Next meetings

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Next meetings:

  •  Monday 3rd July 2017 – The Talisman
  •  Monday 7th August 2017 – The Talisman
  •  Monday 4th September 2017 – The Talisman

We meet on the first Monday of the month. 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.

 

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’

OFD2 – Salubrious and Selenite 5th March 2017 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Tom Williams
Nick De Gare-Pitt

All photographs by Barry Burn

Having sampled most of what OFD1 has to offer, I needed to get back to OFD2 and start to re-discover the delights that the more complex part of this system presents. So, it was that Tom and I were joined by Nick, an old member of Isca who was returning to caving after a long break.

Meeting at Penwyllt we soon discovered that opting for a trip on a CHECC weekend has it’s own problems with the huge numbers of hung-over students that were milling around looking for their trip leaders. At one point, Tom and I were examining the survey in the common room when we heard a subtle groan and discovered a comatose male student looking up at us and wondering where in the seven circles he had found himself. We offered to show him an eighth one but he just cuddled up under his blanket and tried hard to ignore us.

Tom was on his second trip into the system that weekend having helped out with leading hordes of students around the OFD2 system the day before. He was at pains to point out that technically he’d actually done 1 and a half trips as on exiting the cave with one group, he’d been grabbed, before he could escape out of the entrance, to help show another group around. He pointed out that this was the reason for the state of his kit, although I personally couldn’t see the difference from a normal trip.
Nick GlowingMuddy Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three of us did the usual trudge up the hill, Tom dripping mud, whilst Nick and I looked more respectable alongside him (although Nick was glowing slightly in his nice new oversuit), to the OFD2 entrance. A pause for a selfie and we were off into the relative warmth of cave.

OFD2 Selfie

OFD2 Selfie

We were soon heading past Big Chamber Near The Entrance and via The Brickyard into Gnome Passage. The plan was to do one of the trade routes down Salubrious and then via Selenite Tunnel to Edward’s Shortcut and then back into Gnome Passage before heading out.

We were soon at The Wedding Cake that is more of a splat, perhaps it should be rename the Wedding Cake Smash. We headed up Chasm Passage for a look at The Chasm before retracing our path back to the start of Salubrious Streamway.

The Wedding Cake

The Wedding Cake

Chasm Passage

Chasm Passage

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There was a group of students in front of us when we reached the Corkscrew so we waited to allow them to get ahead.

We soon caught up with them though and they asked for directions to the Trident and Judge. We’d borrowed a copy of the old survey and using this we gave them what we thought were the correct directions. Thinking we’d let them get ahead, we decided to go past the junction and have a look around before coming back to for a look ourselves. However, we soon found ourselves at The Trident and realising that the survey may have lied, Tom went back to get them on the right path whilst Nick and I stayed to take some photographs.

Nick at The Judge

Nick at The Judge

Nick And The Trident

Nick And The Trident

Tom reappeared with the students in tow and they were suitably impressed with the formations although none of them seemed able to ‘see’ the Judge. They soon left back up Salubrious and we headed in the other direction to see Selenite Tunnel.

Tom in Selenite Tunnel

Tom in Selenite Tunnel

Nickin Selenite Tunnel

Nickin Selenite Tunnel

We now just needed to head back to Gnome Passage via Shatter Pillar and then into Edward’s Shortcut. The climb up at the end of this has always been a slippery awkward climb but since I was there last, it seems to have become a really slippery awkward bastard of a climb. However, we were soon up and then back in Gnome Passage then back out the way we had come into the cold, sleety outside for a chilly walk back down the hill.

Group Selfie

Group Selfie

Me

Me

OFD II Rescue Practice – 3rd December 2016 by Huw Jones

Tom Williams and Huw Jones

With thanks to Helen Stewart of Morgannwg C C for the photos.

Myself and Tom attended South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team’s annual Big OFD Practice. Apparently it was big to, as the organisers hadn’t seen as many people at a practice before. Apart from the local people like us, there were representatives from the Gloucestershire, North Wales and Irish cave rescue teams.

As there were so many people, two scenarios were run. Both myself and Tom decided to join the A Team! Actually, this was the beginners team, for people new to cave rescue or who hadn’t been to a practice for a while. That suited me as this was my first practice for over 15 years!

