OFD, Cwm Dwr to Top Entrance – 26th February 2023

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.

Ap Robert – 12th February 2023

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 Shakehole
Ogof Ap Robert
Ogof 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!

Happy Caver!

Craig a Ffynnon A Journey to the Promised Land 8th January 2023

By Dave Trig Gledhill

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.

Ogof Tarddiad Rhymney and other Trefil Quarry caves 7th August 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Chris Jones
Peter Lamb

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 27th July 2022

Gareth Farr
Dai MacDonald

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.

Ogof Draenen – Sunday 20th March 2022

David MacDonald, Gareth Farr, Louise Lucas

By David MacDonald

We met up on the not so bleak Pwll-du, the sun was beaming and the parking area was packed! Lou struggled to find us, but she got there in the end.

Gareth, Lou and myself kitted up and walked to the entrance. The entrance series was great and surprisingly easy to navigate, and before we knew it we were at the climb. None of us had a problem with it, well once Gareth and I transformed into human steps Lou didn’t have a problem. We signed the logbook at Cairn Junction and headed right towards Wonderbra. Once through Wonderbra we got to the “mud bank” and thought the left here was the left onto White Arch Passage, and carried on down the streamway.

Once we realised our mistake we turned around and headed back towards Tea Junction. We made good time through White Arch Passage, after a quick snack break at Tea Junction, and found our way into Lamb and Fox Chamber easily. We refilled our drinks at the cascade and then had another snack break at the cairn to Indiana Highway. Lou was feeling quite tired after the detour down and back up the streamway. Once we were ready to go again we were quite cold and tense. I don’t think this helped our nerves for the traverse. We climbed up the cairn and turned the corner into Indiana Highway, the mud bank was a challenge in itself! Once in the beginning of the passage we were all struck with its beauty, not that it’s decorated with formations, just the beautiful organic flow of the phreatic passage is enough! We quickly passed the side passages and round the tight corners to the start of the traverse.

I was first and headed into it around the first awkward corner to where it straightens out. I heard Gareth call and he was saying Lou was unsure about carrying on. We had a quick chat and decided amongst us we should just head back. On the way back we had a quick look at the side passages close to the start of Indiana Highway, we saw the fossil in the roof of the one chamber and couldn’t work out if we saw a shark tooth in the roof where you climb in/out of the side passage. On the way out we had no problems whatsoever and had a look in some side passages. We signed out on the logbook and headed back to the climb. We all had no problems climbing and route finding, and quickly found ourselves being soaked again on the final stretch. We got out and it was still a really nice day, so changing wasn’t too bad. We warmed up with a cuppa and headed on our way.

Ogof Craig A Ffynnon – Sunday 23rd January 2022

Sam Jones, Pete Jones, Paul Chilcott, Adam Knapp, Huw Jones

By – Pete Jones

Photos – Huw Jones

On a cold Sunday morning we parked up in the layby next to the Blackrock quarry, Clydach Gorge. Huw, Adam, Sam, Paul and I, sorted ourselves out and made our way up to the entrance past the nineteenth century lime kilns.   John Parker and group of friends opened up the cave in 1976, looking for a back way into Agen Allwedd.  Unfortunately, they never did find the back door to Aggy but instead found approximately nine kilometres of spectacular caving.

Entering the cave through the metal gate, a strong draft is immediately noticeable.  We made our way along a low passage, to the first chamber, where we filled in the logbook. I was amazed how quickly we came upon well decorated formations, including one where the roof is covered with delicate straws.  Moving along the stream to the first boulder choke, the climb up begins using fixed ladders and scaffolding poles and if you’re quick you don’t get too wet from water cascading down.

Exiting the choke, we followed the tapped path and made our way to Gasoline Alley. The water level in the long duck was very low, I don’t think Sam even got damp.  Coming to Northwest Inlet, the passageway looked inviting but the water looked cold.  We thought we’d save the cold clear water for later and instead turned right, crawling over flow stone towards the base of the climb up to the second boulder choke.  A fixed iron ladder takes you up the first section to a ledge where a guide rope and bolted steel plates help you up the next section.   To be on the safe side Huw rigged a safety rope to prevent any unwanted dramas.

After the climb, the second boulder choke starts. It’s a gnarly but fun climb which snakes up through the choke.   It narrows at the top, before you emerge onto a slope which drops down into a muddy passage.  The mud is deep and sticky, it’s a welly boot trap. After pulling out lost wellies and a lot of laughter we made our way to a small flow stone rise which then drops to the start of Travertine Passage.

