Gareth and I have spoken quite a bit about prospecting in Ogof Draenen, and cave camping, so we thought it about time we ticked them both off. Friday afternoon arrived and we were running late, nothing new for us. We’d arranged a drop off and pick up, and ended up being dropped off for 4:30. Wasting no time we kitted up, swung our bags onto our backs and headed to the entrance. We kept repeating “we just need to take our time to make sure we don’t get soaked from sweat”, but in no time at all we were both sweating profusely from pushing and pulling the fully loaded bags. Just as we got to the end of perseverance II one of the straps broke on the club’s bag that I was using, possibly from the long dragging section. It wasn’t too bad to manage first of all, but it definitely put me off balance while trying to navigate the boulder floors. It didn’t take long for us to get through elliptic passage once out of rift chamber, and when we got to the lucky thirteen series we had a break to rehydrate and have a quick snack. Refueled we headed down the sandy passage, but soon got back to the boulder floor of gone with the wind. It seems to be that the further into Ogof Draenen you get, the better the formations get, just so many pretty passages along the way here. By now we were starting to tire, and our bags felt heavy, but we still had a good bit of distance to cover. Navigation was going well, and we were at the snowball and thinking of our next stop. We looked around a little for the way onto black run, and agreed on a route we both thought was the way. On a normal trip it’s not to bad going the wrong way, but having to carry the heavy bags as well, it really took a lot of effort turning around, or reversing out. Luckily we were right, and we were going through black run looking for the hole to take us to lost in space. Once again the formations were just amazing, but that didn’t take away from the heavy loads which seemed to be getting heavier, especially through the crawl sections in lost in space, and the short constriction at the end of the passage. It was about this point that Gareth started getting severe cramps in a few different muscles, and at that point he had no idea they’d last right through until the next day. Past the crawls we found ourselves at a choke looking for the way on, and after looking at the survey we realised it was a climb. I backtracked a couple of metres and found the way into Intergalactic Overdraught. I climbed up and into the passage, and crawled along for a few metres just to check it went on before calling Gareth. This passage takes a few turns before climbing down where it re meets the main passage. Feeling like we could’ve just lay down there, we stopped for a drink just before the washing machine and the Camberwell carrots, and we’re ready for the last push. It’s an impressive chamber that leads to a boulder slope into the reactor, but it’s immediately trumped by the reactor. A huge wall covered in blue green flow stone, and a chamber that just swallows the light in almost every direction, just huge! From here we basically double backed on ourselves into a passage which runs parallel to the one we just left, we entered destiny inlet. Gareth’s cramps were beginning to get really bad, we just kept telling ourselves “we’ll be having a brew and grub in no time”. The route through, over, and around the huge boulders made me feel quite small and vulnerable, but I think that was partly fatigue as well. Almost along the entirety of this passage there are old stal tucked away in the walls, before coming to an area where the passage narrows, and there’s loads of old stal and columns, as well as some really pretty helictites. This was our campsite for the night, some flat slabs that had dropped off the ceiling, quite a stretch from the idyllic flat sandy floor next to a little stream I stupidly had in my head. We didn’t hang around getting the brew kit and MREs out. To fill up water we had to go about 30 metres back down the passage to a small area that the stream is showing through the boulders. We filtered drinking water, but for cooking and cuppas we just boiled it. Not long after eating I was hit with excruciating toothache, so I wasn’t the best company. Still we sat in our sleeping bags chatting for a while before calling it a day. Gareth went to sleep still with really bad muscle cramps.
