab some photos of the Draenen entrance series, for use in the presentation to the Blaenavon Townswomens Guild, which was only a week away.

Tom And Harry posed in various wet locations and I took several snaps at each to make sure I got at least one decent photo, while Huw provided lighting. Luckily for them the stream was particularly low so they didn’t get too soaked.



Once that was done, we traversed along Darling Rifts and took a look around the chamber and passages at the head of Big Bang Pitch, an area which is little visited these days. There’s some nice passage here and some interesting fossils, the most impressive of which are parts of large fin spines from 300 million yeah old early sharks.


Thanks to the guys for helping with the photos and the ladies of Blaenavon said they really enjoyed mine and Barry’s presentation on the caves in the area and South Wales in general.

Ogof Clogwyn, Sunday 19th August 2018

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

By Patricia Hughes
Photos Huw Jones

Evening taster trip to Ogof Clogwyn

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

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

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


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


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



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

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


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

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

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

“Commando” Patricia Hughes

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu II, Saturday 11th August 2018

David Gledhill, Gareth Jones and Huw Jones

By Gareth Jones
Photos Huw Jones except where otherwise stated

A Saturday trip into OFD 2, lead by Huw Jones. My first trip into OFD 2, and Huw’s first trip for a few weeks. So he had planned a long trip at a good pace to try fit in everything OFD 2 had to offer. (well, we probably covered less than 10% of OFD2!! – Huw)

We’d planned to meet in Merthyr before 9am where Huw jumped in my car, after I’d bought a pork pie and sweets. Dave was going to meet us at Penwyllt.

Arriving at a very busy Penwyllt, we struggled to park. We got in eventually, and thankfully there was an entrance key spare.

After changing as quick as we could, we started off on the tram road, up the hill. After a 10 minute hike we arrived at the entrance, Ogof y Nos Hir, which is an unassuming entrance that you’d never notice unless you knew where to look. The story of its opening is interesting, with diggers underground and above pushing to meet each other, eventually leading to a top entrance into the vast system of OFD below, the deepest cave system in the UK.

We stopped for a photo outside the entrance, now a padlocked gate.

Opening the padlock and switching on my light, I lead the way in. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. The very first chamber we entered through the tight entrance gate was so vast I struggled to imagine how it could exist so close to the surface, initially discovered from the inside from an entrance much lower down the hill. Oos and aahs aside, we had a cave to explore. So off we went.

Our trip took us through ‘Big Chamber Near The Entrance’, through bouldery ‘Brickyard’, and into the impressive ‘Gnome Passage’. Numerous stunted stals cover the floor of the chamber, giving the appearance of a garden full of calcited gnomes. Legend says in wet weather you can hear the gnomes whisper to each other, but with the recent dry weather, the chamber on this occasion was quiet.

Leaving the gnomes after a brief discussion, we decided to test my fear of heights, again, and as luck had it Huw had a ladder in his bag. So to my surprise, not far round the corner, in ‘Chasm Passage’ was a supposed 8m pitch we could practice climbing down an electron ladder and back up again. After 10 mins of rigging, Dave decided to show how it was done, with courage and dignity. At the bottom he called up he was at the bottom, safe.

Now it was my turn. I’d like to say I followed Dave’s example and climbed down graciously with style. But that would be a lie. I panicked and panted and cursed and shook and eventually, I made it down. Now for the climb back up. I went first so Dave could capture the event on camera. After a few failed attempts, the thought of the sweets and pork pie at the top spurred all my courage and energy, and slowly but surely, I managed to climb back up. Dave quickly followed behind.

I spent a minute getting my wits back while Dave and Huw packed away the kit.

We headed off continuing down into the depths of OFD 2. We descended a corkscrew obstacle to arrive into ‘Salubrious Streamway’ where we tried to find a way upstream, before giving up and heading off down the streamway.

Eventually after a few sporting obstacles, climbs and traverses we made it down a side passage off the streamway, into arguably OFD’s most famous formations, the ‘Trident’ and the ‘Judge’. After some more pictures we headed off up ‘Swamp Creek’ to see another impressive formation. From here, we turned around and headed back into ‘Salubrious’ and continued downstream heading for ‘The Maze’.

