Saturday 18 November 2023

Wet, wet, and more wet: a trip to Giant's Hole

Mel, Dave and I had planned an easy trip down Giant’s Hole to the East Canal, so the SRT newbies amongst us could practice abseiling and climbing both Garland’s Pot and Geology Pot. The weather forecast was for heavy rain in the hours up to the trip, with it stopping in the morning before we went in. The heavy rain certainly arrived! Base camp chamber was full of water coming out of Sump 1, water was thundering down into Garland’s, and Comic Act Cascade had ceased to be a cascade: instead of falling downwards, the water shot sideways and hit the cave wall, like someone had turned on a fire hose. However, I always enjoy wet trips; in fact, the wetter the better (for me, at least!). Having abseiled Garland’s, we set off down the crab walk, before popping up into the Eating House and making our way to the traverses that led to Geology Pot. After making rapid progress down Geology, we rejoined the streamway and quickly came to the top of a 4m cascade. Again, the stream here was like a fire hydrant; neither Mel nor myself were that keen on tackling it and at this point Dave reminded us that our objective had been Geology Pot, giving us the perfect excuse to head back.

On getting back to the Eating House, the 3m climb up that eventually leads to the Giant’s Windpipe was pouring with water. We decided that it wasn’t even worth checking to see if the windpipe was sumped or not; there was no way it couldn’t have been. So back up the Crabwalk we went, though this time carrying ropes and SRT kit against the current of the stream. This was somewhat arduous, however we all helped each other out, with Mel helping me shift one of the bags through the tight spaces, and Dave taking over part way along the Crabwalk. Comic act cascade quickly arrived; ironically the bottom half of the ladder was the driest place to stand; the top half less so and the best tactic was just to put your head down and climb up through the horizontal blast of water. Eventually we arrived back at Garland’s Pot, where we ended up queuing to climb out (another group had been daft enough to do Giant’s Hole today, too). After Garland’s, an easy plod out led back to the car and a quick stop off for a drink on the way home.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic trip: wet and vertical; what more could you want?

Club members: Dave J, Mel B, Dave B
Trip report by Dave B

Friday 27 October 2023

Ogof Draenen: Out of the Blue (Saturday 21st October 2023)

The original plan had been to carry dive kit into Wet Sink for George, however days of rain – and an unsettled forecast – led to some umming and ahhing about whether this was still possible. In the end, the decision was made to abandon Wet Sink for today (very wisely, in my opinion!), and to visit Ogof Draenen instead. Mark, Joel and George viewed it as a chance to tick of part of the cave they hadn’t visited before: Out of the Blue.
When we eventually reached this kilometre of streamway, Mark pronounced it to be one of the best decorated streamways in the country. Although it finally ended in a big boulder choke, getting there involved passing a beautiful profusion of straws, stalactites and helictites. This made the treacherously slippery streambed (which couldn’t be seen as the water was peat-stained) worthwhile, although after losing my balance for the umpteenth time, I may only feel that way in retrospect! Overall, a great trip, and a cave that I will definitely have to return to and explore more.
Cavers Present: Mark Burkey, George Linnane, Joel Foyster, Dave & Anne Bell
Trip Report by Dave Bell
Photos by Joel Foyster

Monday 16 October 2023

Maskhill-Oxlow Through Trip (Saturday 14th October 2023)

Given the success of the club's recent weekend at Heightworks, what better way could there be to put newly acquired (or perfectly honed) SRT skills into practice, other than a trip into Maskhill and Oxlow mines? Seven of us embarked on the trip, with two "new hands" (including myself), being experly supervised by five "old hands". After meeting and kitting up in a blustery Peak District layby, we split into two teams, with Graham, Dave and Paulina heading off to Oxlow, and Firas, Bartek, Jas and myself heading up to Maskhill. Firas was first down the shaft, leaving the rest of us to stand in the biting wind. Fortunately, it had dropped a little, and it wasn’t raining. In fact, it was a beautiful sunny day, but I think all of us were pleased to get out of the sun into the warmth of the mine. We were soon dropping down pitch after pitch, with Firas ably rigging the first half, and Bartek the second. Each time I lowered myself off the head of a pitch onto my cowstails, I relished looking down into the gloomy darkness, imagining what was beneath. It didn’t take much imagination, as it was invariably rocks and mud, but going deeper and deeper into the mine brought a real enjoyment and excitement. Before long we arrived at the top of the Waterfall Pitch, where a fixed tyrolean helped us to abseil across the top of a very deep, very dark hole. Once safely on the other side, one pitch remained until we met up with Graham, Dave and Paulina. It was then time for pizza and sweets (great energy food!) before setting off, and up out of Oxlow. (I note that while people sniggered at me bringing pizza on a caving (mining?) trip, their mirth didn't stop them from eating it...leaving me with one slice of pizza rather than four. Nevermind!) At this point, I was very grateful for the energy, as Prussiking up the ropes was much harder work than I remembered from practising at Heightworks / the mill. The tackle sack clipped to my harness didn’t help, of course; it seemed to pull me down with every upward movement, and reaching an awkward deviation was a real pain. Some words of advice from Bartek sorted me out, and it was with some embarrassment that I realised that no-one else seemed to struggle with the tackle sacks or deviation. So we’ll put it down to me having rubbish technique. Of course, that just means more practice is necessary, which means more caving trips…so rubbish technique does have some advantages. After dumping the bag on Jas (not literally, although I was tempted when I saw him looking up from the bottom of the pitch), Prussiking became much easier, and it felt like no time before we all popped out of the top of the shaft, where we saw Paulina and Dave coming across the field to meet us. There was time for the obligatory selfie (although Firas had the right idea, and walked off before this happened), before heading back to the car. Overall, a fantastic trip, and (for me) the first of (hopefully) very many SRT adventures underground.
Group members: Bartek Biela Paulina Biela Graham Smith Jas Sahota Firas Fayad Dave Williams Dave Bell