Through the night my sleep was constantly broken, it was really uncomfortable, and each time I’d turn over it would hurt my hips and wake me. Gareth on the other hand woke around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for a while due to still having muscle cramps. We both woke up quite late around 9ish. I was wrapped in my sleeping bag with my hat over my face, and couldn’t work out why I couldn’t see my watch for the time when I first woke up. Confusion over, we once again got the brew kits out, and started making breakfast and a cuppa. We both agreed, with the time set for callout, and how tiring the journey was, we should just start the journey back out around 11:30. By this point I’d remembered I had an isotonic drink sachet, so Gareth had that, and his muscle cramps finally started to ease. We sat in our sleeping bags and had breakfast, and some snacks to fuel up, and obviously a few cuppas before packing our kit up. While sitting chatting we heard some stones flaking off the ceiling, we both paused to question what it was, and again more flaked off. We didn’t talk about it much as there was nothing we could do, other than start packing. I’d mentioned how uneasy the ceiling made me feel when we first got to the camp, but dismissed it as me just being tired and irrational…obviously not though! We were both dreading getting kitted up again, thinking it was going to be freezing and damp, but it was way less uncomfortable than we thought, so pretty quickly we were ready to start the journey out. It was around 12 when we started walking, and once again we were amazed with the formations, and the imposing boulder covered passage. It didn’t take long to warm up, and start getting too hot again. The bags were lighter, but not much. Navigation went really well until the junction for mid winter chambers, we went straight on instead of right. We must’ve gone up there for about 30-50 metres before realising we’d gone the wrong way, but it wasn’t too bad of a crawl. We did well on time, and didn’t have to stop anywhere near as much as the way in. Exiting the cave felt amazing, just knowing that we didn’t need to push or pull the bags anymore…it was just that bloody steep hill to contend with now. We made contact to stand down the callout, and sort our lift, before taking a well earned lay down on some soft grass in the afternoon sun. We were just shy of 24 hours underground when we exited the cave. The main thing I took from this trip was, always bring a sleeping mat, and hydrate more.
Dai MacDonald – Author Gareth Farr Huw Jones Pete Jones
The day started as a crisp morning, with the four of us meeting in a carpark in Dowlais. Pete was driving so we loaded his car up and headed for Penwyllt. It was only on the way to Penwyllt that Gareth realised how wet this trip was going to be. He’s not the biggest fan of cold water, and his excitement soon turned to dread. Arriving at SWCC Huw sorted the key, so we got changed and got going pretty quickly.
Cwm Dwr entrance is really close to SWCC, so we were slipping down the concrete pipe in no time, and I can see why Huw kept calling it the toilet. I was quite shocked at how steeply the entrance dropped after the entrance pipes. There’s a short bit of walking passage before stooping, then crawling, and finally squeezing, and surprisingly, in Dim Dwr there was dwr! Emerging out into a big passage once again, a lofty and long section of passage, I had to remind myself to stop and look up every so often as we clambered over the boulders. Before long we met a stream, and then the choke. A notorious section for call outs after people getting lost in it, and it’s easy to see why. Within no time though Huw had led us through, and we made our way to the confluence.
The first section of streamway is pretty rocky before quickly turning to a fast moving streamway. This continues until you meet the Marble Showers. This really does show off the beauty of the rock in this cave. The dark limestone with the crisp white veins cutting through it, words, pictures, or even video just can’t do it justice. Soon after this we were making our way up the main streamway, lots of high pitched noises were made by all of us initially. It starts similarly as a fast flowing stream, the difference is the pots! Some pots you can walk around the edges, some you can traverse over, but some you’re just getting wet! Still, it’s a treat, and privilege to be able to experience these places, and it’s a great laugh trying to navigate the pots.
Going into the great oxbow is where I noticed the stunning shapes carved out by water in the roof, twisting and turning in such a soft flowing shape. Once again we were back into the streamway after climbing down from the great oxbow. The streamway definitely changes after this point, with sharper rocks, and more phreatic shelving, but soon it’s back to more phreatic passage. This is where we started looking for maypole inlet. It starts as a relatively easy climb out of the stream using a fixed steel foot plate, and this leads up a tall fixed ladder. At the top we were into a tight rift passage. As we made our way through this tight passage we were looking for a climb up through boulders. Eventually we found ourselves up in the rift among huge boulders, Huw was sure it was the wrong spot, and after trying to traverse further he was positive. As time went on I started thinking the worst, that we’d have to turn around and head back out Cwm Dwr. While we were all saying we were looking for the way on, in reality we were just following Huw asking “are we going up, or down” repeatedly, while Huw was the only one looking. Finally I heard unfamiliar voices and made my way back towards them, and asked “where have you guys just come from” and they pointed exactly where we had just come from among the huge boulders. I made my way back after telling the other it was back the way we’d just come from, and the head scratching began again. Soon we realised we’d started too early and had to just go a little further along the passage, then the real heart pounding climb began! I’m really not the most confident when it comes to heights, and this climb was definitely a real challenge for me, mentally more so than physically. It started not too bad with some nice easy steps, more or less, to get you a few metres up in the rift before making a step around a corner onto a small rock wedged in the rift, which felt really exposed. This leads to a body height climb, roughly about 8-9 metres high in the rift, so once again it feels really exposed, especially as there’s not a lot of hand holds. Luckily Huw was first up and had a strap to hand, which he quickly attached to the rope already there, and I pulled myself up and out of maypole inlet using the strap. Gareth and Pete were quick behind me, and we emerged into a T junction. This was the point where Huw said, you should all know where you are now, so lead the way. I was absolutely clueless, but luckily after a bit of talking we were on our way to top entrance through salubrious, and the brickyard.