We stopped to look at the survey and decided to explore a bit. None of us had been in this part of the cave before. We found lots of formations, and some impressive fossils of coral. After spending some time getting lost in ‘The Maze’, we again back tracked and made our way to ‘President’s Leap’ via ‘The Crossroads’.

Why this obstacle is called ‘President’s Leap’ I can only imagine, because traversing over a certain drop to your death, one is leaping anything but presidentially. However, this obstacle is entirely worth the shaky knees. It leads straight into, in my opinion, one of the finest passages I have yet seen in my life, ‘Selenite Passage’. This densely decorated passage filled with selenites, is what makes the leap worth it. It truly is breathtaking passage, and no pictures would do the endless formations justice. You really have to get in there to see them.

At the end of the passage at ‘Shatter Pillar’, we stopped for lunch and a chat. We then decided to have another look at ‘Selenite Passage’, before we realised we had to pick the pace up if we were to cover more ground and see as much of the cave as we had planned.

So at a quicker pace, we headed up into ‘Midnight Chamber’, where we bumped into another group of cavers. Then quickly on to see ‘Skyhook’. Then onwards down to the end of ‘Deja Rue’. We had a look at the junction to ‘Northern Lights’ but unfortunately time had caught up with us. So we decided to start making our way out. So we headed back the way we came, back to ‘Shatter Pillar’ where we then made our way to ‘Edward’s Shortcut’ to exit. However, Huw had one more amazing place to show us on the way. After ascending what felt like a never ending boulder collapse, we were back up at the upper levels of OFD 2, where we took a side passage off to a passage equally as breathtaking as ‘Selenite’.

We had entered ‘Frozen River’. This passage involved a bit of stooping and hands and knees crawling, and a slide down some calcite. The whole way the passage was lined with endless straws and helictites. We reached an amazing column at the end, with conservation tape barring the way on. We took some time to admire and take in everything there was to see. Everything seemed so fragile that even our booming voices felt like they may shatter the pretties.

Realising time was running out, we headed back on our journey out the cave. We arrived at ‘Edward’s Shortcut’ to face another crazy traverse, so wide we were almost horizontally spanning the lofty rift, and at the end, with a foot at either side of the traverse I was doing the splits for the first time in my life.
We reached the last major obstacle, a slippery 4m vertical climb that Huw shimmied up, putting my following attempt to shame. With huffing and puffing, anyone round the corner might have thought I was giving birth. But with Dave pushing from below, and Huw pulling from above, I eventually made it. Dave followed swiftly behind.
From there we were plain sailing. Back into ‘Gnome Passage’ and following our route in, we swiftly made it back to the gate, 6 hours after we entered. Dave opened the gate to a, not so typical as of late, warm and wet beautiful hillside.

Weary but elated, we made our way back down the tram road to Penwyllt, to get changed and dry off.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip. If my achy joints are anything to go by the following day, as I do this write up, a very physical trip too. Some call OFD a show cave. Yes the formations, scale and grandeur are worthy of a show cave, however, the physical undertaking we endured is not comparable to the concrete footpaths and handrails in nearby show caves. Show cave yes, but no gentle walk in the park. This cave is a show cave for cavers.

The longest I have been underground yet. Potentially one of the most memorable trips, I’m sure I will never forget. Thanks to Huw and Dave for letting me experience this one.

Pork Pies at The Lamb and Fox Chamber Draenen. Trig and Gareth Rex Jones – 5th August 2018

The original plan today was to do the Daren to Cnwc through trip but Tom had to drop out so a short trip into Draenen was planned instead.

The day started at the shop with a quick chat with Brent whilst I got the key and soon after I was meeting up with Gareth at Pwll Du who seemed to be doing his own ‘Car Pool Karaoke’ shortly after with a text from Barry begging him to stop.