Our scenario was that someone had fallen off the slippery climb at the start of Edward’s Shortcut and sustained a lower leg injury. The casualty, Claire, (who had volunteered!) was to be assessed, her leg splinted, then ‘packaged’ into a stretcher, hauled up the climb (which was treated as a small pitch) and carried out of the cave, where she would be loaded into the team’s land rover and driven down to Penwyllt. Also, communications needed to be established, both to the surface, where a person was stationed to relay messages to and from control at Penwyllt via radio and to the B Team involved with the second, more challenging, scenario.

The B Team were at the far end of Edward’s Shortcut and were to carry their, much heavier casualty, along the narrow winding passage and over the exposed traverse. In the end they brought their casualty all the way to the surface.

For underground communication, the team were using the new Cave Link system, which sends text rather than speech and which worked superbly.

Everything seemed to go well and I’m sure a lot was learned by everyone taking part.

Assessing the casualty. She's just out of shot on the right.

Assessing the casualty. She’s just out of shot on the right.

Carrying the casualty along Gnome Passage

Carrying the casualty along Gnome Passage

The team, with the casualty still in the stretcher, after successfully bringing her to the surface

The team, with the casualty still in the stretcher, after successfully bringing her to the surface

OFD1 – A Wee Potter Around – 20th November 2016 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Adam Knapp

With a view to visiting the Railton-Wilde series in OFD1, Adam and I met up bright and early at Penwyllt after a period of heavy snow the night before and reviewed the plan for the day. Overnight, there had been a heavy fall of snow with significant accumulations that were now melting. This would mean that there would be a large amount of water that would have entered the system and it was possible that there would be an additional input somewhere that would result in water levels rising again or further. We decided to write out the ticket to indicate an intention to visit the series but also to have a general bimble around the Fault Series and other areas of OFD1.

The OFD system is a marvelous place that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of visiting. There are always other places to find and explore. In 2016, I enjoyed becoming very well acquainted with OFD1 and in 2017, I think I shall reacquaint myself with OFD2. there are some places there I may never see but I would like to get to know this extensive system and revisit some of the lesser visited places such as the Northern Lights that I haven’t seen for a good many years. But for this day, it was OFD1 again.

Driving down to the lay-by and changing, we were soon off down the lane and up to the entrance. A quick selfie (I still can’t get these right) and we were down through the gate just in front of a group of SWCC prospective members that were visiting OFD for their first time.

We quickly moved off into the cave to reach the Toastrack and then on to The Step. Here it was obvious that there had been a significant amount of water that had entered the system and the stream level was quite high. Not the highest I have seen but high enough to potentially give some problems. At this point the following group turned up to have a look and the leader decided that it would be better to take her acolytes into some of the upper series instead and they returned the way they had come. Adam and I stepped into the stream to see if it would be passable and found the stream to be over well over knee level. We found it was relatively easy moving against the current but turning around it was obvious that this is where the potential problems could lie. Without a lot of concentration, it would be easy to lose one’s footing especially when descending the small cascades and water chutes that are in the streamway. We felt that if the water levels were dropping that we would be okay, however, it wasn’t known if there was further snowmelt still entering the system potentially increasing the water levels further. So, deciding it was likely to be a geological age before the Railton-Wilde series went  anywhere, we entered into bimble mode.

We made our way back the way we had come stopping for the odd photograph and looking into most of the small series that can be found around that area such as the Upper Toastrack and Coral Pool series. We then headed back towards the Fault Series with the intention of finding a passage that we thought we missed last time, stopping on the way to have a long chat with a couple of SWCC members.

A quick visit to the stream again by traversing over Pluto’s Bath for a lunch stop and another couple of photos and then we headed off and were soon climbing up into the Fault Series. We found the missing passage but it was taped off and weren’t going to be able to visit it anyway and so contented ourselves with another visit to the previously visited passage and a look at the formations there.

We were soon back on the surface for another selfie (I’m getting better) after a shorter than intended but still thoroughly enjoyable wee potter around OFD1.

(Please note, photographs to be added later).

A journey to the Hall Of The Mountain King – Sunday 6th November 2016 By Vicky Bluemel

Today’s team is…

Vicky Bluemel
Dione Ball
Zeb Zerbino
Barry Burn

Once again – On another cold gloomy Sunday in the Brecon Beacons a caving trip was in order. The plan was a nice early meet for 9.45am but this turned into a 10.30am meet and then resulted in myself flying home via the never-ending roadworks to retrieve the key which I had stupidly left hanging on the cuckoo clock. Never a dull moment with us lot clearly.