Travertine Passage is enormous and breath-taking. The calcite floored passage looks infinite and wonderful formations flank the route.  As you follow the taped path through the pools, there is almost too much to take in, there are formations wherever you look.  Eventually the passageway lowers, and the mud pools begin to reappear.  The passage way then increases in size as you approach the Hall of the Mountain King.  Its a massive chamber with fantastic formations.  Following the perimeter tape around the edge of the chamber, we made ourselves comfortable on the third boulder choke and had a cuppa.  Unfortunately, time was against us, and we turned around and headed back towards the exit.  The entrance to the second boulder choke looked narrower on the way back.  A feet first decent, with the help of gravity, was far less demanding than the ascent.  Now covered head to foot in mud the safety line, rigged up earlier by Huw, was very welcome.  Coming back to the entrance to the Northwest Inlet, the cold water no longer looked quite so inviting, and we decided to give it a miss this time.

Dropping back through the first boulder choke we made our way back to the entrance, from where we emerged covered in mud to a cloudy and cold afternoon.    It is a great cave and next time, I am looking forward to going beyond the Hall of the Mountain King to explore the Severn Tunnel and the Promised Land.

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 Draenen – Gilwern Passage and The Streamway – Thursday 29th November 2018

Patricia Hughes, Huw Jones, Lloyd Rielly

By Patricia Hughes
Photos – Huw Jones

The three of us decided to take advantage of a day off in the week to take a trip into Ogof Draenen. It would be the first time into the system for Lloyd and myself, both of whom are new members, joining the club during 2018. I was looking forward to a different kind of trip to face different, new, challenges. It had been a busy November for me, as a newbie. Two trips into Ogof Craig y Ffynnon (OCAF), the first a short trip to the base of the pitch before the 2nd choke and a more strenuous evening trip to Hall of The Mountain King. I had carried out my usual research, reading about the cave in the guidebook, watching some vlogs on You-Tube, reading some reports around the web and of course the logs here on the Brynmawr Caving Club site. My expectations, or perhaps worries were that of a long climb back out and many boulders to work my way past in various chambers. However, and I don’t mean to sound cheesy, this is just what I was after, something to stretch my novice skills, building stamina and learning new techniques. Oh and enjoying the wonders of the cave in great company.

We met up in Asda Brynmawr, resisting the temptation for a bacon roll and cup of tea. Popped up to town to collect the key and decided that, due to the recent heavy rain fall, that it would be interesting to take a trip down the main streamway, to see it in high water conditions. Of course, I had no idea of knowing what it looks like in low water conditions either, and so long as there was little chance of being swept away, or a flood to the roof, I thought, yeah sound like a great idea. The three of us headed up into the low clouds and parked up in the area, just before The Lamb and Fox. Maybe about this time I should expand on the weather. It was more than just heavy rain on that day, it was one of the named winter storms, Storm Diana. And up on the exposed mountain top parking area, she was giving us a good whipping with her wet, angry wind. Diana ensured that we did not dawdle over getting changed and checking our kit. A reasonably quick change was followed by an equally quick walk off the top and into the relative shelter of the cwm down to the treeline. The men took the opportunity to assist Diana in the watering of the surrounding vegetation before we headed in through the very drafty doorway. Very quickly into the cave, I encountered my first real challenge, something that even the second choke in OCAF did not provide, finding that my hips do not always fit where my legs do. A shuffle over to the left and I slid down easily. I think at this point the additional lubrication of the stream cascading down the entrance was more of a help than a hindrance. My memory of the ordering at this point is a little vague, but I clearly remember Huw pointing out some blocks in the passage where the bedding plane crawl is. This was to provide me with some comfort a few hours later. Down the scaffolding climb and we worked our way to the top of the pitch. Whilst many experienced cavers, or perhaps most will climb down using the fixed aids, we took the opportunity for some training. Huw rigged up a ladder and life line and demonstrated the caving technique for using ladders. I must say that it was a little weird compared to the loft ladder, I felt a bit robotic using my legs for doing the pushing and not pulling with my arms. But the efficiency of the technique really impressed me. If only I could get the hang of pushing myself away from the wall with more elegance, then I would be a happy lady. Ladder training done, we headed down to the Cairn Junction and signed into the logbook.

We then made our way through the crawl and slid down through the hole to the right, better known as Wonderbra Bypass. We initially headed for Gilwern Passage. Upon entering, Huw suggested that Lloyd and I waited where we were so that he could make his way swiftly to the end of the line of sight, where he turned around and waited for us to join him. Had we had the benefit of Barry’s Sun in a Stick Fenix handheld lamp we probably would have been able to appreciate the length of this part. But as we just had our regular lamps, Huw, quite rightly suggested that the best way to appreciate the scale is for him to head down and us to watch, in appreciation of the size of this relatively tiny part of the system. Passing some pretties on the way, we went as far as the elbow, where a cascade came down from the right hand ceiling. I don’t know if this is a wet weather only or a regular cascade. Good excuse to break out the camera allowing Lloyd and myself to position ourselves for pictures.

