Aggy, Inner Circle 17th April 2022

Aggy, Inner Circle 17/4/2022 by Dai MacDonald


Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Tom
Maxine

Gareth and I arrived at Whitewalls with a stubborn white fluffy dog laying in the middle of the road, even after Gareth got out to coax it out of the way, it just walked along the middle of the road. We parked up, eventually, and got changed, sent the call out message and were ready to leave when Tom and Maxine pulled up outside Whitewalls. We were both planning an Inner Circle trip, so decided to head in together. Tom and Maxine got ready quickly and we were on our way across the tram road.
Once in the cave we made quick progress through the entrance series into Baron’s Chamber, where we stopped momentarily to catch our breath and have a quick drink. In no time at all we were at the Second Choke, and into Keyhole Chamber. We each had turns in leading and all managed well, although I’m sure I suggested a wrong turn or two, but we were soon at North West Junction. From here we headed for Turkey Pool, but on the way through Turkey Streamway Maxine said she’d like to call it a day, she had been caving the day before and felt really tired. We parted ways, with Tom and Maxine saying they’d have a look at Beehive Chamber before they left, and Gareth and I heading for the Inner Circle. Soon we found ourselves at Turkey Pool, I managed to traverse it, only getting my legs wet, Gareth traversed it as well but got a bit wetter. The rest of the way was no problem, and soon we were at the rescue dump around the Inner Circle. We stopped here for a snack and a drink, then made our way around the inner circle clockwise…so we thought! Before we knew it we were in the Swiss Village, this threw us completely, and we both started looking at the survey and scratching our heads. We retraced our steps and made a few more wrong turns, then decided we would call it a day and start heading back out. For the best part we were okay, but we made a few wrong turns on the way out as well, mainly me I think, but soon we were in the entrance series, and then at the logbook. We checked for Tom and Maxine, they were both ticked out, so we signed ourselves out for 1805, and headed back to whitewalls to get changed just in time before the rain started. Overall a great trip, and worn out for a trip to OCAF the following day.

Dinas Silica Mines and Local Caves 10th April 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise
Peter lamb

We wanted an easy day, so thought we’d check out the mines and wills hole, to the pitch head anyway. We met for 10am and got ready, and headed off after a cuppa. The mines were really interesting, but nothing compared to a cave, strange! We all commented on the steepness of them, then found ourselves in a shaft that went straight from the bottom to the surface, so we stopped for a snack and made our way onto the other mines. While walking the river we were stopping, looking at other bits of interest, and finding violets and wild garlic, but aiming to find Will’s Hole. Soon we found ourselves past both bouldering areas, and down past the lower caves, Ogof Bwa Maen Lower Cave, so doubled back and found Will’s Hole, which we all found disappointing because we could only go a few meters down into it. Ogof Bwa Maen caves on the other hand were quite an interesting, once I’d got past the spiders. We finished off looking down the rest of the river until we got to Ogof Pont Sychryd which we all enjoyed, but my highlight was finding a Morel Mushroom at the entrance, I’ve been looking for a while. After this we headed back to the cars, got changed and headed to the top of the Dinas Rock to enjoy the sun.

Morel Mushroom
Winch in Upper Dinas Silica Mine

Ogof Draenen Sunday 3rd April 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr

We started our day full of beans ready for the round trip, and had decided we’d try some alternative routes to the usual ones.