We quickly (well Gareth did, I took ages) got ready and had a chat with some walkers (who were ex cavers from the Mendips) on the sheer size of Draenen. We plodded off to the entrance, emptied bladders and slipped into the fun of the entrance series stopping for pictures in the dug shafts and at the knotted climb.

Enjoying the cool breeze from the lungs of Draenen

Enjoying the cool breeze from the lungs of Draenen

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We signed in and noticed there hadn’t been many visits as of late or people are opting to not sign in….

Next stop would be the Wonderbra Bypass and then on-wards to Tea Junction where a break, much-needed drink and a general marvel at the huge passage decorated with straws on just one part of the roof. I’ve taken enough pictures of this famous place before so I decided we should press on.

Next was White Arch passage, another massive (in size) passage of the cave with huge and slippy boulder break down everywhere but an impressive place. We proceeded at leisurely pace stopping often to notice other small passages high up and low down always triggering the exploration styled questions of ”has anyone been there and if they have, where does it go?” a cave still with lots of secrets to give up. We went underneath White Arch itself and stopped for a photo.

White Arch Passage

White Arch Passage

White Arch

White Arch

Carrying on we arrived at the choke which leads into Lamb & Fox Chamber ”two pints of Butty Bach please” I shouted but no reply from the barman (can’t get the staff these days) we sat down and cracked open our packed lunch of pork pies which Gareth had the added extra of gummy bears and pepperami! We sat stuffing our faces just taking in the sheer size of some of the boulders which have just peeled off the wall, leading to more questions ”when?” and ”when again”

Before we left we decided to climb up a level into the muddy traverses of Indiana Highway and stopped short before the deep pitch to the left.

CAMERA

Lamb and Fox chamber

Indiana Highway

Indiana Highway

We exited the same way noticing on the way back how low the water levels were which prompted a quick trip down Beyond a Choke streamway to see just a mere trickle.

White Arch passage on our way out

White Arch passage on our way out

Some ''hanging death''

Some ”hanging death”

Gareth opened the gate and instantly I could feel the heat shooting down to me further in the entrance such was the weather outside!

A good short trip to waste away a saturday, home for kebab and pizza.

OFD1 – 22nd July 2018

Barry Burn
Nick de Gare-Pitt
Adam Knapp
Gareth Williams
Terri
Lloyd Rielly

All photos by Barry Burn, (apart from Gareth’s one)

A trip was needed, but a knackered knee, a dodgy ankle and recent overindulgence meant that it would have to be a nice gentle trip. With the recent long, dry spell, we also wanted to see what this translated to in a cave that is normally known for a streamway. Thus we settled on a nice easy trip into OFD1.

This was to be a first time into OFD for Terri and Lloyd and I always think that the Bottom Entrance for a pootle upstream with some diversions into the side series that can be found on the  way is an ideal introduction.

We met at Penwyllt at the reasonable time of 10:30 and after filling the a trip card, getting a key and a bit of a gossip we drove down the hill to the convenient layby to change.

Being in the middle of the hottest heatwave for over 40 years meant that the walk to the cave, although relatively short, was a sweaty affair. Opening the gate triggered a blast of cooling air that howled out of the cave and each of us took time to pause and enjoy the draft as we entered.

It was soon evident, as we headed up the passage, just how dry the cave was going to be as the artificial pools and steams were completely dry.

Before heading to the streamway, I decided to take everyone up Pearl Passage to Skeleton Chamber to tell the tale of the itinerant castrator and a quick look at Pearl Chamber at the end.

Pearl Chamber

Pearl Chamber

We were then soon back on the trade route with me pointing out places that usually have small waterfalls that were now completely dry. Approaching the climb up into Column Passage, it became apparent that this was a very different cave.

OFD1 Trade Route

OFD1 Trade Route

Normally the Main Streamway makes itself known well in advance by the gentle roaring that can be heard. Today, though there was silence. Dropping down from The Step, this was more of a Main Trickleway than the usual exciting streamway that is the norm.

