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.