We got in for around 11:05 and made steady progress through the entrance while getting good footage. We made it to Cairn Junction and headed for a bad decision, Beer Challenge! We just wanted to see for ourselves what it’s like, and I’m happy to take Wonderbra any other time now. After this the trip went great all the way through Lamb and Fox Chamber, Indiana Highway, Megadrive to St David’s hall, then the survey came out for Squirrel Rifts. This was another route we wanted to try, rather than Agent Blorenge II. Once at the two climbs, at the end of Squirrel Rifts, we got a little confused where the way on was, but soon found the climbs and made our way down them. The squeeze to get into Haggis Basher is surprisingly demanding and I struggled with my bag and bottle through there. We had a look along the passage, to the choke and then back on ourselves to head for far Agent Blorenge and Chocolate Blorenge, by this point the both of us were feeling quite fatigued after the crawling. We carried on towards the sewers, thinking we’d done the hardest bits, but soon found ourselves at a hole dropping down in a rift that I tried to pass through but felt it was too tight, we looked for an “eyehole” that’s shown on the map, but not even knowing what an eyehole is, and both being on our last battery, we decided to head back the way we’d come. Instantly I was filled with dread just thinking of the two climbs we faced to get out of Haggis Basher, as I’m not the most confident with heights. When we got to the squeeze out of Haggis Basher, we searched the survey for an alternative route to no avail, so pushed through to the climbs. I went first, both no problems with the first, but on the second the exposure got to me, and when I climbed it the first time I didn’t go high enough to climb out and convinced myself I couldn’t do it, but spotted a climb in the opposite end of the small rift, which I could then traverse across the top. I climbed up confidently and found myself on a small solid ledge so stopped to look where to go, panic set in rapidly and I felt extremely exposed, so I climbed to the top of the passage where there was a small dead end tube I could sit in. I shouted down to Gareth “I’m stuck, I can’t down climb from here and I can’t make that traverse”, he could see nothing from the bottom, so he decided to try the climb where I tried first. He climbed up, passed the opening confidently and easily into squirrel rifts, while I’d quietly been having a panic attack, thinking to myself “what’ve you done Dai, you idiot! This is cave rescue now”. Gareth started suggesting things while I told him “I’m stuck bro, I can’t go anywhere”, then I’m the next breath, “just let me calm down and I’ll get across the traverse now”, and continually switching between the two for about two minutes. I asked Gareth to turn his light down because it was blinding me, and by the time he looked back I was across the traverse. Once I’d calmed myself the traverse out was actually really easy. From here we headed for Agent Blorenge II to save on time as we were running out of it. The rest of the trip went fine and we were out before we knew it, making the long walk back to the car.

Ogof Y Ci – Thursday 9th December 2021

Dai MacDonald and Gareth Farr

By Dai MacDonald

We hadn’t been caving in a while, a couple of weekends is a while for us, I’d been quite busy and been ill, but with a trip planned for Ogof Draenen on the coming Sunday we both thought a short midweek trip as a warm up would work well. I’ve also got a new camera so we wanted a play about with that.

We got to Llwyn Cil Sanws Farm for around 1830, we’d got permission from the owners to park and access the cave prior to turning up, we kitted up and headed down to the entrance. We got in for around 1900 and made good speed to the gun barrel while filming. It’s beyond the gun barrel that this cave starts to show it’s more intricate formations, mainly tucked in side passages, too tight for people, or in the walls of the cave at separate beds. We got to the dig at the end and headed back, but explored the side passages and oxbows on the way. The largest of the side passages, branching off from the main chamber, and has a nice calcite flow stone formation at the entrance. Once up on the calcite flow you can follow the passage for about 30m before a calcified boulder choke with a stream emerging from it is met. It’s a tight wet squeeze, but leads to a small passage with a lot more flow stone, but it quickly closes down again.

We always use the main entrance, but there are three, a resurgence, a small dry entrance just above that and the main one further up the gorge that joins the cave half way through. We’ve never used the lower dry entrance an it looks blocked to be honest. Ogof Y Ci is a great introduction cave, with dry and wet options for most routes, there’s a good bit of crawling once you reach the calcite cascade, and lots of squeezing, but nothing extremely tight.

This was the first time Gareth and I had been to this cave in extremely wet weather, there’s no warnings of flooding in this cave, and the water was definitely a lot deeper throughout the cave, but still not deeper than the top of my wellies, but outside the river was in full flow, which we don’t usually see. The river bed is usually bone dry, but tonight it was a fast flowing river. We got out of the cave for about 2120 and headed back to the farm yard to get changed and head home.