The biggest surprise was the potholes that are passed by scaffold pole bridges. Usually the scaffold tubes are just above or under the water, but now they were a good foot or more above water. The water in them was also very still and clear, allowing you to see to the bottom of the potholes. Most surprising was the first pothole. Most usually assume that if you fall in, that you will be up to your neck. This time though, it could be seen that it is a good 20 feet or more deep.

Lloyd Crossing Pot

Lloyd Crossing Pot

First Pothole

First Pothole

First Pothole

First Pothole

The plan was to head up to Boulder Chamber and then head back. We took our time heading upstream having a quick look around and pausing to have a good look at various features. The sump was particularly low with an airspace to be seen although we didn’t fancy getting too wet for a closer look. At Boulder Chamber, we spent some time for a quick break with a nose around and some tales of how long it took for a dry connection to be made.

The Sump

The Sump

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Gareth and Terri in the Choke

Gareth and Terri in the Choke

Gareth in Choke

Gareth in Choke

Heading back downstream, a quick look at the traverse up to the Waterfall Series

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

with a promise to come back to that another day and then we climbed up into Low’s Passage. Gareth was convinced that he could see further leads high in the roof but I explained how Pete Harvey, one of the original discoverers, had spent a lot of time maypoling up to such suggestions only to be disappointed each time. The drop back down Low’s Chain (now Low’s Ladder) was accomplished with varying degrees of finesse before we headed of downstream again with the intention of looking into the Railton-Wild Series. However, we managed to stomp right past the way into this series, so again, it shall have to wait for another day. climb up the Maypole Chain for a look and then we went straight past The Step for the initiation ceremony that is Pluto’s Bath. Before heading up from the Streamway to it though, I nipped down to have a look at what the downstream end was looking like.

Terri Looking at a Missing Sump

Terri Looking at a Missing Sump

Terri and Gareth followed on and it was surprising to see that there was very little water now and a definite absence of a sump. A couple of photos and we headed back to join the others that were waiting for us the other side of Pluto’s Bath. After the correct amount of laughing at Terri trying to cross the pot and Gareth, who’d been chuffed to traverse over it, getting pushed back into it, we popped into the Fault Series that is one of those little visited gems that are to be found in OFD. Again, this had me confused as the climb up into it is always a lot higher than I remember.

Sniggering at a Formation

Sniggering at a Formation

Group Pose - Photo by Gareth Williams

Group Pose – Photo by Gareth Williams

Descending from The Fault Series

Descending from The Fault Series

We were soon back out into the sunshine and heat, pausing on the way to rescue a small frog. We decided that he may be trying to escape the scorching heat but was unlikely to survive for long so Lloyd was the hero that carried him up into the outside air to hop free.

I do wish that I’d thought of having a quick look at Gothic Sump before we headed out, it would have been interesting to see how low it has gone in the drought conditions. I also wonder if anyone has undertaken to document the system in these conditions. It may happen again next year, but chances are we won’t see such low water for another few decades and perhaps we should be more proactive in taking some measurements and recording observations.

After changing, dropping the key off and a good gossip with the DO who was intrigued with our descriptions and some of the photos, we did what should be done after a good trip into OFD, a pint in the Ancient.

Weekend trip up to the Dales with Trig, Tom Williams, Richard Gledhill and Lee T. 20th – 23rd July

 

The weekend started with Tom picking me up at 1500 and fighting our way through the Welsh Marches up to Chester and somehow through the torrential rain and traffic we managed to finally hit the M6, stopping only in Warrington for supplies where Tom couldn’t contain his excitement and started to chuck beer bottles around the Tesco store; ”clean up on aisle 15”.

We pulled up at the Northern Pennine Clubs hut Greenclose to discover we had the hut to ourselves for the weekend. A thoroughly amazing cottage which is very comfy and extremely well equipped for living! Just turn up with food, beer and a sleeping bag. The rest is good to go. We got the kit unloaded with Lee and whilst this was happening Richard pulled up aswell. Tom shot off for a curry whilst me and Lee had a liquid meal of Black Sheep ale and pondered over surveys. We all discussed plans for the weekend and decided the caves and routes. Saturday will be Swinstos to Valley Entrance pull through followed by Alum Pot. Sunday would be Bar Pot to Gaping Gill for a good poke around and then Monday would be Dowbergill Passage to Dow cave (a black book caving trip…not for the faint hearted). After a quick rope pack we settled down for the night.

