Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Quest for the Geryon's Lair

Two years ago, Jessica, Chris and Brendan had been persuaded by the two Doctors to join them on a trip to the far south of Ogof Draenen. The trip had gone well and a final photo call was made at Medusa's Children, but were were out of time to reach our real target, the elusive Geryon.
The return trip would take some good planning, and Whitewalls was booked for the night before so we could make an early start into the cave. A survey was obtained and the route description was copied, Pelicases were stuffed with photographic gear and tackle bags rammed with food and drink. The only thing we could not plan was the weather, and the snow almost put a stop to the trip, with three or four inches covering the top of the mountains. Breakfast was cooked by Rachel at Whitewalls and we tucked in at 7.30 am ready to head to the cave. We changed in the snow and then slithered our way down the hillside to the cave entrance, where after a short spell of deicing we entered at 9.30am. For the next four hours we put our heads down and dealt with the monotony of the cave, the entrance series, Wonderbra Bypass, Lamb & Fox Chamber, Indiana Highway, Megadrive, Elliptic Passage, Midwinter Chambers, Snowball passage and then the endless crawling that leads to the flat out Last Sandwich dig. A sudden change in Character occurs as you enter More Singing & Dancing, one of the largest sections of passage in the cave, yet more boulders to hop across. Soon a rope climb up to the Luck of the Draw is reached and a pleasant walking passage is entered, many fine crystal arrays and formations adorn the floors and wall here as we head towards Medusa's Children. We hardly pause as we reach this fantastically decorated chamber as our quest is to find the Geryon's Lair, much further to the south in the Cantankerous Surveyor's extensions. Progress slowed once reaching Medusa's Children as the passage is lower and the roof floor and walls are covered with a profusion of pure white formations. After some crawling the passage size increases once more and we find ourselves looking up at a calcite covered roof from which hangs the Lightbulb formation.

The Lightbulb - Ogof Draenen
Keith Edwards in the passage below the Lightbulb Formation

The Lightbulb - Ogof Draenen
A close up of the Lightbulb Formation

Our quarry is not far away now, all we have to do is negotiate a maze of interconnecting crystal covered passages to find the rocky slope up into the Geryon's Lair.

The Geryon - Ogof Draenen
A closeup of the Geryon Formation

The Geryon's Lair - Ogof Draenen
Keith Edwards viewing the Geryon Formation

The Geryon's Lair - Ogof Draenen
Rachel Dearden viewing the Geryon Formation

The Geryon's Lair - Ogof Draenen
Richard Dearden viewing a cluster of aragonite needles in the same chamber

Aragonite needle formations - Geryon's Lair
A close up of the aragonite needles

After an hour of taking photographs and having pork pies and drink, we decide to try and find the Needles in the passages in the extreme end of this system. A few minutes later they are located, although very hard to see as they are so fine and transparent. We spend a few minutes with the difficult task of trying to photograph them.

The Needles - Ogof Draenen
Keith viewing the Needle formations

The Needles - Ogof Draenen
A closeup of the Needle formations

All that lay ahead now was the small matter of getting out the cave, there was a vast distance between ourselves and the entrance, and we were already very tired from the trip in. The next six hours were quite painful as we stumbled from rock to rock, and forced our way through the crawls with our tackle bags and boxes. At 10.30pm were were climbing up the scaffold shaft to the entrance, only to find that it had frozen solid and could not be opened. After a good ten minutes a well aimed boot released us from our frozen tomb into the icy atmosphere of Pwll Du at night.


  1. As someone who was part of this enterprise I can confirm that Brendan's text is accurate and, of course, the photos are fantastic, but what isn't conveyed by this report is just how totally and completely knackered we were on the way out. This route in Draenen is absolutely unrelenting. If one isn't climbing up and down literally thousands upon thousands of muudy slippy boulders, one is crawling on sharp rocks which wreck the knees and cause extreme pain. For the first time in over 20 years of caving I really didn't know how, or if, I was going to get out. From now on I'm only going caving if Adrian is on the trip.

  2. I will thank Brendan for photographing the log book at the Geryon.
    Just 14 logged trips by 44 different cavers in just over 10 years since the book was installed in about May 1999.