OFD1 Round Trip – 13th May 2018

Barry Burn, Gareth Jones, Huw Durban, Freya Durban, Dave Gledhill

By: Barry Burn
Photos: Barry Burn

Gareth and Freya had not so far visited OFD and so a trip to do a roundtrip in OFD1 was planned as an introduction for them and the Sunday saw us meeting up nice and early to pick up a key and fill in our trip card before parking up in the layby to change and the short walk to the cave.

The plan was to do the classic round trip, up Main Streamway to Low’s Chain and Low’s Passage then the climb up to Roundabout Chamber and the Shale Crawl into the Rawl Series. Then along to Pi Chamber and down via Bolt Passage to the Bolt Traverse. We decided against continuing to Airy Fairy or finishing the loop via the Dugout but to drop down back into the Main Streamway via the Maypole Chain.

We were soon changed and ready to set off and a quick selfie was taken that show’s Gareth’s very basic mistake if you look close enough. We were then soon walking through brilliant sunshine up to the entrance. where we quickly sorted ourselves out and climbed down the ladder into the cave.

Selfie

Selfie

We headed off towards The Cathedral, pausing at the start of Pearl Passage for a quick tale about the skeleton in Skeleton Chamber and then along the trade route to the start of column passage.

The Toast Rack

The Toast Rack

At Column Passage we pushed dave up the climb to rig a handline before we all followed him up. The column is a very impressive formation that I always like to see and Gareth and Freya were suitable awed. Dave and Gareth nipped through the duck to visit the Eagle’s Nest whilst we more sensible three stayed dry and took a couple of photos.

It was then back along Column Passage and back down the handline.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Climbing Down from Cloumn Passage

Before climbing down at The Step and heading upstream.

We passed Low’s Chain on the right and continued to Boulder Chamber to show Freya and Gareth the way on through the mountain and stopped for a pasty before heading back to Low’s Chain. Here, the awkward climb is now considerably easier as a short section of ladder has appeared. This made the climb up a breeze and we were all soon up and we headed off up the lofty Low’s Passage. I explained as we went how the early explorers thought that they could see high level passages here and spent some time scaling the passage with maypoles only to be dissapointed as each lead turned out to be shadows or alcoves. At the end, the passage closes down and you climb up through boulders until a choice of left or right is found. We had a quick look left to see what was there (more boulders) before continuing the steep climb up to reach Roundabout Chamber and it’s fine grotto, The Bee’s Knees.

Some photos using some very overused poses were taken before heading off and then to the Shale Crawl. A short section of flat out crawling that soon opens up again.

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The passage now assumes very large proportions as you enter the Rawl Series. For me, one of the most imppressive passages in the OFD system with a few fine formations.

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The Rawl Series

The Rawl Series

At the end of the Rawl Sereis, Pi Chamber is found and the entrance to Helter Skelter is found that leads via Boulder Passage and a fun little slide down a tube to the start of the Bolt Traverse.

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

We were all quickly along the traverse and into the small passage at the end.

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

And then the short section to the Maypole Chain and back into the Main Streamway.

We ambled back downstream, past The Step and a quick look into Loopways before getting back to the Toastrack via Pluto’s Bath. Here Gareth either forgot about the big hole in the floor of the pool that we showed him on the way in or some Gollum-like creature tried to drag him down to its watery lair.

Beware ye who pass by here

Beware ye who pass by here

From here, we were soon back out in the sunshine. We’d taken longer than usual on this trip but we were taking our time and enjoying the sights as well as taking a few deviations to explore off the route. All in all a really good trip that we all enjoyed.

Evening Trip Pen Eryr 26/4/18 with Gareth ”Rex” Jones

What way to better to start off a weekend than a trip to this ”amazing” cave…..

Ill try not to slate the place too much as it is a good starter cave and intro to crawling/squeezes.