Emerging onto the hillside was nowhere near as bleak as we thought it would be, and it was actually quite a pleasant walk back down to the club house. I really enjoyed this trip, and it got me pushing myself further than I thought I could again, as caving always seems to do. This also doubled up as a reconnaissance trip as Gareth and I would like to do the full through trip this year.
Trip: Ogof Ap Robert Date: 12/02/2023 Cavers: Dai Macdonald, Gareth Farr. Written by: Gareth Farr.
A caving trip had been planned earlier in the week for us to go on Sunday, every Sunday being our caving day and Ogof Ap Robert was our choice of cave for this week. Sunday morning came around quickly enough, we were running a bit late as I had slept in, but eventually just after midday we got to Trefil Village. We parked up by the quarry gate and proceeded to get changed into our gear, while getting changed we were approached by a man who was curious as to where we were going today, he said he was keen to have a go at caving so we advised him to contact BCC and after he and Dai had exchanged details we left him to carry on with his day and made our way to the cave. Just over an hour later and after looking at some interesting shakeholes along the way we arrived at the swallet in which Ogof Ap Robert is located. The swallet is situated up on the moorland between the disused Trefil quarry and Trefil village and proved to be quite a walk to get to, but we were here and eager to get in.
Ogof Ap Robert ShakeholeOgof Ap RobertOgof Ap Robert Entrance
The entrance used is located just up on the right hand side of the cliff face, we donned our helmets and made our way in. As soon as we were in the cave it became apparent that the cave passages go down quite steeply, and quickly, with several small climbs down some boulders and boulder fill we reached the first boulder choke. After coming out of the choke we made our way down a few more small climbs to reach the second choke, at the end of the choke there’s a climb which begins with an awkward little manoeuvre through a small hole in the righthand side of the passage wall and leads down into another rift. We had brought rope and hangers with us as there is a hanger in place at the top of the climb to secure a hand line to to help you down and back up, but a hand line was already in place and after checking to see if it was safe to use we made our way feet first through the small hole and down into the rift below. Shortly after we then came to the third choke and the fourth choke, the fourth choke contains a scaffolded shaft that goes down and comes out pretty much at the beginning of Toad Hall, which is the biggest chamber in the cave. Just before you enter Toad Hall, there’s an Aven that we climbed up which leads you out onto a boulder balcony that overlooks the big chamber, after taking a minute to take in the view we moved on by taking the passage to the right of the balcony, this took us over a small traverse and onto a climb down through a hole and the end of the small passage, after a couple of more small crawls we emerged back into Toad Hall. We took a short stop for a drink and change of batteries then entered a hole in the floor which is found just to the left around some boulders as you enter Toad Hall. The hole took us under the boulder floor of Toad Hall, we were pre-warned by Huw Jones of BCC that the boulders are known to move under there and if we do go through there then we were to proceed with caution! I took a quick look and decided that it looked ok to move on, after a short careful crawl under the floor we encountered a small squeeze which I tried to go down, but couldn’t get through, then after a few seconds it dawned on me that the way through the squeeze was only a few inches to the left of where I’d first tried squeezing through, eventually we made it through and into a nice little passage which we followed until we reached Burma Road. As we made our way along Burma Road we quickly noticed how different this part of the cave was compared to what we’ve just gone through, with all the sediment banks and muddy floors it was a lot different. The mud, as with any cave that has mud in it, did provide a little bit of entertainment, with the slips, wellies getting stuck and just generally getting muddy! We made our way along this tidy sized, muddy passage until we came to a few muddy crawls and a squeeze, shortly after which we came to the end of Burma Road, we had a bit of a chuckle at