Thursday, 4 April 2019

Caving with the Scouts

At Hidden Earth last year I was honoured to be asked by Idris Williams if I would consider making a documentary video for the Shropshire Scouts Caving Team. The purpose of the video would be to show exactly what young people need to do to achieve their Caver Activity Badge.

Filming took place on Sunday 3rd February in Llanymynech Ogof, on Saturday 9th February in Porth Yr Ogof & Bridge Cave and on Sunday 10th February 2019 in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. I knew that editing together the footage would be a major piece of work but when I looked at it on my computer I  knew that a video of brave young people undertaking their first adventures underground could be really special. I felt that I needed to get something published as quickly as possible so on 13th February I uploaded a short teaser video.

After many hours in the studio the final video was uploaded to YouTube on 1st April. It runs for almost 22 minutes making it the longest video I've ever made. Initial feedback has been very positive. I hope the youngsters feel I've captured the the true essence of four very memorable caving trips.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Navigating The Deepest Cave In Britain

Some Route Finding and Learning Surveys.

Having been with Dudley Caving Club for around 5 or 6 months, and getting plenty of trips under my belt, I recently decided its time for me start learning some of the main cave systems with the hope of starting to lead trips toward the end of this year.

The obvious place to start had to be Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. This system seems to be a regular retreat for DCC and for obvious reason, plenty of cave to go at and plenty of drinking opportunity! Having been only 3 times previously, two through trips and some poking around/route finding with Loz and Mike in top, I felt very vaguely familiar with OFD 3.

I put out the email and had one response, from Mark. If I was going to get us lost, Mark was certainly the right man to point me back in the correct direction! I arrived very early Saturday morning, deciding I couldn’t be bothered to get up early and make the meet time of 10am that I had decided on. After waking up to a beautifully sunny view across the mountains and making a brew amidst the eerie silence that was a sleeping, hungover uni society, Mark arrived. We had a short discussion and decided on a through trip from Cwm Dwr to Top Entrance. I’d never been in Cwm Dwr before, so this was a little bit of a drop in the deep end for my first navigation trip!

I purchased the necessary parts of laminated survey, and after mark pointed our intended route out on the full survey in the common room, we got changed and made our way over the the Cwm Dwr entrance. The first warm sunny day I have ever walked to a cave, and it was only 2 and a half minutes away!

After dropping down the concrete chute, I basically managed to go the wrong way before getting into the entrance series. I missed the right turn following the water and climbed straight up into the choke. As I realised it didn’t go, I turned to see that Mark had followed me, but he didn’t have his camera box with him. This confirmed to me that I had already gone wrong! A bit red faced, I made my way back down and pulled out the Cwm Dwr survey, only to find that the entrance series wasn’t on the sheet I had with me. Mark led on through the entrance series until we hit the choke, when I took over. Taking it slowly, picking my way through, we emerged into Big Shacks. I was already finding it difficult to match specific features in the cave to the survey, as the Cwm Dwr sheet I had was not coloured. Or this was my excuse. Mark pointed out the way forward on the survey, and we moved forward.

Passing through Big Shack 1, turn off the right between two left turns which head to Big Shack 2, we were on the main route. The cave itself was easy going at this point. We pressed through to the traverse which cuts out the 100 meters or so of walking passage. Here I had a bit of a wobble trying to pass the very exposed deep hole, but eventually managed the quick couple of long steps over and we carried on through to take the shortcut through to Piccadilly, converging with another small group who seemed a bit lost!

We stopped to take some photographs at the waterfall approaching Piccadilly. Thankfully I wasn’t too wet so didn’t get cold for these ones! Stopping every so often to check the survey and orientate myself, we cracked on through Piccadilly and round into Flood Bypass. No real dramas here until I went the wrong way at The Confluence. Mark gave me a few seconds and then, not wanting to turn to add an extra half an hour onto the trip, decided to let me know that actually it was Right, not Left!
Picadilly Waterfall
From here continued upstream, stopping to get cold and take more photos at the Marble Showers.
Then it was the pots, 15 or so. All deep enough to get very wet and some wide enough to have no choice, but I did manage to not fall into any of them! I’m not sure about Mark, although I’m sure might not have mentioned it if he had...

Marble Showers

Missing the exit off to Great Oxbow, but quickly realising that I didn’t fancy going underwater, I turned around and saw mark waiting at the climb out of the streamway. After some more photos at a traverse over some white water, we made it to Maypole Inlet, which I have only done twice, once up, once down. Mark was struggling/swearing a bit with his camera box through here as it was a little bit too large to be comfortable in the narrow passage. Passing another lone caver going in the other direction, we both made it up the 35-foot climb without too much bother.