After retrieving the ellusive key – we continued our clothing change n the usual Blackrock lay-by situated underneath UB40, a quick team selfie was in order and off we went to explore the sights and sounds of my favourite cave in the Gorge – Ogof Craig A Ffynnon.

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As already explained in previous trip reports – the entrance to OCAF is unstable and myself and Tom have had the pleasure of having a near miss with a breeze-block sized boulder at the beginning of the year. PLEASE anyone visiting here make sure your helmet is on and done up before you start the climb up to the entrance. The lock is a little tricky to master but today was an exception as we were in within no time and gathered at the logbook ready to embark on todays adventure. A quick sign in and brief reminder of cave conservation and we were off.

OCAF is possibly one of the most decorated caves within the gorge next to Ogof Nant Rhin and Ogof Capel and on every visit you will see something you didn’t notice last time. In recent weeks the rain seems to have calmed a little but that said the rain has been replaced by bitter temperatures so that coupled with the possible thought of having to crawl Gasoline Alley was pretty depressing however we were lucky enough to see that water levels were low much to our excitement.

I will not bore you with the usual details of our trip upto the NWI and 2nd choke split so ill just go straight to the fun part.

We approached the entrance to NWI in anticipation knowing that today we would not have the pleasure (thankfully) of having to submerge ourselves into the icy water but we would be taking a much dryer trip today.

Dione has been down to NWI so today’s route was a new one for her. I led our party to the right past the beautiful almost blue in colour flowstone pool, past the formations and up the short passage to the 1st tight squeeze. This was the first time in a while I have used a caving bag on a trip and it was at this point – just 10mins into the trip I remembered why I stopped taking one. It’s such a hindrance especially as it only contained a flask of sweet tea, Lion bars and a camera which turned out to be a waste of space but more on that in a moment,

Our tight squeeze up to the bolted ladder at the bottom of the pitch was just a small taster of what was in store for us when we reached the top. Zeb flew up the pitch and used the fixed ropes to pull up the tackle sack which contained our safety lines. Barry then joined him at the top of the ladder as they spent a few moment rigging the pitch mostly for mine and Dione’s piece of mind. After 10mins we were up the top and ready to rock. It was at this point that Barry left us to potter about with his camera.

Half Way Up

Barry Half Way Up Photo by Vicky

Now the real fun begins!

Once at the top of the 15metre (49ft) pitch you are met with a claustrophobe’s idea of hell! a long winding upwards boulder choke of calcited and jagged rock which in all fairness could make a killing as a ride in a theme park! You journey upwards though small climbs and crawls where you contort yourself into something you’d find in a circus freak show. It really is a game of nerves here as if you panic your will be way up the creek and your paddle will be long gone. A few deep breaths and you push on through the fear until you pop out of the top and then question whether that was fun of sheer hell.

Usually there is a continuous flow of water down the choke but as said before there was a lack of water on today’s trip which would prove a problem in the next section of the cave.

Once you have popped out of the choke you will find yourself standing on a large mound of boulders and realise you just spent 10mins resembling an octopus when in actual fact you travelled about 15foot to the other side of the blockage. It was at this point i thought i would get the camera out and take some Choke exit images – Forgot to put the SD card in so clearly we were having no images today! As you descend you will start to notice the mud tracks covering the rock. These are the mud marks of the victims of the previous visit as you are about to meet your match.

Mud!

I can honestly say when I was first told about the mud in this part of the cave I could not believe that you would find such an abundance of it – I was wrong… Very very wrong. In comparison there is NOTHING I can use to explain what this is like. Zeb has recently described it as custard. It’s like the thick and lumpy custard your Nan would serve on your apple pie after Sunday lunch. You could throw it at a wall and it will still be there the following Sunday. It’s horrendous. They say to run through it which is fine until you find one of the hidden rocks below and fall face first into it. You will lose your wellies, as Zeb found out; lost a welly then on retrieval almost lost his head. It will be in your hair, underwear, your ears, nose… There is nowhere it will not go!

When we had finally navigated this obstacle we continued our trip but to then be met by a calcite “slide” which is a lot of fun when you resemble mudman. another quick walk bring you to a small mud pool where i lost a welly and then a celcite belly crawl upwards (upwards and muddy indeed – Better not to ask how that went)

This passage is filled with some beautiful formations. There was an image captured many years ago of Spike admiring said formation which is pretty famous within the Welsh caving community.