ourselves covered in mud, then decided to call it a day and made our way back out. As we had plenty of time left on our call-out we decided that on our way back along Burma Road we’d have a look in the ‘land of Arawn’, this was also a muddy passage which we were able to stoop along for a short while until we reached a few muddy crawls, at the end of the crawls we came to an Aven which is the end of the passage, at which point we turned back around and got ourselves even more muddy crawling back out. On our way out we had a short stop in Toad Hall to take some videos, with the videos finished we made the rest of the way out. As we left Toad Hall and entered the fourth choke the draft from the entrance was very strong, which surprised me as we didn’t notice it on the way in. While coming back out we again found ourselves amazed at how steeply and quickly this cave ascends/descends. After a short while we emerged from the cave to the usual smells of life above ground, we stopped for a quick drink then made our way back down off the mountain, while stopping to take a look at the shakeholes that were on our path back down. About an hour after exiting the cave we arrived at the car, got changed and after a quick cuppa and a bite to eat we contentedly made our way back home. The trip was only a short caving trip, but it was a really good trip into a cave that we’d not been to before. Ogof Ap Robert proved to be quite a sporting cave with the climbs, crawls and squeezes, and as for the mud? Well… that was the icing on the cake for me!!!! Now onto planning the next adventure underground!
It’s been a while since I’ve caved, nearly a year in fact due to work commitments but somewhat more committing than I wanted. I called upon my good ole partner in caving crime, Tom Williams to assist me and mostly extract the urine out of my ability to move through a cave. We decided CAF as we haven’t done it in a long time and it’s a relatively easy cave to move through (so I thought, maybe when was in our prime) I’d forgotten how much the 2nd choke goes up (fun on the way out) how tight the initial squeeze is into Hurricane Highway hands and knees crawl (especially since I’ve been rather fond of takeaway vindaloo as of late) and how much a pig the oxbow is that comes out the stream towards the end of the cave. Apart from that, a fantastic trip and great to catch up with Tom and many trips were planned.
New members trip 5/10/2022 Dai MacDonald – author Gareth Farr Rhys Hunt Will Jones
The rain had been hammering down all day, but was just beginning to lift as we arrived at whitewalls, but still it was not pleasant getting kitted up. The call-out was sent and we were off along the tramroad, just on the edge of the rain. The night rolled in quickly, and by the time we were at the entrance it was pitch black. We got into the cave just after 1930, and after the logbook we made steady progress through the entrance series. Soon we were dropping down through the boulders and into the first choke. The first choke is not particularly tight, but it’s really hot going through it. Once out of the choke, and into barons chamber, we stop for a quick drink, then start making our way along the huge 1km+ long main passage. Curiosity always races as I walk through this passage and spot sink areas, blocked side routes, and small voids all along the passages sides. Every time I visit here the scale blows me away, and I think it was the same for Will and Rhys. Eventually we made it to the music room, and had a quick sing to the music sheets. On the way back we stopped at igloo passage, it is to impressive to pass up. On the way out we noticed a hanger above the passage entrance leading to a roof tube. Was it from the exploration days, or is there an active dig going on, we wondered. We stopped a few more times at some of the digs in main passage, just looking at some, and squeezing into others, but before long we were back at barons chamber, ready to tackle the choke again. For most of the way out Will was leading, and done a great job, especially finding the choke entrance straight away. Before we knew it, we were at the entrance gate again, and I squeezed past for the usual exit shots. We got out just before 2230, so just under 3 and a half hours for this trip. Both Will and Rhys said they enjoyed the trip, and are looking forward to getting out again.
Dai MacDonald Gareth Farr Adrian Brown Pete Jones Paris Oomadath Gavin Thomas Nathan Davies
Trip report by Dai MacDonald.