Main Stream Way

I was fairly confident from this point, having been through a couple of times - and the coloured survey helped! An uneventful march up to the Crossroads followed by mark getting a bit excited about finding a small passage into the maze which he hadn’t done or didn’t remember. He did an excited loop and we carried on up Salubrious passage, through the corkscrew and onto pass the wedding cake. Some boulder scrambling through Brickyard later we emerged into the low sunlight at about 4pm.

All in all I a successful trip for me, I went wrong a couple or more times, but Mark was there to set me straight!

Sunday morning saw a rapid round trip in OFD 1, as I had never done it before. As a self-proclaimed non-fan of traverses, Mark lent me some Cows Tails for them. Turns out they were not as bad as I thought they would be and so didn’t bother with them. Out, back and changed for 11am, we managed to make a brew and get that down us before the students awoke, then off home.

Present: Mark Burkey, Joe Watkiss

Trip report: Joe Watkiss

Friday, 1 February 2019

50K Subscribers

Earlier today I gained the 50,000th subscriber to my YouTube channel at Channels with more than 100,000 subscribers are awarded a silver wall plaque.

In January my subscribers went up by 2,448 - my largest monthly rise, if you exclude July 2018 - the Thai Rescue month. If this trend continues then I should be able to claim my award by the end of 2020. I've already reserved a space on the wall.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Year in the Life of a Cave Videographer 2018

The traditional annual roundup video from Caver Keith Studios. 2018 was an eventful year in which I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my first upload and had many more views than any other year, but amongst the highs there was one slight disappointment.
Filmed in Porth Yr Ogof, Agen Allwedd, Cwmorthin Slate Mine, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, Wookey Hole, Wild Wookey, Dudley, Calf Holes, Bromsgrove and Craig A Ffynnon.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Bolting in OFD Big chamber

After being rocked gently to sleep by the horrid weather Jess and I awoke refreshed and ready to rumble.
We were designated Duty officer this morning and so begun gently with a cuppa and taking the hut fees.

Once all had paid up we begun the search for the keys to get the SWCC ladder which was surprisingly harder than expected and took almost an hour to track down. Eventually though we had everything we needed. Ladder, rope, climbing gear, drills, spits and of course camera's ready to document caverns measureless!

I should explain that on a previous visit to OFD, Roo used big chamber near the entrance to instruct a group of us how to use the 3D scanner ahead of a couple of planned trips abroad. The result of this was that he had identified a passage that he wanted to investigate and so had contacted us to see if we could help.

Loz had joined us Saturday night for the curry, but after her 40 mile run she wasn't in much of a state to cave and so we only made her carry the 8m ladder up to the entrance rather than anything strenuous!

Soon Bartek and I were making our way through to Big Chamber with a section of ladder each and after a slight mishap where the ladder took a dint after tumbling out of position, we managed to get it up and secured.

Roo went up carefully and popped a bolt in to secure the ladder to before continuing up to take a look in the passage and with a deflated look on his face reported that it didn't go and was blocked with stal :(

Bartek and I made the most of the unusual vantage point and took a couple of photo's before we de-riggged and headed back to the hut for yet another cuppa before heading home.

Let the fun begin!