Gareth had been before but had trouble getting past the initial nasty calcite squeeze and to be fair I had issues in there once with my giraffe legs.

I picked Gareth up and we headed to the car park below Daren and got changed. The plan was to do PE and if there was time, give Gareth a quick trip into Daren Cilau to visit The Vice and back out.

Rex entrance pose

Rex entrance pose

Trig Entrance pose

Trig Entrance pose

We slipped into the entrance and the first constriction was met and I cant see where he had issues before as he was in like a Jack Russel down a rabbit hole. We dropped down the climb to the left and made our way through the corkscrew easy enough. Id love to say the formations were pretty and plentiful…..and im sure once upon a time they were! Another cave with ease of access which has sadly fell victim.

We got to the end of the cave and had a poke around in some of the digs, most of them had strong drafts. I paused to have a drink whilst Gareth went off on his own poking about and then we reconvened in the once well decorated chamber and decided to head out.

CAMERA

CAMERA

Emerging into darkness we walked past Daren and decided thats enough squeezing for tonight!

Shakespear’s Cave, Wednesday 11th April 2018

“What else could we be doing on a Wednesday eve?”

A short trip into Shakespeare’s Cave – Wed 11th April 2018

Dave Gledhill and Huw Jones

By Dave Gledhill

After conducting a bit of *ahem* husbandry in the local caving area it was decided beforehand that a trip into Shakespeare’s was needed afterwards to make the drive out on a Weds eve worthwhile. It had been a few years since Huw had been in and a first for me, although I had heard of the place to be ‘sporty’ and wet.

We decided the quickest way down into Cwm Pica would be down the old water culverts which proved to be hilarious due to slippy moss and a nice amount of water flowing. The Cwm had an eerie feel with a low cloud base and fog setting in at last light as we made our way down to the cave entrance, slipping and falling into thorn bushes made this trip even more fun!!!…..’’FUN’’ Sarcasm aside, it was a nice walk down in the early spring air and fog and felt more expeditious. We entered the valley floor and jumped into the stream which flows past the entrance. Yet again a few more slips before we arrived at the cave entrance.

Huw posed for a quick photo on my camera which didn’t really come out that well. Camera stowed and in we went, stowing our kit on a mud bank in an old swirl pool to the left as we went .
‘’You lead Dave….can’t get lost’’ Huw said. He was right! There’s no option of where to go really but never mind. Small sharp scallops on the wall indicating some fast flow of water and you could see why, water levels definitely seemed slightly up but not as high as what it had been as when we got to the first duck the foam level from the previous flood was well above the duck level which in turn would have sumped. It was now I started to regret never having a caving wetsuit in my whole caving career. The duck was cold but easily passed but with some heavy panting and a fair amount of expletives from the pair of us which would have made Roy Chubby himself proud.
The going eased off slightly again with a mix of sideways crawling in water to sideways standing but thrutching (why not…it’s Wednesday) until another duck was met, kind of like an ‘S’ bend but with obstructions on the floor which leaves the onlooker to view a hilarious helmet sticking out of the water with lips pouting acting as a snorkel whilst you try a navigate a way through!
Duck passed and back to some more fun stuff. At least the cave is clean hey.

Another duck was met, this time with what can only be described as a tooth of rock sticking down in the water meaning a full submersion is required. Rising out of the water on the other side like a hippo going after a crocodile (albeit colder) I was glad I had stocked up on Clogwyn Gold previously that evening. Further on we found a mud bank to the left which had paw prints…confusing! (Huw managed to find a video later on that night where a family had taken their dog into the cave suitably equipped with protection and buoyancy).

We met a junction, to the left is a tight passage leading to the sump and on the right is a muddy tube bypassing the sump. We chose left initially and I decided to get down and dirty again and thrutched along sideways on my side think to myself with glee ‘’woohoo it’s just like Daren Cilau’’ only to turn round and see Huw walk through the constriction to which he added ‘’I just walked through that one Dave’’…..