A quick walk/hop/run later and you are met with the magnificent gour pools which is a sight that really needs to be admired. As your headlamps light up the passage below you remember how beautiful the natural world really is.

Finally we arrive at the Hall Of The Mountain King! Every visit here makes me hum that tune made Famous by Alton Towers. Its is truly outstanding! The roof above you is adorned with some of the most impressed formations you will ever witness. The ground below mirrors what is above – It is utterly breathtaking.

After what seemed too short a time exploring it was time to make our way out.

The walk back was pretty uneventful bar myself slipping and cracking my hip on a rock. The mud floor however was once again proving an issue. Dione somehow managed to get out slightly unscathed however I lost the will to live at one moment and did my usual flapping like a fish to freedom. Zeb lost another welly.

As you can imagine, the climb back to the the top of the boulder choke becomes a game from Total Wipeout. It’s a case of 1 step forward 2 steps back.

The plus side of the mud is that it makes the boulder choke exit much easier. I like to use the term of a bullet leaving a gun so be wary as you will fly (literally) if you’re not careful.

A quick exit out of the choke and climb down the pitch to meet Barry who was ready and waiting and we were pretty much home and dry. The last decision to be made was do we take a dip and try and clean off or do we fly out and head to the pub Guess what we chose…?

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Pint of beer and some pork scratchings please

Ogof Pen Eryr – Sunday 16th October 2016 by Vicky Bluemel

On Sunday 16th October – Myself, Zeb, Xavier, Tom and Hywel took a sporting trip to Pen Eryr on the Llangattock Escarpment.

As per usual myself and Zeb were late which is an ongoing trend these days but it was Xavier’s first real caving trip where we could challenge him and see how he would react in different scenarios. It was also my first trip in months due to health problems so this was the perfect one to break me back in so to speak.

We met at the Darren Ddu carpark which is situated about half a mile from Chelsea’s club house and after a quick change, light check and admiring the outstanding view we were off up to the quarry behind.

We passed the famous Darren Cilau where Hywel could have a look into the entrance series in which he quite shiftily suggested we leave that for another time and continued our walk along the quarry. It can sometimes take you a bit off guard with its constant movement of rock from above and the odd sheep that has decided to attempt to fly however today we were lucky enough to not witness any of this and we soon arrived at the entrance.

The entrance is pretty much directly behind the far end of the car park but due to the mass of fern, thistle, sleeping sheep and poo the walk can be arduous so a quick diversion to admire the view from a little higher is always a winner.

About this time last year a rather large boulder fell off the quarry face and blocks half of the entrance so it is usually a good idea to get straight in before you overthink things. Once you’re past the entrance you come into a small chamber which without much knowledge you would think there was nothing else to it but there is a slot in the ground below the far wall which can be a bit off putting but once you slide down and through you know you’re half way in… yes only half way.

So this is where the challenge is well and truly accepted. You are in a small passage chamber and to the end on the right hand side about 3ft up the wall is a tiny slot and you’ve guessed it you need to get in this. It is tricky but easily accessible with a little help from the wall to push yourself off. You will Enter a small cavern in which you will need to manoeuvre yourself into a position you would think your body was incapable of and progress up through a smaller hole and into the passage beyond. I can honestly say that my first trip here was absolute hell on the entrance and it took me 20mins to get through due to being vertically challenged and 3stone heavier than i am nowadays. However on this trip i was through in about 3-4minutes! Go me!

Xavier seemed to take well to this entrance yet slightly taken back by the fact he just got through holes which you would think a small child would struggle with and he was soon raring to explore.

Let the journey begin!

Pen Eryr is a sporting cave. It definitely keeps your heart rate up and uses muscles you didn’t know you had. It’s a range of stooping, some boulder hopping, drops, climbs and crawls. All of which aren’t overly challenging unless if you are like me the climbs can become an issue.

If you want a pretty trip then this really is not the one. The passage is very similar to Aggy but on a much smaller scale. The difference being that in Aggy at some point you will get to the pretty stuff where as here you bruise yourself in the entrance, possibly slip down some small climbs, contort your body in such a way you’ll ache for days and see absolutely nothing but rock, rock and more rock.

It was fantastic to have Hywel back in the mix. Due to his move to Scotland in recent months we don’t get to see him often but he was straight on the phone on his return to organise a trip.

People still ask me why do you cave? Are you mad?

Clearly I am mad but it is bloody fantastic!!!

Happy Caving!