Back to Tea Junction and on towards the streamway. As I have mentioned we wanted to see the stream in heavy flow as a result of all the rain. We were not disappointed. My only other experience of significant and sustained stream passage was my taster trip into OFD1. I must say that on this occasion, for me, it was a much greater challenge. Far more concentration was required and there were some parts of wading that made the lads raise their voices due to the water depth making itself know to their bodyparts. Huw selected a suitably pretty or maybe a suitably deep pool after a small cascade for some pictures. Lloyd being a really good sport for standing in deep and fast water whilst Huw and myself carried out the necessities with camera and lamp respectively for some more pictures. We passed what I called to myself Blorenge Beach on the left, a pretty but small sandy cwtch in a bend. Progress was made relatively simply to the first boulder choke, which being our destination was the point of turning around. On the way back up, I was able to get a better appreciation of some of the impressive formations and the height of parts of this area of the streamway. A few more pictures were taken, for example of a chunky Stal apparently named, “The Sentinel” that stood impressively
on a raised step to the left. Moving back upstream had a feeling of going up the down escalator. Especially in the narrower parts where the current was faster and stream deeper. By this point, my caving stamina was being tested with each cascade climb seeming to become progressively more thigh burning. Thank heavens for my regular walks up onto the mountains as without it I think that I would have been wanting to keep resting. But on we went and progressed one boot in front of the other, back to Tea Junction.

We stopped for a break here and much-needed energy replenishment to prepare us for the climb back out. We ate our sandwiches/nuts/chocolate with efficiency but did make time for reflective discussion about the trip so far. We did however continue before the cold had a chance to set in, we were all very wet from the streamway and did not want to become uncomfortable or end up having the cold have an impact on our performance. The return poke up through Wonderbra bypass was quite a challenge, with a well lubricated, steep floor assisting gravity and the cave not wanting to let go of its grip of us. Draenen wanted us to stay for supper. An inelegant thrust was made by me and perhaps my companions to get to the top of the constriction. Perhaps they managed with grace and elegance, but I did not. All out and into the crawl before a last bit of boulder hopping through cairn junction. By the way the log book pencil needs sharpening. The climb up the ladder was with the reassuring lifeline provided by Huw. To be honest I was so grateful for that lifeline as my confidence was a little dented due to the challenge of the trip. Ladder, rope and all the tackle neatly stuffed away oxymoronically into the backpack and I led the way to the climb out. I managed to take a wrong turn and unbeknownst to me, Lloyd, who was following did not see me fork to the right. I headed off to a dead end, I realised when I was in a gravel-bottomed crawl that I knew I did not pass on the way in. I called out but no reply. I could neither see nor hear my companions. I called out a couple more times, as loud as I could manage, having to consciously fight my creeping sense of fear. I had made two mistakes, taking the wrong turning and not noticing that Lloyd was not behind me. And then my novice caving imagination was trying its best to overrule my rational self. With no space to turn, I shuffled myself backwards until I managed to turn myself around and head back to the junction where I had gone wrong. It was only about 5 metres and I looked to the right to see the waterfall coming down from what appeared at distance, to be from nowhere. I approached the waterfall and looked up and could see the correct route out. I shouted once more, but the noise of the water prevented me from hearing any reply. I realised what had happened and made my way up the climb and when I reached the bedding plane crawl, I had the reassuring sight of the blocks that I had remembered noticing on the way in. My mind was still trying its best to scare me, I had visions of my fellow cavers leaving the cave, shutting the gate and heading back to the car, assuming that I had not waited. Of course, I knew that there is no way that this would have happened and in no time, I could see the soles of Huw’s boots and gave a shout out to him, who I think was surprised to see me coming up from behind. Once out my adrenaline rush subsided and then I started to get wobbly legs. Relief at being reunited and laughing at myself. This whole episode probably only lasted about 5-10 minutes, but my sense of timings were greatly slowed down by my mind working overtime.

A quick walk uphill followed and back to the cars. Getting the engine started to warm the car up and breaking into the flask of coffee that was waiting for me in the car boot. It was cold up on the exposed parking area, but more settled than when we got changed before the trip. Family priorities for each of us meant that we did not call into the Talisman for a post trip drink, instead all heading directly home, just beating the rush hour. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip into Draenen. It was a very different cave and one that I look forward visiting many times in my new caving career.