Photos by Dai MacDonald and Paris Oomadath
It was a typical autumn morning, bright sunny sky, but a crisp feel to the air. Gareth and I arrived early, meeting Adrian and Gavin on the roadside. Paris and Nathan sent a message to say they’ll be late, so we decided to have a look at some other cave entrances in the area while we waited. On returning to the car we met Pete, who we didn’t realise was coming. Once the last two had arrived Adrian told us we’ll just be doing Llygad Llwchwr 1, as the entrance for Llygad Llwchwr 2 had had a collapse around the entrance mud banking. As soon as we were all ready, we headed across the fields to the entrance, past a large old lime kiln. Initially I thought Adrian was joking about the entrance, and had to ask if we could use the resurgence one, but no the small hole about 2m up the slippery rock face was the main one. With a strap as a handline it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
At the entrance
Soon we were all shuffling along the small passages leading to river chamber 1, but on the way it’s amazing to see the amount of calcite throughout this cave. River chamber 1 is an impressive sized chamber, with some pretty phreatic sculpting of the rock.
After a quick soaking, we were off again. Everywhere you look in this cave there’s holes and ways on, it’s like a labyrinth of passages. Next up was boulder chamber, where Adrian pointed out the key stone holding a huge mass of boulders up, before reassuring us the cave doesn’t start until you’re fully in the water, so off we went towards river chamber 3. This chamber carries a strong flow of water, and also has the sump to Llygad Llwchwr 2. The decoration of formations was phenomenal in there! Next we were squeezing through a nice tight section, which for the two newbies would’ve been quite a shock. Almost out the other end and Gavin got stuck, unable to get any push with his feet, so I put my foot behind his boots and he was soon moving again. I noticed we were up on a ledge with no obvious way down, “this is the jump into the water, isn’t it?” I asked, “it is yeah” Adrian replied. Most of us jumped, but Paris opted for the ladder, she hurt her ankle just before getting to the jump. All down and soaked, we were off into deeper water for a swim. The water was shockingly cold, and the screams coming from everyone else reassured me I’m not the only one feeling it. Soon we were climbing up to clitoris passage, and laughing at its unique formations, before taking another swim in the cold water. Until we were on the way out I hadn’t really felt cold, but while making our way out there was a bit of waiting, just because there was 7 of us. We re-emerged into what was still a stunning afternoon. Once changed we were treated to a brew from Adrian’s Kelly kettle, and some local welsh cakes.
Some pictures from the trip. Photos by Dai MacDonald and Paris Oomadath. Click any one for a slideshow.
Having not had a long trip in a while, both of us were keen to get a good few hours in the great indoors, so we decided on Southern Stream in Aggy, kind of scouting for the Grand Circle trip as well. We both started the day not really wanting to do Southern Stream because of the descriptions we’d heard, but undeterred we went for it anyway. The entrance series to Aggy is always one I enjoy, it’s just such a good mix of caving straight through the gate. Soon we were in Baron’s Chamber in the normal sweaty mess, but we took the top half of our oversuit down until we got to Southern Stream, so cooled down quickly. Main Passage is always going to hold a special place in my mind, it was the first real big passage I got into, and it still impresses me! There’s no messing about with Southern Stream really, from the beginning it’s stooping and crawling over, around, and under boulders in the shallow streamway. The main difference as you get further into it is that the streamway gets narrower. With time still good, we decided to have a look for Priory Road, and possibly get to Severn Beach. As the streamway starts to get a lot narrower we found the roof tube that leads to Gothic Passage, and then easily found Priory Road. By this point our time was getting past the halfway mark, and we were in the ribbed vault, so we decided a time to turn around, and headed forward a little more. Before long Gareth’s battery was dropping his light, and we’d left our bags back a bit, so we decided to head back now. Battery changed and we were on our way back out. Southern Stream really took its toll on Gareth and I, and the tiredness was starting to show with lots of bumps, scrapes, and slips from both of us. By the time we were climbing out into bigger passage, we were both extremely sore and fatigued. There was no hanging around, our time was getting close to our expected time out. Just before we got to Baron’s Chamber we met 4-5 cavers doing an evening music room trip. Back at Baron’s Chamber we couldn’t even stop for a breather, so just pushed through the boulder choke to the exit. This trip well and truly kicked our arses, down to the last moment, but we both loved it, and are looking forward to getting to the end of priory road next time.
Today was a special day for me, the first time I took my kids caving, besides Dan Yr Ogof showcaves. Before we got started I had to pick up the key for Aggy, for a trip tomorrow. I never seem to have enough time to talk to Brent when picking keys up, he’s got some fascinating stories!