Big chamber from the inlet

Trip report: Mark Burkey

Present: Paulina, Bartek, Jess, Roo and Mark

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Pant Mawr Pot

Having Promised Roo that we would give him a hand on the Sunday with a project in OFD, it meant that we would be in South Wales for the weekend so it made sense to do something local to the SWCC hut on the Saturday.
I had been hoping to get some photo's of Pant Mawr Pot a few weeks before, but plans had changed after our epic in Draenen and so we decided to give Pant Mawr another go.
To our surprise we had such a response that it would mean we would need to split in to two teams.
The walk over in was damp and the mist was thick and if it weren't for Dino's GPS we may have been wandering around the hills for hours. As it was we made good time and the walk didn't feel like long at all.
We decided to get Bartek to rig the pitch in and send down the more experienced first. This would leave myself and Jess to supervise the others down.
I knew Mel hadn't done much SRT, but didn't realise she had only ever practiced at the Mill. She was very nervous as I talked her though the getting onto the head of the pitch. Dino held the tail of the rope at the bottom, just incase, but Mel did fine and was soon as the bottom. Joe had no problems at all and followed and then came Sam.
Before getting to the cave Sam had shown me his setup in a tree outside the club and although unorthodox (Sam is an Arborist and his kit isn't quite as easy to use as the standard SRT kit) it was safe enough.
The key with Sam's set up was not to drop anything as he changed over ropes on the ledge to the free hang. Again there were no problems though and he was soon swinging around whilst Bartek took a couple of Photographs.
With myself and Jess down we stripped off our harness's and begun stomping down the stream. Although I had been there a couple of times before I had always been following either Brendan or Keith and I soon found I hadn't paid much attention.
Our objectives would be The Chapel, The Organ Loft and The Fire Hydrant. We stomped onward through the boulder chokes and down the stream and before we knew it were up to our chests in water and had a sump in front of us!
Not too disheartened as, I was always intending to photograph on the way out, we were a little more careful on the way back.
Roo spotted the Fire Hydrant and I wasn't surprised we missed it on the way in. I remembered it being an impressive jet of water, but although flowing it wasn't nearly as impressive as I recalled.
Next we found the grave yard and spent half an hour poking around for the way on before realising that the passage I swore definitely wasn't the way actually was.
I climbed the awkward climb to The Organ Loft and rigged some slings for the others and tried to get a quick shot of the flowstone, but the chamber was soon filled with stream from the amount of people in the small chamber and so I gave up. At this point we decided to split in to groups with Bartek and his camera leading one and myself and mine leading the other.
Next we went to the Sabre formation and took a photo before heading up to The Chapel to take a couple more.
We heard Bartek's group below us and shouted for him to come this way.
Whilst Bartek photographed in The Chapel the rest of us headed back to the entrance. I had packed walkie talkies in anticipation of a pitch shot and popped up the rope first whilst Jess set up the light below. Roo started up the rope and we played with photos until we heard Bartek's group approach.
Myself, Joe, Mel, Sam and Roo shivered at the top whilst Jess was passed on the message that Bartek wanted to take a pitch shot himself and so would de-rig if we wanted to head off back to the hut.
The wind had picked up and the rain lashed down. The walk back felt significantly longer and visibility was so poor that we wound up missing the track off the tram road and walked down to the club from the other rear field.
Our first group were changed and showered as the others arrived and so we headed off to reserve a table at the Indian where we all re-grouped for a good meal to end another successful day.

Roo on the entrance Pitch

The Sabre

The Chapel

The Chapel

The Organ Loft

Trip Report: Mark Burkey

Present: Paulina, Bartek, Dino, Mel, Sam, Joe, Jess, Roo and Mark

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Shatter photo trip 28th Nov 2018
We met up in the priddy good farm shop after the night before having a few pints at the Hunters for the digger awards. There was myself, Tash, Kermit, John and Bev were heading down shatter in fairy quarry,
Mark, Jess, Paulina, Mike and Keith were heading down Rhino rift. So after filling our bellies with good food and lots of coffee or pop we said our goodbyes to the other group and headed to fairy quarry and got kitted up.
Kermit then asks where Chris and Jim were as they were due to be coming down with us. Iinformed him that Jim was feeling under the weather with a bad belly so Chris was taking him home. So of we plodded to shatter a really nicely decorated cave one of the best in mendips. On the way in I went ahead a bit with John and Bev while Kermit and Tash went at a more leisurely pace so Kermit could give Tash the knowledge of the cave as they went.
We waited for the just before pillar chamber and when we had regrouped I got my camera out to start taking photos as we had agreed we would take them on the way out. The first was pillar chamber then I took one of the Angel Wing which is Kermits fave formation in the cave next is Niagra fall, which is were John and Bev left us as John had to shoot off, and Bev decided to join him. Leaving just myself Tash and Kermit in the cave much to Tash's joy as it meant she would be my model now and we all no how much she loves standing around waiting for me to take a photo, I'm still learning so sometimes it can take me a while to get a nice shot.
We carried on and every 5 mins I was stopping to look at potential photo shots but decided to try to keep it to a minimum, in the end I had took 8 photos in total which I'm happy with but I have my favourites out of them ie the balcony shot and the one with tash in the second gate. Once I had finished we exited to daylight as it was about half 2 to 3 pm when we got out and were changed heading to the pub for a drink before heading home.
All in all a good day's trip Tash got to see a pretty cave and I got to practice with my camera so win win.

 Angel wing
 Balcony chamber
 A curtain
 Second gate
 Niagra falls
 Piller chamber
 Leaning tower of piza
Leaning tower of piza again