Swinsto to Valley, pull through.

After an amazing kid free sleep (apart from Toms usual bed wetting issues) the bacon and coffee was soon on the go whilst kit was loaded into Toms car. After a hearty leisurely breakfast and more coffee we set off to Kingsdale.

We pulled up in the stunning setting and quickly got kitted up whilst another team of cavers also pulled up. We decided to go into Valley entrance and stooped/crawled our way to the pitch which would be our climb out of the system once we had completed the pull through (there is a rope in place but always worth checking it’s still there). Lee rigged our own exit rope to save using the pre-rigged. We turned round, stooped and crawled back out.

Kingsdale

Kingsdale

Lee rigging the exit from Kingsdale Master cave into Valley Entrance

Lee rigging the exit from Kingsdale Master cave into Valley Entrance

SRT kit loosened off we headed off up the hill to find the Swinstos entrance, after checking a couple of shakeholes we found the entrance which helpfully has a metal tag to identify it. Just as we are re-tightening our harnesses the other team of cavers turned up and they said they will give us 15 minute gap before they come down. Best get on the move then!

The entrance is near enough a crawl but was substantially dry today and is met fairly soon with the first pitch which is also permanently rigged just incase you get down and realise the water is too high. Me and Lee descended this and shouted up to Tom and Richard that we were going to shoot off to start rigging the next pitch.

First Pitch

First Pitch

Next up is the Swinsto Long Crawl, 200m of hands and knees which for a South Wales caver is nothing out the ordinary but it does seem to go on a bit! Whilst we were rigging the next pitch Tom and Richard emerged happy enough from the crawl and down the pitch. The rope pulled through nicely and we were on our way following the water.

Lee looking up the Second Pitch

Lee looking up the Second Pitch

Tom rigged the next pitch which was descended and pulled through yet again very nicely.

Tom rigging

Tom rigging

Waiting my turn

Waiting my turn

The Split Pitch (my favourite bit) was met. Although very high it was very dry today compared to when I last here and you couldn’t hear anybody talking due to the huge waterfall you abseil down. At the bottom I unclipped my little admin pouch off for some water and food whilst the other guys descended and once they were down we headed off down the streamway, a sporting section with tight traverses and cascades to keep you occupied for 20 or so minutes. It’s once we had got to the end of here to Spout Pitch that I realised I had left my pouch at the bottom of Split Pitch and had to go round to retrieve! Hoping not to bump into the guys behind us to save embarrassment.

Rigging split pitch

Rigging split pitch

The 2nd half of Split Pitch

The 2nd half of Split Pitch

I rigged Spout Pitch whilst everyone else had a bite to eat and then within no time at all we had pulled and packed the ropes away again and headed on down to the Cascades where at the end you are rewarded with a small pitch with Simpsons pot entering from the left and Swinsto Great Aven ahead of you! A huge aven which is worthy of a few moments of awe.

Now all that was left was to exit via the Kingsdale Master cave. Tom and Lee decided to go left through Philosphers Crawl, whilst me and Richard went the more gentlemanly route where we all met up in the main stream. We then headed on down stream to the exit pitch and upwards. I de-rigged whilst everyone else starting heading back out the way we had come a few hours previous!

Lee entering Philosphers

Lee entering Philosphers

Lee and Tom waiting their turn

Lee and Tom waiting their turn

We got back to the car to find a rather nice camera from the other cavers which they had left on their bonnet! We took a selfie and then safely stashed their camera away from prying eyes but visible enough for the owner to spot. We didn’t bother getting changed as we still had unfinished business for the day. ”Alum Pot” please driver.

 

Alum Pot, Dolly Tubs.

We paid our fees to the farmer and then drove as close to Alum Pot as we could.