OCAF – North West Inlet 13th Sept 2016 by Barry Burn

Huw Durban
Dione Ball
Barry Burn

A short evening trip into North West Inlet (NWI) was decided upon although I wasn’t sure if I would be home from work in time for it. There was to be the full compliment but various childcare issues meant that the ones lucky enough to have children old enough to look after themselves were the only ones able to make it.

Meeting at the layby by UB40 and jumping out of the car made me pause. There was something odd and strange, something was different, then it struck me, tarmac! The layby had been given a very nice new surface that replaced the horrible mud and discarded rubbish.

We were quickly changed and off up the path to the OCAF entrance. Dione, our newest member hadn’t been into OCAF before and was keen to see what we had been waxing so lyrical about.

At The Log Book

At the log book. Huw and I seem to look worried, whilst Dione shows she knows how this selfie thing works.

Dione Ball

The North West Inlet trip is (or was) an often overlooked trip that takes you through a very wet approach passage just before the pitches up to the Second Choke. This passage, although never taking you out of your depth (unless very short) will get you very wet as you wade neck deep in places. It soon, however, rises up and leads to a short muddy section and then gets bigger and higher as you follow the streamway. Formations abound, with one of the best being “The Dragon” but also plenty of flowstone and stalctites are to be seen.

Flowstone Formations

Flowstone Formations

There is a bit where you have to drop through boulders to continue and here it was sad to see that people had tried to go past the tapes and the obvious marks in the mud the other side of the route through the boulder bore witness to this. It does make me wonder how stupid people can be to not be able to follow an obvious taped path.

Continuing on brings you to the end of the passage and the dig that John Parker and Jeff Hill pushed for a long time, installing a railway with miniature wagons for the removal of spoil. The dig itself is rather unstable now with some collapses within but I often wonder what the indefatigable OCAF diggers would have found if they’d continued.

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A look at the railway and the formations at the end of the passage and we were soon on our way back out and at the cars getting changed.

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Judging by Dione’s mad grin that seemed to now be a permanent fixture, I think she enjoyed herself and is now ready for a foray beyond the Second Choke and having already been into Nant Rhin, I have no doubt she will find it a piece of cake.

Pant Mawr Pot – Sunday 25th August 2016 by Tom Williams

Tom Williams, Huw Jones, Helen Stewart and Malcolm Stewart

After a long but pleasant walk from Penwllyt, we were finally at the entrance to Pant Mawr Pot. Huw went down to rig while myself, Malcolm and Helen kitted up and I had one last bite to eat.

Abseiling down in a daylight shaft for a first time made me a bit nervous. All my other abseils have been into darkness, meaning I couldn’t see how far I could potentially fall and lulling myself into a false sense of security. This one was different, being able to clearly see the bottom, seeing how far down Huw and Helen were, really put into perspective how deep I was about to go. What followed was a period of swearing, panicking and holding onto the rope for dear life before I was onto the boulders at the rebelay. Helen made it look so easy, I made a right mess of it. The actual abseil was rather fun, albeit short lived. And before I knew it, I was at the bottom.

It felt like we had left 2016 behind and had stepped back into Jurassic Park. The sound of a waterfall in the distance, ferns high above us and a shaft of bright light piercing the darkness. This is what caving is about! Many a frog had somehow managed the journey from the surface without injury, there seemed to be a thriving colony in the underworld. A newt(?) was a pleasant surprise, I think it’s the first one I’ve ever seen in the wild. After a bit of photography, we started to move downstream, passing the first and second chokes with relative ease. Stopping off at Straw Chamber and the stunningly decorated Chaple, the helictites growing from the walls were a highlight. Travelling down through the oxbow, we arrived at Sabre Junction with the very impressive Sabre shaped formation from which the section is named. There is a rope hanging down from a climb just to the left of the Sabre, but due to the apparent age of the rope we decided against it. Later examination of the original 1959 survey doesn’t make reference to a high level passage there. Onwards through the third choke and a well earned pit stop. A number of small cairns in the area, some very impressively balanced, were the topic of conversation. But we couldn’t decide why they had been built. Next was The Graveyard, which links with The Vestry and The Organ Loft. Huw, Helen and I went off to investigate but shortly returned without seeing them. Next was The Great Hall and The Fire Hydrant, the force and volume of water from which was very impressive. A junction was then met, on the left was The Dead End and to the right the passage continued onwards towards The Sump. Malcolm went to look at the digs and abandoned digging materials, while Huw, Helen and I went to the sump and back. Much fun was had in the slippy mud en route. The fresh looking foam on the roof of the passages gave an indication of the heigh of the recent flooding in the passages. After taking stock of the digging debris left at The Dead End digs, we made quick progress back upstream and to the waterfall upstream of the entrance pitch. Huw made an impressive climb to then appear at the top of the waterfall. We washed our kit in the waterfall and decided to head home. I was looking forward to climbing back up the pitch, only to realise that I’d set my footloop a few inches too short. This made for difficult, tiring and slow progress back to the pitch head. I did get out…..eventually.