Aquamole Pot to Kingsdale Master Cave

In 1974 legendary cave diver Geoff Yeadon was the first to pass the 168 metre sump upstream from Rowten Pot. He discovered the impressive 40 metre high Aquamole Aven.

Geoff retired from cave diving in 1997.

Aquamole Aven was finally connected to the surface in June 2002.

A trip beginning by descending Aquamole Pot, as it is now named, to exit at Valley Entrance is now a classic through trip for cave divers and is considered to be a somewhat of a right of passage for the new generation of underwater cave explorers. In spite of his underground discoveries in Kingsdale Valley it was a trip that Geoff Yeadon had never been able to do. 

However, on Sunday the 6th August 2023, Geoff supported by a team of over 20 cavers and cave divers, was persuaded out of retirement to complete for the first time this classic descent and cave dive.

This video is a taster for a forthcoming video showing what happened on the day.

Sunday 1 October 2023

Dudley Caving Club SRT Training at Heightworks

With grateful thanks to Heightworks, Wolverhampton for allowing us to use their fantastic rope playground.

Monday 1 May 2023

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 to Cwm Dwr through trip

In Celtic tradition, the 1st of May marked the festival of Beltane, when Celts changed from the dark season to the light season. What a better way to celebrate the return of light than to spend the day underground!

Jess and Mark led us on a trip from OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr, through streamways, boulder chokes, and crawls. We saw numerous calcite formations along the way – straws, drapes (‘bacon strips’?) and helictites; enjoyed the sections through the Letter Box and down the Diver’s Pitch; and luckily no one got stuck in the concrete pipes out to the Cwm Dwr entrance!

Cavers: Jess (leader), Mark (leader’s assistant), Jas, Arjun, Alex, Stirling, Eloise

Trip Report: Eloise Cambier

Boulder Chamber

Diver's Pitch

Diver's Pitch

Diver's Pitch

A Caving Slipper


An excerpt from a well-known fashion magazine:

“The first piece in our Emergency Couture Collection is the Caving Slipper from the House of Biela. 

 It was conceived in Dan Yr Ogof; the magnificent show cave of Wales.  A group of cavers had just finished a photo shoot in the ephemeral Cloud Chamber and planned to complete the classic round trip by crossing the Green Canal.  This 100m long watercourse is stunning to look at – and also stunning to cross as it is dangerously cold, and those who try to swim through it risk hypothermia and drowning through exhaustion.  To avoid this cave explorers make use of sleek circular inflatables to help them maintain buoyancy across the canal.  However in this party, one of the cavers became so cold that her left wellington boot slipped off and was lost in the deepest section of the crossing. 

Thankfully, acclaimed designer Bartek Biela was present.  He wasted no time in reclaiming discarded pieces of diving equipment and transformed them into this multi-layered, insulated caving slipper.  It demonstrates a beautiful harmony between functionality, comfort and style, with the delicately sculpted toe piece referencing the crakow – a tribute to House of Biela’s Polish heritage. 

The casualty, Anne Bell, told our reporter “It was a real privilege to be the first to wear this amazing creation.  It was definitely worth losing a welly for.”

Aided by the caving slipper the party were able to make a swift return to the surface, avoiding any need to summon a rescue team.  We hope to see it becoming an essential part of all cave rescue training soon.” 

The Caving Slipper

Cloud Chamber

Flabbergasm and the Crystal Pool

Trip Report: Anne Bell
Photos: Bartek Biela