The sump was met and the hand line was still in place but I opted out….and I mean opted not chickened *ahem* purely because I didn’t have any neoprene on……I promise. We wriggled back to the junction and took the muddy tube of fun. It really was a bit muddy and crawly with and awkward boulder climb upward which both me and Huw past with the style and grace of drunk giraffes and it was here that Huw decided that he would be going through a nasty duck and out via the sump instead of coming out this way again! And which he did, I waited for him to lip snorkel his way through an awful looking duck until he reached the sump at which point I shuffled round and reversed back through the bypass which was just as lovely as I had remembered 3 minutes previous. Good times.

We established a vocal connection before I heard a deep breath and the splashing/booming noise of Huw swimming the sump. We convened at the junction and made our way out of the cave with all the fun of the previous 25 minutes but in reverse!

We made it out the cave in just over 10 minutes funnily enough and I posed for a few photos by the entrance before we headed off back up to the old train line to get dry and changed. Opting for a more fun scramble option up an old scree slope (next week Crib Goch)

It sounds like I’ve slagged the place off but for only 35 or so minutes it’s a really fun little cave! I’d probably do it next time in summer after a full trip in the gorge.

Huw at the entrance before going in - Photo-Dave

Huw at the entrance before going in – Photo-Dave

Looking from Cwm Pica into the gorge - Photo-Dave

Looking from Cwm Pica into the gorge – Photo-Dave

Dave looking back into the entrance after the trip - Photo-Huw

Dave looking back into the entrance after the trip – Photo-Huw

Pwll Dwfn – 7th April 2018

Tom Williams
Huw Jones
Dave Gledhill

Report by Tom Williams

After booking a Yorkshire trip for later in the year, we decided it would be a good idea to brush up on our SRT and what better place to do it than Pwll Dwfn? You can practice on indoor training walls all you like, but you aren’t SRT proficient until you have used your skills in a real world cave.

The date was set – 7th April 2018. Morning broke with some heavy rain, and me thinking ‘Do I really want to trudge up the hill in this weather?’. Despite frantic pleas to my caving colleagues for a Daren Cilau trip, Pwll Dwfn was still on the cards for the day, regardless of the weather.

Meeting at the DYO car park, Huw and I had a quick coffee before Dave turned up around 1030. We were soon changed and on our way up the hill, stopping for the occasional photograph.

Tom Williams - The Entrance

Tom Williams – The Entrance

We were soon at the cave entrance, and kitted up. One last photo before we wave goodbye to daylight for a few hours. Huw was down first, to rig the first pitch, Dave and I followed with the rest of the rope bags. We found the cave already rigged with mostly 9mm static rope of a suspect vintage, we elected it would be best practice to shadow rig our own ropes alongside. The in-situ ropes were a nightmare when it came to rebelays and deviations, forever tangling around our fresh ropes. We had to be mindful we were clipping into the correct ropes at the various pitches and obstacles, although our nice clean ropes were easily contrasted against the muddy, worn, in-situ ropes.

We were making good time down to the bottom of the pot, gravity is a wonderful thing! My favourite was the 35m 4th pitch, with a deviation part way down.  It wasn’t far from my mind that for every metre we descended, we would have to climb back up. Gravity isn’t so wonderful after all.

While descending the last pitch, the rope below me got tangled in the in-situ rope, blocking my safe descent. Locking off my descender, I was held on the rope, under the waterfall which was apparently carrying more flow than normal. All while my caving chums were 15m below me, leisurely taking photos of my descent. No matter how loud I shouted, they couldn’t hear me over the roar of the waterfall. Eventually they heard my pleas and untangled the ropes to allow my final descent. By the time I got off the rope, and regained my sense of humour, I was soaked through to the skin.

From the base of the fifth pitch, it is a long walk to the final sump, all of about 5m. Some serious effort has gone into making the sump a diver’s paradise, which has apparently been dye traced to the washing machine in DYO. A quick natter and some photos, we were off back up the pitches and out of the cave. Huw J led the way, then I followed, with Dave bringing up the rear.