All in all a good trip, I wouldn’t mind a return trip to have a look at the higher level parts of the cave, above Sabre junction and into Dilly’s Despair.

OFD1 – The Fault Series – by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Tristan Burn
Adam Knappe (Morgannwg)

4th September 2016

A short trip into OFD1 for a bit of a bimble up to the Fault Series and a poke around some of the other passages that are generally ignored by the majority of visitors.

There was supposed to be six of us but that had become three by the time we set off in the morning and it was only Tris and me from Brynmawr that met up with Adam from Morgannwg at Penwyllt bright and early.

There had been torrential rain the night before and we had to fend off a number of advisories to keep out of the streamway. I explained that we weren’t that daft and were only planning on a trip to The Fault Series. I did want to have a look at the Main Streamway though so intended to get close to it and see what state it was in.

We did our usual thing of driving the cars down to the layby to change where I discovered that instead of just forgetting my towel or clean undies, I’d managed to forget everything bar my oversuit, hat and lamp. “Ah well” I said, “It’s a dry trip, we’re going to be keeping out of the water” and so off we went with me less cosy than usual. We were soon into the cave and made our way to the start of The Fault Series that is a high level passage reached by climbing up a steep flowstone ramp. It was here that I remembered the unwritten rule of caving that every dry trip will always have a spot where you get wet. There was a lot of water flowing down the calcite ramp and at the top, there is a climb up through boulders where there was enough water cascading into it to give me a good wetting down.

Start of Fault Series

Start of the climb up into The Fault Series

Calcite Ramp

Calcite Ramp up into The Fault Series

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Squeeze through boulders at top of Calcite Ramp

The Fault Series itself is short but well worth the visit. There are some nice formations as well as some unusual mud formations. The whole area is well taped to protect these and they must be observed or the area would soon be trashed.

The passage after the mud deposits becomes larger until progress is halted at a large choke that hasn’t yet been passed. As we had plenty of time, we lingered awhile taking photos before returning back down the calcite ramp.

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Getting a good soaking coming back through the boulder squeeze.

We decided to have a look at the streamway at The Step so headed off there to be impressed with the torrent that was flowing. It would be definitely sporting to have tried to go upstream that day. Some foam flecks far above the current stream level showed that it had been considerably higher quite recently.p9040631

Instead of climbing back up The Step, there is a short section of passage, marked on the survey as Loopways so we had a quick look down there. This ends at a drop to the streamway but it is worth the quick look. In Traverse Passage, there is a window that looks down onto this short passage.

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A look up the start of the Escape Route and then coming back down the Toastrack, Tris and Adam decided to go through Pluto’s Bath and down to the streamway again. I was feeling the cold by now and didn’t fancy a dunking so elected to stay put. I soon heard calls that I really should come on down and see something. I was able to avoid the water by traversing across Pluto’s Bath and headed down the passage. The lower end of the passage was covered, walls and ceiling in foam and was a stark testament to just how high the Streamway can rise in flood. It must have risen to somewhere around six to eight feet above the current level. At this point is was possible to sit right by the water’s edge without getting swept away and this we did for a while before heading back out stopping briefly for Tris to perform his ‘ablutions.’

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Of course, it is almost obligatory to visit the Ancient Briton after a good trip into OFD and so we called in for a swift half on the way home.

p9040672 This was a good fun trip. It was something different, a good easy trip looking into some places in OFD1 that see few visitors. This can be immensely enjoyable and almost therapeutic that allows you to really see the cave and enjoy it rather than rushing headlong to a remote destination for a quick look around and then rushing back. For me, caving is more about exploration and discovery than scoring ticks in the manner of Munro baggers and I always say that more people should slow down and look around them as there is a lot to be seen that is often missed.


Note to self: get your kit ready the day before then you won’t forget anything.