Finally we were on our way to whitewalls, and on arrival we had some lunch. Bellies full and a nice chat with John, the Whitewalls warden, and we were on our way. After a few “are we there yet” we got to the main entrance. While reassuring both my kids that there were definitely no bears in the cave, we made our way in, and headed for the eastern series. We explored a nice amount of the eastern series before looking at all the other entrances. Once done there we decided to come out of the waterfall entrance, and then walk around to the main entrance on the surface. Once there I had to reset our call out, giving ourselves another two hours to explore the warren and eastern series. My son was not a fan of the cheese press, but loved climbing the ladder to get to the warren. Crawling through the warren took it’s toll on my kids knees, and before long we were heading back out of the warren to the ladder back down. It was a lot easier helping both down than I thought it would be. Back out on the surface and there was one question on my lips “so would you both like to try it again?” and both without hesitation snapped back “yeah!”, so hopefully we’ll have a lot more trips in the future.
The morning was fantastic, amazing weather, great company, getting into the great indoors, but all of this was abruptly forgotten as we got out of the car in Pontsticill and got to the hill we had to climb. There’s no easy way to Trefil, other than a long flat walk from Trefil village, but it takes us about double the time to walk from there, so we go straight up the mountain.
We had two objectives for the day, get Chris past the first boulder choke, and get some footage for a video. We got kitted up at the cave entrance, for the first time we heard debris coming off of the cliff above the entrance, so stayed very cautious around the face. The trip went really well, and we got some great footage of the cave. Chris got through the first boulder choke, and managed to make it part way through the “second choke” before becoming exhausted, and soon after Peter had reached his limit. Gareth and I pushed a little further, reaching the tight end series, but soon after stopped to save the others getting cold hanging around.
Back on the surface we made our way back out of the main quarry, had some lunch, and headed around towards Cwar Yr Hendre – Quarry cave 8. We have visited this cave before, but pushed for time, we had to leave. We spotted some red and white tape in there previously, so wanted to see what it was protecting. Unfortunately Gareth and I think a thin layer of roof may have peeled off and covered whatever was there. With everything looking very unstable we headed back out. Last on the list is a cave which isn’t registered, as far as I could see, but I suspect it’ll fall into the Cwar Yr Hendre – sites 1-8, or 9+ if newer than the others, because it’s definitely been dug to join with another cave. High on the north face is where you come out, after entering through the opposite face to Cwar Yr Hendre – Quarry cave 8. Both caves were small, but still enjoyable. After being cooked in my caving gear, or so it felt like anyway, I was happy to get it off and chill out in the last of the sunshine.
Will’s hole is a relatively small cave with not an awful lot to see in the way of formations, but what it does have is a very simple pitch. Gareth and I have been learning basic SRT for a few months now, and have been keen to try it out underground. We know it’s a very busy spot along that river, so we had two mates, James and Steve come along and make sure nobody tampered with our ropes. We all met at Gareth’s house for 5:30pm, and made our way to Dinas Rock. Gareth and I kitted up, and we all headed up river to wills hole. There were loads of people out climbing and bouldering, and a few interested in what we were up to. It was about 7pm by the time we arrived at the cave entrance, and we didn’t hang around, straight in, down the 2m free climb and at the first rigging point, a railway track across the rift passage. Rigging was straightforward, I used my hand jammer as a lanyard to rig at the pitch head, and it worked well. Once ready we wasted no time, I couldn’t, I’m way to nervous with heights, so I loaded up my descender, and sat into my harness, I was really nervous, but confident in mine, and Gareth’s ability, and I started the descent of our first SRT trip. We were both soon at the bottom without a hitch. We got our SRT kit of and headed to the right side passage. There isn’t much in the way of formations on this section, but there’s plenty of mud! Thick, silty, sticky, glutinous, mud that you have to crawl through. We came to a choke and couldn’t see a way on, so headed back to the pitch to look at the other passages. The main passage is nicely decorated at the high levels, along with a lot of flood debris, giving a good idea how high the water gets in there. Before long we were at the end again and headed back out. Gareth went first, and both ascending without a problem, and de-rigging going just as well. In what felt like no time at all, but it was actually about 2 hours, we were back on the surface with James and Steve chatting to some climbers.