Many profanities and a vow to list my SRT on eBay as soon as I got home, we were nearing the top of the pot. On the second pitch I had just about got my prussiking technique efficient enough to not be aching all over by the time I got to the top of the pitch.

The hardest part of the pot was still to come, the 3m climb out of the entrance over an awkward, greasy and polished slab. Using some moves that would make a contortionist jealous, along with an ample amount of profanities and I was back to the daylight. Followed soon after by Dave, accompanied with some more profanities and three bags of tackle. Finally, Huw soon joined us in the late afternoon haze.

We were back to the cars and changed before we knew it. Ready to head our respective ways.

That night, I was unable to sleep. My whole body was still throbbing from the exertion. My mind was still racing with adrenaline, replaying every abseil, rebelay and deviation over and over all night.

I’d finally done it, a cave I had once sworn I would never, ever go into. I’d been to the bottom and out, and lived to tell the tale. I can’t wait to go back, and I certainly won’t be listing a ‘Full SRT kit, moderate usage’ on eBay. Not just yet, anyway…

Cave Rescue Practice in the Mellte and Nedd Valleys – Saturday 17th March 2018

Nick De-Gare Pit and Huw Jones

By Huw Jones
Photos – Huw Jones unless otherwise stated, in which case – Tarquin Wilton-Jones

This was to be a search and evacuation exercise, based in the Mellte and Nedd Valleys, with the secondary aim of familiarisation with lesser known sites in the two valleys. On the day, the search and evacuation part was dropped and three groups split up from the Porth yr Ogof car park and visited different areas to look for entrances, checking the accuracy of route description cards and grid references.

Me and Nick joined a group exploring the upper Nedd Valley. Our first cave to find was Pwll-y-Coeden Gnau, somewhere I’d visited many, many years ago with Barry Burn. This took some searching of the rough woodland as the grid reference was a little out but it wasn’t too long before we located the entrance and a more accurate reference was obtained using GPS. A few of us were in caving gear and so had a quick look in the Northern limb of the cave, while the others produced notes to update the route card.



Next we dropped down to the dry riverbed and found the entrance to Ogof Cadno, somewhere else me and Barry had explored all those years ago. I remember Barry as not being particularly impressed with either cave, although there are a few formations and one section of larger passage in this cave. Again three of us had a look inside, while the others had a look at the entrance to Ogof Cas, a diver’s cave with hardly any dry passage.


We then climbed up from the riverbed and headed a long way upstream, first to the enormous collapse feature of Cwm Hew Bwb, which to me looks very much like a fossil resurgence but where four waterfalls now pour over the cliff to sink amongst boulders. Then we dropped back down to river level to visit Ogof Igam Ogam (Zig Zag Cave). This time only two of us had a look in the cave, getting wet in the process as there was a shower bath to crawl under, at one point.


That was the final cave of the day and all that was left, was to walk up to the Bridge Cave car park, where we could cross the river, then walk down the road to where we’d left the cars, before heading back to the Porth yr Ogof car park for the debrief.

All in all, an enjoyable and useful day.

Bridge Cave Photo Trip 18th February 2018

Barry Burn, Huw Durban and Nick de Gare-Pitt

By Barry Burn
Photos by Barry Burn

Wondering what to do, we decided to have a nice easy trip to Bridge Cave in the Nedd Fechan valley. This cave is a nice easy trip, frequented by outdoor pursuits groups and consists of a short section of passages before reaching a short choke and then dropping into a stream passage that opens up into a large impressive passage where following the stream past another inlet, under the bridge that gives the cave its name and will then to the end of the cave and the sump that was the original way into Little Neath River Cave. Despite apocryphal stories of scouts freediving this sump, the way on from here is only for the experienced cave divers.

We passed the entrance series quickly and entered the main passage and then had a look around and continued on to the end of the cave. I then got out the camera and we set up and shot a few pictures on the way back upstream.