Quickly donned our SRT kit again and headed up to Long Churn entrance. A novice entrance but what a novice trip! It certainly beats Eglwys Faen. A nice active and sometimes very dangerous streamway passes through several easy obstacles, swirl pools and climb downs to meet Dolly Tubs pitch of 18m. It’s actually free climbable but it’s just on the limits for a qualified Cave Leader to take kids down on a ladder lifeline. Richard rigged for SRT on this occasion as we were only here to get to the famous viewing ledge and soak up one of the best views in the UK. We all got down and spent a good twenty minutes taking it all in. A view I have seen a fair few times before but still takes my breath away. Sadly the pictures didn’t come out great and the battery eventually died.

Yorkshire Limestone pavement

Yorkshire Limestone pavement

Tom and Lee at Long Churn

Tom and Lee at Long Churn

Weird tree growth

Weird tree growth

Alum Pot

Alum Pot

On exit a few decided to go through the ”Cheese Press”….doesn’t take the brains of the arch bishop to work out how nice a squeeze that is. Back to the club hut for beer and cottage pie.

Bar Pot to Gaping Gill.

The original plan was to be an exchange trip with 2 of us rigging Dihedral and the other 2 rigging Bar Pot but we decided against this purely because we couldn’t be bothered carrying another 100m of rope halfway up Ingleborough. After some bacon sarnies we got changed at the cottage to save the poor village of Clapham having to see us getting changed. We parked up and was soon on our way up the hill. A very long sweaty walk in but stunning scenery and Trow Gill was alive with rock climbers giving us mere cavers confused looks.

We rested for 10 minutes in the Bar Pot shakehole and then got SRT kit on. Lee pushed forward to rig the entrance pitch and slid in to be next down. It soon became clear that me and my giraffe legs were going to have fun with this tight pitch on exit! Last time we came here I had used Small Mammal pot so never had the fun.

Lee in the entrance pitch

Lee in the entrance pitch

I clipped into the traverse and proceeded to thread my descender and then further proceeded to get wedged, much to Toms amusement with the camera. I got myself free and descended. Everyone else was soon after and we made our way down to the big pitch.

Trig.....wedged

Trig…..wedged

Richard offered to rig so the rest of us relaxed and rehydrated and one by one made our way down this stunning pitch happy in the knowledge we would soon have to be jamming our way back out this way.

Richard rigging traverse to the pitch head

Richard rigging traverse to the pitch head

Pitch head

Pitch head

 

Richard on his way down

Richard on his way down

Tom on his way down

Tom on his way down

Lee nearly at the bottom

Lee nearly at the bottom

We shred the SRT kit at the bottom and made our way into the Gaping Gill system via the South East passage which is a mix of hands and knees crawling and some stooping for good caving measure. But soon the slog was worth it as you turn a corner and are rewarded with an immense wind followed by the noise of water crashing.

Gaping Gill main shaft/chamber never ceases to amaze me so what a perfect place to stop for lunch and have a good old mooch around taking in the mind-boggling size of the place.

 

Gaping Gill

Gaping Gill

Looking up

Looking up

Lunch over we popped up and over the boulders into Old East to look at some formations which sadly have seen better days. Turning around we decided to make our way out via Sand Caverns which funnily enough look like Sand Caverns in Agen Allwedd back home! It’s in the hands & knees crawl of South East my wrist which I had twisted the day previous really decided to give me a fair amount of pain and throbbing. Wasn’t looking forward to having to jam back out but luck would have it that I managed to get up the big pitch without too much pain and was cheered up by the sound of Tom making his way up, effing and blinding as usual.

Sand Caverns

Sand Caverns

''SRT kit for sale''

”SRT kit for sale”

Now the final pitch was a different matter, I got wedged again and couldn’t undo my chest jammer due to it being solidly against the wall. Luckily I wasn’t first up and Lee managed to squeeze his hand in and release me off the rope! Now to pass the squeeze and get off the traverse line with effectively one hand…..

We were soon all out and on our way towards Gaping Gill entrance just to have a look and take a picture.

Another good day!

 

Dowbergill Passage

Cancelled due to my wrist but will be the first trip when we return soon!

An epic weekend and plans are already afoot to return more often.